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Double sunset is subject of many talks in Leek

By Leek Post and Times  |  Posted: July 09, 2014

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In his Bygones article on July 2 Geoff Browne ably described long held ideas that Leek's historical double sunset may have had even older significance for our prehistoric ancestors.

This possibility was described some 15 years ago on a local website www.leekonline.co.uk/sunset/ and has since been the subject of many talks, the most recent being to the Green Dragon Mysteries Society on June 18, and to an audience of 300 attending the 50th anniversary of Keele observatory in May 2012.

For many years I have called the talk 'The Bridestones Legacy'.

Leek's historical double sunset wasn't seen by accident. From St Edward's church the hill is a very small target and to see the phenomenon and describe it to Dr Plot in the 1680s Leek folk must have been witnessing it for countless generations.

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In 1936-37 Prof Fleure and Margaret Dunlop described Bridestones as a 'Clyde cairn', the archetype being at Cairnholy in Dumfries and Galloway.

This is one of many tombs and places of ritualistic worship with solsticial alignments in the western isles and Ireland erected approximately 3500-2000BC during the so-called 'age of astronomy'.

Bridestones's similarity with Cairnholy is remarkable. So is the Bullstones, near Clewlow, one of only four centre-stone circles in the British isles. Another is at Glenquicken, five miles from Cairnholy.

This suggests that the same culture that was building astronomically aligned monuments around the Celtic Sea was the same as that living here in the Staffordshire Moorlands.

The clincher for me was the rare spiral rock carving found at Ramshorn and recently donated to the Nicholson Institute that is exactly similar to examples at Cairnholy, Newgrange near Dublin, and at Calderstones near Liverpool.

There are at least five other solsticial alignments visible from local prehistoric sites that nowadays don't accurately align, but would have when the monuments were constructed by our ancestors, for exactly the reason Dr Plot said that the double sunset would change over time.

It is now of course extinct from its traditional observing site in the churchyard, but I suggest that there is now sufficient evidence that Leek's double sunset from an ancient site of worship was their legacy. Kevin Kilburn FRAS, Vice-chairman the Society for the History of Astronomy, Cheddleton

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