The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland

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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:-

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Round Dikes Earthwork, Addingham Low Moor, West Yorkshire

Round Dikes on Addingham Low Moor (from above).

Round Dikes on Addingham Low Moor (from above).

    OS grid reference: SE 0551 5012. Quite a substantial Iron Age earth-work situated below Counter Hill on Addingham Low Moor, West Yorkshire, that is locally called ‘Round Dikes’, ‘Round Dikes Camp’ and ‘Round Dikes Settlement’. This enclosed and almost oval-shaped earthwork on the moors to the east of Crossbank Road also supports a Bronze Age burial mound, but unfortunately this is now badly muti-lated. There are traces of an associated linear earthwork to the south-east of the site, and another burial mound, although this is now hardly recognizable at ground level. Round Dikes Earthwork can be reached from Crossbank Road, where a footpath runs north-east towards Counter Hill, through a couple of fields and over a couple of wall stiles for 400m. Just before the earthwork there are some gates and a short muddy path. The grassy earthwork is now in front of you!

Round Dikes Earthwork, Addingham Low Moor (the north side).

Round Dikes Earthwork,  (the north side).

    Round Dikes Earthwork roughly measures 87m x 79m and is oval shaped. It has a well-defined ditch with banks running around an inner area which would have been the camp or settlement’s inner sanctum; the banking at the north-side is very prominent and is 4-5 feet high in parts, whereas the banking further around the site is slightly less at 3-4 feet high. However it is thought this was a non-defensive camp or “entrenchment” probably of the Iron Age, and not of the Roman period. The inner part of the site probably contained maybe nine hut circles and some hearths, according to John Dixon in his work ‘Journeys Through Brigantia’ – Volume One. At the south-east side there is what looks to be an entrance, and close to that and just inside the camp’s enclosure, a spring which is now almost lost in reed beds! The ditch and banking at the S side is almost lost in dense foliage and reed beds, and the spring makes for very boggy conditions here.

    It would seem that the people of the Iron Age kept their stock: cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and maybe horses close to them and always within the bounds of their settlements or enclosures.

    The author J. C. Barringer in his work ‘The Yorkshire Dales’, says of these Iron Age people and their enclosures: These complexes of small enclosures were bounded by stone banks and contained round huts of about fifteen feet in diameter. The inference to be drawn from the archaeological evidence is that Iron Age peoples occupied many of the limestone plateau above the main valley floors and that they were agriculturalists to the extent of growing crops of oats and perhaps rye in their small enclosures.”

    He goes on to say: ‘Their small enclosures near their huts may have been crop growing areas, but most of their territory must have been used for grazing stock. The grazing of hillsides, would of course, hold back tree growth and in the case of goats severely inhibit it, so maintaining the clearance of the woodlands and perhaps increasing it in some areas.”

Round Dikes Earthwork. Bronze Age Bowl Barrow (between the sheep!)

Round Dikes Earthwork. Bronze Age Bowl Barrow (between the sheep!)

    Near the south side of the site there is a small but very mutilated mound or bowl barrow which must be ascribed to the Bronze Age. This grassy mound is about 4 feet high but it is very damaged with a hollowed-out part at one side – due perhaps to robbery, or maybe from some illegal archaeological diggings in the past. So the site was obviously in use as a settlement long before the round dikes were built. And 200m further down hill to the south-east there are traces of a linear earthwork which was probably an extended part of the Round Dikes Camp. There is also another tumulus (bowl barrow) just below this earthwork at (grid ref: SE 0584 4993), although this has been largely lost due to plough-ing of the field.

    About ¾ of a mile to the west, at Woofa Bank, there is another large oval-shaped Iron Age enclosure with associated earthworks over to the north and east, and there is an interest-ing tumulus (bowl barrow) on the trackway (Millennium Way) to the south.

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.

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St Helen’s Well, Draughton, North Yorkshire

St Helen's Well, near Draughton, North Yorks.

St Helen’s Well, near Draughton, North Yorks.

    OS grid reference: SE 0274 5326. In the corner of a field close to a wall beside the busy A59 road ½ a mile north of Draughton, north Yorkshire, is the ‘now’ much neglected and almost forgotten St Helen’s holy well. The well or spring, or what remains of it, is located close to Holywell Halt on the heritage railway line that is run by The Embsay & Bolton Abbey Steam Railway; the pretty little halt and the bridge opposite are both named after the well. The site can be reached from the A59 road between Skipton and Bolton Bridge. It is on the Draughton side of the road just before the railway bridge and on the opposite side of the road from the lay by. A wall stile hidden underneath some trees and bushes gives access to a footpath which passes close to the well. However, beware of the main road as there are vehicles coming along at often fast speeds.

St Helen's Well near Draughton, North Yorks.

St Helen’s Well near Draughton, North Yorks.

    St Helen’s holy well or spring is now very neglected and almost forgotten. It is in fact a large stone trough or tank measuring about 5 feet in length by about 2 feet wide, with a curved outlet at one end, and it looks to be quite deep. A metal pipe used to supply the stone trough with water from ‘a spring’ in the grassy bank opposite, but this has now gone and so the trough is replenished by rain water and overflows onto the surrounding ground which, at the time of my visit, was flooded with muddy water and very boggy. But when the ground is dried out I believe a flat area of ground with stones and pebbles can be seen around one side of the stone trough. Unfortunately, the stone trough is now used by thirsty cattle! The well was mentioned by Guy Ragland Phillips in his work ‘Brigantia’, in the mid-1970s.

    So just how old is this holy site and has St Helen or Helena (248-330 AD) always been associated with the well? At a guess I would say it is Medieval although the spring was here way, way back. It was obviously a pre-Christian spring. So maybe the saint, who was the mother of the Roman emperor Constantine the Great, was accepted as patron of the spring here in the the early Medieval period – at which time the cultus of St Helen was particularly strong in the Craven Dales. There is another St Helen’s Well at Eshton near Gargrave, north Yorkshire. But we know that St Helena was ‘not’ a native of Yorkshire, nor was she from anywhere else in Britain – despite what some early scholars say.  She was born at Drepanum in Bithynia, Asia Minor, later to be called Helenopolis. St Helena journeyed to the Holy Land and according to tradition she re-discovered the true cross (Holy Cross) on which Christ was crucified.

Sources and related websites:-

Phillips, Guy Ragland, Brigantia, Routledge & Kegan Paul Books, London, 1976.

Standing Stones At Stones, Near Todmorden, West Yorkshire

Tall standing stones at the hamlet of Stones, near Todmorden.

Tall standing stone at the hamlet of Stones, near Todmorden.

    OS grid reference: SD 9252 2359. There are three standing stones at the hamlet of Stones near Todmorden, West York-shire, but in this case they seem to be reasonably “modern” in date. This off-the-beaten-track hamlet with the name “stones” is a curious one. It seems to be ‘in another time or realm of its own’, but an idyllic one. It lies just south-west of the imposing Victorian ediface Dobroyd Castle, once home to the industrious Fielden family of Todmorden. At least one of the standing stones was erected in the early 19th century, while the other two were put up around the same time or a bit later – perhaps in more recent times? And there is a fourth stone but this is recumbent and now lies in front of a well. To reach these standing stones it is best to drive into Bacup town centre, then the A681 (Bacup Road) through Sharneyford, and at Cloughfoot turn left onto the steep Sour Hall Road, then turn right onto Parkin Lane which soon becomes Stones Lane. The tallest of the stones is in front of you on the left-hand side. It will, however, be difficult to find a parking place on this narrow lane and difficult to turn around again!

Stone No 1 viewed from different angle.

Stone No 1 viewed from a different angle.

    The tallest of the three standing stones known as (No 1) is said to be 12 feet high and can be found in a farmer’s field beside Stones Lane and just to the west of Stones Farm. It is a hefty pillar of grey-black millstone grit from a local quarry that was obviously long exposed to the industrial chimney smoke of Todmorden in days gone by. We don’t really know when the gigantic stone was set up, and whether this is its original position, though it looks to be well supported at its base by a number of sturdy stones. It may have been erected after the Battle of Waterloo in 1812, rather like the other standing stone over to the north on the hillock called Centre Hill, or maybe this stone was placed here following another, perhaps, more recent battles like those of The Great War 1914-18. This seems more likely as there is evidence saying it was placed here in 1921, but other than that, we may never really know with any certainty. It is the fourth tallest standing stone in Yorkshire (Billingsley, John, ‘Folk Tales from Calderdale – Volume 1’.

Standing stone on Centre Hill. This is known as Stone No 2.

Standing stone No 2 on Centre Hill.

Stone No 2 on Centre Hill (from a different angle).

Stone No 2 on Centre Hill (from a different angle).

    The slightly shorter and thinner standing stone known as (No 2) stands atop a grassy hillock called Centre Hill (OS grid ref: SD 9254 2369) which is partly surrounded by a wooded area at the south-side and, just below that, a private residence called Model Farm. It is located some 95m north-east of, but more or less, in the same field as Stone No 1, although there is a low wall in between this and the little hillock.  This particular stone is held in place through the central hole of a large millstone – which is in turn supported below that on some other flat stones arranged in an equally circular fashion. We do know, however, with some sort of certainty that this stone was brought to its present position after 1812 and erected to commemorate ‘The Battle of Waterloo’. Centre Hill was originally the site of a beacon, according to author Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian. It looks as if this standing stone has at some point been used as a gatepost!

Stone No 3 at Stones Lane, near Todmorden.

Stone No 3 at Stones Lane, near Todmorden.

Stone No 4 lies in front of the well near Stones Lane.

Stone No 4 lies in front of the well near Stones Lane.

    Standing stone No 3 is located at the east side of a farmer’s field some 330m to the north-west along Stones Lane (OS grid ref: SD 9225 2380). It stands at just 4½ feet high and is a thin pillar compared to the other two stones, but it is quite a nice little standing stone. We do not know when this stone was placed here though it looks as if it might have been here for a much longer period of time. A little to the south of this stone, close to the wall, there is a well that has a ‘good’ constant supply of fairly clear water that comes down from the low hillside above. At the front of the well there is a 5 foot long, flat recumbent stone; this is considered to be the former standing stone No 4. The spring apparently began to flow or re-emerge when the stone was being dug-up, according to Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian. However, this well is not marked on recent OS maps nor are any of the standing stones for that matter!

    I think that in the recent past there were many other standing stones here but unfor-tunately these have been dug up and moved elsewhere in the locality, many being broken up and put to use in nearby walls.  The standing stones can be photographed from Stones Lane, but a word of caution here:  It is ‘unwise to climb over the walls’ to look at these standing stones.  There are gates, however, and if the farmer is driving along the lane in his tractor he might open these gates to allow access for one to get up closer!

Sources and related websites:-

Billingsley, John, Folk Tales from Calderdale, Northern Earth, Mytholmroyd, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, 2008.

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Worsaw Hill Burial Mound, near Downham, Lancashire

Worsaw Hill burial mound in the shadow of Pendle Hill.

Worsaw Hill burial mound stands in the shadow of Pendle Hill.

    OS grid reference: SD 7793 4321. About halfway between the Pendle villages of Downham and Worston, Lancashire, is the 725 foot high Worsaw Hill, which is a Limestone reef knoll. At the south-eastern side of the summit there is a small, grassy mound that is thought to be a Bronze Age burial mound, although very little is known about its history. There are also faint earthworks on the top of the hill which might be the remains of an ancient settlement? And there is a cave near the base of the hill. The lower slopes and outcrops are good for fossil hunting, while the walls around the periphery of the hill are excellent for “crinodia” enthusiasts! From West Lane, just up the lane from the entrance to Radbrook Farm, follow the footpath on the opposite side of the lane up past the barn, keeping to the side of the hill for maybe another ½ mile. At the far north-east side of the hill walk up the lower slope to the summit and, close to the south-east side, the small circular mound is in front of you. From here you get an excellent panoramic view of Pendle Hill’s western flanks.

Worsaw Hill bowl barrow (as seen from the south).

Worsaw Hill bowl barrow (as seen from the south).

Worsaw Hill bowl barrow (as seen from the south)

Worsaw Hill bowl barrow (close up from the south)

    The burial mound, or bowl barrow, at the SE side of the summit of Worsaw Hill is thought to date from the Bronze Age. It is a round-shaped grassy mound that looks to be in a reasonably good condition, although there is a hollow at the centre, but whether this was caused by some  past archaeological excavation, or whether the central chamber has fallen in, or something else, we don’t know with any certainty. It is 5-6 feet in height though originally it would have been higher; and it measures about 16m x 13m (52ft x 42ft). There looks to have been ‘some’ sort of ancient settlement close by the mound as there are faint traces of rectangular earthworks, but whether this is of the same age as the barrow, we don’t know. Maybe it was a quarry-workers’ settlement as there are many bell pits and outcrops both on the summit and around the bottom of the hill. Limestone was obviously quarried here – the walls around the base of the hill being testament to this. At the base of the hill (NW side) there is a small cave and some think there was an ancient settlement close-by that. And there was perhaps a Romano-British settlement, farmstead, or signal station at nearby Worston, which is near a Roman road – the course of which can be seen at the western-side of the village.

   W. R. Mitchell (2004) says that “When a prehistoric barrow was opened on Worsaw, human remains were found, possibly those of a chieftain who, it is romantically assumed, had been laid to rest facing Pendle.”

Crinoid fossils in Limestone wall.

Crinoid fossils in Limestone wall.

Crinoid fossils at Worsaw Hill in Lancashire.

Crinoid fossils at Worsaw Hill in Lancashire.

    Worsaw Hill, which is joined together with Crow Hill, are Limestone reef knolls, or mud mounds, that were formed over 300 million years ago in the Carboniferous period – at which time they lay beneath the sea, only the top of Pendle Hill would have been visible. Worsaw Hill is the largest reef knoll in the area, another being the one upon which Clitheroe Castle stands, which is part of the Clitheroe Limestone Formation that lies within the Chadian Stage. This ‘reef belt’ of Limestone stretches from Clitheroe to Worston and Downham to Chatburn. Other smaller reef knolls are to be seen around Downham, Twiston and Chatburn. Fossilised crinoidia which are tiny marine creatures, freshwater sea lilies, and corals are very evident in the Limestone quarried from these knolls, and also in the outcrops and scars on their side slopes. Often the walls around these knolls are built of Limestone with crinoid fossils.

    The authoress Jessica Lofthouse says of this area: “A thousand years ago Anglian farmers with an eye on good well-drained limestone pastures, sweet herbage for their flocks and herds, chose to settle down in a green land among coral reef knolls. One was Crow Hill, joined by Ridge to Worsa Hill named after one of their leaders. So Worsa’s Tun came into being. A little west of the settlement was a Roman highway; legionaries travelled it between  Ribchester and York, but now as a grass-floored track gone back to Nature walkers in high Summer need protection from beds of nettles which choke it. The bypass did not obliterate the line of it.”

Sources and related websites:-

Dixon, John & Phillip, Journeys Through Brigantia – Volume Nine – The Ribble Valley, Aussteiger Publications, Barnoldswick, 1993.

Lofthouse, Jessica, Lancashire Countrygoer, Robert Hale, London, 1974.

Mitchell, W. R., Bowland And Pendle Hill, Phillimore & Co. Ltd., Chichester, West Sussex, England, 2004.

                                                      © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2017.