Roms Hill, Wadsworth, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire

Standing Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 0080 3261

Getting Here

Roms Hill Stone

Whether coming from Hebden Bridge or Oxenhope: at the very top of the long uphill road, at the very top where a small radio station sits by the roadside (the views from here are effing superb!) – stop! On the opposite side of the road from the radio station, get over the fence (I think there’s a gate nearby) and walk roughly westwards down the gently inclining grassland slope.  Keep westward-ish for about 200 yards (if that) and you’re damn close!

Archaeology & History

Rediscovered in January 2002, this is a very curious stone, over a metre in height, isolated on the southern edge of Roms Hill, close to the folklore-sounding Halfpenny Hole Clough, near the very top of the hill between Hebden Bridge and Oxenhope. The base of the stone is almost wedged into a space between two rocks and its positioning here seems quite deliberate.  It stands upon a small geological ridge in the ground that stretches for some distance, east and west, either side of here.

Roms Hill Stone in good fog!

Despite this, it seems unlikely to have an authentic prehistoric pedigree, but as there’s little else been said of the stone (apart from Dave Shepherd’s (2003) article on local megalithic remains, many of which are highly dubious as archaeological remains), it deserves a mention here.  It’s not recorded in any of the old boundary records — unlike the upright boundary stone that can be found a few hundred yards northwest of here on the same moorland plain.

The land here has an etymological relationship with the Roms Law (or Grubstones) Circle on Rombald’s Moor, but as yet we can ascertain little more about this site.  Well worth a visit — if only for the superb views it affords!

References:

Shepherd, David, “Prehistoric Activity in the Central Pennines,” in Transactions of the Halifax Antiquarian Society, volume 11 New Series, 2003.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Robin Hood’s Penny Stone, Wainstalls, West Yorkshire

Stone Circle (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 046 288

Archaeology & History

The Pennystone on 1852 map

The Pennystone on 1852 map

All remains of this site, first mentioned as a stone circle in 1836, have gone. The place could be found by the appropriately named Stone Farm at the top end of Wainstalls and was first mentioned by John Watson (1775), who strangely said nothing about any circle here.  However, this changed when John Crabtree (1836) arrived and described a ring of stones surrounding a large boulder in the centre (illustrated here). The boulder itself was actually called the Robin Hood Penny Stone.

Folklore

Watson's 1775 drawing

Watson’s 1775 drawing

This was one of the many legendary sites from where our legendary outlaw practiced shooting his arrows.  He was also said to have picked up and thrown a large standing stone from this spot, until it landed three-and-a-half miles away on the hillside on the other side of the Calder Valley. (this was known as the Field House, or Sowerby Lad Standing Stone)

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann 2001.
  2. Crabtree, John, Concise History of the Parish and Vicarage of Halifax, Hartley & Walker: Halifax 1836.
  3. Dobson, R.B. & Taylor, J., Rymes of Robyn Hood, Alan Sutton: Gloucester 1989.
  4. Faull, M.L. & Moorhouse, S.A., West Yorkshire: An Archaeological Guide (4 volumes), WYMCC: Wakefield 1981.
  5. Varley, Raymond, “A Stone-Axe Hammer, Robin Hood’s Penny Stone and Stone Circle at Wainstalls, Warley, near Halifax,” in Yorks. Arch. Journal 69, 1997.
  6. Watson, John, The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Halifax, T. Lowndes: London 1775.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

The Northern Antiquarian – Charity Number SCO-46359

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Rocking Stone, Rishworth Moor, West Yorkshire

Legendary Rock:  OS Grid Reference – SD 990 150

Getting Here

Simple: get to junction 22 on the M62 and take the Ripponden, Sowerby Bridge road.  A c0upla hundred yards along, take the track on your right.  Walk to the end where the building is and look behind it.  The remains are there.

Archaeology & History

Rishworth Moor Rocking Stone, 1775

Rishworth Moor Rocking Stone, 1775

The reverend John Watson (1775) first wrote about this place, describing it as, “a group of stones, laid, seemingly, one above another, to the height of several yards, and called the Rocking stone.”  Very little archaeological remains have been described hereabouts, save the odd flint scatters here and there.  Anything which might have been here in the past was likely destroyed when the M62 was built right next to the site.

Folklore

The rocking stone was long ascribed in local tradition to be a  site used by the druids.  It was said that in bygone days the great boulder would rock, but this must have been a long time ago as even when Mr Watson described it, he told how “that quality is lost.”

Close by is the sometimes dried-up spring known as the Booth Dean Spa, which Watson thought might have been related to whatever ancient rituals occurred here.

References:

  1. Watson, John, The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Halifax, T.Lowndes: London 1775.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Ringstones, Lowgill, Lancashire

Stone Circle (destroyed): OS Grid Reference – SD 664 655

Archaeology & History

I have found no archaeological references whatsoever to this site (though to be honest, the Lancashire archaeological fraternity are pretty poor when it comes to finding and recording sites).  The place has its existence preserved in the aptly-named Ringstones Lane and the farmhouse, Ringstones.

Michala Potts found several records of the place in the 17th century, and the site is shown on the 1844 OS-map with the same name, but we have been unable to ascertain when/if any standing stones were here.  The place may well have been a burial-site of some sort, as found at other Ringstone place-names in Lancashire.  But we can clearly see on aerial imagery that there is a large, distinct, circular outline in the heavily ploughed fields about 100 yards north of the farm.  There is what may be the remains of a second circle above this, but the outline is faint; but it appears that an enclosure of some sort, ovoid in shape and a couple of hundred feet across, was also evident in the same field where the more distinct circular outline is seen.

My favourite outline however, is a large linear mark on the ground stretching for several hundred yards running roughly north-south, starting in the field between Aikengill and Ringstones and going dead straight, bypassing the circle and crossing Ringstones Lane, where it seems to disappear and is no longer visible.  The curious ‘ground line’ is roughly 100 feet across.  Cursus anyone!?

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Pin Stone, Bradford, West Yorkshire

Standing Stone (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 1590 3417

Also known as:

  • Ash Stone
  • Wart Stone

Archaeology & History

Very close to Bradford City’s football ground used to be a holy well (known as the Holy Ash Well), next to which was this old stone (as shown on the 1852 OS map).  For some reason it was uprooted and moved further up the hill around the end of the 19th century and was resurrected beside the old Belle Vue Hotel on Manningham Lane.  From thereon however, I’ve not been able to trace what happened to it, and presume it’s been destroyed.  It was known by local people to have had a ritual relationship with the adjacent healing well, to which people were said to visit from far and wide.

It was first described by Abraham Holroyd (1873) who said that:

“In Manningham Lane there is a fine well, in old deeds called Hellywell, i.e., holy well, in a field now called Halliwell Ash, now a stone quarry… Near this is the ancient Pin Stone.”

The Bradford historian William Preston also made mention of the stone in one of his early surveys, where he told how local people also knew the stone as the Ash Stone, due to its proximity and ritual relationship to a great old tree.

Folklore

Also known as the Wart Stone, thanks to its ability to cure them and other skin afflictions.  Intriguingly, the building which now stands on the site is said to be haunted.

As my old school-mate, Dave Pendleton (1997), said of the place and its associated well:

“Prior to 1886 the only feature of any real note in the Valley Parade environs was a holy well that emerged near the corner of the football grounds Midland Road and Bradford End stands; hence the road Holywell Ash Lane. Today the site of the well is covered by the football pitch.

Only the road name survives as a reminder of what was apparently one of the district’s foremost attractions. On Sundays and holidays people would gather to take the waters and leave pins, coins, rags and food as offerings to the spirit that resided in the waters.

Accounts suggest that the well was covered and had a great ash tree standing over it (hence ‘holy ash’). There was also a standing stone called the wart stone of unknown antiquity. The stone had a carved depression that collected water. It was believed that the water was a miraculous cure for warts. Indeed, as early as 1638 the Holy Well had been credited with healing powers.

The well suffered a decline in popularity during the late nineteenth century and its keepers resorted to importing sulphur water from Harrogate, which they sold for a half penny per cup. The well disappeared under the Valley Parade pitch during the summer of 1886 and the wart stone was moved to the top of Holywell Ash Lane – which then ran straight up to Manningham Lane. The stone was still there as late as 1911 but thereafter it seems to have disappeared into the mists of time.”

Unfortunately we have no old photos or drawings of this lost standing stone – though I imagine that some local, somewhere must be able to help us out with this one.  Surely there’s summat hiding away…

References:

Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
Holroyd, Abraham, Collecteana Bradfordiana, Saltaire 1873.
Pendleton, David & Dewhirst, John, Along the Midland Road, Bradford City AFC 1997.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Picts Cross Stone, Sellack, Herefordshire

Standing Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SO 560 266

Archaeology & History

Picts Cross Stone (after Alfred Watkins, 1930)

Picts Cross Stone (after Alfred Watkins, 1930)

In September, 1928, the old ley-hunter Alfred Watkins was out on one of his many rambles when he “saw a tall stone almost buried in the bank at this crossroads,” appropriately known as Picts Cross, about a mile south of Sellack — so he called it the ‘Picts Cross Stone.’  He also said,

“It was Pricker’s and Prick’s Cross in 18th century maps, and Pig’s Cross in the 1832 Ord. Map. Now ‘pig’ is the present Welsh word for “a peak, a point, a pike.””

And a lovely pointy old stone it looks in his old photo!  The monolith is in the hedgerow along the old boundary line.

References:

Watkins, Alfred, The Old Standing Crosses of Herefordshire, Simpkin Marshall: London 1930.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Ox-Foot Stone, South Lopham, Norfolk

Standing Stone (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – TM 052 809

Folklore

This slab of sandstone apparently used to stand upright in one of the fields of Oxfootstone Farm and on its surface is supposed to be the burnt impression of a cow’s hoof-print. Legend tells that there was a fairy cow which would come into the area when times of hardship occurred. During such periods she would freely give her milk to the people, but when the drought was over she stamped down on the stone upon which she stood, burning the imprint of her hoof onto it and magically vanished back from whence she came. A variation of the tale tells of a normal cow whose milk normally supplied the local villagers. But one night a drunken man (in another tale it is a witch) milked the cow dry through a sieve, until only blood came from her udders. At this point, the cow cried out in pain and kicked the stone so hard that she left the mark of her hoof-print on it.

Another tale tells that an ox got a large thorn stuck in its foot and rampaged through the local village, eventually stamping its hoof onto the stone so hard that it left the imprint of its foot here.

Now this might sound presumptious of me — but this tale has all the hallmarks of it being an old folk-remnant telling the origin of some cup-and-ring marked stone.  We find a number of cup-and-rings with creation tales similar to this.  Are there any local archaeologists or enthusiasts in Norfolk who might be able to locate any remains of this possible carved stone?

References:

Burgess, Michael W., The Standing Stones of Norfolk and Suffolk, ESNA 1: Lowestoft 1978.
Dutt, W.A., The Ancient Mark-Stones of East Anglia, Flood & Sons: Lowestoft, 1926.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Old Bess Stone, Oakworth Moor, West Yorkshire

Standing Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SD 978 389

Getting Here

A bittova wander with not much to see, if truth be had.  Best way here’s from the top Oakworth Road heading to the Lancashire border, right on the moor-edge.  Go along the Hare Hill Edge road for a coupla miles till you hit the Pennine Way.  Walk along it up onto the moor, following the dead straight walling for several hundred yards.  Where the walling stops, all of a sudden, stop! (there’s a wooden post here)  Now walk left (west) across the heath for less than 100 yards.  You’ll find it…

Archaeology & History

Old Bess Stone, with Crow Hill on the distant skyline

Old Bess Stone, with Crow Hill on the distant skyline

I’ve found nothing of this site in archaeology records – but that’s likely down to me not looking hard enough!  I’m not even sure that it’s prehistoric – but as there’s nowt written about it, and there are other sites which relate to this old stone, it’s certainly worthy of mention.

The stone lays in the grasses, some four-feet long, with a more recent 18th-19th century boundary stone laid a few feet away.  It seems most likely that Old Bess had stood here much longer though.  Old Bess seems to be the first in a row of at least 6 seemingly unrecognized boundary stones running northwest in a straight line up to the Wolf Stones, about half-a-mile from here.  Neither the early, nor modern OS-maps show any of these stones, several of which are accompanied by earlier, more worn stones – two of which have the letters ‘C.C.’ or ‘G.C.’ carved on them.

Old Bess 'hut circle'

Old Bess 'hut circle' (it's there - honest!)

About 10 yards north of Old Bess are the remains of a very noticeable oval-shaped ‘hut circle’ – or something closely resembling such remains.  About five yards across at the most, with stone walling making up the edge of the ring beneath the moorland grasses, an excavation here wouldn’t go amiss!  Although it’s hard to see in this photo (it’s the roughly circular rise in the middle), when you’re on the moor it’s obvious.   It looks and feels as if the remains were something from medieval times, or perhaps even later – but it’d be good to know for sure!  The remains of an old delph 100 yards south may account for more of Old Bess and its accompanying hut circle than owt prehistoric.

From Old Bess, walk in a straight line towards the large rock outcrop of the Wolf Stones, northwest of here.  After a short distance you’ll come across another large stone, cut and shaped in bygone centuries (not prehistoric though) laying in the boggy tussock grass and looking similar to Old Bess.  Another 100 yards on from here, along the same straight line towards the Wolf Stones, you’ll find another cut stone of similar dimensions; and from here you’ll see another stone about the same distance again ahead of you.  These would appear to be the lost medieval boundary stones which led to a boundary dispute between the counties of Yorkshire and Lancashire a few centuries ago.  For those medieval historians amongst you, check ’em out: it would appear that these are the lost stones (pushed over, obviously) which led to the said dispute.  How on earth no-one’s found ’em previously beggars belief!

Folklore

A little-known site with a spirit ancestor giving rise to its name.  Surrounding it are tales of little people, for just above it is where the faerie lived at the Fairy Fold Dike.  While a couple of hundred yards west lived an old hob (another faerie creature) who used to drink from an old well named after him, the Hob Ing Spring.  Victorian lore tells of druidic folklore further up the moor by the old Wolf Stones, which is linked to Old Bess by virtue of the line of old boundary stones running from here.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Nursery Knot, Appletreewick Moor, North Yorkshire

Sacred Hill:  OS Grid Reference – SE 081 636

Also known as:

  • Nursa Knott
  • Nursery Hill

Getting Here

Dead easy.  Follow the Grassington-Pateley Bridge road (B6265) east and about 2 miles past Hebden village, the craggy hill rises to the left-hand side of the road, as you can see in the photo below.  Simple!

Archaeology & History

Nursery Knott hill

Nursery Knott hill

When fellow rock-art freaks Graeme Chappell, Richard Stroud and I were exploring the cup-and-ring stones in the area just south of here a few years back, this hill kept calling out with some repeated awe. “There’s summat about that place,” were the remarks we kept saying – but we could never put our finger on it. (still haven’t if truth be had!).  Between here and the awesome Simon’s Seat to the south, a whole panoply of neolithic and Bronze Age remains scatter the land — and if ritual landscape has any validity, this hill is undoubtedly enmeshed in the mythic framework of such a paradigm. But without any folklore I didn’t feel right to include it here…

At the northern or rear-end of this great outcrop (SE 082 640) is a scattering of many boulders, one of which in particular at Knot Head was explored by a Mr Gill in 1955 and found to have a number of Mesolithic worked flints all round it. Seems as if folk have been up to things round here for even longer than we first thought.  Microlith or flint-hunters would probably do well on the moors up here!

Folklore

It’s the old pen of our Yorkshire topographer Edmund Bogg which brings the lost folktale of this place back to life – and it’s typical of aboriginal creation myths from elsewhere in the world. In his Higher Wharfeland he had this to say of old ‘Nursa Knott’, as it was locally known:

“The old legend is that the devil, for some reason anxious to fill up Dibb Gill,* was carrying these ponderous crags in his apron when, stumbling over Nursa Knott, the strings broke and the crags fell. Legend also says, should the crags be removed they will be carried by some invisible power back to their original position.”

He then reminds us of links with old Wade, plus the settlement of old Grim, a short distance to the north.

Across the road down the track running south to Skyreholme, Jessica Lofthouse ( 1976) told the tale of a ghostly horseman, seen by her great-grandfather no less! Suggesting he may have been ‘market merry’ (i.e., pissed!), she told how he “struck out at a spectral white horse at the Skyreholme three-land ends near Appletreewick – and his stick passed through it!”

References:

Bogg, E., Higher Wharfeland: The Dale of Romance, James Miles: Leeds 1904.
Lofthouse, Jessica, North Country Folklore, Hale: London 1976.
Walker, D., ‘A Site at Stump Cross, near Grassington, Yorkshire, and the Age of the Pennine Microlithic Industry,’ in Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society, 1956.

* Dibb Gill is nearly a mile due west of here – and Dibble’s Bridge which crosses the beck was also known as the Devil’s Bridge, with a few typical creation myths of its own attached.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Nixon’s Station, Ilkley Moor, West Yorkshire

Cairn:  OS Grid Reference – SE 1148 4522

Getting Here

The denuded remains of a once giant tomb

This is the highest point of the moors, 1320 feet up. There’s various ways of getting there: I’d favour the wander up to Twelve Apostles then taking the 15 minute walk west to the triangulation point which marks the spot.  If you reach the large rocky outcrop of the Thimble Stones, you’ve gone too far; although you can walk past the Thimbles, if you’ve started your walk from the two radio masts atop of the moor where the old Roman road hits the dirt-track.  Either way, unless you’re damn stupid, this is an easy spot to find!

Archaeology & History

Although today there’s little to be seen, when Collyer & Turner (1885) described the place it was 175 yards in circumference! Bloody huge! When Harry Speight got here in 1900, it had shrunk slightly to 150 yards. Now however, almost all the stones have been robbed.  I first came here when I was just 11 years old and remember it was a decent size even then – at least as large as the Little Skirtful and Great Skirtful of Stones more than a mile to the east.  Today however, unless you knew it was once a giant cairn, you wouldn’t give it a second look.

It’s quite appalling what’s happened to this site thanks to the sheer ignorance and neglect of the local archaeologist in tandem with his paymasters at Bradford Council: 90% of the site has been utterly vandalised and destroyed as a result of these incompetent idiots in the last 20 years.  Nowadays, all you can make out here is the raised earth for about 10 yards surrounding the trig-point.  It seems that most of the stones that comprised this giant cairn have been taken for use in walling, and to prop up the stupid paved footpaths which the local Council and its affiliated halfwits are slowly building o’er these hills.*  Morons!

Aar Dave on top o’ t’ moors

I’m not quite sure why it was called Nixon’s Station.  It was J. Atkinson Busfield (1875) who mentioned this name, quite casually in his fine local history work, as if local folk had known it as such for sometime.  There was also an inference of it being the resting place of some old general, but I’ve found nor heard anything more along such lines — though worra superb place for your spirit to roam free…..

If anyone has any old photos of this once giant prehistoric site, it would be good to see it in its old glory once again.  When I wandered up here as a kid, I never carried things like a camera about (being a Luddite by nature!).

References:

  1. Busfield, J.A., Fragments Relating to the History of Bingley Parish, Bradford 1875.
  2. Collyer, R. & Turner, J.H., Ilkley, Ancient & Modern, Otley 1885.
  3. Speight, Harry, Upper Wharfedale, London 1900.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

* Anyone know exactly which idiots are responsible for the stone footpaths being laid over the moors here? They’re damn stupid and cause even more erosion and damage to the environment and prehistoric heritage up here, as anyone with an ounce of common sense can see. Can someone please get them stopped!?

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