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Saturday, 3 September 2016

The lost megalithic structures of Somerset

 Grimm 1773 -- sketch of stone circles in the Clevedon Hills (British Library)

Many thanks to Pete G for alerting us to this fantastic source of info -- the old illustrations held by the British Library.  Might be worth doing a lot more searching.......

http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/topdrawings/s/zoomify85728.html

 Near Clevedon Court , 1789

Quote: A drawing of "one of the stone circles near Sir Abraham Elton's summer-house" at Clevedon in Somerset. In the area there were a number of earthworks and stone circles dating back to prehistoric times. The Elton family, who bought the mansion Clevedon Court in 1709, were wealthy Bristol merchants who rose to positions of standing locally (including election as Member of Parliament).

 Between Cadbury Camp and Clevedon Court

Stones in the Vale of Ashdon

These illustrations all seem to date from 1773 - 90, and there are brief descriptions accompanying some of them in the British Library Catalogue.  The strange building is some sort of folly on the Clevedon estate, built on a high point in the landscape like a lot of other follies.  Was this Sir John's summerhouse?

From the catalogue:
A view taken from Sir John Durbin's summer-house on Clevedon Hill in Somerset. In the area there were a number of earthworks and stone circles dating back to prehistoric times. The house belongs to Sir John Durbin, a gentleman who was Sheriff of Bristol in 1763 and 1774 and then Mayor between 1777-79 before gaining a Baronet in 1778. 

What intrugues me about the stone settings, apart from the fact that there are clear patterns, is the fact that the stones do not appear to be standing in sockets -- from the illustrations, they just seem to be litters or collections of stones maybe brought together from field clearance activities.  The real question is this:  are the settings prehistoric, or made by the labourers on the estate?  Another interesting question relates to the stones -- are they glacial erratics, or are they all locally derived?  Maybe Pete or somebody else might have some answers.......



From these we can see that the sea is not far away.  Again there are piles of stones that look like clearance cairns, and in the bottom pic another stone circle.

8 comments:

TonyH said...

I wonder if Pete has enquired from Somerset Archaeological Service, presumably still at Taunton, what they know about these stone settings etc?

PeteG said...

yes and they know nothing about them. I asked about the stone row in Weston woods and they said "probably old quarry stones" but they are covered in deep moss and were there long before the quaries.

BRIAN JOHN said...

As I mentioned, we have to consider the possibility that these features are follies or else stone clearance features. None of the stones in the sketches seems to be bedded into the ground -- and that might be a highly significant point. From our point of view, the fact that the stones were there and needed clearing is the interesting one -- are we really talking about the clearing up of a litter of erratics? There are other glacial deposits in this general area, as shown in the GCR book and many other papers.

TonyH said...

Some locals may care to enquire at their local, North Somerset libraries, to seek and thereby (optimistically speaking) find other local history etc mentions of these stones.

I don't think the well - respected field archaeologist, Leslie Grinsell, mentions anything in his "Archaeology of Wessex", which is in any case nearly 60 years old. Leslie was a great character and Curator of Bristol Museum and a person who scoured the terrains of various parts of SW England for signs of prehistory in an impressively thorough, systematic manner. I accompanied him as he reseaerched one of his guidebooks in North Devon. He also showed me the very faint residual remains of a barrow on the edge of a hockey pitch on Lansdown, Bath! Many of the barrows around Avebury still have "Grinsell numbers".

TonyH said...

You would wonder whether the University of Bristol's eminent Geography Department has done any geomorphological fieldwork on the ridge between Clevedon, Weston - in Gordano and towards Portishead? Anyone know?

BRIAN JOHN said...

A lot of sites are known in the area -- many of them showing traces of glaciation. There's a big reference list -- but much of the work is summarised in the GCR volume for SW England -- published 1998.

Key sites are Weston-in-Gordano, Nightingale valley, Holly Lane, Court Hill, Ham Green, Kenn Church, Kenn Pier, and Yew Tree Farm. All the "unequivocal" evidence shows an ice incursion from the Bristol Channel, at least as far inland as Bath and the inner reaches of the Somerset Levels. The authors of the GCR articles refer to the glaciation as "extremely ancient" -- and some think it was pre-Anglian. The jury is still out on the matter of age.......

TonyH said...

HISTORIC ENGLAND: CLEVEDON COURT. There is an interesting account at:-


https//historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/10000565

TonyH said...

More on Samuel Hieronymous Grimm [much of it glowing praise] at:-

www.buildinghistory.org/primary/grimm.shtml