Vestiges of the Antiquities of Derbyshire

 Section I Tumuli 1759 to 1843 Section I Brushfield Barrow 1825 Section I Tumuli 1843 Section I Tumuli 1844 Section I Tumuli 1845 Section I Tumuli 1846 Section II Circles

Vestiges of the Antiquities of Derbyshire is in Prehistory.

Vestiges of the Antiquities of Derbyshire, and the Sepuchral Usages of its Inhabitants, from the Most Remote Ages to the Reformation. By Thomas Bateman (age 26). Member of the British Archæological Association; Assisted by Stephen Glover, Author of the 'History of Derbyshire', etc.

What want these outlaws (conquerors should have),

But History's purchased page to call them great,

A wider space, an ornamental grave?

Their hopes were not less warm, their souls were full as brave.

LONDON. John Russell Smith. 4, Old Compton Street, Soho Square, MDCCCXLVIII.

Section I Tumuli

A Narrative Of Facts Resulting From Excavations Of Tumuli In Various Parts Of The Counties Of Derby And Statford From 1759 To 1847.

Section II Circles

By far the most important, as well as the most uninjured, remain of the religious edifices of our barbarous forefathers that is to be found in the midland counties, is to be seen a short distance to the left hand of the turnpike road from Buxton to Ashbourne, at about an equal distance from each of those towns. This is the famous temple of Arbor Lowe, or Arbe Lowe [Map], as it is generally called by the country people; it is a circle of large unhewn limestones, surrounded by a deep ditch, outside of which rises a large and high vallum. Its situation, though considerably elevated, is not so high as some eminences in the neighbouring country; yet it commands an extensive view, especially towards the north-east, in which direction the dreary and sombre wastes of the heath-clad East Moor are perfectly visible, though distant about fifteen miles; were it not for a few stone fences, which intervene in the foreground, the solitude of the place and the boundless view of an uncultivated country are such as almost carry the observer back through a multitude of centuries, and make him believe that he sees the same view and the same state of things as existed in the days of the architects of this once holy fane.

The feelings on visiting this place [Arbor Low Henge and Stone Circle [Map]], on a warm summer's day, when there is no sound to disturb the solitude, save the singing of the lark, and now and then the cry of the plover (both which here abound), are truly delightful. But to resume the description; the area encompassed by the ditch is about fifty yards in diameter, and of a circular form; though, from a little declination of the ground towards the north, it appears somewhat elliptical when viewed from particular points. The stones which compose the circle are rough, unhewn masses of limestone, apparently thirty in number; but this cannot be determined with certainty, as several of them are broken; most of them are from six to eight feet in length, and three or four broad in the widest part.; their thickness is more variable, and their respective shapes are different and indescribable. They all lie upon the ground, many in an oblique position, but the opinion that has prevailed, of the narrowest end of each being pointed towards the centre, in order to represent the rays of the sun, and prove that luminary to have been the object of worship, must have arisen from inaccurate observation, for they almost as frequently point towards the ditch as otherwise; whether they ever stood upright, as most of the stones of druidical circles do, is an inquiry not easy to determine; though Mr. Pilkington was informed that a very old man, living in Middleton, remembered, when a boy, to have seen them standing obliquely on one end; this secondary kind of evidence does not seem entitled to much credit, as the soil at the basis of the stones does not appear to have ever been removed to a depth sufficient to ensure the possibility of the stones being placed in an erect position. Within the circle are some smaller stones scattered irregularly, and near the centre are three larger ones, by some supposed to have formed a cromlech or altar, but there are no perceptible grounds for such an opinion. The width of the ditch, which immediately surrounds the area on which the stones are placed, is about six yards; the height of the bank or vallum, on the inside (though much reduced by the unsparing hand of time), is still from six to eight yards; but this varies throughout the whole circumference, which, on the top, is about two hundred and seventy yards. The vallum is chiefly formed of the earth thrown out of the ditch, besides which a little has been added from the ground which immediately surrounds the exterior of the vallum, thus adding to its height, and to the imposing appearance it presents to any one approaching from a distance. To the inclosed area are two entrances, each of the width of ten or twelve yards, and opening towards the north and south.

On the east side of the southern entrance is a large barrow [Map], standing in the same line of circumference as the vallum, but wholly detached except at the base. This barrow has been several times unsuccessfully examined, and remained an antiquarian problem until the summer of the year 1845, when the original interment was discovered, of a nature to prove beyond doubt the extreme antiquity of the tumulus, and consequently of the temple.

About a quarter of a mile from Arbor Lowe, in a westerly direction, is a large conical tumulus, known as Gib Hill [Map], which is connected with the vallum of the temple, by a rampire of earth, running in a serpentine direction, not dissimilar to the avenue through the celebrated temple of Abury; to any believer in the serpent worship of the Celtic tribes this fact will be of interest.

There is also a small barrow situated about fifty yards from the south entrance, which has been opened at some period, of which no record remains, which is much to be regretted, as the contents might possibly have thrown some light upon the age of the temple.