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Circles under churches
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Littlestone
Littlestone
5381 posts

Re: Circles under churches
May 23, 2005, 23:37
>The neighbouring (and older) church at Alton Barnes has massive sarsen stones forming its quoins - they are enormous and totally megalithic in character.<

Sorry to disagree with you Peter but the quoins at Alton Barnes appear to me to be of a soft sandstone and not of the much harder sarsen found in the area (I'm not an expert in this and am happy to be proved wrong). Neither am I sure that the church at Alton Barnes is actually older than the church at Alton Priors; the former is the smaller of the two but I need to check out their dates more carefully (perhaps also of interest is that the yew tree at Alton Barnes is considerably smaller than the yew at Alton Priors).

What did strike me while there over the weekend was the beautiful cobbled pathway that leads across the fields between the two churches. There are literally thousands and thousands of dressed stones making up the pathway - a real labour of love; I wonder when they were laid down but not that they appear to lead <i>from</i> Alton Barnes to Alton Priors.
juamei
juamei
1996 posts

Re: Circles under churches
May 24, 2005, 11:40
AFAIK Alton Barnes is a Saxon church whereas Alton Prior is Norman.
PeterH
PeterH
1180 posts

Re: Circles under churches
May 24, 2005, 13:14
That is correct. The monumental "Anglo-Saxon Architecture" by H.M. and J. Taylor states that "the nave is substantially pre-conquest fabric" and dated to Period C ie. AD 950 - 1100. Alton Priors is much younger, but that doesn't mean that an earlier church never existed on the same site. There is no evidence of one though.
Littlestone
Littlestone
5381 posts

Re: Circles under churches
May 24, 2005, 16:44
Thank you juamei for that info. Peter, however, makes a valid point when he says, "Alton Priors is much younger, but that doesn't mean that an earlier church never existed on the same site."

Interestingly, the Wiltshire County Council Community History Site* has the following to say, "Alton Barnes, on the other hand, was a separate parish, but it remained small and poor, and consequently never replaced its Saxon church." which perhaps implies that a Saxon church did stand at Alton Priors before being replaced by a Norman one. Who knows; an older and possibly larger Saxon church may have been built on, or in, a stone circle at Alton Priors before the smaller Saxon church at Alton Barnes was built. One thing's for sure; this small area which encompasses two churches, sarsen stones, ancient yew trees, a spring, the Ridgeway and other prehistoric sites is a microcosm of British history and well worth a visit.**

* http://www.wiltshire.gov.uk/community/getconcise.php?id=5

** Forgot the Barge Inn at Honey Street :-)
FourWinds
FourWinds
10943 posts

Tombs under churches
Jul 07, 2005, 19:38
At Cangas de Onis in Asturias, Spain, there is the Santa Cruz Chapel. This dates to around 5th to 7th Century. Under the floor there is a tomb with traces of painting and engravings on it. There is a hole in the floor so that it is on view.

I've done a bit of a web search and can't find pictures of the tomb :-(
Littlestone
Littlestone
5381 posts

Re: Circles under churches
Aug 17, 2005, 23:09
Think it was PeterH who provided a link to the sarsens under the church foundations at Cliff Pypard (sorry but seem to have mislaid that link). Just to confirm that there are indeed two sarsens at the front of the church and to the right of the porch. It was absolutely tipping it down when I was there last Saturday and, as the back of the church is also partly fenced off, I didn't get round to verifying whether or not there are more sarsens at the back as well. Also, I've never actually walked all the way round the outside of St James' Church at Avebury so, on the off chance that there might be sarsens there, I checked that out as well. Bingo! there's one stone in the foundations at the back of the church.

The pattern of placing sarsens in the foundations of the churches at Avebury, Cliff Pypard, Pewsey and perhaps other churches in the area, is just too similar to be coincidence - just wonder if there isn't documentary info tucked away in some church record somewhere for the reasons <i>why</i> it was done.
VenerableBottyBurp
675 posts

Re: Circles under churches
Aug 18, 2005, 01:18
Er...because it was a hard stone and they wanted hard stones as foundation rubble and these were stones in the vicinity ?

VBB
nigelswift
7400 posts

Re: Circles under churches
Aug 18, 2005, 06:29
"Er...because it was a hard stone and they wanted hard stones as foundation rubble and these were stones in the vicinity ?"

Hmm, but does it happen with equal frequency at secular buildings?

If you're building foundations your main object is to spread the load evenly, so as to avoid differential settlement and consequent cracking in the superstructure. A clue to the existence of large flat sarsens in church foundations might be cracking in the walls, each side of where they might be.

I think if a builder was going to put sarsens anywhere it would be at the corners. Unfortunately, that's also where you'd put them for ritual reasons too.

I look forward to Littlestone's survey of cracks in churches and whether they follow the same pattern as the known sarsen placements.
PeterH
PeterH
1180 posts

Re: Circles under churches
Aug 18, 2005, 07:01
Not guilty m'lud - never been to Cliff Pypard. I have seen puddingstones built into the corner foundations of churches in Essex, Herts and Bucks. Puddingstone is a very hard conglomerate that is found in these non stoney areas. Building stone for these churches had to be brought in from elsewhere - some from Kent (ragstone) some from Normandy. I have often wondered if the puddingstones were entirely practical ie they are hard and available - or if there was a ritual association. I am a bit anti-ritual at present, but that stance got a bit of a shock just recently when Baza pointed out that the Stansted Airport sarsen stone was excavated from a pit in a Bronze Age village. Why was it deliberately buried in a pit if not for ritual?
As some of you will know, I am interested in attempting to verify or refute, the existence of a long distance neolithic trade route from Grimes Graves marked by puddingstone way marks.
FourWinds
FourWinds
10943 posts

Re: Circles under churches
Aug 18, 2005, 07:01
>> I think if a builder was going to put sarsens anywhere it would be at the corners. Unfortunately, that's
>> also where you'd put them for ritual reasons too.

Can't see any reasoning behind that statement, to be honest. I would have thought that the two places you would put them for 'ritual' reasons would be at the entrance and behind or under the altar (i.e. round the back).

Placing them at corners would define the modern sacred space with bits an old one, but the corners have no Xtian significance. The door into God's house and the altar do have though.
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