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Stonehenge and Wales and Possibly Caerau

By Les Phillips

One of the early phases of Stonehenge was possibly a circle of Bluestones in what are known as Aubrey Holes discovered on the perimeter of the monument. The stones in a later stage of modification were moved to the centre part of the site. Those bluestones were quarried in Preseli in West Wales and transported to Salisbury Plain either overland by sledge or by sea along the north coast of the Bristol Channel then across it and then via the river Avon and overland to their final destination.

Whichever mode of transport it must have been a long and arduous journey of just short of 200 miles. Frequent stops would have been necessary and I like to conjecture that one of those might have been at the Neolithic causewayed camp discovered when excavating the Iron Age hillfort at Caerau. If the stones were carried on primitive but seaworthy boats or rafts then it would have made sense to moor in the river Ely and take the short journey to the camp at Caerau. The route of an overland journey would have passed close to the camp.

A stop over would have been necessary not only for rest, refreshment and taking on food for the journey but possibly also for manpower to assist with the task of moving very heavy stones further to their destination. Trading in goods such as pottery, stone hand axes, arrowheads and other tools and animals might well have also taken place during the stay. Whilst the exact purpose of those camps dating to round 3000BC is not known it is possible they served as meeting places for not only the local communities but to receive visitors, entertain them and trade.

There is archaeological evidence of further links with Wales. Certain of the cremated remains found in those Aubrey Holes have been determined by Strontium testing to have been of people who most likely lived in West Wales and whose ashes were taken to Stonehenge for interment. The bluestones were clearly ‘must haves’ at Stonehenge and so the the Preseli area must have been a very special place for the Neoliths as was Stonehenge itself. Those who took the ashes on a long journey might well have broken their journey at Caerau also. As the remains could possibly have been those of very important people perhaps communities en route to Salisbury Plain were honoured to have the opportunity of paying their respects. Who knows, future excavation of the camp might reveal a piece of bluestone given to the community as a token of gratitude for hospitality. Part of the causewayed camp might also have served a sacred purpose of some kind long before St Mary’s was built. No current evidence to support that but it is evident from the chambered long barrows of the time and the interment of remains at Stonehenge of those from far off that certain of the dead were accorded special treatment.

Who knows? We can only put forward opinions on incomplete grounds and using our 21st century imaginations but nevertheless it is not unreasonable to assume that the hill at Caerau was a very special place in those times. It still is.