The Rod of Asclepius

Roman relief of Aesculpius embedded in the south wall of the Church of St Giles, Tockenham

Several miles further north of Clyffe Pypard (and at the end of our journey in this direction) lies the Church of St Giles at Tockenham. Writing on her blog, Northstoke - Thelma Wilcox says -

"This church is not of notable interest, but the reused Roman statue embedded in the wall probably came from the Roman villa nearby.

""Roman tesserae, tile fragments and pottery sherds were found at Tockenham and a possible villa was suggested. The site has been subject to investigation by the Time Team in 1994 and was confirmed as being a villa with associated structures, probably dating from the 2nd to 4th centuries. Finds from the excavations have included pottery, tesserae, window glass fragments and roofing tile. Scheduled." Taken from Pastscape Monument No.887838.

""The Rod of Asclepius symbolizes the healing arts by combining the serpent, which in shedding its skin is a symbol of rebirth and fertility with the staff, a symbol of authority, befitting the god of Medicine. The snake wrapped around the staff is widely claimed to be a species of rat snake, Elaphe longissima, also known as the Aesculapian (Asclepian) snake. It is native to south-eastern Europe, Asia Minor and some central European spa regions, apparently brought there by Romans for their healing properties." Taken from Wikipedia.

"The snake wrapped round Aesculpius's rod is a single snake and not to be confused with Mercury's double snakes.

"There are also wooden posts embedded in the south wall of the church - Pevesner says, that inside, the bell-turrets stand on old posts, and that they are flanked by new timber-framed work."

Accommodation: The Goddard Arms

Clyffe Pypard

This entry on accommodation in the Avebury area is something of a personal one and in memory of Lesley, the former landlady of the Goddard Arms at Clyffe Pypard. Lesley has now sadly passed away but, along with her husband Terry, she ran the Goddard Arms for many years before they both moved to Cornwall.

Lesley, Terry, the Swindon artist Ken White* Jan, Mike, Ted, Ray (now Gilbert) O'Sullivan and myself were friends and fellow students at Swindon School of Art in the mid 1960s. During their time at the Goddard Arms Lesley and Terry created not only one of the friendliest pubs in Wiltshire but also encouraged artists and musicians from all over the country to exhibit and perform there. Lesley and Terry also created one of the first places in the area to offer authentic Thai cuisine and their Thai evenings and 'lock-ins' became legendary.

The Goddard Arms at Clyffe Pypard is one of the few places in the Avebury area offering hostel accommodation. Though not really within walking distance of Avebury it is only a short journey there by car or bicycle. More information here -

* Ken's website is here - Perhaps one of his best-known works is of a World War II pinup, arm outstretched and about to drop a handkerchief bearing the colours of British Airways. The image can be seen on the nose of Virgin Atlantic aircraft - Ken is also well-known for his murals, as well as his paintings depicting Swindon's links with the Great Western Railway.

Avebury: its lesser-know features. John Aubrey and Nikolaus Pevsner at Clyffe Pypard

The slate headstone of Nikolaus Pevsner and his wife Lola at the Church of St Peter, Clyffe Pypard

A couple of miles down the lane from Winterbourne Bassett lies the little hamlet of Clyffe Pypard.* John Aubrey (1626-1697) visited Clyffe Pypard in, or around, 1660 - some twelve years after his visit to Avebury where he records being, "...wonderfully surprised at the site of these vast stones, of which I had never heard before, as also the mighty bank and graffe (grass) about it." At Clyffe Pypard he describes the Church of St Peter as, "Here is a handsome Church, and have been very good windowes."

While the tower, nave, aisles and porch of the Church of St Peter were built in the 15th century there remains some 14th century stonework in the south porch. Further study may show that the Norman church was built on the foundations of an earlier Saxon one and, as at other Christianised sites, the Saxon church may have been built on a pre-Christian structure. Six of the buttresses have sarsen stones under them, only one of which has been cut to the shape of the buttress. The other five sarsens, one of which is very large, are left protruding as they do under the buttresses of the Church of St James, Avebury; the Church of St Katherine and St Peter, Winterbourne Bassett and the Church of St John the Baptist, Pewsey.**

The Church of St Peter is situated at the bottom of a steep escarpment and is set in a well-cared for graveyard surrounded by trees. There is a distinct air of a 'grove' about the place which is reminiscent of the grove, and its disordered sarsens, by the river close to Pewsey Church. The leafy and sarsen-paved footpath that leads east past the church comes out on a secluded meadow with a magnificent tree at its centre. Nearby is a stream and lake. Nikolaus Pevsner, art and architectural historian and author of The Buildings of England, is buried with his wife at a place between the lake and the church - their grave is marked by a headstone of slate.

About a mile from Clyffe Pypard, towards Broad Town and close to Little Town Farmhouse, is the cottage which Pevsner used as a country retreat. The cottage was formerly the home of the poet and literary critic Geoffrey Grigson, whose friends included Paul Nash and John Piper. Nash and Piper between them produced numerous paintings of Avebury, West Kennet Long Barrow, Stonehenge and other megalithic structures.***
* The 'Clyffe' of Clyffe Pypard refers to the adjacent escarpment. 'Pypard' refers to Richard Pypard who was Lord of the Manor in 1231.
Geoffrey Grigson's 1960s guide to touring the countryside (The Shell Country Alphabet) has been republished. For a review see -