Did the once historically very important Gorleston-On-Sea in Norfolk/Suffolk have an unusual for East Anglia stone circle and megalithic Dolmen? Before their supposed destruction in 1786 could you have called it Gorlestonhenge?
Or was it all the imagination and forgery for profit by the local prankster W E Randall who died in 1855? Randall appeared to be a writer because it has been suggested that in 1831 he was editing the Gorleston and Southtown Magazine.
Many large stones, however, arranged in the form of a circle, which were removed from a field called Stone-close, in the year 1768, and three from a neighbouring enclosure, of a large size, and full ten feet high, attest in a great measure the truth of a tradition, that Gorleston was a spot selected by the Druids for the celebration of their mystic rites.
Gorleston was, probably, a place of importance before Yarmouth was built, and seems to have declined in prosperity as the latter town has advanced. Yet of its earlier history little can be said. Even the national annals of East Anglia are meagre and defective, and the records of its villages must, consequently, be incomplete.
The History and Antiquities of the County of Suffolk: Volume 1 – Gorleston | Reverend Alfred Suckling (Published 1846)
There is a tradition that the Druids had a temple at Gorleston, some remains of which existed down to a comparatively recent period. It is supposed to have stood on a field next the road to Lowestoft, upon what is called Great Stone Close; and it has been asserted that some huge stones remained standing until 1768, when they were destroyed by digging round their base and dragging them down by ropes.
There are also two fields called Further Stone Close and Middle Stone Close, so that it is possible the Druidical circle, if it ever existed, may have had a wide extent.
The late Mr W E Randall of Gorleston, who died in 1855, left numerous papers relating to and drawings of antiquities, which he asserted had existed in Gorleston; and if they could be relied on they would be highly interesting; but as many of his statements are certainly imaginary, so much doubt has been thrown upon his collections, as to make it prudent not to use or quote them unless supported by corroborative evidence.
His papers are now in the British Museum, and are will calculated to mislead those unacquainted with the circumstances. In 1831 Mr Randall edited the Gorleston and Southtown Magazine, which however was short lived.
The Perlustration of Great Yarmouth, with Gorleston and Southtown, Volume 3 | Charles John Palmer (Published 1875)
That area is now Middlestone Close and Middleton Road, with a small park and water works building. Or where the old railway line went and its station was, now the Inner bypass through the town which also has its own sort of park going south.
Was a real prehistoric megalithic circle in an area with no natural large rocks to form big slabs? Garleston was in the County of Suffolk but Gorleston is now in Norfolk but no matter whose Borough it was in the geology of the area is mainly sand, chalk and lots of flint supposedly dropped by glaciers according to geologist own story telling.
Norfolk’s (Suffolk’s) Hidden Megalithic Heritage by road names such as Great Stone Close, Further Stone Close, Middle Stone Close and Lower Stone Close? Or just boundary stones marking the farmers fields?
Upon a field which had belonged to the Church Farm, called Lower Stone Close, next the third milestone on the Lowestoft Road, the Great Yarmouth Water Works Company have recently constructed, under an Act of Parliament passed in 1872, a covered reservoir capable of containing 800,000 gallons, into which the water from Ormesby Broad is pumped…
Old England Lane connected the main road passing the Church Farm with the road to the east ascending the cliff. At the south-west corner of this lane there stood a cross, the base of which remained until 1786, and was vulgarly called the devil’s tombstone. This was St Clement’s Cross mentioned in the Cheever’s Accounts for 1597.
The Perlustration of Great Yarmouth, with Gorleston and Southtown, Volume 3 (Page 373) | Charles John Palmer (Published 1875)
Norfolk Heritage’s summary of the ‘Stone Circle’, Gorleston on Sea.
A supposed prehistoric stone circle in Stone Close. There is no trace of the stones today, and it may very well be that they were apocryphal in the first place.
This reference describes a stone circle standing in Stone Close, and three menhirs ten feet high in the next field. The 1920 Ordnance Survey map marks Stone Close around the railway station. On NCM record map R R Clarke and O G S Crawford note ‘Stones formerly on site of railway station or nearby. The evidence is very flimsy and there is suspicion of forgery’.
… states that the 1842 tithe award map shows four fields whose name included ‘Stone’ covering the area corresponding to the present Nile Road to Cliff Hill and an ‘equivalent distance’ south of Springfield Road and west of Lowestoft Road. This is a much larger area than marked on the NHER map by R. R. Clarke. However the reference also states that a ‘later 18th century map’ shows only boundary stones.
The ‘Stone Circle’, Gorleston on Sea | Norfolk Heritage
The old Gorleston railway line, that went from Great Yarmouth to Hopton and Lowestoft, with a side line to Belton, appears to have been constructed to run below the normal surface level, in a shallow bottomed V, with sort of embankments up the sides to street level.
The children who grew up in the town and local areas such as the Magdalen, Baliol Road and the Shrublands in the 1970’s and 1980’s will especially remember the adventures they had in the old railway line used as a rubbish tip. The best bridge was the dangerous one over Beccles Road, when clambering carefully across the gaping rusted holes you could see the cars pass below your feet.
A stone henge may have been located where the railway station was but it is now so hard for locals to visualise this area as a field. It is next to Middlestone Close and Middletone Road. Just 100 years ago most of this seaside town and fishing village was fields.
The wonderful Hidden East Anglia has this summary:
At approximately TM525033 is said to have once stood a stone circle, the only one known in East Anglia. These “ten huge stones, like unto those of Stonehenge”, were situated in a field called either ‘Stone-close’ or ‘Stone-piece’, a site now covered by a housing estate. They were known as the ‘Gull Stones’, but this is probably a piece of folk-etymology.
Here the Druids supposedly gathered to watch the midsummer sun rise out of the eastern sea. The stones were removed by vandalistic bands in 1768, the remains being used to form an early harbour pier.
Gorleston: The Gull Stones | Hidden East Anglia
Gorle stone Circle and Dolmen – Is it true or false?
What is in a name? Is local mythology our real history? Or an elaborate practical joke and perhaps money earning opportunity by the local historical forger?
Charles J Palmer was a Mayor and Chief Magistrate of the Great Yarmouth Borough Corporation and historian as local as you could get. His book was published in King Street in Gt Yarmouth just across the mouth of the River Yare (Yaremouth).
At the moment, I believe, we only have Palmer’s local word that W E Randall was a fraudster. Unless there is other documentation out there or we check those documents in the British Museum?
Suckling’s historical account was published in 1846, Randall supposedly died in 1855, Palmer’s was published in 1875.
Standing stone circles are not a feature of East Anglia, although the ancient and fantastic Seahenge was discovered in North Norfolk.
Why would Reverend Alfred Suckling publish pagan nonsense? Although his publication was printed in London, the locals would be the ones who would most likely purchase it. Suckling was born and bred a Norfolk/Suffolk man and published a number of books on its history.
Gorleston is not that big now but then was tiny. Perhaps Suckling curated some of the information and did not visit to research all of the places? Or he believed it to be true.
Perhaps there was professional local historian jealousy and Palmer wanted to vandalise Suckling’s or Randall’s reputation? But the locals would know who is correct or wrong?
C J Palmer implied that the 10 foot high stones may have existed solely in the imagination of W E Randall – a known forger of antiquarian documentation – who was editor of the short-lived ‘Gorleston and Southtown Magazine’ in 1831, and died in 1855. At a meeting of the Yarmouth branch of the Norfolk and Norwich Archaeological Society in 1888, a painting of the ‘Gull Stones’ was displayed, then in the possession of Fred Danby Palmer (apparently no relation.) Like the stones, this painting is likely to have been a work of fiction.
Gorleston: The Gull Stones | Hidden East Anglia
Gull Stones, Garleston or Little Yarmouth?
Garleston bearing an evident reference to its situation at the mouth of the Gar. If the intermediate syllable be considered epenthetical, we have simply the village on the Gar; but if the word be composed of the Saxon Gar-leas-ton, we derive from the combination, the smaller town on the Gar, or, in modern language, Little Yarmouth: a very singular coincidence.
is said to have once stood a stone circle… They were known as the ‘Gull Stones’, but this is probably a piece of folk-etymology.
Original 2009 forum article.
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