Thursday, 6 August 2009

Knowlton Church and Henge Monument

Scabious dancing in the breeze on the banks of Knowlton henge monument.

We visited Knowlton church and henge on our way to the Viking Re-enactment at Cranborne on the first day of our recent holiday. The henge monument was brimming with beautiful wild flowers of the chalklands, and so I will catalogue those on BB's nature notes in due course.

Cue creepy music! I was just looking up information on the history of this site and came across a paranormal investigation by Southern Paranormal UK . . . I have to confess that in daylight I felt nothing at all, but was fascinated by the number of yew trees in the area, and also along the roadside between Knowlton and Cranborne (which is about 2 miles beyond Knowlton). I don't know what to make of the "mist" in their photographs or the feelings they felt in the church, so I shall leave you to make your own minds up.

The church in the centre of this wonderful henge monument was "added" in the 12th century and improved in the 15th. Obviously this "pagan" site had to have the Church's stamp upon it to legalize worship there. In Peter Knight's book "Ancient Stones of Dorset", he draws on other writings to suggest that there was once a circle of standing stones within the henge monument but that these were broken up and incorporated in the fabric of the church. It was also recorded that when the local hundreds estates met, it would be at Knowlton, so it has obviously been long associated with such gatherings.

However, the surveying and excavations carried out by Bournemouth University show that this henge was part of a much larger complex and one of three henge monuments in association with barrow cemeteries. How I wish I had known that before we stopped there, but it was rather a spur of the moment decision, taken when I realized we would be driving near it! Here is a link to the Bournemouth University's research pages, which may be of further interest.

The church itself is built incorporating flint nodules (see top of page) - a design familiar to Hampshire and Dorset folk. Charlton Marshall, I believe, has a particularly fine example, where there is a chequerboard pattern. Yet when we lived in Lytchett Matravers and used to drive past it regularly, we never stopped for a closer look!

Much of the tower still remains. I have been viewing the building with an eye to see which parts of it might be shattered standing stones . . . the doorways are possible candidates, though I suspect large lumps of stone would more likely be in the foundations of the church. I don't know if the brown sandstone type stone is what has been called "moorstone" by some. It appears to be rich in iron and possibly responsible for some of the local "energies"?

One of the earthen banks of the henge. There are three entrances, and at the Northern end, there are two yew trees forming a further "entrance". Other yew trees are nearby, and along the road northwards, and I wonder whether these were the remains of an ancient yew forest - bearing in mind how yew trees can regenerate from dieing remains of very aged trees - or perhaps a sacred grove? One never knows whether to think pagan or "romanticised" thoughts or scientific ones when considering the landscape, but the archaeologist in me insists "scientific" . . . I know that there is a good stand of yew trees on one side of Hambledon Hill and quite a prolific yew woodland at "Great Yews" near Bodenham/Nunton (just outside Salisbury).

The two yew trees at the North end of the monument. Note, however, that they do NOT align with any of the actual entrances through the henge banks, and my husband tells me that they are probably one and the same tree and one is literally an offshoot of the other's root system so they are not deliberately "paired" in any sense.

There was a village associated with the church in until Medieval times, when the Black Death wiped out the parishioners around 1485. Peter Knight records that earth energies are to be felt here, and that it is a complex site. Holding ones hands against the buttress has resulted in an off-balance feeling pulling the body to the left. I wish I had remembered this at the time (I thought it was the doorway where I picked up nothing).


Elizabeth Rhiannon said...

Beautiful and interesting post.

pattypan.2 said...

Hi Jennie what a wonderful place very atmospheric and it strikes me as a little sad..

Anyway I have nominated you for a Lovely Blog award, please check out my blog at http://tarragonnthyme.blogspot for further information

Take care nice to see you back



Greentwinsmummy said...

I adore this place! I have one of my favourite photographs taken there,with GTD we were stood on the ridge with the winter solstice sun setting behind us,it cast our shadows long & clear on the ground infront.Knowing the course of events as the days unfolded lol I can look back & say that was the last photograph of just the 2 of us.... :o)

Its a lovely peaceful place. I seem to remember some of the yews had little ribbon scraps hung in them,did you see that?
GTM xxxx

thelma said...

Hi Jennie, Lovely blog, never been to Knowlton, but its a prime canditate for Christian dominance over paganism, though of course the banks of the henges also gave some protection for the villagers.