This is my re-appraisal of the site. If you would like full download with plans and pictures contact norman.castle@talktalk.net

HIDDEN HISTORY
Editors: R.W.Morrell, S.W.Henley, & P.A.Nix.
Published & printed in Nottingham by APRA Press.
443 Meadow Lane, Nottingham, NG2 3GB, England.
© APRA, 1991
CONTENTS
Page3 THE BRIDESTONES
THE BRIDESTONES
Norman Fahy


There is a large region located between the uplands of Derbyshire and Wales which once supported prehistoric communities and provided land suitable for cultivation. These people lived in static settlements and chose to bury their dead in large, long mounds. Very few of these monuments have survived, but those sites that have survived, stand enigmatically within the landscapes of both Staffordshire and Cheshire.
The Bridestones are located at Grid Ref.SJ908622 on Ordnance Survey sheet 118 and these represent the scant remains of a once massive Neolithic 'long cairn' which stands clearly visible from the Congleton - Rushden road, east of Congleton.
The site has suffered appalling degrees of destruction during the last 200 years, leaving little for modern visitors to examine.

The structure dating between 3,000 - 2,500 BC, currently
exists totally engulfed within Rhododendron bushes and hemmed into the cleft of local field boundaries. Despite being a listed
monument, stewardship seems to have fallen to Mr.Dermody in 1991 who owns the adjoining property known as ‘Bridestones.’
Despite the extreme antiquity of The Bridestones, the earliest record we have dates to 1766 in which Rev. Thomas Malbon (Vicar of St. Peter's, Congleton) described the monument in a letter to Mr. Henry Rowlands (1). Within the already rifled remains of the site, Malbon recorded how a crescent of between 6 and 8 standing stones extended eastwards from an artificial cave composed of giant un-hewn stones capped with slabs. The chamber was divided by a septal stone pierced by a 19.5" porthole.
The Reverend carefully noted how two further uprights
stood within a paved area of the crescent and that the
whole was covered with ash and charcoal; he speculated
that the crescent formed part of a circle measuring 21 feet
in diameter.

Also mentioned are two further chambers 55 yards distant
from the main structure - over which stones were piled to
form a cairn measuring 120 yards long by 12 yards broad.
Malbon failed to tell us in which direction the extra
chambers lay. However, we can practically assume that the surviving chamber/stone crescent once formed the eastern extremity of the long cairn, and that the peripheral chambers originally stood incorporated within the structure westward of the remaining structure seen today
Reverend Malbon described the site two years after the
main body of the cairn was destroyed for nearby road
building, several hundred tons of stone were removed
exposing the chambered structure. From that date on
the monument was gradually reduced by stone robbing and even wanton vandalism including the use of explosives! In later years, bonfires have been lit within the main chamber
causing fractures in the two massive side stones and to
the 'porthole' stone which eventually split into two
halves; the upper half now lost for ever.
Excavation work was conducted during
1936 and 1937 (2) under the guidance of Professor H. J. Fleure of Manchester University. Much of the accumulated rubble and vegetation was removed revealing an ancient cobbled forecourt, socket holes forming a 'pear' shaped enclosure including sockets of the two freestanding stones adjacent to the entrance. The broken flanking stone to the south of the entrance was restored and various stones were uncovered during this period. Despite its dilapidated condition, the Bridestones still provide an insight into the activities of the Neolithic tribes of the area.



Ground plan of the site following excavation. (outline stone settings detected by the author)

The tradition of 'Long Barrow' building can be found in
many areas throughout Britain, but none with the massive
proportions described by Malbon. Also, the elaborate
'ritual' area immediately outside the tomb entrance
appears unique although it may represent a vernacular
architectural form relating to sites in Scotland, Ireland
and The Isle of Man. The concept of a long earthwork with
a proportionately small area for storing bones had a
cultural significance to those early people together with
the concentration of activity within areas marked by
stones.

The porthole features in many monuments stretching from
Malta, France, Russia and to specific areas of the British
Isles. The purpose of this small entrance to a tomb has
been the subject of conjecture for many years; one theory
claims that it provides an escape route for the spirits of
the dead. This author's view is that the porthole allowed
only very young children access to the bone repository for
both deposit and retrieval and may have formed part of an initiation into priesthood; for it is easy to imagine the ordeal of entering such a chamber filled with bones.
The tradition of passing sick children through holed
stones may owe its origin to this practice.

There exists the remains of another ‘porthole tomb’ three miles north-east of Market Drayton, known today as the 'Devil's Ring & Finger', although it was once known as the 'Whirl Stones.’

It has already been established that the surviving
structure represents the entrance at the eastern extremity
of the long cairn which also covered the outer chambers.
According to an earlier author (3), these chambers can be found within the garden rockeries to the east. The rockeries are a typical folly and most likely derived much of the
stone from the prehistoric cairn.
Forming the eastern boundary of the garden, is an 'S'
shaped tunnel allowing access to the adjoining field; this
is claimed to be one of the chambers mentioned by Malbon,
but clearly this cannot be so.
The root of the problem seems to stem from an article
(4) which appeared in the Congleton Chronicle in 1936 by
Mr.B.B. Simms. The author even illustrated his complete
misinterpretation of the site by showing the cairn
extending eastwards, thus engulfing the forecourt in tons
of stone. Obviously this was seized upon for the rockeries
theory. It is hoped that a more accurate appraisal of the
site may appear for casual visitors in the future.
Lastly, a mention must be made of the attempt to equate
the Bridestones with the 'Green Chapel' featured in the
14th century poem 'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight' (5).
Sir Gawain's quest for the Green Chapel is recounted thus;

‘Until he spied upon a lawn a low green mound, a green bulge by a bank besides the brimming stream, by a ford of the river which forked at that place. Then he turned to the mound and slowly moved around it.
Debating with himself what manner of thing it was.
It had a hole in the end and one on either side, all overgrown with greenish weeds in shaggy, grassy clumps.
All within was hollow – just an empty cave, on a crevice of an old crag, but he could not be sure’.

It is tantalising to imagine of how the ancient cairn looked to a 14th century visitor. The pagan connection with the site still is still observed in the form of the Green knight. Although there is no 'brimming stream' today, the nearby.’Timbers Brook' may have retracted since Medieval times.

REFERENCES
1. Rowlands, H. Mona Antiqua Restaurata (1766).
British Museum.

2. Dunlop, M. A Preliminary Survey of the Bridestones,
Congleton. and Related Monuments. Transactions of
the Lanes. & Cheshire Antiquarian Soc. LIII 1938.

3. Anon. The Bridestones - Congleton's Archaeological
Treasure. Congleton Chronicle (Reprint) 21/11/69.

4. Simms, B. B. Their Origin, The People who erected
them, and Cultural Associations.Congleton Chronicle. 22/2/36. p10

5. Rosenberg, J.L. (trans.) Sir Gawain and the Green knight. 1959

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
My thanks to Mr & Mrs W. Dermody, for their permission to gain access to the private gardens and rockeries of their property.