Legendary Rocks: OS Grid Reference – SD 97204 16356
Follow the same directions to get to the Aiggin Stone. Once here, go over the stile by the fence opposite towards the great geological ridge less than half-a-mile south. Head for the triangulation pillar right on the top of the ridge, and there, about 20 yards past it, higher-up than the triangulation pillar at the very top of Blackstone Edge, is Robin Hood’s legendary stone bed!
Archaeology & History
There’s very little of archaeological interest known up here, save a mass of flints and scrapers that have been found scattering the moorland heights hereby, from the mesolithic period onwards. But we have a relative lack of neolithic to Iron Age remains — officially anyhow! A possible standing stone can be found a few hundred yards south, but there’s little else.
The rock that’s given its name to Robin Hood’s Bed overlooks the very edge of the ridge, detached from the main section, with a large and very curious nature-worn ‘bed’ on its very crown, more than 4 feet wide and about 7 feet long, into which one comfortably lays. It was named in the boundary records of the township of Rishworth in 1836, where it describes other historical stones, saying:
“thence under Robin Hood’s Bed to a stone marked ‘W.S.G.S. 1742, 1770, 1792, and the following figures and letters, ‘1826 I.L.S.'”
This enormous millstone grit boulder, sitting 1550 feet upon the high moors is, according to legend, a place where our famous legendary outlaw once slept. Whilst sleeping here, some of his followers were said to have kept guard and looked over him.
A rather odd piece of folklore recited by Jessica Lofthouse (1976) is that “no winds ever blow” at Robin Hood’s Bed, who then went on to tell of the time she visited the place. Walking along the rocky ridge where the stone bed is found, the winds were such that “we had almost been blown over the edge,” until just a few hundred yards further when they eventually reached the fabled site, Nature granted them a sudden calmness unknown to all the high moorlands around, affirming the curious folklore.
Robin Hood’s Bed itself was undeniably an important ceremonial site for both rites of passage and ritual magick to our indigenous ancestors. The place screams of it! It also seems very likely that the hero figure of Robin Hood replaced an earlier mythological character, akin to the fabled female creation deity, the cailleach, found commonly in more northern and Irish climes, whose echoes can still be found around our Pennine hills. For we find that Robin Hood was said to have taken a large boulder from here and with a mighty heave threw it six miles across the landscape due west into the setting sun, where it eventually landed at Monstone Edge, near Rochdale! Local people were so astounded at this feat that the stone was given the name of Robin Hood’s Quoit.
The old place-name authority Eilert Ekwall (1922) related the folklore that the giant ridge of Blackstone Edge “is said to refer to a boundary stone between Yorkshire and Lancashire.” Which may be the curious upright standing stone, more than 7 feet tall, less than 50 yards NNE which gives a very distinct impression of having been deliberately stood upright, amidst this mass of loose geological droppings! It would be helpful if there was a geologist in the house who could tell us decisively one way or the other…
Another etymological possibility that has been posited relates to the word ‘bed’ at this site. Ordinarily it would be sensible to attach the word to the great stone ‘bed’ atop of the poised boulder. But with the attached legends symptomatic of prehistoric monuments, it would not be improper to highlight that the old Welsh word ‘bedd‘ (a place-name element this is not uncommon in Lancashire) means, “a grave or tomb”. And this site would be ideal for such an old prehistoric cairn…
- Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
- Ekwall, E., The Place-Names of Lancashire, Manchester University Press 1922.
- Lofthouse, Jessica, North Country Folklore, Hale: London 1976.
- Smith, A.H., The Place-Names of the West Riding of Yorkshire – volume 3, Cambridge University Press 1961.
© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian