The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland


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Steeling Hill Earthwork, Near Coniston Cold, North Yorkshire

Steeling Hill Enclosure, near Coniston Cold, North Yorks.

Steeling Hill Enclosure, near Coniston Cold (north-side).

    OS grid reference: SD 8859 5515. A large earthwork or enclosure located on the crest of Steeling Hill above the A65 near Coniston Cold, North Yorkshire. This flat-topped hill on the opposite side of the lane from Kelber Farm was once the enclosure, settlement or camp of an ancient tribe, but unfortunately nothing much is known of its history. It was almost certainly a strategically placed encampment overlooking the valley below and in this sense it may have been a defensive site, although its low, almost non existent outer ditch, is barely visible today at ground level. At its centre there is a round-shaped feature but what this was is uncertain. It might actually be a more modern feature.

    To reach the earthwork from the A65 just to the south of Coniston Cold: go along the farm track/footpath nearly opposite The Coniston Hotel towards Kelber farm for 240m, then on the right-hand side go through the gate and head up the grassy hill-side for 220m to a second gate. You can reach the site from here. There is, however, no proper designated footpath up to the hill; and so please remember to ‘fasten the gates’ behind you.

Steeling Hill Earthwork (viewed from the south)

Steeling Hill Earthwork (viewed from the south)

Steeling Hill Earthwork (from the south-west).

Steeling Hill Earthwork (from the south-west).

    This very large rectangular earthwork on the top of Steeling Hill covers a large area of the summit and measures roughly 280m x 138m (918 ft x 452 ft), whilst the smaller, circular feature in the middle measures 74m x 60m (242 ft x 196 ft). The inner part of the earthwork/enclosure is raised by a few feet above the outer ditch, if it was ‘ever’ meant to be a ditch, but at the S and E sides this is much less noticeable. And as to the circular, slightly raised feature at the centre, and its distinct ditch – could this have been an inner enclosure, or maybe a living area with a hearth? Or could this be a more recent feature?

    So was this an Iron Age enclosure, or was it a Brigantian settlement?, or maybe something else; it looks to be an unlikely candidate for a Roman camp. Perhaps it was ‘a plain and simple animal enclosure’. But as ever there is a lack of any information regarding this earthwork, only the words ‘earthwork’ or ‘enclosure’ are mentioned on Ordnance Survey maps. There are though one or two other, similar, earthworks in this area, one in particular being near Cobers Laithe at Swinden, near Nappa.

Other related websites:-

http://www.kirkbymalham.info/KMI/malhamdale/speight.html

http://www.skiptoncastle.co.uk/history-of-craven.asp?page=17

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coniston_Cold

http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/2855812

                                                             © Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities.


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Lower Colgarth Hill Burial Mound, Near Bell Busk, North Yorkshire

Lower Colgarth Hill, near Bell Busk (burial mound)

Lower Colgarth Hill, near Bell Busk (burial mound)

    OS grid reference:- SD 90489 57365.  At the foot of Lower Colgarth Hill beside Carseylands road about halfway between Bell Busk and Airton, north Yorkshire, there is a large and prominent Bronze Age burial mound (tumulus), which is close to a footpath and a ruined barn called Allamire Laithe. The burial mound is also called a bowl barrow or round barrow in archaeological terms, although this one is more like a long barrow, due to its size. You will also notice, although quite faint at ground level, that there are ancient cultivation terraces in this field and those close by. From here you get a good view over the River Aire. From Carseylands Hill road, at the south-side of the ruined barn, go 48m up the footpath to where there is a small boulder in the opening of the wall, then via off to the south for 35m – and you will soon see the grassy mound in the field just ahead of you.

Lower Colgarth Hill, near Bell Busk (a large grassy burial mound).

Lower Colgarth Hill, near Bell Busk (and the large, grassy burial mound).

Lower Colgarth Hill near Bell Busk (the long-shaped burial mound)

Lower Colgarth Hill (and the long-shaped burial mound)

    The burial mound (tumulus) here at the foot of Lower Colgarth Hill is rather oddly-shaped, especially at its SW side, where it may have been dug into at some point in the past, although originally it was almost certainly bowl-shaped or bowl barrow-shaped; at a distance it has the look of a long barrow because of this. It measures roughly 11m (36 ft) long and 5.6m (18 ft) wide and is about 5 feet high. This was probably the place where a chieftain or a high-ranking individual of a local tribe was buried – either in the late Neolithic or the Bronze Age. Maybe more than one individual was buried in the mound and, or, quite possibly other members of the chieftain’s family.

Lower Colgarth Hill (and the grassy mound).

Lower Colgarth Hill (and the grassy mound).

    However, nothing more seems to be known about the burial mound on Lower Colgarth Hill – which seems to have been overlooked by antiquarians of the past few centuries, although Harry Speight does mention some other ancient sites in Craven; and I don’t know whether the tumulus ‘here’ has ever been excavated.  The cultivation terraces in the same field, and in other fields close by, are obviously very ancient. They are of a similar age, perhaps, to the ancient field systems in the Grassington area, which are considered to be Iron Age. Some cultivation terraces, however, are of a more recent age, probably Medieval?

Sources and related websites:-

http://www.kirkbymalham.info/KMI/malhamdale/speight.html

http://www.skiptoncastle.co.uk/history-of-craven.asp?page=17

http://www.docbrown.info/docspics/dales/dspage52.htm

                                                              © Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities.


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Cobers Laithe Earthwork, Swinden, Near Nappa, North Yorkshire

Cobers Laithe Earthwork, near Nappa (looking north-west).

Cobers Laithe Earthwork, south-side (looking north-west).

Cobers Laithe Earthwork, near Nappa (looking north-east).

Cobers Laithe Earthwork, south-side (looking north-east).

    OS grid reference: SD 8669 5340. Sadly next-to-nothing is known about the oval-shaped earth-work or enclosure near to Cobers Laithe farm on  Swinden Moor, which is also known as Swinden Earthwork and Swinden Roman Camp, just 1 mile east of Nappa, North Yorkshire. Was it a Roman camp, as a few have suggested, or was it perhaps a Brigantian settlement – at the time of the Roman invasion? Or was it a more typical Iron Age settlement or enclosure? We don’t know with any certainty. And also it is a bit of an odd sort of earthwork-enclosure as it is intersected through the middle by a stream, and there are a numble of circular pits (bell pits), especially at the N side. The earthwork lies on private land. It is located in a field close to Mill Lane at Swinden – between Bank Newton and Nappa, just 380m to the west of Swinden Moor Head farm. On the earthwork side of the lane Ash Tree Farm is about 530m up the fields to the east.

Cobers Laithe Earthwork, south-side (looking north-west).

Cobers Laithe Earthwork, south-side (looking north-west).

Cobers Laithe Earthwork, south-side (looking east)

Cobers Laithe Earthwork, south-side (looking east)

    It is quite a large earthwork measuring roughly 107m x 87m and it used to have a smaller inner earthwork with a circular bank but this seems to have disappeared altogether, maybe due to farming and the stream. At the time of my visit the outer bank and ditch of the earthwork were deep in grass and reeds in several places, but despite that they are quite pronounced at the SE and SW sides. And at the N, NW and NE sides the bank and its associated ditch are still quite well-defined, and there is a possible entrance at the NW. But as to whether they were ramparts designed for warfare or security, we don’t know, but in my opinion I would think they were non-defensive.

Cobers Laithe Earthwork (the enclosure south-side). (the inner enclosure).

(The enclosure at the  southern-side).

Cobers Laithe Earthwork (grassy bank and ditch)

Cobers Laithe Earthwork (grassy bank and ditch)

    The oval-shaped layout of the earthwork or camp does ‘not’ look particularly Roman to me. We know the Romans always built square-shaped fortifications. Although it could have been a ‘temporary’ Romano-British camp. However, there does not appear to have been much, if any, Roman activity in the area; and the theory that there was a temporary Roman fort or camp at Long Preston, in the field near St Mary’s church, seems to have all but died a death. In all probability the earthwork here at Swinden was a Brigantian camp, settlement, or enclosure. But another distinct possibility being that this was a more typical Romano-British farmstead.

Cobers Laithe Earthwork (southern-side grassy earthworks.

Cobers Laithe Earthwork (southern-side grassy earthworks.

    The relatively flat part of the earthwork, nearest the lane and fence, is on the south-side of the little stream while the northern and, by far the largest part of the earthwork, lies just beyond the stream and up the slight slope of the field beyond. But unfortunately the stream in between the two sections has made for some very muddy and boggy conditions, and so it is not easy to reach that ‘northern’ section unless you have wellies! Its quite obvious that the steam is a ‘more recent’ feature, having gouged out the channel through the centre of the ancient earthwork. To put it another way: the stream was not here when the earthwork was constructed. It was formed from a spring further up the field over hundreds of years, but certainly ‘not’ thousands of years.

    The northern part of the earthwork is pock-marked by holes or depressions (bell pits) in the ground, which are probably the result of quarrying for coal a few hundred years or so back. This poor or cheap coal substitute being used by local farms. Some of the holes have now become ponds.

    The Pastscape website has the site of an alleged Roman camp (monument no. 45530) about a ¼ of a mile to the north-west at Swinden (OS grid ref: SD 8617 5440), though this is perhaps an error? See the website link below.

Sources and related websites:-

Click on this Geograph link for a good photo of the enclosure on Swinden Moor:-     http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/2837370

http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=45530

http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=45517

http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=28080

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swinden

http://www.gisburn.org.uk/nappa/

http://www.longpreston.info/history/history.html

http://mapio.net/o/1975548/

                                                        © Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities.


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The Bridestones, Near Todmorden, West Yorkshire

Bride Stones, west Yorks (Sphinx- like formation).

Bride Stones, west Yorks (Sphinx- like formation).

Bridestones, near Todmorden, west Yorks (OS trig point no: S4501)

Bridestones, near Todmorden, west Yorks (OS trig point no: S4501)

    OS grid reference: SD 9334 26750. Close to the Long Causeway and just east of Todmorden, West Yorkshire, are the Bridestones, outcrops of millstone grit rocks and boulders which are ½ a mile long. Amongst these rocky outcrops are a number of odd-shaped formations that have been caused by weather-related erosion over thousands, if not millions of years.  One huge boulder in particular, known as ‘The Great Bridestone’ is fantastically shaped at its base, looking like an up-turned bottle, as if it might topple over at any moment. There are a number of myths and legends associated with The Bridestones, many of these going back to the mists of time. More recently, perhaps, there are a number of local traditions that have become connected to the place and its many, strange-shaped rocks and boulders. The Bridestones are located about ½ a mile north-east of Eastwood Road – where a footpath runs across the often boggy moor to the outcrops. Another path connects the north-side of the outcrops from Kebs Road, and from just opposite Orchan House Farm at Fast Ends – it runs in a southerly direction across Bridestones Moor.

Bridestones (human face rock formation).

Bridestones (human face rock formation).

Bridestones, west Yorkshire (the anvil-shaped rock)

Bridestones, west Yorkshire (the anvil-shaped rock)

    At over 1,400 feet above sea-level the Bride-stones on the windswept moors to the east of Todmorden and the Calder Valley, there is a ½ mile long escarpment of Millstone Grit outcrops that stand like rocky sentinels keeping watch over the Pennine moorland. These rock forma-tions have been made by the ‘ravages of time’ – wind and rain over thousands of years weathering away the soft grit-stone into strange and curious shapes, and there are indeed some strange-shaped rocks – some looking like human heads and faces (the sphinx), while others look like prehistoric birds, a giant tortoise, and a bear, and there’s even a huge anvil-shaped rock.

Bridestones, west Yorkshire (the rock-house).

Bridestones, west Yorkshire (the rock-house).

Bridestones, (a "possible" cup-marked rock).

Bridestones, (a “possible” cup-marked rock).

    There is even a ‘rock-house’ at Fast Ends above Bridestones Farm at (OS grid ref: SD 9277 2690). Local legend says that Nan Moor and Jack Stone lived at the rock-house a few hundred years ago as ‘guardians of the stones’, and they were proba-bly married there, too. They are said to have lived in a wooden structure or homestead that was connected between the two large rocks; one of the oblong-shaped rocks having square-shaped openings in its side, which must have taken a great deal of time to carve out. This wooden structure was dismantled in recent times. Just above the rock-house there are some large, flat rocks which look to have ancient cup-marks but there are also larger, circular depressions that are naturally-formed by rainwater – although it’s sometimes difficult to tell which are natural and which are man-made! And there are many interesting rock basins to be seen.

Great Bride Stone stands like an up-turned bottle.

Great Bride Stone stands like an up-turned bottle.

Great Bride Stone (from a different sideways angle).

Great Bride Stone (from a different sideways angle).

    The name ‘Bridestones’ might be derived from Bridia, Brighid, or Briga, the pre-Roman (Iron Age) diety who is more often known from history as ‘Brigantia’, goddess of the Brigantes tribe of northern England – just prior to, and up to, the Roman Conquest. Or they “might” perhaps take their name from bride as in ‘bride and groom’ at a wedding ceremony, which harks back to times, long ago, when weddings supposedly took place on the moor where the outcrops of rocks now known as ‘Bridestones’ are located. Indeed there is a 15 foot high oval-shaped, weathered rock called ‘Great Bride Stone’ and beside it a smaller rounded rock called ‘the groom stone’. But undoubtedly the Bridestones was a sacred, magical place, and no-doubt a few thousand years ago it was the abode of druids who worshipped heathen gods and also officiated in ritualistic and sacrificial ceremonies, but aside from that they were also poets, historians, magicians, physicians and astronomers.

    Local author John Billingsley in his work ‘Folk Tales from Calderdale’ – Volume 1, says that: “The Bridestones are first mentioned in local documents in 1491, and Smith in his ‘Place-names of the West Riding’ does not quibble with the derivation from ‘bryd’, a bride….. John Stansfeld, however, in 1885, suggested that Danish ‘bred’ and Icelandic ‘bryddr’ married well with Gaelic ‘braidh’ and modern ‘bride’ in meaning ‘edge of the top of the hill’; whether today’s etymologists feel this explanation is defensible or not, the descriptive does fit this location rather well.”

    Billingsley goes on to point out that: “Taylor [Ian Taylor, 1993], has suggested an identification of Bride with ‘the Old Wife’ or Gaelic Cailleach, a traditional spiritual denizen of wild places more usually associated with the Irish goddess Danu; a local appearance of this hag figure may well be the Old Woman.

    “The Bride has also been locally known as the Bottle Neck. Other rocks have been given names, too, arising from one perception or another. Modern climbers have named rocks themselves, like the Indian’s Head and Spy Hole Pinnacle, as well as giving equally vivid names, like the Obscene Cleft, to specific routes. F.A Leyland cites names known in the nineteenth century, like Table Rock and Toad Rock.

    “John Watson knew of the Bride and Groom in 1789, but does not give details of the legend, other than saying the Groom had been “thrown down by the country people”. In keeping with the spirit of the time, however, he saw the rocks as the natural haunt of “a large settlement” of Druids – “a vast variety of rocks and stones so scattered about the common, that at first view the whole looked something like a temple of the serpentine kind”.

    And another local author, Geoff Boswell, in his book ‘On The Tops – around Todmorden’, says: “We know that the early Britons lived in Todmorden. We have the exhibition of objects dug from the bronze age barrow in the library. Perhaps the name Bride is very old and derives from the early British Breiad, the Gaelic Braidh, the Icelandic Bryddir and the Danish Bred. All of which have similar meanings of “the edge , or margin, at the top of a mountain”. It is a sobering thought that the names  of our prominent rocks can derive from very early times and are far older than any written records we have.”

    Author Paul Bennett in his work ‘The Old Stones of Elmet’, says of the Bridestones that it is: “A beautiful, remarkable and powerful site of obvious veneration. First described in local deeds as early as 1491, there are a great number of severely weathered boulders all round, many like frozen giants haunting a magickal landscape.

    “Dedicated to Bride, goddess of the Brigantine people, like her triple-aspect we find a triple-aspect to the outcrops here: to the west are the Bride Stones; to the east, the Little Bride Stones; with the Great Bride Stones as the central group, surveying everything around here. The goddess’ divine qualities were those of healing, smithcraft, poetry, and mother-hood. There is no attendant lore here that relates to any of these elements.

    “Although local history records are silent over the ritual nature of these outcrops, tradition and folklore tell them as a place of pagan worship. People were said to have married here, although whether such lore evolved from a misrepre-sentation of the title, Bride, is unsure. In the present day though there have been a number of people who have married here in recent years.

    “If the Brigantian goddess was venerated here, the date of the most active festivities would have been February 1-2, or Old Wive’s Feast day as it was known in the north.”

Sources and related websites:-

Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann Publishing, Milverton, Somerset, 2001.

Billingsley, John, Folk Tales From Calderdale, Volume 1, Northern Earth, Mytholmroyd, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, 2008.

Boswell, Geoff, On The Tops – around Todmorden, (Revised Edition), Delta G, Hollinroyd Farm, Todmorden, 1988.

http://www.hebdenbridgehistory.org.uk/folklore/bridestones.html

https://megalithix.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/great-bride-stones/

http://www.mypennines.co.uk/south-pennines/walks/301113.html#sthash.AKhGBLJg.dpbs

                                            © Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities.


Les Causeurs Menhirs, I’le de Sein, Finistere, (Bretagne) Brittany

Les Causeurs Menhirs (photo credit: portalix - Wikimedia).

Les Causeurs(photo credit: portalix – Wikimedia).

    Latitude: 48.038149. Longitude: 4.851246. On a grassy mound at the south-west side of St Guénolé’s church on the I’le de Sein (Sein Island) – five miles off the Finistere coast at Pointe du Raz (Bretagne), Brittany, are two tall granite standing stones (menhirs) that are said to date from the Neolithic. These two standing stones may originally have been part of a stone circle. There are a number of myths and legends associated with these menhirs, and also the surrounding area in which they stand. The island, known as Enez Sun in Breton, is also steeped in pre-Christian myths and legends associated with druidic ritual. The standing stones can be seen on a low, grassy mound at the south-western side of St Guénolé’s Church (Eglise Saint-Guénolé) on the Place Francois-Le-Sud – just to the west of Port du Men-Briel.

    The two menhirs (long stones) are also known in the Breton language as Ar Brigourien – the Talkers, and Ar Fistillerian – the Orators or Gossipers, and sometimes Ar Predicateurs – the preachers. The smaller stone seems to lean toward the taller one – hence the name “The Talkers”. They stand on a low grassy mound which long ago may have supported a circle of standing stones – these two are all that remain of that, but where the other stones went to is not known. Or maybe they originally formed part of a stone row or sacred way. It is thought they were erected here in the Neolithic period of prehistory (6,000-2,500 BC). Les Causeurs menhirs stand respectively at 2.8m (9 ft 3′) and 2.3m (7 ft 6′) in height. The church of Saint Guenole (alias St Winwaloe) was obviously built close to the stones to Christianise what was, long ago in the island’s dark past, a pagan ritualistic site associated with the druids and, mysterious pagan priestesses called “The Senes” – the island taking its name from them

    The Breton author Henri Queffelec in his work ‘Un Recteur De L’ile De Sein’, tells us more about the island’s dark past. He says that: “In early times, the île de Sein was thought to be the haunt of supernatural beings. In the first recorded mention of the island in 43 A.D., in the work of the Roman geographer, Pomponius Mela, we are told that the Insula Sena possessed an oracle which was served by nine vestal virgins who had the capacity to control the elements and cure the apparently incurable. This tradition is later exploited by Chateaubriand in book IX of Les Martyrs (1809) in his description of the sacrificial activities of the Celtic druidess Velleda some of which take place on the “île de Sayne, île venerable et sacrée”. In the Middle Ages, the île de Sein is caught up in the Arthurian legends and according to some storytellers, is the birthplace of two of the most accom-plished magicians, the wizard Merlin, and Morgan La Fée.”

    Queffelec goes on to inform us about the legendary ville d’ Ys, which was the kingdom of King Gradlon: “the ville d’ Ys, according to legend, was once the kingdom of King Gradlon in the sixth century A.D. situated somewhere between the Point du Raz and the île de Sein, and protected from the sea  by a system of dykes. King Gradlon’s daughter, Dahut or Ahès, was captivated by the charms of a handsome young man who was really the devil in disguise; as a proof of her love for him, he ordered her to get the keys of the dykes from Gradlon, her father. Once in possession of the keys, the devil opened the dykes and the town of Ys was submerged for ever. Gradlon managed to escape and went to Quimper where his statue can be seen on the cathedral; Ahès was changed into a siren, the Marie Morgane who lures unsuspecting sailors to their end. The story of the submerging of the ville d’ Ys is related by Queffelec in his novel, Tempête sur la ville d’ Ys, published in 1962.”

    The Insight Guide ‘Brittany’, says of: “the fabled, drowned city of Is, [it was] the legendary capital of the kingdom of Cornouaille (echoes of Cornwall here).” It goes on to say that: I’le de Sein was the: “last refuge for the druids in Brittany.”

Sources and related websites:-

Insight Guide, Brittany, (First Edition), APA Publications (HK) Ltd., 1994.

Queffelec, Henri, Un Recteur De L’ile De Sein, George G. Harrap & Co. Ltd., London, 1972.

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Les_Causeurs                                                                                                                                      (Photo displayed under the Licence Creative Commons 3.0).

http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=8863

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winwaloe

http://www.lafermedekerscuntec.fr/peninsulas-islands-brittany.htm

http://www.brittanytourism.com/discover-our-destinations/quimper-cornouaille/unmissable-sites/sein

The Ile de Sein

 


Cup-And-Ring Marked Rocks on Rivock Edge, Near Riddlesden, West Yorkshire

OS trig point no. S4563 on Rivock Edge.

OS trig point no. S4563 on Rivock Edge, West Yorks

    OS grid reference: SE 0742 4446. In close proximity to the Ordnance Survey triangulation pillar (no: S4563) at the north-western side of Rivock Edge, near Riddlesden, west Yorkshire, there are several prehistoric cup-and-ring marked rocks. However, some of these carved rocks are easily missed as they now lie amongst dead tree branches and stumps – the forest here having been cut down in the last couple of years. The trig point on Rivock Edge can be accessed from Silsden Road – to the north-west of Riddlesden. A footpath runs north-west across a field to a wall stile, then walk towards the television mast, but before that take the footpath (not the trackway) that heads north-east around the northern-side of Rivock Edge to Rivock Oven Cave. From here walk up-hill and head south-west across the wood-strewn moor, keeping sight of the wall and concrete trig pillar. It’s now just a case of looking out for the many large and small cup-marked stones and rocks, and they are widely scattered about.

Cup-And-Ring Marked Rock at Rivock Edge.

Cup-And-Ring Marked Rock at Rivock Edge.

Cup-and-ring marked rock on Rivock Edge.

Cup-and-ring marked rock on Rivock Edge.

    One of the best cup-and-ring marked rocks on this part of the moor is undoubtedly,  in my opinion, the large gritstone rock located some 350m east of the trig point (SE 0743 4462). From the trig pillar follow the footpath east beyond the wall. This large, weather-worn rock has several well-defined cups and also a few that have faint concentric rings. Other carved rocks and stones can be found in the vicinity of the wall, while others are a bit further away. There may well be some that are hidden beneath the tree foliage, and a few that are still unrecorded.

Cup-marked rock on Rivock Edge, west Yorks.

Cup-marked rock on Rivock Edge, west Yorks.

Cup-marked stone on Rivock Edge, west Yorks

Cup-marked stone on Rivock Edge, west Yorks

    Cup-marks are circular depressions on rocks, usually on flat-sided gritstone and sandstone rocks, but not exclusively so, and often but not always these are surrounded by concentric circles. Sometimes these circular depressions and rings are joined or intersected with gulleys or lines running from other cup-marks; other patterns and designs can sometimes be seen on these rocks too. They are sometimes confused with larger, deeper depressions, or holes in the rock’s surface that are caused by natural water erosion; these are generally steep-sided.

Stone with cup-marks on Rivock Edge, west Yorks.

Stone with cup-marks on Rivock Edge, west Yorks.

Large rock with cup-marks, Rivock Edge.

Large rock with cup-marks, Rivock Edge.

    These ancient carvings (petroglyphs) or rock-art, have generally been dated to the Neolithic, but they are perhaps more likely to date from the early Bronze Age. But no-one seems to know, with any ‘real’ certainty, what they actually represent or signify, or why they were carved on rocks high-up on the bleak, windswept moors. Were these prehistoric cups-and-rings carved onto rocks to represent the stars or were they perhaps maps of the stars, or maybe maps showing where burials were located, or sacred places, springs, ancient pathways and caves that were, at that time, only known to our ancient ancestors? Or were they simply the doodlings and graffiti of ancient peoples?  So these carvings must remain, for the time being at least, something of an “ancient enigma”. Probably we will never really know their true meaning or symbolism.

    Author John Dixon in his work ‘Journeys Through Brigantia’, (Volume One), says of these mysterious carvings that: A comprehensive field study of the cup and ring stones of the moor has been published by the Yorkshire Archaeological Service. From that survey a few broad conclusions are possible.

    “The marked stones fall into three main types: cup and ring marked; cup marked only; and more complex designs. The marked boulders tend to be found in clusters on the flanks of the moor—both in Airedale and Wharfedale. Cup and ring marked stones are found in other parts of the British Isles—but Ilkley represents a unique concentration of carvings. It is clear that the stones were cut over a comparatively long period of time—and unfor-tunately some stones have been recut in modern times. Certain glacial markings may have been interpreted as the hand of man.”

    John goes on to say that: “We can be sure however that the stones themselves were sacred in ancient times. The kings of the Picts, the most ancient people we can identify by name in the Isles, were proclaimed upon a stone. The Stone of Scone  is now incorporated into the English Coronation Throne in Westminster Abbey. At Hexham and Beverly the thrones of the Anglo-Saxon bishoplords exist cut from a single stone.

    “Throughout history and throughout the world ancient places of assembly are often signified by stones or physical features—unchanging in a changing world. The signifi-cance of certain stones being stressed by the marking of the stone. Sacred marked stones can indeed be found worldwide, from Ilkley Moor to Ayers Rock.

    And the great Arthur Raistrick in his work ‘The Pennine Dales’, has an interesting theory regarding the climate in the Bronze Age. He says: “The wet period began to fall off about 3000 B.C. and the later Neolithic and Bronze Age people had a warm, dry period during which the forest cover of oak, alder, lime, and ash, with birch, spread over the fells to over 2,000 ft OD. The climate during the Bronze Age was better than that of today, and man could occupy many sites which now would be almost untenably cold and wet.”

Sources and related websites:-

Barringer, J. C., The Yorkshire Dales, The Dalesman Publishing Company Ltd., Clapham, 1982.

Dixon, John & Phillip, Journeys Through Brigantia, Volume One: Walks in Craven, Airedale and Wharfedale. Aussteiger Publications, Barnoldswick, 1990.

Raistrick, Arthur, The Pennine Dales, Arrow Books Ltd., London, 1972.

http://www.ancientmonuments.info/monuments/silsden-west-yorkshire

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neolithic_and_Bronze_Age_rock_art_in_the_British_Isles

http://www.stone-circles.org.uk/stone/rombaldsmoor.htm

http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/uncovered-secrets-of-ilkley-moor-s-rock-art-1-4925780

                                         © Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities.

 


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Robin Hood’s Stone, Near Riddlesden, West Yorkshire

Robin Hood's Stone at Holden Gate, near East Riddlesden.

Robin Hood’s Stone at Holden Gate, near  Riddlesden.

    OS grid reference SE 0620 4446. A large pointed stone shaped like the head of a dinosaur, or maybe a dragon, stands below a rocky outcrop on Pinfold Hill, close to Holden Lane at Holden Gate, near Riddlesden, West Yorkshire. It is locally called ‘Robin Hood’s Stone’ but whether the legendary outlaw of Sherwood Forest ever visited it we don’t know, although there is also a Robin Hood’s Wood about ¼ a mile to the north-east of the stone. To make the stone look more interesting some bright-spark has painted eyes and teeth on it! It can be reached by travelling north along Holden Lane to the north-west of Riddlesden, and is about 450m further along the road from Holden Gate, and just after the footpath on the right. You can’t really miss it!

Robin Hood's Stone (with possible cup-marks).

Robin Hood’s Stone (with possible cup-marks).

    A curious stone this is mainly because of its strange shape. It looks as if it has, at some point, slid down the hillside from the rocky outcrop above on Pinfold Hill, when there was a perhaps a Geological earth movement here. Or could it be a glacial erratic boulder? But it doesn’t look like an erratic boulder to me because it seems to be very well embedded into the ground. It stands at a crazy, precarious angle and because of that it looks as if it could slither down the hillside at any moment! The large pointed stone has taken on the look of a dinosaur’s head, or could it be a dragon’s head, or a bird’s head! Some bright-spark has painted eyes and teeth on the stone to make it look like that maybe. On the flat, sloping side of the stone there are some “possible” prehistoric cup-marks, or were a few of these round holes made by climbers who often practice on the rock?

Robin Hood's Stone (looking up at the stone).

Robin Hood’s Stone (looking up at the stone).

    Legend says that Robin Hood the outlaw of Sherwood Forest came here and took shelter beneath the stone; well he wouldn’t have had too far to travel from Kirkless, near Leeds. And Robin was maybe born in Wakefield! And just up the hill to the north-east of the stone we have a Robin Hood Wood. Paul Bennett of ‘The Northern Antiquarian’ has suggested that the stone was moved here in the Victorian period from near Barden Tower (Bolton Abbey way), and he goes on to say that Robin Hood’s Stone was once nearly broken up and taken away for building material – had it not been for local people who objected to its removal. He also thinks the stone “was” a meeting place at the pagan festival of Beltane (1st May). Check out TNA website (below).

Sources and related websites:-

https://megalithix.wordpress.com/2009/06/14/robin-hoods-stone-riddlesden/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/bradford/content/articles/2006/09/20/robin_hood_wakefield_feature.shtml