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

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Write to the Secretary of State

The Planning Inquiry is now over and we can only await the Planning Inspector's report and his recommendations for the Secretary of State. The report is likely to appear in 7-12 weeks time. The decision will then rest with Hazel Blears. It is believed that she can take as long as she likes to make a decision as to whether planning permission should be granted for the Coate development proposals.

It would be helpful if the general public write to Ms Blears in an attempt to persuade her that the potential loss of this jewel in Swindon's crown (and give your reasons why you think that this is so) is too big a price to pay for some remote and unrealistic chance that Swindon might gain a university presence. If you heard the loopholes in the conditions that were proposed by the developers for handing over land to a university, you can be assured of one thing - we will get another housing estate and office blocks to gaze upon from Coate Water and from Liddington Hill should planning permission be granted, whilst pigs-might-fly with regard to a hospital extension or university campus. If the University of Bath could not make a go of the offer from the developers, why should the University of the West of England believe that they can do better?

So it is now time to put pen to paper again and write to:

Hazel Blears
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
Eland House
Bressenden Place
London SW1E 5DU

E-mail address:

Do make it clear in your letter that you are referring to:

Appeal Refs: A/08/2085605 and 2090316
Land adjacent to Coate Water Country Park, Swindon