Cluster Stone, Ilkley Moor, West Yorkshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 13283 45920

Also Known as:

  • Carving no.160 (Hedges)
  • Carving no.325 (Boughey & Vickerman)

Getting Here

Follow the same directions for getting to the Idol Stone, then walk just 30 yards further up the path and it’s the big rock on your left-hand side.  Y’ can’t miss it!

Archaeology & History

Main section of cup-marks

Main section of cup-marks

This nice big boulder can be quite a temperamental chap, depending on how the light plays with the rock surface.  I’ve got some photos of this old stone where you can see next to nowt on it; where as others show clearly aspects of the design that aren’t on the archaeo-images.  But such is the nature of cup-and-rings I s’ppose!

Unlike its rather linear companion a few yards away, this great boulder has the more typical scattering of faded cups, lines and at least one cup-and-ring, etched with seemingly little purpose or structural design.  But as we know, the very notion of structural design in forms consistent to modern mind-sets were anathema to the neolithic people who were etching these patterns on rocks.  Indeed, even the notions of these images as ‘art’ as defined in modern times, has no relationship to the instrinsic reality of either cup-and-rings or reality per se, as experienced by our ancestors.  And I think we find an explicit affirmation of this in the Cluster Stone here.

Close-up of cup-and-ring

Close-up of cup-and-ring

Natural cuts in the rock have been heightened, for whatever reason, so that today the division between Nature’s marks and the mark of humans have become ambiguous as time has worn the features.  The clustering of cup-marks on certain parts of the rock was surely indicative of (what we would term) separate events/forms, whose mythic relationship were, however, intrinscially related.  This may be representative of a landscape map, or a series of events – but each would relate to one and other.  But, of course, we truly don’t know, so think I’d best shut up!

Cluster Stone design (after Hedges 1986)

Cluster Stone design (after Hedges 1986)

The carving itself, as we can see today, has perhaps as many as 40 cup-marks on it (Boughey & Vickerman safely vouch for 26), with five or six lines running across the surface, some of which have been modified by ancient peoples.  The cup-and-ring on the stone is quite distinct.  Neolithic or Bronze Age walling runs just a few yards away from here, but the precise line it takes has not been accurately assessed.

References:

Boughey, Keith & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, West Yorkshire Archaeology Service 2003.
Hedges, John (ed.), The Carved Rocks on Rombald’s Moor, WYMCC: Wakefield 1986.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Little Haystack Rock, Ilkley Moor, West Yorkshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone: OS Grid Reference – SE 13654 45936

Also Known as:

  • Carving no.184 (Hedges)
  • Carving no.355 (Boughey & Vickerman)
  • Haystack 2
The Little Haystack - looking west

The Little Haystack - looking west

Getting Here

Follow the same directions to reach the Pancake Stone.  Then walk eastwards along the footpath on the moorland edge.  After about 400 yards, keep your eye out to your right on the moorland proper where you’ll see this large boulder, seemingly isolated, of similar shape to the Haystack Rock, but a bit smaller.  That’s it! If you end up near the stream (Rushy Beck) you’ve gone way past it.

Archaeology & History

Four of the cups

Four of the cups on this lichen-rich surface

Little Haystack (after Hedges 1986)

Little Haystack (after Hedges 1986)

Found in the middle of the Green Crag Slack Plain, this large Haystack-Rock-shaped boulder stands out.  It sits amidst a cairn-field with other neolithic remains nearby.  The carving itself aint that impressive, and some parts of it seem almost dubious.  But both Hedges, Boughey and Vickerman include it in their surveys, describing the cup-marks and curious lines on its northeastern surface.  It’s nowt special to be honest.  You’d expect a bit more from the size of this old stone; but as those folk who know their rock art well will tell you, size aint everything when it comes the splattering of cups on a rock’s surface. We have four distinct cups pretty close to each other (as the photo shows), with another possible cup-and-ring and accompanying lines nearby.

The stone’s worth looking at though.  It stands out amidst the mass of single- and double-tombs scattered across the moorland plain — sitting amidst a veritable necropolis no less.

References:

Boughey, Keith & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, West Yorkshire Aarchaeology Service 2003.
Hedges, John (ed.), The Carved Rocks on Rombald’s Moor, WYMCC: Wakefield 1986.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Snowden Carr Carving (570), Timble, North Yorkshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 17766 51295

Getting Here

Cup-marked stone no.570

Follow the directions to reach the Snowden Moor settlement and, from the Upper D-shaped enclosure (at SE 1782 5131) walk west up the sloped hillock 30 yards west and, on its top, head to its northern edge where a small cairn can be found.  The carving is next to it.

Archaeology & History

Very close to what seems to be the boundary between the Snowden Moor Settlement and its adjacent Cemetery is this small earthfast rock with three cup-markings on it, two of which may be linked by a small line.  I have to say that we have to be cautious about the veracity of this carving.  By the side of this stone is what seems to be the remains of a cairn.

References:

Boughey, Keith & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, WYAS: Wakefield 2003.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Druid’s Altar, Bordley, North Yorkshire

Cairn Circle:  OS Grid Reference – SD 949 652

Also Known as:

  1. Bordley Circle

Getting Here

Plan of the Druid’s Altar (after Burl, 1988)

From Threshfield, go up Skirethorns Lane for about 1/2 mile, where the lane takes a sharp right. Continue uphill for nearly 2 miles to a metal gate. Go through the gate, where you’ll see a pair of curious standing stones ahead of you, but instead walk about 250 yards along the line of the old field wall running to the west.  You’ll see on the modern OS-map that a ‘cairn’ is shown: this is where you’re heading!

Archaeology & History

This is a lovely site in a beautiful setting, surrounded by a veritable mass of other prehistoric remains at all quarters, including the large settlement of Hammond Close immediately south, the little-known settlement at Kealcup to the west, the Lantern Holes settlement up the hill immediately north, some standing stones due east, and much more.  Although it was described in Aubrey Burl’s Four Posters (1988) as just such a type of megalithic relic (a four-poster stone circle that is), an earlier description of the site from the mighty pen of Harry Speight (1892) told of a much more complete ring of stones, with trilithon to boot. He wrote:

“This prehistoric relic consists of a round stone and earthen mound, about 150 feet in circumference and 3 feet high, and was formerly surrounded by a circle of upright stones, only three of which are now left standing. On one side was a large flat stone resting upon two others, and known as the Druid’s Altar. On the adjoining land an ancient iron spear-head was found some years ago, and fragments of rudely-fashioned pottery have also from time to time turned up in the same neighbourhood.”

Edmund Bogg’s (1904) description following his own visit a few years later described this “remains of Druidical sacrifice” as consisting of,

“a mound some four feet high, and fifty yards round the outer rim. In the centre are two upright stones about four feet in length; and others nearly buried in the mound. Numerous stones from this circle have been used in building the adjoining walls.”

Bordley Circle, looking SE

Bordley Hill, looking south to Pendle Hill

A decade later another writer (Lewis 1914) merely copied what Speight and Bogg had recited previously. And whatever the modern books might tell of its status, I think we can safely assert that this was originally a much more substantial monument than the humble four-poster stone circle that meets our eye nowadays.  Our megalithic magus Aubrey Burl (1988) wrote the following on Bordley’s druidical stones:

“On a circular mound 41ft (12.5m) across and 3ft (1m) high, three stones of local limestone form the corners of a rectangle 11ft 6in (3.5m) square, from which the SW stone is missing.  At its corner is ‘a stump, possibly the base of a prostrate stone,’ 5ft 10in (1.8m) long, now lying near the centre.  The tallest stone, 3ft 7in (1.1m) high is at the south-east.  The sides of the square are close to the cardinal points.  Between the SW and SE stones is a scatter of round cairnstones… Characteristically, the 4-Poster stands at the edge of a terrace from which the lands falls steeply to the west.”

The Druid’s Altar seems to have originally been a large prehistoric tomb, perhaps even a chambered cairn.  Its situation in the landscape where it holds a circle of many outlying hills to attention, almost in the centre of them all, was evidently of some importance.  The only geographical ‘opening’ from here is to the south, where a long open valley widens to capture the grandeur of Pendle Hill, many miles away.  This would not have been insignificant.

We must also draw attention to what may be a secondary tumulus of similar size and form to the mound that the Druid’s Altar sits upon only some 25 yards to the west of the “circle”.  The shape and form of this second mound is similar to that of our Druid’s Circle — though to date, it seems that no archaeologist has paid attention to this secondary feature.  It measures some 21 yards (east-west) x 19 yards (north-south) in diameter and has the appearance of a tumulus or buried cairn.  The mound may be of a purely geological nature, but this cannot safely be asserted until the attention of the spade has been brought here.

Druid's Altar, Bordley (drawing by Neil Wingate, 1976)

Druid’s Altar, Bordley (drawing by Neil Wingate, 1976)

Folklore

Although we have nothing directly associated with the circle, the surrounding hills here have long been known as the abode of faerie-folk.  Threshfield — in whose parish this circle lies — is renowned for it.  There have been accounts of curious light phenomena here too.  Modern alignment lore tells the site to be related to the peaked tomb above Seaty Hill, equinox west of here.

References:

Bogg, Edmund, Higher Wharfeland, James Miles: Otley 1904.
Burl, Aubrey, Four Posters: Bronze Age Stone Circles of Western Europe, BAR 195: Oxford 1988.
Feather, S.W. & Manby, T.G., ‘Prehistoric Chambered Tombs of the Pennines,’ in Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, Vol 42, 1970.
Lewis, A.L., ‘Standing Stones and Stone Circles in Yorkshire,’ in Man, no.83, 1914.
Raistrick, Arthur, ‘The Bronze Age in West Yorkshire,’ in Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, Vol 29, 1929.
Speight, Harry, The Craven and Northwest Yorkshire Highlands, Elliott Stock: London 1892.
Wingate, Neil, Grassington and Wharfedale, Grassington 1977.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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St. Michael’s Well, Well, North Yorkshire

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – SE 2633 8176

Also Known as:

  • Mickel Well
  • Mickey Well

Getting Here

Found near the bottom of Holly Hill, as Graeme Chappell tells us, this old site “is located by the side of a narrow lane on the west side of the village of Well (aptly named). The OS map places the well on the north side of the lane, but this is only the outflow from a pipe that carries the water under the road.  The spring actually rises at the foot of a small rock outcrop, on the opposite side of the road.”

Archaeology & History

St. Michael's Well, Well (Bogg 1895)

St. Michael's Well, Well (Bogg 1895)

Although the village of Well is mentioned in Domesday in 1086 and the origin of the place-name derives from “certain springs in the township now known as The Springs, St. Michael’s Well and Whitwell,” very little appears to have been written about this place.  Edmund Bogg (c.1895) wrote that an old iron cup — still there in the 19th century — was attached next to this spring for weary travellers or locals to partake of the fine fresh water.  Nearby there was once an old Roman bath-house and, at the local church, one writer thinks that the appearance of “a fish-bodied female figure…carved into one of the external window lintels” is representative of the goddess of these waters.  Not so sure misself — but I’m willing to be shown otherwise.

Folklore

Around 1895, that old traveller Edmund Bogg once again wrote how the villagers at Well village called this site the Mickey or Mickel Well,* explaining: “the Saxons dwelling at this spot reverently dedicated this spring of water to St. Michael.” A dragon-slayer no less!

Although not realising the Michael/dragon connection, the same writer later goes on to write:

“There is a dim tradition still existing in this village of an enormous dragon having once had its lair in the vicinity of Well, and was a source of terror to the inhabitants, until a champion was found in an ancestor of the Latimers, who went boldly forth like a true knight of olden times, and after a long and terrible fight he slew the monster, hence a dragon on the coat of arms of this family. The scene of the conflict is still pointed out, and is midway between Tanfield and Well.”

This fable occurred very close to the gigantic Thornborough Henges!  It would be sensible to look more closely at the mythic nature of this complex with this legend in mind.  A few miles away in the village of Kirklington, the cult of St. Michael could also be found.

References:

Bogg, Edmund, From Eden Vale to the Plains of York, James Miles: Leeds n.d. (c.1895)
Smith, A.H., The Place-Names of the North Riding of Yorkshire, Cambridge University Press 1928.

* In old english the word ‘micel‘ (which usually accounts for this word) means big or great. On the same issue, the ‘Holly Hill’ in the case here at Well actually derives from the holly tree and NOT a ‘holy’ well. However, check the folklore of this tree in Britain and you find a whole host of heathen stuff.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Snowden Carr Carving (600), Askwith Moor, North Yorkshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 17987 51162

Also Known as:

  • Coped Stone

Getting Here

Follow the same directions as to reach the Tree of Life Stone carving.  From here walk 7 or 8 yards east.  You can’t miss it!

Archaeology & History

Coped Stone carving (after Boughey & Vickerman)

About 20 feet away from the more renowned Tree of Life Stone — and seemingly linked to it by a small stretch of ancient walling that runs between the respective stones — is this rather large boulder close to the walling with at least seven cup-marks on it.  A number of vague lines run down and around the edges of some of the cups, but they can be somewhat hard to see if the light conditions aint right (I don’t recommend trying to suss it out on dark grey overcast days — unless you’ve got awesome eyes!).  Immediately next to this rock is a large collection of small stones, looking to be the remains of some man-made construction from time past.  The nature of this pile of rocks has yet to be ascertained, but it would be reasonable to assume that it was at one point earlier a much larger pile that has been plundered for use to make the drystone walls hereby.  Less than 10 yards below this and the Tree of Life Stone carving is a line of ancient walling, at least Iron Age in nature, possibly earlier, running for some distance east-west up and across the moorland.

Cup-marks near top of the stone

The carving was described for the first time, albeit very briefly, by Eric Cowling (1937) in his lengthier description of the Tree of Life Stone, saying how “a small coped stone to the east has several scattered cups” on its surface — meaning this old thing!  Boughey & Vickerman’s (2003) survey (2003) describe it as a

“medium-sized, upstanding, worn rock.  Seven or eight possible cups, mostly at the top of S face, but one at its bottom of E face.”

…And the poor old fella has had nowt else said of it until now!  I reckon this carving will only be of interest to the most serious of meditators or hardened rock-art freaks!

References:

Boughey, Keith & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, WYAS 2003.
Cowling, Eric T., “Cup and Ring Markings to the North of Otley,” in Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, part 131, 33:3, 1937.
Cowling, Eric T., Rombald’s Way: A Prehistory of Mid-Wharfedale, William Walker: Otley 1946.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: to Keith Boughey & Edward Vickerman for use of their drawing, above.

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Elm Crag Well, Bingley, West Yorkshire

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – SE 102 391

Getting Here

From Bingley, take the B6429 road up to Harden.  After going up the wooded winding road for a few hundred yards, stop where it levels out.  Cross onto the right-hand side of the road and walk up the slope a little, veering to your right.  You’ll notice a small disused building just off the roadside, in overgrowth, with a pool of water.  You need to be 100 yards up the slope above it!

Archaeology & History

Elm Crag Well, Bell Bank Wood, Bingley

Elm Crag Well, Bell Bank Wood, Bingley

This is a beautiful old place.  If you walk straight up to it from the roadside, past the derelict building, you have to struggle through the brambles and prickly slope like we did – but it’s worth it if you like your wells!  However, if you try getting here in the summertime, expect to be attacked on all sides by the indigenous flora!  The waters here emerge from a low dark cave, in which, a century of three ago, someone placed a large stone trough.  When I first came here about 25 years ago, some halfwits had built an ugly red-brick wall into the cave which, thankfully, someone has had the sense to destroy and rip-out.

Shown on the 1852 Ordnance Survey map and highlighted as a ‘spring,’ Harry Speight (1898) gives a brief mention to this site, though refers us to an even earlier literary source when it was first mentioned. In John Richardson’s 18th century survey of the Craven area, he makes reference to an exceedingly rare fern, Trichomanes radicans, which was later included in Bolton’s classic monograph on British ferns of 1785.  In it, Bolton wrote that the very first specimen of this plant was “first discovered by Dr. Richardson in a little dark cavern, under a dripping rock, below the spring of Elm Crag Well, in Bell Bank.”

Elm Crag Well

Elm Crag Well

The waters from here come from two sides inside the small cave and no longer run into the lichen-encrusted trough, seemingly just dropping down to Earth and re-emerging halfway down the hillside.  But the waters here taste absolutely gorgeous and are very refreshing indeed!  And the old elms which gave this old well its name can still be seen, only just hanging on to the rocks above and to the side, with not much time left for the dear things.

References:

Bolton, James, Filices Britannicae: An History of the British Proper Ferns, Thomas Wright 1785.
Speight, Harry, Chronicles and Stories of Old Bingley, Elliott Stock: London 1898.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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