Tadpole Stone, Eastwoods Rough, Dacre, North Yorkshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 18601 61644

Also known as:

  • Eastwoods Rough II Carving
  • IAG638b (Boughey)

Getting Here

Tadpole Stone, Dacre

To get here, follow the same directions as if you’re going to the Morphing Stone.  This carving is in the same field, but about 100 yards SSW of there, just to the south-side of the Nidderdale Way footpath.  There’s plenty of rocks about, but with a bit of patience or a natural rock-art dowser’s nose, you’ll find the carving easily enough!

Archaeology & History

Tadpole Stone plan

Tadpole Stone plan (© Richard Stroud)

This is another relatively recent find — though I wonder whether the nearby ‘Fertility Stone’ (about 500 yards north, in some walling) should switch names with this carving, as this one gives the distinct impression of sperm fertilizing the egg!  Don’t you agree!?  The name of the Tadpole Stone was given to it by Michala Potts — and the photograph and design are used, courtesy of Richard Stroud.  In the next field from here, towards Eastwoods Farm, we find the Eastwoods Cross base and cup-markings and adjacent cup-marked stone.  Not far away are other carvings, aswell as a number of other Bronze- and Iron-Age sites.

This design was described in Keith Boughey’s (2007) article on the rock art around Eastwoods Farm, telling how it

“was discovered by Kevin Cale and reported to the N.Y.C.C. SMR back in 2001… A low profile moss-covered earthfast rock a little over 1m in diameter in any one direction immediately S of the Nidderdale Way about 100m east of the end of Monk Ing Road and S of Eastwoods Farm at SE 18601 61643 and 172m O.D. Its domed surface carries a somewhat unusual design interestingly reminiscent of the design carved at the previous site which lies in the same field and landscape 160m to the north-west… An oval or egg-shaped groove enclosed up to six cups; a groove or channel, often referred to as a ‘comet tail’ in rock art motif vocabulary, runs from the central group of the six out beyond the enclosing groove, bends sharply and continues down over the sloping face of the rock.  A wide groove at the base of the rock running into the present turf line may be a further element of the carving.”

References:

Boughey, K., “Prehistoric Rock Art: Four New Discoveries in Nidderdale,” in Prehistoric Research Section Bulletin, no.44, Yorkshire Archaeological Society 2007.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Holy Well, Todmorden, West Yorkshire

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – SD 931 244

Getting Here

Now I aint been here for a few years, but it’s hopefully still where I last left it!  You need to get into the trees behind the Christ’s Church just out of the town centre, along the south-side of the Burnley valley road. (A646)  When you get to the footpath which runs just above the tree-line in the woods (it’s known locally as the ‘Lover’s Walk’ path), wander along for just a couple of hundred yards.  You’ll eventually get to the small spring of water and the tiny stream which runs down the slope, just to the left of the path. According to the old map I’ve got – that’s it!

Archaeology & History

This long-lost sacred well originally emerged a little bit further up the hill from where it is today.  Almost nothing is known about it.  Seemingly first highlighted in 1852, my first “discovery” of the place came as a result of going through some local old maps I’d had the fortune of obtaining.  In Victorian days when the site was much more prominent, the old road that took you into the woods was called Holy Well Lane.  Now, its memory has been subdued, and the old road is known simply as ‘Well Lane.’

A local writer, J.W. Crowther, mentioned the site in his local place-name survey, where he told that the Holy Well was a “name given to a well of excellent spring water” — but nothing more.  It was later mentioned in an article by J.A. Heginbottom [1988] who wrongly reported it as being “destroyed.”

Folklore

Local tradition told that ‘memaws’ (offerings such as rags, coins, flowers, etc) used to be left here by local people in olden times, as offerings to pacify or give respect to the waters; although what time of the year these were left, and the nature of the resident deity, has all been forgotten.  In very recent years however, it seems that some modern NewAge-types are now visiting the place once again.

References:

Crowther, J.W., Place Names of Todmorden, privately printed: Todmorden (n.d.)
Heginbottom, J.A., ‘Early Christian Sites in Calderdale’, in PHAS 1988.

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Idol Stone, Ilkley Moor, West Yorkshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 13265 45943

Also Known as:

  1. Carving no.322 (Boughey & Vickerman)
  2. Carving no.157 (Hedges)

Getting Here

J.R. Allen's 1882 sketch

J.R. Allen’s 1882 sketch

Take the directions to reach the Haystack Rock, then head onto the moor following the southeast footpath for a few hundred yards, towards where the moor slopes uphill.  20-30 yards before the uphill slope, a yard to the right of the path.  It accompanies the Young Idol Stone with its two small cups, just a few yards away.  Keep your eyes peeled and y’ can’t really miss it! If you hit the large slightly-pyramidal-shaped boulder with its well-worn lines running from its top (the Idol Rock), you’ve gone past it.

Archaeology & History

An intriguing carving this, and one which has always had me edging towards a manifest linear or logical myth underscoring its form.  It’s the almost binary or primal numeric system in the lay-out of the cups which seems to do it.  Few other carvings in the region exhibit this tendency.*  If you aint seen it ‘in the flesh,’ check it out.

First described by that old Victorian J. Romilly Allen (1882), he seemed equally impressed by it, calling it “the most beautiful specimen of prehistoric sculpture,” continuing:

“The stone is of grit, and measure 3ft 2ins, by 2ft 6ins.  Its upper surface is nearly horizontal, and has carved upon it cups varying in diameter from 2ins to 3ins.  A row of cups in the middle of the stone are entirely surrounded by a groove.  There is also a channel running round the outside.  Single cups are often found encircled by one or more concentric rings; but it is very exceptional indeed to find several cups surrounded by a single groove, or to find the cups so symmetrically arranged as in the present instance.”

Idol Stone - looking SW

Idol Stone – looking SW

Prehistoric walling runs very close to this and the adjacent rock carvings, with the well-known ‘enclosure’ just a short distance to the east on the same moorland plain.  This carving is very much on the edge of, or within, Green Crag Plain’s ‘Land of the Dead.’

This carving was one of several that Alan Davis (1983) measured in his exploratory survey on the validity of Alexander Thom’s ‘megalithic inch’ unit.  This issue absolutely fascinated me as a boy, as it brought the attention of these curious non-linear images into the domain of mathematics and the higher sciences, instead of the lowly social sciences within whose domain archaeology is embedded, with its many inaccuracies and falsehoods.  A number of astronomers and other academics did a great number of papers exploring potential units-of-length, surveying the carvings (and megalithic rings) in much greater detail than any previous archaeologist.  Much of it was excellent work.  However, the mythos of our ancient ancestors possessing great technical knowledge and mathematical ability was unfounded.  In Davis’ (1983) paper — edited and expanded a few years later (1988) — he found no evidence of mathematical units of measurement here; though left the option ‘open’ for further discussion and analysis on several others, where multiple units of megalithic inches were measured.  These findings however, are more likely the result of mere chance.

Idol Stone with “21st century informal unauthorised” art added

In 2011 some unnamed people visited the Idol Stone carving and vandalized it (this sadly happens more and more up here); but this form of vandalism is now being termed “twenty-first century informal unauthorised carvings” and is actually sanctioned by Ilkley Parish Council members, local businessman Tom Lonsdale and his affiliates as artistic “tradition”!  Indeed, the damage done here and vandalism done on some other ancient carved stones that have been redesignated by Tom Lonsdale and friends as “twenty-first century informal unauthorised carvings”, legitimizes and encourages others to follow in their shallow-minded ignorance, enabling others to add their own form of ‘art’ on these supposedly protected monuments, on a region with an alleged SSSI status. They even encourage supposedly ‘nice’ people — y’ know the sort — to etch poems and such things onto the stones on the moors, in violation of regulations that apply to the general public.  As a result, expect more vandalism — sorry…arty “twenty-first century informal unauthorised carvings” both here and elsewhere.  This same appalling debacle — sorry, “tradition” — has been encouraged on the Haystack Rock, Hanging Stones and other prehistoric carvings on the moor.

Folklore

The name ‘Idol Stone’ was an invention of one of the Victorian romanticists, who saw heathen idolatry and perversion all over these moors (you’ve gotta ask y’self, what the hell were these people up to!?).  Our old friend Nicholas Size told there to have been ghostly figures and druidic activities occurring at this site.

References:

  1. Allen, J. Romilly, ‘Notice of Sculptured Rocks near Ilkley, with some Remarks on Rocking Stones,’ in Journal of the British Archaeological Association, volume 38, 1882.
  2. Boughey, Keith & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, West Yorkshire Archaeology Service 2003.
  3. Cowling, Eric T., Rombald’s Way, William Walker: Otley 1946.
  4. Davis, Alan, ‘The Metrology of Cup and Ring Carvings near Ilkley in Yorkshire,’ in Science and Archaeology, 25, 1983.
  5. Hedges, John, The Carved Rocks on Rombalds Moor, WYMCC: Wakefield 1986.
  6. Jennings, Hargrave, Archaic Rock Inscriptions, A. Reader: London 1891.
  7. Size, Nicholas, The Haunted Moor, William Walker: Otley 1934.
  8. Speight, Harry, Upper Wharfedale, Elliott Stock: London 1900.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Pancake Stone, Ilkley Moor, West Yorkshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 13403 46226

Also Known as:

  1. Carving no.167 (Hedges)
  2. Carving no.332 (Boughey & Vickerman)
  3. Pancake Rock

Getting Here

Pancake Stone, Ilkley Moor

Pancake Stone, Ilkley Moor

We were up here again the other week: wind, hail and snow blowing like hell, thankfully keeping the place to ourselves! To get here, head up Cow Pasture Road from the train station and up to the Cow & Calf Hotel near the famous rocks.  Go past it a 100 yards or so and look up onto the moors from here. You’ll see a great over-hanging rock on the slope above you which looks as though its gonna fall off at any moment. That’s the one!

Archaeology & History

Pancake Stone on 1851 map

Pancake Stone on 1851 map

Highlighted on the first Ordnance Survey map of the region in 1851, this prehistoric carved stone had been known as the Pancake Stone by local people long before any of the antiquarians brought literary attention to the site.  Much has subsequently been written about this great petroglyph — more of a rocking stone than a boulder — seemingly hanging onto the edge of the geological ridge awaiting its fall down the slope; but I reckon it’s gonna be many more centuries before such a fate befalls it!

J. Thornton Dale's 1879 drawing of the cup-markings

J.T. Dale’s 1879 drawing of the cups & carving

Previously unpublished image by Mr J. Thornton Dale, 1879

Although a Mr J. Thornton Dale did a fine series of quite accurate drawings of this stone (and others on the moors) between 1878 and 1880, the first literary description of the Pancake rock carving appears to have been by the renowned J. Romilly Allen in 1882 (who evidently visited the stone on a cloudy or overcast day), saying that:

“On its upper surface are several cup-markings much obliterated by the actions of the weather, but some of them sufficiently distinct to prove their origin artificial, and to show that this rock was noticed in ancient times, and very possibly considered an object either of worship or superstition.”

Close-up of cups & rings

Close-up of cups & rings

This latter assumption is highly probable.  Strong animistic notions (moreso than usual) would be very evident here.  Its position on the land with its outward focus from here towards other notable points in the landscape (Almscliffe Crags is one obvious focus); as well as looking at the rock itself from other viewpoints, give the stone considerable ritual importance.  Sections of the moorland plain behind it—known as Green Crag—was the Land of the Dead in ancient times, and it is more than likely that death rites would have been enacted here — though we may never know what form they took.

Dale’s faded 1879 sketch of the Pancake Stone

The stone has what seems to be at least 54 cup-markings on its upper face, with numerous grooves meandering and connecting other points.  In J. Thornton Dale’s 1879 drawing of the upper surface, you will note that a couple of the rings he included have all-but faded away and are not included in the more recent surveys.  Of the primary design, rock art students Boughey & Vickerman (2003) described there being “six complete and five partial rings” amidst the morass, but much of the design is very worn and, originally, there was probably a bit more to it all.  The rock upon which the main Pancake Stone rests also has some worn cup-marks etched on its surface, a couple of which can be made out in the top photo.

Folklore

Good old Nicholas Size (1934) added this site to his list as a place where he had visions of the old christian cult, upon whose bare face were enacted blood rites and sacrifice.  One Beltane Eve when he decided to amble up onto the moor edge, he could see a strange glow coming from behind the rock.  He continues:

“Then suddenly I noticed there was a figure dancing upon it.  The figure seemed to swirl round and round with floating draperies, grey or white, and I can only say that it looked very uncanny.  Stupidly, I wondered that anybody could be such a fool as to dance in the darkness upon that precarious footing…”

But such activities on these moors, at certain times of the year, have been enacted for many centuries.  It’s just kept quiet and, as more modern pagans (as they like to call ’emselves) keep coming up here and to other places, so the original folk move to their older and increasingly more secluded spots…  In the latter half of the 20th century the site was used as a focus by chaos magickians, shortly after the inception of that Current.

References:

  1. Allen, J. Romilly, ‘The Prehistoric Rock Sculptures of Ilkley,’ in Journal of the British Archaeological Association, volume 35, 1879.
  2. Allen, J. Romilly, ‘Notice of Sculptured Rocks near Ilkley, with some Remarks on Rocking Stones,’ in Journal of the British Archaeological Association, volume 38, 1882.
  3. Boughey, Keith & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, West Yorkshire Archaeology Service 2003.
  4. Cowling, Eric T., Rombald’s Way, William Walker: Otley 1946.
  5. Hedges, John, The Carved Rocks on Rombalds Moor, WYMCC: Wakefield 1986.
  6. Jennings, Hargrave, Archaic Rock Inscriptions, A. Reader: London 1891.
  7. Size, Nicholas, The Haunted Moor, William Walker: Otley 1934.
  8. Speight, Harry, Upper Wharfedale, Elliott Stock: London 1900.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Great Moss Standing Stone, Emmott Moor, Lancashire

Standing Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SD 969 384

Getting Here

Great Moss Stone - looking north

Great Moss Stone - looking NE

Follow the directions to the Water Sheddles Cross Standing Stone on the Yorkshire-Lancashire border; and when you get to the reservoir, walk straight across the road and head almost straight up onto the moor as if you’re going to the rock outcrop ahead of you on the horizon, called the Wolf Stones.  After just a couple of hundred yards though, amble back and forth to find the stone.  It’s in the heather, close by.

Archaeology & History

Great Moss Stone - looking NW

Great Moss Stone - looking NW

I can find no history about this small stone, just over three feet high, which was almost lost in the boggy heather when I first came here.  Standing in a small pool in the peaty-ground, the stone is very worn, with one of Nature’s cup-markings on top.  There is the possibility that this stone may have been one of the old boundary markers pre-dating the 1614 case which questioned the exact boundary line marking the Yorkshire-Lancashire border — but this is purely hypothetical.  The Water Sheddles Cross is just a few hundred yards east of here.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Danes Dyke, Flamborough, East Yorkshire

Earthworks:  OS Grid Reference – TA 215 692 (south) to TA 213 732

Getting Here

A 2½-mile long earthwork can obviously be reached from all sorts of ways, but coming out of Flamborough towards Bridlington (B1255 road) you can go down the Home Farm road and park up; and from here walk up the pleasant woodland walk, literally from coast to coast, where you’ll see good portions of the earthwork intact.

Archaeology & History

An impressive site by any means.  Running from Dykes End on its southern edge for 2½ mile, roughly north, until hitting the North Sea again at the other Dykes End, this great earthwork had little to do with the Danes.  It seems to have been originally started around 3000 years ago in the early Iron Age.  As Mr Gower (1975) told:

“Excavations carried out at the end of the (19th) century revealed traces of a flint workshop and many arroheads were found… The earthwork is about 18 feet high and on the western side is a ditch 60 feet wide.  Several openings are to be seen, but these are probably comparatively recent.”

…to be continued…

References:

Gower, E., Flamborough, Dalesman: Clapham 1975.

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Harestanes, Ancrum, Roxburghshire

Stone Circle (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NT 641 240

Archaeology & History

Mentioned briefly by Burl (2000), this site is another of the countless megalithic monuments in our islands that has been destroyed.  References to it are few and far between, though the site was investigated by members of Scottish Royal Commission in March, 1947, and found absolutely no remains left.  In the first volume of their Roxburgh (1956) survey, they told:

“The stone circle that stood in the vicinity of Harestones Cottages had been reduced to a single stone by 1845, and this stone has since disappeared.  No details of the circle are recorded and the evidence for its exact position is contradictory.  Stobie’s Map of Roxburghshire (1770) marks the site a little to the NE of Harestones Cottages, while an estate map of 1795 is said to have placed it at the SW corner of this group of buildings.”

There is the distinct possibility of course that there once stood two independent ancient monuments in the vicinity, which would account for descriptions in the different site locations.

References:

Burl, Aubrey, The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, Yale University Press 2000.
Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Roxburghshire – volume 1, HMSO: Edinburgh 1956.
Watson, G., “The Stone Circles of Roxburghshire,” in Transactions of the Hawick Archaeological Society, volume 20, 1908.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Haystack Rock, Ilkley Moor, West Yorkshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 13027 46310

Also known as:

  1. Carving no.141 (Hedges 1986)
  2. Carving no.302 (Boughey & Vickerman 2003)
  3. Cottage Rock

Getting Here

The Haystack Rock

The Haystack Rock

Dead easy to find this one!  Get to the Cow & Calf Hotel and walk up the slope onto the moor ahead of you.  If you want a direction-pointer, head for the large, seemingly overhanging rocks which are the Pancake Stone, at the top of the ridge, but a few hundred yards to the right (west).  Once you reach the level on the moor proper, you’ll see this large haystack-shaped boulder close by.  That’s it!

Archaeology & History

This tends to be one of the spots I stop at when doing my tourist walks, to i) let folk get their breath back after ambling from the car park, via Hanging Stones and Map Stone; ii) to drink in the view, and, iii) to begin acquainting themselves with the landscape as it was when this stone was carved (over many decades, perhaps longer), and the animistic cosmology underlying people’s notions of their land.  It can be quite an education…

Haystack Rock, with crushed man underneath

Haystack Rock crushes local man

Fertility symbol, or Rorschach response?

The Haystack Rock was a very important boulder in the mythic landscape on this plain. It stands near the western end of the Green Crag Necropolis: a huge area of land on these moors where, quite simply, the people of these hills laid their dead.  Effectively, the Haystack Rock stands on the edge of Ilkley Moor’s “Land of the Dead”.*

Highlighting this quite firmly, we find that prehistoric walling ‘separates’ this great boulder from the other part of the Plain close to its east and southern sides (walling on its western side is as yet unproven).  It was a boulder that was specifically sectioned-off, away from any tombs.  All along this Plain are numerous small cairns, many with rock-art nearby, and certain parts of the Plain are split into sections by ancient walling (though a precise map of the walling, tombs and rock-art on this moorland ridge has yet to be done).

J.Romilly Allen's 1879 images

J.Romilly Allen’s 1879 images

As far as the textbooks are concerned, we find the first mention of this great carved boulder came from J. Romilly Allen at the end of the 1870s.  By 1900, a number of people had been here and written of its grandeur; but, as with cup-and-rings in general, its non-linear form and design elicited the usual notions of bewilderment, druids and puzzled ideas.  Much like today really!

Drawing of the central design (after Hedges, 1986)

Drawing of the central design (after Hedges, 1986)

But this is a big and decent carving, with about 60 single cup-markings, 10 cup-and-rings, and various twizzly grooves and lines linking cups to others, and others going to seemingly nowhere.   Some of these lines, of course, may be weathering, or weathered channels emerging from once shorter lines.  We might never really know for sure what the original carving actually looked like.  On the north-facing side is what looks like a decidedly human figurine etched onto this great boulder, in good old cup-and-ring style. I’ve shown this to a few hundred people and they all seem to make the same remark: it’s a woman with her legs wide open — an early form of sheela-na-gig on Ilkley Moor no less! But whether this was intentional (many folk think so), or just us seeing something we want to see (men in particular!), we might never know.

The black-and-white illustration showing in detail just about all aspects of the carving may well be accurate, but it aint anything like seeing the carving in person.  When it comes to ancient rock-art, detailed drawings are one thing, the real thing is altogether much better!

Ancient cup-marks with “21st century informal unauthorised carving” added

More cup-and-rings with “21st century informal unauthorised carving” added

On a very worrying note, we need to draw attention to what amounts to the local Ilkley Parish Council officially sanctioning vandalism on the Haystack Rock, other prehistoric carvings and uncarved rocks across Ilkley Moor.  As we can see on a couple of photos here, recent vandalism has been enacted on this supposedly protected monument.  Certain ‘officials’ occasionally get their headlines in the local Press acting as if they’re concerned about the welfare of the ancient monuments up here, but in all honesty, some of them really don’t give a damn.  The recent vandalism on this stone and others has now been officially recognised as an acceptable form of — get this! — “twentieth / twenty-first century informal unauthorised carving” and has been deemed acceptable by Ilkley Parish Council as a means to validate more unwanted carving on the moorland “in the name of art”!  Of course, their way of looking at this has been worth quite a lot of money to a small group of already wealthy people. But with Tom Lonsdale and Ilkley Council validating or redesignated ‘vandalism’ as “twenty-first century informal unauthorised carvings”, this legitimizes and encourages others to follow in their shallow-minded ignorant footpath, enabling others with equally low IQ (or a business-mind in this case) to add their own form of ‘art’ on both important cup-and-ring carvings, or natural rocks on the moors.  With Lonsdale and Ilkley Parish Council now sanctioning vandalism on the Haystack Rock and other cup-and-ring stones on the moor as a “tradition” of such “twenty-first century informal unauthorised carving”, we can perhaps expect a growth industry in this field…..especially if you’re trying to make a name for yourself in the name of art or alleged poetry.  And if you apply to Rachel Feldberg of the Ilkley Arts Festival, you may get good money for your work… Seriously!

Please contact Ilkley Parish Council and other relevant authorities and express your dismay at their lack of insight and concern for the knock-on effects of their decisions on this matter.  Other plans to infringe even further onto Ilkley Moor are in the business pipeline…

Folklore

Not too sure what credibility we should give to Nicholas Size’s (1934) extravagant claims, but this was one of the sites he alleged to have seen visions of druidic rites and ghostly figures!

References:

  1. Allen, J. Romilly, ‘The Prehistoric Rock Sculptures of Ilkley,’ in Journal of the British Archaeological Association, 35, 1879.
  2. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Chieveley 2001.
  3. Boughey, Keith & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock art of the West Riding, WYAS: Wakefield 2003.
  4. Forrest,C. & Grainge, William, A Ramble on Rumbald’s Moor, part 3, Wakefield 1869.
  5. Hedges, John, The Carved Rocks on Rombalds Moor, WYMCC: Wakefield 1986.
  6. Size, Nicholas, The Haunted Moor, William Walker: Otley 1934.

* It’s gotta be pointed out that Ilkley Moor’s ‘Land of the Dead’ extends much further than just the Green Crag.  Much of the extended land above here to the south was an important area, where at some places rites of the dead were performed.  The supposed ‘settlement’ nearby (as well as the lesser known one on the moor west of here, on the moor above Ilkley Crags, near Cranshaw Thorn Hill) was likely to be a place where the dead were rested for a period.  But more about that in the section on the Green Crag Settlement…

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Ponden Kirk, Stanbury Moor, West Yorkshire

Legendary Rocks:  OS Grid Reference – SD 97969 36483

Also known as:

  1. Penistone Crags
  2. Wuthering Heights
View towards Ponden Kirk, at end of the valley in the distance

View towards Ponden Kirk, at end of the valley in the distance

Getting Here

Go west through Stanbury village towards Lancashire for a mile till you reach the end of Ponden Reservoir.  Where the water ends, follow the small track up to, and past, Whitestone Farm, till you reach the stream.  Follow the valley up…

Archaeology & History

As the great Yorkshire historian J. Horsfall Turner (1879) told, “Ponden Kirk consists of a ledge of high rocks, dry in summer, but forming a stupendous cataract after heavy rain.  It was here that Mrs Nicholls (Currer Bell) caught a severe cold shortly before her death.”  The site is a fine one – not to be attempted from the base by unfit doods, unless you’re really serious about your climbing!  But to those of us who like clambering up rocks and wholesome scenery, walk to the site via the stream (Ponden Clough Beck) and get to the cleft in the rock face.  Tis a truly fine place!

Ponden Kirk, from below

Ponden Kirk, from below

In 1913, one writer posited the notion that the opening in the rocks through which local folk crawl (see Folklore, below) “is seemingly artificial” – which aint quite true, sadly.

Once on the tops above the Kirk, you’ve one helluva decent view, be it raining or sunny.  On the far northeastern horizon arises the great omphalos of Almscliffe Crags; and next to that is the elongated top of Baildon Hill; and a little further northeast is Otley Chevin.  It would be good to visit here on a few of the old heathen days and watch the sunrise, just to see if there are any intriguing solar observations to be made! (take a tent though – or p’raps, if you’re like us, don’t bother, but you’ll be bloody cold for the night!)  The only potential sunrises of heathen significance appear to be midsummer and Beltane….

Ponden Kirk on 1851 map

Ponden Kirk on 1851 map

For me at least, one of the things which gives this site an intriguing form of sanctity is the fact that the Kirk itself forms the head at the end of the valley.  It is a very fine ritual site and would obviously have had much more to be said of it than just the heathen marriage rites which are left today.  The forces of wind and rain scream from its height, and in the valley beneath the chime of the gentlest echoes resonate, giving an altogether different ‘spirit’ amidst the same land.  Those old cherubs of ‘male’ and ‘female’ spirit commune potently here – no doubt being the ingredients which gave form to the marriage customs… Those of you into feng-shui (the real stuff, not the modern bollox) and genius loci should spend time with the water and rocks here and you’ll see what I mean.  Archaeologists amongst you, if you dare, should amble aimlessly here for sometime…for many hours, a few times, and give yourselves a notion of the ‘ritual landscapes’ you like to write about from the safety of your textbooks, to get a bittova better notion of what ‘experiencing the land’ is actually about.

This rocky outcrop was also said to be the place that Emily Bronte used in her Wuthering Heights novel as the place called Penistone Crags.  A couple of other local writers have also added this legendary place in their tales aswell.

Ponden Kirks ceremonial passage

Ponden Kirks ceremonial passage

Folklore

Alleged by Elizabeth Southwart (1923) “to be of druidical origin,” the first literary note of this great rock outcrop appears to come from the reverend James Whalley (1869) of Todmorden, who in his romantic amblings over the moorlands here, told that if any gentleman wants to get married,

“he must by all means pay a visit to Ponden Kirk… Here ‘they marry single ones!’  Any lady or gentleman who can successfully ‘go through one part of the rock’ (which is quite possible) is declared to all intents and purposes duly married according to the forms and ceremonies of Ponden Kirk.”

His wording here seems to imply that the event of passing through the rocky opening, is in itself a confirmation of the ceremony of marriage, not needing the blessing of some strange christian rites.  If so, this tradition would be a very ancient one indeed, making the stone the witness to the marriage event.  This would be a rite witnessed by the stones themselves: a universal heathen attribute found in most of the ancient traditional cultures.  But this curious unwritten history was to be echoed a decade later by that great Yorkshire historian, J. Horsfall Turner (1879), who told us that,

“at Ponden Kirk, as at Ripon Minster, a curious wedding ceremony is frequently observed.  It consists in dragging one’s-self through a crevice in the rock, the successful performance of which betokens a speedy nuptial… The place is now frequently called ‘Wuthering Heights.  Apart from the association of such names as Crimlesworth and Oakden (see the Alcomden Stones), fancy easily ascribes a druidical settlement at the Kirk.”

A not unreasonable assumption – though nothing of this nature, of yet, has been found.

...and the view from the top!

…and the view from the top!

That other great Yorkshire writer, Harry Speight — aka Johnnie Gray (1891) — echoed the same folklore telling how,

“The natives of these parts have a saying, ‘Let’s go to Ponden Kirk where they wed odd ‘uns,’ which has its origin in an old custom of passing through an enormous boulder… The belief is that if you pass through it, you will never die single.  No one knows how the rock acquired its name, but the Saxon kirk suggests a temple of worship, possibly extending back to the druidical times.”

Old drawing of Ponden Kirk by T. MacKenzie, c.1923

Ponden Kirk – by T. MacKenzie, c.1923

A few years later, Mr Whiteley Turner came here and he too affirmed the old wedding rites, also telling that “according to tradition, maidens (some say bachelors too) who successfully creep through the aperture will be married within the year.”  This bit of info also shows that the rocks also had oracular properties – a function known at countless other sites.

The proximity of Robin’s Hood Well, just a couple of hundred yards away, beckons for association with the Ponden Kirk – which it obviously had… But that’s a tale to be told elsewhere…

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  2. Craven, Joseph, A Bronte Moorland Village and its People: A History of Stanbury, Rydal: Keighley 1907.
  3. Crawley, Ernest, The Mystic Rose: A Study of Primitive Marriage, Watts & Co: London 1932.
  4. Gray, Johnnie, Through Airedale from Goole to Malham, Walker & Laycock Leeds 1891.
  5. Southwart, Elizabeth, Bronte Moors and Villages, Bodley Head: London 1923.
  6. Turner, J. Horsfall, Haworth, Past and Present, J.S. Jowett: Brighouse 1879.
  7. Turner, Whiteley, A Spring-time Saunter Round and about Bronte Land, Halifax Courier 1913.
  8. Whalley, James, The Wild Moor, Edward Baines: Leeds 1869.

Acknowledgements:  Many thanks to Judith Spolander for her correction on my Bronte glitch.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

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Neriby, Bridgend, Islay

Standing Stone (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NR 359 605

Archaeology & History

This is another standing stone whose days are seemingly long gone.  It was last recorded in 1878 as being about 300 yards northwest of the old farmhouse at Neriby.  The old stone stood more than six-feet tall, but appears to have gone.  Anyone journeying this way might wanna scour the ground to see if the fella’s remains can be seen lying around anywhere – though the fact that an old quarry was dug hereabouts doesn’t bode well for a successful hunt.  There are, however, remains of an old tumulus a bit further up the way…

References:

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

Posted in Argyll & Bute, Hebrides, Inner, Islay (Isle of), Standing Stones | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment