« PreviousContinue »
frequent Boulders (possibly the glacial deposits of antediluvian opochs) offered ready materials to the piety and energy of the Celtic worshippers.
Sir Walter Scott, whose antiquarian lore is so well known, avails himself of this rude mound as a feature in his novel of “Kenilworth,” where Tressilian, anxious to replace a lost shoe to his horse, is taken to it as Wayland Smith's Forge, a traditionary name of long standing “Here are we,” said Dickie, “at Wayland Smith's Forge-door.” “You jest, my little friend,” said Tressilian; “here is nothing but a bare moor, and that ring of stones with a great one in the midst like a Cornish barrow."
“Ay, and that great flat stone in the midst, which lies across these uprights,” said the boy, “is Wayland Smith's counter, that you must tell down your money upon.'
“What do you mean by such folly ?" said the traveller, “beginning to be angry with the boy, and vexed at himself for having trusted such a hare-brained guide.”
"Why,” said Dickie, with a grin, "you must tie your horse to that upright stone, that has the ring in't, and then you must whistle three times, and lay me down your silver groat on that other flat stone, walk out of the circle, sit down on the west side of that little thicket of bushes, and take heed you look neither to right or left for ten minutes, or so long as you shall hear the hammer clink, and whenever it ceases, say your prayers for the space you could tell a hundred, or count over a hundred, which will do as well, and then come into the circle, you will find your money gone and your horse shod.”
Lysons, in his " Magna Britannia," vol. i., p. 215, gives a plate of the White Horse Hill, and in the corner a rudely drayn small view of the Cromlech, which he calls “Wayland-Smith.” There are no trees around it. More covering stones appear to be in their places, and earth seems piled up against the central stones. He calls this a "tumulus, over which,” he says, “are, irregularly scattered, several of the large stones, called Sarsden Stones, found in that neighbourhood; three of the largest have a fourth laid on them in the manner of the British Cromlechs. It is most probable that this tumulus is British."
Were it not for the unusual size of the covering stones, and the reputation it has justly acquired, this ruin might escape notice. When we, however, come to examine its arrangement more narrowly, its form and disposition immediately class it among the most important monuments of its kind. The central figure has the form of the Latin Cross, the whole length being some 22 or 23 feet from out to out; its greatest width 15 feet. Each end of the four arms of the Cross is closed by a larger sized stone from 5 to 7 feet long and 15 to 24 inches thick, the longer arm answering to the nave of a church is 2 feet wide inside and 14 feet long, having now on one side four blocks, and on the other three; but I am inclined to think one has been displaced, and that there were four on that side also. These stones forming the walls are 14 or 15 in number, and vary from 3 feet long to 4 feet. The shorter arms or transepts are about 5 feet wide, and they are 5 feet deep, thus presenting the appearance of chambers 5 feet square, with the entrances narrowed to 2 or 3 feet. The short arm at the further end is 4 feet 9 inches deep by 2 feet wide, and is formed by a stone on each side and one at the end.
There were five large blocks to form the roof: one now remains in its place, covering the east transept; it is of circular form 10 feet by 9 feet on the surface, and 12 inches thick; it therefore weighs from 5 to 6 tons. The covering block of the other arm or transept is 9 feet long by 5 feet wide: that at the further end 6 feet by 5 feet; the two, which covered the nave, respectively 7 feet 6 inches by 5 feet wide, and 10 feet long by 5 feet wide, and of the same average thickness.
At the distance of 15 feet from the end of the eastern transept are three stones in their places, corresponding in size with the wall stones of the centre group, and varying from 3 feet 9 inches to 5 feet long. They seem to form the arc or portion of a circular outside ring. Although there are only two or three other stones of this size to be found on the site, I am led to think that these three stones formed a part of an enclosure, and that the rest have been removed by the peasants. The general arrangement, then, of this interesting remain would present a mound about 50 feet in diameter at the top, surrounded by an outer ditch; the top of this mound having a circle of stones, in the centre of which is a cruciform chamber in the shape of a Latin Cross, there being one arm to the south decidedly longer than the others. On examining the ground opposite the north end, it appeared to me as though there was a continuous embankment, calculated for an alley of stones, or a dromos, as at Avebury, near Marlborough. And here, possibly, was an opening in the outer ring affording access to the enclosure. The whole of the mound and a considerable distance, where I suppose the avenue to have been, were some years since closely planted with fir-trees, so that it is not without considerable care that the precise form of the whole can be guessed. The species of gallery with the two lateral chambers, which the general form presents, is very like the galleries of New Grange, Wellow, Pornic, and the Galgal of Gavrennes: but these were all embedded in mounds, which Wayland Smith's Cave has never been. The outer circle of stones immediately raises it to the dignity of those gigantic Cromlechs (magna componere parvis) of Stenness in the Orkneys, Landaoudec in Crozon, at Carnac near Auray, in Morbihan, France, 20 miles to the S.E. of l'Orient, Stonehenge and Avebury in Wiltshire, with this exception, that the inner constructions were there circular, instead of being cruciform as in this instance. (See Gailhabaud, “Monumens Anciens et Modernes,” article “Monumens Celtiques,” 1840–50.)
I leave it to others, more versed than myself in Celtic antiquities, to decide the actual destination of this monument of our forefathers. May I presume to suggest, that the centre may have contained the remains of one or more deified persons held in high veneration ; that the whole enclosure was dedicated to public worship; and that perhaps the covering stones themselves served as altars, and on them were possibly offered the human victims, sacrificed to propitiate the manes of the dead, or to appease by their bloody rites the wrath of the savage gods of the Druid Priests.
T. L. D.
At the conclusion of the paper Mr. Lukis said that, while expressing what he felt sure was the sense of the meeting, viz., that the best thanks of the Society were due to Professor Donaldson