The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland

Ring Stones Earthwork, Worsthorne, Burnley, Lancashire

Ringstones Earthwork near Worsthorne, Lancashire.

Ring Stones Earthwork Worsthorne, Lancashire. South-eastern side.

    OS grid reference: SD 8863 3301. On Worsthorne Hill above the two Swinden reservoirs at the east side of Burnley, Lancashire, there is a rectangular-shaped earthwork which has often been considered to be Iron Age in date, but it appears to be Romano-British, and most probably mid to late 4th century AD. It is similar in design to the Bomber Camp Earthwork, near Gisburn, Lancashire. This quite large site is also called ‘Slipper Hill Earthwork’ and ‘Hameldon Pasture Earthwork’. It is conjectured to have been a Romano-British farmstead, or maybe a temporary camp, although without any “real” concrete information that is still ‘open to question’. The site can be reached from St John’s Church in Worsthorne. From here take the Gorple road going eastwards on what becomes a rough track for about ¾ of a mile. Take the track on the left just after Brown Edge Farm, climb over two stiles and continue along here for 600m, eventually climbing a 3rd and 4th wall stile. The site is in the field to the right. There is a stile but it’s on the wrong-side of the earthwork; so the two gates are in the way and the site seems to be on ‘private land’. You can probably reach the earthwork from a path at the the north-western side of the field.

Ring Stones Earthwork (western side)

Ring Stones Earthwork (western rampart looking south).

    This quite large rectangular earthwork measures 56m x 41m and has very well-defined outer banks (ramparts) that are curved at the corners, and there are also prominent ditches. The outer banks (ramparts) are 3 feet high in places, especially at the S, W and N sides – the bank at the E side is not quite as high. At the E and W sides the ditches are quite well-defined. The NE side has what could be an entrance with extended banks at either side running out from the earthwork for 15m – and a trackway or path traversing from east to north-west across the inside of the site, although these could be a more recent features? The NW side has a circular (banked) feature with large stones inside, which could perhaps have been a 17th century lime kiln? At the W and NW sides, in particular, the outer banks (ramparts) have large and small stones embedded into them at intervals – an indication of how these were built. At the NW side a second, smaller earthwork measuring 18 yards square can just be made out – although this is now very faint in the ground and only just visible.

Ring Stones Earthwork. The western rampart.

Ring Stones Earthwork. (Western rampart looking north).

    The author Walter Bennett in his acclaimed work ‘History of Burnley’ did a survey of the earthworks in 1946. In this he called the site: “an enclosure that is 50 yards square with ramparts 2 yards wide and 1 yard high with an outer ditch 2 yards wide.” He says of the smaller enclosure: “It is 18 yards square.” He goes on to say: “the site was excavated in 1925 at which time a gateway 7 yards wide at the SW side was paved with boulders laid in a gravel foundation. At the S side there was a drain. A regular course of large stones flanked the gateway entrance at either side, and a floor of gravel and flat stones or cobbles. The rampart was built of earth and stones. There was a well-constructed road 7 feet wide which ran towards Bottin Farm on the Worsthorne to Roggerham road.” This is ½ a mile to the west. Could this have been the ancient straight trackway which runs back down to Gorple Road, or another track that heads north-west from the site to Swinden?

Ring Stones Earthwork (from the south-east).

Ring Stones Earthwork (from the south-east).

    But what makes this site interesting is the fact that a smaller, square-shaped earthwork feature joins onto the larger one at the north-western side, although this is fainter and more difficult to make out at ground level. So was this also a Romano-British farmstead, or was it something else? Almost certainly it was linked to, or was part of, the larger farmstead. It may be that this structure, and the larger one, only lasted for a short period of time because at that ‘time’ in Late Roman Britain, especially in the northern parts of the empire, daily life was becoming difficult with warring factions and tribal infighting on the increase – the Roman army now almost incapable of holding these rebellious northern, British tribes back. And soon the Roman army would retreat back to Gaul. Britanniae would then be left to its own devices! But the question must be asked: what was this Late Roman farmstead or camp doing here at the east side of Burnley?

Sources and related web-sites:-

Bennett, Walter, History Of Burnley – Vol I, Burnley Corporation, 1946.

Hall, Brian, Burnley (A Short History), Burnley and District Historical Society, 1977.

Strathpeffer Pictish Stone, Easter Ross, Scotland

Strathpeffer Pictish Stone, Easter Ross, Scotland.

Strathpeffer Pictish Stone, Easter Ross, Scotland.

    OS grid reference: NH 4849 5850. At the edge of a field at the north-eastern side of the village of Strathpeffer, in Easter Ross, Scotland, stands a 7th century Pictish symbol stone known as ‘Clach an Tiompain’ or Tuideain (The Eagle Stone) – ‘Stone of the Turning’ or ‘The Sounding Stone’. The stone was ‘said’ to have marked a battle that took place in 1411 between two warring Scottish clans, and there was also a 17th century ‘prophetic’ legend associated with the stone. It is located at the edge of a field beside a line of trees at the north-eastern edge of the village – just off Nutwood Lane – and 85m south-east of Nutwood House – the stone lies 150m west of the A834 (Dingwall road). About 1 mile to the east along the A834 is St Clement’s kirk, Dingwall, and in the kirkyard a second Pictish stone.

    This Class I Pictish symbol is thought to date from the 7th century at which time the Pictish kingdom was ruled by the powerful King Bridei, son of Bili. It is made of contorted blue gneiss and is 2 ft 8′ high (81cm), according to Elizabeth Sutherland in her work ‘The Pictish Guide’. It is 24′ wide x 10′ thick. On its front (SE) face are carved two Pictish symbols: an eagle and above that an arched horse-shoe which has tiny circles with dots in them at the bottom of both arches and, another slightly larger circle with a tiny circle and dot inside that at the top – which are held by curved strands almost forming two more circles. There are no carvings on the reverse side. Sutherland says the eagle represents St John the Evangelist and means: justice and truth, while the arched horse-shoe signifies ‘a rainbow bridge between this and the other world’. The stone has suffered from slight damage at the top right side due to being moved about on a couple of occasions; it originally stood further down the hill in the direction of Dingwall, but was brought to its current position in 1411. It has also come to be referred to, in more recent times perhaps, as ‘the Marriage Stone’.

    The stone was traditionally said to stand on, or near, the site of an early 15th century battle between two Scottish clans: the Munros and MacDonalds – the clan Munro being victorias. Curiously the Munro clan symbol is the eagle! Local legend has it that the slain of the Munroe clan lie buried around the stone. The Mackenzie clan seemingly ‘also’ had some involvement here. And there was also a legendary ‘prophetic’ claim made by the 17th century Highland prophet Coinneach Odhar – better known as Brahan Seer (who was of the clan Mackenzie). He said that if the stone “fell” for a third time the Strathpeffer valley would flood right up to the stone (Sutherland, 1997). Linked to the Strathpeffer stone is the Dingwall Pictish Symbol Stone. This stands in the kirkyard at the left-side of the entrance path to St Clement’s kirk, but this is now badly weathered – Anthony Jackson ‘The Pictish Trail’. So were these two stones originally ‘a pair’?

Sources and related web sites:-

Jackson, Anthony, The Pictish Trail – A travelers Guide To The Old Pictish Kingdoms, The Orkney Press Ltd., St Ola, Kirkwall, Orkney, 1989.

Sutherland, Elizabeth, The Pictish Guide, Birlinn Limited, Edinburgh, 1997.

The AA, Illustrated Road Book Of Scotland, The Automobile Association, London, 1963.

Lundin Links Standing Stones, Fife, Scotland

Lundin Links Standing Stones, in Fife.

Lundin Links Standing Stones, in Fife.

    OS grid reference: NO 4048 0271. On the third fairway of the Lundin Links Ladies Golf Course, in Fife, Scotland, there are three very tall prehistoric standing stones which are arranged in a sort of circle. They are located just 120m to the north of the Old Manor Hotel, off the A915 (Leven road) at Lundin Links Golf Course, and directly opposite Pilmuir Road. There is an entrance to the site on Woodielea road, a further 500m along the Leven road (at the east-side of the golf course), where you will need to ‘ask for permission’ to visit the stones. They can’t really be missed though as they stand out quite clearly on the greens of the third fairway. The village of Lower Largo is 1 mile to the east along the A915 (Leven road).

    The three very tall sandstone pillars, originally there was a fourth, stand like ancient sentinels over the green lawns of the golf course. They stand close together in a sort of circle, or a rectangle of 100 feet x 30 feet, in what is called a ‘four-poster circle’. The tallest and most oddly-shaped stands at a very tall 17 feet, while the other two are 15 feet high and 13 feet high respectively; the smaller stone being pointed at the top and the middle-height stone having a broad girth. In the early 1700s a cist grave was excavated here which yielded a number of human bones. A fourth stone had originally stood at the NE side but this had apparently fallen down, or had been broken and knocked down at the end of the 18th century, maybe due to vandalism. These standing stones are said to be aligned with Comrie Hill, Perth & Kinross, but there may also be an alignment with Largo Law to the east?

Sources and related websites:-

The AA, Illustrated Road Book Of Scotland, The Automobile Association, London, 1963.

Worsthorne Hill Stone Circle, Near Burnley, Lancashire

Worsthorne Hill Stone Circle.

Worsthorne Hill Stone Circle, near Burnley, in Lancashire.

    OS grid reference: SD 8845 3276. On Worsthorne Hill to the east of Burnley, Lancashire, and close to Swinden Reservoirs, stands a prehistoric stone circle. Though it is not the usual type of stone circle with stones standing up-right. This site is also known as ‘Hameldon Pasture Stone Circle’ and sometimes ‘Slipper Hill Stone Circle’. It has also been referred to as a ‘cairn circle’- and was stated as such on earlier OS maps. To reach the site take the Gorple Road at St John’s Church in Worsthorne. Continue eastwards on this often quite rough track for about ¾ of a mile. Take the track on the left just after Brown Edge Farm, climb over two stiles and continue along the here for 270m, climbing a 3rd wall stile. At the old rusting steam-roller walk to the right down the dry water course for 150m. Here in front of you is what remains of the stone circle – now partly surrounded by a land-fill site and field debris scattered about, which is quite appalling to say the least, being right next to an ancient site. A second rusty old road repairing vehicle can be seen beyond the circle!

Worsthorne Hill Stone Circle, near Burnley.

Worsthorne Hill Stone Circle, near Burnley.

The "possible" cup-marked stone in the stone circle.

The “possible” cup-marked stone in the stone circle.

There is not a great deal to see of this so-called stone circle, if that’s what it is.?  Today only 5 recumbent stones remain in a sort of circle, though there may be 2 or 3 others buried under the grass tufts. The largest of the 5 stones at the E side may also have originally been underneath the grass; this stone is about 2 ft vertically. It could ‘possibly’ have a number of tiny cup-marks on its surface where the circular lichen features are visible, or were these made by something else? There is a faint earthen circle, but this feature of is ‘now’ difficult to make out; and it has been suggested by some that the stones were part of an outer kerb. It roughly measures 15m x 12m. So was this a cairn circle? Probably not as there is no burial mound nor any visible sign of one now. This ancient monument probably dates from the Bronze Age.

[At the time of my visit it looked like a vehicle, of sorts, had been driven across the circle as they’re were tyre marks].



The Collingham Saxon Crosses, West Yorkshire

    OS grid reference: SE 3900 4609. At the north-east side of Collingham village, west York-shire, stands the ancient parish church of St Oswald, a building dating back to pre-Conquest times. The church houses two Anglo-Saxon cross-shafts and also a few other interesting antiquities: there is an ancient stone coffin lid, a cresset stone, a stone with a consecration cross and some 17th century grave slabs. St Oswald’s parish church is located on Church Lane just to the north of the Leeds to Wetherby road the A58 (Main Street), and the river Wharfe is 100m to the north of the church; the village of Collingham is now regarded as a suburb of Leeds – the city centre being about 2 miles to the south-west.

The Runic Cross.

The Runic Cross.

    The taller and more impressive of the two shafts which stand at the east end of the aisle is called ‘The Runic Cross’ or ‘The Aerswith Cross’, and may date from the late 9th century AD. This is made up of two sections joined together. It is carved with three intertwined dragons, two of which are in opposition to the other. These creatures are of the Viking “Jelling” style of designwork that was flourishing in the 9th-10th century AD. There is also scrollwork, interlacing and knot-work which is more Anglo Saxon in origin. Around the base of this shaft there is a runic inscription which has not yet been deciphered.

    According to the authoress Ella Pontefract in her delightfully beautiful work ‘The Charm Of Yorkshire Churches’, this stone cross….. “has been thought to have been used at the dedication of a monastery built by Queen Eanflaed in the 7th century in memory of Oswini whom her husband had caused to be murdered.” Pontefract goes on to say that “the finding of the runic cross has also been thought to indicate Collingham as the site of the monastery of Ingetlingum, not Gilling, as Bede recorded.”  W.G. Collingwood (1854-1932) the English author and antiquarian, however, does not find the name, Oswini, on the runic inscription, and so he dates the cross as late as the 9th century AD, the Transitional period between Anglian and Danish.

     St Eanflaed or Enfleda (d 704) was the daughter of King Edwin of Northumbria. She was abbess of Whitby. In 651 her husband King Oswiu of Bernicia murdered his own brother, Oswini, and Eanflaed then persuaded her husband to found the monastery of Gilling in reparation for his sins. In 670 after her husband’s death she became abbess of Whitby, north Yorkshire. Glastonbury Abbey ‘claimed’ to have the relics of St Eanflaed (David Farmer, 2004). The first abbot of Gilling, west Yorkshire, was called Trumhere. Some scholars think the monastery of Gilling was in North Yorkshire, near Ripon?

The Apostles Cross.

The Apostles Cross.

    The shorter cross-shaft is called ‘The Apostles Cross’ and, like the Runic Cross, it was dug up from the floor of the church during restoration work between 1840-41. It is said to date from the beginning of the 9th century AD.

     This shorter cross-shaft is made up of two sections joined together, and is so named because it is adorned with representations of eleven Apostles with halos and each in their own round-headed arch. It is quite probably part of a much taller Anglian cross – the top section of which is missing. However, it is conject-ured that two of these ‘Apostolic figures’ could perhaps be representations of Christ, and the Virgin Mary with the Christ-child? There is also cable-pattern moulding design. The date of this cross had been fixed at about 800 AD, although it is generally now considered to date from the 9th-10th century AD. Also housed in the church is a cross-arm and sections of other crosses, which again date from pre-Conquest times.

    There is also a rare cresset stone. The authoress Ella Pontefract says of this stone: “An 8th century cresset is interesting, a flat, round stone with a cup-shaped hollow in the centre in which a light burnt perpetually before the sanctuary, and seven smaller cups round the edge for the days of the week. Their lights were used to relight cottage fires if accidentally extinguished.”

    On the west window-sill there is a Medieval stone coffin lid with sculptured cross. Built into the north vestry wall is part of a consecration cross, while at either sides of the south door there are interesting 17th century grave slabs. The south wall still has traces of Saxon workmanship, and Early English columns supporting the arches of the arcades survive. Author Frank Bottomley gives a bit more detail in his work ‘Yorkshire Churches’. He says that: “Apart from Perp. tower, exterior reflects heavy restoration of 1841 but some of fabric may be A/S. North arcade c. 1200 and aisle Perp.”


Bottomley, Frank, Yorkshire Churches, Alan Sutton Publishing Limited, Stroud, Gloucestershire, 1993.

Farmer, David, Oxford Dictionary Of Saints, Oxford University Press, 2004.

Pontefract, Ella, The Charm Of Yorkshire Churches, The Yorkshire Weekly Post, Leeds, 1937. [The two illustrations of the cross-shafts in Collingham church are by Marie Hartley, daughter of the authoress Ella Pontefract].

1 Comment

The Walton Cross, Hartshead, West Yorkshire

    OS grid reference: SE 1761 2379. The Walton Cross stands beside a footpath at the western side of Hartshead village, in Kirklees District, west Yorkshire. But in fact it is now only part of what was originally quite a tall Anglo Saxon preaching cross, dating perhaps from the 9th or 10th century, but the carvings on this ancient cross-base are outstandingly beautiful. It is located 20m along a footpath running off the B6119 (Windy Bank Lane) and opposite Second Avenue. It is at the north-side of Walton Farm. Originally it stood in a field on private land, but a kindly, caring farmer who bought the land decided to build a footpath running directly to the cross. About ¼ of a mile to the south-east is St Peter’s church, an 11th century building but with more recent work, too. There is a holy well (Lady Well) near the church.

    The Walton cross-base stands at 1.5m (5 feet) in height and 1.1m (3 ft 6′) in width. It is a highly sculptured block of gritstone with large, double-edged panels on its sides that have beautiful designs and imagery. It was conjectured to date from between 900-1000 AD. Scholars now date it to the 11th century. According to Ella Pontefract in her masterpiece of work ‘The Charm Of Yorkshire Churches’: the west face has a cross (large rosette knot) within a circle that is supported by two winged figures, while the east face has a tree with two birds on each side, maybe a representation of ‘the Tree of Life’, a Viking image, and the north and south faces have interlacing knotwork – reminiscent perhaps of Celtic workmanship. Long ago this wayside preaching cross (waymarker) would have stood very tall, maybe 15 feet, and how beautiful it must have looked, but sadly the rest of the cross has long since disappeared – though to where it went we do not know. It is also interesting to know that originally the Walton Cross may have been painted in bright colours. The circle with rosette knot is the logo for ‘The West Yorkshire Archaeological Service‘.

    The authoress goes on to say that: W.G. Collingwood the English author and antiquary (1854-1932) suggested that the cross is the “Wagestan” (Wage Stone), which was mentioned in the 12th century foundation charter of Kirkless Priory, near Mirfield, west Yorkshire. The socket hole at the top of the cross-base is often filled with water that is, or was, used to cure warts, and a few coins are sometimes deposited in the water!


Bull, Malcolm, The West Yorkshire Archaeology Service (WYAS), The Calderdale Companion.

Click on this web-blog by Kai Roberts:

Pontefract, Ella, The Charm Of Yorkshire Churches, The Yorkshire Weekly Post, Leeds, 1937.

Hameldon Pasture Round Barrows, Worsthorne, Lancashire

Hameldon Pasture Round Barrow I

Hameldon Pasture Round Barrow I

    OS grid reference: SD 8914 3262. Upon the windswept Hameldon Pasture near Worsthorne, Lancashire, are two prehistoric round barrows, but often referred to as cairn circles or round cairns. The small hill on which they are located is also known as Little Hameldon Hill, and to the local people it is Worsthorne Hill. Unfortunately, both monuments are now ‘much’ destroyed and robbed of their stonework. The larger barrow is called Hameldon Pasture I while the smaller one is Hameldon Pasture II. To reach the site take the Gorple Road at St John’s Church in Wors-thorne. Continue eastwards along this often quite rough track for about 1½ miles. Take the second footpath over the ladder stile on left-hand side (after power cables), then walk-on northwards for 290m to the hill and round barrows. The ladder stile was broken at the time of my visit and the footpath often quite boggy.

Hameldon Pasture Barrow I showing the boulder at the centre.

Hameldon Pasture Barrow I (showing the boulder at the centre).

    The larger of the two barrows (Hameldon Pasture I) is 0.3m high and has a circumference of 21m (almost 69 ft) but it is now much destroyed and difficult to make out in the grass. It was originally a bowl-shaped tumulus consisting of earth and stones – many of its stones having been robbed away and used in the walls down slope. At the centre there is a hollowed-out area 5m x 4m (16 ft x 13 ft) with two weather-worn gritstone boulders, the bigger one looks to have some tiny cup-marks at one side? A third, smaller boulder lies close by. When this barrow was excavated in 1886 a cist grave was found. This had two large flat stones covering it and other flat slabs at the sides and the ends. A number of arrowheads and tiny flints were also found.

Hameldon Pasture Round Barrow II.

Hameldon Pasture Round Barrow II.

    The second barrow lies 55m to the south-west at (SD 8912 3259) and is identified as ‘Hameldon Pasture II’. But it is also known as a round cairn or cairn circle. This much destroyed round barrow measures 12.5m x 10.8m (41 ft x 35 ft) and is 0.3m high. The large hollow (depression) at the centre is 2.5m x 1.5m (8 ft x 5 ft); there are traces of a second hollow. Several stones lie in the centre and around the edges – indicative of an outer kerb. When the cairn was excavated in 1843 by Mr Studley Martin*, of Liverpool, an undecorated urn containing the bones of an adult and child was found in a stone cist, but the stones from this have been robbed away for other use in the ‘immediate’ locality.

Hameldon Pasture Round Barrow II.

Hameldon Pasture Round Barrow II.

    *Mr Studley Martin the 19th century Liverpool writer and antiquarian was a guest of the Reverend William Thursby of Ormerod House near Hurstwood, Burnley, Lancashire, in 1843. During his sojourn in the Burnley area he visited the two prehistoric barrows upon Hameldon Pasture, and was ‘seemingly’ delighted to find an undecorated funery urn in the smaller of the two tumuli. Martin was also associated with the prehistoric Calder Stones at Allerton, Liverpool.


Hall, Brian, Burnley (A Short History), Burnley and District Historical Society, 1977.