[From Yn Lioar Manninagh Vol 3 pp477/482]

Report of Archaelogical Section (A)

The past year has not been an eventful one as far as this section is concerned.

In October the Rev J. Quine and I had a very pleasurable field day in West Baldwin. We visited an old lady (aged 85) a neice of Capt. Quilliam, of Trafalgar, and from her and others we got some information about the old keeil on the Rheyn.* It appeared that 35 years ago, or more, Kewley, of the Rheyn, obliterated the ruins of what is still called the Chapel field. Several graves were rooted up, and bones and " pot-metal " met with. A carved stone, taken by Kewley to be a finial, two or more "with letters on them," " like cut in with a knife," " scratches." One of these stones "with writing on it" was built into the haggart wall, and remained there for years. Kewley did some building, notably a windmill, which he ultimately took down. He was unlucky, and nothing went right with him. Finally he took all the stones and buried them as nearly as possible in the place they were taken from, including that set in the wall of the haggart. The broken stone with the runic inscription, now in Castle Rushen, came from the Rheyn, and possibly the one referred to was a portion of it, but the measurements do not quite correspond. We easily found the site of the Chapel, which is marked on the Ordnance Survey, but though we probed all over with an iron rod, and searched the walls and hedges all around, we found no trace of any carved stone.

In August we had an interesting excursion to Rushen Abbey, as reported in our Transactions. Mr. Quine there pointed out the remains of the arcade at the Abbey tower, and afterwards led the way to the Grammar School, formerly St. Mary’s Church, where he showed other arches which appear to have been removed and utilised in this building. Mr. Robert Kewley subsequently discovered that the roof of the Grammar School was an ancient one of oak, and almost certainly had been transferred bodily from the Abbey Church. It has a curious inequality, one side longer than the other, which corresponds with the Abbey Church.

Of the discoveries during the year I may mention some pieces of early pottery, which, so far as can be judged from their shape and decoration, belong probably to the Bronze Age.

From the quarry at Gob-y-Volley, Lezayre, I recovered the remaining fragments of the cinerary urn, of which the Rev. S. N. Harrison had already presented our Museum with two pieces of the walls. This was of rude manufacture, with very thick walls and bottom, exhibiting no trace of pattern. In these respects it resembled some found by us last year at Scard, Rushen. See p. 483.

In January last an urn of unusual shape was found in a cist at Arbory. The Rev. J. Kewley has favoured me with an excellent drawing, which I exhibit, and a full description, which appeared in the " Examiner" of 21st January last. It appears that when working in a quarry in a field at Ballacross, belonging to Mr. J. E. Moore on the 13th of January, one of the men came upon this urn embedded in the clayey soil near the surface. It was removed with great care and secured quite whole. Mr. Moore had it laid carefully in straw bedding in one of his buildings. The urn is apparently of red clay, baked hard, but darkened and very damp. It stands 12 inches high, and is shaped exactly like an egg, with the smaller end chipped away. The mouth is 8½ inches in diameter, and has a bevelled rim sloping outwards at an angle with this lip. The rim is ornamented with finely indented diagonal lines, having irregular spaces between varying from a quarter to half an inch. It was covered by a roughly squared slab of slatey stone, 7½ inches by nine inches.

About the same time (7th January) a very beautiful and perfect specimen was found in a cist on Gretch-veg, Lonan, by the Rev. J. Quine, Mr. Rydings, Mr. Preston, and others. This, of which I exhibit photographs, was quite empty when found. From its appearance one would judge it to be a food vessel. It measures 4½ inches high ; the diameter at the mouth is 5¾ inches, and at the widest part, which is at a distance of 1 3/8 inches below the rim, the diameter is 6½ inches. The lip, which is 5/8-inch deep, is ornamented by two encircling rows of diagonal lines, and surrounded outside by a row of dots. Between this and the widest part of the walls, the urn is encircled by a bold chevron pattern, bordered above by three and below by four rows of fine lines. At the widest part it is encircled by a band across which are four raised mouldings from four to five inches apart. These, in fact, are handles conventionalized into mere ornament, as in the small urn from Ballaugh. Between these handles the band consists of three incised lines, bordered above and below by raised flat mouldings closely crossed by diagonal strokes. From this point the walls converge rapidly to the bottom, which is 2¼ inches in diameter. This portion is ornamented by two flat encircling bands bordered by four incised lines, each of the bands being edged by a chevron or dog-tooth pattern, and scored by fine vertical lines, as in the beautiful little urn from Cronk Aust, with which it compares in size but not in shape. The bottom also bears a pattern, viz. , two con-centric circles of short diagonal lines. A full description of the finding of this urn appeared in the "Manx Sun," 26th January, 1899. It appears that Mr. James Kewley had disclosed with the plough a grave in a level part of a field on Gretch-veg. It was orientated east and west, and consisted of a stone lid, a foot beneath the surface, resting on two side slabs, 6 feet long, and two transverse slabs, 18 inches. The depth of the grave was about 9 inches. The bottom was covered an inch deep with finely-powdered earth on the stiff clay. Traces were observed of an obliterated mound and slabs, probably dislodged from other graves. Mr. Kewley drew attention to a tumulus in another field of Gretch-veg, at the gable of a ruined Cottage, where a large flag had been found in removing earth from the mound for a fence.

This was opened on 14th January, and within it was found a fine Stone cist.

The longest axis pointed from S.E. to N.W., being accidentally or intentionally in a line with the summit of Snaefell, of which a fine view is visible from this mound. Lid, 6 feet long, 3 feet wide, and 3 inches thick, overlapping the sides about 6 inches, and over-lapping the ends of the cist about 9 inches ; not level, but sloping somewhat towards the N.E. The longitudinal side slabs set on edge, over 6 feet long, projecting more than a foot past the ends of the cist, and a little longer than the lid. The slab on the W. side 4 inches thick, that on the N. E. side 3 inches thick. The transverse end slabs, very carefully selected for their purpose, adjusted with much thought and skill, 3 feet 4 inches apart (inside measurement). The N.W. end slab 2 inches thick and 26 inches wide ; the SE. end slab,1½ inches thick and 21 inches wide. The shape of the cist was, therefore, not a rectangular oblong, but wider at the end towards Snaefell. The depth of the cist, measured from the lid to the lower edge of the slabs, 26 inches.

Underneath the lower edge, all round the side and end slabs, was a foundation packing of rubble stones, evidently to prevent sinkage. These slabs had evidently been dragged from the shore—a distance of over a mile—as they were water-marked and the edges smoothed by the action of the waves.

On lifting the lid the cist was found full of fine powdered red earth, undisturbed, and having in one corner a pocket of fine dry oats chaff around a field mouse’s nest. Some of the uneaten grains had sprouted in the fine mould, and were spreading in long white tendrils under the lid. The N.W. end showed traces of having been interfered with before ; and it was subsequently found that Mr. John Killey, of Minorca, who had found the " flag," had lifted one end, cracking it with the crowbar. He had found the cist full of fine mould by putting his arm through the opening made in the cracked corner, and not finding the " crock full of gool" had re-placed the broken corner of the lid without disturbing its contents, and had covered it over with earth. The fine mould was evidently the dried soil from rain water percolating through the crevices of the cist for untold centuries. In removing the earth from the cist, fragments of wood charcoal were found dispersed through it. Ultimately—resting on the stiff clay—three feet beneafh the lid, was found the beautiful little urn described, of which I exhibit photo-graphs. It was near the west corner, lying half on its side, the mouth towards the N E. It was full of the fine mould met with in the cist. No traces of flint were found, nor any other implement or ornament. It was forwarded to me with the hope that eventually it might be placed in our Insular Museum.

The lid of the cist was carefully replaced, and the finders express a hope that the Trustee of our Ancient Monuments may have it fenced and preserved, which would meet with the entire approval of Mr. J. Kewley, of the Gretch-veg, on whose estate stands the interesting monument known as King Orry’s Grave.

Of historic antiquities I am happy to ‘announce the discovery of two new cross-slabs of the 11th and 12th century, both, unfortunately, fragmentary and sadly worn.

The first is a stone at Kirk Michael, of which I exhibit a rubbing. It measures 2ft. 10¾ in. by 13½ in. and 2¾ in. ‘thick. On either face we see the remains of a highly decorated cross. One shows a bit of the lower part of the shaft, which bears a plain plait, the space to the left exhibiting a good example of the tendril pattern, ornamented by a median line. The space to the right is missing. The other face shows only a bit of the pattern on the space to: the. left, viz. , plain twist-and-ring. The edge has had an inscription in Runes reading, as usual, from below upwards. It is very much defaced, but we can make out one word—RUNER.

Long ago this stone was misappropriated and made to serve for another gravestone, and, by turning it upside down, we are able to compare the sepulchral art of the 17th or 18th century with that of the 11th or 12th—a comparison not in favour of the former.

Upon this lower end, thus converted into a head, the rounding of which has, unfortunately, destroyed the first part of the inscription, we find the familiar skull and cross-bones carved in high relief, and the figures above, " 1699," show the date. Some of the older carving has been chipped away, and a great portion of the stone has been broken off.

Some time ago Mr. Stubbs called my attention to the other cross, which lies, broken in two, on the wall of Jurby churchyard. It measures 25 inches by 9½ inches, by 3½ inches thick. One face shows the upper afld right limb of a cross, connected by a broad circle. The pattern on the left arm bears Gaut’s favourite loop device. The circle shows a plait of four bands. The space below appears also to have had a loop design, and the space above an animal distinctly Scandinavian in character. Most unfortunately,the edge, which might have borne an inscription, has been chipped away.

The Governor has expressed a hope that a collection at Castle Rushen to form the nucleus of our Insular Museum, may be ready for exhibition this summer. Suitable articles will be received on loan, and I hope our Society will contribute to this by sending some of our stone and bronze implements, which, by being placed along with others, will gain greatly in interest. While the collection is small, the Trustees will, I think, not confine it to antiquities, and

Some of our specimens of local birds, eggs, insects, and plants would be gladly taken charge of by them. I trust that all our members will assist by securing and presenting specimens, and that they will use their influence with all with whom they come in con-tact to do likewise. Whether things are presented directly to the Trustees of our Museum, or through our Society, are exhibited in this collection, our one aim and endeavour is to preserve all such relics of the past as may be still recovered, and to illustrate as fully as possible the various branches of our local Natural History as well as our Archæology.


Ramsey, March, 1899,



Back index next


Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 1999