Sacred Rock: OS Grid Reference – SD 944 880
From the small town of Bainbridge, head south down the Carpley Green Road. Less than a mile before the end, look to the west-facing slope of Addlebrough Hill and this huge Devil’s Stone can be seen resting halfway up the slope.
Archaeology & History
One of the legends of this place suggested there might be cup-and-ring markings on the stone, but the curious markings on top of the rock seem to be natural. It’s a superb stone though, dropped here no doubt by some great glacier as it retreated north, in ages truly olde…
There’s a lot of archaeology round here that aint in the books. We’ve come across some intriguing stuff of late, which you’ll read about soon enough.
One legend tells that long ago Addlebrough was the home of a great unnamed giant — but a friendly giant by all acounts. However, one day the devil turned up and wanted possession of the giant’s hill and so a fierce row broke out between them. Perched on the top of the crag — which is the rough ridge to the west of here — the giant who lived here hurled huge boulders down at the devil, but they fell short and landed at the side of Lake Semerwater (itself an important spot in local prehistory). In return, Old Nick himself began throwing boulders back — and one of those which the devil threw landed here, halfway up the western flank of Addlebrough Hill (a couple of the large granite boulders which the giant threw can be seen on the edge of Semerwater and are known as the Carlow and Mermaid stones). Hence it’s name of the Devil’s Stone!
In Edmund Bogg’s Richmondshire (1908), he told how, “the curious markings on (the Devil’s Stone) are accounted due to the pressure of the devil’s fingers” which were caused when he threw this giant stone from somewhere to here.
This is a theme we find at countless other stone sites, i.e. the Devil burning holes into rock — and in some cases these devil’s “fingerprints” have turned out to be prehistoric cup-markings. Such tales relate to the pre-christian Creation Myth of a place and would, before the “devil” was supplanted onto a site, have had wider significance in the landscape as a whole, in a manner known to the local people. Devils usually replaced legendary giants, or hero-figures, who created the land in primordial times according to the myths of our ancient ancestors. A greater examination of the nearby sites in association with the folklore of the region would no doubt be quite profitable…
Bogg, Edmund, Richmondshire, James Miles: Leeds 1908.
© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian