Keith Hunt - Ancient London #2 - Page Two   Restitution of All Things

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Ancient London #2

Old ancient recordings of British History


by E.O. Gordon (first published in 1914)


"We can read Beth-el in a pile of stones and seeing where God has
been, trust in Him."
LOWELL'S Cathedral.

"These antiquities are so exceedingly old, that no books do touch
them, and that there is no way to retrieve them, but by
comparative antiquity."
J. AUBREY, Antiquarian of Wilts, 1620-1700.

     AND now that we have learned from Keltic lore that the
religion of this "Island of Green Hills" was the worship of the
"Lord of Hosts," "the Creator of the great lights" of the sun and
moon, and not the worship of the heavenly bodies themselves, a
further digression will be necessary, if we are to form any idea
of the functions of the four Great Seats and two circles in the
civilization of pre-Christian London. The only clue we have to
the use of these and similar prehistoric monuments is in the
descriptive titles and references in the Triads, to comparative
antiquity on the Wiltshire downs, the headquarters of Druidical
government, the burial place also of the "mighty dead" of the
Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages. Here, on an undulating tableland,
likened by John Evelyn to a "sea of verdure," some 20 miles long
by 10 wide, lying between Marlborough and Old Sarum, girt in on
the east by the valley of the Avon, we find the prototype of all
circles and mounds in Britain.
     On the North Downs stand in majestic solitude the two
world-famous monuments of unknown antiquity, the Circle of Abury
or Avebury, and Silbury Hill, unrivalled for size and scientific
construction. On the meridian line, 20 miles due south of Avebury
and originally connected by a fosseway, portions of which may
still be traced, is the Cor Gawr, or great circle of the
Ambresbiri, the Holy Anointed Ones, better known to us by its
Saxon name of Stonehenge, from the Anglo-Saxon, Stan, stone,
hengek gallows. This name was given to the circle by Hengist to
commemorate his treacherous massacre of the British princes on
Mount Ambrosius (Vespasian's Camp,) May 1, A.D.461, when, in his
desire to denationalize the sancta sanctorum of Britain, the
Saxon warrior commanded the bodies of the slain princes to be
hung from the thirty lintels of the corona of the circle. Local
tradition has preserved the memory of this desecration of
Stonehenge, in the name of "Gallows Hill," by which the via sacra
(the mile of road leading from the Mount Ambrosius to the circle)
is called to this day by the shepherds and country folk.
     The derivation of the title "Ambres" or "Ambresbiri," the
Holy Anointed Ones, is of special interest. We find the name
occurring again in "Ambresbury Banks," a fine example of British
earthworks, superbly situated on the highest point of Epping
Forest, the site of a Druidical circle, of which only one or two
stones remain. It was here that Boadicea, the British
warrior-queen, is said to have made her last stand. A pillar in
Sir Fowell Buxton's grounds near by records her defeat and tragic
     The origin of the descriptive title Ambresbiri (the Holy
Anointed Ones) may be traced to Holy Scripture, where the
earliest instance of anointing stones is mentioned in Genesis
xxviii., when young Jacob, on his journey to his unknown
relations, sleeping one night with a stone for his pillow, had a
celestial vision and a promise from God of the highest importance
to him and to all mankind. He took the stone and set it up for a
pillar and poured oil upon it and called the place Beth-el, the
House of God. So famous was that patriarchal temple of Jacob that
we find the Syrian Hercules, who built Tyre, represented with the
Petrae Ambrosiae on the coins struck by that city in honour of
him as their founder. Tradition says that this stone, upon which
Jacob's head rested, was conveyed to Egypt, thence to Ireland and
from there to Scone near Perth. Edward I, on his conquest of
Scotland, carried it to Westminster, where it has been ever
since, under the Coronation Chair. Preaching at Westminster Abbey
on September 17, 1911, Archdeacon Wilberforce said that it fell
to his lot during the preparations at the Abbey for the
Coronation to guide to the Stone a well-known antiquarian, who
had made a special study of its history. "He was convinced," said
the Archdeacon, "that it was the stone on which Jacob rested his
head when he had the vision of angels at Bethel, and that from
that night it was considered sacred and carried from place to
place. He believed it was this stone that Moses struck and that
it was carried by the Israelites during their forty years of
wandering. He showed me a big cleft in the back from which he
believed the water gushed out. He showed me, also, two
much-rusted iron staples deeply sunk, one at each end, which I
had never noticed before, on which it was carried." The prophecy
that, wherever the stone rested, Scottish blood should reign, had
been literally fulfilled.
     The great solar clock of the Ambresbiri, the "Measurer and
Regulator" of time, the Greenwich Observatory of the Ancients,
Stonehenge, differs from all other British circles in
construction, and, as it is unique and throws no light on the
circles of the Metropolis, need not be described. Suffice it to
say that Sir Norman Lockyer has been able, from the sun itself,
to fix the date of the "Wonder of Wilts" as 1680 B.C. with a
possible error of 200 years either way, about the time of the
death of the Patriarch Jacob and his burial in the land of
     There is one point, however, that may be mentioned in
connexion with the Ambresbiri. A large portion of down half a
mile from Stonehenge is still called the "Fair-field," and near
it is the Cursus, or race course. This was doubtless the
camping-ground for the pilgrims who attended the great solstitial
festivals in their thousands. The Cursus, like the Circle itself,
has been proved from scientific measurements to have had an
astronomical significance, to which Mr. Griffith refers in his
notes. The traditions of the old festivities and pastimes on the
Wiltshire downs survive to this day in Mayday or Garland-day
holiday, the May Queen, the Maypole dance, Jack-in-the-Green, and
in the part of London called Mayfair, where in the Middle Ages
great fairs were held. Whit-Monday, Club-feast, Bean-feast,
Midsummer Holidays, Harvest Homes, Harvest Suppers, dancing and
feasting at the time of the Harvest Moon, and the Wassail Bowl of
mead and metheglin (made from honey and honeycomb), are one and
all echoes of the ancient British holidays.
     The circles of Abury and Stonehenge and the vast earthmound
of Silbury Hill have been called the "British Pyramids," from
their astronomical construction, and because, like the Pyramids
of Egypt, they are surrounded by the tombs of kings. From
Stonehenge 200 tumuli may be counted, among them the "seven old
kings" and the "seven new kings" barrows (barrow= a Hebrew word
signifying a heaped-up pit of lamentation). Barrows of the Bronze
Age cluster more thickly round Abury, says Dr. Thurnam. Sir R.
Colt Hoare spent fifteen years and a private fortuue in the
thirties of the last century in opening 485 of these
burial-mounds and in recording their contents; many objects taken
from these prehistoric graves may now be seen in the British
Antiquities Department of the British Museum. The tombs in this
vast cemetery (Heb. a sleeping-place) have been made with the
greatest reverence for the dead, not of the chalk of the
district, but of earth brought from a distance. From far remote
ages cremated, doubled up, or lying full length facing the sun at
its noontide glory the mortal remains of succeeding generations
of British princes, priests and leaders were here interred,
decked in gala array of amber or jet necklace, bronze and gold
ornaments, with their finely polished stone, bronze and iron
weapons beside them, fully equipped for their future life in the
great hereafter. Jet and amber were esteemed by the Ancients as
more precious than gold, on account of their electrical
properties. An amber necklace of 1,000 beads is mentioned in one
of the Triads. Ezekiel, prophetically exulting over the fallen
armies of the Egyptians, Persians, and other nations, refers to
the custom of burying the leaders with their weapons of war
beside them. "They shall not lie with the uncircumcised, which
are gone down into hell with their weapons of war, and they have
laid their swords under their heads" (Ezek. xxxii. 27).
     In these days, when the British-Israel question is so much
to the fore, it is of interest to note the striking resemblance
traceable between the prehistoric British cemetery on the
Wiltshire downs and that of the Israelite leaders in Palestine.
The embalmed remains of Joseph were brought to Gerizim, the
"Mount of God," the ashes of Eleazar, Phinehas, Joshua, Barak,
Jael, Heber, Jeroboam, Omri, Ahab, Jehu, Jehoahaz and Joash all
lie around the sanctuaries of Beth-el and Gerizim in Samaria, 20
miles apart, as are the sanctuaries of Abury and Stonehenge in
     Caesar tells us that belief in the immortality of the soul
was the groundwork of British faith: it took from them the fear
of death and inspired them with motives of courage. May we not see
in this Westminster Abbey of pre-Christian times a foreshadowing
of the tombs of princes, priests and statesmen, warriors, poets
and musicians gathered together in the Abbey at the present day,
"a combination of things sacred and things common, a union of the
regal, legal, lay element of the nation, with its religious,
clerical ecclesiastical tendency, such as can be found nowhere
else in Christendom?" (Stanley).
     The Metropolitan Temple of Britain, Abiri, Aburi or Avebury
(in Hebrew signifying the "Potentes," the "Mighty Ones," the Sun
and Moon, the Canterbury Cathedral of Kymric times, is within a
five-mile drive of Marlborough. In strictness, none of the
Druidic circles can be termed temples, for the Druids taught
there were but two inhabitations of the Deity - the Soul, the
invisible, the Universe the visible Temple.
     Of this magnificent structure only the vast earth-circle, a
mile in circumference, 44 feet high and calculated to accommodate
44,000 worshippers, remains intact, The circles of the sun and
moon, with their respective index stones, constructed of unhewn
sarsens (a Phoenician word for rock), some weighing 70 or 80
tons, were wantonly destroyed at the beginning of the eighteenth
century. Ten only of the 100 stones of the outer circle remain in
their original position. Stukeley described how he witnessed
ninety of the great monoliths brought low by the simple process
of digging a trench about them; this was packed with straw, and
then fired; the flames flaring up the sides, the stone soon
became red-hot when the trench was filled with water and water
dashed against the sides, speedily causing it to fall, cracked
into pieces; these were then taken to build the cottages and
pig-sties that now occupy the site of one of the finest
pre-historic monuments in the world.
     There is no other circle in Britain that can compare to
Abury either in size or construction. A journey to Darab in
Persia would be necessary in order to find a prehistoric monument
of similar dimensions and design. Sir William Ouseley,
Plenipotentiary to the Court of Teheran in the twenties of the
last century, figures and describes a vast circle he came across
in his journey through this little-known country, which he likens
to Abury. In these days of travel and research would that a
thorough investigation of this solitary Persian circle could be
made and its scientific construction compared with the desecrated
and ruined remains on the Wiltshire downs.
     The circles of the "Abiri" (the Mighty Ones) were approached
from East and West by an avenue of upright stones, each a mile
long, in the form of a serpent, symbolic of the sun's path
through the zodiac. The head of this serpent, represented by an
oval structure to this day called the "Sanctuary" by the country
folk, consisted of concentric lines of upright stones. This head
rests upon an eminence known as Overton or Hakpen Hill, which
commands a view of the entire structure, winding back for more
than two miles to the point of the tail, towards Beekhampton.
Hakpen in the old British dialect signified Hak, serpent, Pen,
head, i.e., head of the serpent.
     In our own cathedrals we have the sign of the zodiac,
represented as sacred emblems on the tiles of the sanctuary floor
at Canterbury and Rochester, and the agricultural labours of the
year frescoed on the chancel-roof of Salisbury Cathedral; at
Waltham Abbey the signs of the zodiac and the labours of the
twelve months were represented upon the flat beams of the Norman
roof; these were repainted, when the Abbey was restored
(1859-60), by Sir E. Poynter, President of the Royal Academy. In
the vestry of this magnificent Abbey we find the following
Scripture references showing that the signs of the zodiac are not
necessarily connected with pagan worship. From the same source
also we learn that, according to Josephus, the signs of the
zodiac were engraved together with the names of the twelve tribes
on the breast-plate of the high priest. If the Druidical religion
had been sun-worship we may be perfectly certain these signs of
the sun's path through the heavens would have been ignored.
A curious serpent-shaped mound near Oban, about 300 feet in
length, curved like a huge letter S, wonderfully perfect in
anatomical outline, is described by Miss Gordon Cumming in her
book on the Hebrides: "The whole length of the serpent's back is
constructed of symmetrically placed stones, set like the
vertebrae of a serpent. In the Eildon and Arran district,
wherever Druidic remains were found, there were mounds of serpent
     On the side of Hakpen Hill was discovered a few years since,
in ploughing, the cremated remains of the body (probably of a
Druid priest) interred with two fine bronze armlets. These are
now in Mr. J. Brooke's museum at Marlborough.
     Immediately south of the circle and its adjunct Silbury
Hill, ran the grand old fosseway of the Wansdyke (gwahan,
separated), the division dyke, the boundary of the Belgic
kingdom, which led east and west across the downs. This ancient
road is said to have been drawn by the King Divitiacus, mentioned
by Caesar in his Commentaries. He built the neighbouring town of
Devizes, so called from his name, and most probably the city of
his residence. Trackways and fosseways intersected the dry chalk
downs in all directions. These all converged on the Wansdyke, and
where the land has not been thrown into cultivation may still be
traced. Along these ways we may picture bands of pilgrims winding
in procession as they journeyed from remotest districts to the
place of National Assembly, the "Primary Earth Circle of
Britain," where the assizes were held simultaneously with the
great solstitial festivals. It is to these General Assemblies at
"Abiri," Abury or Avebury, that the fundamental principles of the
unwritten English constitution have been traced - that unique
combination of Church and State Government that has come down
along the ages; in the consistory courts held in some of our
oldest cathedrals to this day, and in the word court, from the
Keltic cor, a circle-courts of justice, circuit of the judges,
derived from the ancient practice of administering justice within
the precincts of these uncovered judgment seats between the hours
of sunrise and sunset. Perhaps the words of Homer may be taken as
describing the proceedings within the circle of "Abiri": "And
Heralds kept order among the folk, while the Elders on polished
stones were sitting in the sacred Circle and holding in their
hands staves . . . there before the people they rose up and gave
judgment each in turn" (I. 7.., xxiii).
     Keltic tradition affirms that it was within the circles of
Abury that the institution of the Gorsedd had its origin, a
national institution not known out of Britain. The term is
applied both to mounds and circles, as also to the Assemblies, in
the same way as we now use the word "parliament." What relation
precisely Aedd Mawr's Order, and its "Places of Assembly" held to
the Civil Government it is, however, impossible to tell at this
distance of time; that Druidism had retained in a great degree
its original purity is practically certain for several reasons:
the inaccessibility of the island, its freedom from invasion and
the character for sanctity and integrity of the Kymry, its first
colonizers. Probably at first the Gorsedd Assemblies were of a
purely spiritual and temporal character; but that in course of
time a political element crept in appears likely, as Edward I,
for political reasons, forbade the holding of Eisteddfods-the
Session of the Gorsedd. In the national Gorsedds and Eisteddfods
of Wales the traditions of the Druidic Assemblies on the
Wiltshire downs survive to this day.
     Silbury, or the Marvellous Hill, the Mother of the Llan-din,
or Parliament Hill, and of all our British sacred mounds, is
finely situated a mile south of the circle of Abury, midway
between the two extremities of the serpentine avenues leading up
to the circles. Silbury covers 3 acres of ground, and is said to
be the largest artificial mound in existence. Its less familiar
Keltic title of Cludair Cyvrangon, literally translated the
"piled" or "heaped mound of cognitions," Cotsworth's scientific
investigations have proved to be an absolutely true definition of
this remarkable earthwork. In his Rational Almanack 1 he throws
light on the terraced lines, so frequently to be seen alike on
natural and artificial "high-

I See Cotsworth's National Almanack, p.305, published in York,

places," lines which are often taken for sheep runs, but which
practical experiments have now proved were drawn with consummate
skill by the astronomer priests to enable them to fix the four
religious festivals of the year and the calendar.

     "The 30 degree slope of Sylbury not only enabled the Druid
     astronomers to sight the visible daily elevation between the
     equinoxes and the winter solstice, but also as the midday
     sun rose from the spring equinoctial footing to its
     mid-summer solstice height, it would be graded up the slopes
     to its turning point on the top north edge and down again to
     the autumnal equinox as autumn approached. In that way the
     four seasons of the year could be clearly indicated and
     comparative records kept by notching the daily and monthly
     points upon logs laid up the north meridian slope, as was
     done by the old clog almanacks which were used over Northern
     Europe ages before printed almanacks were invented."

     We are bound to say there is a difference of opinion on this
point, and that Rice Holmes and others refuse to accept the
astronomical explanation of British mounds and circles. These
objections are ill-founded, we consider, as they leave out a
great deal of accumulative evidence which must have weight.
Silbury Hill is artificial, except where a natural hillock was
partly utilized, and surrounded, as all these British sacred
mounds were, with a deep trench. The great earthworks of a modern
railway are the result of labour assisted by science and capital,
and made with a view to profit; but Silbury Hill, symbolizing the
whole earth surrounded by the ocean, and other mounds and high
places of the same kind, were raised in remote antiquity by men
whose ardent piety prompted them to make these herculean efforts
to "draw nigh to God." Dean Stanley tells us "the ancient
Phoenician and Canaanite religion may be called a religion of the
'hilltops.'" and so surely may be the primitive religion of
Britain. For nowhere else in the western world are sacred mounds
found in such abundance. 1 The "Mound of the Congregation"
referred to

1 Amongst the Gorsedds' or "high places," personally known to the
writer, are: Arundel (Sussex); Bailey Hill (York); Brent Knoll;
Mount Bures (Essex); Canterbury Dane John; Cadbury Mound;
Caerleon; Cardiff; Chichester; Cambridge; Exeter; Eton Montem;
Harkness; Herefordshire Beacon; Marlborough; Malvern; Montacute;
Maes Knoll; Maiden Castle (Dorchester); Norwich; Oxford;
Rochester; Silbury; Sinodun; Old Sarum; Sol's Hill (Bath); St.
Michael's Mount (Din Sol), Wallingford; Windsor; Whitfield's
Mound (Blackheath, S.E.); also many others throughout the length
and breadth of the land. It is curious to note that the
translation of the Keltic name "Malvern" is literally High Court,
or Seat of Justice. "Arthur's Round Table," Loughor, commands the
Barry river.

in Isaiah xiv. 9 is said by a Welsh writer to have been of the
same type as our British "Places of Assembly," but whether any of
the "high places," or "mounts," mentioned in Holy Scripture were
artificial mounds we have been unable to ascertain. Nevertheless
the Sinai of the new Law, the Sermon on the Mount, has for ever
sanctified their use, in the declaration, this time final, of the
Divine Will.
     In the Triads, Silbury is referred to as one of the three
mighty achievements of the Isle of Britain:

"The raisng of the stone of Ceti,
The building of the work of Emrys. 
The heaping of the pile of Cyvrangon."

     The stone of Ceti is the great cromlech on Cefn Bryn, Gower.
The "work of Emrys" is an allusion to the Ambres or Embres of
Stonehenge. Sir John Rhys tells us that the name Ambres or
Ambrosius became Emrys in Welsh. The pile of Cyvrangon is, as we
have stated, Silbury Hill.
     In another Triad we find a very clear definition of the
political system practised by the Druids within the Metropolitan
Circle of Abury, which may be regarded as the origin of many of
our institutions at the present day. The three pillars of the
Commonwealth of the Isle of Britain:

"The Jury of a Country, 
The Kingly office,
The Function of a Judge."

     The "King's Bench" in the great Judgment Halls of Winchester
and Westminster, to which the kings of England were formerly
"lifted" before proceeding to their coronation, is said to trace
back to the ancient practice at Abury of placing the King on a
stone sedd or seat within the precincts of the "Supreme Seat," or
"High Court," after that, by Lie "Voice of the People," he had
been "elected." The Coronation Chair at Westminster and the
Patriarchal Chair at Canterbury, constructed of three pieces of
Purbeck marble, on which the Archbishops of Canterbury are
enthroned, are relics of this prehistoric custom. The chairs of
learning which the most capable are elected to fill are said to
refer to the Gorsedd system of promotion by merit and not by
favour. The procedure in the House of Commons has been traced to
the same source, viz.: the office of "Black Rod," and the opening
of the daily session with prayer.
     The traditions of the "Great Assizes" of Silbury, held in
the presence of a national assembly, presided over by the
monarch, the arch-Druid, wisemen and councillors, survives in the
fact that in three of our great cities a Gorsedd mound may be
seen within the castle precincts. The Bailey Hill, York, is a
notable example. At Oxford the first historic object that greets
the eye, as we enter the town from the railway station, is the
Great Seat of Justice of Kymric times, standing in close
proximity to the modern Assize Courts. In a chamber in the
interior of this prehistoric mound, the County Sessions, we were
informed by the Governor, were formerly held. The conical mound
of "Rougemont," Exeter, though now standing in private grounds,
is within a few yards of the Law Courts. In the conquest of the
West of England Athelstan seized the castle and carried on the
continuity of the Gorsedd traditions by making the British Place
of Assembly the seat of his executive. 1
     Caesar tells us that the commanding mound on which the
Cathedral of Chartres stands was used by the Carnutes for their
great Assizes. At the base of this mound is a chapel in the solid
rock, known as the "Grotte des Druides." May not the Consistory
Courts, held within the precincts of many of our old
cathedrals-notably the High Court of Durham, held in the
Galilee-and the stone bench or Seat of Justice in the chancel of
Southwark Cathedral, be the echo of the rude

1 Henry 111, 1267, held a Parliament under the shadow of the
Gorsedd Mound at Marlborough, where the "Statutes of Marlborough"
were enacted for restoring good government, after the Barons'
Wars-another instance of the continuity of the Gorsedd

administration of justice by our forefathers, in their open-air
courts, on the summit of these sacred mounds?
     A still closer link with Kymric customs survives in the
Court-leets, or Parliaments, held from time immemorial on the
summits of the prehistoric mounds in the Keltic districts of
Monmouthshire, Devon and Cornwall. On the circular summits of
Ynys y Crug (the field of the mound), near Pontypridd,
Court-leets were held down to 1856, when the mound was destroyed
in making the Taff Vale Railway. Placenames in the vicinity
indicate that formerly criminal law was here administered. In
Devon and Cornwall, Court-leets for the redressing of grievances
and transaction of business connected with the manor were called
"parliaments" and were known as "stannary courts" (from the Latin
stannum=tin). These representative assemblies of the tinners were
summoned by the Warden under a writ from the Duke of Cornwall,
one of the oldest hereditary titles of the Royal Family. There is
documentary evidence to show that Plantagenet, Tudor and Stuart
monarchs took an active and personal interest in the
administration of these local parliaments.
     On Crockerntorre (tor = a sacred mound), Dartmoor,
"parliaments" were held until 1759. Perhaps Westman's Wood (a
corruption of wiseman) in the neighbourhood, a relic of the
primeval forest, recalls the memory of the wisemen, who took part
in the council.
     At Lydford, in the same district, Courtleetes were held
until quite recently, and "Lydford Law" is described as reversing
the ordinary methods of justice: "a man was hung in the morning
and tried in the afternoon."
     Lady Shelley, in her Diary, 1818-1873, gives the following
interesting account of Crockerntorre, which, from an antiquarian
point, is of special value: "We visited the Crockerntorre, the
headquarters of Druid superstition, which rises abruptly from the
Wiseman's Wood, below the Hill of Bards. This wood is a curious
survival of the ancient forest. A tree that had been cut, down a
few years ago showed 700 circles, which, under a microscope, were
so close together that Archdeacon Youdle, who examined it, was of
opinion that it must have been in existence during the expulsion
of the Druids and the destruction of their pagan rites. As the
Stannary Court was, during the last century, held within the
Druid Circle above the wood, it is probable that this tree was
flourishing during the period of the Roman occupation."
     May not the origin of the title of "Parliament Hill,"
bestowed on the Llandin at some unknown period, be traced to
similar representative assemblies of the citizens, merchants and
seafaring population of the Port of Londin?
     Old records show that Parliament Hill, like the Bryn Gwyn (the
White Mount of the Tower) and the Tothill, Westminster, and many
other Gorsedd, was a royal seat, a demesne of the Crown. Edgar
the Peaceable in 978 made a grant of the Manor of Hampstead to
his minister, Mangold, who, dying without heirs, it passed again
to the Crown, and was bestowed by Edward the Confessor on his
Church at Westminster. 1 Court-leetes, still held in connexion
with the Manor, are of purely local interest. But the traditions
of the National Assembly of British times flourish to this day,
in the thousands, members of all classes and of all
denominations, who assemble every Sunday to listen to addresses
from lay and clerical speakers of every shade of religious and
political opinion, on the self-same site where the Ancient
Britons held their "Gorseddau."
     Duke and others, who have given much time and attention to
the subject, consider these vast prehistoric remains in Wiltshire
to have been a "planetarium," or representation of the system of
the heavens. From Aubrey's MS. notes, plans and drawings in the
Bodleian, which, for lack of funds, he was unable to publish, it
might yet be possible to unravel the mysterious design which he
was the first to note and record. In his Memoir it is said that,
coming suddenly upon the weird circle and serpent shaped avenues,
when hunting one day, the young Squire was so much impressed that
from that time he gave up sport and devoted the rest of his life
to making surveys, counting the stones and marking their
positions, to the neglect of his own private affairs. Seventy
years later, Dr. Stukeley, of St. Thomas' Hospital, an eye,
witness of the

1 William the Conqueror bestowed the Gorsedd Mound of Totnes upon
h" follower Judhael, whose Bretons are said to have won for him
the Battle of Senlac.

destruction of the avenues and circles, tells us he found
Aubrey's notes of the greatest service when he set about his
exhaustive survey and report on Abury, Silbury and Stonehenge, a
diagnosis on which the Doctor spent five summers. It seems almost
a national duty to publish data of such a trustworthy character,
throwing light upon the birthplace and cradle of our national
     If the circle of Stonehenge, from its peculiar construction,
does not come within the scope of our inquiry, the Welsh
traditions concerning the great national festival of the summer
solstice, the White-sun-tide must not be passed over. There are
grounds for thinking, as we shall see later on, that the same
kind of scene may have been witnessed from the majestic summit of
the Penton and other sanctuaries in the British Isles. The
Druids, it is said, by means of a most powerful reflecting mirror
of metal called "Dyrch Haul Kibddar," filled the circle with a
blaze of glory from on high. This is mentioned in the Triads as
the speculum of the all pervading glance, or of the searcher of
mystery; one of "the Three Secrets of the Isle of Britain." A
foreshadowing, maybe, of that first great Pentecostal gathering
on the Holy Hill of Zion-the Mount of Stone (as the name Zion
     The scene within the circle on the morning of Midsummerday,
as the rays of the Live-giver shone direct upon the altar within
the Holy of holies, the Sacred Ark, Navis, or boatshaped symbol
formed by the massive trilithons, has been graphically described
by a Welsh writer.

     "We behold the hundred Druids on their knees at 4 o'clock
     a.m., June 21, waiting for the rising sun to appear, and
     when he arrives, suddenly flashing his beams like a winged
     cherub into the most Holy of holies. . . . The flashes of
     June 21 symbolized the descent of the Awen, or Holy Wings,
     the Druidic name for the Holy Ghost, the Comforter. In the
     Kimmerian language of Druidism, he is called Awen Hafen, or
     the Wings of June. The arrival of the Awen was greeted with
     the words `Holy, Holy, Holy' by the kneeling multitude on
     the downs outside, and the sound of praise was like the
     murmuring of the ocean."

     Stonehenge is the one and only prehistoric sanctuary which
carries on the continuity of its traditions as a "Place of
Assembly" to this day. The summer solstice, now as of old, is a
magnetic attraction to hundreds of sightseers, who gather
together from all parts of the world at eight minutes to 4 a.m.
on the longest day, June 21, to watch the sun glide majestically
on his upward path from behind the consecrated Pillar, Index, or
Hele (Greek helios, the sun) stone. It is not until the whole
orb, slightly flattened by the refraction of the air, has come
into view, that the requirements are fulfilled, and then the
coincidence is exact and the sun appears, as if balanced on the
apex of the stone. It is, perhaps, possible to imagine the
effect, but to an actual spectator the picture is most
impressive, and the dark mass of the bowing stone, as seen
through the frame formed by the uprights and centre lintel of the
circle, adds brilliancy and completeness to the effect of a sight
never to be forgotten.
     Mount Ambrosius, or Vespasian's Camp, as the Gorsedd
attached to the circle is now called, where dwelt the Guardians
of the Ambresbiri (the Holy Anointed Ones), is of little less
importance than Silbury Hill, and is of greatest interest, as the
traditions of this Great Seat come within historical focus. Like
Silbury Mount Ambrosius stands a mile from the circle, but,
unlike the artificial "Cyvrangon," the mound is a natural
eminence encircled on three sides by a natural symbolic trench
formed by the river Avon. On the western slopes of Mount
Ambrosius, commanding the circle, are still visible the sighting
lines like those on Silbury drawn by the astronomer priests,
whose duty it was to watch the warning star of sunrise and sunset
and other solstitial hours. All traces of the College of
Philosophy have disappeared, where lived the Archdruid and
Druids, the learned expounders of astrological signs, the
training centre of the Bards and Ovates of the Order. It is not
improbable, however, that if the grounds were examined, traces of
the Great Hall might be discovered, made famous by the usurper
Vortigern's betrayal of his countrymen to Hengist within its
walls. The chronicles refer to the sojourn of Aurelius on Mount
Ambrosius after the defeat of the Saxons. It was at this time
that, at the suggestion of the prophet Merlin, the King
determined to bring the famous blue stones from Kildare, and
erect them within the circle of Stonehenge as a memorial to the
British princes slain by the treachery of Hengist, known to
history as the massacre of the "long knives." A corbel in
Amesbury Church is said to be the representation of the Roman
British King Aurelius, who, from the part he took in causing this
memorial to be erected, was given the title of Ambrosius. Spenser
in the Fairie Queene refers to this "doleful monument" of the
Blue Stones.
     According to a local tradition, a college of Druidesses
dwelt at the foot of the Mount Ambrosius. It is probable that, as
at Chislehurst, the mound is honeycombed with eaves cut in the
chalk, where these Druidesses lived. This appears still more
likely from the discovery of Mr. C. F. Cooksey of a series of
prehistoric chambers cut in an insulated hill called "Le Platon"
in the department of the Eure, France. It was the duty of the
Druidesses to tend the sacred fire in the circle.
     These Druidesses are referred to in one of the "songs" as
"those defenceless ones" who were protected by Eidol or Emrys,
the "Harmonious One," who escaped from Hengist's base massacre of
the British chiefs. They are thought to be the same as the
priestesses mentioned elsewhere as "Gwyllion."
     In the Mabinogion we find the interesting tale of the
defence of the circle by Eidol, the high-priest entrusted with
the guardianship of the Ambresbiri, and it is related how the
Arch-Druid overthrew the old religion, by riding armed into the
centre of the circle, by this very act profaning the sanctuary,
hitherto consecrated to the promotion of peace; and throwing his
lance upon the Druidical altar, proclaiming the new religion-a
religion adopted, as in no other country, without bloodshed or
opposition of any kind. Missionaries are said to have come over
from Glastonbury, only fifty miles away, soon after their arrival
in the Isle of Britain, to instruct the guardians of the
Ambresbiri in the Christian faith. That it was readily accepted
we learn from a Welsh Triad, which mentions Amesbury as one of
the "Three great corn of Britain, in which there were 2,400
saints; that is, there were 100 for every hour of the day and
night in rotation, perpetuating the praise of God without
intermission." Hence, as Mr. Guest observes, "the Choir of
Ambrosius was probably in the middle of the fifth century, the
monastery of Britain, the centre from which flowed blessings of
Christianity and civilization."
     If we can find no record of the date of the foundation of a
convent attached to the Abbey of Amesbury, we know from
documentary evidence that from early Christian times in Britain,
there was an establishment which appears to have been the
favourite retreat of Royal ladies. Queen Guenever, when she fled
the Court (in the first half of the sixth century), took shelter
in the holy house of "Ammesbury," and later on became Abbess.
Queen AElfrida, in atonement for the crime of murdering her
stepson, Edward the Martyr, founded a Benedictine nunnery at
Amesbury 980. Alfred the Great made his scribe Asser, Abbot of
Amesbury. In fact, "Vespasian's Camp," remained Crown property,
until Henry VIII bestowed it upon Edward, Earl of Hertford,
afterwards Duke of Somerset.
     It may interest some of our readers to know that the only
visit that Royalty appears ever to have paid the "British
Pyramids" was when Charles II was escorted to the top of Silbury
in 1663 by Aubrey, who was investigating the antiquities at the
time. He had the honour and gratification of taking the King and
the Duke of York to the summit, or, as the Welsh would express
it, the Peny Byd (top of the world) and of there pointing out to
his Majesty the marvellous "prospect," from this cyclopean
monument, of the temples, earth circle, serpentine avenues,
cromlechs and earthworks that lay around, and together with the
countless tombs of the "mighty dead." A few years before, King
Charles had spent a less agreeable hour at Stonehenge while
waiting for the friends who were to assist his escape after the
battle of Worcester, and had then employed himself by counting
the stones over and over, in order to test the tradition that no
one could count them twice alike, which he convinced himself was
a vulgar error. It may have been the King's acquaintance with the
astronomical circles of the Ancients in Wiltshire that suggested
to him (a keen lover of science) the erection of an observatory
in his own royal park at Greenwich - an observatory that occupies
as unique a position in its way as Stonehenge of old, inasmuch as
Greenwich at the present day is the first meridian of longitude,
and practically gives time to the world.
     Within the grounds of Greenwich Observatory is a well of
unknown antiquity, an interesting link with prehistoric times.
This well was used by Flamstead, the first Astronomer Royal, for
making daylight observations; an old print preserved in the
Observatory is now the only record of its existence, Sir George
Airey having had it covered up. We shall have occasion to refer
to the history of these ancient telescope wells later on, in
connexion with others of the kind. There is little doubt but that
Wren's building, from its commanding position, stands upon the
site of an ancient British observatory mound. It is only within
the last few years that the numerous barrows both in the park and
on Blackheath have been levelled. As a "Place of Assembly" Keltic
traditions cling still to the artificial mound on the Heath known
as "Whitfield's Mound." Here the great preacher used to address
20,000 men at 5 a.m., and Lady Huntingdon (the foundress of so
many Congregational chapels) and Lord Chesterfield (whose
residence was near by) were among his eager listeners. The
British custom and "right" of the people to use these prehistoric
mounds as places of assembly survives to this day, and the mound
is the one and only spot on the Heath where public speaking is
allowed and meetings permitted.
     The London group of "Holy Hills" has been so overshadowed by
its subsequent commercial greatness that we must compare for
their elucidation similar sites throughout the kingdom, which
have been left undisturbed. Of these there are many, as the
numerous place-names testify, that have either one of the little
words ton, tot, tor, twy, tyn, signifying in Welsh a sacred mound
and other forms depending on or in combination. In the towns and
villages where such names occur, and in many another beside, is
to be seen either a natural eminence, the contour of which shows
signs of having been graded and terraced like the slopes of
Silbury Hill and Mount Ambrosius, or there is an artificial
conical Gorsedd mound which has given its name to the place.
Totnes, bound up with the fortunes of Brutus, the reputed founder
of London, is a good example of this kind. Sometimes the
artificial Gorsedd crowns the summit of a natural height as on
Old Sarum and Montacute, or as at Windsor, where the "Round-Table
Mound" carries on the continuity of its historic traditions as a
Great Seat or Throne of the Monarch to this day.
     The Keltic termination ton occurring so frequently in the
names of the suburbs of London suggests that even in Kymric times
the population was sufficiently large in these districts to need
a place of assembly. The traditions of Kennington Common point to
a "ton" or a place of national assembly having been there at one
time, for the ancient "right" of holding public meetings still
survives. The Chartists availed themselves of this, when on April
10, 1848, they held their great mass-meeting on the rough piece
of waste ground known as the Common. Whilst their leader O'Connor
was addressing the malcontents, entreating them not to damage
their cause by violence, an eagle, soaring over their heads in
the direction of the Houses of Parliament, was hailed as an
excellent omen. It was Frank Buckland's bird, which had escaped
from his father's garden at the Deanery, Westminster, and was
making its way home.
     In the 'fifties, the Common was enclosed by the Prince
Consort,  and is now a public garden, for Kennington is a royal
demesne, belonging to the Duchy of Cornwall. Probably it was at
this time that the mound was levelled. The ancient privileges of
the "ton" are preserved, however, on a triangular piece of ground
fenced off for the purpose (the site probably of the mound),
where a notice board states that here public meetings may be
held. No better example could well be found of the truth of
Disraeli's words, "a tradition can neither be made nor
     Another example of the survival of the traditions of these
tons, or sacred mounds, is in Somerset, where until a few years
ago the people of Wellington were wont to assemble on the famous
height that towers above their town, and there, in the dawn,
drink to the health of "all their friends round the Wrekin," just
as they had done 8,000 years ago under the auspices of the Bards
and Druids.
     How large the sacred mounds, or Gorsedds, entered into the
domestic as well as the religious lives of our forefathers, we
learn from a custom of the Beltan, or spring festival, when the
sacred fire was brought down by means of a burning lens from the
sun. No hearth was held sacred until the fire on it had been lit
from the Beltan. The Beltan became the Easter festival of
Christianity. The summer Solstice, or White-suntide - our
Whitsun - and the mid-winter festival, when the mistletoe was cut
with the golden crescent from the sacred oak, became Christmas.
The Druids regarded mistletoe as a symbol of Holy Love, which
descended from the air as a heavenly gift. It was known to them
by the name of Prenawyr, the air-plant. From the many medicinal
virtues attributed by the Druids to the mistletoe, it is called
to this day in Wales "All Heal."
     No city in the world probably ever presented a more majestic
appearance than did the Kymric Porth of Llandin, or London, on
the occasion of these great solstitial festivals, when the "Fires
of God" blazed upon the summits of the four sacred mounds, the
open-air sanctuary of our forefathers, roofed by the heavens, and
floored by the bare earth. We may conjure up the scene, where the
watery stretches reflected in molten gold the "pillars of fire,"
symbolizing the presence of God; we seem to behold the reverent
forms of the white-clad Druids revolving in the mystic "Deasil"
dance from East to West around the glowing pile, and so following
the course of the sun, the image of the Deity. Simultaneously the
voices of the Bards, singing in cadence, playing upon their
glee-bearing harps with garlands upon their brows, shed abroad
the praises of the Most High in the rhythmic measure of their
national Triads. Dionysius tells us the Britons were crowned with
garlands of ivy at their great festivals. Ivy, called Iorwg,
implied the earliest creating attribute of Celi, or God; the
Welsh still retain the word Celi, meaning the Deity or the Hidden
     So little, however, is known of the pre-Roman history of
London, and so scant are the traditions concerning the sacred
mounds of the Metropolis, that rightly to estimate their
importance as "places of assembly," or form any conception of
their dignity as royal seats, it will be necessary to glance at
the history of such well-known Gorsedds as Glastonbury, the
Winton (St. Katherine's Hill, Winchester), the Windsor
Round-Table Mound, and Eton Montem, mounds whose traditions are
as closely identified with the activities of the Plantagenet,
Lancastrian, Tudor and Stuart monarchs, as are those of the
London Gorsedds with the personalities of the British kings.
To begin with Glastonbury, which succeeded the Druidical
sanctuaries on the Wiltshire downs as the sancta sanctorum of
Britain, and the burialplace of the late Keltic monarchs, as we
learn from writers whose authority no one would venture to
dispute. Next to Silbury Hill, Glastonbury Tor is the most
majestic Gorsedd in the country. Rising to a height of 500 feet
the "Holy Hill" is a landmark for miles round. Dean Alford, in
his poem on "Joseph of Arimathea," pictures the saint and his
twelve companions sailing up the waterway of the West, the Severn
Sea, and as divinely guided to land on their mission when they
should come within sight of a lofty green hill, "most like to
Tabor's Holy Mount." Glastonbury Tor answering to this
description the little company put in from the Channel and,
making their way up the estuary of the Brue and the Parret (now
dry land), I came upon a cluster of islands some twelve miles
from the coast. The most imposing of these was the "Sacred Isle
of Avalon," the "Mystic Isle," its base embowered in apple
orchards. Aval, the Keltic for apple, the sacred fruit of the
Druids, the emblem of fertility, thus gave its name of symbolic
significance to the spot destined to become the Mecca of
     The Tor bears unmistakable evidence, from the terraced lines
still visible on its contour, of its having been a Gorsedd, or
"high place of worship," in prehistoric times. The peculiar aura
of sanctity that enshrouds the traditions of one of the

1 The Glastonbury monks banked up the river Brue 700 years ago;
but there were large lakes to the N.N.W. of Glastonbury as late
as the end of the seventeenth century. The last remains of a lake
were drained away at the beginning of the last century. Parts of
Glastonbury plain are below mean high watermark, and are flooded
in wet weather.

oldest sanctuaries in Britain may be attributed to the
probability that the Druid astronomers, the Wisemen of Britain,
had made a simultaneous discovery with the Magi of Persia of the
star of prophecy, whose appearance it was believed by the Eastern
philosophers would inaugurate a new kingdom and a new
dispensation. For so many centuries before the Christian era
there had been constant communication between the chief port of
Palestine and the trading stations of Britain, that it would have
been most remarkable if the Druids, extolled by Greek and Roman
writers alike as the great teachers of science of their day,
should not have simultaneously, as it were, observed the
long-expected "DaySpring" - the star that should rise out of
     About a mile from the "Sacred Isle of Avalon" was another
small island known as Inis Vytren, or Glass Island, to which the
Saxons gave the name of Glastonbury. Dr. Bulleid's recent
discoveries and excavation of the pile-dwellings, which fringe
its margin, have revealed to us the daily life of a highly
civilized community some 300 years before the Roman conquest.
Somerset is supposed to be derived from the tribename
"Seo-mere-sactan" = dwellers by the Sea Lakes - the descriptive
Keltic name probably of the numerous inhabitants of the
Lake-dwellings. Professor Boyd Dawkins described the busy
seafaring population of these islets as in --

     "touch with the Mediterranean peoples as with those of Gaul.
     The industrial arts are well known, spinning, weaving,
     potterymaking, and work in glass, bronze and iron, as well
     as the most admirable carpentry. The inhabitants in their
     lighter moods gambled with dice that may have been derived
     from Italy, and amused themselves by cock-fighting with
     birds probably obtained from Gaul. We get this idea of the
     pre-Roman dwellers in Somerset in place of the woad-painted
     savages of our historians."

     Dr. Arthur Evans tells us that the Romans carried off some
of the Britons to Rome to teach them the art of enamelling. It is
most satisfactory to find evidence of this statement in the
actual material of glass-making unearthed in the Lake dwellings
of Inis Vytren, literally "Glass Island." Fine specimens of
richly enamelled horses' trappings may be seen in the British
Museum, and the bronze shield found in the Thames near Battersea,
adorned with bosses enclosing enamelled swastika designs, Rice
Holmes describes as the "noblest creation of Late Keltic art."
     That Inis Vytren, "our little Western Venice," as the
Professor aptly calls this centre of prehistoric trade and
civilization, was known by repute to St. Joseph of Arimathea,
himself a rich merchant, there can be but little doubt from the
fact that legendary traces survive to this day of the presence of
Joseph and other Jews trading with the ancient tin-miners at
Marazion; while in remote mining districts, where tin is blasted,
the miner shouts "Joseph was in the tin trade," a bit of folklore
that may have had its origin in the legend that "Joseph of
Arimathea came in a boat to Cornwall and brought the Child Jesus
with him, who taught him how to extract the tin and purge it out
of the Wolfram." The ancient presence and influence of the Jew in
Cornwall is marked and undeniable -names and places like
"Bowejan" (abode of the Jews), "Trejewag" (Jews' village) and
Market Jew Street, at Penzance, being well-known examples of such
influence, and these, as well as the historical "Jewish windows"
in St. Neot's Church and other Jewish monuments and memories,
abundantly supplement the older traditions of "Jews' houses,"
"Jews' tin," "Jews' leavings." The very route of the tintraders
across Gaul described by Diodorus Siculus in the time of Augustus
was the very same that was afterwards chosen by Joseph of
Arimathea, whose footsteps from Marseilles to Morlais and from
thence to Britain are traced in a most interesting way by Taylor
in his Coming of the Saints.
     The peaceful intentions of the Jewish missionaries being
apparent, at the petition of Joseph and his friends, says William
of Malmesbury, the historian of Glastonbury, the British King
Arviragus gave them for their habitation twelve hides of land; a
gift that is mentioned in Domesday. On this ground the very
disciples of our Lord built of mud and wattle, thatched with reed
after the manner of the country, the first Christian Church, not
only in Britain, but in the world. With Greek rites, a Greek
Easter, and a Greek ordination, here the disciples lived in
separate huts and worshipped in the lowly sanctuary.
     Arviragus is stated in the Chronicles to have been one of
the later founders of Caerleon-on-Usk, the ancient seat of the
Silurian princes, thirty-four miles only from Glastonbury on the
opposite coast of the Bristol Channel. This ancient port of South
Wales is described as rivalling Rome in its splendours of royal
palaces and gilded roofs. Spenser pays his tribute to the British
king in the lines:

"Was never king more highly magnifyde Nor dread of Romans was
than Arvirage."

     It is further recorded that Arviragus was baptized by St.
Joseph and adopted the Christian faith.

     "Joseph converted this King Arviragus
     By his prechying to know ye lawes divine 
     And baptized him as write hath Nennius 
     The chronicler in Brytain tongue full fyne 
     And to Christes lawes made hym enclyne 
     And gave him then a shield of silver white 
     A crosse end long, and overthwart full perfete 
     These armes were used throughout all Brytain 
     For a common syne, each man to know his nacion 
     And thus his armes by Joseph Creation
     Full longafore Saint George was generate 
     Were worshipt here of mykell elder date."

     In the course of time Joseph of Arimathea and his companions
died and were buried on the south side of the little chapel he
had built of wattle. From this time the cemetery of Glastonbury
took the place of the Wiltshire downs as the Westminster Abbey of
British kings and saints. It was held in such awe and reverence
that scarce any one dared to keep vigil there by night. No one
built near it so as to obstruct the light. "Our fathers did not
dare to use any idle discourse or to spit in it without some
great necessity." Enemies and other naughty men were not suffered
to be buried there, nor did anv one dare to bring a horse, or
dog, or hawk upon the ground; for if they did so it was noticed
they "died forthwithe."
     So highly indeed was the privilege of burial in this sacred
ground held, that people esteemed themselves happy in being
allowed to increase the possession of the Church if only their
bodies might rest under the Minster shadow. Many of the early
British and Saxon kings and queens were buried at Glastonbury,
King Coel or Hoel, the father of the Queen-Empress Helena,
amongst them. But by far the most illustrious of the mighty dead
was Britain's renowned warrior- King Arthur - whose tomb at
Glastonbury, and Round Table at Winton, in a very interesting way
link the "Gorsedds" of remote antiquity with all that is noblest
and best in the chivalry of Christendom.
     It is certainly very remarkable that neither the Romans,
Saxons, or Danes ever made any attack upon Glastonbury and that
this Church alone claims as her peculiar privilege never to have
failed in her worship of the true Faith.

     "There has been no break, no time when Christ has been set
     aside for any other name," says Professor Freeman. "Had
     Wells, or even Bath, laid claim to such an illustrious
     antiquity, their claims might have been laughed to scorn by
     the most ignorant. At Glastonbury such claims, if not easy
     to prove, were not easy to disprove. We read the tale of
     Phaganus and Dinivianus, we read of Dractus and Gildas, and
     Patrick and David and Columb and Bridget, all dwellers in,
     or visitors to, the first spot where the Gospel had shone in
     Britain. No fiction, no dreamer could have dared to
     set down the names of so many worthies of the earlier races
     of the British Islands in the 'Liber Vitae' of Durham or of
     Peterborough. This is the one religious foundation which
     lived through the storm of English conquest and in which
     Britons and Englishmen have equal share.  Nowhere is
     there the same unbroken continuity, at all events, of the
     religious life. At Canterbury Christ was worshipped by the
     Englishman, on the same spot as he had been worshipped by
     the Briton. But there was a time between, a time on which,
     on the same spot, or on some spot not far from it,
     Englishmen had bowed to Woden. But there was never a moment
     when men of any race bowed to Woden in the Isle of Avalon."

     There is little doubt but that Glastonbury from this time
superseded the circle of Abury and Silbury Hill as the
headquarters of the national religion, now gradually becoming
Christian under the patronage of the British monarchs, Arviragus
and his successors. Winton (Winchester), some four centuries
previously, it would appear, under Molmutius had become the
supreme seat of civil government, and, as Dean Kitchen points
out, is "the birthplace of our existence as a nation." The most
striking feature of royal Winchester today, as of yore, is the
Great Seat of the Winton (wyn, white or holy, ton=sacred mound),
now called St. Katherine Hill, a circular chalk down standing
boldly out in the valley of the Itehen. As on Silbury Hill and
Glastonbury Tor, the graded slopes and encircling lines are still
plainly visible, and stamp it at once as a prehistoric Gorsedd,
the centre in purely Druidic times of civil and religious
administration commanding the old "White City" of Caer Gwent, 1
basking in a hollow of the downs. The earliest traditions of the
Winton, like those of our London mounds, have come down along the
ages embalmed in its descriptive Keltic name, which survives to
this day as the official title and signature of the Mayor and the
Municipality, and of the Bishop and the Diocese of Winton.
Wykeham, also the founder of national education, with his
consummate knowledge of the traditions of the Gorsedd, acquired
in the reorganization of the British sixth century Order on the
Windsor "Round Table" Mound, styles his college St. Mary de
Winton, and not by the Romanized form of the name Winchester. We
may look, therefore, on the majestic "Holy Hill" as the Psalmist
of old looked upon his hills in Judea, as a sort of inspired
testimony to the righteous government of God and the
indestructibleness of His Church.
     King Cnut made Winchester his Winchester, says Dean Kitchen,
capital, aimed at uniting the two hoped so to consolidate his
mighty lordship, which may almost be styled an imperial dominion
stretching from the Isle of Britain to Scandinavia. The annals of
the Cathedral 

1 The white or holy fortified enclosure, so called from the white
walls of chalk with which Dunwal Molmutius enclosed the city.

record that Cnut gave to the old minster a property of three
hides, called "Hilles." The Danish monarch thus followed the
precedent set by his predecessor, the British King Arviragus, at
Glastonbury, in presenting the "royal seat" as a gift to the
Church. In this way the Winton passed into the hands of the
Benedictines of St. Swithin's Priory. From them St. Katherine's
Hill (as it came to be called from the dedication of a chapel 1
built on the summit) was purchased by Wykeham, who ordained, by
statute, that twice daily his "seventy blackgowned scholars"
should ascend the "Holy Hill" dedicated to their use as the
recreation-ground of his college. Lord Selborne, in his
Quincentenary Poem, thus alludes to one of the most cherished
memories of Old Wykehamists:

     "Four hundred years and fifty their rolling course have sped
     Since the first serge-clad scholar to Wykeham's feet was
     led: And stil ]his seventy faithful boys, in these
     presumptuous days,
     Learn the old truths, speak the old words, tread in the
     ancient ways,
     Still for their daily orisons resounds the matin chime:
     Still linked in bands of brotherhood St. Catherine's steep
     they climb."

     The Winton stands at about the same distance from the circle
as does Silbury from Avebury. That Winchester Cathedral was
erected on the site of a Druidic circle is practically certain
from the fact that several Druidic stones were at one time to be
seen in the Close. The late Dean Stephens pointed out one of
these to the writer, near the King's Gate, a relic which he
considered went far to confirm the tradition that Lleuver Mawr,
"the Great Light" (known to Latin writers as Lucius), he, who in
the Triads is described as "the first in the Isle of Britain who
bestowed the privilege of country and nation and judgment and
validity of oath upon those who should be of the faith of
Christ"-the first Christian king (circa A.D.170)- built the first
minster on the site of a circle, and at the same time transferred
the Druidic emolu-

1 Cardinal Wolsey having transferred the endowment of St.
Catherine's Chapel to his Oxford foundation at Christ Church, it
fell into ruins, of which not a vestige remains.

ments to the maintenance of the Christian clergy. The old "Court
House" in the Close the Dean regarded as another link with
Druidic times, recalling the days when the ArchDruid held his
courts of justice in "the face of the sun - the eye of Light,"
within the precincts of the open-air cor, court, or circle.
Within the walls of this old timber-house, courts of justice were
held, said the Dean, until the new Guildhall in the City was
erected. In the Cathedral Close of Norwich is a similar Court
House, with a notice over the little old doorway, "The High Court
of Justice."
     The earliest historical record of Winton (Winchester) as a
"Gorsedd," i.e. a great seat of the monarch and a seat of
government, is in 500 B.C., when, according to local tradition,
Dunwal Molmutius made Winton his capital. In the chronicles of
the ancient British kings it is stated "Dyfnwal ab Clodin, Duke
of Cornwall, made all Britain one monarchy, which before was
divided between five kings or dukes. . . ." Molmutius is said to
have excelled all the kings of Britain in valour and gracefulness
of person. After an interregnum of some years occupied by the
contest of various claimants to the throne, as the representative
by both paternal and maternal descent of the younger branch of
the British dynasty, he was recognized Sovereign-Paramount by the
Voice of the People, according to ancient British usage.
     The citizens of Winchester have given Molmutius, as the
founder of their ancient city, the foremost place of honour in a
series of bas-reliefs on the facade of their new Town Hall,
representing British, Saxon, Norman, and Plantagenet monarchs,
whose names are interwoven with the traditions of "Royal
Winchester." Of Molmutius' work as a law-giver and a road-maker
we shall learn later on when we come to describe his connexion
with the still older capital of London.
     Having given precedence to the national Gorsedds of
Glastonbury and Winton, we now turn to the royal Gorsedds of
Windsor and Eton Montem, second only to them in interest.
The Windsor Gorsedd, the Win-de-Sieur, the White or holy mound of
the Sieur or Lord (according to the Welsh derivation of the
name), is the only Gorsedd which in unbroken historical
continuity has literally fulfilled its Keltic title as a great
seat or throne of the monarch from the sixth century to the
present day. "Piled up," at some unknown period, on the summit of
a natural chalk down - "a height that does at once invite a
pleasure and a reverence from our sight" (Drayton)- "The
Round-Table Mound," as it is usually called, crowned by Edward
III's Round Tower, is the distinguishing feature of the
"stateliest royal castle in Europe." In the Conqueror's time the
majestic mound commanded vast woods of oak and beech,
comparatively small portions of which still remain known as
"Windsor Great Forest."
     There is no doubt that this circular conical mound, 100 feet
in diameter at its base, encircled by its symbolic trench, is
entirely artificial. This has been proved by a shaft or well in
the interior, which, when examined in 1885, was found to be lined
with ancient masonry until it reached the chalk soil on which it
had been erected. John Evelyn, who never allowed anything of a
scientific nature to pass unrecorded in his diary, refers to "the
well on the Mount," but makes no comment or remark about it.
One of the foremost scientific men of his time, a Fellow of the
newly-founded Royal Society, in touch with the newlyappointed
Astronomer Royal, it is probable that the old Squire of Deptford
noticed this well on the Windsor mound from his knowledge of a
similar shaft of unknown antiquity in the Greenwich observatory.
The Windsor Gorsedd enshrines for all time both Druidic and
Christian ideals. The "Great Seat" owes its fame entirely to the
magnetic personalities of two of our most illustrious and
representative kings, "the noble Arthur, first of the three most
Christian worthies of the world" (Caxton) and the romantic
warrior-king, Edward of Windsor. Pre-eminent as national leaders,
these monarchs were at pains to preserve the traditions of the
British Gorsedd Assemblies in the respective institutions they
founded for the promotion of chivalry. The British King Arthur,
when he reorganized the Druidic Order on Christian lines,
ordained that his "goodly Fellowship" of the Round Table should
carry on the continuity of the Druidic custom, and celebrate
national festivals on the summits of the sacred mounds, as their
forefathers before them had done.
     Malory tells us of Round Table Assemblies held in London,
Winchester, Camelot (Cadbury Mound), Caerleon; but the King's
favourite "station" for the Whitsuntide festivities was the
Windsor Table Mound. Froissart records show "Edward, King of
England at this time, resolved to re-build the great castle of
Windsor, formerly built and founded by King Arthur; and where
first was set up and established the noble Round Table, from
which so many valiant men have issued forth to perform feats oś
arms and prowess throughout the world." It is also from
Froissart, the court chronicler of the time, that we learn it was
a romantic pilgrimage Edward III and his young Queen Philippa
made to Arthur's tomb at Glastonbury which determined the
Plantagenet monarch to refound the British Order, revive the
Round Table Assemblies, the tilts and tourneys of Arthurian days,
and once again make Windsor the centre of European chivalry.
The first step taken was to instruct his young surveyor and
secretary, William of Wykeham, to enclose the Gorsedd, the Round
Table Mound of the British Kings' Assemblies, with a Round Tower.
Within the walls of this unroofed enclosure the Knights of the
Order of St. George and the Garter, from the day of the
inauguration, St. George's Day, April 23, 1351, to the time of
Charles II, celebrated the annual festival of the Order, which
for antiquity and dignity take precedence of all others of the
kind in Europe.
     Edward III, following in the footsteps of the British king,
the founder of the Round Table, whom he appears to have made his
ideal, identified himself all through his reign with the
interests of the national Church against the encroaching claims
of the Roman see. Wykeham's inquiries into the traditions of the
Order showed that the British Church of the first five centuries
had been entirely free of papal control, and that one of the
first acts of Arthur's reign had been to refuse the tribute
demanded by special emissaries sent from Rome. It may have been
this precedent set by his predecessor that determined King Edward
to obtain a Bull from Pope Clement VI (1348), declaring the
Chapel of St. George a free chapel, 1 i.e. free (as had been the
early British Church) of papal jurisdiction. The sovereign-the
head of the order-and the Bishop of Winchester, the prelate,
nominated the deans and canons, with appeal to the visitor, the
Lord Chancellor. The royal chapel of St. George's, Windsor, may
therefore claim to be the keystone of the Reformation, and as a
religious foundation thoroughly organized in every detail of its
constitution by fifty-four original statutes. St. George's
College is the first in England founded "free" of the control of
abbot or prior, and its statutes have been the model upon which
all post-Reformation cathedral and collegiate staffs have been
moulded. In his Governor's Guide the Duke of Argyll (Constable of
the Castle at this time) reminds us that "Windsor takes
precedence of Westminster, and that the succession of deans and
canons of Windsor has not been interrupted for five and a half
centuries. The Abbey was not refounded and made collegiate till
1603, under Queen Elizabeth." According to Moberley, 2 Edward III
may be said to have begun the resistance to the Roman claims to
supremacy which culminated in the rupture under Henry VIII, two
hundred years later.
     Another far-reaching benefit to the nation was the outcome
of Edward III's revival of the British Order. His lowly-born
secretary, William of Wykeham, upon whop had devolved all the
research and the organization of the College and the Order, had
become so imbued with the importance of national education, in
the spirit set forth in the national Triads and in the rules of
the Round Table, that he resolved, when opportunity came, to
found two colleges for the education of the "poor and needy," the
one at Winchester, the other at Oxford. Promoted, by his royal
patron, to the highest honours in the realm, after

1 King Edward III obtained at the same time a Bull from Pope
Clement VI, making his twin foundation of St. Stephen,
Westminster, a free chapel and college. Dean and canons were
appointed, much to the wrath of Abbot Littlington. It is probable
that Wykeham designed the Chapel of St. Stephen's (destroyed by
fire in 1836) and drew up the statutes of the College, but as the
history of St. Stephen's has not been written, the only thing we
know for certain is that Wykeham was one of the canons. The
statutes of St. Stephen's College are said to be "lost," like
those of St. George's College are said to be "lost," like those
of St. George's College, Windsor, but probably, if search were
made, they would be found.
2 Moberley's Life of William of Wykeham.

twenty years' loyal and faithful service at Windsor, Wykeham
succeeded to the see of Winchester, vacated by the death of his
former patron, Bishop Edington, and in the same year was
appointed Lord Chancellor.
     One of Bishop Wykeham's first undertakings was to set about
the foundation of his "Nurserie of St. Mary's, Winton," for
"seventy poor scholars," who on the Druidical plan of promotion
by merit and not by favour, were to pass on to his Oxford
college, there to be trained in divinity and law as secular
clergy. To give his young scholars experience in leadership, the
"Father of Public Schools" ordained that the senior scholars
should be entrusted with a certain amount of power and
responsibility, and at the age of fifteen were sworn loyally to
maintain the honour and corporate unity of their school and
college. Thus the ancient laws of Chivalry were no longer
confined to a few chosen leaders of noble birth, but they became
the actual foundations on which the great fabric of national
education had been reared. Among the very few of the
Chancellor-Bishop's words that have been preserved to us, there
is a simple saying often in his mouth which shows how
deeply-graven in Wykeham's heart was the feeling which his motto,
"Manners maketh man," expressed. "There can be no true dignity,"
he was wont to say, "where there is no high principle."
     Strange, that in spite of Edward III's historical
refoundation of the Arthurian Order on the Windsor Table Mound
and the part played by Wykeham in its reconstruction, the
authorities of to-day insist that King Arthur is a "mythical
monarch," his "goodly-fellowship," the popular theme of European
romance, "mere legend," and the Round Table in the Great Hall of
Winchester Castle (for 400 years England's Old Parliament House)
no genuine relic. The testimony of the earliest British
historians, Gildas and Nennius, is ignored. The numerous
references to Arthur's exploits, death and burial in MSS. (other
than those of Geoffrey of Monmouth) in the British Museum,
Bodleian and Cambridge libraries, we are told, are of no
"historical value." Place-names and traditions go for nothing;
and even the genealogies of the British kings, by virtue of which
Henry VII claimed his title to the crown, are said to be "monkish
inventions" and "utterly worthless" when we refer to these
chronicles as proof of Arthur's personality. It was Henry Tudor's
proud boast to be descended, not from Norman, or Plantagenet, but
from the Keltic kings, Arthur and Cadwallader the Blessed, the
last of his race to assume the royal title. The revival of the
ancient KelticBritish element in the British monarchy, after
centuries of eclipse, is a fact recorded in a striking way in
Henry VII's Chapel, Westminster Abbey, where intertwined in the
bronze closure round about the tomb of the founder of this
magnificent mausoleum, may be seen the emblems of the House of
Lancaster with those of the British King Cadwallader, the "Dragon
of the great Pendragonship" of Wales. 1
     To dispute the antiquity of the Round Table is to attribute
to our Crusader kings, Richard I and Edward I, a superstitious
veneration for a relic, utterly beneath the dignity of two of our
greatest national leaders, who, on the eve of their departure to
the Holy Wars, assembled the Barons of England round its board,
and delivered the kingdom into their charge. Moreover, if there
had been any sort of doubt about the life story of the "First of
the Knights"-the Founder of Chivalry-the Emperor Maximilian, "Der
letzte Ritter," the "Last of the Knights," as he is called in
Germany, would not have honoured the traditions of Arthur and his
Round Table by a visit to Winchester Castle to see the relic on
his return journey after his installation as a Knight of St.
George at Windsor; nor would so great a lover of chivalry have
caused a bronze statue to be made of Arthur and placed the first
in order of the "Chivalry of Europe," whose effigies adorn his
magnificent cenotaph at Innsbruck.
     It is no compliment to Henry VIII either, to allow for a
moment that this shrewd monarch would have taken his royal guest,
Charles V, to spend a week at the royal castle, and on this
occasion have had the Round Table taken down from the gable,
overhauled and painted green and white, the liveries of the
British order with himself depicted as sovereign, and in the
centre the rose of York and Lancaster, or as some authorities say
the rose of St. George. The names of the com-

1 See Dean Stanley's "Memorials of Westminster Abbey."

panions of the "Goodly Fellowship" inscribed on the margin by the
Tudor monarch we have been able to identify with but one
exception as owners of castles and demesnes in Monmouthshire,
South Wales and Cornwall.
     But the most convincing proof of Arthur's personality is the
intangible hold on the imagination that the institution of the
Round Table continues to exercise on the activities of the
nation. In the Round Table Conferences we see noticed in the
newspapers from time to time, when any important question
affecting the higher interests of the nation arises, may be
traced the survival and vitality of the spirit and principles of
the Druidic and Christian Gorsedds held on the summits of the
sacred mounds of Londinium, Winton, and elsewhere, in those
centuries when the British constitution was in the making. Among
the most notable "Round Tables" of our own own time may be
mentioned the Round Table called by Bishop Creighton to discuss
the ritual question; the Round Table summoned by the Archbishop
of Canterbury to consider the Education Bill, and the Round Table
held when the Veto Bill was the all-absorbing topic of national
interest. Certainly the most historic Round Table was that
summoned by Cecil Rhodes when Premier at the Cape, Indeed,
Arthur's mantle would appear to have fallen on this great
idealist and champion of chivalry, when he gathered the Matabele
warriors around him, on that weird "place of assembly," the
summit of the Matoppo Hills, and by an appeal to their sense of
justice and chivalry, "all that makes a man," induced these armed
warriors one by one to step forward and lay down his weapon at
the feet of the "Great White Chief." And in this way a war ended
which had harassed the country for years. In its beneficent and
far-reaching results. Rhodes' achievement may compare not
unfavourably with some of the many exploits of the "noble
     One other mound remains to be noticed before we return to
the consideration of the London Gorsedds and the monarchs whose
names are associated with the traditions of these prehistoric
places of assembly. "Ea-ton" College, as the name is spelt in the
letters patent of the An. Reg., 19 Henry VI, 1441, derives its
title from the artificial mound known as Eton Montem, or Sol's
Hill, corrupted into Salt Hill. "Piled up" in remote antiquity on
the watery meads that environ the royal college, the "ton," or
sacred mound, formerly encircled by a stream, now partially
diverted, was an ea, or island, hence the descriptive name of
Ea-ton. It is only since 1840, when the triennial processions of
the scholars to the Montem were discontinued, that the "Great
Seat" has partly lost its original contour, from a slice having
been cut off the base to widen the road. The great interest of
the Eaton Gorsedd lies in the fact that Henry of Windsor (Holy
Henry, as he was called by the people), in sympathy with the
religious traditions of this ancient high place of worship,
ordained by statute that the memory of the solstitial festivals
should be perpetuated by the scholars on the self-same site where
in pre-Christian times the praises of the Most High had been
celebrated by the Druids.
     In the College statutes elaborate directions are given for
the due celebration of May-day. In the early morning the King's
scholars were to go "a-maying" to the woods, bringing back the
fragrant boughs with which they were to adorn the windows of the
College, and a very human touch is given to this statute by the
thoughtful young monarch's injunction, that if his scholars' feet
were wet with the morning dew, they should change their shoes on
their return. The autumnal Equinox in September was to be
celebrated in much the same way by "a nutting" expedition to the
woods, and to pick apples; the scholars were enjoined to give a
portion of the spoils to their tutors. On both these occasions
the whole school marched in procession, in a kind of military
order, with music and flags, to the summit of the Montem.
But the great festival of the college the royal founder ordained
should be celebrated about the time of the Whitesun-tide, on the
Tuesday in Whitsun week, when, amidst every token of rejoicing,
masters and scholars assembled an the summit of the Montem. For
four centuries "Montem Day" was observed after this fashion.
Money, or "salt," as it was called. was collected for the benefit
of the captain of the school from the spectators. But after the
railway was opened, about the middle of the last century, the
crowds became unmanageable, the custom was discontinued and
"Montem Day" changed to June 4.
     In the grant of arms to his college Henry VI states his
desire, not merely to equal, but to surpass his predecessors in
munificence, and the wish that the work of his hands should be
adorned with every possible splendour and dignity. It there
expresses the truly royal sentiment that "if men are ennobled on
account of ancient hereditary wealth, much more is he to be
preferred, and to be styled truly noble, who is rich in the
treasures of the sciences and wisdom; and is also found diligent
in his duty towards God." As Wykeham's school of St. Mary Winton
was the only public school then in existence, the royal founder
went down to Winchester, where he remained a month, to study
Wykeham's new system of education, and to copy the statutes,
which the founderBishop had ordained should never be taken away
from his college. It is recorded that the King frequently
attended Divine Service in St. Mary's College Chapel, and,
impressed with the beautiful proportions, the sacred numbers
employed in the "days" of the large windows and the ground plan
in the form of the ancient T-shaped cross, determined to
reproduce Wykeham's plans in every detail, only on a more
magnificent scale, for his own colleges at Eton and Cambridge.
It should here be remarked that Bishop Wykeham's love for Keltic
traditions is shown in the design of his college chapels at
Winton and Oxford, both built in the shape of a Tau cross. The
great architect-Bishop's ground plan was followed by his two
first scholars, Chicheley and Waynflete, in the chapels of their
respective foundations at All Souls and Magdalen College, Oxford.
This anticipatory cross, as it has been called, is that on which
the brazen serpent was lifted up by Moses in the Wilderness, and
was, according to tradition, the mark made upon the lintels at
the first passover. It was a custom of the Kymry to place a cross
of this form in the centre of the thatch of their circular
     Keltic survivals may be traced also in Waynflete's
institution for the observance of May-day and the summer
solstice; the former by the singing of the Latin hymn at sunrise
on Magdalen Tower by the clergy and choir of his Oxford college,
in which the townsfolk take part in the road below on "hoarse
horns." Midsummer-day (the feast of the nativity of St. John the
Baptist) the founder ordained should be celebrated by a sermon
preached from the stone pulpit in the quadrangle, which was to be
strewn with "fresh rushes" on this occasion. This was
discontinued only in the nineteenth century.

     In gathering up these scattered strands of historical
evidence, we have endeavoured, however inadequately, to show that
Kymric institutions in all the departments of polity, law, the
executive and religion, underlie the spirit of the British

To be continued

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