Gill Head Boulder, Ilkley Moor, West Yorkshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference SE 1256 4602

Also Known as:

  • Carving no.117 (Hedges)
  • Carving no.274 (Boughey & Vickerman)

Getting Here

Line of cups on the Gill Head boulder

Line of cups on the Gill Head boulder

Pretty easy to find.  Follow directions to reach the great cup-and-ring marked Haystack Rock, then follow the footpath west and drop down the slope, crossing the stream of the Backstone Beck below you, the up the steepish slope and turn sharp left when you hit the footpath before the top of this slope.  Walk onto the moor!  You’ll walk right past the cup-and-ring marked ‘carving 283′ on this path, then the ruinous Backstone Circle a bit further along (50 yds to your right), but keep walking for another 100 yards until you see a large boulder a few yeards to the left of the footpath.  That’s it!

Archaeology & History

I first came across this as a kid, sometime in my early to mid-teens, pottering about, looking at any old rock that caught my eye.  And this one is hard to miss really.  One of the best memories I’ve got of this stone was when a bunch of us came walkabout up here, sometime in the autumn, when the heavens poured all day long to saturation-point — even for those in all their protective gear, such good as it was in the late ’80s to early ’90s.  There started out a fair bunch of us as I recall, with numbers dwindling sharply when we reached the Apostles.  But this stone was visited way before that!  Along with Bob Trubshaw, Graeme Chappell, Kaledon Naddair, Edna Whelan and a troop of other mad-folk, we stopped for a while to consider this old rock, with only three cups really visible that day.  The others (those cited by the archaeo’s) weren’t picked out, as I remember.  But She was pissing-it-down and the wind was really giving-it-some, so we didn’t stop here for long!  We all agreed though: it was a nice, worn cup-marked stone.

Gill Head rock carving

Gill Head rock carving

Gill Head carving (after Hedges 1986)

Gill Head carving (after Hedges 1986)

John Hedges and the Ilkley Archaeology bunch had cited it as ‘cup-and-ring’ in their fine work — the first time this old carving had been in print since it was first etched!  A few years later when Messrs Boughey & Vickerman (2003) checked it for their survey, no new features had been noted.  Indeed, it’s just a large boulder with a few notable cups on it when it first greets the eyes.  Nowt special, and with no companions either.

This is another one mainly for the mad-folk and purists amongst us!

References:

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

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Druid’s Oak, Caton, Lancashire

Sacred Tree:  OS Grid Reference – SD 529 646

Also Known as:

  • Caton Oak
  • Fish Stones Oak

Getting Here

The Druid's or Caton Oak

The Druid's or Caton Oak

Dead easy! Near the western end of Caton village, right on the edge of the main road (A683) running through the village (south-side of the road), enclosed by railings, you’ll see the remains of this ancient tree, just by the side of the stream.  Keep your eyes peeled!

Archaeology & History

The small scruffy-looking remnant of an oak standing here by the roadside in Caton village, surrounded by protective railings, is the dying remnants of the old tree, standing upon the sandstone steps which were known as the Fish Stones: a curious monument that has been listed as a protected monument by the Dept of National Heritage.  A small plaque on the side tells:

“The three semi-circular sandstone steps, shaded by the oak tree, were used in medieval times by the monks of Cockersand Abbey to display and sell fish caught from the River Lune.  The ancient oak tree, reputed to date back to the time of the druids, and the Fish Stones, have become a landmark and Symbol of Caton.”

Druid's Oak, Caton

Druid's Oak, Caton

This was probably the local moot spot for villagers and those living in outlying farms and hills in medieval times.  No doubt a market of some sort was also once here; perhaps even an old cross, as the Fish Stones have all the appearance of some village cross steps.  I’ve found little else about this old tree, nor any folklore (but aint looked too hard if truth be had!).  There’s surely more to be said about this once sacred tree.

More sites related in folklore to druids can be found not too far away at the collapsed cairn near Bordley; the Druid’s Altar and nearby Druid’s Well on the outskirts of Bingley; the Druid’s Stone of Bungay in Suffolk and many more…

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Market Cross, Thornton-le-Dale, North Yorkshire

Cross:  OS Grid Reference – SE 834 830

Getting Here

Dead easy.  Take the A170 road from Pickering to Thornton-le-Dale and as you go into the large village, you’ll hit the old crossroads with the village green.  Here be your cross!

Archaeology & History

Shown on the 1854 OS-map, I first came across a description of this old site in Creaser & Rushton’s (1972) scarce but lovely little work on the history of the old village here, where they told that,

“A cross has stood here since John de Eston in 1281 had the grant of a Tuesday market and two yearly fairs.  It was repaired in 1820.  Every year, the Abbot of Whitby unloaded 1500 red and 1500 white herrings here from his packhorse ponies for transhipment to the Master of St. Leonard’s Hospital at York.”

Or at least, that’s what he got folk to write down in the record-books!  Close by were the old village stocks of the village (whose usage should be resurrected in many parts of this country nowadays).

References:

Creaser, A. & Rushton, J.H., A Guide and History of Thornton-le-Dale, Pickering, Yorkshire, E. Dewing: Pickering 1972.

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Bown Hill Long Barrow, Woodchester, Gloucestershire

Long Barrow:  OS Grid Reference – SO 823 017

Getting Here

Easy enough this one.  Take the B4066 west of Woodchester past the Boundary Court and over the cattle grid for 100 yards or so.  Note the fence up the slope to your left (south) up the field here head for the triangulation pillar.  Once there keep walking for about another 100 yards.  You can’t miss it!

Archaeology & History

The mad craniologist John Thurnam (1810-73) was one of several old-school fellas who helped to excavate this grand site on one occasion.  Thinking that human sacrifice lay behind virtually all of the burial mounds, Thurnam was part of the Cotteswold Field Club group who investigated the place; and, because of his intellectual capacity in cranial investigations, was listened to by the budding archaeo’s of the day cos he was cleverer than them (hero worshipping).  A bit naive of them, but such is the way of some folk!  Yet their early account of this site (devoid of Thurnam’s weird notions) is quite invaluable, even today. Described in an address by their  President in the Proceedings in 1865, the article tells:

“The Club met at Stroud.  The principal work of the day was the opening of a ‘barrow’ on Bown Hill…which had formed the subject of discussion towards the end of the previous season when, the period of the year being too far advanced, the work of exploration was deferred.  Workmen had been employed under Dr Paine and Dr Witchell on the two previous days; but beyond the discovery of the entrance to the sepulchral chambers no great progress had been made in the excavation of the mound which, from its size and solidity, proved to be a very laborious operation.  In order, therefore, to expedite matters, a strong force of labourers, 22 in number, had been employed from an early hour on the day of the meeting.  The mound, which measured about 60 yards in length by 17 in extreme width, was seen to be constructed of angular masses of stone, heaped together without any order or regularity, amongst which were scattered blocks of considerable size and weight.

“The excavators had opened a trench about 100 feet in length, in a direction due east and west by compass.  The western extremity was the broadest, the mound gradually diminishing in width to the opposite end.  The workmen had struck upon the entrance which, when exposed, showed a chamber formed of five large, unhewn stones, two on each side and one placed transversely, the dimensions of which were 4 feet in width by 8 feet 6 inches in length.  There was no covering stone, but the entrance was flanked on either side by a wall of dry masonry, very neatly fitted, forming a segment of a circle, which, if completed, would have enclosed a well-like chamber in front of the entrance to the tumulus.  This wall had been abruptly broken off; but there were amongst those present some who thought they detected signs of it having been at one time continuous.  It was evident that the whole structure had been thoroughly ransacked and broken up by former explorers; and so completely had the work of devestation been accomplished that hardly one stone was left upon another.  The chambers, with the one exception already noted, had been entirely demolished, and but a few bones scattered throughout the whole tumulus remained, all more or less in a fragmentary condition.  These fragments comprised one fully developed frontal bone, male; portions of two male lower jaws, and portions of two female skulls; several thigh bones, and bones of the leg and foot, including the remains of children, but all much broken.  There were found the remains of six indiiduals at the least, viz, two men, two women and two children, the latter between six and eight years of age.  There were several bones of cattle and calves; teeth of horse and ox; a portion of the bones of the foreleg of a dog; several boar’s teeth, tusks and grinders, and parts of jaw bones; a bone ‘scoop’, formed of a shank bone of a horse; and a large quantity of a black unctuous substance, having the appearance of wood or animal charcoal; but no burnt bones.  A small portion of a small flint flake was detected in the black paste.  Besides the organic remains above enumerated, some pieces of rude pottery were found, which, with a Roman brass coin of the Emperor Germanicus, complete the list of objects yielded…”

Some of the remains found in Bown Hill's long barrow

Some of the remains found in Bown Hill's long barrow

A few years later George Witts’ (1883) described the tomb but added little to the description above.  When Crawford (1925) came here in December, 1920, the greatest height of the tomb was just ten feet and he described that “the extreme eastern end has been destroyed by quarrying.”  He could clearly discern various trenches and the remains of previous excavations around the tomb, but added little further, apart from an important geomantic ingredient:

“It stands near the highest point (763 feet) of the hill and commands a magnificent view.  South eastwards can be seen the Berkshire Downs (probably the White Horse Hill and Wayland’s Smithy); northwards May Hill and the Malvern Hills are visible; in the western distance are the Brecknock Beacons and the Black Mountains…”

Crawford later received further notes about the 1863 dig at Bown Hill from the son of Dr Paine that had been written following the original excavation.  Although they convey little extra from the above account, I’ll add the notes to this entry in the near future.

References:

Crawford, O.G.S., The Long Barrows of the Cotswolds, John Bellows: Gloucester 1925.
Darvill, Timothy, Prehistoric Gloucestershire, Alan Sutton: Gloucester 1987.
Grinsell, L.V., The Ancient Burial Mounds of England, Methuen: London 1936.
Guide, W.V., ‘Address to the Cotteswold Naturalists’ Field Club,’ in Proceedings of the Cotteswold Naturalists’ Field Club, volume 3, 1865.
Witts, George, Archaeological Handbook of Gloucestershire, G. Norman: Cheltenham 1883.

…to be continued…

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Boulter’s Barn Stone, Churchill, Oxfordshire

Standing Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SP 2938 2570

Also known as:

  • Churchill Stone

Getting Here

Boulter's Barn standing stone, Churchill (Tom Wilson)

Boulter's Barn stone (© Tom Wilson)

This stone stands on the south-side of the B4450 just north of the crossroads, halfway between Churchill and Chipping Norton.  Generally troublesome to see at first as it tends to get hidden in the hedgerow, but it aint too difficult to locate with a bitta patience.

Archaeology & History

First described in O.G.S. Crawford’s (1925) fine survey of megalithic remains following a letter he received from a local man, Mr A.D. Passmore, who first drew it to the attention of archaeologists.  Crawford told:

“This stone is a little over a mile southwest of Chipping Norton station.  It stands in the hedge on the northwest side of the road and is about four feet high… Nothing more is known about it, but it seems not unlikely that it may be of considerable antiquity.”

A few years later Leslie Grinsell (1936) mentioned it in his fine survey of prehistoric English tombs and associated remains, describing here, “a large stone which may be the remains of a megalithic monument.”  Tom Wilson then illustrated it in our crappy little Old Stones of Rollright (1999) work (which really needs updating and expanding).  It’s a cute little stone and may have once served as a companion to a prehistoric tomb as there are many others nearby.  It is also quite close to one of the local boundary lines and, p’raps, might once have served as a marker hereabouts.  We might never know…

References:

Bennett, Paul & Wilson, Tom, The Old Stones of Rollright and District, Cockley: London 1999.
Crawford, O.G.S., The Long Barrows of the Cotswolds, John Bellows: Gloucester 1925.
Grinsell, Leslie V., The Ancient Burial Mounds of England, Methuen: London 1936.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Hagg Woods, Thongsbridge, Holmfirth, West Yorkshire

Cairns:  OS Grid Reference – SE 1493 1026

Getting Here

Take the A6024 road south out of Huddersfield for about 4 miles, past the turnings to Honley, and when you reach a section where the road runs through a nice bitta woodland, stop! Go into the woods on the western side of the road near the bottom end where a footpath runs up to Haggs Farm. The cairnfield is about 100 yards up into the woods, evidenced by small overgrown heaps in a small cluster.  Good luck!

Archaeology & History

These are pretty difficult to locate even when the vegetation isn’t covering them!  But if you’re diligent and enjoy a good foray in searching for archaeological remains, you might uncover summat.  For here are the scattered remains of what was once a group of seven cairns with adjacent ring-banks, last excavated in the early 1960s by Neil Lunn and other members of the Huddersfield & District Archaeology Society.  Little by way of datable material was found, although one of them did “reveal features typical of some Bronze Age barrows.” Beneath this one they found “the remains of a hut or shelter with a succession of small hearths and a group of stone-packed postholes.”

It would be nice to find out the precise status of this area as few other remains seem in evidence, which can’t be right surely?

References:

Barnes, B., Man and the Changing Landscape, University of Liverpool 1982.
Lunn, N., ‘Account of Recent Fieldwork in the Honley Area,’ Hudds Dist. Archaeo. Soc., 13, 1963.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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The Whetstones, Churchstoke, Montgomeryshire

Stone Circle (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SO 303 976

Archaeology & History

Although geographically closer to the village of Priest Weston, this site — when still in existence — was in the parish of Churchstoke.  To be found a half-mile west of White Grit (near the famous Mitchell’s Fold megalithic ring and standing very close to the local boundary line), the Welsh Royal Commision report (1911) told that its position was, “at the foot of the northern slope of Corndon Hill, and close to a stile on the south side of the road near the turning to Cliffdale Mine.” Found close to a number of other prehistoric remains, the Report told:

“It is certain that at this place there once stood a circle of eight or nine stones.  An intelligent man, named John Jones, aged 74 years and a resident in the vicinity since his youth, remembers four stones arranged as though forming parts of a circle, with an appendage in a curve “like a hook.”  About 100 yards distant was a cairn, the foundation of which is still discernible.  The land was then unenclosed, but on its enclosure the cairn and the circle were rifled to provide stone for the construction of the existing fence.  Mr Jones pointed out the four stones which had been members of the circle.  The Rev. C. Hartshorne’s account of this circle in Salopia Antiqua, 1841, p.33, gives a slightly different account of the stones.  He observes, “these three stones (the Whetstones) were formerly placed upright though they now lean, owing to the soft and boggy nature of the soil.  The stand equidistant and assume a circcular position… The highest of these is four feet above the surface; 1 foot 6 inches in thickness; and 3 feet in width.”

When the Royal Commission lads got round to examining the remains here, they reported that,

“Only one stone is now to be found, embedded in the ground close to the stile entering the field, and this is so small that it is not likely to have formed one of the stones of the circle, or it must be a mere fragment of a larger mass.”

References:

Crawford, O.G.S., The Long Barrows of the Cotswolds, John Bellows: Gloucester 1925.
Royal Commission on Ancient & Historical Monuments, Wales, County of Montgomery, HMSO: London 1911.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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