Danes Hills, Riccall, North Yorkshire

Barrows:  OS Grid Reference – SE 645 377

Getting Here

Travelling up (north) the A19, just as you get to Riccal village, there’s a small road to your right: take this!  A mile along there’s a parking place just where the track veers into the woods.  That’s where you’re heading.  The remains of the tombs hereabouts can be hard to discern – but if your lucky you’ll either meet a local, or the virtue of patience will bring these overgrown tombs into focus!  There are other tumuli a few hundred yards east and north of here aswell.  If you wanna get a clear picture of them all, a full day would be a good bet!

Archaeology & History

Sketch map of the Danes Hill tombs, 1849

Sketch map of the Danes Hill tombs, 1849

Not to be confused with the other Danes Hills tombs a couple of miles northeast of here (as done on some other sites), the early Victorian geologist and explorer John Phillips (1853) was one of several early writers who described what, today, are known to be Iron Age tombs, scattered about a short distance east of Riccall village, saying:

“On Skipwith Common are many tumuli, old banks, and the slightly-marked foundations of ancient (turf or log?) houses or wigwams. These, by some error of tradition, are called ‘Danes’ Hills/ but, on opening the tumuli, no confirmation of so modern a date appeared. The tumuli are set in square fosses; the sides of the fossae range north and south and east and west (true). Similar facts appear in connexion with the tumuli on Thorganby Common adjacent. Burnt ashes and bones occur in the mounds; facts which suffice to overthrow the supposition of these hills being funeral heaps of the Danes of the llth century, for they then buried their dead. No instruments of metal, bone, or stone, or pottery were found.”

There were dozens of tombs that could be seen here in the past, but today many have been destroyed or are hidden by the cover of trees.  A sketch-map (above) showing the rough location of many of the graves was made by the Yorkshire Antiquarian Club after a visit here in 1849 (Proctor 1855), who opened several of the barrows.  Archaeologist Ian Stead (1961; 1979) defined these remains as being of the famous La Tene burials — though I’m unsure as to whether any of the tombs here had the great horse-chariots found in them, as found in the more famous Danes Graves tombs close to Driffield.

Folklore

The name of these small hills acquired their Danish title via a mix of real history and folklore.  History tells of the old Danish King Harald Hardrada, who moored his fleet of ships a few miles away from here before going into battle against the armies of Northumbria and Mercia. “Dane’s Hill,” said Bogg (c.1895), “still marks the spot where the fight took place.”  As John Burton (1758) told us:

“Ever since the aforesaid battle, it is by tradition to this day said, that the Danes were permitted to encamp here till they had buried their dead, and their ships at Riccal should be ready for their re-embarking for Norway.”

Local folk used to tell of the tradition of the local swamp — called Riccal Towdyke — being choked with the bodies of many slain in the battle hereabouts.  Many pieces of red cloth were found all around in the neighbourhood of these tombs.  However, despite this mix of fact and folklore, the tumuli were see marked on the modern OS-maps have been found to be Iron Age in origin.

…to be continued…

References:

Bogg, Edmund, From Eden Vale to the Plains of York, James Miles: Leeds n.d.
Burton, John, Monasticon Eboracense, N. Nickson: York 1758.
Elgee, F. & H.W., The Archaeology of Yorkshire, Methuen: London 1933.
Morrell, W. Wilberforce, The History and Antiquities of Selby, W.B. Bellerby: Selby 1867.
Phillips, John, The Rivers, Mountains and Sea-Coast of Yorkshire, John Murray: London 1853.
Proctor, W., ‘Report of the Proceedings of the Yorkshire Antiquarian Club, in the Excavation of Barrows from the Year 1849,’ in Proceedings of the Yorkshire Philosophical Society, 1855.
Stead, I.M., ‘A Distinctive Form of La Tene Barrow in Eastern Yorkshire,’ in Antiquaries Journal, volume 41, 1961.
Stead, I.M., The Arras Culture, Yorkshire Philosophical Society: York 1979.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Old Man of Snowden, Askwith, North Yorkshire

Standing Stone (destroyed?):  OS Grid Reference – SE 175 503

Archaeology & History

Eric Cowling (1946) described this lost or destroyed stone as “a squat standing stone at junction of the Askwith bridge-path with the Otley-Timble highway, saying how it gave its name to Stoop Hill, “which it surmounts.” But in several ambles here in search of this old stone, we’ve yet to locate it; though we did find the Stoup Hill cup-marking and possible neighbour on the southern edge of the hilltop.

Folklore

In days of olde, the ‘Old Man’ was the fabled companion of the legendary ‘Old Woman,’ or great cailleach (the christian cult stupidly, somehow, turned this mythic figure into their ‘devil’ – to which it has no relationship whatsoever).  Although no specific folktale remains here, the name of this lost stone tells that it had some mythic tale underscoring it; perhaps simply that it marked the burial of some forgotten chief or elder.

References:

Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Chieveley 2001.
Cowling, E.T., Rombald’s Way: A Prehistory of Mid-Wharfedale, William Walker: Otley 1946.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Barnhill, Jura, Argyll

Cairn:  OS Grid Reference – NR 705 970

Archaeology & History

Very close to being at the top of the island.  If you do manage to get here take a gander at the legendary Gulf of Corryvreckan: one of the largest whirlpools on Earth, where the cailleach swirled her stuff when angry! This is the ‘hill where sorrel grows,’ and where George Orwell wrote 1984 – but more important for us is where the Royal Commission for Historic & Ancient Monuments of Scotland (Argyll, vol.5) designated that,

“a stony mound about 5.5m in diameter and 0.5m high, situated on the crest of the ridge east of Barnhill, appears to be a prehistoric burial cairn.”

Sadly I never managed to check this out when I was last up here as I didn’t know it was here!

References:

Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Argyll: volume 5 – Islay, Jura, Colonsay and Oronsay, HMSO: Edinburgh 1984.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Man Stone, Whitworth, Lancashire

Legendary Rock:  OS Grid Reference – SD 893 171

Also Known as:

  • Monstone

Getting Here

In terms of getting here, follow the directions given by H.C. Collins (1946), who reached here from Healey, north of Rochdale.  “Once past Lousy Hillock the track continues in front of Brown House Reservoir… The track climbs Faffelty Brow under the lea of Man Stone Edge on the left”, above the Rossendale Way footpath. You can of course come straight up from Whitworth, heading up the eastern hill over Lobden golf course.  The site’s to the northeast edge of the course.

Folklore

I first read of this a couple of decades back, in Jessica Lofthouse’s (1976) folklore book, but her pronunciation of the site — which I sought and sought, without success — made finding the place really troublesome.  Thankfully, the local guidebook of Harold Collins (1946) has brought this site into focus once more and, it would seem, the probable site of prehistoric archaeological remains.  But until we get over here and have a good look round, that aspect of the Man Stone will have to await assessment.

Collins (1946) described the “huge stone on the moortop on the left of the track” he’d been walking along, telling how “according to legend it bears the imprint of a human hand and was thrown (here) from Blackstone Edge by Robin Hood.”

Lofthouse (1976) told similarly when she was describing the folklore of Robin Hood’s Bed, about six miles east of here, by the Yorkshire-Lancashire border, saying,

“Robin was a mighty hurler as well as a bowman without peer.  To while away waiting time in the Bed he took a large boulder from the giant’s overspill at hand, threw it and watched its course.  Six miles away on Monstone Edge that boulder dropped, a feat amazing , and has been called Robin Hood’s Quoit ever after!”

But the “quoit”, said Lofthouse, was there centuries before any legendary Robin Hood — as it would have been.  As far as I can find though, no such prehistoric relic ‘officially’ exists upon this hill.  But as those of us who’ve been into seeking these old sites know, that doesn’t necessarily mean a thing.  Henry Fishwick’s (1889) notes about the markings on the rock — “and certain impressions on its surface are said to be the marks of the fingers and thumb of the thrower” —may also prove fruitful.  An outing to this region is therefore forthcoming in the next couple of weeks!  Who fancies a wander?

References:

Collins, H.C., Rambles round Rochdale, Thomas Yates: Rochdale 1946.
Fishwick, Henry, History of the Parish of Rochdale, James Clegg: London 1889.
Lofthouse, Jessica, North Country Folklore, Robert Hale: London 1976.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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St. Lambert’s Well, Burneston, North Yorkshire

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – SE 3089 8496

Getting Here

Archaeology & History

The local historian, H.B. McCall (1910) described this ‘Saint Lambert’s fountain’, as it was first called, in his fine work on local churches, telling of its early description in the 12th century, saying:

“This is a very early mention of St. Lambert, the patron saint of the church and parish (of Burneston).  The fountain or well was probably situated in what is now the new portion of the churchyard, and the rivulet is now enclosed as a drain.  The name of the wapentake of Halikeld is said to be derived from St. Lambert’s Well at Burneston.”

I can find little else about these old healing waters.  Anyone got anymore info?

References:

McCall, H.B., Richmondshire Churches, Elliott Stock: London 1910.

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St. Michael’s Well, Kirklington, North Yorkshire

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – SE 317 813

Getting Here

Having not been here, I can’t say for sure exactly where this forgotten site happens to live!  It may be the one shown on modern OS-maps (see link), behind the old post office, on the west-side of the village, but I aint sure.  Any locals out there who can help would be hugely appreciated!

Archaeology & History

Not to be confused with the other St. Michael’s Well a few miles away in the village of Well, this is a little-known holy well that was described by the historian H.B. McCall (1910), who wrote:

“As Burneston had Saint Lambert’s Fountain, mentioned so early as the 12th Century, so Kirklington possesses its holy well, beside the old Mill House on the north side of the village.  Althoguh its name has now passed from the popular remembrance, it is provided in a lease of lands to Roger Croft, in 1628, that his cattle shall have right of access to go into the water near unto a spring called ‘Michaell-well’. both in winter and summer; and we are left in no doubt as to where the spring was situated, for Mrs Alice Thornton has recorded that her father brought water to the Hall in lead pipes from a cistern of the same metal, “near St. Michael’s Well near the mill-race.””

Does anyone know anything more of this all-but-forgotten site? 

References:

McCall, H.B., Richmondshire Churches, Elliott Stock: London 1910.

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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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