Stoodley Pike Circle, Mankinholes, West Yorkshire

Ring Cairn (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SD 973 243

Getting Here

Stoodley Pike is unmissable! Get to either Hebden Bridge or Todmorden – ask someone – then get to it! Nice climb – nice view – excellent moors all round!

Archaeology & History

Artist's impression of Stoodley Pike Circle (bottom left of ruin)

All traces of this site have gone, but local gossip still tells there was once something here. When building work commenced on the huge folly in 1814, in clearing the ground “an accumulation of stones (and)…a quantity of bones” were unearthed. After the huge folly had been built, a curious ritual was made by local Freemasons, from here to the nearby Slake Well. The circle was only a small one, but ideal for the spirit of the ancestor to both look-out from, and fly across the landscape.  In another description of the place from 1832 — wrote E.M. Savage (1974) — local writer and poet, William Law, told how “a rude heap of stones had stood on the site from time immemorial.”

Folklore

Suggested by earlier writers to have been an old beacon site, though evidence for this is uncertain.  The site was said to be a meeting place of the “gude grannies,” who met here and told old stories.  E.M. Savage (1974) told us:

“Another story was that the cairn marked the grave of an old chietain and that the bones of a human skeleton had been found… A contemporary of (William) Law, called Holt…stated that this was so.  Another story was that someone had been murdered and buried there.  Many years later, Law quizzed the workmen.  Bones had been found but no one knew whose bones, or their age, so the mystery remained.

“Yet another story had it that the occupant, presumably owner, of Stoodley, had to keep the original Pike, the cairn, in neat and good order.  If a single stone was out of place, no one could sleep.  The banging of doors and other noises started up, to remind the owner to tidy up the stones.  Elusive flames were to be seen playing round the stones. Sor the stories went.”

As can be seen in the artist’s drawing above, done more than a century after the cairn had been destroyed, a ring of stones is shown just below the remains of the earlier of the Peace Monuments, which today carries the old name of Stoodley Pike.

References:

Booth, Thomas, Ancient Grave Mounds on the Slopes of the Pennine Range, R. Chambers: Todmorden 1899.
Savage, E.M., Stoodley Pike, Todmorden Antiquarian Society 1974.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Stanwick Fortifications, North Yorkshire

Settlement:  OS Grid Reference – NZ 183 124

1850 map of village & earthworks

1850 map of the earthworks

Getting Here

From Scotch Corner on the A1, head on the A66 and take the first right up to and straight thru Melsonby village at the crossroads and on for a few more miles till you hit the hamlet of Stanwick-St.-John.  You’re now in the middle of the fortifications and earthworks! (check the map, right) Get to the nearby church of St. John’s and you’re on what once could have been a henge.

Archaeology & History

Although the Roman’s came here, the origins of this huge enclosure and settlement — between the hamlets of Eppleby and Stanwick St. John — are at least Iron Age.  It’s very probable that this place has been used by people since at least the Bronze Age, if not earlier — but let’s keep to playing safe (for a change) and repeat what the professionals have found!  Stanwick was recorded in Domesday as Stenwege and Steinwege, which A.H. Smith (1928) and later etymologists tell us means “stone walls,” which obviously relates “to some ancient rock entrenchments found in the township”, or the Stanwick Fortifications no less!

Sir Mortimer Wheeler’s (1954) account of the history and excavation of these huge ramparts found that it was a centre of some importance to the Brigantians. His view was that it was the rebel stronghold of the Brigantian figure called Venutius, ex-partner of the Queen Cartimandua.  Archaeologists who did further work here in the 1980s concluded that it was one of Cartimandua’s “estates” — possibly even the original capital city of Brigantia.

Church on the circular henge-like remains (phot courtesy Pete Glastonbury)

Church on the circular henge-like remains (photo © Pete Glastonbury)

The settlement was enlarged and fortified considerably upon the arrival of the Romans in the first century. Splitting them into three phases, the earliest Phase I area (Iron Age) covered 17-acres; Phase II was extended over 130 acres; and Phase 3 extended the enclosure over another 600 acres.  A further extension of earthworks appears to have occurred, but Wheeler believed them to have been constructed at a much later period.  To allow for a decent discourse on this huge site and its multiperiod settlement, I’m gonna quote extensively Mr Wheeler’s (1954) text on the site, who headed a team of archaeologists in the summers of 1951 and 1952 and explored various sections of this huge arena.

In the introduction to his work, Mortimer briefly mentioned the finding of some chariot burials found close by, though less certain is the exact spot where these important remains came from.  He wrote:

“Of the three accounts, the earliest, dating from shortly after the discovery, states that the objects ‘were deposited together in a pit at a depth of about five feet within the entrenchment at Stanwick.  Near by large iron hoops were found.’  Two years later MacLauchlan showed the find-spot on his map…as a little to the northeast of Lower Langdale, well outside the main Stanwick earthworks, and, in spite of variant accounts, his evidence may be regarded as authoritative.”

Nothing more is said of these finds throughout the book.  Instead, Mortimer guides us through their dig, beginning with the structural sequence of the extensive earthworks that constitute Stanwick’s fortifications, from Phase 1 onwards, saying:

Plan showing 3-phase evolution of the Stanwick earthworks from the Iron Age period at the top, to Phase 3 works in the 1st century AD (from Wheeler's 'Stanwick Fortifications', 1954)

Phase I.  The nucleus of the whole system is a fortified enclosure, some 17 acres in extent, situated to the south of Stanwick Church and the Mary Wild beck, on and around a low hill known as ‘The Tofts’… The name ‘Tofts’ is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “Site of a homestead”, or “An eminence, knoll or hillock in a flat region; esp. one suitable for the site of a house.”  Appropriately the field is described by the farmer as a ‘dirty’ one; it produces an abundant crop of nettles which have to be cut twice a year and are a common sequel to ancient occupation.  The enclosure is, or rather was, roughly triangular on plan, conforming approximately with the mild contours of the hill and to that extent meriting the exaggerated designation of ‘hill-fort.’  On the west its rampart and ditch are excellently preserved in a stretch of plantation known as ‘The Terrace’ or ‘The Duchess’s Walk’, where the single bank of unrevetted earthwork rises some 24ft above the ditch… The southern corner has been almost completely obliterated, but a part of it can be traced faintly in the walled garden southeast of the The Terrace.  A stretch of the eastern side still stands up boldly beside the road from Stanwick Church to (the former) Stanwick Hall, but a large part of this side has been demolished for the making of the road, and some dumps of earth immediately east of Church Lodge may be a result of this process.  The northern side approached but stopped short of the brook, and is marked by remains of a counterscarp bank… The main rampart was here thrown into the ditch anciently, doubtless when this portion of the work was included in and superseded by the work of Phase II.  Near the northwestern corner was a stone-flanked entrance, now partially obscured by the northern end-wall of the Terrace plantation.  The rampart was of earth, apparently without stone or timber revetment, the ditch was V-shaped save where, on the northern or lowest side, its completion in depth was stopped by water and the counterscarp bank already referred to was added as compensation.

Phase II.  Subsequently, at a moment which will be defined in the sequel as not later than AD 60, the hill-fort was supplemented by a new enclosure over 130 acres in extent, so designed as to outline the slight ridge north of the brook, to bend inward round the nearer foot of Henah Hill on the east, and farther west to cut off the northern end of the hill-fort, obviously in order to enclose the brook and its margin hereabouts.  Southeast of Stanwick Church, the marshy course of the brook for a distance of over 300 yards was regarded as a sufficient obstacle, without rampart and ditch, though whether supplemented by a palisade is not known.  As already indicated, that part of the Phase I earthwork which now lay inside the new enclosure was largely obliterated by filling its rampart into its ditch.

The enclosure constituting Phase II had an entrance near its western corner…where 50ft of the ditch, partially rock-cut, were cleared with notable results… There may have been another entrance under the present road-junction immediately east of the Stanwick vicarage, in the middle of the northern side, or less probably, at an existing gap 150 yards further to the southeast.  The rampart was of earth, aligned initially at the back on a small marking-out trench and bank; in front it was revetted with a vertical drystone wall.  The ditch was cut in the boulder-clay and partially in the underlying limestone…

Phase III.  At a date which will be defined as about a dozen years later (c. AD 72), a similar though longer system, enclosing a further 600 acres, was added to Phase II.  It impinges almost at a right angle upon, and implies the pre-existence of, Phase II on the east, and terminates upon the ditch of Phase II on the west.  An entrance can be seen near the middle of the southern side, and less certainly a gap in Forcett Park may represent a second entrance in the western side.  Further stretches of the mary Wild beck were included. The rampart, like that of Site A, incorporated a marking-out trench and bank at the rear, and was fronted with a vertical stone revetment.

Phase IV.  To the southern side of Phase III was added at an unknown period an enclosure of some 100 acres, now subdivided by traces of a double earthwork extending southwards from a point east  of the southern entrance of Phase III… This double earthwork however, is of an entirely different character from those already considered, and appears indeed to overlap the rampart of Phase III at a point where the latter had already been broken through.  It is comparable with some of the double banks which constitute or are incorporated in the Scots Dike at Lower Langdale, farther east; and the Phase IV enclosure is in fact linked with the Scots Dike by a semi-obliterated ditch extending eastwards from its southeastern corner.  Phase IV…may, as has been suspected, relate to the Anglo-Saxon period.”

…to be continued…

References:

Smith, A.H., The Place-Names of the North Riding of Yorkshire, Cambridge University Press 1928.
Wheeler, Mortimer, ‘The Stanwick Excavations, 1951,’ in Antiquaries Journal, January 1952.
The Stanwick Fortifications, North Riding of Yorkshire, OUP & Society of Antiquaries: London 1954.

Links: – Stanwick Iron Age Hillfort – For an extensive overview of the archaeology of this large site, you can do no better than this web-page.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Torr Mor, Applecross, Ross & Cromarty

Settlement: OS Grid Reference – NG 709 431

Getting Here

Pretty easy to get to.  Go south through the village for a half-mile until you reach the hall by the fire station, sat back on the left-hadn side of the road a few hundred yards past Loch a’ Mhuillinn.  Stop here and walk up the slope behind the hall for a hundred yards or so.  Walk about!

Archaeology & History

The OS-coordinate here is a loose one. It centres on the notable hillock of Torr Mor, around which are a number of hut circles (at NG 7097 4293; NG 7139 4303; NG 7087 4309; NG 7088 4310 and NG 7090 4320) which are each in a relatively good condition and are thought to date from at least the Iron Age. When I visited them, the bracken had encroached on all but one of them (the last in the list above), which was about 30 feet across.

North of here are several curious-looking heaps of stones which need closer examination when the vegetation has died away. At first glance they would seem to be cairns, i.e. tombs. No such prehistoric graveyard has been found anywhere on the peninsula as yet – but considering the existence of the settlements in the area at Sand, you’d think there’d be one somewhere!

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Toscaig, Applecross, Ross & Cromarty

Standing Stones: OS Grid Reference – NG 712 385

Archaeology & History

The Cambridge biologist J. Havelock Fidler described finding three standing stones in the gorgeous little remote hamlet of Toscaig in his book Ley Lines (1983), which neither the Applecross Local History Society, myself, nor anyone else has been able to locate (the OS grid reference cited above is simply an approximation of their locality). In an updated version of his work, Mr Fidler seems to indicate they can be found a short distance south-east of the village, at the end of an alignment which is supposed to start at Fearnmore (NG 724 605), at the northern edge of the peninsula. If they exist, could anyone perhaps enlighten us as to their whereabouts…?

References:

Fidler, J. Havelock, Ley Lines – Their Nature and Property, Aquarian: Wellingborough 1983.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Sowerby Lad, Mytholmroyd, West Yorkshire

Standing Stone (destroyed): OS Grid Reference – SE 024 244

Archaeology & History

Also known as the Field House Standing Stone, this monolith seems to have gone.  It was first described in local Minister’s Accounts of 1403, and then again in the Wakefield court-rolls of 1515.  By the time John Watson (1775) wrote about the place there had been several other references describing this old “standyngstone”. It was still upright in 1852, but Ordnance Survey showed it as “Site of – ” at the beginning of the 20th century, and the stone had been moved a short distance away, further down from its original position to a spot at the side of the old trackway — but all trace of it has since vanished.

Folklore

This is thought to have been the standing stone which Robin Hood threw here, from the appropriately called Robin Hood’s Penny Stone at Wainstalls. The tale tells how he dug it out of the ground with a spade and threw it three-and-half miles across the valley until it landed here. Ooh, what a strong boy!

References:

Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
Smith, A.H., The Place-Names of the West Riding of Yorkshire, volume 3, Cambridge University Press 1961.
Watson, John, The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Halifax, T. Lowndes: London 1775.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Snowden Carr Carving (594), Timble, North Yorkshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 17903 51266

Also Known as:

  1. Fence Stone

Getting Here

Carving 594 (after James Elkington)

Carving 594 (after James Elkington)

Follow the same directions to reach the Tree of Life Stone, then walk up the well-worn footpath up the slope for about 100 yards and, as you get to near the top of the hill, just watch out for a large-ish stone on the right.  That’s it!

Archaeology & History

First described by Eric Cowling 1937, here we have what here looks like a faded cup-and-ring plus at least eight other cup-markings near Snowden Crags (though Boughey & Vickerman [2003] counted only 6 cups here).  In more recent years it has become known as the “Fence Stone” due to its proximity the straight line of fencing which ran across the moor hereby.  Cowling’s description of the site told:

Faded cup-and-ring

Cowling’s 1937 drawing

“The spur of hill separating Snowden Carr from Snowden Craggs is surmounted by a D-shaped enclosure which has a small level area in the highest corner.  Here, on a triangular table stone amongst the heather, is a well-cut cup, ring and radial groove running to the margin of the surface.  Four other cups appear to have no definite arrangement.”

He went onto say that “many of the boulders which surround this table are marked with cups.”  They are indeed!

References:

  1. Boughey, Keith & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, WYAS 2003.
  2. Cowling, Eric T., “Cup and Ring Markings to the North of Otley,” in Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, part 131, 33:3, 1937.
  3. Cowling, Eric T., Rombald’s Way: A Prehistory of Mid-Wharfedale, William Walker: Otley 1946.

Acknowledgements:  A huge thanks to James Elkington for use of his photo for this site profile.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Skirtful of Stones, Horton-in-Ribblesdale, North Yorkshire

Cairn (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SD 785 747

Getting Here

Although apparently long gone, we could find this giant prehistoric tomb on the eastern side of the great Ingleborough and was one of many with this name once scattering the mid-Pennines. It was found less than a mile south of the hamlet of Selside, a few miles above Horton-in-Ribblesdale, on the west side of the B6479 and its existence is thankfully preserved in the place-name, ‘Borrens’, where the giant tomb was once found, 200 yards south of Gill Garth Farm.  If you look on the OS-map, you’ll notice an ancient settlement site close by.

Archaeology & History

In 1892, the great Yorkshire historian Harry Speight told us:

“We have no proper account of it, but it was doubtless ransacked and removed in the expectation of finding treasure. It is mentioned…in the Gentleman’s Magazine for 1761, as follows:

‘In the valley above Horton, near the base of this mountain (Ingleborough), I observed a large heap or pile of greet-stones all thrown promiscuously together, without any appearance of building or workmanship, which yet cannot be reasonably thought to be the work of Nature. Few stones are found near it, though ’tis computed to contain 400 of that country cart-loads of stones, or upwards. There is likewise another at the base north-east, in resemblance much the same, but scarce so large.'”

Speight speculated that it may have been raised to commemorate “some dire conflict between the Romans and the native hill tribes, as it lay on the old Roman thoroughfare across Ribblehead to the camp under Smearside.” We may never know this for sure, but there are plenty of Iron- and Bronze Age remains scattering this region – and just a few hundred yards south of this lost cairn are the old remnants of an ancient settlement…whose pages and images (it is hoped) will appear on TNA in the near future…

References:

  1. Smith, A.H., English Place-Name Elements, volume 1, Cambridge University Press 1956.
  2. Smith, A.H., Place-Names of the West Riding, volume 6, Cambridge University Press 1961.
  3. Speight, Harry, The Craven and Northwest Yorkshire Highlands, Elliott Stock: London 1892.

© The Northern Antiquarian 

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Simon’s Seat, Skyreholme, North Yorkshire

Sacred Hill:  OS Grid Reference – SE 0788 5981

Getting Here

Simon’s Seat in the centre & the Lord’s Seat immediately east

Tons of ways here.   To those who drive, take the Grassington-Pateley Bridge (B6265) road and a couple of miles past the village of Hebden, you’ll see the high rocks climbing on your southern horizon, with another group of rocks a few hundred yards along the same ridge.  That’s it!

Archaeology & History

This is an awesome site, full of raw power. It commands a brilliant view all round, but it is the north which truly draws the eye’s attention. Beneath the great drop of this huge outcrop is the haunted and legendary Troller’s Ghyll. The scent of as yet undisclosed neolithic and Bronze Age sites purrs from the moors all round you and there can be little doubt that this was a place of important magick in ancient days.

What seems to be several cup-markings on one of the topmost rocks are, to me, authentic. Harry Speight mentioned them in his 1892 work on the Craven and Northwest Yorkshire Highlands – but there are a number of other rocks in this giant outcrop with “possibles” on them.

Folklore

The name of this great rock outcrop has long been a puzzle to historians and place-name experts.  One tale that was told of Simon’s Seat to the travelling pen of one Frederic Montagu in 1838, told that,

“It was upon the top of this mountain that an infant was found by a shepherd, who took it to his home, and after feeding and clothing it, he had the child named Simon; being himself but a poor man, he was unable to maintain the foundling, when it was ultimately agreed to by the shepherds, that the child should be kept “amang ’em.”  The child was called Simon Amangham and the descendants of this child are now living in Wharfedale.”

The usually sober pen of Mr Speight thinks this to have been one the high places of druidic worship, named after the legendary Simon Druid. “It is however, hardly likely,” he wrote, “that he ever sat there himself, but was probably represented by some druidical soothsayer on whom his mystic gifts descended.”

I’ve gotta say, I think there’s something distinctly true about those lines. Visit this place a few times, alone, during the week, or at night – when there’s no tourists about – and tell me it isn’t…

References:

  1. Bogg, Edmund, Higher Wharfeland, James Miles: Leeds 1904.
  2. Montagu, Frederic, Gleanings in Craven, Simpkin Marshall: London 1838.
  3. Speight, Harry, The Craven and Northwest Yorkshire Highlands, Elliott Stock: London 1892.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Scale House, Rylstone, North Yorkshire

Tumulus:  OS Grid Reference – SD 970 568

Getting Here

Pretty simple really.  Go up the B6265 Skipton-Rylstone road for about 3 miles, past the Nettlehole Ridge woodland on your right.  The next turn along to your right, up the track, is Scale House.  Go past this until you get to Scale House Farm.  The remains of the burial mound is in the field to your left, just before the farm.  Knock on the door and ask!

Archaeology & History

This ‘tumulus’ (as it’s marked on the OS-map) was one of the many explored by the legendary reverend William Greenwell (1864) in the middle to latter-half of the 19th century.  His description of the finds at Scale House were considerable; thankfully our old Yorkshire antiquarian Edmund Bogg (1904) shortened it and told us the following:

“The tumulus was 31 feet in diameter and about 7 feet high; it opened from the southeast; the soil immediately under the sod consisting of yellow clay to a considerable depth; then layers of blue clay… Exactly in the centre…at a depth of 7 feet, and on a level with the plane of the field, was found an oak coffin, formed out of a tree, split and hollowed-out, and placed due north and south, the head being placed to the south, as that as the larger part of the tree. After being exposed to the air for about 2 minutes, the bared coffin parted at the sides, and could not be moved except by detached pieces. The body had been wrapped in a cloth or shroud of texture resembling wool and coarsely-woven, of which there was a considerable quantity remaining; but the body itself was dissolved… The interment was considered to be that of an ancient Briton… The learned antiquary said it was the only instance (except the one at Gristhorpe, near Scarborough) where an interment in an oak tree hollowed out had a tumulus placed over it. It was more than 6 feet in length inside and about 7 feet 6 inches outside. The remains were carefully replaced and the mound restored to its former shape; a small leaden tablet being placed within, stating that it had been opened in AD 1864.”

Folklore

Jessica Lofthouse (1976) listed this as one of the places reputed to be an old fairy haunt, wherein “the folk of Scale House discovered a fairy kist or chest.”

References:

Bogg, Edmund, Higher Wharfeland, James Miles: Leeds 1904.
Greenwell, William, British Barrows, Clarendon Press: Oxford 1877.
Lofthouse, Jessica, North Country Folklore, Hale: London 1976.

Links:

Out of Oblivion: Archaeology and Notes – Directions and notices on this once giant tomb.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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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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