Tag Archives: St Martha’s

Developments

After sifting through the numerous pages of calculations and speculations accumulated over years of intermittent research it became apparent that a decision must be made to settle on some criterion upon which all this data could be based.  There were two lines which stood out from the others as extraordinary – the Newlands line with its precise alignment and distances, and the Crooksbury line with its newly discovered barrow and precise alignment.  The bearing of the Newlands line was 132.82 degrees and the Crooksbury line 232.32 degrees.  It has already been seen that the rays are around ten degrees apart and by dividing the difference by ten for the intervening rays we have an interval between each ray of 9.95 degrees.  This interval was applied to all rays in the pattern and a list was compiled of the intersections of these revised rays and the distance points at one Druid Mile (DM) intervals from the base point of the rays at Whitmoor Barrow.  These points were then compared with the physical detail as shown on the Ordnance Survey as downloaded to the computer database.  This was straight forward for circular structures such as barrows where the centre point was fairly obvious but when passing through a building a best estimate of the centre was used.

By 2012 the technology of hand held GPS instruments was very advanced with an accuracy good enough to make them a suitable tool for field research, so the decision was made to surf the internet for an instrument with the most suitable specification.  I settled on the Garmin GPSMAP 62 and carried out some field tests to check the accuracy.  Results varied from nearly perfect to, in the worst case, eight metres of error when compared with known Ordnance Survey (OS) co-ordinates established by professional surveying instruments.  Because of these variations it was necessary to revisit critical sites to re-record the co-ordinates and take an average of several readings.

Once a few sites had been visited with the GPS and the results plotted onto the database it became clear that there was a discrepancy between the WASG grid used by the Garmin instrument and the OS  grid titled OSGB36. There is a lot of information on the OS website about how this grid originates and how to use conversion programs to compute very precise coordinates. Although the grid used by Garmin is called OS grid in the format selection, it did not appear to conform to the OS map grid. Therefore it was decided that to check the difference between the two grids.  Check readings would be taken on-site from known points. First chosen was the OS trig pillar at Jacobswell just south of Whitmoor Barrow. Trigonometrical pillars are usually concrete structures, standing around four to five feet high, and constructed on prominent hill tops affording views over long distances and are part of the network of triangulation stations upon which the OS of Britain is based.  Also points were taken on the corners of other sites such as the church and churchyard walls on St Martha’s Hill. When these were plotted into the database it was seen that there was indeed a discrepancy. Due to the inherent inaccuracies of Ordnance Survey detail it is not possible to attain spot-on fitting of data. After meaning out the various results and taking the trig pillar coordinates as being the main data point it was seen that all GPS data needed to be moved 8 metres south and one and a half metres West. It would have been possible to calculate a very precise difference between the two groups but the accuracy of the hand held GPS is no better than about 7 feet or two metres, therefore it would seem that refining the difference between the two groups would be excessive and a waste of time. I have since confirmed these conversion factors by taking readings at other pillars in West Surrey.

The first exercise with the new instrument was a visit to Whitmoor Barrow.  I walked around the ditch taking readings at about five metre intervals.  Each reading was taken after holding the GPS at eye level pointing in several directions until the readout settled down and became constant.  These readings were stored as waypoints in the instrument and transposed onto my AutoCAD base plan in the office.  The Ordnance Survey extract of the barrow were already on this plan and it was seen that the adjusted GPS co-ordinates and the map co-ordinates of the barrow were an excellent match.  This confirmed my intention of using the Whitmoor Barrow as the base point for the overall pattern of rays.  A similar exercise was then undertaken at Culverswell Barrow and at the twin Crooksbury Barrows a short distance away.  The co-ordinates of the Culverswell Barrow confirmed my original theodolite survey of some years ago and the co-ordinates of the Crooksbury Barrows again proved an excellent fit.

Buoyed up by these satisfying results I was keen to use these new-found techniques to discover other lost sites.  The first I looked at was the Mount Pleasant Barrow on Whitmoor Common.  This is marked on The OS as the site of an Ancient Monument no longer existing.  The co-ordinates on the OS were noted as was the co-ordinates of the point on Mount Pleasant line being at a bearing of 252.22 degrees and one Druid Mile from the base point (Whitmoor Barrow).  The common is a flat area of land surrounded by woodland to the north, a railway to the east with roads on the other two sides.  On reaching the supposed site of the Ancient Monument nothing could be made out amidst the rough tussocky grass but on navigating to the point on the pattern some seventeen metres to the north west a circular bank some seven metres in diameter could just be made out beneath the scrubby birch trees (see photos at header MOUNT PLEASANT LINE).

 

Entry be added to St Martha’s Church under ST CATHERINE’S LINE

Chilworth is a linear village following the River Tillingbourne and was a centre for the manufacture of gunpowder from the 17th century until the First World War. The parish church has always been St Marthas, sited high above the village to the North, on what has been called Martyrs Hill. The church was rebuilt from ruins in 1848-1850. Of the original church the earliest visible remains date to the early 12th century. The church stands some 574 feet above sea level on a greensand Ridge.

There is an old folk tale that two chapels, St Martha’s and St Catherine’s, were built by two giant sisters to expiate some sin. But having only one hammer between them they tossed it from one to the other across the two-mile gap in the river valley until the chapels were built.  A strange similarity to the belief of some new-agers that these lines are paths of some power.   I have also seen a reference to an old legend that there was a tunnel between the church and Tyting Priory down the hill to the North West, possibly suggesting folk memories of an alignment passing through the two sites.

St Martha's Chapel in winter

St Martha’s Church in winter from the North West

The five circles at St Martha’s were examined by Grinsell in 1931. Since then one has been destroyed by the construction of a reservoir and another nearly obliterated by the path from the village. In 1954, E S Wood excavated Circle number four to the west of the church. He concluded from an examination of the geology that they could have been constructed anything up to 4000 years ago and that they were sacred enclosures of the Bronze Age. Since then it has been suggested that they are more likely to be the steads of tree-clumps of eighteenth or early nineteenth century date. Due to the acidity of the sand nothing was found but a few flakes of flint. Reportedly the diameter of the circles ranges from 72 feet to 77 feet although my GPS readings suggest a figure of 88 feet for the East circle.

St Marthas NW

The church from the South East looking across the site of the two eastern rings

260_1 St Martha’s Church and Rings

St Martha's Church and Rings

Plan updated in May 2016

The following text is adapted from Surrey Archaeological Collection volume 54, 10-16.

There were originally five circles at St Martha’s, first mentioned in 1850. In 1876 Dyer, in British Popular Customs, writes that it was the custom, the origin of which is lost in the obscurity of time, for people to make a pilgrimage to St Martha’s (or Martyrs) Hill on Good Friday, and to spend the time dancing and music making around the Norman church (T F Thistleton Dyer 1876). In 1895 (G Clinch and S W Kershaw in Bygone Surrey) wrote that it clearly had no connection with the solemn event celebrated by Christians in this day. Hillare Belloc (The Old Road 1904), knew of the hill’s reputation as a pagan centre and saw it is the holy meeting place of the tribes of the area. W Johnson (Folk Memory 1908) considered a possibility that the two small mounds to the north of the church wall were tumuli and also volunteers the information that when the early Christians erected a church where a heathen temple formerly stood, they performed a dance to their god as the heathens had done to theirs. He thought that the rings may be the remains of a maze. He speculates on the possibility dancing in church is a Christianization of pagan worship. The Good Friday carousels appear to have ceased around the end of the 19th century.  The Victorian County History, Volume 3 1911, states that the best of the circles was destroyed by the construction of the reservoir.  It is recorded that people still visited the hill on Good Friday in 1914 but the singing and dancing had died out. A fair was held on Ben Piece (open ground down the hill to the west) but had died out before the end of the century.  It is known that a processional dance started in Guildford over Pewley Down, and past Tyting. Possibly similar to Helston Furry dance. Apparently the dance was both processional (symbolic of the passage from life to death and back) and round (fertility), and took place outside of the churchyard.  It is thought that it died out due to the unseemly boisterousness as befitted a spring festival. Old prints indicate that the churchyard wall may have been circular before 1890. It may be coincidence that St Martha’s was built on Martyrs Hill or could early Christians have been put to death there. Could it refer to sacrifices? There is a tradition that the church was built to commemorate the spot where the martyrs died for why else would a church be built in such an inaccessible spot. Unlike many isolated churches this one was never the centre of a vanished hamlet.

St Catherine's from St Martha's Chapel

The view West towards St Catherine’s Chapel

In May 2016 I decided to pay a visit to the prehistoric rings at St Martha’s church.  I wanted to get out there to have a look before the spring growth completely covered them, and knowing that they were very difficult to see due to the shallowness of the ditches and erosion over the years.  I did have a rough survey on plastic film that I carried out possibly in the 1980s, and as I have no memory of it at this distance in time I could not guarantee any sort of accuracy.  I also have a sketch plan from the Surry Archaeological Collections published many years ago, and which seems to be the only time a location plan was ever attempted, this bearing very little resemblance to my survey drawing.  I needed to check the accuracy of my drawing so used the handheld GPS to record what I could find of the circles. After much searching and wandering around all I could find was the top half of the circle nearest to the church.  This was recorded and transposed onto my computer database to compare with the information already entered from my original survey.  Although  it wasn’t a particularly good fit it did at least prove that what I had on my original drawing was more accurate than the sketch plan from the SAS records.  My reason for the interest in these circles was the vague possibility that they may have been positioned in a less arbitrary manner than would seem to be the case on site. Could they reflect the shape of a constellation suggesting an astronomical purpose? Or could they somehow mirror some of the alignments that I have located? Looking at them on the database neither of these seem to be a possibility and at the moment I’m ruling out any interest in these circles, but possibly at a later date their location may be of some relevance.

St Martha's looking South East

St Martha’s looking South East

 

 

To be added to Chilworth Priory under TYTING LINE

Chilworth Manor is shown on older Ordnance Survey maps as the site of a Priory Cell.  There is a persistent legend that this was a monastic site but there is little to substantiate this.  There is certainly no record in the Domesday Book.  Legend has it that it belonged to Newark Priory near Ripley and Augustinian Canons lived there and sometimes officiated at nearby St Martha’s Church.  Chilworth Manor was supposedly part of the patrimony of Newark Priory and fell into disuse during the Reformation.  There is nothing older than the 17th century in the current manor building but it is extraordinary that the point 152/6 is so accurately placed within the fabric of the oldest part of the building.  Further research is needed.

Plan of Chilworth Priory

Site plan Chilworth Priory

Albury New Church added to DEERLEAP LINE

266_7+ Albury New Church

The parish church was built in 1842 by McIntosh Brooks based upon a romanesque building in Normandy.  Although a recent site it is remarkably accurate in alignment and orientation as can be seen in the plan below.  Could the builders have known this when choosing the site?  Or could it be built upon an earlier structure?

Albury New Church

The church from the south east with St Martha’s Church just visible on the hilltop to the left side266_7+ Albury Parish Church

 

Chilworth Moat added to DEERLEAP LINE

266_10.5 Chilworth Moat

266_10.5 Chilworth Moat

An internet search reveals little information on this site.  From memory I recall a trial excavation being carried out some years ago which revealed very little of interest.

Chilworth Moat from South

This site sits in a scrubby meadow just to the north of Chilworth village.  Although it is private land it appears to be well used by local dog walkers.  It is very difficult to make out the moat and I had to locate it using my hand held GPS.  In the photograph the slight depression is visible as a change in the colour of the grass across the picture.  Behind the site the Tillingbourne flows from right to left in the line of trees, eventually entering the River Wey behind Shalford Church.  Beyond the trees the land rises to the wooded area known as The Chantries.

St Marthas from Moat

St Martha’s Church seen from the site one and a half kilometres away.