The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland

Yockenthwaite Stone Circle, North Yorkshire

OS grid reference: SD 8997 7938. The Yockenthwaite stone circle stands by a footpath in a valley on the north bank of the river Wharfe, close to the hamlet of Yockenthwaite in Langstrothdale, and just west of the B6160 road. Buckden village is 4 miles to the south-east, while another hamlet, Deepdale, lies just a little to the north of the winding country road to Hawes. The circle is near to Yockenthwaite farm. Although many historians call it a stone circle it is actually a Bronze-Age ring cairn with a circle of small stones (kerbstones) that are still quite clearly defined.

The stone circle consists of 20 small stones set almost edge to edge that are roughly 3 feet high, covering a diameter of 25 feet. These stones are, infact, the kerbstones of what remains of a burial cairn or ring cairn where a prominent tribal chieftain was buried. Just outside the circle at the north-west side are a few other stones that make up an outer, concentric ring, and a few portal stones that formed the entrance. In the middle of the circle a small mound can just be made out, which would have been the site of a burial. Originally, there would have been a mound of earth covering the stones but this has long since gone. Just to the north of the circle are what could be the remains of another burial cairn.

English: Yockenthwaite Stone Circle A small (2...

Yockenthwaite Stone Circle by John Illingworth (Photo credit: Geograph)

The name Yockenthwaite is said to be of Scandinavian origins. Thwaite meaning ‘a clearing’, while Yocken could be a derivation of ‘Eogan’ of probable Irish origins – hence we get the place-name ‘Eogan’s clearing’. Thwaite is quite a common place-name is the Yorkshire Dales and also in north-eastern England giving us some idea where Norse invaders came to settle in the 9th-11th centuries.



Raistrck, Arthur., The Pennine Dales, Arrow Books, London, 1972.

Geograph/Wikipedia photo by John Illingworth.

St Edward’s Church Crosses, Leek, Staffordshire

OS grid reference: SJ 9835 5662. St Edward’s parish church is located on Church Street the A523 road just to the north-west of the market-place in Leek town centre. In the churchyard stand two ancient preaching crosses from the 7th-11th centuries, one of which is called a Mercian cross, the other is of Anglo-Norse origins, while inside the church there are a number of fragmentary pieces of Anglo-Saxon stone carvings and, also the famous ‘Calvary Stone’ also known as the ‘Tree of Life Stone’, which dates from about the same period – the 10th century.

The tallest of the two churchyard crosses stands at the side of the church near the chancel door. It is 10-11 feet high and stands on a more recent stepped base, the original base being a large unhewn lump of stone with a Latin inscription. This cross has a round-shaped shaft that gradually tapers away, above a prominent collar, towards the top where the wheel-head is broken and missing. Sadly, the cross is now quite worn although some carvings can still be made out near the top of the shaft, especially on the collar, which is an interweaving pattern fashioned in the form of a flowing serpentine with it’s designwork from the Scandinavian school of carving and, above that a single long loop of thick ropework with interlacing inside that on all four faces. Below the decorated collar are three rather crude heads that are different on the north, south and east faces, but each one generally having long, flowing and curling hairstyles. There is an old saying that: “When the churchyard cross shall disappear Leek town will not last another year”. This may happen sooner rather than later as [this cross] is said to be sinking further into the ground every year.

Anglo-Norse Cross at St Edward’s Church, Leek, Staffordshire

The second churchyard cross standing close to the main entrance is 8 foot high on its modern square-shaped base. It is a restored rectangular cross-shaft of what is referred to as “the Mercian type”. The carvings on the front face are a panel of interlacing and interlocking strands. However, on the other faces what is left of any decoration is badly worn away. This cross was found broken in three sections and has had to be restored to as good as can possibly be.

Inside the 13th century church at the north-west corner of the nave is a collection of Anglo-Saxon stones, the best of which is the so-called ‘Calvary Stone’ or ‘The Staff of Life Stone’. This 10th century lump of stone shows Christ carrying his cross, or perhaps it is a figure carrying a long sword or spear with which to kill the mythical serpent, this one looking like a long worm! The head of another serpent can be seen at the bottom of the stone. The carving could, in fact, be a depiction of ‘The Tree of Life’. On the edges of this stone there is some typical Saxon knotwork. There is also a large lump of nicely decorated cross-shaft, and also two other fragments that may have come from Saxon wheel-head crosses.


Pickford, Doug., Staffordshire Its Magic & Mystery, Sigma Press, Wilmslow, Cheshire, 1994.

Biddulph, Elizabeth Ann., Leek’s Forgotten Centuries – It’s Ancient History Unearthed, Spellcraft Books, Leek, Staffs, 1999.

Ravenscar Roman Signal Station, East Yorkshire

OS grid reference: NZ 9811 0188. The village of Ravenscar is to be found on the east Yorkshire coast, some 10 miles north of Scarborough, and 1 mile north of Staintondale. 700 feet above the seashore on the stepped, grassy headland stands the Raven Hall Country House Hotel on Raven Hall road. The building is said to have been built over, or on the site of, a Roman signal station and a fort or, more likely a fortlet? There is some uncertainty about this. The nearest recorded Roman fort is at Leaso Rigg, some 9 miles to the west. Also of interest near the Hotel is the Peak Alum Works, which is now a site of great archaeological interest.

The signal station here at Ravenscar was one of a chain of warning beacons that stretched along the Yorkshire coast from the Humber estuary to Teesdale. They were probably built in c370 AD at a time when the north of England was being invaded from Scotland by Pictish tribes, and from across the north sea by Saxons. These beacons could be fired-up at short notice to warn Roman garrisons further along the coast of impending raids by invaders from both land and sea.

As was the case with the other signal stations, the one upon the headland above Ravenscar was built of stone and timber and would have had a large square-shaped tower with a beacon on top; a small courtyard would have run around the building, surrounded by high walls with look-out towers at angles along these walls and a ditch on the outside. A block-house for a small garrison of soldiers would have stood at the side or was attached to the signal station. Sometimes a fortlet was built along-side, which may have been what happened here. There is a rectangular earthwork in the garden of the hotel beside the cliff-edge – part of which at the extreme eastern-side has now gone over the edge. In the middle of this a square-shaped feature with low walls, recently excavated, would have been the beacon tower. This is probably all that now remains of the former signal station, the fortlet would have been where the hotel now stands. By about 405 AD the signal stations along the coast had been abandoned as Roman troops were recalled to Gaul, the people of Britain being left to look after themselves. In the 9th century the building was destroyed by Viking invaders.

A piece of stone from the foundations of the signal station was unearthed in 1774 when the original Raven Hall was being built (the hotel is now built on the site of the hall). This is now on display in Whitby museum. A latin inscription on the flat rectangular stone recalls the building of the tower and fort from the ground by Justinianus, the praepositus (Governor of the province) and Vindicianus, the magister (Prefect). The Latin inscription in full is: IVSTINIANUSPP VINDICIANVS MASBIERIVRR MCASIRVMEFC ACO.


de la Bedoyere, Guy., The Finds Of Roman Britain, Batsford, London, 1989.

Mead, Harry., A Prospect Of The North York Moors, Hutton Press, Beverley, East Yorkshire, 2000.

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2012 (up-dated 2019).


Brocklesby Park Mausoleum, Great Limber, Lincolnshire

OS grid reference: TA1332 0890. The mausoleum stands in the grounds and woodlands of Brocklesby Park (south side) close to Brigg road and high street at Great Limber. The following is from ‘A Description of The Mausoleum in Brocklesby Park, Lincolnshire, by T.Espin, Boston, 1808′.

Mausoleum in Brocklesby Park, Lincolnshire

   “This sepulchral monument was erected by the presernt Lord Yarborough, to perpetuate the memory of his much lamented and amiable consort, who in the prime of life was seperated from him and from the world, by a malignant fever of the brain”.

It is situate in his lordship’s park near the village of Limber* upon a commanding eminence the site of an ancient tumulus, evidently a place of Roman sepulture; the various urns full of burnt earth, bones and ashes, together with a variety of rings, combs, and perforated beads discovered on laying the foundations, fully justify such an opinion; it may therefore with great propriety be observed, that this elegant classic building stands majestically elevated on classic ground”.

*At Limber is a very good inn, near which Lord Yarborough has built a lodge where keys are kept to accommodate strangers who wish to see the building.

It was built from the designs of James Wyatt, esq. and completed under his direction in 1794. Its form is that of a Grecian temple of the peripteral kind; the colonnade consists of twelve fluted doric columns, which stand upon a rusticated basement about fifty-two feet diameter, these support a bold entablature, the frize of which is highly enriched with festoons of roses, sun-flowers and poppies, suspended from the horns of that appropriate doric ornament the bull’s skull over each column and tied upin two intervening places by bunches of ribbons; from the top of this entablature rises a very fine open balustrade. The external body of the temple is nearly forty feet diameter, is surrounded by four niches, in each of which stands a sarcophagus, this part rises to a small height above the balustrade, where it is covered with a dome, the commencement of which is stone, the upper part copper, with a circular curb of stone-work surrounding an aperture at the summit, through which descends the light necessary for the interior of the chapel”.

The basement part contains the cemetary, a most excellent piece of white brick-work, formed into compartments and recesses for depositing coffins: in the this apartment lie the remains of Mrs. Pelham, together with her father and mother the late Mr. and Mrs. Aufere, Mr. Pelham, great uncle to the present Lord Yarborough, and Francis Anderson, esq. his lordship’s father”.

Above this basement is the chapel ascended from the north by a spacious flight of steps. In a rectangular compartment above the door is the following inscription:   

                                                            TO THE MEMORY OF 


                                                    THE WIFE OF C. A. PELHAM,* 

                                                                   WHO DIED 

                                                       JAN. XXV. MDCCLXXXVI  

                                                                AGED XXXIII 

*Mrs. Pelham died previously to Mr. Pelham obtaining his peerage.  

   The first object  on opening the door, which cannot fail to affect the mind of sensibility, is the statue of Mrs. Pelham standing in the centre of the chapel on a cylindrical pedestal of whilte marble; the right hand supports a robe most exquisitely managed, the left arm resting on the trunk of a tree, sustains the head; the dress throughout is chaste and consistent, the drapery finely executed, the attitude strikingly graceful, the countenance placid and serene, and the whole may justly be considered a first rate production from the fascinating chissel of Nollekens”.

The chapel is divided into four compartments by eight fluted corinthian columns of Derbyshire marble; that on the north contains the door; in that opposite is an elegant cenotaph to the memory of Sir William Pelham of Brocklesby, who distinguished himself at the siege of Leith and in defence of Havre de grace; in 1579 he was appointed lord justice of Ireland with the authority of lord deputy; on his return to England, he was made lieutenant general of the ordinance, and accompanied the earl of Leicester as field marshal to the low countries in 1585; after performing signal service to his country, he died at Flushing in 1587. The tomb consists of a plain marble base sustaining a double pyramid, before which stands a large sarcophagus with a colossean female statue sitting thereon, holding a stork; the emblem of filial piety. The family arms are supported by a weeping Hymen with his torch inverted”.

In that recess on the east, stands a monument composed of a plain marble basement supporting a pyramidical slab and sarcophagus, on which lies a very large female figure resting on the left arm; in the other hand is a medallion on which is represented the bust of Charles Pelham, esq. of Brocklesby, who died in February, 1763, aged 84″.

The remaining compartment is occupied by the monument of Francis Anderson, esq.* of Manby, who died on October, 1758, aged 47. On a basement similar to the last, and in front of a like pyramid, stands a fluted sarcophagus, on which sit two naked boys supporting the family arms; that on the right thoughtful and pensive, that on the left cheerful, holding in his right hand the endless serpent with a butterfly walking around, an emblem of the soul traversing eternity”.

*Father to Lord Yarborough, but the estate came to his lordship from the above C. Pelham, esq., his uncle.

The fine proportioned columns which seperate these recesses, support a bold entablature crowned with a highly decorative dome; the bottom part of stone is divided into enriched compartments, the upper part is stained glass executed by Eginton in a masterly style; the design exhibits numerous cherubim floating among clouds in seeming adoration to the supreme, allegorically represented by expanding rays from the centre: this happy and interesting finish, obstructs all glaring light from above, and diffuses a gloomy shade overy every part below, which inspires the mind with reverential awe”.

Throughout the whole of this beautiful fabric, Mr. Wyatt has displayed great skill in Grecian architecture, and has united solidity of workmanship with chastity of design; it is calculated to brave many a winter’s blast, and will long continue a fine memorial of that gentleman’s classic taste”.

From the colonnade the prospects are commanding and varied, but those towards the north, or north-east, the most picturesque; the middle ground is composed of a variety of forest scenery, and a sweep of the Humber forms the boundary of sight”.

The trees immediately encompassing this repository of mortality have been too recently planted to envelop it in solitude, and give that solemnity of appearance so necessary to be connected with places of this description; however the plantations have been judiciously laid out, and in the course of a few revolving years will unquestionably assume that character at present so devoutly to be wished”.


The Oakwood Stone, St John Lee, Northumbria

OS grid reference: NY9361 6582. The Oakwood Stone is a prehistoric lump of stone that has cup-and-ring markings. It can be found inside the church of St John in the hamlet of St John Lee at Acomb on the north side of the A69, 1 mile north of Hexham. It is a stone of great antiquity that dates back to the Neolithic Age some 2,000-4,000 years BC, and what a very nice bit of rock-art it is.  Also, the early 19th century church houses a Roman altar. The present day church is dedicated to St John of Beverley, a hermit who became bishop of Hexham and, later York, and stands on the site of several previous churches – the first was built back in the 10th century AD. St John founded a Saxon monastery on the site of the church in the late 7th century AD. The ruins of St John’s hermitage and oratory stand at the bank of the church.

English: Cup and ring stone in St John Lee church

The Oakwood Stone in St John Lee church (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The 1 foot high lump of stone just inside the baptistry door is curved at the top and rounded at the edges, but the bottom part is obviously broken away and missing, so could there have been a few more cup-and-ring carvings? It was accidently ploughed-up from a field beside a clump of trees at Oakwood farm on the Oakwood road just north of St John Lee. Historians believe that it once formed part of a capstone or grave cover from a burial cairn (cist) that stood on a ridge of land; there are other ancient mounds and cairns in the same area. There are five cup-and-ring carvings, four of these are small, but the fifth is much larger and has five concentric rings. It is thought to date from the Neolithic period or the beginning of the Bronze-Age, perhaps? So that could make the stone upto 6,000 years old.

Also in the church at the right-hand side of the baptistry door there is a Roman altar stone that has been used as a font for Christian baptisms. The altar may have come from a Roman fort beside Hadrians Wall, a few miles to the north.

The Oakwood Stone, St John Lee, Northumbria

Mayburgh Henge, Eamont Bridge, Cumbria

OS grid reference: NY 5192 2847. The Mayburgh Henge monument is, in fact, a former Neolithic stone circle that is located beside the M6 motorway and the B5320 road, close to the river Eamont at Eamont Bridge, Yanwath, about half a mile south of Penrith. And a little to the east is a second henge-type monument called King Arthur’s Round Table. So, here we have two ancient monuments for the price of one!

The raised bank or mound with trees dotted around it is 4-5 metres high in places and is formed from cobbled stones that came from the bed of the river. Within the raised, circular bank there is a flat plateau that is about half a hectare or 110 metres in dimensions. At the centre stands a single standing stone (menhir) that is 2.7 metres high; but originally there were others stones here making up a circle, of sorts. Four more stones stood around the centre and another 2 or possibly 4 more stones were located by the entrance portal at the eastern-side. Certainly in the middle ages the stone circle was largerly intact, however by the early 18th century some of the stones had been robbed-away and in the Victorian age only one remained. The henge has been dated to the Late Neolithic period around 2,000 BC.

To the east of Mayburgh is another Late Neolithic site known as King Arthur’s Round Table. This is also a henge monument that has a circular, raised earthwork enclosed within a ditch, though the difference being that the raised bank is just outside the ditch. The henge is roughly 91 metres in diameter. There are two entrance portals here that are 18 metres across. A low mound at the centre is said to be recent in date, perhaps due to disturbances and excavations that occured here in the Victorian period. Although the henge is called King Arthur’s Round Table, because that is what it looks like, there is no real reason to think the mythical king ever visited the place.

David Berry

King Arthur’s Round Table. (Photo Credit: David Berry (Wikipedia)

The course of a long forgotten Roman road from Manchester via Ribchester originally ran just to the west of the two prehistoric henge monuments, but sadly the motorway and railway line were built over that – the M6 more or less following the course of the Roman road north to Carlisle (Luguulium). There was a Roman fort just west of Eamont Bridge at Brougham or the Latin name Brocauum. So the Romans may well have looked on with a degree of awe at the site of these two raised sites, in particular the stone circle of the Mayburgh henge that would, at that time, have looked really quite grand.


Parc y Meirw, Llanychaer, Pembrokeshire, Wales

English: Parc y Meirw stone One of the orthost...

Parc y Meirw stone row (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

SM9941 3591. Standing beside the B4313 Fishguard road half a mile to the west of Trellwyn hamlet and 2 miles north-east of Llanychaer village, there are some standing stones known as Parc y Meirw. Originally the stones formed what was once part of a stone row (prehistoric alignment), but today only about seven remain out of a possible 160. The stones are difficult to find because some are in use as gateposts, while others are almost hidden in the hedge as they form the banking at the side of the road, and a few more stand just beside the field known by it’s ancient name “Field of the Dead”.

What is left of a once quite spectacular row of up to 160 standing stones, also known as orthostats or megaliths, dating from the Bronze-Age, lie scattered about at the roadside and are easily overlooked. Two quite large stones stand in the banking at the roadside, while others close by have fallen over and one or two others have, sadly, been made into gateposts. They range in height from between six foot and 9 foot high, with the tallest 12 foot high. An eighth stone is now missing, probably robbed-away to the local area and built into a wall somewhere close by. The field opposite is called Parc y Meirw “the field of the dead” and is thought to be where a Dark Age battle took place and where many warriors died, or according to some, they were turned into standing stones – a row of stone warriors, perhaps; the stones being placed here to commemorate those that fell in some bloody battle back in the mists of time. But in theory the stones pre-date the Dark Ages by thousands of years. There are another two standing stones further along the road in the direction of Trellwyn, most likely the end of the stone row.

Parc y Meirw Stone Row, Pembrokeshire, Wales. (Richard Colt Hoare, 1809).

Fat Betty Cross, Danby High Moor, North Yorkshire

NZ6822 0199. The medieval cross known as Fat Betty or White Cross stands beside a trackway on Danby High Moor at the head of the Rosedale Valley to the east of Rosedale Head. It has acted as a wayside cross/marker stone for hundreds of years for travellers going between Rosedale and Westerdale; the nearest village being Botton, a few miles to the north. But it is easy to become lost on these windswept moors and so these crosses and waymarkers would have been a great help to pilgrims and others traversing the North York Moors from medieval times and, indeed, until more recent times, no doubt.

English: White Cross, Rosedale. White Cross is...

Fat Betty or White Cross (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fat Betty Cross is about 4 foot high, square and squat in shape, with a funny little round-shaped head or wheel-head on top that has four small indentations that almost look like a human face. The whole thing is really a solid block of stone that is painted white from about halfway up, hence the name “White Cross”. It may have originally had a cross-shaft attached. There are some tiny thin carved crosses on either side, and also some more recent Victorian lettering or graffiti within a carved square panel on the main face. The cross is thought to date from the 12th century and, may well have been placed here as a wayside cross for the nuns at nearby Rosedale Abbey; the religious ladies themselves apparently wore a white habit, so could that be where the name is derived from?

But myths and legends seem to be numerous with regard to the history of the old cross. One legend tells us that two nuns and their attendant from Rosedale abbey found themselves lost in thick fog on the moor; they were eventually found dead and the cross was set up to commemorate them. Another legend says it was named after a nun called Margery or Margaret and originally it was called “Margery Cross”. And yet a third says that a local farmer’s wife died here. Her husband found her dead here and set up the cross in her memory – the farmer’s wife was apparently called Margaret or Betty. There could be some truth in these stories and old legends or maybe not; the real truth is now lost in the mists of time. Two more wayside crosses, Ralph Cross and Old Ralph Cross, stand just a short distance to the west.

Dysert O’ Dea, Co.Clare, Southern Ireland

R2841 8484. The monastic site of Dysert O’ Dea is 5 miles north-west of the town of Ennis on the R476 road and then via a country lane heading west to the ruined medieval chapel of Dysert. It stands about 1 mile away from the southern shores of Ballycullinan Lough. The village of Corofin is 3 miles to the north. There is nothing much else here in the way of houses, only a roofless medieval chapel that is built on the site of an 8th century Celtic monastery, founded by St Tola. But, there is a ruined round-tower, a splendid high cross, a holy well and some fantastic medieval stone carvings. A few miles to the north-west Dysert Castle has an Archaeological Centre that traces the history of the area from prehistoric times to the more recent.

doorway at dysert o'dea monastery

Doorway at Dysert O’ Dea monastery (Photo credit: Rob React)

The name Dysert or Disert is Latin for “isolated place” or “hermitage” so here we have the hermitage of Tola that is sometimes given as Cill an Disirt Tola “Cell of Tola”. St Tola founded the monastery here and was first abbot. He died in 735 AD and is commemorated on 30th March. Nothing is left of the Celtic monastery today – the ruined and roofless chapel probably stands upon the site. Essentially, the chapel is 12th century, though a few bits are earlier. Of interest here is the Romanesque doorway, which has 19 carved heads on it’s arch, 12 of these are human, the others are animals and bird heads. The heads seem to look down in a grim fashion with very blank expressions, but that’s what they are supposed to do. There are another three arches inside that also have carvings and the west-window gable has some very fine decoration. The east window is formed by three tall arches, while the doorway has four arches.

In the graveyard to the east of the chapel stands the 12 foot high St Tola’s High Cross (Cross of blessings) that dates from the 12th century, but was restored in the 17th century with pedestal and square base, and is said  to be the finest example of it’s kind. On it’s east face are carvings of Christ crucified and below that a bishop, probably St Tola. On the opposite side there are other carvings with animals and human figures in an interlacing fashion as well as geometric designs, while the pedestal is also decorated.

English: Photo by William Bennett

Tola’s High Cross at Dysert O’ Dea. Photo by William Bennett (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At the north-west side of the graveyard is the stump of a round-tower dating from the 11th-12th century. This was almost destroyed in the 17th century by the soldiers of Cromwell, but originally it was the tallest tower in Ireland at 33 metres high with a circumference at the base of 18 metres. There is an arched doorway facing east, narrow slits and two windows at the west side, one of which is ogee-headed. The monks of old would have used the tower as a place of safety, and as a place for the storage of valuable books and monastic treasures in times of trouble. Today it is only a 5 metres high stump.

Near the high cross is St Tola’s holy well, once a place of pilgrimage on the saint’s feast-day, 30th March every year. The well had long been visited by the faithful who had been coming here for hundreds of years in the hope of a miraculous cure, but the well was covered over in the last century, only to be restored again recently in 1986. All in all, a lovely peaceful place to visit with much to keep the antiquarians amongst us, happy and enthralled with the many beautiful Romanesque stone carvings.

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Copt Howe, Great Langdale, Cumbria

OS grid reference: NY 3140 0583. Copt Howe is 1 mile north-west of Chapel Stile village on the B5343 Langdale fell road and 250 metres south of Harry Place farm. The town of Ambleside is 4 miles to the east. Close to the road and opposite Langdale beck, a huge glacial erratic boulder has cup-markings and other forms of rock-art carved onto it that could well date back to the Early Neolithic age. The large rock is quite accessible from a footpath and stile beside the main road. There are other boulders close by that have cup-markings, but whether these were more recently carved, is open to conjecture. But for certain those on the large boulder are made by the hands of prehistoric people.

Copt Howe boulders

Copt Howe boulders (Photo credit: Je_roen_D)

The large glacial boulder has a smooth, flat surface that displays numerous rock carvings near it’s base. There are some tiny cup-markings, but also concentric circles, strange half-moon shapes, strong lines and very thin lines going off in different directions, at least 11 larger cups with many rings, triple grooves and what could be a chevron-like symbol. One cup marking, in particular, has at least 11 rings around it and lines going off from it in a strange sort of way and terminating suddenly further down the rock face. These prehistoric carvings are said to date from the Early Neolithic age upto 6,000 years ago. They could, in fact, represent a sort of Stone Age map of the Langdale fells, the stone itself sited at a strategic point on the approach to where the rock-outcrops and crags can be visibly seen on the horizon; something akin to ley-lines, perhaps. Nearby there is the site of the Langdale axe factory where there have been some superb finds.

However, some sceptics think the carvings were done in the Victorian age. True, possibly some of the cup-marks on other boulders, may have been carved in recent times by some copy-cat or hoaxer, but the carvings on the large glacial boulder were almost certainly done by the hands of Neolithic people, rather like some of us draw graffiti on walls. They were leaving their mark as it were. Other rock carvings may well lie still undetected on the rocks around the Copt Howe area – just waiting for some intrepid rock-art enthusiast to come along and find them.


Rivington Cup-Marked Stone, Anderton, Lancashire

Rivington Cup-Marked Stone (Photo courtesy of Simon Mortimer)

Rivington Cup-Marked Stone (Photo courtesy of Simon Mortimer)

OS grid reference: SD 6153 1400. The small cup-marked boulder used to stand in a rock garden in the carpark of Anderton Hall Lodge on New Road, just to the east of the village of Anderton, about halfway between the M61 motorway and Rivington reservoir. It had stood forlornly in front of a modern-day standing stone and a collection of non-discript rocks, and could have almost been overlooked. But the little boulder displays prehistoric cups and cup-and-ring markings, dating back thousands of years. Anderton village is a tiny suburb of Adlington, 1 mile to the west, while the town/city of Bolton is 5 miles to the northwest. The stone has recently been taken to the Anderton Leisure Centre further along New Road, close to the shores of Rivington Reservoir, I am now reliably informed.

Rivington Cup-Marked Stone, Lancashire (photo credit Mary Chester-Kadwell)

The small cup-marked boulder was found in the bank of Rivington Lower Reservoir in 1999 when the water level was quite low; it seems that it had been used in the actual building of the reservoir back in 1850, but no one had noticed the significance of it at the time. It is said to date from the Neolithic age 2,000-3,000 BC. There are 14 tiny cup-marks and 1 larger cup-and-ring that forms an almost perfect curve, though now rather worn. The small boulder is roughly 1 foot 7 inches high and 2 foot 7 inches in length.

But one must ask the question, what is it doing in the the Anderton Leisure Centre – why is it not in a museum where it can be properly protected and examined by specialists in the field of rock art. Really this ancient carved stone should be in the Bolton Museum. But, it seems this very fine prehistoric artefact has been forgotten or, perhaps, just ignored. For the time being it looks as if it will have to remain where it is inside the local leisure centre!

[Thanks to my good friend Simon Mortimer for the excellent photo).

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2012 (updated 2023).


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Wulfruna’s Well, Wolverhampton, West Midlands

English: Lady Wulfruna's Well This memorial da...

Lady Wulfruna’s Well, Wolverhampton, by John M. Geograph & Wikimedia Commons

OS grid ref: SJ 9111 0050. The well called Wulfruna’s fountain stands near the top end of Gorsebrook road, just after the railway bridge and beside what used to be the race-course (it is now a trading estate). A little further along and you come to the A449 flyover roundabout. Also called Lady Wulfruna’s Well, today it is more of a fountain; it used to have a tap and drinking cup, but these are now gone and no water flows here. The fountain, which was set up in 1901, was restored back in 1980 by the local Civic society after falling into disrepair at the hands of “mother nature”.

Originally the well stood close by St Peter’s collegiate church where, in 994 AD St Wulfruna as she was later known, founded a convent dedicated to St Mary and endowed the first church. This place was later called Wulfrun’s Heanton (High Town) from which is derived the name of Wulfrun Hanton or, as we know it today, Wolverhampton. According to legend, Wulfruna was a noblewoman of the house of Mercia, possibly the grand-daughter of King Aethelred I. In 943 AD she was imprisoned by the Viking chieftain, Olaf, at Tamworth, but eventually she was released and in 985 King Aethelred II granted her land at a place then called Peoleshale (Pelsall). Her two sons Aelhelm and Wulfric became key-players in the royal houses of Northumbria and Mercia. Wulfric went on to found the abbey of Burton-on-Trent. A statue of Lady Wulfruna can be seen in the square close to St Peter’s Church in the town. A Roman column carved in the 9th century with Anglo-Saxon decoration stands by the south porch of St Peter’s. Lady Wulfruna (St Wulfruna) died at Tamworth in 995 or 996 and was buried there.

The well water originally had healing qualities that were said to be very therapeutic with strong medicinal values. In the Middle Ages and, indeed, upto the Victorian age, faithful pilgrims came here in the hope of a miraculous cure. And no doubt they did receive a miraculous cure because the well continued to be in use for many centuries after.

Photo of Lady Wulfruna’s Well is by John M.



Kirkcarrion, Middleton-in-Teesdale, County Durham

NY9391 2380. Some 2 miles to the south-west of Middleton-in-Teesdale, County Durham, is the Lunedale Ridge close by Harter Fell. On top of the ridge, that can be seen for miles around, there is a tree-covered burial mound or round barrow, locally known as Kirkcarrion or Caryn’s Castle. It stands some 380 feet high. Access is by footpath from the B6276 Brough road.

English: Kirkcarrion A clump of trees surmount...

Kirkcarrion, near Middleton. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The prehistoric barrow is located in the middle of a clump of pine trees at the top of a rock-strewn hill known as Lunedale Ridge and, locally Kirkcarrion or Caryn’s Castle, after a Brigantean prince who was buried here in pre-Roman times, but it is much more likely that a Bronze-Age tribal chieftain was buried in the barrow. His or someone else’s ghost is still said to haunt the ancient citadel. In 1804 a local farm labourer removed some stones from the mound and uncovered a cist burial or sepulcharal grave, but not realising what he was doing he calmly took the stones away to build some walls on Crossthwaite Common. A funery urn with charried bones inside was found at the same time.

The antiquities from the cist burial eventually came into the hands of the landowner, Lord Strathmore, who promptly took them to his castle at Streatlam near Barnard Castle, County Durham, where the artefacts were put on display. Another excavation was carried out in 1849 but there does not appear to be any record of what, if anything, was found at that time. Lord Strathmore built walls around the burial mound and planted pine trees as a mark of his respect for the ancient burial site. Today, the place is an atmospheric, mystical place; no doubt this was something that the ancient people found very much to their liking, a place where they could bury the chief of their tribe, a high place that was, perhaps, for them nearer to “their” god or gods.

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Ribchester Roman Fort, Lancashire

Roman Museum, Ribchester

Roman Museum, Ribchester

    OS grid reference SD 6500 3504. The pretty village of Ribchester, in the Ribble Valley, stands beside the banks of the river Ribble, 6 miles to the north-west of Blackburn. Ribchester’s Roman remains (the exca-vated granaries block) can be seen behind the Roman Museum, just off Church Street. The name Ribchester means ‘fort beside the Ribble’; and the Roman name for the fort is Bremetennacum Veteranorum.

Roman granaries block at Ribchester.

Roman granaries block at Ribchester.

    The first infantry fort was built in 72-73 AD by the XXth legion from timber and turf, but in c120 AD the southern defenses of the fort were strengthened, then in the late 2nd century AD a stone fort was built within the original structure and garrisoned by cavalry. It was finally abandoned in the late 4th century AD. The fort would have had a garrison of up to 500 auxiliary soldiers. The foundations of the stone fort, including remains of the granaries and defenses are located at the back of the museum, while some earthworks can still be made-out behind the parish church and at the south-east side of the church in a field beside a footpath.

Roman Columns, Ribchester

Roman columns at Ribchester public house

    Ribchester Roman museum, dating from 1914, has a replica of a decorated parade helmet, two Celtic stone-heads and many other interesting artefacts, including other finds from the Ribchester hoard discovered in 1796. At the back of the White Bull public house in Church Street, at the east-side of the village, are the remains of the Roman bath-house and, at least two of the stone columns (out of the four) that support the porch of the White Bull Inn, are thought to have come from the Roman fort – the other two are probably replicas. More than likely the columns came from the bath-house.