Last Photographed: Saturday 21st January 2006
Other Names: Trellech
Harold's Stones is a Bronze Age alignment of three megaliths - 9, 12 and 15ft in height. They're made of conglomerate rock - or 'pudding stone' - which consists of pebbles packed tightly together with a natural cement. It's believed that they may once have formed part of a larger alignment, or possibly even a circle (although this seems less likely). A fourth stone is reported to have stood on nearby common land until the 18th Century when it was apparently destroyed.
The name of the nearby village of Trelleck is reputedly Welsh in origin - 'tre' meaning 'three', and 'lech' meaning 'stone'. Amazingly, it was once a major medieval city - one of the eight largest market towns in Wales during Norman times.
Origin myths claim that Harold erected the stones to commemorate a great battle, or to celebrate the Saxon king's victory over the Britons. Some say the stones mark the spot where three tribal chieftains fell. More fanciful legends speak of a local giant known as Jack o' Kent. The most common of these speaks of Jack and the Devil engaging in a hurling contest. Jack had sold his soul for the ability to "do whatever he turned his mind to" and he subsequently argued with the Devil over who had the greater strength. From the top of Beacon Hill, they took turns at hurling stones in a test of wills. Jack threw threw the largest stone the furthest distance and the Devil stormed off in a huff.
Another variation on that myth tells how Jack was playing quoits. Hurling four huge stones, three landed in a line at Trelleck. The fourth landed short and became known as 'The Pecket Stone'. The interesting thing about this myth is that it ties in with references to the fourth stone that was supposedly destroyed, and yet there are recent references to a 'Pecket Stone' in nearby woods. I'll be investigating this one when I get a chance.
Also to be seen in Trelleck is 'Tump Turret' - a 40ft high flat-topped mound behind the farm. It's been claimed as a barrow, a burial site for plague victims and a medieval motte. The latter seems more likely and may even lend some credibility to the naming myths. It's not impossible that Harold had some connection with this place, especially as he's known to have built a hunting lodge a mere ten miles hence at Portskewett.
Another noteworthy feature is the 'Preaching Cross' in the local churchyard. This is built on a huge stone slab that's believed to be an ancient druidic altar. Also nearby is 'The Virtuous well' - a curative spring that speaks of Trelleck's long history as a sacred site.
The stones themselves survive in good shape - sat unchanged for thousands of years in quiet isolation in a secluded Welsh field. Although the site is small, the size of the megaliths makes them truly impressive. In the crisp spring morning, I was very temptation to linger in this place far longer than my tight schedule allowed. There's a serene atmosphere here and the stones have a powerful presence. It's a humbling site with a real sense of antiquity.