Sunday, March 29, 2009


Three not very exciting images, the shaft, which I think is a Norman cross shaft, was exposed yesterday in some hardcore the contractors were putting down on the racecourse.
It looks as if it has come from the medieval pilgrim chapel (St.Lawrence) at Chapel farm in Braythwaite, just across the road. The carvings are very worn but are probably acanthus leaf, there was more of the shaft under the soil. Four sided, with decoration on all sides, it would be interesting to see if there was an earlier foundation under Chapel farm, as it faces two bronze age burial mounds on the other side of the road.....

Although I have mentioned the chapel as a stopping place for pilgrims, there is another reason why there maybe an earlier connection. Just a field or so down from the chapel is St.Alphege Well, the following explains why there would have been an earlier hermitage or cell somewhere.... Alphege was martyred in London by the Vikings in a pretty brutal manner, hammered to death with oxbones by the drunken men, though there leader Thorkell tried to stop it, Alphege was put out of his misery by a newly converted christianised Viking called Thrum, who administered the fatal blow.

Alphege, or Elphege, (written as Aelfheath in Anglo-Saxon times but pronounced as it is today) was reputedly born in 954 of a noble family in the village of Weston, now a parish in the west of Bath, Somerset. While still young he renounced the world and entered the monastery at Deerhurst, near Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, apparently against the wishes of his widowed mother. The ancient church at Deerhurst still contains features from that time and a mediaeval stained glass window depicting the saint. Alphege served as monk, and later as Abbot, at Deerhurst, but he found the life there too lax for his taste. After 8 years, seeking a life of greater seclusion and austerity, he moved back to Weston in 980 and set up a small cell on the slopes of Lansdown Hill above the village. Ordnance Survey maps mark a spot there as St Alphege’s Well.

This sunday walk, the first day of the new summer time, did in fact herald two interesting things, the first was my buzzard, sat high on his telegraph pole, scanning the fields for mice. And sure enough Moss on his way back started digging in the field for mice, who must have come out of hibernation from the winter, needless to say Moss arrived home covered in soil and needed a thorough wash on the terrace. The soil on the Lansdown is a rich red/brown colour and stains his colours, but there must have been continuous cultivation and settlement on this upland land. Though the racecourse bought the land many years ago, it covers a about a hundred acres, they must have got rid of the hedges of the farm, but there are still concrete slab gate posts in the grass showing how the whole area was covered in small fields. The area where the buzzard and Moss hunt for mice must have been pasture land (harebells can still be seen in their time), but further up towards the bronze age barrow cemetery, wide rig and furrow lines show medieval ploughing.

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