Blog 7

It is now September 2018, & while working on a second edition of this book I believe I have made a discovery of some significance – the location of Saint Patrick’s boyhood home. Before he spread the name of Jesus throughout pagan Ireland, the young Saint Patrick was just doing the things that young lads do in a place called by him Bannavem Taburniae. He tells us as much in a precious, self–penn’d ‘Confessio’ in which we may read;

I, Patrick, a sinner, a most simple countryman, … had for my father the deacon Calpurnius, son of the late Potitus, a priest of the settlement of Bannavem Taburniae; he had a small villula nearby where I was taken captive. I was at that time about sixteen year of age… I was taken into captivity in Ireland with many thousands of people.

Here we learn how Patrick was taken to Ireland by some kind of slave raid – so his home must have been within striking distance of the coast. We also discover that his father, Calpurnius, was a Christian official called a ‘deacon,’ & he was connected to the settlement of Bannavem Taburniae. Finally, we learn that near Bannavem lay was the family villula, which translates as the country house of a farmstead.

On first examination, the name Bannavem Taburniae seems corrupt, & indeed c.700 AD, the situation was clarified by Patrick’s hagiographer, Milúch, who tells us, ‘this place, as I am informed beyond hesitation or doubt, is Ventre.’ This lets us create a new name-combination for the boyhood home of Patrick, being; Banna Venta Burniae. There is another Bannaventa in Britain, near the village of Norton in Northamptonshire, & is named thus in the mid-second century ‘Itinerary’ of Antonius Pius. What we may logically conclude is that the second Bannaventa came later, with an addition of ‘Burniae’ applied for the purpose of differentation. I would now like to point our investigation in the direction of 10th century in England, when the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle spells the same person’s name differently in succeeding entries;

A.D. 931. This year died Frithstan… and Brynstan was blessed in his place.
A.D. 932. This year Burnstan was invested Bishop of Winchester

What we can infer here is that during the 930s Burn & Bryn (Brun) were interchangeable, & the alteration may have been brought about by Athelstan himself for he was recorded by Layamon’s Brut (c.1200) as instigating etymological changes during his reign;

How Athelstan here arrived out of Saxland
& how he set all England in his own hand…
& the names of the towns in saxish speech…
& in Saxish he gan speak the names of the men.

Such knowledge allows us now to create with confidence a slightly different name for Patrick’s boyhood home; Banna Venta Bruniae. This ancient place thoroughly reconciles the Brun of Brunanburh with the Wen/Vin of Wendune & Vingeath, locking these two historical jigsaw pieces fast together. Furthermore, both the ‘dune’ & ‘heath’ elements of Wendune & Vinheath mean the same as banna: pinnacle, peak, mountain, bare hill, etc. A little extra glue comes from the fact that just as Milúch describes Banna Venta as being ‘a place not far from our sea’ – i.e. The Irish Sea – so after the battle of Brunanburh, the defeated Vikings fled to their ships & entered the Irish Sea on the same day as the battle.

Further back in the first millennium AD, evidence for Roman settlement in the Burnley area leading up to the birth of Patrick comes in the name of the town of Colne, which appears as Calna in a charter of Henry I. This leads to the Calunio of the Ravenna Cosmography, placed in the right area of Lancashire between Ribchester & Ilkley. To the north, at Barnoldswick, ran a major arterial Roman road, from which minor roads branched into the Burnley area, such as the one that goes past Portfield on Pendle – the ‘Ad Alpes Peninos’ given in Richard of Cirencester Itineray – passing the villages of Sabden & Newchurch on the slopes of the same hill, down into Barrowford, along Wheatley Lane, up again to Castercliffe hill fort – which may have been Calunio itself – & then on into Yorkshire where it concludes at Ilkley, given as Alicana in the Roman geographies. There are also traces of another road that goes through Burnley itself, up to Cliviger, then over the moors to Slack, near Huddersfield, where the ‘Cambodnum’ Roman fort is sited. Speculating further, Roman forts were generally attended on by the local population, who lived next to or near the fort in a settlement described as a vici – the semantics of which can be observed in the name, Wycoller, a time-capsule village just to the east of Colne.

Returning to the investigation of Patrick’s boyhood home, there is more information given in his ‘Confessio’ which proves relevant. We may detect the Rugi element in an alternate slave-name given to saint Patrick; Fiacc’s hymn tells us; ‘He was six years in slavery; Human food he ate it not. Cothraige he was called.’ In an earlier blog I mentioned the possible Wendish settlement at Roggerham called Ring Stones Camp. A visit to which was recorded over centuries ago, by TT Wilksonson;

Passing through Thursden Valley, to a corresponding crest on the opposite ridge called Bonfire Hill, at the distance of about a mile, we find another circular intrenchment, 130 feet in diameter… This encampment is surrounded by an earthwork rampart, which is still comparatively perfect on three of its sides, and easily traceable on the fourth. The rampart measures 700 feet in length by 450 in average breadth

At once we gain a semi-hit to the final variant name given for Patrick’s boyhood home by the ancient sources. The Hymn of Fiacc, traditionally ascribed it to a fifth century bard, tells us Patrick was born at ‘Nemthur.’ Now this does not necessarily mean it was the same place as Banna Venta, but the ‘thur’ element does appear in the ‘Thursden,’ which may have once been called ‘Nemthur’s den.’ The name seems to derive from nemeton, which means ‘sacred space’ in Brythonic, & which easily becomes Eamoton, a place I explored in an earlier blog where Athelstan received fealty from the petty kings of Britain – & then Emmot. This place lies near Colne, where a sacred well called ‘Hallown’ has been sited since deep antiquity supporting the Nemeton link.

Ring Stones Camp

Let us now train our focus back towards Roggerham, there is the intriguingly tantalizing possibility that ‘Bonfire Hill’ derives fromBannaventa, as in;

Bonfire – Bannafire – Bannave – Bannaventa

Another early antiquarian visit to Ring Stones was made by James Stonehouse’s in the mid-19th century;

As we pursue our ramble along the road towards Roggerham, we arrive at a farm house on the right hand called “Rotten”; and a short way beyond it find a gate on the same side. Opening this gate we discover a narrow road, having in the centre a pavement of large boulder stones, the footway on one side being skirted by a stone wall which enclose portions of the moor; on the other a thick hedge. An unobservant person even would notice something unusual in the appearance of this bye-road. The mystery of it-if there be such a thing as a mystery-is soon made manifest. The road is found to lead upon the open moor land, and where the enclosure walls end it gradually becomes lost in the moorland and herbage, although its track can be really discovered rising over the hill before us. But before it becomes so hidden in the heather and the thick grass it passes an enclosure of some 200 feet by 160 feet, that the antiquary and the archaeologist would not fail to gaze upon with deep and absorbing interest. The road is Roman. As the Romans left it, there it is. The enclosure is Roman. As the Romans constructed it, there it is; at least what remains of their handywork. The enclosure is the remains of a fort erected by this great nation, when occupying this part of Britain. The fort is known by the people of the vicinity as “Ring Stones Camp.” The walls, at least as much as is left of them, are about a foot high from the interior surface. Outside the Vallum is a foss or ditch. It is deep in some portions, and filled up in others. It seems to be of the true V shape by the inclinator of the sides. The walls appear as strong as when the soldier mason laid stone upon stone and spread the strong concrete that has hardened till it rivals the stone in durability. At one of the sides, there is an opening where stood the Decuman gate. On the side facing it is another opening. This is the Proetorian gate, so called as being near where the Praetor fixed his quarters. In the centre of the enclosure are great inequalities of ground which, if carefully examined, will perhaps exhibit some of the arrangements of the encampment or fort.’

Ring Stones camp has been dated to the Fourth century on account of its great physical similarity – especially an identical gateway – with ‘Bomber Camp,’ sited by a Roman road near Gisburn, where a collection of early to mid Fourth Century pottery was unearthed. Just to the north of Swinden reservoir, at Twist Hill, there also stands another Roman-British farmstead, 44m by 40m. A bronze coin of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius (AD 161-180) was reportedly found here in 1888, which is much earlier than Patrick, but shows an even earlier settlement of the area. To summarise, a large Romano-British farmstead building was erected at Roggerham in the 4th century which fits the country estate image given by Patrick’s ‘villula,’ & if, as it sems, the battle of Brunanburh was fought near by then its clearly a case of killing two birds of mystery with one scholarly stone – & a few archaic words.

We have come to the end of my account of Brunanburh, which I believe should be considered a fundamental part of the town’s folklore alongside the legends of Pendle Witches & the ongoing saga of Burnley Football Club. It is during the writing of my Brunanburh essay in particular, I have been often startled by the latent powers of words, when even the smallest & most innocuous of place-names can be an eternal storehouses of so much history. To the residents of Burnley & the rest of Pendle City I say; take a walk in the countryside, note the names of the cloughs & the hills, & let us weave a secret history, drawn from the phonetical landscape of our towns & their wonderful surrounds.

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