Standing Stones: OS grid reference – SD 99034 35709
Best approached from Haworth and then walking along the Bronte Way footpath onto the moors (ask at the local Tourist Info if you aint sure). A few hundred yards along, cross the ‘Bronte Bridge’ and keep following the footpath up until you get past the trees and get onto the moors. Once on the heathland, a few hundred yards on keep your eyes to the right and at least one of the two stones here will appear!
Archaeology & History
This is a fascinating little site that has been mentioned in a few old local history guides, including John Lock’s Guide to Haworth (c.1965). First described in 1852 and only briefly noted in passing by Horsfall Turner (1879), the place was previously thought to have comprised just one standing stone, but in recent years explorations by Mark Davey and I found there to be two standing stones close to each other. They are not marked on any maps and are unknown even to many local people. However, the place once had a bit of a reputation (see folklore) and seemed to be well known in the region when the cult of the Church was at its height!
Both of the stones are between three and four feet tall, but the westernmost of the two was probably much taller in bygone days – that’s because the top of the stone was vandalised in centuries past, presumably by some christians if the folktale is anything to go by! On the north-facing side of the western stone is the faint carved outline of an old cross, first described by local historians in the 1960s. It’s faint, but you can work it out if your eyes work properly! The newly-recovered (July 2005) easternmost stone is in two sections, with the very top of it having been hacked off in centuries gone by, as seen in the photos.
When we unearthed the previously unknown Cuckoo Stone (which was laid in the earth and covered with heather and peat), a small deposit of quartz crystals was found in the original socket beneath it when we came to stand the stone back in position. Question is: who put the quartz there? The original builders, or the nutters who knocked it down? And then we might ask: what was the reason behind placing a large handful of quartz beneath the standing stone?
In the heather beyond, about thirty yards to the north, we also find what looks like the remains of an old prehistoric tomb. If we make sense of the Cuckoo Stone’s folklore, we can safely assert that these monoliths were the spirit-home of the old dood/s buried in the tomb behind…
Tis a lovely little place…
There’s also something from that strange electromagnetic-anomaly region attached to this site, well-known to students exploring the physics of megalithic sites. When my lovely friend Mark – “grope me baby! grope me!” – Davey and I rediscovered the second Cuckoo Stone, Mark brought with him a device that measures fluctuations in electromagnetic radiation. The readings taken were fine just about everywhere (background, with minor fluctuations), apart from two very curious straight lines which ran either side of the burial mound down towards the two Cuckoo Stones, with radiation readings being between 10 and more than 60 times above background! The highest readings came from those closest to the burial mound, with levels dropping as we approached the standing stones. Such magnetic anomalies have been found at a number of megalithic sites in the UK, as described in Paul Devereux’s Place of Power (1989) and other books. But the fact that the anomaly lines here seemed to run in lines would be something that those ley enthusiasts would no doubt be intrigued by!
The creation myth of this site tells that once, long ago, a great giant lived upon these old moors. He wasn’t a good giant though, from all acounts: robbing and persecuting those who would venture onto the hills hereabouts. The local people wouldn’t dare venture onto the moors and they long sought for a hero who’d be able to sort him out! This eventually happened and in a great fight, our unnamed hero caught and killed the old giant. But just as the giant was about to die, he used his ancient magick powers and, “with a magical groan, he did transform before them and became the Cuckoo Stone.”
But that wasn’t the end of the matter because, as our unnamed hero realised, knowing that the head was the seat of the soul, even in his petrified stoney state the giant may one day recover his life, and so he chopped off the top of the Cuckoo Stone and rolled it into the valley below, dismembering the ‘head’ from the giant, seemingly forever…
It is said that the winnings of this old giant, stolen from his countless victims, are hidden somewhere high upon these hills, awaiting the shovel of some fortunate treasure hunter!
The motif of this tale is universal and archaic, echoing traditional or aboriginal lore from elsewhere in the world. The tale is a simple one: originally the ‘giant’ was a local hero, chief or medicine man who lived on these hills and the Cuckoo Stones his petrified body, and with the incoming christian cult, the giant became demonised. It seems that the ingredient of the giant’s death may infer a burial of sorts and, a hundred yards behind the Cuckoo Stones (both of whom have had their ‘heads’ hacked off), is a mound of earth which, when seen after all the heather’s been burnt away, has all the hallmarks of a prehistoric tomb (it is seen in the top photo above, as the mound in the background behind the standing stones).
…to be continued…
- Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2003.
- Burl, Aubrey, From Carnac to Callanish, Yale University Press 1993.
- Devereux, Paul, Places of Power, Blandford: London 1989.
- Dodd, Gerald, Ghosts and Legends of Bronte-Land, Bobtail Press: Haworth 1986.
- Eliade, Mircea, Patterns in Comparative Religion, Sheed & Ward: London 1958.
- Eliade, Mircea, A History of Religious Ideas – Volume 1: From the Stone Age to the Eleusianian Mysteries, Chicago University Press 1978.
- Evans, E.E., Prehistoric and Early Christian Ireland, Batsford: London 1966.
- Lock, John, Guide to Haworth, Haworth n.d. (c.1965).
- Turner, J. Horsfall, Haworth Past and Present, J.S. Jowett: Brighouse 1879.
© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian