Baildon Moor Cairn Circle, West Yorkshire

Cairn Circle:  OS Grid Reference – SE 132 401

Getting Here

Easy to find if you go at the right time of year — very troublesome to find if you go at the wrong time!  Check the place out at the end of winter, beginning of Spring.  It’s at the top end of Shipley Glen, just past where the road bends round and goes uphill.  About 50 yards up, on the left side of the road walk into the grasslands for less than 100 yards.  Look around!

Archaeology & History

An intriguing site this one.  Intriguing as it wasn’t in the archaeological registers when I first came across it — and I’m really unsure whether it’s in there now.  It probably has, as John Barnatt came here with some earth-mystery folk in 1982!  But when I first visited this site in 1975 it seemed no one knew about it — and little has changed since then.

It is an enclosed ring of stones less than 30 feet across with an earth embankment separating it from what seems like a secondary ring on its outer edge, a foot or two away.  This didn’t appear to surround the complete ring and may have been damaged.  It had an appearance similar in size, shape and form to the Roms Law and Harden Moor sites, and thankfully in reasonable condition. I don’t think any excavation has yet been performed here though.

There are a number of other small standing stones on the outskirts of this ring that may have some relationship with the site, but we need excavation to prove one way or the other.  Several very well-preserved cup-marked stones are close by.

Folklore

Intriguing to those of you who are fascinated by alignments between sites, or ‘leys’, as an impressive lines runs through this site. Starting at the little known Hirst Woods Circle and terminating at the giant Great Skirtful of Stones cairn, once passing over the now destroyed Weecher circle and the Brackenhall Green ring on its way.

References:

Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Chieveley 2001.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Posted in Cairns, Tombs, Tumuli, Stone Circles, Yorkshire, West | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Na Clachan Bhreige, Kirkibost, Strathaird, Skye

Stone Circle:  OS Grid Reference –  NG 5432 1768

Also known as:

  • The False Stones
  • Na Clachan Breitheach
  • Strathaird Circle

Getting Here

Way off from seemingly anywhere this one – on the southern foothills of the great Cuillins, by the western edge of a seemingly unnamed loch. (most unusual) Take the Elgol road (A881) south from Broadford, nearly to its end, keeping an eye out for Kirkibost a few miles from the very end of the road. Just past here, stop and walk the track west to Camasunary a half-mile along, through the small forestry-bit, then follow the line of the trees north and keep going a bit more till y’ reach the nice stream that feeds that unnamed loch. Cross the stream!

Archaeology & History

Alexander Thom's 1967 drawing

Alexander Thom's 1967 drawing

A fascinating little site this one! Perhaps consisting of as many as eight stones at one time, only three stand visible today.  Alexander Thom (1967) reported finding other stones in this circle “being buried in the peat, but prodding revealed their position roughly” — as shown on his drawing here.  There may at one time have been as many as eight stones here, but the site itself is quite small, making a ring of stones only 21-feet across (or 8 megalithic yards as Thom had it).  The ruinous state of the site was put down to the stupidity of the Church of Scotland issuing “instructions that all stones in Skye were to be thrown down” a few centuries back.

Aubrey Burl's later 'four-poster' summary

Aubrey Burl's later 'four-poster' summary

Aubrey Burl reported that “there were once at least 4 stones here, the tallest being of 6ft 6ins (2m) high,” and wondered whether this was one of the many ‘four-poster’ stone circles that scatter Scotland and elsewhere.  An issue he seemed comfortable to proclaim a few years later in his survey of such sites. (Burl 1988) Of those stones still standing, the tallest is just 5 feet high; but there’s the impressive 11½-foot long monolith laying on the southeast edge of the ring!  Mr Burl also pointed out that some

“casual digging  inside the ring around 1860 uncovered a blackpolished stone about 1½ ins (4cm) long, ‘somewhat resembling a small pestle.'”

I found the proximity of the Cille Mhaire burial ground a mile west of here more than a bit intriguing (though didn’t have time to assess its geomantic relationship further).  And the reported presence of prehistoric cairns nearby imply that the Na Clachan Bhreige ‘circle’ had some relationship with death and burial.

Folklore

The folkname of ‘The False Stones’ comes from that well-known tale of the site “supposedly being the remains of three men turned into stone for deserting their wives.”  Something which Otta Swire (1964) thought was likely told by christian converts.  It would have probably replaced an earlier tale of the stones being the site where some ancestral spirits lived.  Swire also told that,

“these were once, if tradition is to be believed, Stones of Wisdom who could both foretell the future and show justice as between man and man.”

Burl (1988) also points out how,

“The name, Na Clachan Bhreige, has been variously pointed translated as ‘the judicial stones’, a place where medieval law courts were held, as in several other Scottish rings.  It has also been interpreted as ‘the stone of lies, or falsehood.'”

References:

Burl, Aubrey, Four Posters: Bronze Age Stone Circles of Western Europe, BAR: Oxford 1988.
Grinsell, L.V., Folklore of Prehistoric Sites in Britain, Hale: Newton Abbot 1976.
Swire, Otta F., Skye: The Island and its Legends, Blackie & Sons: Glasgow 1961.
Thom, Alexander, Megalithic Sites in Britain, Oxford University Press 1967.
Thom, A., Thom, A.S. & Burl, Aubrey, Megalithic Rings, BAR: Oxford 1980.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Posted in Hebrides, Inner, Inverness-shire, Skye, Stone Circles | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Skyreholme Carving 404, North Yorkshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 0739 6254

Also Known as:

  • Carving no.404 (Boughey & Vickerman)

Getting Here

Along the B6265 Pateley Bridge-Grassington road, roughly halfway between Stump Cross Caverns and the turn to Skyeholme and Applecross (New Lane) is a dirt-track on your right-hand side called Black Hill Road. Walk along here for a few hundred yards till y’ reach the gate on the right. A track meanders downhill, to the rich pastures of Nussey Green. Several hundred yards down, to the right-hand side of the track, we find this stone along with several of its companions. Look around!

Archaeology & History

Skyreholme Carving 404

Drawing of cup-marks

Nothing too special unless you’re a real rock-art freak, this flat, roughly triangular stone is carving no.404 in Boughey & Vickerman’s (2003) survey and has at least 13 cup-markings on it.  To get a full look at the entire carving, you may have to roll a bit of the turf away from one side of the rock.

References:

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

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Linton Church, Grassington, North Yorkshire

‘Standing Stone':  OS Grid Reference – SE 003 632

Getting Here

Pretty easy really. Get to the ancient St. Michael’s Church on the dead-end road just outside of Linton village.  As you approach it, look into the field on your right.  Y’ can’t miss it!

Archaeology & History

Linton 'Standing Stone'

Linton 'Standing Stone'

This is an oddity.  It could perhaps be little more than one of the Norber erratics found a few miles further north — but it looks more like a smaller version of one of the Avebury sarsens!  Just under six-feet tall, it was shown to me by Adrian Lord and his partner Janet yesterday (when the heavens subsequently opened and an outstanding downpour-and-half followed), who’d come across it only a week or two earlier themselves when they visited the ancient church next door.  The stone certainly aint in any archaeology registers (no surprise there); and as one local man we spoke to yesterday told us, “there used to be several other standing stones in the same field, cos I remember ’em when I was a kid. ” The gent we spoke to seemed to know just about everything about the local archaeology and history of the area (one of those “damn good locals” you’re sometimes lucky to find!).  He told us that the other stones which used to be there had been moved by the local farmer over the years, for use in his walls.  So it seems that this is the last one standing.  What looks like several other fallen stones can be seen further down the field, just next to the church.  But this one’s pretty impressive.

Close-up of gnarled rock

Close-up of gnarled rock

Looking south-ish!

Looking south-ish!

The church of St. Michael next door was, tells the information inside, built upon some old pagan site — which gives added thought to this upright stone perhaps being the ruin of an old circle, or summat along those lines.  The church, incidentally, is built right next to the River Wharfe.

Not far from here we find an almost inexhaustable supply of prehistoric remains at Grassington and district (less than a mile north).  A huge excess of Bronze- and Iron Age remains scatter the fields all round the town.  And aswell as the Yarnbury henge close by, there is — our local man told us,  “another one which no-one knows abaat, not far away”!

Folklore

The folklore of this area is prodigious!  There is faerie-lore, underworld tales, healing wells, black-dogs, ghosts, earthlights – tons of the damn stuff.  But with such a mass of prehistoric remains, that aint too surprising.  And although there appears no direct reference to this particular stone (cos I can’t find a damn reference about it), the old Yorkshire history magus, Harry Speight (1900), wrote of something a short distance away along the lane from the church.  He told that,

“In the field-wall beside the road may be seen some huge glacial boulders, and there is one very large one standing alone in the adjoining field, which from one point of view bears a striking resemblance to a human visage; and a notion prevails among the young folk of the neighbourhood that this stone will fall on its face when it hears the cock crow.”

Just the sort of lore we find attached to some other standing stones in certain parts of the country.  And in fact, from some angles, this ‘ere stone has the simulacrum of a face upon it; so this could be the one Speight mentions (though his directions would be, unusually, a little out).

There are heathen oddities about the church aswell: distinctly pre-christian ones.  An old “posset-pot” was used for local families to drink from after the celebration of a birth, wedding or funeral here.  And at Hallowtide – the old heathen New Year’s Day,

“certain herbs possessed the power of enabling those who were inclined to see their future husbands or wives, or even recognizing who was to die in the near future.”

And in an invocation of the great heathen god (the Church called it the devil), Speight also went on to tell that:

“The practice at Linton was to walk seven times round the church when the doomed one would appear.”

In a watered down version of this, local people found guilty of minor transgressions in and around Linton (thieves, fighters, piss-heads, etc),

“was compelled to seek expiation by walking three time around Linton Church.”

Linton stone05This would allegedly cure them of their ‘sins’!  Rush-bearing ceremonies were also enacted here.  On the hill above, the faerie-folk lived.  And until recently, time itself was still being measured by the three stages of the day: sunrise, midday and sunset; avoiding the modern contrivances of the clock, and maintaining the old pre-christian tradition of time-keeping.  Much more remains hidden…

References:

Speight, Harry, Upper Wharfedale, Elliott Stock: London 1900.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Oliver Cromwell’s Hill, Eye, Cambridgeshire

Tumulus (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – TF 232 018

Archaeology & History

Very little was known about this now lost burial mound.  It was one of several nearby but, thankfully, the local historian and archaeologist E. Thurnam Leeds (who once lived at the nearby Eyebury Farm) sent a letter to the Society of Antiquaries in London, describing some pottery and other remains that he’d found there:

“The small pot of a late Bronze Age type and the other sherds exhibited were found in a tumulus known as Oliver Cromwell’s Hill, at Eyebury, near Peterborough.  As only a portion of the tumulus has been examined as yet, it is proposed to defer a full account of the excavations until further progres has been made.  The tumulus is of the round type, about 40 yards in diameter and 5 feet high at the centre.  On three sides traces of a ditch were met with, containing soil which had evidently been burnt.  Close to the gravel in the centre of the tumulus there were two distinct layers of charcoal, and in two places apparently remains of hearths.  The small pot was found only 1½ feet down on the south-eastern side of the mound, 39 feet from the centre.  In the centre itself at various depths were found sherds, some of Bronze Age forms; but a pice of a rimmed vase found at a depth of 3 feet 6 inches, about 6 inches above the first charcoal layer, appears to be of Roman date, in which case the centre of the tumulus must have been disturbed in those times, though the charcoal floors were never pierced.  Bones of various animals, including sheep, pig, dog and hare, and a large flint flake were also found.”

As far as I’m aware, no further detailed examinations took place at this curiously-named hillock, whose folktale I’ve yet to read.

References:

Leeds, E.T., ‘Letter,’ in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, 22:1, 1910.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Slaithwaite Cross, West Yorkshire

Cross:  OS Grid Reference – unknown

Archaeology & History

The great Huddersfield historian, Philip Ahier (1948), in describing the lack of documentary evidence for several crosses in the neighbouring region, “at Deighton, Cowcliffe, Marsh and Golcar,” found out that,

“One did exist at Slaithwaite in front of the Manor House in the early past of the last century.  In March 1931, the base of this cross, commonly known as the Dial Stone, was removed to Doughlas in the Isle of Man, where it rested in the garden of Mr Harry Wood; in August 1939, it was brought back to Slaithwaite and now stands in the Recreation Park.”

However, this site differs from another two that I’ve found records for on the outskirts of this township.  Does anyone know what became of this old stone cross?  Izzit still about?  Its folk-name of the Dial Stone may make it a little easier to locate — but at the same time it does bring up the query, Why was it called that?

References:

Ahier, Philip, The Story of the Three Parish Churches of St. Peter the Apostle, Huddersfield – volume 1, Advertiser Press: Huddersfield 1948.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Stonehenge Cursus, Wiltshire

Cursus Monument:  OS Grid Reference – SU 1094 4292 to SU 1370 4319

Also Known as:

  • The Cursus
  • The Greater Cursus, Stonehenge

Archaeology & History

Stukeley’s Stonehenge Cursus

Not far south of the smaller Lesser Cursus monument, this huge linear earthwork was the very first cursus to be described, by William Stukeley no less, who thought it to be an old race-course for charioteers and the like!  He stumbled upon this: a curious gigantic linear earthwork feature, stretching for nearly two miles roughly east-west and as wide a football field, cut into the Wiltshire Earth, betraying all notions of ‘primitive’ histories as proclaimed by the ‘intellectuals’ of his day.  They were clearly wrong!  This immense enigmatic structure, still baffles the same creed of intellectuals to this day — but at least our old ancestors have been granted greater abilities than previously believed.  In his book on Stonehenge in 1740, Mr Stukeley described this,

“most noble work, contriv’ed to reach from the highest ground of two hills, extended the intermediate distance over a gentle valley; so that the whole cursus lies conveniently under the eye of the most numerous quantity of spectators. To render this more convenient for site, it is projected on the side of more rising ground, chiefly looking towards Stonehenge. A delightful prospect from the temple, when this vast plain was crowded with chariots, horsemen and foot, attending these solemnities with innumerable multitudes.”

Sir Norman Lockyer propounded its function as astronomical, aligning with the Pleiades around 2000 BC — a date we now know to be inconsistent with its construction, although as John North said in his Stonehenge (1997):

“Lockyer’s chronology was certainly better than the general archaeological consensus at the time.”

But further archaeological alignments and leys have been suggested running eastwards from here.  And as Paul Devereux pointed out, “In the case of this cursus, archaeology got there first.”  J.F.S. Stone, who carried out some excavations at the cursus in 1947, noted that

“its axis, if projected 1500 yards east, strikes Woodhenge and passes the Cuckoo or Cuckold Stone by the way.”

This was endorsed in 1981 by archaeologists John Hedges and David Buckley:

“In addition to aligning upon Woodhenge, the Greater Stonehenge cursus also sights upon the Cuckoo or Cuckold Stone.”

Alignment to Beacon Hill

In Roy Loveday’s (2006) survey of cursus monuments he told how this alignment goes much further, telling how it aligns “on the lower, northernmost prominence of Beacon Hill 8km away”, crossing Woodhenge on its way.  Such suggestions used to bring outcries of derision from the archaeological fraternity, but it seems archaeologists themselves are making such claims more and more these days.  At the forefront of modern alignment research in previous decades was Paul Devereux — and it was he who first noted the line-up with the distant Beacon Hill from the Great Cursus, telling:

“The course of the alignment can be extended eastwards a few miles beyond Woodhenge to cross the barrow-dotted ridge of Beacon Hill — a perfect example of a Wakins-style ‘initial point.’ The ridge is highly visible from Woodhenge.  It disappears from view as one walks westwards down the cursus, but reappears clearly as the west end is approached.  Indeed, the west end is so placed that it is at about the furthest point from which the Beacon Hill ridge , and the intermediate on which the eastern end of the cursus fall, can be seen together.”

…to be continued…

References:

Burl, Aubrey, A Brief History of Stonehenge, Robinson: London 2007.
Hedges, John & Buckley, David G., The Springfield Cursus and the Cursus Problem, Essex County Council 1981.
Loveday, Roy, Inscribed Across the Landscape, Tempus: Stroud 2006.
North, John, Stonehenge, Harper-Collins: London 1997.
Pennick, N. & Devereux, P., Lines on the Landscape: Leys and other Linear Enigmas, Hale: London 1989.
Stone, J.F.S., ‘The Stonehenge Cursus and its Affinities,’ in Archaeological Journal, 104, 1947.

© The Northern Antiquarian

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