Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Stanton Drew

The lion stone

This weekend visiting sites two stand out in my memory, East Kennet Longbarrow and Stanton Drew stone circles, both seen on beautiful sunny days, so rare this summer.
But it is with Stanton Drew that I first start out. Two years ago I photographed all the stones in the Great Circle, marvelling at their extraordinary size, colour, I gave some names to them at the time.
What can you say about this third 'cinderalla'of stone circles in the West country, Jodie Lewis in her book "The Neolithic of Northern Somerset" will give you facts and figures, Gordon Strong in his little book: Stanton Drew and its Ancient Stone Circles" will give you nibbles of fascinating information.
So for instance here we have an explanation of the name Stanton Drew;

" it was a fact that during the Middle Ages the land surrounding the stone circles was owned by the Drogo family, a Norman name which evolved into the Anglo-Celtic word for magician, sorcerer or druid 'Dru, Dryu', or more commonly today Drew. Hence ..Stanton Drew or Stone Town of the Drew Family" Gordon Strong.

Be that as it may the little pub in the village that houses the Cove, and quite a few chickens - the speckldly ones as well - is also called the Druid Arms.
He also gives the etymology of cove "derived from Old English 'cofa', an alcove (ancient German for hollow place). The Cove sits somewhat uneasily encased by the wire fence of the pub garden, with the church centrally place between it and the stone circles as drawn by Stukeley.

The Great circle is impressive, though many of the stones lie fallen, there colour and texture is remarkable so different from the Avebury Stones, whilst there wandering amongst them, we came across a dowser, Paul Daws was his name and had a long and interesting chat with him, he had apparently found some hidden circles up by Castlerigg. Only one person in seven can dowse so he informed me, obviously I'm one of the other six which is a shame

Three stones in the smaller circle

A lovely jumble of stones down by the two (hardly there) avenues down to the river

Many of the stones at Stanton Drew were broken up, burnt or buried in Medieval times, but it is believed the strong folklore tradition of the 'Wedding Stones' story probably helped save the rest. It was a multi-phase site, the earliest being the timber circle of nine concentric rings, or maybe of the henge, though the bank is not visible, and therefore a ditch and bank might not have been there, but it is suggested by Jodie Lewis, that the ditch might have been filled in between the wood and stone stage, as Aubrey says "it is a ploughed land and so easily worn out"
Lewis goes on to outline the case between 'closed' and 'open sites' an archaeological construct which sees the closed nature of timber circles and henges against the open nature of stone circles, this theory was somewhat exploded in the latest idea on Stonehenge where a 20 foot palisade was thought to be erected around the stones, though it seems a further revision may see the huge post holes as tree throws.
Composition of stone; the fluours and transparent crystallisation... shine eminently and reflect the sunbeams with great lustre" Stukeley
The stones are made of several different rock types; and it is interesting to note Lloyd Morgan (1887) list
The Great Circle; Silicious breccia, dolomitic breccia, oolitic limestone, coarser sandstone.
The north-east circle; Silicious breccia
The south-west circle; sandstone, silicious breccia, dolomitic breccia.
Hautville Quoit; Fine grained cherty sandstone
Tynings stones; oolitic limestone
The Cove; dolomitic breccia.
Many of the stones are striking because of the mixed appearance, they are conglomerates, with brightly coloured ragged surfaces - very dramatic - shot through with iron colouring, almost giving the appearance of blood, the quartz and dark coal conglomerate fissured deeply.
Some stones also have strong anthromorphic shapes, whilst others are solidly square, yet the instinctive response to them is that some stones represent something , either gods or ancestors, to the people who put them them up. They probably came from within few miles of the site.

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