Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Head To Head
Log In
Register
The Modern Antiquarian Forum »
Alton Priors »
Circles under churches
Log In to post a reply

Pages: 27 – [ Previous | 14 5 6 7 8 9 | Next ]
Topic View: Flat | Threaded
danielspaniel
danielspaniel
90 posts

Re: Circles under churches
May 09, 2005, 14:24
Hi Littlestone,

While in the Brighton area, you might want to check out the churches at Stanmer, Falmer and Ditchling. All of these have loads of Sarsens about, including what look like recumbent 'altar stones' at Stanmer and Ditchling.

And if you are going to Devils Dyke, you might check out Wolstonbury and tell us what you reckon!

Daniel
Littlestone
Littlestone
5381 posts

Re: Circles under churches
May 09, 2005, 17:12
> Pete G said "My guess is that the stones were rediscovered when the floor was done and a friendly vicar decided to put the doors in as a way of attracting more people into the church." That is my view too. <

Sorry, that just doesn't add up. The stones under the floor may have been 'rediscovered' when the new floor was re-laid but putting trapdoors in to attract more visitors? More visitors for what? This is hardly Canterbury Cathedral. Alton Priors church is in the middle of no-where.* The only people over the last hundred years or so likely to make a trek to Alton Priors church to see the stones under the floor would have been a few antiquarians and perhaps the occasional neo-pagan. The sarsens under the floor aren't even mentioned in the Alton Priors Church guidebook - hardly indicative of wanting to attract more people.

> Alton Priors church is built in an area thick with sarsen stones. It is impossible not to fall over them. <

Really? Not only did I not fall over any other sarsens around Alton Priors church I didn't even see any others. But I think I know what you mean. A neighbour of mine in south Swindon once found a sarsen stone in his garden - at first he thought it was just an ordinary stone but after a week of digging realized it was a monster which eventually had to be taken out with a crane.

> ... but why were these stones any more sacred to pagans than the hundreds lying around in the same (Alton Priors) field? <

Again, hundreds lying around in the same field? I must be missing something here. The only other stones I saw lying around Alton Priors church were gravestones.

But Peter, may I ask why you seem to be so adverse to the notion that Alton Priors is a pre-Christian place of importance when the stones under the church floor, the 1,700 year-old yew tree in the graveyard, the spring just a little way away, all seem to suggest a place of pre-Christian importance?

We can argue the toss about Alton Priors 'til the cows come home - what we need is a bit more information which I'll try to gather over the summer.

* No-where in terms of a place for Christian worship but a mere stone's throw from The Ridgeway - and the Ridgeway has attracted many Neolithic structures along its route.
PeterH
PeterH
1180 posts

Re: Circles under churches
May 09, 2005, 22:33
No other sarsens nearby? Look in the farmyard opposite the church, look in the garden of the large house - they have a sarsens folly. Unless we have been to two different places, then the sarsens are everywhere. The neighbouring (and older) church at Alton Barnes has massive sarsen stones forming its quoins - they are enormous and totally megalithic in character. Now that may well be worth a closer look!

I'm not adverse to accepting that the church could have been built on a pagan site. I have already quoted the Papal edict that pagan temples were to be reconsecrated, but the idols of stone and wood destroyed. However, I believe that the churches replaced pagan SAXON sites and not prehistoric ones unless in specific cases it can be shown that the Saxons had their temples or groves on such sites. In some cases they clearly did eg the conversion of earlier round barrows into moot hills and their intrusion burials into both round and long barrows.

Some evidence of pre-Christian useage at Alton Priors will happily convince me. As for the trapdoor, well you know that the old time antiquarians were often vicars. They were romantics too and loved to fantasise about Druidic rites and all that. So following floor repair, what could be more natural than to keep open access to impress other gentlemen scholars ;> )
Littlestone
Littlestone
5381 posts

Re: Circles under churches
May 09, 2005, 23:03
Will check out the farmyard etc next time I'm there - thanks for that info.

> However, I believe that the churches replaced pagan SAXON sites and not prehistoric ones unless in specific cases it can be shown that the Saxons had their temples or groves on such sites. <

Sorry to harp on about the yew tree but, if it is indeed 1,700 years old, that would place it roughly 300-400 hundred years before any pagan Saxon structure that might have existed on the site (in fact the yew tree would have been standing at Alton Priors when the Romans were still in the area). Again, coupled with the nearby spring and the sarsens under the church I would maintain that Alton Priors church (as at Pewsey and possibly Ingatestone?) most likely occupies the site of a prehistoric circle.

I need to do more research on this but, thanks again for the info :-)
PeterH
PeterH
1180 posts

Re: Circles under churches
May 09, 2005, 23:16
OK - just one thing on theyew tree. Its great age doesn't have to mean that it was located at a pagan site. This one could have been one of many and it survived when others were felled.. Yew is of course very poisonous and the old tradition that they were planted inside churchyards to keep the devil and evil spirits away is countered by the notion that they were planted inside churchyard walls where cattle couldn't get to them.


I do agree that this yew is far older than the existing church
I'm still on the fence.
Littlestone
Littlestone
5381 posts

Re: Circles under churches
May 09, 2005, 23:26
PS > I would maintain that Alton Priors church (as at Pewsey and possibly Ingatestone?) most likely occupies the site of a prehistoric circle. <

Actually, I'm no longer sure that Pewsey church actually sits on a prehistoric circle. I am sure, though, that the stones under its foundations did come from a circle but that the circle was more likely to have been in the grove down by the river. The stones were brought <i>up</i> the hill and placed under the church rather than being originally on top of the hill and then pushed down it...

Then again, of course, I might just be talking through my arse :-)
FourWinds
FourWinds
10943 posts

Re: Circles under churches
May 09, 2005, 23:26
Yew provides the best wood for the longbow and during the conflicts with France this was a massively prized commodity. Any yew tree that survived that period must have been held very special.

You mention the theory that yews were planted in church yards to keep them away from cattle. Why plant them at all? There must be a reason why they were planted or why they were left in place if they are older than the church. If they do 'keep away the devil' and the churches were built next to them then site was chosen because of the tree. Obviously, you can't rule out an earlier demolished or wooden church from being on the site before the present one. Only if the yew is over 1800 years old can you say that its 'sacredness' predates the church - otherwise it could have been planted by the first monks to settle there to 'keep away the devil'. But then where did they get that idea from?

Lots of questions indeed.
follow that cow
follow that cow
277 posts

Re: see yews!
May 09, 2005, 23:48
The Fortingall Yew tree in a Dunkeld churchyard

http://www.rampantscotland.com/visit/blvisitfortingall.htm

maybe the oldest living thing in Europe.
mort
14 posts

Re: Circles under churches
May 09, 2005, 23:50
all yew need to know about the yew at

http://www.rfs.org.uk/thirdlevel.asp?ThirdLevel=179&SecondLevel=33

sorry about the gag!
Pete G
Pete G
3506 posts

Re: see yews!
May 09, 2005, 23:53
Tree! Not Thing.
I think that title belongs to the myceleum network under Dartmoor.
The Alton Prior Yew has a sarsen embedded in its roots.
There is a natural drift of sarsens in the area.
PeteG
Pages: 27 – [ Previous | 14 5 6 7 8 9 | Next ] Add a reply to this topic

The Modern Antiquarian Forum Index