Standing Stone: OS Grid Reference – SE 1991 4932
From Otley go north straight over the river and upwards into the countryside for nearly two miles (past the TV mast on the right). As you reach near the top of the hill, there’s a turn to your right. Go on here for a hundred yards or so, then walk along the footpath to your right. After a few hundred yards, keep your eyes out for the stone just through the gate, in the walling on your left.
Archaeology & History
Although we see named on the 1853 Ordnance Survey map the respective place-names of Bride Cross House and Bride Cross Allotment, the first literary reference to any site here as a standing stone appears to be Eric Cowling (1946) who, when commenting on the pagan tradition and folklore of ancient sites, told that
“The name of Bride Cross Farm, Dob Park, is very significant, for at the meeting place of several tracks to the south-east is a squat standing stone built into a wall and marked as a boundary stone, which was probably Brides Cross.”
Although I’d read about this place as a kid, it was Graeme Chappell who first brought me here some twenty years back, in one of our many exploratory forays into the prehistory of this area. It’s a nice fat squat standing stone, similar in stature to the more famous Bull Stone near Otley Chevin, a few miles to the south — though our Bride Stone here is about half as high. Only about three-feet tall, it stands by the gate at the wall-side about 200 yards down the footpath from the Dob Park Lodge road and does seems to have been used as a boundary marker, as the letters “F.F.” are carved deeply on top of the upright (possibly denoting the Fawkes family of Farnley).
Cowling’s assertion that this old stone accounts for the ‘Bride Cross’ place-name is probably right, as the site is roughly midway between the respective place-names of the House and Allotment. There is an old field-name of Crosse Close in the vicinity, from 1692, but I haven’t located it. If such a cross ever existed nearby (most likely, it’s gotta be said), it’s obviously the relic which left the place-names — though the standing stone was certainly here first! As yet, we’ve found no references to this place before 1853…which can’t be right…
Seems to be a petrification legend in here somewhere. Although the short tale doesn’t say as much, it is supposed to have got its name through “the murder of a bride, rejected by a suitor, on her return from a wedding.” Indeed, I’d go so far as to say ‘fertility’ as well!
Eric Cowling (1946) really stuck his neck out and reckoned sacrifices occurred here in the not too distant past. This may relate to the nearby Haddock Stones, a few hundred yards south, thought to derive its name from a cairn and ‘altar stones.’
Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
Cowling, E.T., Rombald’s Way, William Walker: Otley 1946.
Phillips, Guy Ragland, Brigantia — A Mysteriography, RKP: London 1976.
Smith, A.H., The Place-Names of the West Riding of Yorkshire – volume 5, Cambridge University Press 1961.
© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian