Labyrinth

Saffron Walden Maze

The Saffron Walden maze is the largest of the eight historic turf labyrinths still in existence in England. Although probably created in the Middle Ages for religious purposes, the maze has more recently been used for games and festivities.
Founded: Probably medieval | Location: Saffron Walden, United Kingdom

St Catherine's Mizmaze

One of eight historic turf labyrinths remaining in England. St Catherine"s mizmaze was built, possibly in the 17th century, on the edge of an Iron Age rampart and near the site of a Norman chapel destroyed in 1537.
Founded: Possibly 17th century | Location: Winchester, United Kingdom

Julian's Bower

Julian's Bower is one of England's eight remaining turf labyrinths. It is thought to date from the 12th century, although its origins may be earlier. The original purpose may well have been religious, for devotional or penitential purposes.
Founded: Medieval | Location: North Lincolnshire, United Kingdom

Hilton maze

Unlike most historic English turf labyrinths, the Hilton maze was not cut in medieval times, but in the 17th century. It was created to celebrate the restoration of the English monarchy and a return to more carefree times. (Oliver Cromwell had banned the playing of maze games.)
Founded: 17th century | Location: Huntingdon, United Kingdom

Trojaborg, Visby

The island of Gotland has many stone labyrinths, but the most famous is Trojaborg in Visby. It may have its origins in a pagan cult, but in more recent times it has been used for games and festivities.
Founded: Medieval or earlier | Location: Innerstaden, Sweden

Wing Maze

One of eight remaining historic turf labyrinths in England, the Wing maze was probably built by medieval monks for religious purposes.
Founded: Medieval | Location: Wing, United Kingdom

Breamore Mizmaze

The Breamore mizmaze is one of eight remaining ancient turf labyrinths in England. The first record of the mizmaze is in 1783, but it is thought to be much older than that. It is of a circular design, a labyrinth cut into quarters by a Christian cross.
Founded: Medieval | Location: Hampshire, United Kingdom

City of Troy Maze, Dalby

City of Troy, in Dalby, North Yorkshire is one of eight historic turf labyrinths still remaining in England. It may date back to the Middle Ages, or earlier, being influenced by Viking mazes of similar design. Or it might have been cut in the 19th century.
Founded: Probably medieval | Location: North Yorkshire, United Kingdom

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Broch of Gurness

The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.

The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick. The tower was likely inhabited by the principal family or clan of the area but also served as a last resort for the village in case of an attack.

The broch continued to be inhabited while it began to collapse and the original structures were altered. The cistern was filled in and the interior was repartitioned. The ruin visible today reflects this secondary phase of the broch's use.

The site is surrounded by three ditches cut out of the rock with stone ramparts, encircling an area of around 45 metres diameter. The remains of numerous small stone dwellings with small yards and sheds can be found between the inner ditch and the tower. These were built after the tower, but were a part of the settlement's initial conception. A 'main street' connects the outer entrance to the broch. The settlement is the best-preserved of all broch villages.

Pieces of a Roman amphora dating to before 60 AD were found here, lending weight to the record that a 'King of Orkney' submitted to Emperor Claudius at Colchester in 43 AD.

At some point after 100 AD the broch was abandoned and the ditches filled in. It is thought that settlement at the broch continued into the 5th century AD, the period known as Pictish times. By that time the broch was not used anymore and some of its stones were reused to build smaller dwellings on top of the earlier buildings. Until about the 8th century, the site was just a single farmstead.

In the 9th century, a Norse woman was buried at the site in a stone-lined grave with two bronze brooches and a sickle and knife made from iron. Other finds suggest that Norse men were buried here too.