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Sunday, 22 November 2015

Pembrokeshire stone gateposts

Volcanic ash (?) near Pentregalar

Volcanic ash (?) in Tycanol Wood

Huge dolerite standing stone / gatepost, one of the Russia Stones, above Cwm Gwaun

 Dolerite gatepost near Gelli-fawr, Cwm Gwaun

Volcanic ash gatepost, near Gernos Fach, Mynydd Preseli


I am moved to build up a little catalogue of stone gateposts in north Pembrokeshire -- they are quite striking parts of the landscape.  They are not unique, of course, since stone gateposts occur in Yorkshire, Ireland, the Lake District, Scotland and probably anywhere where abundant elongated stones are to be found.  I am not aware of any that are made of rhyolite -- the preferred stone types in Pembrokeshire seem to be dolerite and volcanic ash.  I shall examine the hypothesis and report back........

18 comments:

chris johnson said...

I suppose the photos you are choosing leave open the question of whether the field was defined by the stone or not. Mostly the stone might be considered to predate everything around it.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Quite so -- some of the larger standing stones (for example at Parc y Meirw) have certainly been incorporated into field boundaries without being moved from their original positions. For many of the smaller ones, which look rather nondescript, they may well be 18th or 19th C introductions to the landscape. We have a nice one in our car park which has been there for about 30 years. Very historic, it is......

Myris of Alexandria said...

There is an unpublished MSc thesis on many of these.
In the field it is difficult to determine the lithology.
There is work on them.
I think many are thought to be media-evil.
M

BRIAN JOHN said...

Do you have a reference to that, Myris?

There is a lot of media-evil about at the moment.

Dave Weston said...

I wonder how removing, cartinglarge and erecting a large stone pillar gateposts would rate in a cost-benefit exercise when a wooden one does the same job?

Dave Weston said...

I wonder how removing, carting, and erecting large stone pillar gateposts would rate in a cost-benefit exercise, when a wooden one does the same job?

Myris of Alexandria said...

No the thesis is not submitted yet.
Some have been sampled I think.
M

BRIAN JOHN said...

Dave, a wooden one does not do the same job. For a start, wooden posts rot in the ground, unless they happen to be oak. Also, wooden gateposts are OK for hanging light hurdles or wattle gates, but not for hanging really heavy gates up to 12 feet long, unless they are bedded in to a great depth and well packed with supporting stones. Even then, they tend to work loose over time. I know -- I have tried it! So I well understand the old guys who say that in the good old days solid stone gateposts, well bedded in, with two holes drilled through them for the hinges, were just the job.......

BRIAN JOHN said...

Myris -- that sound interesting. I hope he / she is having a good look at gateposts north of the mountains, since those are much more likely to have been selected and transported in historic time. Or else they were lying around in an erratic litter following a retreat from an expanded Preseli ice cap. That is rather an intriguing question........ I'm working on it.....

Dave W. said...

I wonder why people in the past would want to hang a gate that is twelve feet long when when two gates at six feet each would seal the same hole. Why did they need a twelve foot wide gate for a horse and cart to get through, or did they have wide tractors? Perhaps they had very fat sheep, or big cows that would only go through the gate sideways, rather than head-first.
Strange practice's.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Perfectly sensible questions, Dave. I really don't have a clue what the answers are -- I'm just passing on what I have read, apart from my actual experience of trying to hang heavy gates on gateposts that were not deep enough or heavy enough. For better or worse, there are an awful lot of stone gateposts around, in places where there was no shortage of timber. Do you have any better explanations?

chris johnson said...

Living in a place without stone I notice how people without stones manage to make fields and boundaries with a minimum of effort and without stones. Your thesis that Welsh hill farmers went in great numbers up the hills in Prescelli to retrieve stone gateposts does not pass the common sense litmus test as viewed from the Netherlands.

The better explanation you are searching for is that the stones were already very close to the place chosen to be the gate, or that they were already standing.

You remark regularly that the volcanic stones are friable. Sorry for my non-scientific vocabulary, but this means liable to break unexpectedly when hit or drilled. This property would also seem to make it unlikely that people would trek up the mountains to find stone posts when perfectly serviceable oak trees with well understood properties are available closer to home.

I will visit my country cousins for a couple of days in Feb/March and will check your suppositions with people who might be old enough to remember, even second hand. Until then I do believe you are labouring to make a point - a bit like MPP,

BRIAN JOHN said...

Chris, did I say that farmers went up into the hills in great numbers in order to collect stone gateposts? I don't think so. I'm not bothered one way or the other whether they did or didn't -- the only reason for the post was my discovery of those snippets in the writings of ET Lewis, which I thought worth reporting......

Phil Morgan said...

Very early navigation perhaps!

BRIAN JOHN said...

Chris -- I don't think that a friable rock otr a foliated rhyolite (for instance) would necessarily split or fall apart if you drilld a hole in it -- especially if you drilled across or through the foliations and/or bedding planes.

chris johnson said...

Brian, you are certainly right about the rhyolites and have written many times about their structural weaknesses. I can imagine using one as a gatepost if it was standing in front of me or even lying nearby. I do not imagine I would trek up to Goedog with a cart and horses to quarry and fetch a specimen when there are more reliable options close to hand and easier to work. It is the point you always make about returns on investment.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Remember that at Carn Goedog we have spotted dolerites, and at Rhosyfelin we have foliated rhyolites.

chris johnson said...

True.
I am carried away by the paradigm in which people did not see the difference - something argued in this blog on occasion.