Sunday 5 May 2013

Silbury Solsbury

The grandaughter (and her parents) has moved house to the south face of Solsbury Hill in Somerset.  Who really knows now the how and why of the naming of geographical features in the old country, but it is likely that the hill honours the Celtic deity Sulis to whom the nearby hot springs of Bath (Roman: Aquae Sulis) are also dedicated.  Sulis might be the representation of the eye (Ir: súil) of the sun (Latin: sol) and there are certainly suggestions of a one-eyed curse-bringer. Solsbury Hill is not without cultural interest.  It was the site of a large stone-faced hill fort destroyed by the Celtic peoples who invaded SW England just before the Romans.  Because it is 20 acres of flat land in a region of hills and valleys it was ploughed for at least 1000 years until recently and is a fine example of strip lynchets. In 1977 Peter Gabriel had an epiphanic experience there which resulted in his first solo hit single.  In 1995 it was the site of an environmental protest when the UK government planned to rip off one of Sulis' shoulders to make the A46 a little bit faster for cars.  The A46 is the modern version of the Roman road called the Fosse Way, which linked Lincoln (Lindum the base of Legio IX Hispana) with Exeter (Isca Dumnoniorum the base for Legio II Augusta).
Just under 40km due East of Solsbury Hill is Silbury Hill an enormous man-made heap of chalk and clay just outside Avebury of the megaliths. This monument certainly predates the Romans because a local Roman road, which clearly used the eminence for sight-lines, jinks right and then left to skirt its base. They say that the monument required 15 million man-hours of work to shift 250,000 cu.m of material - this was before the invention of the wheelbarrow.  There is no suggestion that the two hills are etymologically connected (Silbury supports a legend about King [or Sir] Sil [or Zel] who will spring forth at an opportune moment in the future on a golden horse).  Silbury is, however, just a few hundred meters North of the spring which is the origin of the River Kennet - formerly known as the Cunnit and [so] dedicated to the Earth Mother. I took my two daughters to Silbury a tuthree years ago and they both turned into women, anyway.  And as any fule kno the same Kennet is connected with the Avon at Bath by the Kennet and Avon Canal which was navigated between 1794 and 1810.

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating stuff.I hope your granddaughter and parents enjoy their new home.