Prehistoric remains in Guernsey, from the Lukis MSS

28th June 2016
F C Lukis at Dehus from Priaulx Library Collection

In the early 20th century, local historian Edith Carey made copious notes from various manuscripts belonging to the Lukis family into scrapbooks which are now in the Library collection. She collected the following observations about early island archaeology together and copied them again into the notes she made to the book Guernsey Folk Lore, intended to aid her as its editor in a putative new edition, which she never completed. The Lukis family (Frederick Corbin Lukis and his children) were all deeply interested in archaeology, and these journal notes give a very Guernsey flavour of the beginnings of archaeology as a science. The photograph is of 'Frederick Lukis, Esq., at the Du Tus cromlech, Guernsey' from an album in the Library's Harvey collection (the Harvey and Lukis families were related.)

The general form of the stone Celt is well known and this form has not failed to excite the astonishment of travellers and observers in all parts of the world [John MacCulloch, quoted by F C Lukis.]

The Celt is usually called in the Channel Islands, the Coup de Foudre, or Thunder-bolt; the same appellation is almost the universal name by which it is known in most countries. In Brittany, Maen sorvus, the Thunder Stone, and it may be presumed in Shakespeare's time, it was understood to be, for he says in Cymbeline Act IV Scene 2, 'Fear no more the lightning-flash/ nor all the dreaded thunder-stone.'

In countries like Brittany or in these Islands where superstitious notions prevail, the Celt, like the Elf-shot or arrowhead, has its share of magical power. In different parts of Brittany the Celt, if thrown down into a fountain or a well has the power of purifying the water and giving it the best of qualities. The peasantry in the Morbihan on finding a Celt immediately throw it into the well for that purpose; some wells were shown where 5 or 6 Celts were thrown down into them.

In the Channel Islands, a Celt is frequently placed into the wall of a building, as a preventer or defence against lightning. Several in our collecition have been obtained from walls of houses; to keep one in a dwelling house is considered a charm for good luck! To part with it is unfortunate!¹

[1817] (Written in) 1853. A celt was found at 'La Roche qui sonne' some 36 years ago, while digging the foundations of the Zion Chapel, by Sieur P Le Comte. 2 indentations in it.

1845. March. A celt was picked up in a field at the Bezières by Sieur Nicolas Moullin. About two yards further on, on Dec 26 1844, another was found by Francis and Ernest [Lukis] in the field near the lane du Port Vailand.

A celt, once in the possession of Mr Thomas Lainé of the Bas Courtil was lost when his Brig was taken by the French in 1808. This celt had been found by the old Mrs Lainé of the Anneville in her garden.

A celt is said to be in the masonry of the house adjoining that of Sr Jean de Jersey of L’Hyvreuse. This house is now used as a cellar or stable [1845].

There is a celt in the possession of De Vic Carey (Vallon). [This was kept by my grandfather among his shirts and lost at this death EFC.] Two ditto in that of John Le Marchant, one is now in the possession of Lady Carey.

June 10 1845. At the house belonging to Mr de Bertram des Bouvées near Jerbourg, found two celts in portions, one was left at the house and the other was given to me [Illus.].

30 Oct 1845. Received from Mr Cachemaille, Serk, a quantity of pottery and fragments of cerns which he had found in Serk. Also a portion of a bronze celt or hache en cuivre found in a large mass of ashes in a pit three feet deep. (Report says that there was once a building on this spot.) At  depth of 18 inches was discovered a flat stone 15 x 7, polished on one side, on which 3 round stones, with hollows on each side, were discovered. Mullers were also found and Mr C has seen from 50 to 60 about the island.

Having been informed that an ox had fallen into a hole in a field, it was conjectured that a girth was there. On examination it was found to be 3 feet deep and 5 feet broad. Many broken jars of pottery and two points de flèche were found.

24 Dec 1845. Francis and Harry examined the spot mentioned by Sieur P Lenfestey des Adams, at 5 feet deep discerned a cist containing a steel sword, spear head, and part of a knife. A skull in the east end, and some bones.

Jan: 27 1846. Mr Le Marquand of Le Grand Courtil informed me that he had from time to time perceived different pieces of stone and accumulations of limpet shells, mixed with black earth or ashes, on various parts of the estate, and in the neighbourhood of the large furze-brake called Le Trépied. He was not aware of the origin of this name. Stone [va?]ses &c have been turned up in the ground.

1864. Feb: 21. Sieur Rouget of Grand’Rocques tells me he remembers 3 celts being found whilst working in the Gorban² in Vazon Bay, and also a long greyish earthenware jar with a small neck to it. And on one occasion a bronze or copper vessel with a handle, wherein had been inserted a wooden partition, was dug up from a depth of 10 feet below the sand.

April 1846. Sieur Thomas Le Page, Maison de Bas, whilst working in a field called La Trappe, with a man from the Country Hospital, the latter found, at a depth of 1 foot, a large stone axe or pick [illus.] of greyish greenstone. In the same field were several flat stones beneath the ground, one of which was broken up. Another—of about 4 feet square—lies still undisturbed; the upper part is not more than 9 inches beneath the ground.

29 April paid for above to Sieur Thomas Le Page £2.

April 1846. A portion of a stone axe or battle axe, was brought to me, having been found in the field adjoining the one belonging to the Sieur Thomas Le Page above mentioned. It was much corroded from exposure to the weather.

21 Aug: 1846. Found half a celt in the road leading from the old estate of Saint to Icart.

Edgar MacCulloch supposes that a corner of a cottage near the back of Hallouvris, St Clair, opposite the Chair au Prêtre, is a menhir.

8 Sept 1846. At the house of Sieur George Rose at Saint, Frederick and Frank found a portion of a celt [Illus.] and part of a n axe head [Illus.] in the ground, being the scrapings of the field of the estate. Next day John found a good muller of quartz well defined, also some other worked stones were discovered. The same day near the estate of Saint (Le Messurier) a rough portion of a celt was found. John also found a fine muller at Dehus, near the north side of the field.

Sept 12 1846. We went to Jerbourg, and at the height of the embankment, about a foot from the top, a fine arrow point was discovered by John W Lukis. [Illus.] 

A portion of a celt was brought to me by Pierre Bichard found near the Capelles and the Effards. 14 Nov 1846. [Illus. of find loc.]

March 1847. John found a portion of a celt near the new cottage on the road to the Maladerie where the crossroads and sand hills. [Illus. of find loc.]

Aptil 1847. Sieur Nicolas Brouard, late acting for de Fraisne, has built himself a cottage at Les Ettibots, Les Bessières (formerly a furze brake) in which, some time ago, he found a fine celt of heavy material, 3 or 4 inches long. This is the 3rd or 4th find in the vicinity of the Platte Haches.

I was informed by Pierre Le Lièvre of Le Mont Durant, St Martin’s, that Tom Martin of La Pierre Percée had found some flèches or arrow heads in the field at Jerbourg.

The dish, or Rindelle, in the possession of John Guille of St George, was discovered by Massy de la Rue of La Hougue, and not by Sieur William Batiste as thereon stated. The latter was, however, present. Massy de la Rue declares that the said disc was not broken by the spade as was supposed, for  he first perceived the end of it projecting out of the Gorban, and before it had been withdrawn he exclaimed, ‘Ch’est une rindelle,’ and with care he removed it from its bed.

Aug: 17 1847. Visited the Corbière, near the Havre de Bon Repos, and examined Les Creux de l’Arrivouette, or La Rivaulxuet (sic), two natural caves formed by the fissure in the cliffs. The lower one has the appearance of a Hermit’s Cave and is difficult to access; the sides look as if they had been partially cleaned and worked. The floor is of gravel (damp.)

The Dyke or double bank across the isthmus of the Château de la Corbière is composed of loose beach stones and rubbish, and rises about 10 feet high. A small quantity of iron or iron nails were dug out of it, much decomposed. [Illus. loc.]

July 16 1848. A celt was found in the wall of J E Tupper’s house at the Cotils, now being demolished by his son Henry. Sieur Thomas Brehaut, of La Contrée des Mouilpieds, St Martin, found, in the middle of La Hougue Hatenail, a jar of coarse earthenware, but nothing was within it, and he lost it about the year 1820.

1851. A celt about 5 inches in length was picked up by le Sieur Jean Moulin of the Foulon, when breaking the ground for red gravel in the field called La Grande Pouquelaye, at the back of Mr James Dobrée’s estate. He had it for many years in his house at the Foulon which was purchased by Mr F Mauger (a celt found in a field of this name is an interesting fact.)

27 Oct: 1853. This day Col. Bainbrigge informed me that some workmen, in digging for a foundation of a wall in his meadow, discovered a stone celt, buried about two feet below the surface. The spot where it was found was the original water drain of the valley, and was at the junction of St Peter Port and St Andrew’s parishes. The stone of demarcation of the parishes was also found on the spot.  There is a square hole in his wall, over the place where the celt lay. It is of chert and of Scandinavian type. Col. B gave it to me.

10 Sept 1853. Two bronze daggers were found by the sappers when at work at Corbletz in the Island of Alderney. Lt Gordon, RE, obtained them and presented me with one. No 2 he took to England. [Illus.]

Le Sieur de Garis was breaking up a furze field at St Saviour’s near the house on which there was the stone sculptured with the figure of a pelican (now inserted in the front of a cottage (sic? Le Vallon Cottage EJC) and he discovered a celt of darkish blue colour.

Feb. 26 1854. John Wilcox, a quarryman living on De Lancy Hill, showed us the spot where he had found a flint nodule[s] with a broad hole in it, in which several silver and one gold coin were lodged. F C Lukis bought it. It was It was 11¾ inches in circumference 1¾ hole in diameter. Natural form of flint sponge. The hole bore marks of friction as if from long use and in it was found a hard mass of clay, which being cleared out with a knife contained in the bottom of the hole, gold coin of Ed I, one silver piece of David, king of Scotland, Edw. ville. 8 silver pennies of Edward I. Ebor. et London. civitas.

March 1 1854. 5 Gaulish coins (Channel Island type) were brought to me by Edgar MacCulloch who bought them at Finks’ shop, where they had been purchased from a young man who had found them in the island. 4½ francs was paid for them. They consist of 3 full-size and two small Gaulish coins.

1855. I found a celt of granular porphyry in a field by the Mont Durant House near the Vallon. 24 Nov:

Kist-vaen on the Mielles [Illus.] Sept 2 1843. [Herm, see my MSS book.]

Le Sieur Eléazar de la Rue du Crocq told me that there was a celt of yellow stone in the house formerly inhabited by his father and family at the Crocq. The celt he himself possessed he found in Vazon while cutting Gorban. At the Crocq there was a pavement of rude stones and a menhir which his father destroyed. At the base of this were several long stones places side by side; the was a hollow space beneath, as they often passed their hand under. At a short distance from this spot they found an earthenware vessel filled with bones, which they re-interred beneath the ground, so that their plough would not touch it.

Examined the Hougue called Le Courtil de la Baugre, where several flat stones lay in two rows. Pottery appeared near the surface ant at ‘X,’ [Illus.] near the south side, a spear head or flint was picked up. At ‘ɸ’ was a portion of stone celt. Bits of several tulip urns, like those from the Trepied, were also found dispersed, showing a great destruction of this structure. A round clay bead had been picked up by de la Rue. Some mullers were also found.

¹Sebire, H, From Antiquary &c, 2007 (see below), pp. 118-119, quoting F C Lukis (Coll. Ant. V, Candie Museum, Guernsey.) Chapter Five of Antiquary is concerned with his collection of material.

² Peat beds.

For information about the Lukis family and their careers as archaeologists, see Sebire, H, From antiquary to archaeologist: Frederick Corbin Lukis of Guernsey, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle, 2007, and other material in the Library collection (see esp. Sebire's bibliography), and F C Lukis' (1788-1871) important MS in the Priaulx Library: Reminiscences of former days, in connection with Guernsey