Danes Hills, Riccall, North Yorkshire

Tumuli:  OS Grid Reference – SE 645 377

Getting Here

Sketch map of the Danes Hill tombs, 1849

Sketch map of the Danes Hill tombs, 1849

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

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:

  1. Bogg, Edmund, From Eden Vale to the Plains of York, James Miles: Leeds n.d.
  2. Burton, John, Monasticon Eboracense, N. Nickson: York 1758.
  3. Elgee, F. & H.W., The Archaeology of Yorkshire, Methuen: London 1933.
  4. Morrell, W. Wilberforce, The History and Antiquities of Selby, W.B. Bellerby: Selby 1867.
  5. Phillips, John, The Rivers, Mountains and Sea-Coast of Yorkshire, John Murray: London 1853.
  6. 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.
  7. Stead, I.M., ‘A Distinctive Form of La Tene Barrow in Eastern Yorkshire,’ in Antiquaries Journal, volume 41, 1961.
  8. 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:

  1. 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:

  1. Monstone

Getting Here

Man Stone on 1851 map

Man Stone on 1851 map

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.

Adding fuel to an authentic animistic history is the existence, once, of the Old Man’s consort: his Old Woman, or Cailleach, whose well and other landscape features existed to the north.  Much of our peasant history is clearly just beneath the surface in this unexplored archaeomythic region…

References:

  1. Collins, H.C., Rambles round Rochdale, Thomas Yates: Rochdale 1946.
  2. Fishwick, Henry, History of the Parish of Rochdale, James Clegg: London 1889.
  3. 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

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:

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

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

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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:

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

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

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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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Little Haystack Rock, Ilkley Moor, West Yorkshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone: OS Grid Reference – SE 13654 45936

Also Known as:

  • Carving no.184 (Hedges)
  • Carving no.355 (Boughey & Vickerman)
  • Haystack 2
The Little Haystack - looking west

The Little Haystack - looking west

Getting Here

Follow the same directions to reach the Pancake Stone.  Then walk eastwards along the footpath on the moorland edge.  After about 400 yards, keep your eye out to your right on the moorland proper where you’ll see this large boulder, seemingly isolated, of similar shape to the Haystack Rock, but a bit smaller.  That’s it! If you end up near the stream (Rushy Beck) you’ve gone way past it.

Archaeology & History

Four of the cups

Four of the cups on this lichen-rich surface

Little Haystack (after Hedges 1986)

Little Haystack (after Hedges 1986)

Found in the middle of the Green Crag Slack Plain, this large Haystack-Rock-shaped boulder stands out.  It sits amidst a cairn-field with other neolithic remains nearby.  The carving itself aint that impressive, and some parts of it seem almost dubious.  But both Hedges, Boughey and Vickerman include it in their surveys, describing the cup-marks and curious lines on its northeastern surface.  It’s nowt special to be honest.  You’d expect a bit more from the size of this old stone; but as those folk who know their rock art well will tell you, size aint everything when it comes the splattering of cups on a rock’s surface. We have four distinct cups pretty close to each other (as the photo shows), with another possible cup-and-ring and accompanying lines nearby.

The stone’s worth looking at though.  It stands out amidst the mass of single- and double-tombs scattered across the moorland plain — sitting amidst a veritable necropolis no less.

References:

Boughey, Keith & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, West Yorkshire Aarchaeology Service 2003.
Hedges, John (ed.), The Carved Rocks on Rombald’s Moor, WYMCC: Wakefield 1986.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Snowden Carr Carving (570), Timble, North Yorkshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 17766 51295

Getting Here

Cup-marked stone no.570

Follow the directions to reach the Snowden Moor settlement and, from the Upper D-shaped enclosure (at SE 1782 5131) walk west up the sloped hillock 30 yards west and, on its top, head to its northern edge where a small cairn can be found.  The carving is next to it.

Archaeology & History

Very close to what seems to be the boundary between the Snowden Moor Settlement and its adjacent Cemetery is this small earthfast rock with three cup-markings on it, two of which may be linked by a small line.  I have to say that we have to be cautious about the veracity of this carving.  By the side of this stone is what seems to be the remains of a cairn.

References:

Boughey, Keith & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, WYAS: Wakefield 2003.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Druid’s Altar, Bordley, North Yorkshire

Ring Cairn:  OS Grid Reference – SD 94945 65270

Also Known as:

  1. Bordley Circle

Getting Here

Druids Altar on 1852 map

Druids Altar on 1852 map

From Threshfield, go up Skirethorns Lane for about 1/2 mile, where the lane takes a sharp right. Continue uphill for nearly 2 miles to a metal gate. Go through the gate, where you’ll see a pair of curious standing stones ahead of you, but instead walk about 250 yards along the line of the old field wall running to the west.  You’ll see on the modern OS-map that a ‘cairn’ is shown: this is where you’re heading!

Archaeology & History

This is a lovely site in a beautiful setting, surrounded by a veritable mass of other prehistoric remains at all quarters, including the large settlement of Hammond Close immediately south, the little-known settlement at Kealcup to the west, the Lantern Holes settlement up the hill immediately north, some standing stones due east, and much more.  Although it was described in Aubrey Burl’s Four Posters (1988) as just such a type of megalithic relic (a four-poster stone circle that is), an earlier description of the site from the mighty pen of Harry Speight (1892) told of a much more complete ring of stones, with trilithon to boot. He wrote:

“This prehistoric relic consists of a round stone and earthen mound, about 150 feet in circumference and 3 feet high, and was formerly surrounded by a circle of upright stones, only three of which are now left standing. On one side was a large flat stone resting upon two others, and known as the Druid’s Altar. On the adjoining land an ancient iron spear-head was found some years ago, and fragments of rudely-fashioned pottery have also from time to time turned up in the same neighbourhood.”

Edmund Bogg’s (1904) description following his own visit a few years later described this “remains of Druidical sacrifice” as consisting of,

“a mound some four feet high, and fifty yards round the outer rim. In the centre are two upright stones about four feet in length; and others nearly buried in the mound. Numerous stones from this circle have been used in building the adjoining walls.”

Bordley Circle, looking SE

Bordley Hill, looking south to Pendle Hill

A decade later another writer (Lewis 1914) merely copied what Speight and Bogg had recited previously. And whatever the modern books might tell of its status, I think we can safely assert that this was originally a much more substantial monument than the humble four-poster stone circle that meets our eye nowadays.  Our megalithic magus Aubrey Burl (1988) wrote the following on Bordley’s druidical stones:

“On a circular mound 41ft (12.5m) across and 3ft (1m) high, three stones of local limestone form the corners of a rectangle 11ft 6in (3.5m) square, from which the SW stone is missing.  At its corner is ‘a stump, possibly the base of a prostrate stone,’ 5ft 10in (1.8m) long, now lying near the centre.  The tallest stone, 3ft 7in (1.1m) high is at the south-east.  The sides of the square are close to the cardinal points.  Between the SW and SE stones is a scatter of round cairnstones… Characteristically, the 4-Poster stands at the edge of a terrace from which the lands falls steeply to the west.”

Plan of the Druid's Altar (after Burl, 1988)

Plan of the Druid’s Altar (after Burl, 1988)

The Druid’s Altar seems to have originally been a large prehistoric tomb, perhaps even a chambered cairn.  Its situation in the landscape where it holds a circle of many outlying hills to attention, almost in the centre of them all, was evidently of some importance.  The only geographical ‘opening’ from here is to the south, where a long open valley widens to capture the grandeur of Pendle Hill, many miles away.  This would not have been insignificant.

We must also draw attention to what may be a secondary tumulus of similar size and form to the mound that the Druid’s Altar sits upon only some 25 yards to the west of the “circle”.  The shape and form of this second mound is similar to that of our Druid’s Circle — though to date, it seems that no archaeologist has paid attention to this secondary feature.  It measures some 21 yards (east-west) x 19 yards (north-south) in diameter and has the appearance of a tumulus or buried cairn.  The mound may be of a purely geological nature, but this cannot safely be asserted until the attention of the spade has been brought here.

Druid's Altar, Bordley (drawing by Neil Wingate, 1976)

Druid’s Altar, Bordley (drawing by Neil Wingate, 1976)

Folklore

Although we have nothing directly associated with the circle, the surrounding hills here have long been known as the abode of faerie-folk.  Threshfield — in whose parish this circle lies — is renowned for it.  There have been accounts of curious light phenomena here too.  Modern alignment lore tells the site to be related to the peaked tomb above Seaty Hill, equinox west of here.

References:

  1. Bogg, Edmund, Higher Wharfeland, James Miles: Otley 1904.
  2. Burl, Aubrey, Four Posters: Bronze Age Stone Circles of Western Europe, BAR 195: Oxford 1988.
  3. Feather, S.W. & Manby, T.G., ‘Prehistoric Chambered Tombs of the Pennines,’ in Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, Vol 42, 1970.
  4. Lewis, A.L., ‘Standing Stones and Stone Circles in Yorkshire,’ in Man, no.83, 1914.
  5. Raistrick, Arthur, ‘The Bronze Age in West Yorkshire,’ in Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, Vol 29, 1929.
  6. Speight, Harry, The Craven and Northwest Yorkshire Highlands, Elliott Stock: London 1892.
  7. Wingate, Neil, Grassington and Wharfedale, Grassington 1977.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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