- Turf maze
Historically, a turf maze is a
labyrinthmade by cutting a convoluted path into a level area of short grass, turf or lawn. Some had names such as Mizmaze, Troy Town, The Walls of Troy, Julian's Bower, or Shepherd's Race (see #Maze names, below). This is the type of maze referred to by William Shakespearein " A Midsummer Night's Dream" (Act 2, Scene 2) when Titania says :"The nine men's morris is fill'd up with mud;" :"and the quaint mazes in the wanton green," :"for lack of tread are undistinguishable."
As a group they were (and still are) commonly known as "mazes", although the terms "maze" and "labyrinth" are no longer considered interchangeable. Unlike a
maze, which is an entertaining puzzlewith many dead ends, a labyrinth is unicursal: it consists of one path which twists and turns but leads inevitably to the centre. In some turf labyrinths, the groove cut in the turf is the path to be walked (sometimes marked with bricks or gravel); more commonly the turf itself forms the raised path which is marked out by shallow channels excavated between its twists and turns.
Most British examples are based on one of two layouts: the Classical or the later, more complex
Medievaltype which is derived from it.
Origins of the turf maze
The earliest known use of the classical labyrinth pattern in the British Isles is on the
Hollywood Stone, an incised granite boulder from County Wicklow, Ireland, dating from c. 550 AD. There are two small classical labyrinths carved into the stone cliff face at Rocky Valley near Tintagel, Cornwall; various dates have been suggested for them, including the Bronze Age, the early 6th century and the late 17th century. The medieval pattern occurs on a carved wooden roof bossdating from the 15th century at St. Mary Redcliffechurch in Bristol.
Although their patterns are clearly very ancient, there seems to be no reliable way of accurately dating a turf maze, because they have to be re-cut regularly to keep the design clear, which is liable to disturb any archaeological evidence. A maze could pre-date its earliest written record by years or even centuries.
Historically, turf mazes were confined to Northern
Europe, especially England, Germanyand Denmark. Hundreds of similar labyrinths still exist elsewhere in Scandinavia, Lappland, Icelandand the former Soviet Union, but their paths were normally marked out with stones, either on grass or on flat areas of bare rock. Some of these stone labyrinths are very ancient.
A revival of interest in mazes and labyrinths in the late 20th century (fuelled by a growing fascination with
Earth mysteries, as well as Land Artand Garden design), has led to the construction of new turf mazes in the USAas well as Europe; some are very large and may incorporate wild flowersor scented herbs on banks between the paths. Some modern turf mazes follow traditional labyrinth patterns; others are more inventive and incorporate religious, heraldic or other symbols appropriate to their site. They may also include dead ends and alternate pathways, thus qualifying as true mazes. Modern designs often have paved paths to keep their layouts clear and durable.
The purpose of turf mazes
There has been much speculation about why turf mazes were cut and what they were used for. Because many English examples follow the same medieval pattern used for pavement mazes in
cathedrals elsewhere in Europe (most notably Chartres), it is often said they were used by penitents who would follow the paths on hands and knees, but there seems to be no documentary evidence for this. Some turf maze sites were close to religious establishments such as churches or abbeys, but others were not.
Some mazes were on
village greens and were much used for entertainment by children and youths, particularly on "high days and holidays". The maze at Alkborough was used in the early 19th century for May Eve games; at Boughton Green "treading the maze" was part of a three-day fair, held between June 24—26 near the (now-ruined) church of St John the Baptist, to mark the vigilof its patron saint.
Many of the stone labyrinths around the Baltic coast of Sweden were built by fishermen during rough weather and were believed to entrap evil
spirits, the "smågubbar" or " little people" who brought bad luck. The fishermen would walk to the centre of the labyrinth, enticing the spirits to follow them, and then run out and put to sea.
Modern turf mazes have been made for a variety of reasons. Some are private and used to aid
contemplationor meditation, much as a mandalawould be. Others are tourist attractions.
Several English turf mazes were called "Troy", "Troy Town" or "The Walls of Troy". In
Wales, where the patterns were cut into the turf of hilltops by shepherds, they were known as " Caerdroia" (unfortunately, no historic Welsh examples survive). "Caer" means wall, rampart, castle, fort, fortress, fastness or city, and the name has been translated as "City of Troy" (or possibly "castle of turns" ). In popular legend, the walls of the city of Troywere constructed in such a complex way that any enemy who entered them would be unable to find their way out. Other common maze names such as "Julian's Bower" and "St Julian's" (and corrupted versions of these) could be derived from Julius, son of Aeneasof Troy, and the word "burgh", a place-name element which, like "caer", means a fortified place.
The Troy connection is also found in the names of Scandinavian stone-lined mazes of the classical labyrinth pattern: for instance,
Trojaburgnear Visbyon the Swedish island of Gotland. In Denmark, which once had dozens of turf mazes, the name "Trojborg" or "Trelleborg" was commonly used: no historic examples survive but replicas have been made. At Grothornet, in Vartdalin the Sunnmore Province of Norwaythere is a stone-lined labyrinth called "Den Julianske Borg" ("Julian's castle").
Some German turf maze names suggest a link with Sweden: "Schwedenhieb" (Swede's cut), "Schwedenhugel" (Swede's hill), "Schwedenring" (Swede's ring), "Schwedengang" (Swede's path). Popular legend links them with the burial places of Swedish officers during the
Thirty Years' War(1618–48) but they are also widely believed to be much older. At Stolp, in Pomerania, Poland, the "Windelbahn" ("coil-track"), a processional turf labyrinth, was used by the Shoemakers' Guild. The original was destroyed; a copy was made in 1935.
Historic turf mazes
urviving English examples
As noted above, turf mazes are notoriously difficult to date, as they have to be recut periodically to keep the paths clear. Eight supposedly ancient turf mazes survive in England:
Alkborough, North Lincolnshire: "Julian's Bower", "Gillian's Bore" or "Gilling Bore" (mentioned by Abraham de la Prymec. 1700)
Breamore, Hampshire: "Miz-Maze" or "Mizmaze"
North Yorkshire: "City of Troy" at gbmapping|SE625718, described as the smallest turf maze in Europe.
Hilton, Cambridgeshire(cut in 1660)
Saffron Walden, Essex(design with four " bastions"; recut in 1699; path is a narrow groove, marked with bricks in 1911)
* Troy Farm,
Somerton, Oxfordshire: "Troy"
* St Catherine's Hill,
Winchester, Hampshire: "Miz-Maze" or "Mizmaze" (unusual square design; path is a narrow groove)
Wing, Rutland: "The Old Maze"
There are two sites in the
Isles of Scillywhere the paths of several labyrinths have been delineated with stones (as in Scandinavia):
* Camperdizil Point, St Agnes
* St Martin's
Lost British turf mazes
According to W.H. Matthews ("Mazes and Labyrinths", 1922), turf mazes also used to exist at:
Appleby, Lincolnshire"Troy's Walls" (mentioned by Abraham de la Pryme c. 1700)
Asenby, North Yorkshire(extant but "ruinous" in 1908)
Ashwell, Bedfordshire(mentioned by William Stukeleyin 18th century)
Bere Regis, Dorset
*Boughton Green, near
Boughton, Northamptonshire"Shepherd Ring" or "Shepherd's Race" (unusual spiral centre. Extant 1849 but "neglected", destroyed by soldiers digging practise trenches during World War I)
Dover's Hillnear Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire (mentioned by John Aubrey)
*"Maiden Bower" on downs near Dunstable, Bedfordshire
*Comberton, Cambridgeshire (extant 1922, relocation of earlier maze, "The Mazles")
Edenbridge, Kent. Maps mark a "Troy Town" and "Troy Lane" at gbmapping|TQ426477 close to the Surrey/Kent border and about 2 km northwest of Edenbridge.
Egton, North Yorkshire, near Whitby(traces visible in 1872)
*on Hilldown hill, between
Farnhamand Guildford, Surrey"Troy-town"
Goathland, North Yorkshire"July Park" or "St Julian's"
Herefordshire Beaconin the Malvern Hills
Horncastle, Lincolnshire"Julian Bower" (mentioned by Stukeley in 18th century)
Leigh, Dorset(overgrown by 1868; a raised hexagonal earthwork remains)
Louth, Lincolnshire"Gelyan Bower" (mentioned in accounts of 1544)
*Lyddington, Rutland (regarded by Matthews as doubtful)
Holderness, between Marfleetand Paull, East Riding of Yorkshire(near Kingston upon Hull) "The Walls of Troy" ( dodecagonal. Illustrated 1815)
Pimperne, Dorset"Troy-town" (unique design; described by John Aubrey; ploughed up 1730)
*Putney Heath, Surrey
*Ripon, North Yorkshire (unusual spiral centre; ploughed up 1827)
Burgh, Cumbriaand Rockliffe, Cumbria"The Walls of Troy" (extant 1883) and two others (one of them cut in 1815)
*Sneinton, Nottinghamshire "Robin Hood's Race" or "Shepherd's Race" (unusual design with four bastions. Ploughed up February 1797)
Tadmarton Heath, Oxfordshire
*Walmer, Kent a "bower" or "Troy-town"
West Ashton, Wiltshire(mentioned by John Aubrey)
Matthews also mentions several locations where the existence of now-vanished turf mazes may be inferred from place names. In addition he states "They are also recorded as having existed in Wales and Scotland." It has been estimated that there may once have been as many as 80–100 turf mazes in Britain.
Historic turf mazes in Europe
Eilenriede forest, near Hanover, West Germany "Das Rad" ("The Wheel") (processional type, with tree at centre and short-cut to exit; has existed since at least 1642)
Graitschen, near Camburg, Thuringia, East Germany "Schwedenhieb", "Schwedenhugel" or 'Schwedenring"
Steigra, near Querfurt, Saxony-Anhalt, East Germany "Schwedengang", "Schwedenring" or "Trojaburg"
Tibblenear Anundshög, Västerås, Sweden"Trojienborg" (named on map of 1764)
ome modern turf mazes
(Note that not all are open to the public).
Greensboro, Vermont, USA (labyrinth by Sig Lonegren, 1986)
*"Archbishop's Maze" Grey's Court,
Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, England (by Randoll Coateand Adrian Fisher, 1981) (brick paths; a unicursal/multicursal hybrid)
*Chenies Manor House,
Chenies, Buckinghamshire, England (unusual design based on painting of 1573; built by Denys Tweddell, 1983)
*"Earth and Wild Flower Labyrinth", Tapton Park,
Chesterfield, Derbyshire, England (by Jim Buchanan, 1996; largest classical labyrinth in the world?)
Navano, California, USA (labyrinth by Alex Champion, 1987)
Norwich Cathedral, Norwich, Norfolk, England (grass paths marked out with stone; by Jane Sunderland, 2002)
Warrington, Cheshire(gravel paths; made 1985)
*Rose Hill Quarry,
Swansea, Wales (gravel paths; by Bob Shaw, 1987)
Rougham, near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, England (by Clare Higson, 1998)
Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, Florida, USA, (by Adrian Fisher, 1997)
*"Seaton Millennium Labyrinth"
Seaton, Devon, England (2005)
Sharnebrook, Bedfordshire, England (Chartres replica with grass paths marked with stone; by Jeff Saward & Andy Wiggins, 2004)
Alkborough; Caerdroia; Hilton, Cambridgeshire; Labyrinth; Maze
*Adrian Fisher, "The Amazing Book of Mazes" Thames & Hudson, London / Harry N Abrams Inc, New York (2006) ISBN 978-0500512470
*Adrian Fisher, Mazes and Labyrinths Shire Publications, UK (2003) ISBN 978-0747805618
*Jeff Saward, "Magical Paths", Mitchell Beazley (2002) ISBN 1-84000-573-4
*Adrian Fisher & Georg Gerster, "The Art of the Maze", Weidenfeld & Nicolson (1990), ISBN 0-297-83027-9
*Janet & Colin Bord, "Mysterious Britain", Paladin Granada (1974) ISBN 0-586-08157-7
* [http://www.sacred-texts.com/etc/ml/ W.H.Matthews, "Mazes and Labyrinths" (1922)] online version
* [http://www.labyrinthos.net/turflabuk.htm Labyrinthos] Jeff Saward's website
* [http://www.labyrinthsociety.org/ Labyrinth Society]
* [http://www.megalithic.co.uk The Megalithic Portal]
* [http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=5901 The Dalby maze] at the Megalithic Portal
* [http://wwll.veriditas.labyrinthsociety.org Labyrinth Locator (Veriditas & Labyrinth Society)]
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