Worm Hill
"Serpens Caput"

A Sacred Mound within a Ritual landscape

My Latest Discovery
of Primary Archaeological Significance
by
Audrey Fletcher
Copyright 2012
Counter
Worm Hill which lies on the north bank of the River Wear at Fatfield, Tyne and Wear, England is an
enigma.
Is it a natural or built structure? The debate has continued for centuries and a resolution
won't be reached until a scientific excavation is undertaken and the result is finally determined ... or
so I thought.
Worm Hill at Fatfield.
Is it a natural or built structure?
Photo courtesy of Bing 2010
Worm Hill: a Natural Structure
“Northumberland and Durham are structurally the eastern flanks of the northern parts of the
Pennines. In Northumberland the surface level drops steadily to the east till interrupted by the fine
scarp made by the fell sandstones. In Durham the main interruption is afforded by the Magnesium
Limestone scarp. All the lower ground in Northumberland and Durham is plastered with glacial drift
and the general character of the eastern parts of the two counties is that of a low plateau, drift
covered, through which the streams have cut deep “denes’ ... steep-sided, wooded, gorge-like
valleys. The valley of the Wear at Durham is, of course, the supreme example of this.”
“Britain’s Structure and Scenery” by L. Dudley Stamp 1946 pp 225,226.

Worm Hill was formed as the result of a glacial moraine, during the last Ice Age. During a glacial
period water from the seas and oceans is locked up in the glaciers, thereby causing the sea levels
to fall around the world. Such was the case with the North Sea which dried up and became a land
bridge between the continent and Britain during the last Ice Age, about 10000BC.

However as temperatures increased, the ice from the glaciers retreated causing a rise in sea levels,
referred to as “eustatic rise”. The expected flooding of lowland Britain did not occur, as might have
been expected, because as the weight of the glacial ice was no longer pressing down on the land,
compressing it, the land itself rose. A simple analogy would be lying down on a bed. The weight of
the body compresses the mattress, but on getting up from the bed the mattress “rises” and is
restored to its original shape. This is called “isostatic uplift”.

During the 8th millennium BC the annual average temperature was around 0 degrees centigrade
but by the 6th millennium BC the climate had warmed to slightly higher than today. In geological
terms it was a relatively short melt-down, by the end of which the North Sea had been re-established.

Hills formed from glacial debris along the River Wear are not uncommon. For example, Lambton
Castle was built on such a hill.
Worm Hill from the playing field.
Photo by Audrey Fletcher 2011

The earliest reference that I have found relating to the Legend of the Lambton Worm is by
Hutchinson in 1785. He writes:

"Fatfield Staithes ... Near this place is an eminence called the Worm Hill, which tradition says was
once possessed by an enormous serpent, that wound its horrid body round the base; that it
destroyed much provision, and used to infest the Lambton estate, till some hero in that family
engaged it, cased in armour set with razors, and when it would have crushed the combatant by
enfolding him, sustaining a thousand wounds, fell at last by his falchion."
Worm Hill was originally a conical hill,
a circular mound, but was cut away, quarried, on the south side
revealing the shape it is today.
Map by Burleigh and Thompson 1737
Hutchinson continues:

"We thought to have found entrenchments round this mount, and that the fable had reference to
some Danish troop who kept the place as a station, from whence they could commit depredations on
the country, and that the story of the hero imported some chief personage's victory over a public
enemy: But there is not the least trace of any such matter, and the whole miraculous tale has no
other evidence than the memories of old women. Our map makers have figured the place very
significantly."

Clearly, Hutchinson considered the "whole miraculous tale" to be a metaphor relating an actual
historical event, but was unable to discover any evidence to support his theory. However he does
stress the importance placed upon Worm Hill by the map makers.

Twenty-five years later, in contrast to Hutchinson's belief that the "whole miraculous tale" was a
metaphor,
Surtees felt inclined to believe a literal interpretation of the tale, that there had been a
real serpent. On May 13th 1810 Surtees wrote in a letter to Walter Scott:

"I have lately often been near the supposed haunts of the Lambton Worm , and I really feel much
inclined to adopt your idea, that animals of this description may have been formally nourished to a
much larger size in our woods and waters. Of four of these prodigies which our bishopric is said to
have produced, it is observable that all of them had their haunts on large rivers. The country round
Lambton seems particularly favourable for the production of such a creature. The banks of the river
have been, time immemorial, a thick tangled forest; and part of the adjoining flats are low and
marshy, and full of willows and brushwood."

This is the first reference I have come across describing the "enormous serpent" of Hutchinson as
the "Lambton Worm".

By 1820
Surtees admitted to a "possible allegorical meaning" of the tale, referring to perhaps a
"Danish Rover" or  "a domestic Tyrant".

Surtees seems to have come around to Hutchinson's way of thinking that the tale could well have
referred to a group of Vikings in the area. Nevertheless he still writes as though the tale were an
actual historical event. Click here to read
Surtees' version of The Lambton Worm
Hills formed from glacial debris along the River Wear are not uncommon.
Lambton Castle was built on a hill on the banks of the River Wear,
about a mile and a half from Worm Hill.
Artist Unknown 1836
Historical descriptions of Worm Hill
a) Written
*** Worm Hill is described by Hutchinson in 1785 as "an eminence".

***
Surtees in 1820 described Worm Hill as a "small artificial cone formed of common earth and river
gravel".

*** Richardson in 1844 gives a more detailed description: "The Worm Hill, near Fatfield, is a
considerable oval-shaped hill, 345 yards in circumference, and 52 feet in height, on the north bank
of the river, and about a mile and a half from
old Lambton Hall."  He also described the hill as lying
74 yards from the river. "The Worm Well lies betwixt the hill and the Wear; from the hill to the well is
about 26 yards, and from the well to the river about forty-eight."  

*** In contrast to Surtees, Longstaffe in 1856 described Worm hill as "natural".

*** Fordyce in 1857 described the oval-shaped hill of 1844 as "a circular green knoll".

The above aerial photo would seem to discount the description given by Fordyce: that of Worm Hill
being a circular green knoll.

* The History & Antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham by Hutchinson 1785
* History and Antiquities of County Durham Vol 2 by Surtees 1820
* Local Historian's Table Book of Remarkable Occurrences, Historical Facts, Traditions, Legendary & Descriptive
Ballads Vol 2
by Richardson 1844
* Memoirs chiefly illustrative of the history and antiquities of ..., Volume 1by Royal Archaeological Institute of Great
Britain and Ireland, Charles Henry Hartshorne
Chapter “Durham before the Conquest” Map by Longstaffe 1856
* The History and Antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham
by Fordyce 1857

b) Pictorial
However, not all descriptions of Worm Hill come in written form. There is an early map dating back to
1737 (the earliest I could find) which particularly drew my attention. This is
evidence that Worm Hill
was originally conical, a circular mound,
but that it has been significantly cut away, quarried, on
the south and south west slopes. This would place the Worm Well at the foot of the hill (where one
would expect to find it) rather than the 26 yards away as was noted by Richardson in 1844.
A Sacred Landscape
Located at a major river crossing on the banks of the River Wear, Worm Hill would have been an
ideal location for Stone Age peoples:
high ground strategically placed for defence and also as a
refuge from the flooding of the river. However, unlike at Shadens Hill, Eighton Banks about three
miles away, no flint artifacts have been discovered to confirm its use during the Mesolithic period. In
fact there have been no artifacts discovered there at all as evidence of human occupation. To the
ancient peoples Worm Hill was considered as sacred: it was a Sacred Mound within a Sacred
Landscape. It was the celestial realm recreated on Earth, Serpens Caput, and as such was the land
of the gods.

A Sacred River and a Sacred Spring
Even without the Ophiucus and Serpens Caput connection, both the River Wear and the Spring at
the foot of Worm Hill would have denoted Worm Hill as a Sacred Mound from the time of the Stone
Age. The waters are reminiscent of the Primordial Ocean which was in the shape of a cosmic egg,
and from this cosmic egg was born the Primeval Hill, the Sacred Mound.

The awakening consciousness of the ancient peoples was trying to make sense of the landscape in
which they lived, trying to explain and understand its creation and purpose.

The Sacred Spring at the foot of Worm Hill would have considered as a Gateway into the
Underworld, the land of their deceased ancestors, the spirit world. As such the Spring would have
become a major religious shrine ...together with Worm Hill, which was symbolic of the Primeval
Mound. The spring at the foot of Worm Hill was visible evidence of the watery realm of the
Netherworld. (Visit my web page at
The Tree of Life to learn more about this Creation Story.) As a
sacred site it would have become more prominent with the erection of a well around the spring, a
Holy Well.
That Worm Hill had been quarried explains why the descent down the south side of the hill was
so steep
. In fact rather than follow the path down on the south side we turned back and descended
via the gentler slope on the north side, the same path as we had climbed Worm Hill.
There was an "Old Quarry" to the west of Worm Hill.
The date of its excavation is not known.
Map by James Basir 1750
The date that Worm Hill was quarried is not known. However, what is clear is that it was quarried
before 1737 when Burleigh and Thompson mapped the area. Furthermore the resulting flat land
was able to be subdivided. James Basir's map of 1750 illustrates the subdivision utilized by the
Biddick family. The land was partitioned into various allotments.
Aerial view of Worm Hill revealing the quarry cuts still visible today.
The building at the foot of the hill is The Biddick Inn,
which is clearly outlined on the 1737 map above.
Photo courtesy of Bing 2010
Further evidence of quarrying in the close vicinity of Worm Hill is indicated on the following
map dated 1750, by James Basir. The "Old Quarry" lies about 350 metres to the west of Worm Hill.
The outline of Worm Hill as it is today reveals that
it was originally a conical hill, and that there has been
significant quarry activity.
Photo courtesy of Bing 2010
The Biddick Inn at Fatfield dates back to
before 1737 and stands on land which was
reclaimed from the quarry at Worm Hill.
Photos by Audrey Fletcher July 2011
Until I began my research for this web page about Worm Hill I had always considered that the
shape it is today is how it had always been. It had never occurred to me that such a significant hill
of Lambton Worm Legend had been quarried and reshaped.
Certainly ,except for the map of
1737 by Burleigh and Thompson, there is no mention of this disfigurement by historians.
The purpose of this map was to show the various allotments on the North Biddick Estate in 1750.
Consequently it does not illustrate how a significant part of Worm Hill had been quarried. In fact it
gives
the distinct impression that Worm Hill was still in tact, a conical hill.

It was only when I compared it with Burleigh and Thompson's map of 1737 that I realized that "Lot
6" is bordered by the quarry cut, and is land which was reclaimed from the quarry.

Why the deception? I cannot help but think that it is somehow connected with the popularity which
the Legend of the Lambton Worm was enjoying. Perhaps it was the Biddick family who was
responsible for the quarrying of Worm Hill and they did not want it to become general knowledge
that they had quarried this
legendary hill. Their family can be traced back to Robert de Biddic who
lived at the time of Maude the Empress in the early 1100s, so there had been plenty of time and
opportunity. And after all, it was their land.

However, this is merely speculation and it will probably never be known who quarried Worm Hill. It
may have been the Biddick family, the Romans or even people from five thousand years ago!
Part of the plan of the North Biddick Estate,
which highlights the division of the land into allotments,
bordering on the River Wear.
Map by James Basir 1750
A Different View of Worm Hill
Worm Hill, viewed from the north, looks like a built structure, set in a flat landscape.

It has the appearance of a rather large long barrow, a stone burial chamber.

However when I was a child growing up in Washington the story I heard back then was that Worm
Hill was built up from deposits of ballast from the boats coming up the River Wear. Being
surrounded by pit heaps from the coal mines, and slag heaps from the Chemical Works, this story
was never in question. It was how things were done. Waste material was dumped to form hills.
My research and findings are of primary archaeological
significance ... and there is yet more to follow.
Alongside Worm Hill to the north the land is flat, as shown in the photo above. When I was young I
thought that the reason for this was so that the boys could play football. That is,
that the field had
been intentionally excavated
to create a football field. However when I more recently came to look at
the local map dated 1737 there, clearly shown, is Worm Hill and the "Football Field" just as it appears
today.

I got to thinking, "Why? What could possibly be the purpose of flattening this piece of land?" Certainly
it wasn't for a motte and bailey, because that would be in the local records. Also there was no
apparent evidence that it had been built upon.

It wasn't until I started considering "What happened to the fill?" that I realized that perhaps I was
looking at the problem from the wrong angle ... the purpose was not to create a "flat field" but to use
the material dropped there by a glacier. Possibly the glacial debris was used to consolidate the
structure we now know as Worm Hill after it had been quarried. Or possibly it was used to help
resculpture Worm Hill, and also the landscape around Worm Hill, as a suitable setting for The Legend
of the Lambton Worm.

Incidentally, in 1844 Richardson recorded the height of Worm Hill as 52 feet and its circumference as
345 yards, or 1035 feet. The circumference is a mere 5 feet short of being equivalent to 20 times the
height of Worm Hill. I immediately equated the number 52 with the number of weeks in a year, which
multiplied by 20 (circumference divided by height) gives a period of 20 years. The 5 feet differential
could account for 5 leap years within a 20 year period. This possibly suggests that the final height
and circumference of Worm Hill were sculptured to encode a calendar.
The Shaping of Worm Hill ... Summary
Worm Hill is a natural feature on the north bank of the River Wear. It was formed by glacial moraine
during the last Ice Age. However its shape was not as we see it today. At an unspecified time in
history the conical hill was heavily quarried on the southern slope, removing about one third of the
structure. The remaining "eminence" became more oval-shaped and by 1737 the surrounding area
had been landscaped. Possibly the hill itself had also undergone some resculpturing for ascetic
reasons. The land reclaimed from the quarry was subdivided into allotments on the North Biddick
Estate and The Biddick Inn was built on or just within the original perimeter of Worm Hill. There is the
possibility that a calendar was encoded into the structure.
The "flat field" next to Worm Hill
Photocourtesy of Bing 2010
The Structure of Worm Hill
The structure is not unlike that of Shadens Hill up Eighton Banks. In fact it is almost identical, which
is not surprising as both hills were formed at the same time, at the end of the last Ice Age.

Today Worm Hill is in a state of decline on its
northern slope. I would suggest that this is in part due
to the severe winters and also the use of the hill for sledging ... but who could resist such a
welcoming snow covered slope! At Easter time, going back at least a hundred years, the children of
Washington would roll their paste eggs down Worm Hill, and chase down after them. Sixty years
ago the children would slide down the hill on a flattened cardboard box.

The positive side of this erosion is that the structure of Worm Hill is exposed for examination.

The vegetation on the northern slope is not lush. In fact it is scant. This bareness is evident on the
aerial photo above and also in the photo below.
The erosion on the northern slope has exposed the substructure of Worm Hill. The top soil was not
as deep as I had anticipated, perhaps five inches at the most. The sand was fine and straddled with
loose stones, but no boulders were evident.
The vegetation on the northern slope of Worm Hill is scant
Photo by Audrey Fletcher 2002
By comparison, the lower section of the southern slope is very attractively covered in vegetation. It
looks almost like it is landscaped.
The vegeation on the lower section of the
southern slope of Worm Hill is lush
Photo by Audrey Fletcher July 2011
Erosion has revealed the substructure of Worm Hill
Photo by Audrey Fletcher July 2011
Unfortunately, as a result of the severe erosion, Worm Hill is beginning to collapse. The top soil is
slipping away, leaving the fine sand underneath unprotected. However the hill is tenaciously
maintaining its contour as new vegetation takes root, but it will take many hundreds of years
(possibly as long as ten thousand years at the current rate of progress) for the decaying plants to
build up a new soil structure. Perhaps human intervention could narrow down this time range with a
few lorry loads of top soil to afford Worm Hill the protection it so desparately needs.
The severe erosion of Worm Hill. It is literally slipping away.
Photo by Audrey Fletcher July 2011
Some hero in that (Lambton) family
defeated an enormous serpent.
Artist Unknown 1846
The Vikings landing near the mouth of the River Wear.
First Hutchinson in 1785, and then Surtees in 1820,
suggested that the tale of the Lambton Worm was an allegory
for the Vikings commiting depravations in the local area.
Picture courtesy of  http://www.viking-mythology.com/vikingmyths.html
In 1785 Hutchinson wrote of Worm Hill: "Our map makers have figured the place very significantly."
Was he referring only to the 1737 map by Burleigh and Thompson, and the 1750 map by James
Basir, I wonder? I mention this because on earlier maps Worm Hill is not shown. For example: on
the following map by Speed in 1610 Wardenlawe Hill and Penshaw Hill figure prominently, but there
is no sign of Worm Hill. This possibly suggests that the Legend of the Lambton Worm, and by
inference Worm Hill, were not of any significance at this time.
Wardenlawe Hill and Penshaw Hill  dominate the
landscape.  Worm Hill is not indicated.
Map by John Speed 1610
Map by Burleigh and Thompson 1737
Map by James Basir 1750
Henry Lambton, died in his carriage crossing Lambton Bridge on June 26, 1761. His death, it is
said, fulfilled
the curse brought upon the Lambton family by the young Lambton hero not wishing
to kill his father. A curse that dictated that for nine generations, the chief of the Lambtons would not
die peacefully in his bed.
Surprisingly, perhaps significantly, Hutchinson in 1785 does not
mention this curse.
Yet for every commentator upon the legend since Hutchinson, beginning with
Surtees in 1820, the curse and its resulting outcomes have been the culmination of the story.

Surtees  relates:
"The date of the story is of course uncertain, but nine ascending generations from the late general
Lambton (in whom popular tradition affirmed the curse to expire) would exactly reach to Sir John
Lambton, Knight of Rhodes, of whom this curious entry stands in an old MS. Pedigree. lately in the
possession of the family of Middleton, of Offerton:
"Johan Lambeton that slewe ye Worme was knight of Rhodes and Lord of Lambton and Wod
Apilton efter the dethe of fower brothers sans esshewe masle. His son Robert Lambton was
drowned at Newebrigg."
That the knight ever succeeded to the family estates, however, contradicts the proven Pedigree."

In other words the entry in the old manuscript Pedigree is incorrect. John Lambton, born about
1394, did not succeed to the Lambton Estates. Following the death of their father William, the eldest
of the sons, Robert Lambton, inherited the title. However when he died in 1442 without issue, the
title fell to the next eldest son, Thomas. When he died in 1473 his son William Lambton succeeded
him.

According to the Pedigree of Lambton, John Lambton is named in his mother's will in 1439, and in
that of his eldest brother Robert in 1442. He is noted in the pedigree as a Knight of Rhodes in
1442. By this time he would have been
48 years old ... certainly not the young lad portrayed in the
Legend of the Lambton Worm.

The Robert Lambton (mentioned in the Offerton manuscript above) who drowned at Newebrigg, is
credited as the first victim of the curse,
but he did not hold the title of Lord Lambton.

Surtees claimed that the Lambton family legend ascended "only" to "the fourteenth century" (i.e.
during the 1300s) yet in reality it would be closer to the 1440s.

The following portrait is of a Knight of Rhodes by Franciabigio in 1514. Possibly this was how the
young John Lambton of legend was intended to look when he returned from the Wars.
Portrait of a Knight of Rhodes (1514)
By Franciabigio (1482-1525)
London, National Gallery
In 1183 Lord Hugh, Bishop of Durham, caused to be written down in his and his men's presence all
the returns of his whole Bishopric, fixed rents and customs as they were then and had been before.
This became known as
"Boldon Book". The purpose of "Boldon Book" was an account of tenants'
obligations, both individual and collective, settlement by settlement.

Lambton is not recorded in "Boldon Book".

Historically the name does not appear until after "Boldon Book" in 1183 but before 1200, when
John de Lamtun was witness to a charter of Uchtred de Wodshend.

It is curious that the legend grew around the Lambton rather than the Biddick family. After all, Worm
Hill stood on Biddick lands. Perhaps the Lambton family saw an opportunity and grasped it. An
opportunity to reflect the rising stature of the Lambtons when they came to prominence with the
production of coal on their land, and the fortune the industry brought to the family.

The Legend of the Lambton Worm was popularised in 1867 when C M Leumane composed a song
about it for a pantomime. Every local to the area will at least recognise the Chorus.
Whisht! lads, haad yor gobs,
An' aa'll tell ye aall an aaful story,
Whisht! lads, haad yor gobs,
An' Aa'll tel ye 'boot the worm.
It is in part, very much thanks to this Lambton Worm Song, that the Legend of the Lambton Worm
is still so very much alive and part of our cultural heritage today.
The Legend of the Lambton Worm is very
much a part of our heritage today.
Artist Unknown 1846
Deconstructing the Legend of the Lambton Worm
The Legend of the Lambton Worm
The Creation, Structure and Shaping of Worm Hill
Ophiuchus: the Serpent Bearer
The young hero Ophiuchus is a great celestial giant who stands with his right foot dipping into the
zodiac belt, almost treading upon Scorpio. Moreover, he is up to his right thigh in the waters of the
celestial river, the Milky Way.
Ophiucus the Serpent Bearer
Star chart courtesy of "Skywatching" by David H. Levy
A Star Myth
The Legend of the Lambton Worm is a Star Myth adapted to the local area around Fatfield and
Lambton. Key features include: a male person, a worm or serpent, a hill, ventricular markings, a
river, a chapel and a well.

Hutchinson in 1785  writes:

"Fatfield Staithes ... Near this place is an eminence called the Worm Hill, which tradition says was
once possessed by an enormous serpent, that wound its horrid body round the base; that it
destroyed much provision, and used to infest the Lambton estate, till some hero in that family
engaged it, cased in armour set with razors, and when it would have crushed the combatant by
enfolding him, sustaining a thousand wounds, fell at last by his falchion."

The original story of the relationship between man and serpent was not one of aggression as
highlighted in the tale of the Lambton Worm. Almost five thousand years ago in Ancient Egypt the
relationship was centred around Imhotep, who having the knowledge and use of medicines, is
credited with introducing the art of healing to the people of the ancient world. The symbol of the
serpent entwined around a staff, known as the
Rod of Aesculapius, is still used to represent the
medical profession today. Later, in Ancient Greece
Imhotep became known as Aesculapius, the
god of medicine. In Ancient Rome he became known as
Ophiucus. Ophiucus is a star constellation.
The young heir of Lambton is represented by the Constellation of Ophiucus, up to his thighs in
the River Wear and in combat with the Worm, cutting it in half. However the long writhing serpent
being a symbol of healing and regeneration ... Immortality ...  illustrates its power of self-union,
becoming whole again.
Ophiucus appears to be in combat with the Serpent, as
young Lambton was in combat with the Worm.
Immortality is denied to the Lambton Worm when young Lambton, armed in "a coat of mail studded
with razor blades" (Surtees 1820), cut the Worm into pieces which were subsequently washed away
down the River Wear. The Worm was unable to invoke its power of self-union. The razor blades
could be represented by the Constellation of Bootes, which lies next to Serpens Caput, and looks
very much like a sharp cutting instrument.

In the heavens Ophiucus is entwined with the Serpent, and
the Serpent is always portrayed as
severed
, forming the constellations of Serpens Caput (the head of the Serpent) and Serpens
Cauda
(the tail of the serpent).

In 1830 Worm Hill and the River Wear did not appear as they do today. The features of the
landscape were clearly visible at that time. Sailing up the River Wear from Sunderland, following
around a bend in the river, people were suddenly confronted by what would have seemed like a
primitive or alien landscape. There, straight ahead, was Worm Hill, rising like a mound from the
river's edge. It must have looked almost spiritual, ethereal.

Imagine the impact upon the people of the ancient past when Worm Hill was untouched, in its
original shape of a conical hill, before one third of it had been quarried away on the south side. The
scene must have been breath-taking.
In Ancient Greek mythology Aesculapius (Ophiucus today) was the son of Apollo. In some accounts
his mother was Coronis, the constellation of Corona Borealis, which lies just off the left shoulder of
the Constellation of Ophiucus. She is forever watching over him. Aesculapius was not only a skilled
harpist but also a skilled physician, and as such he served with Jason and the Argonauts on the
voyage in search of the Golden Fleece. Their ship, the Argo Navis, was yet another star
constellation.

In contrast, the Babylonian version of the relationship between man and serpent is not too unlike
that recorded in the Legend of the Lambton Worm. The sun god,
Marduk, battles with the
serpent
, Tiamat. It is the eternal fight of good versus evil.

Another version of the triumph of good over evil comes from Lybia where
Hercules is credited
with slaying a serpent
near the River Sagaris. In the heavens the Constellation of Hercules
stands just above the left shoulder of Ophiucus. Nearby are the Celestial River (the Milky Way) and
also the constellation of Draco, the Dragon. I would suggest this as the origin of the "slaying of the
dragon" stories.

Yet another version of the triumph of good over evil, was set on the Island of Rhodes where there
was a plague of serpents. The terrorised people went to visit an oracle, who pointed them in the
direction of
 Phorbas. Upon ridding the island of Rhodes of the serpents he was venerated as
a hero. (This is the closest yet to the tale of the Lambton Worm. There is even the connection with
Rhodes!)
For his achievement Phorbas won a place among the stars as the constellation of
Ophiuchus.
The Rod of Aesculapius
Photographer Unknown
Worm Hill rising like a mound in a primitive landscape
takes on a spiritual atmosphere.
Engraving by William Collared 1830
When this engraving of Worm Hill is compared with the star map of Serpens Caput it is not difficult
to make the connection between the night sky and its earthly counterpart. Heaven has been
recreated on Earth ... at Fatfield. The bends in the river reproduce the curves of the celestial
serpent's body, culminating in the serpent's head:
Serpens Caput, Worm Hill.
Heaven has been recreated on Earth, at
Fatfield. Although "Serpens Caput" actually
refers to the full segment of the serpent held
by Ophiucus in his left hand, it literally
translates as the "Head of the Serpent".
The Head of the Serpent at Fatfield, on the
banks of the River Wear, is Worm Hill.
Worm Well by Burleigh and Thompson 1737
and James Basir in 1750
Worm Well was still in situ in 1737 and 1750 as evidenced on the above maps.

In 1820 Surtees wrote  "The Worm Well lies betwixt the Hill and the Wear. Half a century ago the
Worm Well was in repute as a
Wishing Well, and was one of the scenes dedicated to the usual
festivities and superstitions of Midsummer Eve; a
crooked pin may sometimes be still be
discovered, sparkling amongst the clear gravel at the bottom of its basin." In his footnotes he
records that the distance from the Hill to the Well  was 26 yards; from the Well to the River 48
yards. He also relates that the Worm Well had formerly a cover, and an iron dish or ladle.

Unfortunately by the time Fordyce was writing in 1857 the well "had vanished entirely, being
drained into the river." It was no longer a Sacred Well.
Vermicular Markings ... Prehistoric Circles! ... A Neolithic Henge?
In the Legend of the Lambton Worm Surtees related that "it also frequented a green mound near
the well
(the Worm Hill), where it lapped itself nine times round, leaving vermicular traces, of which,
grave living witnesses depose that they have seen the vestiges".

Vermicular traces are those markings left by a worm, resembling its motion or track. The word
"worm" is derived from the Latin "vermis" ( the Latin V is pronounced as a W) and the later
Anglo-Saxon "wyrm".

My husband's grandfather, James Carr Walmsley, always told the story of how when he was a lad
around 1900, there was a single path around the bottom perimeter of Worm Hill which was said to
be an impression left by the Worm. Today there is no evidence of it.
However there are vermicular markings close by,
on the other side of the River Wear in fact.
To date these vermicular markings have
never been recorded by anyone.
They are my most recent, and most exciting, discovery.
Vermicular markings near Worm Hill.
Photos courtesy of Google Earth 23 July 2008
It would seem that the Worm of Legend lapped itself only twice and not nine times!  From the centre
of the inner circle to the perimeter of the outer circle on the western side is 1000 feet. These are
seriously big vermicular traces!
The site of Brugeford Chapel
Map by Burleigh and Thompson 1737
The Relationship of the Vermicular Traces to Worm Hill
Astonishingly, the central point of these ancient vermicular markings lies exactly 4000 feet from the
central point at the summit of Worm Hill. Moreover, the two central points lie on a perfect West East
alignment.
The West-East alignment explains why the double "vermicular traces" were not engineered directly
south of Worm Hill, within the natural loop of the River Wear. The latter would have created a
south-east alignment, which nevertheless is also important in astronomy. As such, the ancient
peoples would not have overlooked this alignment. They would have erected standing stones to
mark the rising of the sun in the south-east,and setting of the sun in the south-west, on the
Winter
Solstice
... as viewed from the top of Worm Hill.

Just over two hundred years ago festivities were still enjoyed at Worm Hill on the
eve of the
Summer Solstice
. Surtees noted in 1820 that "half a century ago the Worm Well was in repute as
a wishing well, and was one of the scenes dedicated to the usual festivities and superstitions of
Midsummer Eve." By then the original significance relating to Worm Hill and the double circle
enclosure would have been lost.

The West-East alignment is indicative of the ancient peoples' concern with their observation of the
Equinoxes. The Equinox is when the sun rises due east and sets due west. This phenomenon
occurs on only two days of the year, usually 21st of March and 21st of September. (Sometimes
there is a variation of one day.)

This is very important and significant Sacred Landscape.
The central point on top of Worm Hill and the centre of the
Vermicular Traces lie on a perfect West - East alignment
Ancient sacred ceremonies often included astronomy, the rising and setting of the sun. The sacred
viewing point for the rising of the sun on the Equinox would have been the vantage point on the
summit of Worm Hill. There would have been a standing stone in the centre of the double enclosure
to indicate due east. Sacred ceremonies and ritual would have preceded the astronomical
observation (assuming it wasn't overcast !). People would have gathered from miles around, some
even crossing the sacred River Wear and possibly drinking from the Sacred Spring, revering their
ancestors. Probably further ritual followed the observation of the rising of the Sun.

Later in the day a ceremonial procession would make its way to the central area of the double
enclosure, where they would await the setting of the Sun behind Worm Hill, due West. This would
confirm Worm Hill as the realm of the ancestors, the land of the Dead.

The Sacred Landscape which was so very much evident in the ancient past had been lost
to us ... until now.
The sun rises on the Equinox in the East.
As viewed from Worm Hill it would have risen behind
the standing stone in the centre of the double
enclosure, the "vermicular traces".
My portrayal 2012
The vermicular markings are formed from ancient ditches forming "circular enclosures" perhaps as
long ago as 2500 BC, or even earlier
if, as I suspect, the Outer Ditch is a Neolithic Henge. However,
whether Neolithic or Bronze Age, these aren't just ordinary boundary ditches or enclosures, they
were sacred. A sacred site suggests burials, perhaps even a tumulus, and also sacred ceremonies.
Ancient sacred ceremonies often included astronomy, the rising and setting of stars and planets at
various seasons. The site of the
Early Bronze Age Cist Burials discovered at Fatfield in 1907 would
have been chosen because of its proximity to both Worm Hill and the Sacred Circles.    

The sacred landscape at Fatfield, extending an astonishing 4000 feet across the River Wear in a
West - East alignment from Worm Hill to the centre of the double enclosure (the vermicular traces)
at Mount Pleasant, was closely linked with the heavens, with astronomy. The association however,
was not only with the
Constellation of Ophiucus and the Serpent within the celestial landscape of the
celestial river of the
Milky Way ... but also to the SUN.

The discovery of a perfect East-West alignment staggered my senses. It was unlooked for and
unexpected. And to further discover that it is exactly 4000 feet across was the culmination of an
almost heart stopping experience. This was
sophisticated planning, and of momentous
importance to the peoples of the Fatfield area in very ancient times. Moreover, their planning and
finished result is verification of a knowledge of Mathematics, especially of measurement, and of
Astronomy.
The central point on top of Worm Hill and the centre of the
Vermicular Traces lie on a perfect West - East alignment,
and are exactly 4000 feet apart.
Brugeford Chapel
In the Legend of the Lambton Worm as quoted by Hutchinson in 1785 and by Surtees in 1820,
there is
no mention of Brugeford Chapel. However Surtees did comment that "Popular tradition
assigns the Chapel of
Brigford as the spot where Lambton offered up his vows before and after
the adventure."

Another indirect mention of Brugeford Chapel was made in "The Bishoprick Garland" by Sir
Cuthbert Sharpe in 1834. After consulting the "Sybil" on the surest means to destroy the Worm
young Lambton "made a solemn vow in the chapel of his forefathers". It is in
the footnotes that this
chapel is identified as "The Chapel of Bridgeford, within the Manor, of which the Lambtons were
patrons from a very early period."                                                                         
Brugeford Chapel was also more lately known as Lambton Chapel. It was still standing in 1800
when the following sketch was made. However, by 1834, when Sharpe was relating the Worm
Legend, it had been pulled down.
The shell of this little oratory lately
stood near the New-bridge on the left
of the road, immediately within the
entrance of Lambton Park.
By 1857 there was still no definite reference to Brugeford Chapel when Fordyce recorded his
version of the Legend of the Lambton Worm. Neither was it mentioned in the song by Leumane in
the song he wrote in 1867., the song in which he erroneously named Worm Hill as nearby Penshaw
Hill, thereby causing confusion ever since. By 1888 Brugeford was still not referred to by name,
rather as "
the old chapel by the Wear, where Lambtons, sire and son, for many a year had made
their solemn vows." (
"The Monthly Chronicle of North Country Lore and Legend"1888)

Old Lambton Hall was on the opposite side of the River Wear from Worm Hill and lying about one a
half miles away. Usually Mediaeval manor houses had the chapel or church right next door, yet the
Brugeford Chapel was quite some distance away at New Bridge. This old chapel was situated right
by the Wear.    
Surtees  confirms the association of Brugeford Chapel with the
Lambtons back to just before 1200 when "
Thomalin the Clerk or
Priest of Lambton, presented two pounds of wax to St. Cuthber
t".
Moreover "
a regular presentation of John de Pamplesworth by
Robert Lord of Lambton to the Chapel of Brugeford, appears in the
Register of Bishop Kellaw, 19 August, 1314
."
For many a year before its demise Brugeford Chapel was no longer a separate standing structure,
nor was it in use as a chapel. Most noticeable is that a farm house had been built on to its west wall.
This would suggest that the chapel was most probably used as a shelter for the animals in bad
weather. Certainly it would not have been used as a storage area as the roof had gone.

A beautiful singe cell chapel, the eastern window would suggest that it is early Norman. However the
oblong window and the quoins down the SE corner wall suggests Anglo-Saxon. The arched doorway
could be either Anglo-Saxon or Norman.
Most probably there are burials beneath the eastern window where the altar would have stood,
and also in the surrounding area outside of the chapel. An excavation of the site would
determine a date for the burials, as well as for the building.

The approach to the site of Brugeford Chapel is little changed from the 1737 map above. There
is a new highway, the
A183 just off the A1, and yet another new bridge leading across to the Old
Lambton Estate. The shell of this little oratory
lately stood near the New-bridge on the left of the
road, immediately within the entrance of Lambton Park.
Brugeford Chapel, also known as Lambton Chapel.
Sketch 1800. Artist unknown
New Bridge today is approached from the A183.
Brugefoed Chapel stood on the left of the road
immediately within the entrance of Lambton Park.
Aerial photo courtesy of Bing
Aerial view to show the site of Brugeford Chapel
just inside the entrance to Lambton Park.
Aerial photo courtesy of Bing
An Ancient History of the Brugeford Site
Brugeford, as the name suggests, was situated on a ford of the River Wear. However this was not
just a ford for local traffic, it was a major crossing point in the area for thousands of years. The
area has changed little in this time. The Great North Road (Dere Street) is still there from Roman
times and from the previous millennia of the Ancient Britons of the Stone, bronze and Iron Ages.
This was the second most important river crossing in the area, next only to Durham itself.

Approaching from the South the river crossings at Durham would have been used to gain access
to the areas east of the River Wear, the Salters Track, coastal areas and ports. However
approaching from the North, people would have crossed at
"Brigit's Ford" (my own terminology).
St. Brigit and Brigantia Nation
It was when I began to wonder about which saint Brugeford Chapel was named for, that I began to
question the acknowledged translation of "Brugeford" and its variations as simply meaning
"Bridgeford", a bridge spanning a ford. I considered Saint Michael, Saint Thomas, Saint Mary and
many others before I realized that there was only one possible candidate ...
Saint Brigit. There
are lots of variations of her name, including Brigid, Bridgit and Bride. The goddess Brigit was the
guardian or protector of the pre-Roman Brigantes Nation which was located in Northern England.
Map showing the crossing at Brugeford, labelled "Bridg" as
there was a bridge there at least from the Mediaeval period.
Map by Saxton 1575 and revised by P. Lea 1694
Ricknild Street (also known as Warburtons Lane), approaching from the Jarrow area, joined with
the Great North Road at Picktree as shown on the following map by Longstaffe in 1857. This would
give the travellers an option heading straight down South, or crossing the River Wear at Brugeford.

It will also be noticed that Longstaffe refers to Worm Hill as "natural" on this map. He also indicates
the "Traditionary Site of Battle at Pensher Hill".
Ricknild Street joined the Great North Road at Picktree.
Map by Longstaffe 1857
Initially I accepted the name "Brugeford" and its variations e.g. Bruggeford, Brigeford, Brigaford, as  
simply meaning "Bridgeford", the acknowledged translation. After all it had been a major crossing of
the River Wear for milennia and a bridge had been standing there at least from Mediaeval times.
This same bridge was falling into disrepair in the mid 1500s and needed to be replaced. Hence the
name "New Bridge" was given to the crossing.

As an important river crossing it would have developed as a religious centre in Prehistoric Times.
The tide going out to create a ford would have seemed like the intervention of the gods allowing the
people to "cross over" the watery, spiritual realm of their ancestors. Upon reaching the "other side"
they would have given thanks, in the form of prayers and offerings, at a
sacred shrine. Possibly
the shrine was marked by a
standing stone. Over time this shrine would have been replaced by a
temple, perhaps even a Roman Temple, to be followed later by Anglo-Saxon and Norman chapels.

A Roman temple at Brugeford is more than a possibility as very often sites of religious
significance, and the areas near them, were taken over by the Romans. Moreover as this particular
religious site was at a major, strategically placed river crossing this would suggest a Roman Fort on
the Pelaw side of the River Wear to guard the crossing. The fort would serve the dual purpose of
guarding Dere Street, the main arterial Roman Road (The Great North Road, the A1), close by.
Like Binchester, this Roman Fort would have been established around 79AD. In addition to a fort
the Romans would have built what was probably the first bridge at Brugeford to cross the River
Wear.

Only an excavation of the area would determine the presence of a Roman fort, bridge and temple.
The Roman Fort at South Shields was built
to guard the mouth of the River Tyne.
Photo by Audrey Fletcher July 2011
Following the demise of the Romans, when they left in 420AD, their buildings would have gradually
fallen into disrepair and the stone reused over the centuries. However the religious shrines would
not have been abandoned. In their place Anglo-Saxon chapels would have been built, and when
they in turn fell into disrepair they would have been replaced by Norman chapels. This, I would
suggest, was the scenario at Brugeford. Religious sites today very often stand on the religious
sites of thousands of years ago.

With regard to a possible Anglo-Saxon chapel, this would suggest a possible Anglo-Saxon
settlement close by. The obvious location would be in the area adjoining the Brugeford Chapel
Site of a possible Anglo-Saxon Settlement
Aerial photo courtesy of Bing
Map to show the extent of the Brigantes Nation
in Northern England
The goddess Brigit is the final piece in deconstructing the Legend of the Lambton Worm. As the
goddess of many nations she has undergone many names and attributes. In Ancient Egypt she
was known as Neith, the mother of Ra, (the Sun). She was the goddess of
Creation, Hunting and
of the
Dead. These three aspects are revealed in the hieroglyphics of her name. Immediately
recognizable are the
symbols of the Water and the Mound ...
The hieroglyphs for the Ancient Egyptian goddess, Neith.
Water, Mound, Shield and a god.
The River Wear and the Spring at the foot of Worm Hill would have denoted Worm Hill as a
Sacred Mound
from the time of the Stone Age. The waters are reminiscent of the Primordial
Ocean, Nun,
which was in the shape of a cosmic egg, and from this cosmic egg was born the
Primeval Hill, the Sacred Mound.

The Sacred Spring at the foot of Worm Hill would have considered as a
Gateway into the
Underworld
, the land of their deceased ancestors, the spirit world. As such the Spring would have
become a major religious shrine ...together with Worm Hill, which was symbolic of the Primeval
Mound. The spring at the foot of Worm Hill was visible evidence of the watery realm of the
Netherworld.

The meaning of what is generally considered to be a shield, Neith's symbol of being a goddess of
Hunting, is three-fold.

Literally "Neith" means "Weaver". When you look at the
shield in the hieroglyphs of her name it
also signifies
a loom. Neith, in her role as "Creator", wove the world into being. It is this role
that Saint Brigit of the Christian Church is remembered in the Saint Brigit's Cross, which is a woven
cross.
St Brigit's Cross
symbolizes the world woven into being.
Creation
Photo courtesy of http://www.celticattic.com/
Moreover, the oscillating movement of the shuttle of the loom recreates the zig-zags
representing the marks left by
a snake, vermicular traces. There are two snakes in the
hieroglyph to represent
Balance in the Creation of the World. Male and female. Right and
Wrong. Heaven and Earth. Vermicular traces are to be seen only a matter of 3000 feet away
from Worm Hill. Not surprisingly, Neith is also a
serpent goddess.

Down through the millenia Neith became known in the pre-Roman world of Northern Britain as
Brigant or Brigit, the Guardian and Protector of the Brigantes. She was their Totem, their
Creator, their Earth Mother. They were her followers, her adherents, her disciples.

However, the
Secrets of Creation, Mathematics and Astronomy were not for the ordinary
people. Rather, they would have been considered the
Ultimate Sacred Knowledge of the
Religious Leaders and of the Elite. The ordinary people would have been familiar with the
various myths, legends and rituals, but were not privy to the actual secrets.

Saint Brigit's Day is on 1st of February, which heralds the end of Winter and the coming of
Spring. It was on this day that  
Brigit, as the Serpent Goddess of the Brigantes, would
emerge from her Mound
where she had been spending the Winter months in an almost
dormant state.  In casting off her Winter mantle she was like the Serpent shedding its skin. Her
mantle of Spring was a symbol of Renewal.

However this was not only a renewal of the Seasons. It was also symbolic of a renewal of day
following night (Neith was the mother of the Sun) and a renewal of the deceased ancestors in
the Spirit World (Neith was the goddess of the Dead).

Very often snakes spend the winter months entangled  en masse to conserve warmth, as they
are cold-blooded reptiles. In this entanglement they take on the appearance of a
writhing
Celtic Knot.
This anomaly was pointed out to me by my husband, Edwin.
An entanglement of serpents during the winter months
takes on the appearance of a Celtic Knot.
Illustration courtesy of http://www.celticsymbol.net/
The sacred landscape around the Fatfield area is essentially about a Mound, a Serpent, a River
and a Spring. The supporting roles are played by vermicular traces, a shrine, a chapel and the
Sun.

Worm Hill, set in a "flat field", is a natural structure formed from glacial debris. Initially it was
circular but at an unspecified time in history it was quarried for its gravel. The land reclaimed
from the quarry was subdivided into allotments on the North Biddick Estate and The Biddick Inn
was built on or just within the original perimeter of Worm Hill. There is the possibility that a
calendar was encoded into the structure. Unfortunately, as a result of the severe erosion on the
northern slope, Worm Hill is beginning to collapse. The top soil is slipping away, leaving the fine
sand underneath unprotected.

Worm Hill is best known for the reference to it in the famous "Legend of the Lambton Worm".
The 1785 account of the legend was sparse but by 1820 it was more comprehensive. As the
years passed the legend became more enriched in detail. The tale was considered to be a
metaphor about the Danish Invasion or a local tyrant. Moreover, the proven Lambton pedigree
does not support John Lambton, Knight of Rhodes, in the role of the hero. It is in part, very
much thanks to the
Lambton Worm Song, that the Legend of the Lambton Worm is still so very
much alive and part of our cultural heritage today.

The Legend of the Lambton Worm is a Star Myth adapted to the local area around Fatfield and
Lambton. The original story of the relationship between man and serpent dates back almost five
thousand years ago to Ancient Egypt, and was centred around Imhotep, who having the
knowledge and use of medicines, is credited with introducing the art of healing to the people of
the ancient world. The symbol of the serpent entwined around a staff, known as the
Rod of
Aesculapius
, is still used to represent the medical profession today. Later, in Ancient Greece
Imhotep became known as Aesculapius, the god of medicine. In Ancient Rome he became
known as
Ophiucus. Ophiucus is a star constellation better known as "The Serpent Bearer".

The young heir of Lambton is represented by the Constellation of Ophiucus, up to his thighs in
the River Wear and in combat with the Worm, cutting it in half. In the heavens Ophiucus is
entwined with the Serpent, and
the Serpent is always portrayed as severed, forming the
constellations of
Serpens Caput (the head of the Serpent) and Serpens Cauda (the tail of the
serpent).

Heaven has been recreated on Earth, at Fatfield. Although "Serpens Caput" actually refers to
the full segment of the serpent held by Ophiucus in his left hand, it literally translates as the
"Head of the Serpent".

The Head of the Serpent at Fatfield, on the banks of the River Wear, is Worm Hill.

To the ancient peoples Worm Hill was considered as sacred: it was a Sacred Mound within a
Sacred Landscape. It was the celestial realm recreated on Earth, Serpens Caput, and as such
was the land of the gods.

The Sacred Spring at the foot of Worm Hill would have considered as a Gateway into the
Underworld, the land of their deceased ancestors, the spirit world. As such the Spring would
have become a major religious shrine ...together with Worm Hill, which was symbolic of the
Primeval Mound. The spring at the foot of Worm Hill was visible evidence of the watery realm of
the Netherworld.

In the Legend of the Lambton Worm Surtees related that "it also frequented a green mound
near the well
(the Worm Hill), where it lapped itself nine times round, leaving vermicular traces.
There are vermicular markings close by Worm Hill, on the other side of the River Wear in fact.
Astonishingly, the central point of these ancient vermicular markings lies exactly 4000 feet from
the central point at the summit of Worm Hill. Moreover, the two central points of Worm Hill and
the Vermicular Traces (Circular Enclosures) lie on a West East alignment, which is indicative of
the ancient peoples' concern with their observation of the
Equinoxes. This was sophisticated
planning
by an Ancient People.

Brugeford, or Brigford, being an important river crossing, would have developed as a religious
centre in Prehistoric Times. The tide going out to create a ford would have seemed like the
intervention of the gods allowing the people to "cross over" the watery, spiritual realm of their
ancestors. Upon reaching the "other side" they would have given thanks, in the form of prayers
and offerings, at a
sacred shrine. Possibly the shrine was marked by a standing stone. Over
time this shrine would have been replaced by a temple, perhaps even a Roman Temple, to be
followed later by Anglo-Saxon and Norman chapels: Brugeford Chapel.

The goddess Brigit, the guardian or protector of the pre-Roman Brigantes Nation in Northern
England is the final piece in deconstructing the Legend of the Lambton Worm. In Ancient Egypt
she was known as Neith, the mother of Ra, (the Sun). She was the goddess of
Creation,
Hunting and of the
Dead. These three aspects are revealed in the hieroglyphics of her name  
the
symbols of the Water and the Mound. Neith was also a serpent goddess. Saint Brigit's
Day
is on 1st of February, which heralds the end of Winter and the coming of Spring. It was on
this day that  
Brigit, as the Serpent Goddess of the Brigantes, would emerge from her
Mound
where she had been spending the Winter months in an almost dormant state. In casting
off her Winter mantle she was like the Serpent shedding its skin. Her mantle of Spring was a
symbol of Renewal.

My major discovery of Worm Hill as a Sacred Mound within a Sacred and Ritual Landscape is of
primary archaeological significance.
Summary of a Sacred Mound within
a Sacred and Ritual Landscape
By the time of young Lambton the Harmony between Heaven and Earth was lost.
This was possibly because of the violence witnessed after the Invasion of William of Normandy
in 1066, and the Rebellion of the People of the North in 1068 at nearby
Shadens Hill.
Links to some of my
other popular historical
web pages
Copyright Audrey Fletcher 2012

Intellectual property of
Audrey Fletcher 2012




Updated 2014
Theirs was a Time

Theirs was a Time of Harmony,
A Time of Peace and Plenty.
They observed the cycle of the seasons,
The sun, the moon.
The cycle of the constellations
The rising and setting of stars and planets.

Theirs was a Time when they observed
The relationship of the land to the heavens.
A relationship of this world and the next.
A relationship of the gods and the people

And they honoured and paid tribute.

Theirs was a Time when they understood that
They were a thread in the woven fabric
of Creation, Death and Renewal.

By Audrey Fletcher 2012
Worm Hill is a Sacred Mound within a
Sacred and Ritual Landscape
Engraving by William Collared 1830

(This is possibly the earliest picture of the
buildings at the foot of Worm Hill.)
The message in "The Legend of the Lambton Worm" is one of Dishonour and Death.
Roman Occupation on the Banks of the River Wear
The areas in the vicinity of the double enclosure have not been built upon in recent years. It is
farmland, which, during the ploughing season highlights evidence of earlier occupation by the crop
marks in several of the fields. An example is shown in the photo below, where there are several
layers of earlier occupation. It is noticeable that Cox Green Road virtually bisects the double
enclosure.

The regular alignment, the cross hatching, suggests to me that this site is Roman and that
I have
discovered a Roman settlement, or Vicus, on the banks of the River Wear.
Earlier layers of Roman occupation are highlighted
by the crop marks in the fields beside
and within the double enclosure
Left Courtesy of Google. Right Courtesy of Bing
Link to
The Lambton Worm
as written by
Robert Surtees 1820
Link to
The Lambton Worm Song
composed by
C.M. Leumane 1867
However the Roman Settlement is not confined to just this one field at Mount Pleasant. It continues
along the stretch of fields between the River Wear and Cox Green Road.
An ideal situation for
the Roman Fort would be within the loop of the River Wear, directly across the river
from Worm Hill.
Probable site of a Roman Fort across the River
Wear from Worm Hill. The Vicus lies between
theRiver Wear and Cox Green Road.
Aerial photo courtesy of Bing
If you look carefully on the above aerial photo you will see the feint traces of another double
enclosure, the loop of the River Wear forming a segment of the outer circle!

There was a major river crossing to the left of Worm Hill at Washington Staithes, though in more
recent times
, in 1889, Fatfield Bridge was built to the right of Worm Hill.

As an important river crossing it would have developed as a religious centre in Prehistoric Times.
The tide going out to create a ford would have seemed like the intervention of the gods allowing the
people to "cross over" the watery, spiritual realm of their ancestors. Upon reaching the "other side"
they would have given thanks, in the form of prayers and offerings, at the sacred well.

Very often sites of religious significance, and the areas near them, were taken over by the Romans.
Moreover as this particular religious site was at a major, strategically placed river crossing this
would suggest a Roman Fort within the loop of the River Wear to guard the crossing.

Only an excavation of the area would determine the presence of a Roman fort and Vicus.
A major river crossing
to the left of Worm Hill
Map by Gibson1789
The River Wear can be easily crossed at low tide.
The Roman Fort would have stood on the site of the
houses at the right of the picture.
Old postcard
* * *
The Prehistoric Circles at Mount Pleasant in July 2012
In July 2012 my husband, Edwin, and myself "walked the prehistoric circles" at Mount Pleasant, in
the footsteps of the ancient peoples of the area. We took one hundred memorable photographs.

The outer ditch and parts of the inner ditch were covered in crops but they were still clearly visible
in the landscape. We were able to make our way down into the foot of the surprisingly deep outer
ditch ... an awe inspiring, and almost sacred experience. About a third of the Inner Circle was
trackway, a public footpath, leading to farmsteads. Later as we stood on Cox Green Road and
looked towards Penshaw we saw the Inner and Outer Ditches clearly defined in the landscape. As
we later stood above the Outer Ditch and looked towards Worm Hill it was like being present at the
birth of the Sacred Mound, rising out of the landscape.
Looking down into a segment of the
Outer Ditch near the River Wear
Photo by Audrey Fletcher July 2012
My husband Edwin climbing back up the
bank of the surprisingly deep Outer Ditch
Photo by Audrey Fletcher July 2012
The Inner and Outer Ditches are clearly
defined on the Penshaw side of the Circle
Photo by Audrey Fletcher July 2012
Worm Hill viewed from the Upper Outer Ditch.
It was like witnessing the birth of the
Sacred Mound, rising out of the landscape.
Photo by Audrey Fletcher July 2012
The trackway of the Inner Circle
leading to farmsteads
Photo by Audrey Fletcher July 2012
The trackway of the Inner Circle
continues under the railway bridge
Photo by Audrey Fletcher July 2012
Biddick ... "By the Dyke"
The name “Biddick” is of Anglo-Saxon origin, meaning “by the dyke”

The word “Dyke” or “Dike” is derived from the Anglo-Saxon “dic” meaning a “dyke”, a ditch, possibly
a defence embankment.

Due to my discovery of the Prehistoric Circles, made up in part by banks and ditches, at Mount
Pleasant,
the origin of the name “Biddick” becomes clear. “By the Dike” refers to the land by, near
or next to the Prehistoric Circles, termed “The Dike” by the Anglo-Saxons. The lands of “Biddick”
were both to the north and south of the River Wear.
Map by Speed 1610
Map by Casson 1801
Biddick ... "By the Dike"
“By the Dike” refers to the land by, near or next to the
Prehistoric Circles, termed “The Dike” by the Anglo-Saxons.
The lands of “Biddick” were both to the north
and south of the River Wear.
Photo courtesy of Google Earth 23 July 2008
The lands of “Biddick” were both to the north and south of the River Wear.