UK Mystery: Stanton Drew Stone Circles

Location: near Stanton Drew and Bristol

Region: Somerset, England

Coordinates: 51.367797°N 2.575257°WCoordinates: 51.367797°N 2.575257°W

© Copyright Rosalind Mitchell and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

© Copyright Rosalind Mitchell and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Type: Henge monument

Condition: intact

The Stanton Drew stone circles are just outside the village of Stanton Drew in the English county of Somerset. The largest stone circle is the Great Circle, 113 metres (371 ft) in diameter and the second largest stone circle in Britain (after Avebury); it is considered to be one of the largest Neolithic monuments to have been built. The date of construction is not known but is thought to be between 3000 and 2000 BCE, which places it in the Late Neolithic to Early Bronze Age. It was made a scheduled monument in 1982.

The Great Circle was surrounded by a ditch and is accompanied by smaller stone circles to the north east and south west. There is also a group of three stones, known as The Cove, in the garden of the local pub. Slightly further from the Great Circle is a single stone, known as Hautville’s Quoit. Some of the stones are still vertical, but the majority are now recumbent and some are no longer present.

The stone circles have been studied since John Aubrey’s visit in 1664 with some excavations of the site in the 18th century. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries geophysical surveys have confirmed the size of the stone circles and identified additional pits and postholes. The Cove has been shown to be around one thousand years older than the stone circles. A variety of myths and legends about the stone circles have been recorded, including one about dancers at a celebration who have been turned to stone.


The Great Circle is 113 metres (371 ft) in diameter and probably consisted of 30 stones, of which 27 survive today. It was recorded by both John Aubrey in 1664 and William Stukeley in 1776. The Great Circle probably was surrounded by the ditch (approximately 135 metres (443 ft) outer diameter — now filled in) of a henge. The North East Circle is 30 metres (98 ft) in diameter and probably consisted of 10 or more stones, of which 8 survive today. The South West Circle is 43 metres (141 ft) in diameter and has 12 stones surviving today. An avenue extends to the northeast of the Great Circle towards the River Chew and a second avenue meets it from the north eastern stone circle.

A (now recumbent) standing stone called Hautville’s Quoit lies across the river to the north on an alignment with the centres of the Great Circle and the southern circle. It is a large stone close to Hautville Quoit Farm, recumbent since at least the mid 17th century but assumed to have originally been upright. Described by Stukeley in 1723 as being 13 feet (4.0 m) long, it is now about half that length, Grinsell suggesting that fragments have occasionally been broken off for mending the roads. Stukeley also referred to the presence of a second stone.

Further to the west is a cove of two standing stones with a recumbent slab between them, which can be found in the garden of the Druid’s Arms public house. All are of different heights, the stone to the north east being 4.4 metres (14 ft) the south western 3.1 metres (10 ft), and the north eastern 1.4 metres (4 ft 7 in).[14] The stones of The Cove are mineralogically different from those in the nearby stone circles. A long barrow burial chamber has been found under the stones of The Cove. It is thought that this predates the erection of the stones by approximately a thousand years.


Aerial video of the south west circle at Stanton Drew stone circles
In 1740 the site was surveyed and mapped by John Wood, the Elder, who noted the different stones used. He suggested the layout was based on the Pythagorean planetary system, and thought it was used as the Druid’s “University.”

When one of the stones fell in the mid 17th century, some human bones were discovered accompanied by an object described as a “round bell, like a large horse-bell”. The burial date and the purpose of the bell-like object are unknown.

Geophysical Survey

The Great Circle
Geophysical work by English Heritage in 1997 revealed a surrounding ditch and nine concentric rings of postholes within the stone circle. More than four hundred pits, 1 metre (3 ft 3 in) across and at 2.5 metres (8 ft 2 in) intervals, stood in rings at the site.[4] The ditch is 135 metres (443 ft) in diameter and about 7 metres (23 ft) wide. A 40 metres (130 ft) wide entrance was visible on the north east side. No surrounding bank has been identified although the site awaits excavation.

The geophysical work transformed the traditional view of Stanton Drew as being a surface monument and the Great Circle is now seen as being one of the largest and most impressive Neolithic monuments to have been built. Analogous with the circles of postholes at sites at Woodhenge, Durrington Walls and The Sanctuary, it is thought that the pits would have held posts which would have either been freestanding or lintelled as they could not have supported a roof at that size. The postholes in nine concentric rings held posts up to 1 metre (3.3 ft) in diameter.

Nearby and to the north east is a smaller ring of eight stones in the centre of which the geophysical work identified four further pits. A third ring of twelve stones, measuring 43 metres (141 ft) wide, stands to the south west.

The Cove

A fluxgate gradiometer survey in July 2009 investigated standing stones in the garden of the Druids Arms public house known as The Cove, which showed that the stones date from nearly a thousand years before the stone circles. The conclusion from the study was that these upright stones are likely to have been the portals or façade of a chambered tomb.

In 2010, a further survey was carried out by Bath and Camerton Archaeological Society and the Bath and North East Somerset Archaeological Officer. This involved high data density magnetometer, resistance pseudosection profiles and photographic surveys showed a new henge entrance and further detail of post holes.

Myths about Stanton Drew

Being a henge and stone circle site, astronomical alignments are a common theory to explain the positioning of the stones at Stanton Drew. Similarly, there are less well evidenced theories relating to ley lines.

Theories suggest the site was dedicated to funerary ritual. There are several local traditional stories about the megalithic complex. The best known tells how a wedding party was turned to stone: the party was held throughout Saturday, but a man clothed in black (the Devil in disguise) came and started to play his violin for the merrymakers after midnight, continuing into holy Sunday morning. When dawn broke, everybody had been turned to stone by the Demon: so the stone circles are the dancers, the avenues are the fiddlers and The Cove is the bride and the groom with the drunken churchman at their feet. They are still awaiting the Devil who promised to come back someday and play again for them.

Wade and Wade (Somerset by Wade, G.W. & Wade, J.H. at Project Gutenberg) in their 1929 book “Somerset” suggest:

One of the curiosities of the place is Hautville’s Quoit, which, to save time, should also be looked for on approaching the village. (Enter iron gate on L. a few hundred yards before reaching tollhouse, and search backwards along the hedge bordering road.) It is a large stone, which legend says was hurled by Sir J. Hautville (whose effigy is in Chew Magna Church) from the top of Maes Knoll. The famous “druidical remains” will be found near the church. About 50 yards from the entrance to the churchyard take a lane to the L. leading to an orchard: the stones will be observed in the field beyond (admission free, but field closed on Sundays). The “remains” consist of three contiguous circles. The first is of considerable area, and is marked out by twelve large stones, only three of which remain upright; a smaller circle of eight stones lies just beyond; and a third circle of eight will be found farther away in an orchard on the R. The two larger circles have each a few scattered stones thrown off as a kind of avenue. Standing apart from the circles is a curious group of three stones huddled together in a garden abutting on the churchyard, from which they can be easily seen by looking over the W. boundary wall. These mystic rings probably had the same origin (whatever that may have been) as that of the more famous circle at Avebury in Wiltshire, with which they should be compared. The proximity of Maes Knoll is comparable with that of Silbury Hill. A ridiculous theory suggests that the monoliths were erected as a trophy after one of Arthur’s victories. Arthur is connected to the site because a site in the nearby village of Camerley is reputed to be the location of Camelot in an oral tradition. The stones are of a reddish hue similar to that described in the Arthurian legend as connected to Camelot and to a sword that was seen in a stone near to Camelot. The country story is that a local wedding once took place on a Sunday, when the frivolous guests would insist on winding up with a dance. The penalty for a “Sabbath” thus “profaned” was the prompt transformation of the bridal party into stone. Hence the local appellation of “The fiddlers and the maids.stantondrew-2011pano

Posted in British history, buildings and structures, Great Britain, legends and myths, Living in the UK, mystery | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mashups ~ Jane Austen and Zombies

MashUps: Jane Austen and Zombies


Why are Zombies being mixed with my Jane Austen?
Most people seem to agree that zombies and other monsters are an open testament to a troubled time. Zombies found their peak in George Romero movies, and they reflect whatever we might fear. These monster stories cover everything from pure horror to campy humor. Bela Lugosi appeared in 1932’s White Zombie, based upon traditional Caribbean voodoo, which was followed in 1943 by I Walked with a Zombie, also a Caribbean voodoo story line. Zombie stories were very popular during the Great Depression. So what does this hodge podge of information say about “Zombies”?
It says that zombies and similar monsters represent different things in different times. Zombie stories in the 1950s symbolized the Cold War; in the 1980s, they represented pollution. Beth Accomando in “Zombies Invade NPR,” says, “Zombies are the blank canvas to reflect whatever scares us, be it racism, disease, or the end of the world.” She goes on to say, zombies “reflect the fact that people are currently in crisis mode.”
Unlike vampire stories, which have been found in literature for hundreds of years, zombie stories are a relatively new phenomena. Haitian folklore involving the raising of the dead by a voodoo master appears to be the basis of zombie stories; and, like the folklore, troubled times seem to raise the dead. Nowadays, zombies symbolize the global economic recession and a world in turmoil. Where vampire story lines touch on “divisive” issues, zombies satirize the demise of contemporary culture. 1994′s Interview with a Vampire reflected our country’s varied opinions on AIDS; 1968’sNight of the Living Dead demonstrated our angst during the Vietnam era, even going so far as to dehumanize the combatants. The Vietnamese were “a faceless people, who wished to do us harm” – such as portrayed by the zombies.

Currently, we are being bombarded by countless zombie stories: Breathers: A Zombie’s Lament, which is a novel turned into a movie and being produced by Diablo Cody of Junofame; Zombieland, which starred Woody Harrelson and Abigail Breslin; World War Z, a novel by Max Brooks, which has been turned into a movie by Marc Foster, director of Quantum of SolaceResident Evil 5, a zombie video game, and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” which is being made into a Broadway show. Zombies plus subgenre combinations seem to be the way of publishers. For example, Star Wars: Death Troopers is a mix of zombies and science fiction. In fact, a romance anthology, entitled My Zombie Valentine, exists.

One of the ideas, which I found very unique, came from Illogic Tree, which purports that American politics set the trends for zombie and vampire films. Quite simply, zombies are popular when a Republican is in office because “Republicans fear the revolt of the masses.” And likewise, vampire films are popular with a Democrat in office because “Democrats are often fearful of upper-class America and believe the rich are bleeding the country dry.” Illogic Tree even using statistics to prove their point that vampires are “blue” and zombies are “red.” According to the article, 183 zombie films were produced in the seven years that Bush was in office (beginning in 2000). During Clinton’s era, we saw Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Interview with a VampireBlade, and Dracula: Dead and Loving It, as well as many other less popular offerings. Who knows whether this idea is true, but is it not just fascinating?
Again, how do zombies fit in with my Jane Austen?Lev Grossman in “Zombies are the New Vampires” says, “Apparently no one is safe from the shambling, newly marketable armies of the dead — not even Jane Austen. The author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Seth Grahame-Smith, tells a tale about a strangely familiar English family called the Bennets, who are struggling to marry off five daughters, while at the same time fighting off wave after wave of relentless, remorseless undead — since, as the novel’s classic first line tells us, ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.’”

Grossman continues, “It is surprising how easily Austen’s novel succumbs to the conventions of a zombie flick. Much of Austen’s work is about using wit and charm and good manners to avoid talking about ugly realities like sex and money. In Grahame-Smith’s version, zombies are just another one of those ugly realities. ‘What was so fun about the book is the politeness of it all,’ says Grahame-Smith. ‘They don’t even like to say the word zombie, even though their country is besieged by zombies. They’re everywhere, and people are literally being torn apart before their very eyes, and other than the very few, like Elizabeth Bennet, who face this problem head on, they would almost rather not talk about it.’”

Grossman goes on to say, “If there’s something new about today’s zombie, it’s his relatability. Sure, he’s an abomination and a crime against all that is good and holy. But he exemplifies some real American values too. He’s plucky and tenacious — you can cut off his limbs and he’ll keep on coming atcha. And he’s humble. You won’t find zombies swanning around and putting on airs like some other monsters. They’re monsters of the people. So, down with vampires. Long live (or is it die?) the zombie: the official monster of the recession.”
Posted in gothic and paranormal, Industry News/Publishing, Jane Austen | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Red Book of Hergest, Welsh Medieval Manuscript

This is one of three posts I have scheduled related to Hergest Court. We will also have a look at Sir Thomas Vaughan (October 24) and his trials with four English kings and, in celebration of all things haunted, the mystery of Hergest Court (October 27).

Facsimile of part of column 579 from the Red Book of Hergest

Facsimile of part of column 579 from the Red Book of Hergest

The Red Book of Hergest (Welsh: Llyfr Coch Hergest) is a large vellum manuscript written shortly after 1382, which ranks as one of the most important medieval manuscripts written in the Welsh language. It preserves a collection of Welsh prose and poetry, notably the tales of the Mabinogion, Gogynfeirdd poetry. The manuscript derives its name from the colour of its leather binding and from its association with Hergest Court between the late 15th and early 17th century.

The manuscript was written between about 1382 and 1410. One of the several copyists responsible for the manuscript has been identified as Hywel Fychan fab Hywel Goch of Buellt. He is known to have worked for Hopcyn ap Tomas ab Einion (c. 1330 – after 1403) of Ynysforgan, Swansea, and it is possible that the manuscript was compiled for Hopcyn.

According to scholar Daniel Huws (Cited in “Oxford Jesus College 111: An Electronic Edition”, Welsh Prose 1350-1425), it is “by far the heaviest of the medieval books in Welsh, the largest in its dimensions [...] and the thickest.”


Llyfr Coch Hergest 240-241~ Hywel Fychan fab Hywel Goch of Buellt - The Red Book of Hergest (1375 - 1425)

Llyfr Coch Hergest 240-241~
Hywel Fychan fab Hywel Goch of Buellt – The Red Book of Hergest (1375 – 1425)

The manuscript appears to have been retained by Hopcyn’s family until the end of the 15th century, when Hopcyn’s grandson Hopcyn ap Rhys was held complicit in the rebellion against King Edward IV and consequently saw much of his property forfeited. The Vaughans of Tretower (Tretŵr), then in Breconshire, obtained it, probably in 1465 on receiving Hopcyn’s forfeited possessions. Ownership is suggested by two odes (awdlau) dedicated to Sir Thomas Vaughan (d. 1483) and his sons, which were written into the manuscript by Welsh poet Lewys Glyn Cothi at Tretower. The Red Book soon passed into the possession of the Vaughans of Hergest Court, near Kington in the Welsh Marches. Sir John Price of Brecon reports to have seen the manuscript in 1550, presumably at Hergest. In the late 1560s, William Salesbury found the manuscript in the possession of Sir Henry Sidney at Ludlow, when Siancyn Gwyn of Llanidloes held it on loan from him.

By the early 17th century, the Red Book had passed to the Mansels of Margam, hence back in Glamorgan. It was possibly brought into the marriage between Henry’s granddaughter Catherine Sidney and Sir Lewis Mansel, who is reported to have owned it in 1634. The manuscript is later found in the collection of Thomas Wilkins (d. 1699), a Welsh clergyman and antiquarian, who may have borrowed it from the Mansels without ever returning it. In 1697, Wilkins was visited by Edward Lhuyd, who spent some time copying a manuscript which might well have been the Red Book. In 1701, two years after Wilkin’s death, his son Thomas Wilkins the Younger donated the manuscript to Jesus College, Oxford. Internal evidence, a note by the latter Wilkins, suggests that Edward Lhuyd then held the manuscript on loan, but that the college was able to retrieve it only 13 years later, after Lhuyd’s death. It is now kept at the Bodleian Library on behalf of Jesus College, Oxford, and catalogued as MS 111.


The first part of the manuscript contains prose, including the Mabinogion, for which this is one of the manuscript sources (the other principal source being the White book of Rhydderch), other tales, historical texts (including a Welsh translation of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae), and various other texts including a series of Triads. The rest of the manuscript contains poetry, especially from the period of court poetry known as Poetry of the Princes (Welsh:Gogynfeirdd or Beirdd y Tywysogion).

The manuscript also contains a collection of herbal remedies associated with Rhiwallon Feddyg, founder of a medical dynasty that lasted over 500 years – ‘The Physicians of Myddfai’ from the village of Myddfai just outside Llandovery.

J. R. R. Tolkien borrowed the title for the Red Book of Westmarch, the imagined legendary source of Tolkien’s tales.

Posted in British history, Great Britain, Wales, writing | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

A Taste of Blood ~ Exquisite Excerpts from “Vampire Darcy’s Desire”

A Taste of Blood…

JeffersVDDBelow you will find an excerpt from Vampire Darcy’s DesireVDD presents Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice as a heart-pounding vampire romance filled with passion and danger. Tormented by a 200-year-old curse and his fate as a half-human/half-vampire (dhampir), Mr. Darcy vows to live forever alone rather than to inflict the horrors of his life under a vampire’s curse on an innocent wife. But when he comes to Netherfield Park, he meets the captivating Elizabeth Bennet. As a man, Darcy yearns for Elizabeth, but as a dhampir, he is also driven to possess her. Uncontrollably drawn to each other, they are forced to confront a “pride and prejudice” never before imagined – while wrestling with the seductive power of forbidden love. Meanwhile dark forces are at work all around them. Most ominous is the threat from George Wickham, the purveyor of the curse, a demon who vows to destroy each generation of Darcys.(In this scene, Wickham has become aware of Darcy’s growing desire for Elizabeth Bennet. He, therefore, attempts to destroy Darcy by taking away the one thing that his enemy loves.)

Assured that Darcy had seen her coming before he had dropped into the tree line, Elizabeth skirted the stile on the far-off hedgerow and plunged into the woods. She had seen him turn towards Netherfield, leading her away from Longbourn. Impetuously, she had called to him, but he had not answered; instead, he simply moved further into the wooded area.

Elizabeth quickened her pace, but he remained a focal point, not a reality. No matter how fast she chased after him, Darcy seemed to continue on at an equal distance from her. She called out again, but once more he had not heard her. So Elizabeth simply followed, doing the only thing she could do—keep him in sight. When he turned suddenly toward the manor house, she smiled. “To our secret play,” she said to herself. “Mr. Darcy relishes the idea of my following him. Just because he appeared on the outskirts of my father’s property. Men are so predictable,” she mused aloud. She knew she played to his vanity with her actions, but his teasing had always intrigued her.

At the door, he turned to look back at her. Elizabeth saw his mouth’s corners turn up in a smile, and then he slipped inside. Moments later, Elizabeth crossed the threshold. “Fitzwilliam!” she called. “Fitzwilliam! Where are you?” She rushed forward into the room, and then—then time stopped—her heartbeat ceased when she saw what stood before her. A whimper escaped her lips, but no other sound was heard in the empty house. Leaning casually against the mantle of the cold hearth, George Wickham nodded his head in acknowledgment. “I fear your precious Fitzwilliam is not here, Miss Elizabeth.” His voice sounded to her ears like that of the snake in the Garden of Eden.

She swallowed hard and wondered whether, if she broke into a run, if she could clear the deserted path before he caught her. She realized Wickham read her every thought. “Do not consider it, my Dear; you will never make it,” he warned. Neither of them moved as he continued his taunt. “Obviously, your Mr. Darcy never told you I possess unique abilities. How easily you were deceived into thinking I was your lover!”

“Mr. Darcy and I are not lovers!” she protested, while she attempted to formulate a plan for escape.

“What do you call this rendezvous, Miss Elizabeth? There are remnants of a picnic lunch and a blanket in the other room. You call the man by his given name, my Dear. What does that sound like to you?” He dropped his arms to his sides and edged forward as he spoke.

Feeling the sudden stillness of the room, Elizabeth gingerly stepped back, but she never removed her eyes from Wickham’s countenance. “Mr. Darcy gave me riding lessons; that was all there was between us.”

“If you say so, Miss Elizabeth.” He eyed her mockingly. “Yet you provide me with a unique opportunity, and I exist for such prospects. Whether you return his feelings or not, your Mr. Darcy has never shown a partiality for any woman until you. I make it my business to know Darcy’s weaknesses. Other than his sister, Darcy cares for no one; he has never allowed himself such a pleasure. Then, all at once, he—by your own admission—is giving you riding lessons, waltzing with you on a private balcony, kissing your tempting lips, and rescuing you from unknown terrors. You did like how I staged that one, did you not?” he taunted. “I am certain Darcy was the one who placed the wreaths and the iron ornaments about your home. They only served to confirm my earlier suspicions.” Elizabeth furtively reached for the jeweled crucifix she wore at her neck. Wickham took note of the slight shift in her stance. “Did your lover give you the Christian symbol to protect you from me?” Again, he inched closer to her, while Elizabeth countered his movement with a retreat of her own.

I purchased this crucifix,” she asserted, dredging up a vestige of resistance.

“Do not attempt to mislead me, Miss Elizabeth. I am not so easily deceived. I have observed  Miss Darcy has worn a similar one after my special evening with her, so I am aware of the source of your enchantment. Mr. Darcy hopes to protect you.” By now, Wickham was near enough to reach her if he so wished; yet, his hands remained at his sides; Elizabeth stayed alert for his attack. “It will be a pleasure to take you from Darcy. It will be a revenge like no other; he is the first of his family to dare challenge me, and I do not like to lose, Miss Elizabeth.”

She shivered. “Mr. Darcy has departed.” She hoped her words might stop his plan or, at least, give her a chance to convince Wickham to release her. “In fact, everyone at Netherfield has fled your carnage.”

“My carnage?” Wickham sounded amused. “Two females hardly rates as carnage, Miss Elizabeth.” He finally reached out to her, lightly tracing a line along her jaw to her mouth. He shook his head, and Elizabeth noted the amused, self-mocking smile that twisted his mouth. I must congratulate you, Miss Elizabeth; Darcy has grown stronger with you by his side. That display last evening at Netherfield would never have been possible six months ago. So, you see, my Dear, I must stop your power over Darcy. It will kill him to know that he abandoned you to me. The fact will eat away at him. Plus, eliminating you will keep his powers in check. Whether he is here to witness your demise or not will make little difference. I will make certain that he learns of your tragic end.”

Elizabeth knew that she must do something or die at his hands. A flash of humor crossed his expression as she broke away from him, shoving furniture into his path as she attempted an escape. Just as she reached the door, grabbing it to pull it open, Wickham appeared behind her. An iron grip took hold of her arm as his left hand shoved the door closed. He pulled her back into him, breathing into Elizabeth’s hair. “Good,” he hissed, “I was afraid you might not fight me. I prefer my followers to be spirited.” Elizabeth struggled and flailed, trying to dislodge his hold on her, but Wickham’s grip simply tightened around her waist. “My, you are a spit-fire,” he said and laughed. “It is no wonder Darcy prefers you.”

She screamed as he half lifted, half dragged her toward the stairs. Elizabeth scratched at him and fought him, but her efforts were futile. Wickham easily overpowered her. Halfway up the stairs, he halted suddenly and violently pulled her face to within inches of his. “I would give anything to see Darcy’s face when he discovers I took you in the bedroom of the manor house at Netherfield. It will be a delightful revenge.” Wickham pulled her mouth to his and kissed her with such force that he bruised her lips.

Elizabeth’s stomach turned. She strained against him, releasing her mouth from his unwelcome assault. Disgusted by his closeness, Elizabeth spit in Wickham’s face. For a brief moment, her countenance displayed a gratified smile as Wickham wiped the moisture from his cheek, but then a backhand slap forced her head to the side and split her lip. Blood seeped from the opening.

“The first course?” His hand turned her chin roughly, and he licked the blood from her mouth. “Thank you, my Dear.” Wickham started forward again, dragging her behind him.

* * *

Darcy rode low in the saddle, consumed by his need to reach Elizabeth in time. His heightened senses said she was in dire straits. He once again reproached himself for leaving her behind, while he alternated between praying for God to protect her and cursing the Fates, which had placed her in danger. The horse was lathered with foam by the time he drew up upon the reins before the old manor house upon Bingley’s property. Darcy slid from the saddle to assault the stairs leading to the main foyer.

Bursting through the main door, he bellowed, “Elizabeth!” He continued to call to her as he dashed from room to room. In the ballroom, he found the practice rapier beside the empty picnic basket, left behind after their afternoon together only yesterday. Claiming it, he reentered the main passageway to listen to the house. Closing his eyes, he searched the rooms above for any sound of her.

After several elongated seconds, a thump – a muffled sound from above – announced he had not been mistaken. His heart leapt with dread as he bolted up the stairs, taking them two and three at a time. He hit the door of the first of the bedchambers, sending it banging against the wall, but the terrible tableau playing out before him cut Darcy to his knees. Elizabeth’s arms and legs were bound to the four poster. She had been stripped down to her chemise, and her countenance spoke of the terror she had known at Wickham’s hands. Her shining eyes, misted with tears, flooded his heart with anguish. Beside the bed, Wickham lounged in a wing chair. He caressed Elizabeth’s arm lightly with his fingertips.

“Darcy? You have returned.” Wickham’s smile increased by the moment; the changing scenario pleased him. “It is as I have told Miss Elizabeth: Mr. Darcy cares deeply for you.”

Tears steamed from Elizabeth’s eyes. “I am sorry, Fitzwilliam.” A slight shake of his head hopefully told her she had nothing of which to know regret: The blame rested purely upon his shoulders.

“Leave her be, Wickham. Your battle lies with me.” He stalled, searching the room for a means of Elizabeth’s escape, but none other than defeating Wickham showed itself.

Wickham stood casually. He purposely taunted Darcy by running a fingertip along the rise of Elizabeth’s breasts. “Certainly my hatred is firmly directed to you, Darcy, but even so, I find I have become very fond of Miss Elizabeth. Almost as fond as you, perhaps.” He turned to face Darcy fully. “I am of the persuasion that you would gladly die in her stead, but that fact is the real problem: You would gladly die. In fact, you wish to die – to end this battle between us. Yet, I wish you a long life. For when I kill the woman you love, you will spend more than a dozen lifetimes grieving for what might have been.”

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The Bloody Assizes and the Demon Judge, George Jeffreys

The Bloody Assizes and the Demon Judge, George Jeffreys

Historical Context

King Charles II

King Charles II

With the death of Oliver Cromwell in 1658, the newly-elected Parliament “restored” Charles II to the throne of England. Charles II’s reign (1660-1685) was marked by political unrest. The ruling class split into two parties: the Whigs and the Tories. The Whigs supported Charles’s brother, James, the Catholic heir to the throne. They believed in constitutional monarchism and opposed absolute rule. The Whigs played a central role in 1688’s Glorious Revolution and were the standing enemies of the Stuart kings and pretenders, who were Roman Catholic. They took full control of England’s government in 1715 and remained in control until King George II came to the throne in 1760. The Whigs were reliant on parliamentary power and distrustful of the Catholic Church.

James II

James II

The Tories, on the other hand, remained sympathetic to royal power and the reestablishment of the Anglican Church. They were hostile to Protestant “dissenters,” such as the Baptists, the Quakers, and the Presbyterians.

Each side tried to outmaneuver the other in its power struggle. Unfortunately, the Whigs tried one too many manipulations when they encouraged Titus Oates to lodge conspiracy and treason charges against James and other governmental officials of Catholic sympathies. “God, King, and Country”

Charles II disbelieved Oates’s conspiracy theories, but he dared not to confront Oates openly. In 1681, he was able to dissolve a Whig parliament and rule directly, with the support of the Tories. Charles II’s reign saw the outbreak of the Second Anglo-Dutch War in 1665, as well as the Great Plague in the same year and the Great Fire of London in 1666.

Charles II died in 1685 after being received into the Roman Catholic Church on his deathbed, and his brother James II came to the throne. Although he was a known Catholic, James II did not impose his beliefs upon his people, but most Whigs did not believe him. Therefore, a Whig faction supported a revolt by Charles II’s illegitimate son, the Duke of Monmouth. The revolt was quickly dispensed, and James sent Judge George Jeffreys to deal out his “revenge.” The result was what is known as The Bloody Assizes.

Full of confidence, James II dismissed Parliament (1685) and appointed Catholic officials, even going so far as to ally himself with the much-despised Louis XIV of France. In 1686, James took measures to restore Catholicism in England and to set up a standing army of 13,000 troops. A like army was supported in Ireland, which created large pockets of distrust among the English. The execution of the Duke of Monmouth united James’s Whig opposition behind the only remaining Protestant claimant to the throne, William of Orange, husband to Mary, James’s daughter. In 1688, Whigs and disenchanted Tories invited William to England to restore English liberties and to drive James from the throne. In 1688, James abdicated and fled to exile in France.

The Bloody Assizes were a series of trials, which began on August 25, 1685, in the aftermath of the Battle of Sedgemoor, which ended the Monmouth Rebellion. There were five judges: Sir William Montague (Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer); Sir Robert Wright; Sir Francis Wythens (Justice of the King’s Bench); Sir Creswell Levinz (Justice of the Common Pleas), and Sir Henry Polexfen. The group was under the direction of Dorset’s Demon Judge, Lord Chief Justice George Jeffreys.

James Scott, the first Duke of Monmouth

James Scott, the first Duke of Monmouth

In June 1685, James Scott, the first Duke of Monmouth, the illegitimate son of King Charles II, landed at Lyme Regis in Dorset, bringing with him a bloody swatch of rebellion. In the days that followed, horror filled the hearts and minds of those living in the area. Monmouth brought some eighty trained soldiers with him. When King Charles II died, his Catholic brother, James, the Duke of York, who became King James II, succeeded him. However, Monmouth, a Protestant, made a bloody bid for the throne.

Landing in Lyme Regis, Monmouth marched across the West Country towards Taunton, into Somerset, Devon, and back to Dorset, gathering support for his bid. The revolt soon became known as The Pitchfork Rebellion. When word reached James II of his “nephew’s” efforts to claim the throne, James II sent an army, commanded by Lord Faversham, to crush the revolt.

On July 6, the two armies clashed at the Battle of Sedgemoor, where Monmouth’s army, along with the Duke, fled. The following morning, disguised as a farm laborer and hiding in a ditch at a spot now known as Monmouth’s Ash, the Duke was captured near Horton Heath, about 8 miles south of the hamlet of Woodyates. Escorted immediately to London, Monmouth was tried for treason and, eventually, beheaded on Tower Hill on July 15, 1685.

George Jeffreys

George Jeffreys

As part of his revenge on those who stood with Monmouth, King James II sent his most ruthless judge, George Jeffreys, the First Baron Jeffreys of Wem, to deal with the rebels. Jeffreys held a reputation for swift justice and merciless sentences; he, eventually, rose to the position of Lord Chancellor, and occasionally served as Lord High Steward. Some 1400 prisoners were brought before Jeffreys at the courts of Winchester, Taunton, and Dorchester. The court hearings were given the title of The Bloody Assizes, for some 300 men were put to death during the proceedings. Those found guilty by Jeffreys were hanged or drawn and quartered. Rotting bodies hung from makeshift gallows peppered the main highways and towns in the area. These gruesome sights were a clear warning to those who might force the king’s hand. Another 800 men were sentenced for transportation.

From his Prescript to the Sheriff of Dorset, Jeffreys leaves these orders: “These are, therefore, to will and require of you, immediately on sight hereof, to erect a gallows in the most public place to hand the said traytors on, and that you provide halters to hang them with, a sufficient number of faggots to burn the bowels, and a furnace or cauldron to boil their heads and quarters, and salt to boil them with, half a bushel to each traytor, and tar to tar them with, and a sufficient number of spears and poles to fix and place their heads and quarters; and that you warn the owners of four oxen to be ready with dray and wain, and the said four oxen, at the time hereafter mentioned for execution, and you yourselves together with a guard of forty able men at the least, to be present by eight o’clock of the morning to be aiding and assisting me or my deputy to see the said rebels executed. You are also to provide an axe and a cleaver for the quartering of the said rebels.”

Judge Jeffreys opened the Bloody Assizes at Dorchester on 5 September 1685 at the Antelope Hotel in the “Oak Room.” During his stay in Dorchester, Jeffreys stayed at a house in High West Street, a building, which is still known as his lodgings, and made his way to the courtroom by a secret passage in order to avoid the angry crowds. In one of his more infamous manipulations, Jeffreys convinced a young girl to spend the night in his bed in exchange for her brother’s freedom. When the girl woke the next morning, she peered out the window to see her brother hanging from the neck by a Bridport Dagger. (The town of Bridport was known for the production of netting and rope for the fishing industry and for use by the British navy. Bridport was also known for the production of the hangman’s rope. It was customary to say that those who were hanged were “stabbed by a Bridport Dagger.”) By the time, Jeffreys moved on to Lyme Regis, he had sentenced 74 men to death, sent another 175 to transportation, had 9 whipped, and pardoned 55.

On 11 September 1685, the Bloody Assizes opened at Lyme Regis. On the 12th of September, twelve men were executed on the beach west of the Cobb, and their body parts were displayed on spikes along the railings around the church. Two of the men’s heads were impaled on the iron gates of Chatham House. Jeffreys had dined at the great house on Broad Street the evening before the executions. Since that time, Jeffreys’ ghost is said to carry a bloody bone through the house.

This ghost tale is circumspect at best. After all, in reality, Jeffreys died some four years after the Bloody Assizes ended. During the Glorious Revolution, Jeffreys stayed in London when James II fled However, when William III’s troops marched into the city, Jeffreys disguised himself as a sailor and made his escape. He was captured at a public house in Wapping (now named The Town of Ramsgate). Fearing the public outcry for his “crimes,” Jeffreys begged for protection. On 18 April 1689, he died of kidney failure while in custody in the Tower of London.

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Should Writers Make These Distinctions?

the-power-of-wordsThere are many words in the English language which are routinely interchanged. Whether one accepts these “switches” depends upon whether the person is a semanticist or a grammarian. Semanticists normally are concerned with the word’s meaning, while the grammarian deals in proper usage. I suspect as the world has now moved to the 140-characters message the differences appear impractical and perhaps a bit nonsensical. However, there are those who “toe the line.” For example…

A person should use can meaning the “ability to complete”; whereas, may indicates “permission.”

Because is used to indicate a “reason/cause”; whereas, since refers to “time, meaning between then and now.”

In behalf of means “for the benefit of another”; whereas, on behalf of means “in place of.”

Use between when “two people/places/things are involved.” Use among for “three or more.”

Use amount for an “indefinite quantity that cannot be counted.” Use number for quantities, which can be counted.

Ensure means “to guarantee or to make certain”; whereas, insure means “to make safe from loss or harm.”

Hanged means to be “executed”; whereas, hung means “to place.” Do not use hung when referring to an execution.

Likewise, dragged means “to pull with great effort,” whereas, drug refers to a “medication or chemical substance.”

Fewer is used for things, which can be counted, whereas, less is used for bulk or quantity.

Convince means “to cause one to believe.” Persuade means “to cause someone to do something or take action.”

Disinterested means “not having taking sides or making a choice,” whereas, uninterested means to “hold no interest in.”

Although means “despite the fact that.” The word while means “during that time.” Do not use while when the purpose is to show a contrast.

Anxious means to know “concern”; whereas, eager refers to indicate “impatient desire.”

Each other should be used to when two people/places/things are involved; whereas, one another should be used for three or more people/places/things.

Farther refers to distance; whereas, further refers to degree or extent. (i.e., We should speak further.)

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Adder Stones? Hag Stones? Witch Stones? Magical Powers or False Hopes?

Adder Stones, Hag Stones, Witch Stones…Do You Know These?

35536284529987812_flgujylm_bAdder stones are usually glass stones with a naturally occurring stone in them. Archaeologists have found them in both Britain and Egypt. In Britain, they stones are also called hag stones, witch stones, serpent’s eggs, or snake’s eggs. In Wales, they are called glain neidr, while in Cornwall, adderstanes is the word of choice. The southern provinces of Scotland terms them as Gloine nan Druidh (“Druids’ glass).

Believed to have magical powers, the stones have been used to cure eye diseases, preventing nightmares, curing whooping cough, as well as snakebites. Superstition says they can aid the holder by giving a person the ability to see through a fairy’s or a witch’a disguise.220px-feuerstein_mit_loch-huehnergott

152066924888350309_ndmskacm_bThere are many legends that define the origin of the stones. Among the most popular include: (1) the stones are the hardened saliva of large numbers of serpents massing together; (2) the stones are from the head of a serpent or are made by the sting of an adder; and (3) the stones can be any rock with a hole bored through the middle by water.

imagesDruids highly esteemed Adder stones. There is a passage in Pliny’s Natural History, book xix, minutely describing the nature and the properties of a particular amulet. The following is a translation of it:images-11

“There is a sort of egg in great repute among the Gauls, of which the Greek writers have made no mention. A vast number of serpents are twisted together in summer, and coiled up in an artificial knot by their saliva and slime; and this is called “the serpent’s egg”. The druids say that it is tossed in the air with hissings and must be caught in a cloak before it touches the earth. The person who thus intercepts it, flies on horseback; for the serpents will pursue him until prevented by intervening water. This egg, though bound in gold will swim against the stream. And the magi are cunning to conceal their frauds, they give out that this egg must be obtained at a certain age of the moon. I have seen that egg as large and as round as a common sized apple, in a chequered cartilaginous cover, and worn by the Druids. It is wonderfully extolled for gaining lawsuits, and access to kings. It is a badge which is worn with such ostentation, that I knew a Roman knight, a Vocontian, who was slain by the stupid Emperor Claudius, merely because he wore it in his breast when a lawsuit was pending.”OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Posted in British history, customs and tradiitons, gothic and paranormal, legends and myths, Living in the UK | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments