The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland

The Carved Stone Heads of Ribchester in Lancashire.

NGR: SD 64977 35007. It is of interest that there seem to be a number of carved stone heads in and around the village of Ribchester in the Ribble Valley, Lancashire. A few of these carved heads may be Medieval in date, while others are probably more recent, but, it is unlikely any of them are actually “Celtic stone heads”, which has sometimes been assumed to be the case by a few local historians. There are two stone heads in the porch of St Wilfrid’s parish church that look to have some great age to them, while the others are located at various halls and farmhouses in and around the village; and another head can be found at Longridge, a few miles away. These stone heads do not, however, date from the Roman period for as we know Ribchester is well-known for its Roman fort of Bremetennacum and also its museum of Roman and prehistoric antiquities, but, it is possible one or two could be Romano-British and, therefore, depict deities from that particular time, which can then be referred to as “Celtic” in origin.


Stone head from Hades Farm near Ribchester, Lancs.

Margaret Edwards writing in ‘Lancashire Archaeological Bulletin’, 1987, in the article called ‘The Stone Heads of Ribchester’ gives the following information, which I have sourced. There is a stone head at Hades Farm, Ribchester, at (NGR SD 627364) built into the Farmyard wall there. This head is made of Sandstone and is 33×17 cms. The head has similar examples in Yorkshire at Chapel Allerton (Leeds). A second Sandstone head in the farmyard wall at Hades Farm measures 21×15.5 cms. This head has similar parallels at Arma-ghbragne (Co. Antrim) and Correvilla (Co. Cavan) in Ireland. There is a stone head in a field wall at Thornley-with-Wheatley, near Ribchester. This Sand-stone head measures 38.5×18.5 cms. It is very worn and is known to have been associated with two others but, due to frequent wall demolitions, is now solitary. Two similar heads to this are at Chapel Allerton (Leeds). Photo (right) is the carved stone head from Thornley-with-Wheatley, near Ribchester, Lancashire.

The carved stone head at Longridge Library, Lancashire.

In the Gable wall of Ivy Cottage in the village of Dilworth, near Ribchester (NGR: SD 623375) is another stone head made of Sandstone, which measures 30 cms high. This head is white-washed and inscribed with the date 1856 from when it was built into an adjacent building. A good example of this head was found at Corraghy in Ireland. And another head also in the Gable wall of Ivy Cottage was previously built into the adjacent building. This head is also whitewashed, but this example looks to be Medieval, rather than Celtic. This head has a similar parallel to (Jackson’s) carved head at Bradford. One other carved stone head, with little information, was found in the Ribble Valley, but is now residing in the British Museum. There is, however, a copy in Ribchester Museum. This was a Sandstone head and measured 30×23 cms. It was found between 1870-1880 and may have been found close to the River Ribble in the vicinity of the De Tabley Arms. One interesting stone head can be seen in the early 1960s wall behind Longridge Library (NGR: SD 606373) and was previously built into an earlier 18th-century wall which was demolished to clear the area for the building of the library. It is a Sandstone head and measures 16.5×12 cms. The Longridge stone head is similar to one found at Wardle, near Rochdale, although the exception being that it has ‘hair’! The Wardle stone heads, there are two of them, are on display at the entrance to Touchstones Museum, Rochdale. A similar head to that of Longridge was (Jackson’s) stone head from Keighley, west Yorkshire.

Stone Head at Hades Farm.

John Dixon in his 1993 work ‘Journeys Through Brigantia — The Ribble Valley’ mentions two stone heads in the porch of St Wilfrid’s parish church, Ribchester, Lancashire. He also says regarding Hothersall Hall near Ribchester (NGR SD 63193475) that: “In the fork of a tree on the lane above the hall can be found an horrific and grotesque stone head. This was dug up by a farmer at Hoth-ersall and placed in its present position.” John goes on to discuss the stone heads at Hades Farm. He tells us that: “Set into the gable of the porch at Hades Farm are two fine ‘Celtic’ heads. The owners have no knowledge of their origin, other than that they were once set into a low wall opposite the house. The lower  head is more typically Celtic than the one above, having the wedge-shaped nose and oval eyes.”, says John.

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

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

Edwards, Margaret, Lancashire Archaeological Bulletin, Vol. 10, No. 4, February 1987.

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Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2023.