The time has come to address the most thorny and contentious issue in alignment research – the question of site relevance.
If one accepts that the aligned sites were set out in prehistory why is it that ‘modern’ sites such as moats and post-medieval churches occur on some alignments with considerable accuracy. St John’s Church at Merrow for example, is not only on a significant ten degree bearing line in the pattern but also at a multiple of the Druid Mile. It is known that there are some examples of site continuity from prehistoric times onwards; there is at least one example of a Norman motte being constructed over the top of a bronze age barrow, and instances of medieval churches having been built next to prehistoric standing stones and barrows.
There is a widespread belief amongst fringe researchers that many churches are built on the site of a pre-existing pagan shrine or temple which they presume evolved from druidic holy places tracing the evolution back to the Neolithic. Evidence for this is the oft-quoted letter of AD 601 from Pope Gregory to Abbot Mellitus suggesting that existing pagan temples should not be destroyed but converted for Christian worship. Although there is some evidence that this happened much more research is needed to determine the origins of the huge number of medieval churches in our landscape.
The following is an excerpt of the most important parts of pope Gregory’s letter in an easily understood translation:
Tell Augustine that he should be no means destroy the temples of the gods but rather the idols within those temples. Let him, after he has purified them with holy water, place altars and relics of the saints in them. For, if those temples are well built, they should be converted from the worship of demons to the service of the true God. Thus, seeing that their places of worship are not destroyed, the people will banish error from their hearts and come to places familiar and dear to them in acknowledgement and worship of the true God.
Further, since it has been their custom to slaughter oxen in sacrifice, they should receive some solemnity in exchange. Let them therefore, on the day of the dedication of their churches, or on the feast of the martyrs whose relics are preserved in them, build themselves huts around their one-time temples and celebrate the occasion with religious feasting. They will sacrifice and eat the animals not any more as an offering to the devil, but for the glory of God to whom, as the giver of all things, they will give thanks for having been satiated. Thus, if they are not deprived of all exterior joys, they will more easily taste the interior ones. For surely it is impossible to efface all at once everything from their strong minds, just as, when one wishes to reach the top of a mountain, he must climb by stages and step by step, not by leaps and bounds….
Mention this to our brother the bishop, that he may dispose of the matter as he sees fit according to the conditions of time and place.
Moats are generally included in the ley hunters list of relevant sites although there is little evidence that any construction on these sites occurred before the middle ages. There are two, perhaps three, moated sites accurately positioned on the alignments that do not seem to be coincidental and further research is necessary.
As I describe each site in following pages I will keep site relevance to the forefront of concern and freely admit when I feel that the positioning is coincidental.