Sunday, 4 January 2009

Meini Gwyr, Glandy Cross, Pembrokeshire

(Click photos to enlarge)

Glandy Cross is a small relatively-modern village straddling the crossroads with the main through road being part way between the towns of Clunderwen and Crymych. The local garage/convenience store ensures that it quite a busy little place. But Glandy Cross has a much older history with numerous standing stones and barrows in the immediate vicinity. The most accessible of these is what remains of the stone circle known as Meini Gwyr sitting in a plot of land behind one of the bungalows opposite the garage. Sadly, there are only two of the original stones remaining in the circle, but the raised ring of the bank on which the stones of the circle once stood can be clearly seen on the ground.

The text on the information sign pictured above (supplied by the Dyfed Archaelogical Trust Ltd) reads as follows:

Meini Gwyr, also known as Buarth Arthur, is an embanked stone circle probably dating to the transition between the late Neolithic and early Bronze Age periods (c.2000BC). The site is likely to have been used for religious rituals.

According to a late 17thC account by Edward Lhuyd, there were then fifteen stones in the cirlce ranging in height from three to six feet, but a further seven or eight were thought to have been 'carried off'. Apparently, there was also an entrance lined by smaller slabs.

The site was partially excavated in 1938 by Professor W.F. Grimes. Unfortunately most of the records were destroyed in a bombing raid on Southampton in 1940. The plan is based partly on ground and air photographs of the excavation. Grimes established that the circle, some 60 feet in diameter, originally consisted of 17 stones which, like the two surviving ones, were set at an angle into the inner slope of the bank about 3 feet hight and 120 feet in the external diameter, with no trace of a ditch. The excavations confirmed that the entrance through the earthwork was formerly flanked by upright stones, set in a trench. The bank was set with stone curb extending for some 30 feet on either side of the entrance, in front of which was a clay-filled pit containing a large quantity of charcoal. There were no features or finds recorded from the interior, though this was only partly examined. Some fragments of early Bronze Age pottery came from a hearth set in a deep depression on the southeast bank.

Meini Gwyr stands at the centre of 'West Wales' most important complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age ritual and funerary monuments, lying on a ridge-way linking the wester end of the Preselis to the eastern Cleddau river and Milford Haven. This was a route by which the bluestones for Stonehenge may have been transported. Included in the complex are several Bronze Age burial mounds and cairns or various forms, and a 'henge' monument (akin to early elements at Stonehenge). Also, there is the site of 'Yr Allor' ('The Altar') comprising two, formerly three standing stones some 200 yards west of Meini Gwyr and apparently known by the 17thC. These stones may be the remains of a chambered tomb.

Carn Meini, a source of the bluestones lies only 3 miles to the north. The site's name - 'Meini' ('large stone') and 'Gwyr' ('crooked') may refer to the varying size, shape or angle of the stones set in the circle. These were not 'bluestones' but another form of volcanic rock. Many such boulders are found locally and were originally depostited by glacial action. The alternative name 'Buarth Arthur' ('Arthur's Yard') is an example of a common legendary association of this figure with prehistoric stone monuments and is not regarded as significant.

Date visited: 27 December 2008

See also: Meini Gwyr on The Modern Antiquarian

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