Fairy Stone, Cottingley, Bingley, West Yorkshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 0980 3789

Also Known as:

  1. Black Hills Carving 01
  2. Cottingley Woods Carving 01

Getting Here

To get here, start from Bingley centre, go through Myrtle Park, across the river bridge and turn right at the dirt-track. Walk on & go over the old bridge/ford of Harden Beck, keeping with the track until the next set of buildings and be aware of a footpath left here. Take this and cross the golf-course, bearing SE until you reach the edge of Cottingley Woods. Take the distinct footpath into the trees & walk up the vivid moss-coloured path until you reach the level at the top where the woods become more deciduous. Here, turn left for 100 yards into the bit of woodland which has been fenced-off and walk about. You’ll find it!

Archaeology & History

Cottingley Woods Fairy Stone

This is a truly superb cup-and-ring stone which anyone into the subject must take a look at!  It was first found by the old forester here, Ronald Bennett, in 1966 — ten years before Keith Boughey (2005) mistakenly reported it to have been found “by Valerie Parkinson…in 1976.”  Everything about it’s excellent — but I think the setting in woodland is what really brings it out.

The first published account and photograph of this superb carved stone seems to have been in Joe Cooper’s (1982) precursory essay on the Cottingley Fairies in an article he wrote for The Unexplained magazine in the 1980s.  A few years later I included the stone in a short article on local folklore, then again much later in The Old Stones of Elmet (2001).  It was curiously omitted from Boughey & Vickerman’s (2003) survey, as were the other carvings that are found very close by.  Not sure why…  But of the small cluster here (I’ll add the others later), this carving stands out as the best of the bunch by far!  Its name has nothing to do with the Cottingley Fairy folk down town: it simply originates from my own teenage thoughts and the true ambience of the setting. Check it out!

Joe Cooper’s 1982 photo

Fairy Stone carving

The rock is typical millstone grit and its carved upper surface measures roughly 3 yards east-west and 2 yards north-south, sloping gently into the ground.  As the photo shows, this is an elaborate design seemingly centred around two large and another smaller circular form, each enclosing a number of internal cups, ring and lines.  The next time we’re over there, we’ll try get some clearly images and make a detailed drawing of the old fella!  In the event that you visit here, check out the other three carvings close to this primary design — and try work out which one of the three was carved by the scouts in more modern times!  Another simple cup-marked stone was recently found in the undergrowth a short distant east of this group.

Sketch of the design in 1981

Recently the carving was given attention with what’s known as photogrammetry software: this enables a more complete image of the 3-dimensional nature of objects scrutinized.  In the resulting photos (which I’m unable to reproduce here due to copyright restrictions), a previously unseen long carved line was detected that runs across the middle of the larger of the two enclosing rings.  Hopefully in the coming months, those with the software (can’t remember whether it’s English Heritage or Pennine Prospects who won’t allow it) might allow us to reproduce one or two of their images to enable the rest of the world to see what their images have uncovered.  After all, considering that we peasants brought this carving to their attention, you’d at least hope they could repay the finds.  Some of these larger organizations, despite what they may say, simply don’t swing both ways!

Folklore

In an early edition of my old Fortean archaeology rag of the 1980s, I narrated the tale of one Anne Freeman, who was walking through the woods here.  When she reached the top of the woods, near some stones she heard a loud chattering and allegedly saw two tiny figures barely one-foot tall wearing red outfits and green hats in “medieval peasant dress”.  Andy Roberts (1992) later repeated the tale and illustrated the carving in his Yorkshire folklore work.

In the 1960s, the old ranger Ronnie Bennett (no relative of mine) who first found these carvings, also reported that he saw little people here: “not one, but three,” as he said.  Not fairies with wings, but more gnome-like.

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, Of Cups and Rings and Things, unpublished: Shipley 1981.
  2. Bennett, Paul, ‘Tales of Yorkshire Faeries,’ in Earth 9, 1988.
  3. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  4. Boughey, Keith, “A Group of Four Cup-and-Ring-Marked Rocks at Black Hills, Cottingley Woods,” in Prehistory Research Section Bulletin, no.42, 2005.
  5. Cooper, Joe, ‘Cottingley: At Last the Truth,’ in The Unexplained 117, 1982
  6. Roberts, Andy, Ghosts and Legends of Yorkshire, Jarrold 1992.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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About megalithix

Occultist, prehistorian and independent archaeological researcher, specializing in prehistoric rock art, Neolithic, Bronze Age & Iron Age sites, and the animistic cosmologies of pre-Christian & traditional cultures.
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