Julian's Bower
Turf Cut Maze - Age Uncertain
Alkborough, North Lincolnshire  OS Map Ref SE879217
OS Maps - Landranger 112 (Scunthorpe & Gainsborough), Explorer 281 (Ancholme Valley)


Julian's Bower - Alkborough Julian's Bower after the recutting of 2007
A fine example of a turf-cut maze (sometimes known as a miz-maze), Julian's Bower stands on a hillside overlooking the confluence of the River Ouse and River Trent, with an earthwork known as Countess Close above it.  No-one knows who originally cut this 12 metre maze (technically a Labyrinth - as it has a single entrance and path), or when, but it is only first recorded in 1697 by Abraham de la Pryme. Several theories exist, and you may take your pick from the following:-

The idea of the maze comes from the legend of Theseus and the Minotaur. Theseus, son of King Aegeus of Athens used a ball of wool given to him by Ariadne to mark his way through the labyrinth of the Minotaur in Crete, slayed the monster and retraced his steps with the aid of the thread and so to safety. 

History also tells us that Julius, the son of Aeneas (a Trojan warrior who appears in Homer's Iliad and Virgil's Aeneid) brought the idea of turf-cut mazes to Italy from Troy after it was destroyed by the Greeks.

Another theory is that the maze was carved by a small cell of monks who lived in this area until the 13th century. 
The early Christian church did indeed use the idea of mazes as symbolic of the path to heaven, and also as a penitential device. Interestingly, the nearby Alkborough church has a copy of the maze inlaid into the porch floor, and this is used as a template for the periodic re-cutting of the turf. There is also a copy in the east window, while a short distance away in the cemetery a stone cross marks the grave of J. Goulton-Constable which also bears a copy of the maze.

Another story relates that St. Julian the Hospitaller, who set up a hostelry after accidentally killing his parents was one night visited by a leper. As there were no spare beds, he offered his own to he traveler, who then turned into an angel.

Whatever the origins of the maze, it has played an important part in the lives of the locals, and games are known to have been played here on May Eve until well into the 19th century.


Google satellite view of Julian's Bower (zoom and pan)
Plan of Julian's Bower
Plan of Julian's Bower

Copy of Julian's Bower in the church porch
Copy of the maze on the floor of the church porch

Julian's Bower on a cross in the cemetey
Another copy of the maze on a cross in the cemetery

Back to Map | Home | Full Glossary | Links | Email: chriscollyer@stone-circles.org.uk