Monday, April 26, 2010

The plundering of megalithic tombs by vikings.....

The raid on the prehistoric tombs of the Boyne valley (entered into the Annals of the four Masters at 863).

Amlaibh, Imhar and Auisle (Audgisl) three chieftains of the gaill; and Lorcan, son of Cathal, King of Meath, plundered the land of Flann (North Brega).

The viking raids on the great megalithic tombs of the Boyne valley in 863; by Olaf (Amlaibh) Ivar (Imhar) and Audgisl, probably carried out because after all the monastic raids that had been undertaken over the previous years, ‘treasure’ was by now getting hard to find. This was a great crime though, the tombs were considered sacrosanct in celtic folk-soul, so this outrage by the gaill, ( the foreigners, or in this case the Danes and Norse war lords who established themselves in Dublin).

The cave of Achadh-Aldai (Newgrange); the cave of Cnoghba (Knowth); the cave of the grave of Bodan over Dubadh (Dowth); and the cave of the wife of Gobhan at Drochat-atha (Drogheda) were broken and plundered by these same gaill.

Lorcan was punished by the High-king, Aed Findliath and blinded by him, as it is entered in the Annals of Ulster 864; Lorcan, son of Cathal, King of Meath, was blinded by Aed, son of Niall.

Ivar was probably the son of the famous Ragnar Lothbrok, who left his mark at the Maes Howe tomb, Ragnar had been marooned in the tomb for three days whilst a storm raged outside. In a poetic hand scribed on the stone wall was the following;

This mound was raised before Ragnar Lothbrok’s...
His sons were brave, smooth-hide men though they were...
It was long ago that a great treasure was hidden here...
Happy is he that might find the great treasure...

So these northern pirates, who were by now becoming established on the shores of Ireland, having pillaged the monastic houses and churches of the celtic church, turned there greed for gold onto the megalithic monuments in the Boyne valley, not that they would have found much ..

the above information taken from; The Fury of the Northmen by John Marsden

The caves of Achad Aldai, and of Cnodba, and of Boadán's Mound above Dubad, and of Óengoba's wife, were searched by the foreigners—something which had never been done before. This was the occasion when three kings of the foreigners, i.e. Amlaíb and Ímar and Auisle, plundered the land of Flann son of Conaing; and Lorcán son of Cathal, king of Mide, was with them in this.

Notes; "A/S Chronicle; 865 records micel haethen here, in East Anglia, Symeons of Durham describes an immense fleet of Danes, Frisians and other nations; coalition of the warbands of Ivar,Halfdan and Ubba, sons of Ragnar Lothbrok, with their lesser allies (jarls).
An immense fleet, under their kings and leaders, Halfdene, Inguar, Hubba, Baegsag, Guthrum, Oscytell, Amund, Sidroc and another leader of the same name, Osbern, Frana and Harold..
First among the warlords (p.139) stood 'the tyrant Inguar' who was to lead the host on 5 years of campaigning through Northumbria, Mercia and East Anglia..Inguar disappears from the English sources after his murder of the king of the East Angles in 870, at which point, the similarly named Imhar reappears in the Annals of Ulster laying siege with Olaf, king of Dublin, to Dumbarton on the Clyde. The same Imhar had disappeared from the Irish annals after the raid on the tombs of the Boyne valley in 863 just two years before Inguar appears in command of the great host which had landed in East Anglia and would soon seize York.
Marsden goes on to say that his identification of Ivar/Imhar/Inguar is a far from unanimous decision by historians to accepting the above identification but....he states that the chronology of the careers of the above, are one and the same man; Ivar Ragnarsson called 'the boneless', tomb-plunderer and slave-trader, son of the legendary Lothbrok and king of the northmen at both Dublin and York."..

A viking necklace/s found in a Burren Cave...

Friday, April 23, 2010

Blakes Wood and Paper Mill lock

The River Chelmer

Its too beautiful to be in the house, so this afternoon, a walk through Blakes Wood to see if the bluebells are opening yet. They are just about showing but there full glory will be in a couple of weeks. Parts of the wood were carpeted in wind anemones, and if you looked closely small purple violets.
Down the road and we stopped at Paper Mill Lock, the little wooden tea place was crowded with people, a white swan preened itself unconcernedly on a little concrete jetty, and a mother duck strolls along the concrete edge as her four little ducklings swim furiously in the water.
What else, swallows fly under the bridge, so they have arrived here as well, I read somewhere a person had written that when the swallows 'come back home' from Africa, all is well with the world in England. I tried to capture their flight under the bridge as they circled overhead, turning and diving, one minute under the bridge, the next flying over a sunlight field full of dandelions. They are so lucky to have arrived just in time for the British countryside to burst into vibrant life.
The river of course has its ducks and coots, placed territorially along the bank, we were going to walk along to the junction where the little river Ter joins the Chelmer, but we did'nt quite make it, another day and a picnic maybe.
Coming back the Fox and Raven for an early meal, we sat out in the sun (first time this year) and heard the skylark

Fungus along the River Chelmer

Blakes Wood and wood anemones

tiny violets


Creative Commons - Andreas Tille

Writing about the North and the viking raid brought back the memory of William Morris's trip to Iceland, and of course the recent disruption by the volcano in Iceland. I note that Fiona McCarthy is bringing out another book in July about William Morris and his trip to this far off land, first to escape the unhappy consequences of his marriage but also to see the land of the old sagas. Morris also brought back a little Icelandic pony for his daughters, which I believe used to pull the lawnmower around, but my Morris books are'nt here, so cannot check, though I do have a copy of Mackail's biography of him, plus of course E.P.Thompson's socialist analysis of him. (And of course why do I make note of that? but a feeling that I have a lot of possessions elsewhere and I should be getting rid of stuff - the great angst of guilt!)
Normally Morris's poetry is heavy, dull and long, this one though has managed to capture the feel, the first sighting of a new land, and that sense of time that drowns out a past history often violent.

Iceland First Seen by Wm Morris

Lo from our loitering ship a new land at last to be seen;
Toothed rocks down the side of the firth on the east guard a weary wide lea,
And black slope the hillsides above, striped adown with their desolate green:
And a peak rises up on the west from the meeting of cloud and of sea,
Foursquare from base unto point like the building of Gods that have been,
The last of that waste of the mountains all cloud-wreathed and snow-flecked and grey,
And bright with the dawn that began just now at the ending of day.

Ah! what came we forth for to see that our hearts are so hot with desire?
Is it enough for our rest, the sight of this desolate strand,
And the mountain-waste voiceless as death but for winds that may sleep not nor tire?
Why do we long to wend forth through the length and breadth of a land,
Dreadful with grinding of ice, and record of scarce hidden fire,
But that there 'mid the grey grassy dales sore scarred by the ruining streams
Lives the tale of the Northland of old and the undying glory of dreams?

O land, as some cave by the sea where the treasures of old have been laid,
The sword it may be of a king whose name was the turning of fight;
Or the staff of some wise of the world that many things made and unmade,
Or the ring of a woman maybe whose woe is grown wealth and delight.
No wheat and no wine grows above it, no orchard for blossom and shade;
The few ships that sail by its blackness but deem it the mouth of a grave;
Yet sure when the world shall awaken, this too shall be mighty to save. ...


Some incredible photos .......

And this is the picture that haunts me, the rows of houses on the other side, above this town will be the desolate moors, but huddled by the sea, this is the place where boats for centuries have sailed in, mostly with their catches from the sea but sometimes the great dragon ships of the vikings as well.........

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A look at Whitby

Streanæshalc, (the bay of the lighthouse) Streneshalc, Streoneshalch, Streoneshalh, Streunes-Alae in Lindissi (vii-viii cent.); Prestebi (xi cent.); Hwitebi, Witebi (old Norse - the White bay)-xii cent.); Whitebi (xiii cent.); Qwiteby (xiv cent.).

A look at Whitby; the fact is we might be moving down here at some stage, so its history begins to entice, reading The Fury of the Northmen last night and the affect of the piratical raids of the vikings on the monastic houses, one might be forgiven for thinking that this tale of killing, rape and pillage was part of an invasion over the centuries, but probably not, more like a slow colonisation (Scandinavian Migration Age) that took hold in the north but was rebuffed in the south, though of course for a very short time we did have a Scandinavian king.

But by reading the many names this town has had over the centuries there is a feeling of an 'alien' culture. All the small villages around the town and up on the moors have a strange ring to a southern ear, for we are now in the land where Scandinavian victory coloured the landscape.

Narrow streets with small cottages show a medieval history. Fishing boats are tied up at the quay with a great backdrop of sailing and motorboats, the British so delight in; lobster pots line the edge of the quay, as does fish restaurants everywhere. This is definitely a fishing port from way back in history. The river Esk tumbles its way down to the sea here, and visitors must cross the modern 'opening' bridge from one side of the river to the other. When we were there, just by the throng of people that pass over the bridge all the time, 6 pretty donkeys were being led down to the beach, bells a-jingling as they passed by.

Just down from Flowergate there are three churches almost adjacent to each other in the road, someone also told us that there is a leyline through Whitby, but you have to believe in leylines to believe that! Such religious fervour though is strange and one does wonder about it; probably a Victorian development when such a lot was being explored, and different factions of the christian church stood in opposition to each other. Dissent from the later centuries of English history was rife!
One thing of interest, is that the monastic order that had developed during the 7th/8th centuries believed in the 'six ages of man', and according to Bede they were living through the sixth age, which had a doomsday element at the end of the millenium, so that when the Scandinavian raids happened this was all part of God's Plan. To quote Bede;

The sixth age is now in progress.
The number of its generation and years is uncertain,
but at the age of decrepitude it will end even in the
death of the whole world.

which is of course very similar to the 2012 doomsday scenario we have from certain people today...
Whitby Abbey devastation; the most noble monasteries along the sea-coast are said to have been destroyed....a monastery of nuns at Tynesmouth, another of monks at Jarrow and Wearmouth, another of monks at Strenaeshale (Whitby), founded by the most blessed abbess Hild, who gathered many virgins there. These relentess chiefs then passed through Yorkshire, burning churches, cities and villages, and utterly destroying the people of whatever sex or age, together with the spoil and the cattle. Symeon 12th Century

'From the fury of the northmen, O lord, deliver us'
was a litany without need of vellum,
It was graven on the hearts of men whenever
and for as long as that fury fell

Ruswarp N. Yorks. Risewarp c.1146. Possibly silted land overgrown with brushwood. OE hris + wearp

Sleights is Old Norse, sletta 'flat land' with an English plural, like the Norman place name Eslettes.

The parish comprised in 1831 the townships of Aislaby, Hawsker cum Stainsacre, Newholm cum Dunsley, Ruswarp, Ugglebarnby and Whitby and the chapelry of Eskdaleside. Of these Aislaby became a separate ecclesiastical parish in 1865, Ruswarp in 1870 and Hawsker cum Stainsacre in 1878. A new township was separated from that of Hawsker cum Stainsacre in 1894 and named Helredal; it forms part of the Whitby Urban District. The parish of Aislaby includes the hamlet of Briggswath, that of Eskdaleside cum Ugglebarnby includes Grosmont, Iburndale, Little Beck and Sleights, that of Ruswarp Boghall, Ewe Cote, Fishburn Park, High Stakesby and West Cliff, that of Whitby Burtree Cragg and Haggerlythe. The entire area is 14,844 acres, including 228 acres of foreshore. The crops are wheat, barley and oats. An Inclosure Act was passed for the moors, commons and wastes of the manors of Eskdaleside and Ugglebarnby in 1760, another for Dunsley Moor in 1793. Jet has been worked from Saxon times. The local sandstone is excellent, and has been used in the great breakwaters at Whitby and for London Bridge, the Admiralty Pier at Dover and the facing of the old Houses of Parliament. The Whitby Stone Company was formed in 1834 to work quarries of basalt, grit, ironstone and cement stone. The Brick and Tile Company, founded in 1838, had works near the railway between Ruswarp and Sleights. Alum was worked from the 17th to the 19th century. The fact that Whitby Abbey in about 1200 agreed to send 2,000 herrings yearly to Thornton Dale suggests that the salting of herring was an early industry, and the 11th-century fish-tithe is significant.

sea fret = mist

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Cope Family

Drawing things together, or finding 'stuff', at one point I wrote a lot about the Cope family that emigrated to America in the 17th century, but their headings give no clue as to what I have written! Luckily search brings them up...... and both Oliver Cope, the initial person who emigrated with his family, and Mary Cope, who came back in the 19th century from America and wrote the following poem found on this link are all together....

Saturday, April 17, 2010

England is at its glorious best, the white blossom of blackthorn powder puffs the hedgerows its whiteness set against the new green of willows and hawthorns. The Viper pub hidden in the woods is full of people taking a late lunch in the garden, children scamper around, the little white sealyham is still on the scrounge for food and yellow brimstones track up and down.

Clear blue skies, no planes to mark their trail across, what an odd few days it has been. A warm day, trip to buy some plants and the cherry blossom looking gorgeous. Tried to photograph the pulmonaria bee, not sure of its proper name, but goes under the heading of solitary bees. It has a long proboscis to delve deep into the flowers and acts like a humming bird on the blossom but it is too fast, so I caught this large bee instead.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Lincoln Cathedral

We visited Lincoln Cathedral on the first part of the journey. We had planned to stop off at a Travelodge on the way and visit the city. First my impressions of Lincolnshire, I found the county to be pretty drear, flatness should not be dull, but the enormous fields had hardly anything to do with the natural world. Our Travelodge was situated on a junction of several roads that went under and over, when we actually managed to find the road we wanted to approach said place it was a relief. Early evening we decided to drive out for a meal, firstly a large village with empty shops and one of those enormous Georgian hotels boarded up, blighting the centre of the village. There was hardly any pubs, and a feeling of gloom began to descend on both our souls! Then we went to a place called Redford, but the same air of neglect could also be seen.
But to return to Lincoln Cathedral, one of the finest Gothic Cathedrals in Europe, it is truly staggering, the whole building carved to within an inch of its life. Countless masons must have chipped and chiselled their lives out here to the greater glory of God, Romanesque friezes of the 'good and glorious', which I somehow managed not to photograph, the tall pillars inside opening up like a forest of trees. The entrance charge was £6 a head, which we did'nt pay, and I find rather scandalous but the outside was just as awe-inspiring as the inside.
Here I make a confession, I did'nt like it, to ornate for my taste, its heavy opulence weighed the mind and soul down, it reminds you of the power of the church to inflict terror on the people around! Somewhere in one of my blogs I have written about the 5th/6th Bestiary of Beasts book that was so copied through church history. Here at Lincoln the beasts whirled and bit their tails round the pillars of the great doorway with great gusto, it is a fairytale world translated into a religious warning of doom and terror.

This must be the south door

Tournai Font; "The Lincoln font is typical of its type and consists of a large square bowl on four colonnettes with a heavy central drum support and a massive carved base to suit. The bowl has been split horizontally in antiquity and has been skilfully repaired. The top of the bowl has been carved with leaves and rosettes whilst each side of the bowl is carved with grotesques and lions with foliate tails, possibly to represent the original sin which baptism removes."

elaborate ziz-zag Norman door, 'barley twist' pillars as well

The elaborate arcading


The cathedral and town stands on the only long ridge for miles, its tall towers can be seen from 35 miles away. The town itself is walled, and has several picturesque streets and medieval buildings round the cathedral. The font is hideous, apparently there was a fashion for imitating black marble, so a dark igneous limestone was used then buffed and polished to represent marble.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Bridestones

The Bridestones, both high and low are a group of stones up on the moor. We took the turning out of Sleights to Grosmont, and drove along an up and down road by the side of one of the deep combes that is so characteristic of the valleys below the moors. Though I expect there is a proper word for these steep sided small valleys - but in Somerset we call them combes. Cottages cling to the side of the valley their gardens terracing down, until eventually you arrive at the small village of Grosmont with its train station. This of course is a steam train which brings the tourists in to wander around, though there is not much to see except a couple of book shops. We learnt later that one of the buildings (the reading room) here belonged to a friend of my son-in-law, in fact his gallery in Whitby is called the Reading Room, but Grosmont seemed to be a visiting spot for tourists, just like Goathland.
Turning back out of the village we climbed up the lane to the top of the moors, over the cattle grid, and found the stones amongst the heather and bogs, something you have to be careful about.
I'm not sure what to say about the stones, five in a circle (High Bridestones) but only one standing slightly crooked but square angled, as were the other stones on the ground. Reading other peoples impression of the stones up on the moors and they seem disappointed by the jumble of stones, its hard to make out any sense of the stone row of the Low Bridestones, it may even be a stone wall, such as you find in Wales.
I liked the stones they are narrow and not too tall, graceful and chosen for a specific reason, the land would have been different when they were first erected and the sense of space and the grandeur of the scenery must have been awe-inspiring. The barrow which sits at the turning off the main Whitby to Pickering road can be seen from here. It has a height marker on top, and apparently has been excavated again and again but there have been no finds - perhaps it was an early B/A marker cairn.

The photos show a lovely sunny day, but not the cold wind that whipped across the moor, and I also took of a photo of a large black/white bird that suddenly rose from the heather (no not a magpie!) but it seems to have flown the photo....


Whitby is one of those extraordinary places, that attracts people like bees to a honey pot. Picturesque is the first word to spring to mind, lively and full of people the air hums with a certain vibrancy.
Leave the city of York , cross the flat York vale, past Dalby forest and then the North Yorkshire moors. The bleak brown of the vast stretches of heather, is hardly relieved by that monstrosity of the 'listening eye' at Fylingsdale, but of course this wilderness of heather and rock is also very spectacular. Stop at Holcrum Hole and peer into its depths of green fields, it looks as if a giant meteorite has fallen, but the hole has been created by the steady drip of water over the centuries. After Holcrum Hole you descend steeply into that magical world of 'Postman Pat' land, dales, becks, scattered stones, tiny creamy-brown Yorkshire cottages clinging to the hillside, and then Whitby and the sea greets you, with the great ruined abbey sitting on the headland.

Whitby is the play town of the north-east, fish and chip shops galore, expensive restaurants as well, tatty tourist shops in the narrow almost medieval streets. These streets will be packed with people, children, dogs, pushchairs and wheelchairs, a van may push its way to unload but cars are a no-no.

Up on the headland is the ruined abbey, this time we did'nt go up the 199 steps with the children, having to carry the little one would have been too much. There is the famous Caedmon modern stone cross at the top, but you have to pay to go into the grounds, the stone stone of the abbey is a buttery brown colour, I have never understood why it was built on top of the cliff in full view of the sea and raiding Vikings, but of course the abbey is famous for St.Hilda and the banishing of 'snakes'; the legend goes that she turned them to stone, the snakes were of course rock ammonites! Though historically it is the Synod of Whitby that goes down in the history books and the dating of Easter.

The one thing that fascinates my partner about Whitby, is of course the fish shop, which truly does have the 'fruits of the sea' on its slabs, and also the freshest fish, there is one more fish shop outside the fish sheds, but their fish is not turned over regularly every day. The fish shop draws him like a magnet, various small 'snail like creatures' (cockles, whelks, mussels, scallops of course so I am informed) dressed and undressed crabs, great lobsters, and beautifully 'kippered' kippers reside amongst the white fish, the children of course pull their noses up at all this bounty from the sea.

The grandchildren treats consist of icecreams of course, but also chocolate cake, which the little one can consume in vast quantities. The last day we went to the Sherlock cafe, which is 'olde style', plastered in Victorian bits and pieces and books lying on the shelves everywhere, but a great treat for everyone. I had been there before a couple of years ago, and taken a photo of a 'vampirish goth' sedately eating her cake in the corner..

Soup plates of chocolate cake with fudge sauce and icecream was the order of the day for the children, Lillie demanding that every last bit on her plate was spooned into her mouth. It keeps them quiet but to me is the most decadent of puddings/cakes on this planet.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Whitby and miniatures

Returning to childish things; I decided to redecorate my miniature room, it still needs finishing off, but as we're going to Whitby tomorrow, it was put back together again, with Wm Morris paintings. My granddaughter Matilda has inherited my love of crafts, and dolls houses. Last time, or at least the time before, I took her the small wooden octagonal hat shop, made in Bath, it has a golden dome that is a copy of a Bath landmark.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Hens and Bread

Missing my hens;
Well hens lay eggs and Easter is the time for eggs... Spring is here, though not the weather, 3 cold degrees it says on my computer even though the sun is shining. This time of the year I would escape to the garden with my morning coffee I would have had the company of my two friendly hens - Hetty and Daisy (sadly departed this world sometime ago due to the fox).

Hens are jungle fowl and these two would prowl round the undergrowth happily, spring is of course the time to start laying eggs for these pair, usually in their nest boxes, but Daisy would occasionally go off and make a nest behind the trunk of a fallen tree or a rosebush, and when the nest was eventually found a crop of brown eggs would be sitting snugly there.
Hetty unfortunately went broody quite a lot, a broody hen is the most obstinate creature alive, when she actually made an excursion into the garden she grumbled and muttered to herself all the time. Her broodiness almost caused her demise one night, sat in her nesting box, a badger managed to prise the lid off and grab her by her tail. Terrific squawks at midnight, chasing round the garden, the badger seemed slightly bemused and eventually peace was restored. So at the moment I'm missing my two little hens, though I have every intention of keeping some more in the future.

Bread making, something I've done for the last 30 years, my soul is not rested until it knows that there is some bread in the house, reserves of flour in the cupboard and I am happy.....
This loaf part white/part brown is what I normally bake, this particular loaf has risen too high, and then the yeast has started to die off from the top due to a draught as it went to the oven, not that I mind, too high and you have problems cutting, plus of course it looks like a cratered moon surface which reminds me of that very good tv programme on the universe last sunday. But I decided to bake a plaited poppy seed loaf as well, something I have'nt seen around Chelmsford, this one has sage and onion added, but olives are also good to add to savoury bread.

The Story of St.Melangell and the hare;