Bradwell: Ancient and Modern

By Seth Evans (1912)

Transcriptions by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 2013

Chapter I.

“I will show you caves and barrows,
Of a world before the flood.
When the bison and hyæna,
Rang'd over moor and wood;
Where races of men lie buried,
Who fought with weapons of stone.
And sew'd their deer-skins together
With implements of bone”.

Discoveries in Hartle Dale Caves.

A place with distinct evidence of its occupancy by the Early Britons, Romans, Saxons, Danes, and Normans cannot fail to be interesting. The district abounds in caves, and in many of these there are distinct traces of Pre-historic man. There are several small caves in Hartle Dale, and exploring one of these in 1872, the late Rooke Pennington, of Castleton, says that the floor consisted principally of blackish mould containing a few limestone fragments, and pieces of chert. It contained bones of the goat and pig, fox and rabbit. Two pieces of pre-historic pottery were also turned out. The ornamentations were unusually rude for such a remote period, being simply punctures made in the clay before baking, with a sharpened stick, without any regard to regularity.

In 1877 Mr. Pennington, the late Mr. John Tym, and Professor Boyd Dawkins, whilst examining other small caves and rock shelters in Hartle Dale, picked up a milk-molar of a young woolly rhinoceros, which had been thrown up to the surface by rabbits burrowing in the floor of the small cave at the mouth of which it was found. In an adjoining cavern there lay on the rock the tooth of a bear, evidently washed out of some fissure within. The first mentioned cave they dug out thoroughly, finding bones of the rhinoceros and bison, which Mr. Pennington thought had

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been carried to their last resting place by water. About the same time a fine arrow head was found on the Bradwell Moors.

These discoveries take us back to the days of pre-historic man who dwelt in the caves, and an examination of the many barrows, or “lows” has shown them to be burial-places of long forgotten races who once lived in Britain.

Stone Circles Explored.

The author of the same work says that one of the most interesting barrows ever explored was on Abney Moor, near Bradwell, but it was destroyed to build a wall. Upon a rampart of earth, by which it was surrounded were ten upright blocks of stone each about three feet high, and placed at equal distances round the barrow. When the mound was dug into, Mr. Pennington and his party found in the centre of the tumulus a large flat piece of sandstone upon which was a mass of burnt human bones, deposited with considerable care. There were also flint flakes, some jet beads, some amber beads, and an arrow head. The beads had evidently formed portions of necklaces. There were pieces of burnt gritstone and sandstone, found, evidence that the funeral fire had been lit upon the spot.

Two other barrows on the same moor had been previously explored and human bones, urns, heads of flint, etc., found in them. In the immediate vicinity were a number of pit dwellings which Mr. Pennington says were no doubt once covered with some sort of thatch such as heather would supply.

About a mile distant, in the direction of Hope, is The Folly. This is a small circular entrenchment, about 75 feet in diameter, with a slight elevation in the centre. On one occasion a cell was found here, and it is probable that this circular rampart originally had a stone circle.

Travelling along that portion of Batham-gate, which is best preserved, separating the Bradwell and Tideswell Moors, will be seen on the Tideswell moor side of the road an almost perfectly circular enclosure or camp within a now very low rampart, the whole having a diameter of 300 feet. A small part of the north-west arc of the circle has been cut off by the old Roman road, which is a proof of the early or pre-Roman origin of this circular camp.

Deposits of the Flood Found in a Lead Mine.

In a book on “Darbyshire”, printed in 1660, there is the following record of a curious discovery:-

“Near Bradewalle were dug up in sinking a lead-grove, a piece of a bone, and tooth of wonderful proportions, namely, the tooth (though a quarter of an inch of it was broken off) was 13 inches and a half in compass, and weighed three pounds ten ounces and three quarters; and with this, among other pieces of bones, a very large skull which held seven pecks of corn. The conjectures of the learned upon them are various, some supposing the tooth and bones to be a man's (and why not when a skull so monstrous was found with them); but others have thought it the den molaris of an elephant, and for this opinion they produce some elephants' bones found near Castleton. The most probable conjectures about the phenomena are that they are the exuvie of those creatures brought hither by the general deluge, and deposited by specific gravitation in the earth, then rendered as fluid as mud”. This strange discovery was made in the Virgin Mine at Hazelbadge, which was worked for lead at least five hundred years.

Ancient Barrows Explored: Human Remains Found.

About the year 1867 a great deal of interest was taken in discoveries of pre-historic man on Hazlebadge Hills, about midway between the Hall and Bradwell. On this field, close to Hill's Rake there is a large barrow, which was explored by Mr. Benjamin Bagshawe, solicitor, Sheffield, a gentleman well versed in local lore, and an antiquarian, and local archeologist of repute, whose ancestors had for many generations been located in the Grindlow and Foolow district.

Having obtained permission from the Duke of Rutland's agent, Mr. Bagshawe secured the services of two reliable miners, Robert Evans and John Bancroft, who went about their work with the greatest care. They had not been at work long, when only about a foot beneath the sod they came upon a stone cist, which on being opened was found to contain the skeleton of a man, not lying down, but seated upright, with his elbows on his knees, and his head on his hands as if he had been shut up in the tomb and buried alive. By the side of another man was the skeleton of a horse, and altogether fourteen skeletons of both sexes were found, in addition to many burnt bones, and a number of flint arrow heads. Only about half the barrow was explored, and the explorers believe that if the other portion was searched many interesting discoveries would be made. There does not seem to be any doubt that these bodies had lain there two thousand years, having been deposited by the ancient Britons long before the Romans came to the Island.

In the winter of 1891 some workmen getting out the foundations for a kitchen at the rear of a house belonging to Mr. John Ford, on Bradwell Hills, facing what is known as “The Green”, made a discovery which went to prove that the house itself was built upon an ancient barrow. Only about two feet below the surface of the ground, three skeletons were discovered. Two were lying on their sides, with the knees tucked under the chin, and were within a wall of flat stones placed on edge, which formed three sides of a square. The third skeleton was found lying at full length on its back with a square stone

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standing at the head and another at the feet. Near the two skeletons within the small cist a very rough flint flake was found. Ihe skeletons were terribly broken by the workmen, and an official of the British Archaeological Association who visited the place and took away the flint, and as many of the bones as he could get, tried to put together the fragments of two of the skulls, but was not very successful. One skull seemed to be of a very low type of man, the forehead was very shallow, the bone projected over the eye, and at the top of the nose the bone was very wide and thick. The remaining part of the barrow had quantities of human bones mixed up with it, which were supposed to be early burials disturbed for the later interments. Probably if a search was made there would be many similar “finds” in the immediate locality. In 1897 workmen excavating foundations of new houses for Mr. T. Cooper, in “Nether Side”, opposite the Newburgh Arms Inn, discovered a sepulchral cist of gritstone slabs containing male adult bones (supposed to be pre-Roman), leaden “spindle whorl”, iron spearhead, about seven inches long, copper button, and a Roman coin. The spearhead and whorl were placed in the Buxton Museum. A week or two later the workmen found a copper coin of 1738, and a three shilling bank token of the reign of George III., 1815. The spindle whorl was one inch diameter and about quarter of an inch thick, and its upper surface was decorated with five raised fillets, and the button consisted of a disc of copper about quarter of an inch in diameter with a small ring attached to the back. It was decorated with small hollows, inlaid with gold.

Grey Ditch, a Monument of the First Century.

One of the most interesting features of Bradwell is the long strip of defensive earthwork known as Grey Ditch, which one authority declared is “the most important remaining fragment of the Limes Brittannicus of the first century, in its third stage between Templeborough and Brough”.

Grey Ditch shows itself plainly, telling without doubt of early tribal resistance to onslaughts up this valley. Standing on the high road at “Eden Tree”, near the New Bath Hotel it may be seen stretching along to Micklow on one side, and to the summit of Bradwell Edge on the other, right away up “Rebellion Knoll” to the mountain road leading to Abney and Brough 1,100 feet high. One writer of the 17th century (Mr. Bray) said it was carried from the camp on Mam Tor, and was a fore fence of the Romans, crossing Bathamgate and Bradwell water, but subsequent authorities doubt whether it ever was connected with Mam Tor. Its elevation is about 10 feet, and its total average width about 35 feet. It is a rampart thrown up to resist attack from the Brough side, and well known archaeologists are of opinion that it was possibly once a boundary, of the ancient kingdom of Northumbria or Brigantees.

There is no doubt that it was for some military or defensive purpose, and probably there is a rich reward for the future explorer of such an interesting spot. More than a century ago pieces of swords, spears, spurs, and bridle-bits were found on both sides and very near it, between Batham Gate and Bradwell water.

General View of Bradwell

OCR/transcript by Rosemary Lockie in February 2013.

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