I have always wanted to be an archaeologist, the possibility of digging up long lost or hidden treasures a childhood dream - but alas, it was not to be. Another fascination for me has been old photographs of places and long gone people, doing long forgotten things; these faded but sometimes amazing images revealing the way things were over a century ago. When researching places, Title Deeds to houses and land can provide a wealth of information but sometimes the names of places and roads can leave one baffled. A good local example is 'Cuckcold's Row' in Ashwick - who has ever heard of this lane? It was included in a purchase made by Richard Strachey of Ashwick Grove in 1823.
In August 2013 a water main through Ashwick and Oakhill was being replaced and a gateway in the wall next to The Pound in Ashwick had to be widend in order for the pipe-line excavators to gain access. One of the gateposts was a single stone which rather than being taken away and crushed, was rescued by myself with the intention of it becoming a house 'name' stone. It was only once the stone was transported to its new location that the large size of the stone was appreciated, along with the fact that the stone had not been quarried. It could therefore be a possible 'Standing Stone' which had been reused as the gatepost sometime in the past? But where had it come from? Its weight is estimated at about 1.25 tonnes, so I doubt if it had travelled far, and certainly not up or down any steep hills. Local research revealed that another ancient stone turned up being used as a gatepost - this was the 'Oath Stone' which now resides outside Wells Museum. There is another large stone being used as a gatepost at Maesbury Hill Fort
In the British Library I found a reference to the Rev. Skinner and his sketchings of a Standing Stone Circle, Cist and Tumili somewhere in the vicinity of Ashwick Grove, circa 1820. If there were such ancient relics, where were they located, and where are they now? And could this stone be one of those the Rev Skinner drew? However to find out a fee needs to be paid to the British Library! UPDATE Feb 2015: Due to an indexing error at the British Library, it turns out the drawings noted above are in fact of Carnac in France, and not Ashwick Grove! (My thanks to Ms G Harris for investigating the actual records).
My other line of research was to find the oldest maps of the area: there are a few, and includes one drawn by Richard Strachey c1736 but they are poorly detailed and small-scale, and quite often incorrectly drawn. The first usuable 'modern' map of the area was that produced by the Ordnance Survey and dates from c1880; the map is large and very detailed and copies can be found on-line. (there is also a pair of these maps for Oakhill hanging on the wall in the village hall, a donation from an ex resident). Whilst the 1880 maps are good for research, I looked for earlier maps and eventually found the original cartographers drawings which date back (for this area) to 1808. When these 1808 'maps' were being created, it was not intended that Ancient Hill Forts, Earthworks or Tumili should be recorded, but thankfully, many were. However only prominent or large stone circles or structures such as Stonehenge were included, so the search for Ashwick's stone circles continues.
An added bonus on the 1808 map is the inclusion of the route of the Fosse Way. For those of you that are interested, I have created a montage of the map covering the Fosse Way from Bath through Oakhill, and on to Shepton Mallet. Link
And as for the 'Standing Stone' - it will not be defaced with a name but now will have a pride of place in the front garden of Bramley Farm on the Bath Road, just opposite Ashwick Grove.
My researches have taken a step forward with the identification of another ‘standing stone’ in the vicinity of Ashwick Grove. However this one is flat on the ground and may have been used as a raised platform, for it is adjacent to a small natural pond. This particular stone is too large for even a modern tractor to move, so it can be assumed that the stone has not been disturbed since it was placed by the pond.
Platform stone and adjacent pond
Whilst the finding of the platform stone was good news, I was amazed to find another ‘standing stone’ located nearby, though I have yet to ascertain if this has been placed in position in modern times or not. update May 2014. The owner of this new standing stone advised that the stone was discovered in a stone wall gateway on the same property, and that it will be used as a 'garden feature'. All the stones located so far are quite distinctive in shape, so once the Rev. Skinner’s drawing are to hand, comparisons should be able to be made.
Finding the two standing stones and the 'platform' stone has been a boost to my research and the good news is that I have been advised of yet another ‘standing stone’ located on the opposite side of Ashwick Grove! I have yet to see this stone so do not know if it will be similar to those found to date or if it is a village boundary marker or similar.