TC Lethbridge – Project to Uncover Ancient Hill Figures on Wandlebury Hill, Cambridgeshire

Gogmagog Hill figure
What’s the best thing you can do with £100?

I think I’ve said this before, If you spend too much time in a state of mind which prevents normal perception, behaviour, or social interaction you might end up working with music. Living life in a completely deluded state, generating massive debt for no apparent reason can prove to be a nonsense.

Sometimes I do things for money. Sometimes I do things for free, and sometimes I do things I don’t really understand. As the Cheshire Cat says “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” I like to take my nonsense seriously.

You can be sitting around, staring into space, wondering if you will ever work again, and the phone rings. 24 hours later you can be driving a group of musicians you’ve never met, whose music you’ve never heard, around Europe on tour…for money you might never get paid. And everyone can be looking to you, hoping you will show them the way and keep them safe.

In other times, the opposite can happen. In March, I was in Belgium with Samantha Fish. I was lying on the floor of a hotel room, wondering what I was doing with my life, and the phone rang, it was 3am. Trump had just been on TV announcing a travel ban to the USA from Europe and I was thinking I should go to bed and hide from it all. I had the group’s Manager on the phone. He was telling me he was buying plane tickets for everyone to come home. I woke up to breakfast, and news that the Government in Netherlands had just banned all shows over 100 people. The hammer of Kybosh had smashed everything. The shows were all selling out, everyone was having fun. But now it was time to pack up and go home. My hopes, and dreams for the tour were over, and the staff in the hotel restaurant were trying to take the coffee away too. We checked out of the hotel and I drove the band to the airport. A few hours more and I was driving a van back to the UK with all the hired backline and unsold merch. The band were on a flight back to the USA. It was all over. No discussion.

Ancient Hill Figures, Wandlebury Hill, Cambridge

I was sat outside earlier today, trying to mind my own business. I needed time to collect my thoughts. I had just dealt with a speeding ticket from the French Police for one of the touring vehicles heading to La Cigale, Paris on March 10th. I’m always wary of any parking ticket or speeding fine. It’s usually an omen and the next thing to happen is usually beyond my control. I was determined to be ready. I gave up coffee a few weeks ago and then thought, if I’m stuck inside I might as well enjoy myself. So I made a cup of coffee and went to sit in the sunshine to consider my possible roles and responsibilities in the world. I was thinking perhaps I should volunteer, or try and make a positive contribution to balance off the speeding ticket. We are living in unprecedented times. But what contribution? Where? For who? Why? …and would anybody care anyway? And then the phone rang.

It was Flinton Chalk, the man who sold the car to Bill and Jimmy of the KLF, the man who drove Julian Cope around and worked to make The Modern Antiquarian happen. The man who told me about the equinox at Mothers Jam, on Fyfield Down, and the stones glowing red from the inside, and the sound of a giant black dog panting that caused Flinton and Julian to run in terror. Flinton is a founder member of the band TC Lethbridge, and of course someone who is an artist and lunatic in his own right. Flinton reasearched and presented his findings on 111hz and archeoacoustics. John Murry, an American singer, songwriter and composer who I have worked with in recent times, has used some of the recordings made by Flinton on his new album out later this year. But that’s a whole other story.

The last time I had a long, serious chat with Flinton he was selling Picasso’s out of a temporary structure in Berkeley Square to business types. Flinton’s pitch was: a Picasso would be a better investment than anything from the Bentley garage on the other side of the Square, and cheaper. Flinton is a dangerous optimist. The world needs more people like Flinton.

Flinton Chalk of TC Lethbridge on Fyfield Down, Wiltshire

Flinton used to work at the Henge shop at Avebury. This picture above shows him on Fyfield Down. I used to drive through Avebury every time I drove myself to and from University back around the start of the Nineties. It’s a miracle I never ran Flinton down. His band used to rehearse at Avebury. He knows everything there is to know about everything as far as Stone Circles in the UK are concerned. Flinton also used to dress up as a transvestite pirate nun, but always remember, he’s a used car salesman. So our conversations can go in any direction. And it’s difficult to get Flinton off the phone until the answer is “Yes.”

Flinton’s band TC Lethbridge took their name from Thomas Charles Lethbridge (23 March 1901 – 30 September 1971), better known as T. C. Lethbridge, who was an English archaeologist, parapsychologist, and explorer.

TC Lethbridge was a specialist in Anglo-Saxon archaeology, he served as honorary Keeper of Anglo-Saxon Antiquities at the Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology from 1923 to 1957, and over the course of his lifetime wrote twenty-four books on various subjects, becoming particularly well known for his advocacy of dowsing.

Born in Somerset to a wealthy family, Lethbridge was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, during the course of which he attended an expedition to Jan Mayen island, becoming part of the first group to successfully climb the Beerenberg. After a failed second expedition to the Arctic Circle, he became involved in archaeology. In his capacity as Keeper of Anglo-Saxon Antiquities at the Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Lethbridge carried out excavations at various sites around Britain.

But this is where it gets interesting.

TC Lethbridge’s claims regarding the existence of ancient hill figures on Wandlebury Hill in Cambridgeshire caused significant controversy within the archaeological community, with most archaeologists believing that Lethbridge had erroneously misidentified a natural feature. Lethbridge’s methodology and theories were widely deemed unorthodox, and in turn he became increasingly critical of the archaeological profession.

Wandlebury Hill Figure, Cambridge

Flinton wanted to talk to me about TC Lethbridge, and the existence of ancient hill figures on Wandlebury Hill. The area has been described as a neolithic ritual landscape. He was planning to uncover the hill figures, he had assembled a project plan, and he needed my help.

You may wonder how I specialise in uncovering ancient hill figures, or why Flinton would call Iron Man Records about such a matter? It’s actually simple.

Thomas Charles Lethbridge was born on 23 March 1901 and passed away around midday on 30th September 1971. I was born around 4pm on 30th September 1971. One day in London, a few years ago, I was with Flinton and John Higgs, the man who had just written a book called “The KLF: Chaos, Magic and the Band who Burned a Million Pounds.” We had returned to my car after a long discussion about releasing the back catalogue of TC Lethbridge on Iron Man Records, and I had a parking ticket. I was mad as hell. Flinton asked me if I wanted to meet up the following weekend to celebrate the passing of TC Lethbridge. Of course I said no. I had other plans, and I had just got a parking ticket. Flinton asked me “What other plans? I had to admit it was my Birthday, and celebrating someone else’s death on my Birthday didn’t sound like a great idea. Flinton didn’t see it that way at all. And to this day, I’ve had to tell Flinton many times, “I am not the reincarnation of TC Lethbridge.” Flinton won’t take no for an answer.

Back to the phone call, Flinton continued, he said that if I was willing to put £100 down, he would put another £100 down, and then he would phone John Higgs and ask him if he would also put £100 down. Apparently Flinton needed £300 for an invertebrate specialist/ecologist to carry out an initial assessment of the likely ecological impact of re-revealing the chalk on Wandlebury Hill and potential trampling in the vicinity.

This would enable trustees at Cambridge Past, Present & Future – Wandlebury Country Park to at least decide if they would be happy for Flinton’s proposal to “Uncover the Ancient Hill Figures” to move to the next stage. As with any of these types, the Chief Executive at Cambridge Past, Present & Future had told Flinton

“I need to make clear that even if the report is positive from your perspective that is not any guarantee that they (the Trustees) may wish to proceed. Neither would it guarantee that statutory agencies or funders would not require more detailed surveys at a later point in the project. However without it I think we are stuck.

Please could you let me know if you would like to proceed? I would need to have the £300 in the bank before I can commission the survey.

The survey would need to be conducted in late spring/summer so the sooner we know the better.”

Flinton asked me how we could find a way to proceed? I took a moment to think. I told him it was simple, “Tell John Higgs that if he doesn’t put £100 down, it will all be his fault if this doesn’t go any further. But if John puts £100 on the table, Iron Man Records will do the same.” I wanted to be clear, if Flinton didn’t make John Higgs pay £100, I wasn’t going to go any further. Artists are supposed to struggle, that’s how they produce their best work. And Authors in my view, should be treated the same. I wanted to make John Higgs pay Flinton the money. He got me into this mess in the first place.

Flinton got off the phone and within minutes an email came through. It was to Flinton from John Higgs. Flinton had told me how busy John was. He wasn’t sure he should disturb John with requests for money at a time like this. John was in the middle of writing the final, and most important, chapter of his new book on the life and works of William Blake. Anyone who has ever had a lot of work to do will tell you how you always end up agreeing to, and doing, all sorts of stupid things when you have a huge body of work hanging over you. Anything that provides a bit of diversion is always more appealing than the work you should actually be focussing on. If anyone was going pick a good time to ask John Higgs for money, now was the time. Of course John was going to say yes, he was in the middle of the toughest part of his new William Blake book.

I hate being right, things usually happen. This time was no exception. John wrote back to Flinton saying “Fuck it, go on then, if Mark’s in then I am. Gog & Magog are needed. Send me your bank details and I’ll zap you over a hundred quid. Yer bastard. Big love!”

And so it began. This might sound like nonsense, but nonsense is what I specialise in. “Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality” – The Cheshire Cat, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. There’s work to do, and it’s also the apocalypse. What better time to try and uncover Gog & Magog on Wandlebury Hill? Here’s a lecture from Hugh Newman that gives an overview of what Flinton is taking about.

In case you were wondering Wandlebury Hill (grid reference TL493534) is a peak in the Gog Magog Hills, a ridge of low chalk hills extending for several miles to the southeast of Cambridge, England. The underlying rock is present in a number of places on the hill. At 74 metres (243 ft) it is the same height as the nearby Little Trees Hill, although the latter is a more notable landmark.

The top stands in Wandlebury Country Park, a nature reserve owned by Cambridge Past Present and Future, formerly known as the Cambridge Preservation Society. Wandlebury was already inhabited in the Bronze Age and 2500 years ago there was an Iron Age hill fort here known as Wandlebury Ring. This hill fort once had concentric ditches and earthen walls which were kept in place by wooden palisades. Although the fort has vanished, the ditch (the Ring) dug around the edge can clearly be seen and walked along, being 5 metres deep in places and offering an adventurous route along its edge. There is no evidence that it was ever used in defence.

The reserve, mainly beech woodlands and fields, is a place for birdwatching. Banyard bird hide, overlooking Varley’s Field, was completed in February 2012. Like Little Trees Hill, the summit is on public land and is accessible when sheep or Highland cattle are not in the field. Dogs must be on a lead everywhere in Wandlebury Country Park. It can be reached by walking across the field from post 3 of the nature trail. Virtually no climb is involved in the ascent, just a stroll through woodland.

Archaeoastronomy: A number of hypotheses have been made about “The Wandlebury Enigma,” the purpose, function and decoration of Wandlebury Hill.

The first is the suggestion that an Ancient Hill Figure had once been carved into the side of Wandlebury Hill, similar to the Cerne Abbas Giant. This was thought to have been overgrown or effaced in the 18th century. The figure was first recorded by Bishop Joseph Hall in 1605 and later by others including William Cole and John Layer. Investigation was carried out in 1954 by T. C. Lethbridge, an archaeologist and parapsychologist. He found small lumps of chalk to the south of the hill and proceeded to survey the area with a sounding bar, probing areas of soft ground and disturbed chalk. By placing markers he was able to draw out the pattern of what he claimed were 3 hill figures picturing ancient British deities – A horse Goddess (Magog or Epona), a Sun God (Gog, Bel, Belinus or Lucifer) and a warrior figure with sword and shield.

The Times reported on Lethbridge’s discovery as a “previously lost, three thousand-year-old hill-figure”. A later article about Lethbridge’s efforts was written by W.A. Clark in 1997 which did not confirm his claims, nor did magnometer and resistivity meter testing. This suggestion was dismissed by Professor Glyn Daniel who commented that Lethbridge had not found any real antiquities but was “probably confusing geological features”. A report by the Council for British Archaeology concluded that the ‘hollows’ were caused by common geological processes.

Another Wandlebury Enigma dismissed by Glyn Daniel that was featured in a 1978 Sunday Telegraph article is the Line A Loxodrome or Cam Valley Loxodrome, a series of what retired geologist Christian O’Brien considered to be hand-carved stone monolith markers placed 1,430 metres apart between Wandlebury Earthworks and Portingbury Hills Mound at Hatfield Broad Oak, in Hatfield Forest. O’Brien stated that eleven of the original twenty-six stones are still in situ, with several others lying nearby. According to O’Brien local records indicate that at least one was moved due to it impeding modern agriculture.

The names suggested for the stones featured include the Wandlebury Stone, Great Chesterfield Stone, Bordeaux Stone, Wendens Ambow Stone, Shortgrove Monolith, Newport Stone (also known as The Leper Stone), Springfield Stone, and the Priory Stone. The line forms a perfect rhumb line, so that wherever an observer stands on the line between Wandlebury and Portingbury, the North Star is always at the same oblique angle. Based upon this alignment, O’Brien believed that the line’s builders possessed knowledge that the Earth was round, and also of its approximate circumference. O’Brien believed it to have been created in the Bronze Age.

O’Brien was following up a suggestion put forward by Alfred Watkins that the Wandlebury bank had astronomical purposes. According to O’Brien dents point from its exact centre to the North Star, the midsummer sunrise and the lunar summer maximum, he suggested probabilities for this and the markers being in the correct locations by pure chance were in the order of 10 million to one. By factoring in the Earth’s drift, O’Brien placed the date of its construction around 2,500 BC. His hypothesis met with mixed comments. Interviewed by the Sunday Telegraph, Glyn Daniel, Professor of Archaeology at Cambridge University dismissed the paper as “nonsense” and could find nothing in it to revise the documented view of Wandlebury. Archie Roy, Professor of Astronomy at Glasgow University commented that “in the absence of a more convincing explanation, this conclusion also has to be taken very seriously.” Alexander Thom stated that he believed it to be only an Iron Age Hill Fort.

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“Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?

The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.

Alice: I don’t much care where.

The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.”

– Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Sometimes I do things I don’t fully understand. I sent Flinton my £100 to start the process.

I’m pleased to announce that Iron Man Records is taking on Flinton’s project to “Uncover The Ancient Hill Figures On Wandlebury Hill.” I hope that in the process of working in the ritual landscape of Wandlebury Hill, new material may be brought to light. And in addition some new TC Lethbridge T-shirts and artworks, a Vinyl release of TC Lethbridge – 2000TC and another run of the books: TC Lethbridge – 2000 TC Standing on the verge of getting it on by John Higgs.

Some questions may never be answered, but what we need at a time like this is optimism.

If you share this view, and have the resources to do so, please consider giving your support to Flinton’s project to “Uncover the Ancient hill figures on Wandlebury Hill” in Cambridgeshire by becoming an Iron Man Records Patron. It costs less than £1 a month and your support can help make this project happen faster. All funds generated will go directly into this project.