A small hoard of axes of an early type, which was discovered at Coombe Dingle by a schoolboy, is now in the Bristol Museum.
Socketed aXe from near Chipping Sodbury and a Spear-head from Yeovil.
The wealth of the middle and late Bronze Age may be judged from the numbers of more evolved weapons and implements found about the country, among the localities being Edington, Draycott, aXebridge,
There are no great ports in our county excepting Bristol , but in the days when ships were small many landing-places were of importance which now are little used.
In the Severn Sea are two islands . Rising like high hills out of the water, they may be seen almost anywhere from the shore.They are called the Steep Holm and the Flat Holm.
You shall hear, however, a story of one occasion when the pirates are said to liave got the worst of it. Near where the end of the Mendip range slopes down … * Oldmixon *Somerset
The more intimate relations of this British Kingdom were no doubt with the kindred races of Wales and Brittany, but the influences it exercised over the national progress and even over the literature of its English neighbours were by no means of slight account, though they have been strangely overlooked. They afford, I think, the only solution of some of the most intricate problems connected with our early history, and materials for such inquiry may be scanty, but they are not altogether wanting.”
The three chief “ perpetual choirs ” of the Isle of Britain were : That of Llan Iltud Vawr in Glamorgan ; That of Ambrosius in Ambresbury, near Salisbury ; That of Glaston. In each of these choirs there were 2,400, that is there were one hundred for every hour of the day and night in rotation perpetuating the praise of God without rest or intermission. What may be termed the spiritual life of an enlarged Dumnonia was centred around these places about ad 500. This implied a kind of national unity from Salisbury to the Land’s End. When, later on, the Bishopric of Sherborne was formed and Aldhelm ruled over “ Selwood See “ George of Ravenna,” Urbs ab Uxellae ostio longe separata. Fluvius est Axe— Uxella forte est Axbridge : also “ History of the Ancient Britons,” by J. A. Giles,
Towards the beginning of the Bronze Age many Cotswold-Severn long barrows were sealed, suggesting widespread change. It appears that the Wedding Stones at Stanton Drew were also abandoned after just a few hundred years of use, possibly even forcefully since the henge seems to have been deliberately filled [Burl 1999, p.59], a task of considerable effort, with the Somerset community retreating back to the Mendips. This also implies that the henge was not built in the local style, but was probably a common outer bank/inner ditch type as seen at Avebury. The Gorsey Bigbury henge on Priddy was also of that style and appears to have been mistreated upon re-habitation , suggesting that the Somerset community filled the ditch at Stanton themselves. The growing influence of solar beliefs (Beaker?) being a likely reason since lunar alignments appear to have been marginalised at Avebury and Stonehenge around the same time.
An apparent interest in Brent Knoll by the Neolithic people of Somerset and south Wales was noted in Section 2.3. An intriguing correlation between the natural hills of that part of the Somerset Levels and the monuments at Stanton Drew appears to exist. From the top of Brent Knoll the nearby Mendip landscape begins to the north, starting with the outcrop Brean Down at the northwest, then Bleadon Hill directly north, before the joined hills of Crook Peak, Wavering Down and Fry's Hill run into the Mendips proper to the northeast. Surprisingly, the last three hills, as seen from the top of Brent Knoll, are roughly aligned to the midwinter lunar risings. Crook Peak is at around 41 degrees (just left), Wavering Down at 51 degrees and Fry's Hill at 61 degrees. Further, the valleys/dips between them are at roughly 46 and 56 degrees. That is, the view from Brent Knoll over these hills naturally highlights and tracks the moon's movements during the 18.6 years cycle. That the midsummer settings can also be found in the Levels was noted in Section 2.3. The Cove at Stanton faces south-southeast just to the right of the rise upon which the south-southwest circle sits, roughly aligned to the major midsummer rising. From Brean Down's western end, looking to the right of Brent Knoll gives a similar angle from north. Note how consideration of the natural landscape may explain why the Cove is positioned so far from the main circle. The Levels were populated for a considerable time and, whilst these facts may be nothing more than coincidental, it is not unrealistic to suggest early inhabitants would have noticed the moon's movements over their surroundings, which became part of their belief system. Similarly, the users of the Priddy henges may have noticed the moon's midwinter settings across the nearby Blackdown Hill, particularly from the southern-most ring.
Based on the findings of the Pontings  at Callanish, Cope  has highlighted the apparent ubiquity of a Mother Earth religion under which natural hills, often shaped like a recumbent female figure, influenced megalithic builders. There is a substantial body of evidence suggesting that, in Europe at least, early religions were concerned with the worship of the female. First expressions of this religion have been found in Ukraine, where small carved figures representing the female form have been found, dated circa 25,000BC. Neumann  is typically cited as the discoverer of this concept of a Mother Goddess. Marija Gimbutas  collected evidence for such a religion through figurines and other early art circa 7000-3000BC. She suggested that the goddess was associated with birth, death, resurrection, the moon, water, circles, and other symbols found in prehistory (see [Gimbutas 1989] for illustrations). Discoveries from Catal Huyuk, Turkey [Mellaart 1967] in particular give evidence of an early matriarchal society, though perhaps one based on equality rather than female dominance [Eisler 1987].
The connection of the goddess to the moon has also prompted the idea of her "three ages" since the moon passes through three distinct phases - new (white), full (red), and waning (black) - corresponding to the three ages of womanhood - virgin, mother, and matriarch/crone. This is also connected to birth, death, and rebirth, which appears prevalent in the belief system [e.g. McLean 1989]. The aforementioned view from the top of Brent Knoll is interesting when this idea is considered. To the northeast is Brean Down, clearly displaying a recumbent figure, with Steep and Flat Holm as 'her' satellites. Across from this first Goddess's feet, is Bleadon Hill, a second, larger, but less marked possible figure lying with her feet to those of Brean Down's. Lying almost head-to-head with Bleadon Hill is the third and largest figure formed by Crook Peak (head and perfect nose), Wavering Down (chest), and the Mendip Hills (body) which appears to fill the rest of the distant horizon going all the way back around to the sea near Bridgwater. Thus the three ages are seen. Glastonbury Tor is away to the east, protected in the curve of the Mendip Goddess, itself a well-known and much revered conical hill. The Black mountains of south Wales are seen to the west, the edge of Exmoor to the far south.
Crook Peak is also prominent when viewed from the Cotswold-Severn tomb at Redhill over the Wrington Vale. Here Crook Peak forms the (nippled) chest of a recumbent female whose head is formed by Wavering Down and body/legs by Bleadon Hill. Moreover Banwell Hill can be seen as an arm and Benthills Wood a hand.
That the possible natural lunar alignments were influential in the design of Stanton Drew mentioned above can be seen to be supported when the Mother Earth landscape religion is considered. As noted in Section 4, the northeast ring is constructed of the largest, darkest stones over which the midwinter risings are seen. Hence this is the "crone" circle, a megalithic representation of the Crook Peak et al. hills. The enormous main circle contains the second largest stones, perhaps representing the "mother" age. Whether the Cove represents the "virgin", after Brean Down, implying its chambered tomb inspirations were seen as places of rebirth, or whether the south-southwest circle assumed this role over that of one akin to Brent Knoll is unclear. This is of course highly speculative but warrants further investigation.
No doubt there were all along tares mingled with the wheat. The Church of the first three centuries was never, except perhaps on the day of Pentecost, in an absolutely ideal condition. But yet during the ages of persecution, the Church as a whole was visibly an unworldly institution.
It was a society which paganism, and not Christianity, had made.” 1 Montalembert adds that “ this paganism . . . was paganism under its most degenerate form . , . Nothing,” he says, “ has............... ever equalled the abject condition of the Romans of the empire. . . . With the ancient freedom, all virtue, all manliness disappeared.
There remained only a society of officials, without strength, without honour,
and without rights. . . . We must acknowledge that
in this so-called Christian society, the moral poverty
is a thousand times greater than the material, and
that servitude has crushed souls more than bodies.
Everything is enervated, attenuated, and decrepit.
Not a single great man, nor illustrious individual
rises to the surface of that mire. Eunuchs and sophists of the court govern the state without control,
experiencing no resistance but from the Church.”
These last words guard Montalembert’s meaning.
He is speaking of civil society, which was now nominally inside the Church; but, side by side with this Christianized paganism, the Church still handed on the glorious traditions which had been bequeathed to her by the age of the martyrs.
Let me state only five, Saint Athanasius, Saint Basil , Saint Ambrose,
Saint Christostum and Saint Augustine. A religious instil tion which can produce such splendid names is full of life; but nevertheless the Church whioh had admitted the world within her precincts, was in a very different condition from the Church during the first three centuries of her I op. eit., pp. 264, 269, 271, 272,
Guizot, Histoire de la Civilization en France, leot. ii., quoted in
Montalembert’s Monks of the West (English tram, 1861, i. 263).
Dumnonia and Glaston.
DUMNONIA, therefore, as a geographical term, seems to lie in the background of our national, and especially West-Country, annals , as a somewhat dim and uncertain region , regarded as a half fabulous realm , not to be defined by modern counties or by modern Bishoprics, although the name has survived in Devon.
It has long since dropped out of use and finds little mention in our text-books. William of Malmesbury could say “ In Dumnonia quae Devenscire dicitur 55 and
render himself intelligible to men of his own age (1143) ; and,
further back still in our history, Asser, the biographer of
King Alfred, could quote “ Dumnonia" , as already noted,
probably meaning Devon and part of Somerset reaching up
to the Parret mouth and, perhaps, further east still, towards
I Bristol (a .d . 875-900). That there was a Church if not a
distinct Diocese in Dumnonia, we may infer from a letter
written by Aldhelm, Bishop of Sherborne in a .d . 704 who
gave a kind of pastoral charge to Gerontius, King of Dumnoiiia, and to all priests (sacerdotes) living in Dumnonia. The
view of Aldhelm, who was partially Romanized, was that
Dumnonia was rather uncivilized (dira), a view we need not
endorse, as he probably meant that the Celtic Church was
noli sufficiently imbued with Roman and papal influences.
The old Roman geographers used the name of Dumnonia
m id had a definition for it, Claudius Ptolemaeus (a .d . 150)
p la cin g the Dumnonii next to the Durotriges or Dorsaetas,
i.e. men of Dorset, on the east, and extending this region to
" Volida" i .e. Fowey or Falmouth in Cornwall. He gave
them Isca Dumnoniorum (Exeter) and Caerleon. On the Coast
It was a matter of navigation and of a sea-and-river-intercourse , easier in its way than travel through inland forests and less perilous.
That road or highway, possibly of Roman origin, linking Dumnonia and its northern parts together, leading from
Bristol (and Bath) westward to Uxella or Axbridge, Brent and so to Cynwith or Comwith passage on the Parret was first
constructed with a strategic and maritime purpose. It was
the trunk road of ancient Dumnonia for all purposes. It
helped the pilgrim also on his way to Glaston and was connected with all land routes and especially with the sea routes
across Severn. Glaston also had its river anchorages, its
canals and moorland boats (batelli) and river craft. The tidal
wave swept humble currough or larger barge and vessel up to its
If we adopt Sir Charles Elton’s definitions of ancient Siluria1
and infer that it meant a block of Wales including Glamorgan
and Hereford, as well as Monmouth, it will be seen that the
Dumnonii must have been found some distance up the Severn.
Hath and Bristol (Bristowa, the town of the British) ; both
with churches dedicated to St. Michael, would have been
occupied by them. Gildas, our oldest historian, who knew
the Severn well, mentions a certain “ King of Dumnonia ”
Constantine by name (Dumnoniae tyrannus), as apart from
Vortipore, King of Demetia which we assume to mean geographically, South Wales and not simply Pembroke. The
name of Constantine, it may be noted, introduces early
Christian association (300-400). To-day there is a Cornish
parish near Falmouth called Constantine where it is said
a lthough the rumour cannot be substantiated) silver coins
of Arthur were found near the church.2 Constantine, also,
1 Elton’s “ Origins of English History,” p. 141.
2 Lewis’ “ Topographical Dictionary,” vol. i, p. 509.
in Wiltshire and an Edington on the Polden ridge above the river Parret in Somerset.
This is not enough.
In my study of “ Ancient Dumnonia ” I have laid some stress upon this great “ Crux ” of our Early Island history and, although the ultimate elucidation of Alfred’s Danish
campaign, ending with the “ Peace of Wedmore,” is by nomeans the only matter of historical interest, it is an extremely important one
. German strategists, noted for their thoroughmethods, would probably have solved all the problems of Alfred’s campaign long ago, but we do not want Germans in
this country to spy out and explore.
However, I have been
fortunate enough to have the matured opinion of Major P. T.
Godsal of Iscoed Park, Whitchurch, who has made a military
study of the Conquest of Britain by the Angles and also the
Thames Valley Campaign.
There is one point upon which Major Godsal, as well as other military critics, may not have laid sufficient stress and it is the very great and material
assistance given to King Alfred not only by the men of
Somerton, who rallied so nobly around him, but by Odda and
the men of Dumnonia who were victorious at Cynuit Castle.
These warriors must be classed amongst the “ Welsh-kin ” of
King Alfred’s Will, and so mentioned, meaning not necessarily
the Welsh of Wales but the British or “ Dumnonii ” of the
West Country who have persistently survived all changes.
Being sea-faring men by tradition they must not be confused
with the tribal Welshmen of the Welsh mountains.
Welsh chiefs acknowledged the “ suzerainty,” if we may so call it, of King Alfred but in his extremity at Athelney we do not know that they gave material help.
the spot, i.e. in North Somerset and possibly Devonia itself, gave this. u n d e r date of August 23rd, 1922, Major Godsal writes as
You have asked my views on the Battle of Ethandun.
T hough I cannot claim to be a military expert, and have made
but a slight study of King Alfred’s campaign against the
Danes which resulted in the surrender of Guthrum and his
men. I will try and state its leading features from the military
' To begin with we seem to know with certainty the bases
from which the contending forces operated. The Danes had
established themselves at Chippenham, Alfred had sought
refuge in the marshes of the river Parret, and was for a time
in hiding. The Danes had a fleet in the Severn under Hubba
and Inguar. These landed at some place on the coast of
Devon which then extended as far as the river Parret.
" They there fought a battle with the men of Devon under
their Ealdorman Odda and drove them into a small fortress.
" The men of Devon, however, made a successful sally by night and killed Inguar and Hubba and twelve hundred Danes, the rest of the Danes escaping to their ships.
It is evident that the Danes had a large force and were not
engaged in a mere raid, but were endeavouring to hunt up
AIfred. The name of the fortress occupied by Odda is given
as ' Arx Cynuit,’ and this has been identified with Combwich
on the left bank of the mouth of the Parret. However that
may be, it is inconceivable that this battle took place anywhere
but on the banks of the Parret.
" The result is all that concerns us now. It was that it gave
Alfred and his men fresh confidence, and Alfred who had
hitherto been in hiding began to make a small fort called
Athelney in the centre of the marshes of the P arret; and this
became without question Alfred’s base of operations.