Thursday, March 19, 2009

Ancient stones unearthed at Coate could be part of Swindon’s Neolithic history


Ancient stones unearthed at Coate could be part of Swindon’s Neolithic history

The Jefferies Land Conservation Trust has expressed grave concerns that a Neolithic site dating back some 4,000 years will lose its potential historic and tourist value if the Coate development is permitted.

A recent discovery of two sarsen stones opposite Day House farm, has aroused speculation that many of the lost stones of ritual value still lie buried in the ground, undiscovered. Apparently these two stones were uncovered a week ago whilst digging a ditch alongside Day House Lane.

In 1894, A D Passmore, a local antiquarian recorded in his notebooks [1] two stone circles on Day House Farm that appeared to link to one another by a line of sarsens as well as four more stone circles nearby.

Only one of the six stone circles, opposite Day House Farm, is known today and protected by law albeit that many of the stones in this circle have also been destroyed. The sarsens are almost totally buried in the field but Passmore noted that the stones varied between 6-12 foot in length and the same in width.

Richard Jefferies, the Victorian nature writer born at Coate, also wrote about these stones in the Wiltshire Herald in 1867-8. [1]

Passmore found the remains of another stone circle on Day House Farm a quarter of a mile south-west of the first; he spotted another in the floor of Coate Water, and others at Hodson, Broome and in Burderop Woods.

The most widely accepted theory as to the purpose of Stone Circles is that they are connected with the worship of the Sun and Moon.

Speaking on behalf of the Jefferies Land Conservation Trust, Jean Saunders said:

“Whilst not on the scale of Avebury, it is so exciting to know that Coate is steeped in similar pre-history. We know of a Bronze Age settlement just south of Coate Water, two round barrows opposite Richard Jefferies’ old house at Coate, two stone circles on Day House Farm and lines of stones linking these together with others. It would be criminal to surround these ancient relics of the past with modern buildings. Who knows how many more of these old stones of great spiritual value lie undiscovered? Can Swindon afford to lose more of its history?”


Editor’s notes

1. Extracts from Passmore’s notebooks were recorded in the Wiltshire Archaeological & Natural History Magazine 2004.

2. Richard Jefferies (1849-1887) started his working life as a journalist on local papers. In the Wiltshire Herald Jefferies reported:

‘The road from Coate makes a wide semi-circle round to Chisledon. Day-house Lane cuts off the angle, and was formerly much used, until the road was widened and macadamised. There may be seen on the left side of Day-house Lane, exactly opposite the entrance to a pen on Day-house Farm, five Sarsden stones, much sunk in the ground, but forming a semi-circle of which the lane is the base­line or tangent. There was a sixth upon the edge of the lane, but it was blown up and removed, in order to make the road more serviceable, a few years ago. Whether this was or was not one of those circles known as Druidical, cannot now be determined, but it wears that appearance. It would seem that the modern lane had cut right through the circle, destroying all vestige of one half of it. In the next field, known as the Plain, lies, near the footpath across the fields to Chisledon, another Sarsden of enormous size, with two smaller satellites of the same stone close by. If the semi-circle, just spoken of was a work of the Druids, or of the description known as Druidical, which some think a very different thing, it may be just possible that these detached stones in the Plain had some connection with it.’

For more information contact Jefferies Land Conservation Trust

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