Visit to Mayburgh Henge
So, shortly after leaving Penrith we headed to Mayburgh Neolithic Henge before heading to our next overnight stop on Oban.
Mayburgh Henge is located 2.4 miles South of Penrith, and 400 meters from King Arthur’s Henge.
There has been no systematic excavations at Mayburgh Henge, which makes it hard to date precisely, but was likely built between 3000-2000 BC in the Late Neolithic, as this is the ‘Henge Age’ where most henges date from.
Unlike most henges, Mayburgh Henge’s bank appears to be constructed from local river stones (approximately 20,000 tons). A theory put forward is that the bank may have been formed by an excavation of a glacial mound.
The bank rises up to 6.5 meters (15 feet), and a diameter of 117 meters (383 feet), with a single entrance. Currently there is only a single standing stone, but according to accounts from the early 18th Century describe the henge as having four stranding stones. An account from the late 18th century by Robert Hutchinson describes Mayburg Henge:
. “The inhabitants in the neighbourhood say, that within the memory of man, two other stones of similar nature, and placed in a kind of angular figure with the stone now remaining, were to be seen there, but as they were hurtful to the ground, were destroyed and removed.”
The entrance is due east of the centre of the henge, and frames the rising of the equinoctial sun, lso points to just north of King Arthur’s Round Table and the only view obtainable from the interior of the monument is towards the ridge top of Blencathra where the equinoctial sun sets. Make of that what you will.
There is no obvious purpose of Mayurgh Henge, but as mentioned above it has never been systematically excavated. It is situated close to the rivers Lowther and Eamont. This could point to it being a trading centre, possibly for Neolithic Axe production centre at Langdale.
And, as always, this could also have ritualistic links (I really hate using the word ‘ritual’). As at other sites, such as Durrington Walls, its proximity to a river and a spring could suggest links to life, death and rebirth rituals.
The Penrith Henges
Mayburgh Henge, along with King Arthur’s Round Table Henge, and Little Round Table Henge make up ‘The Penrith Henges’.
Other Prehistoric Sites close by
Shap Stone Avenue, 10 miles to the south of Penrith
Long Meg and Her Daughters, 6 miles northeast of Penrith
Views of Mayburgh Henge
It is truly a beautiful monument, are much better preserved than the other surrounding henges. Parking is a little trick to go and seet it, on the road parking. But it is definitely wortha look if you are passing by.
A bit more on Henges
So what is a henge?
This can be a slightly difficult topic, so very loosely a henge can be described as the following:
- Henge – A roughly circular earth and ditch monument, where the ditch is on the inside of the bank, dating to the Neolithic period. They typically have flat interiors are roughly 20 meters (66 foot) in diameter. It is very rare that any evidence of occupation are found within the henges. Often, but not always, eveidecne for stone or timber circles are found within the inside of a henge.
- Henge/Hengiform Monument – Very similar to a henge monument, but the internal area is between 5 – 20 (16-66 feet) meters, often modest earthworks, a wide outer banks. These are sometimes called mini-henges.
- Henge Ebclosure or Super Henge – Like a ‘henge’, but can reach to around 300m (980 foot)in diameter. These henges often have evidence of occupation within the earthworks, such as Durrington Walls.
Henges can also be broken down into classes:
Class 1 have one entrance created from a gap in the bank.
Class 2 have two entrances, generally diametrically opposite.
Class 3 have four entrances, facing each other in pairs.
The term henge is a backformation of Stonehenge, which gave the monument its names. Stonehenge is not a true henge/a typical henge as the bank is on the outside of the ditch. The term was first coined in 1932 by Thomas Kendrick.
A lot more could be said about henges, but I will not go into these here and save them for another article. If you would like to know more the Wikipedia link is not a bad place to start, but like all Wikipedia articles (especially for archaeology is does have issues). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henge. I would recommend reading Henegeworld by Mike Pitts, again a little outdate of now, but still a good read and can be found cheaply on Amazon.