by John Wright
At the 1999 BSD Congress, held at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester, I had been fascinated by a talk given by a Society member from Mold, in North Wales, J. P. Taylor. I’d subsequently contacted Peter by ‘phone and a noon meeting at the car park of Beeston Castle, in Cheshire, was the outcome. We talked dowsing at great length as we crossed and re‑crossed the steeply sloping site. We talked so much that we missed lunch entirely.
Beeston Hill, standing 300′ above the Cheshire Plain, spans several historical phases. Long before the Romans came, an Iron Age Fort occupied the sloping hill top. A Joker in the Pack for dowsers are the 17th and 18th Century sand workings beneath the southern outer bailey wall. There are a number of large caverns built beneath the curtain wall, not dissimilar to the situation at Guildford Castle, in Surrey.
On a previous visit, Peter had joined the Dowsing Research Group on one of their “away-day” weekends. Apparently, the purpose of that earlier meet was to seek out King Richard’s Royal Treasury. It was, in part, the loss of the treasury which led to King Richard II being found guilty of treason, and an agonising death by starvation at Pontefract Castle.
As we quartered the outer bailey, en route to the inner bailey beyond a deep dry moat on the hill‑top height, we had our rods permanently in search mode. Peter favoured angle rods whilst my site preference is for the forked rod. To the left of the outer bailey gate, i.e., not the present 19th Century gate‑house beside the public road, the start of a tunnel was located. This tunnel follows a course to the south‑east, beneath the outer bailey curtain wall to a termination in the public, fenced‑off, picnic site. A second below‑ground structure was indicated a short distance west of the gate‑house, adjacent to where stone had at some stage been quarried. This feature is about 10 metres long by 2m. high and approx.1m. wide and followed a line going north‑east. In the north‑east corner, a 19th century drain showed, taking sewage from Castle Gate Farm, lying east of the public road.
Moving higher, the presence of a very wet area in a hollow confirmed the site of the original outer bailey water source, a spring‑fed supply from a deep primary source. The water still present is now no more than drainage, the spring pressure having long since been exhausted.
Between the inner and outer baileys there is a tunnel. The start is sited adjacent to the inner bailey well, progresses via a steep flight of steps beneath the dry moat and is picked up in the higher reaches of the outer bailey. The well is reputed to be 300′ deep; no structures were detected built into the sides of the well shaft. A second inner bailey tunnel was dowsed, with its start to the left of the inner bailey gatehouse. It follows a zigzag course down the steep hillside to end close to Castle Farm to the immediate west. A small number of waste water drains were highlighted on both baileys.
Then came the search for the King’s Treasury. A small number of sites indicated precious metal but, by dowsing forward through time from the 14th Century, just one firm signal remained. The site appears as solid sandstone but is within another structure and some 4′ deep. We were both in agreement that we had found the last resting place of the King’s Treasure.
The actual site shows little other than being the apparently natural stone floor of an ashlar constructed building and is close to an inside projection from the building’s inner wall. This projection, when built, would have shielded the actual “safe” entrance to a significant degree. The “safe”is dowsed at 4′ deep, is some 12” in diameter and has the closure taking the form of a stone plug.
Dowsing the location was not difficult. The problem comes when we consider how our findings might be confirmed. Beeston Castle is listed and with all those problems associated with digging/excavation on such sites. My own contacts with archaeologists over the years has left me in no doubt that no co‑operation might be expected from that quarter. Practically, cleaning of the building’s floor would be the first requirement; the plug, if present, would, optimistically, then be apparent. Metal detectors would not help, and I do not think that magnetometer readings would assist. Any ideas?
As a result of that visit, when dowsing on medieval sites, be they monastic sites or castle ruins, dowsing for a “safe” now forms part of my programme.
John Wright is a member of the East Midlands Group of the BSD and has a lot of experience of dowsing in the area of our meeting this coming May.
© 2002 John Wright & BSD EEG