The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland


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The Craw Stane, Rhynie, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

The Craw Stane at Rhynie, Aberdeenshire.

   OS Grid Reference: NJ 49718 26343. In a field just to the south of the village of Rhynie, Aber-deenshire, beside the earthworks of the ancient settlement overlooking the Water of Bogie, stands The Craw Stane or Crow Stone, a granite slab with Pictish symbols that are thought to have been carved in the 5th century AD. Several more Pictish stones have been found in this area including one called ‘Rhynie Man’, which now stands in the Council HQ in Aberdeen. The Craw Stane stands at the south-side of what is probably a prehistoric mound or cairn.  It can be reached along Manse Road, south out of Rhynie for ¼ of a mile. After St Luag’s church and cemetery follow the footpath heading to the southwest; the stone can be seen in front of you. Or it can be viewed from the side of the road by going south for 100m out of the village on the A97 (Main Street) and from nearly opposite the entrance to Mains of Rhynie.

   The Craw Stane or Crow Stone (also called Rhynie No 1) stands on the south-facing slope of the hill above the Bogie Valley and at the E side of the ancient earthworks of a Settlement and Enclosure (where there have been a number of archaeological finds) – at the W and SW sides of which are a couple of burial mounds from a much earlier date – the southwestern mound is quite large and could be a long cairn; at the southern edge of this the stone is to be found. It is a granite slab measuring 5 feet 7 inches high by 3 feet wide and stands on a stone base. This Class I symbol stone has two quite distinct symbols: a fish and a beast. The fish is probably a salmon while beneath that the beast might be any large animal, but the suggestion is that it is an elephant, but it is more likely to be a mythical creature. These carvings were probably done in the 5th or early 6th century AD, long before the Picts were Christianized.

   Several more Pictish stones can be found in and around the village of Rhynie. One known as Rhynie Man or Rhynie No 7 has a carving of an ogre with a big nose, sharp teeth, and a rather fragile axe; this now stands in the Regional Council HQ at Aber-deen. Another, The Barflat Stone or Rhynie Barflat No 8, is another Class I symbol stone that was ploughed up at Barflat farm in 1978 and had a beast, curvilinear symbol and comb, but is now also at Regional Council HQ, says Elizabeth Sutherland. Two stones that are damaged can be found at the entrance to the graveyard of Rhynie Old Church which is dedicated to St Luag (OS grid ref: NJ 4994 2650). Both were removed from the foundations of the original church when it was demolished in 1878, so says Elizabeth Sutherland. No 5 has a beast’s head, double disc and Z rod beside a mirror and single-edged comb, while No 6 has part of a double-disc and Z rod above a crescent and V-rod with a mirror below. Two more stones Nos 2 & 3 stand on Rhynie village green (OS grid ref: NJ 4980 2715) but are damaged. No 2 has carvings of a double-disc and V-rod, now invisible, while No 3 shows a man’s back, spear and disc, again according to Elizabeth Sutherland in her excellent work “The Pictish Guide’. There is also further information in ‘The Pictish Trail’ by Anthony Jackson.

Sources of Information and related websites:-

Jackson, Anthony, The Pictish Trail, 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.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhynie,_Aberdeenshire

http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=12063

https://canmore.org.uk/site/17199/rhynie-craw-stane

http://portal.historicenvironment.scot/designation/SM69

                                                                                    © Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2017.


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Torphichen Sanctuary Stone, West Lothian, Scotland

Torphichen Sanctuary Stone

   OS Grid Reference: NS 96842 72506. An ancient standing stone known as the ‘Torphichen Sanctuary Stone’ is to be found at the west-side of the kirkyard and preceptory of Torphichen parish church, 2¼ miles to the north of Bathgate in west Lothian, Scotland. The stone has five small prehistoric cup-marks, but also a Celtic-style carving from the Dark Ages when St Ninian lived here, while on the top of the stone there is a medieval incised cross and a small hollow.  It is the central-most stone of three – the other two being within a 1 mile radius of the preceptory. The thinking is that the santuary stone came from the ancient site of Cairnpapple Hill, about 1½ miles to the east. Torphichen’s medieval church and preceptory are located at the east-side of the village on The Bowyett, which runs off from the B792 road. You will find the little standing stone set amongst the gravestones at the west-side of the grassy kirkyard.

   The little standing stone was set up here in the 12th century by the Knights Hospitallers (Knights of St John) to mark out a place of sanctuary or refuge for local people and pilgrims from further afield who wished to seek ‘a place of safety here’, or more likely the stone was already here when the Knights founded their preceptory/hospital and church in 1168; an incised cross was carved on the top of the stone and the little hollow carved to either hold a cross or maybe holy water? But the stone was used at an earlier date by St Ninian, who had settled here in the 4th century and, in the 7th century St Fechin, an Irish monk and missionary from the monastery of Fore, County Westmeath, apparently also made use of this standing stone – the Celtic-style carving on the stone would date from this time. The five small cup-marks on the side of the stone date from the early Bronze Age when it stood on Cairnpapple Hill where there is a Neolithic henge monument and Bronze Age cairn. The pre-ceptory which was the Knight’s Hospitallers Scottish base, is now in ruins although the central tower, west tower-arch and transepts remain; the nave was rebuilt in the 17th century and now forms part of the present parish church. Some of the domestic buildings and parts of the hospital also still stand.

   There are two other associated sanctuary (refuge) stones (West and East) both of which stand about 1 mile distant from the central stone here in the Torphichen kirkyard. The W stone, which had a Maltese cross carved upon it, is located at Westfield farm (OS grid ref: NS 9437 7211) while the E stone is at Easter Gormyre farm near the hamlet of Gormyre (OS grid ref: 9806 7311), according to the Canmore website entries.

Sources of information and related websites:-

Ancient Monuments — Scotland, Volume VI, H. M. Stationery Office, Edinburgh, 1959.

Bottomley, Frank, The Abbey Explorer’s Guide, Kaye & Ward, London, 1981.

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

http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=30653

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

http://www.armadale.org.uk/torphichen.htm

https://canmore.org.uk/site/47929/torphichen-churchyard-refuge-stone

https://canmore.org.uk/site/48010/westfield-farm-refuge-stone

https://canmore.org.uk/site/47915/gormyre-refuge-stone

                                                                                     © Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2017. 


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The Blowing Stone, Kingstone Lisle, Berkshire (Oxfordshire)

Blowing Stone at Kingstone Lisle, Berks.

   OS Grid Reference: SU 32408 87078. A strange and curious stone standing inside a fenced-off area next to a row of quaint cottages on Blowingstone Hill, at Kingstone Lisle, formerly in Berkshire, now Oxfordshire, is the so-called ‘Blowing Stone’, a squat-shaped lump of ancient rock with deep holes in it that is ‘said’ to have originated on White Horse Hill nearby, when it was a perforated sarsen stone. It has a number of myths and legends attributed to it from the time that it was known as the King Stone; the village taking its name from this. The stone also figures in a well-known book that was read by many-a school-boy. This apparent ‘curiosity of geology’ is located just to the south of the village itself and the B4507 road, between the towns of Swinden and Wantage. Kingstone Lisle Park is over the road on the opposite side of the lane from where the stone is now a resident ancient monument, though it used to stand in the garden of the cottage close by, which used to be the village inn!

   The Blowing Stone, also known as King Stone, is in fact a sarsen stone that was originally to be found upon White Horse Hill, 3 miles to the southwest, but was moved to its present location in the mid-18th century. It is curious lump of stone with many geologically-formed perforations, maybe the result of fossilized plants or ancient tree branches falling out of the stone leaving holes; some quite large holes or perforations that go all the way through from one side to the other. But it is not a particularly large stone being just 3 feet in height and about the same in width.

   The stone featured in the famous novel of 1857, ‘Tom Brown’s School Days’ by Thomas Hughes (1822-1896) – when it was referred to as the ‘Blawing Stwun’. Local legend has it that by sounding a note through the largest hole, or by blowing and bellowing through the holes, the sound made by doing this is audible as an echo up to 3 miles away – and that King Alfred the Great summoned his Saxon army into battle against the Danes at nearby Ashdown by doing just that, in the form of a trumpet call! It is also claimed that anyone sounding a high-pitched note through the Blowing Stone (that can be heard on White Horse Hill to the southwest), will be, or would be, a future king of England, or so The Legend tells us. Something similar, perhaps, to the legend of King Arthur, although he supposedly pulled a sword out of a rock. 

Sources of information and related websites:-

Reader’s Digest, Folklore Myths and Legends of Britain, Second Edition, The Reader’s Digest Association Limited, 1977.

The AA, The Illustrated Road Book Of England & Wales, The Automobile Association, London, 1961.

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

http://www.berkshirehistory.com/archaeology/blowing_stone.html

http://www.kingstonlisle.net/the-blowing-stone/

http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=6963

                                                                                   © Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2017.


Robin Hood’s Well, Helmshore, Lancashire

Robin Hood’s Well near Helmshore, Lancashire.

   OS Grid Reference: SD 77860 19544. At the north-eastern edge of Holcombe Moor and beside Moor Road, locally called Stake Lane, 1 mile south of Helmshore, Lancashire, is Robin Hood’s Well/Spring. The well is located at the side of the old pilgrim’s route that led to Whalley Abbey and which passes close to the medieval Pilgrim’s Cross, that is now nothing more than a stone-base on the moor. There are no records to say that Robin Hood’s Well ever had healing powers, or to it being a sacred spring, but it must have had some holiness attributed to it by the monks and pilgrims who visited it and drank of its waters back in the mists of time. And there is nothing that says Robin Hood the outlaw of Sherwood Forest ever visited the well, though there is a Robin Hood’s Inn down in Helmshore village. It may originally have been called Pilgrim’s Well.  To reach it walk south along Moor Lane for 1 mile from the village of Helmshore, or go up the footpath from the B6214 (Helmshore Road) near Pleasant View Farm. Follow the path across the farm track and up over the fields over the wall stiles to the rough track (Stake Lane) at the top. Go through the wooden gate on the right and the well is below the wall in front of you.

Robin Hood’s Well.

Close-up of the pool below the spring.

   The author John Crawshaw writing in Source – The Holy Wells Journal, gives us a fair bit of interesting information with regard to the well. He says that: “Situated near Helmshore, on the edge of the ancient  Forest of Rossendale in Lancashire is Robin Hood’s Well. This well is near an ancient pilgrim’s route which passes by the Pilgrim’s Cross (which was in existence in A.D. 1176), on Holcombe Moor, and goes through the town of Haslingdon on its way to Whalley. In Anglo Saxon times Whalley church was an important minster and the mother church of an enormous parish. Later, in the medieval period, several chapels-of-ease were attached to Whalley church for the “ease” of the scattered population providing access to the Mass and the sacraments

   “After the move made by the Cistercian monks of Stanlow to Whalley at the end of the thirteenth century, traffic would have increased along this route. About one mile to the north of Pilgrim’s Cross, near this pilgrimage route is Robin Hood’s Well.

Pyramid-shaped stone above the well/spring.

   “The spring issues  out from beneath a large, worn stone capping: shaped rather like a flattened pyramid with a blunt apex. This is set against a drystone wall by the side of Stake Lane. The water falls from the well-head into a small pool and the whole arrangement of stones has the appearance of great age. The flattened pyramid-shaped piece of sandstone covering the well has several worn, carved indentations upon it, one of which, near the left-hand side at the front, is a wide groove. It is possible that this was made by the wearing down of the stone by a chain securing a drinking cup at its end. However, no trace of any chain or cup can now be discerned.”

   Mr Crawshaw goes on to say that: “Though it is reasonable to assume that this well was used by pilgrims on their way to Whalley church and later, the great Cistercian abbey there. I have not been able to discover any recorded references to its original dedication: nor does there seem to be any written record reciting any healing properties attributed to the water. It is possible of course that any such references are lost or were never recorded, or perhaps the well’s reputation  in the middle-ages was merely that of a providential source of drinking water on a pilgrim’s route, where prayers were said in gratitude for the slaking of the pilgrim’s thirst.

   “I have a theory that in fact the name of the well may have been brought into use following the 16th century religious reformation. I understand the term , “the play of  Robin Hood” was used by the 16th century Lancastrian religious reformers as a derogatory nick-name to describe the rituals and ceremonies of the old English Catholic Church. These reformers had no use for pilgrimages to holy sites such as the ancient parish churches, the shrines of saints or holy wells; indeed they denounced them as being of no spiritual value.

   “One of the most famous Lancastrian reformers, John Bradford, in his Christmas sermon delivered in Manchester in 1552, threatened the people that, if the town did not “readily embrace the Word of God, the Mass would be said again in that church, and the play of Robin Hood acted there”, ¹ which did indeed come to pass during the reign of Queen Mary. I believe that this ancient spring derives its name from this time, when the practice of visiting such wells was being denounced as “superstitious”.

   “The Elizabethan “settlement of religion”, having swept away the piety and traditional Catholic practices of the old Ecclesia Anglicana, had no use for pilgrimages which, in theory at least, it had outlawed. So, following the dissolution of Whalley Abbey and the official prohibition of the old Faith, this spring on an ancient pilgrim’s route appears to have fallen into being regarded merely as a source of water by the side of a little-used moorland lane.” 

Sources of information and related websites:-

Crawshaw, John, (Robin Hood’s Well), Source—The Holy Wells Journal,  New Series No 6—Summer 1998, Pen-y-Bont, Bont Newydd, Cefn, St Asaph, Clwyd, 1998.

¹ Haigh, Christopher, Reformation and Resistance in Tudor Lancashire, 1975, Cambridge University Press, Ch.11, 168.

http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=44289

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

https://haslingdens.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/historic-water-troughs-and-spring-fed.html

                                                                                  © Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2017.


Wind Hill Cairn, Cheesden, Near Rochdale, Greater Manchester

Wind Hill Cairn at Cheesden, near Roch- dale (the north-side).

   OS Grid Reference: SD 83262 14945. In a farmer’s field at the side of Ashworth road, Cheesden, near Rochdale, Greater Manchester, is Wind Hill Cairn, dating from the Beaker Period of the Bronze Age. Now it is nothing more than a low, grassy mound at either side of the more recent drystone wall. The cairn stands at the north side of Wind Hill, 298m above sea-level and overlooking Knowl Moor, with Knowl Hill itself rising over to the east beyond Edenfield road. A little further down the lane is Ashworth Moor Reservoir and, on the opposite side of Edenfield Road, is the famous Owd Betts public house. The cairn is in a damaged condition due partly, at its north-side, to farming, but on its south-side there is less damage and has, therefore, kept its circular identity. There is a footpath heading east across Wind Hill from Ashworth road, just above Wind Hill farm and the wind turbine, but the cairn is partly on private land (at its northern-side) where there is a locked metal gate next to the wall – beside Ashworth road.

Wind Hill Cairn, Cheesden (at the northeastern side).

Wind Hill Cairn at Cheesden near Roch- dale (the south-side).

   Originally Wind Hill Bronze Age cairn had a diameter of 10.45m (34 feet) and a height of 0.75m (2-3 feet) but it is now less than that due to destruction at its N side. According to the ‘Lancashire Archaeological Bulletin’ (1984) with the primary reference: Tyson, N (1972) at the end of the excavations by Bury Archaeological Group between 1968-72: this is a ruined cairn with a kerb of horizontal slabs. There was an opening to the E which was 6 feet wide with a subrectangular area outside that was defined by inward-leaning slabs that are further enclosed by a “satellite kerb”. Both of these kerbs were finally concealed. No grave pits were found, but at the cairn’s centre a flint knife, pebble hammer and a V-bored ‘jet’ button were discovered. Further to this information: there was a cist of sand-stones at the E side. The central and W parts of the cairn were denuded; the E and S sides were in a better condition and still visible. The dry-stone wall running in a straight-line through the middle of the mound ‘was’ dug deep into the structure, causing further destruction, and some of the stonework from the cist may have ended up in the wall itself, or could still be in ‘situ’ in the mound? There looks to be another “possible” tumulus at SD 83461 15136, some 290m to the east.

Knowl Moor & Knowl Hill seen from Ashworth Road, Cheesden.

   In 1905 a Late Bronze Age socketed axe (palstave) was dug up by workmen building the Ash-worth Moor Reservoir, just along the road from Wind Hill cairn. There have also been a number of archaeological finds on Knowl Moor and on Knowl Hill itself including arrowheads in a variety of shapes: lozenge, leaf, stemmed and barbed, and many flints in varying sizes and a thumbstone. It would seem, though, that these finds have not originated from ‘settlements’, but from pre-historic man simply roaming the higher ground above the forested areas beside the river Roch – where today we see the highly populated towns of Rochdale, Heywood and Bury. On Hamer Hill (Rooley Moor) above the town of Rochdale – some recumbent stones were recently discovered which has led archaeologists to consider the distinct possibility that they form a stone circle, and on nearby Hunger Hill there are possible burial mounds. There have also been a number of coin finds from the Roman period in the Rochdale and Heywood areas.

Sources of information and related websites:-

Lancashire Archaeological Bulletin, Vol 10, No. 2/3, May & July, 1984.

Tyson, N., A Bronze Age Cairn at Wind Hill, Heywood, Lancs. Bury Archaeological Group, 1972.

http://www.buryarchaeologicalgroup.co.uk/windhill.html

http://heywoodmonkey.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/bronze-age-heywood-beaker-th-moss.html

https://lancsarchaeology.wordpress.com/2009/02/13/recent-archaeolgical-discoveries-in-south-east-lancashire/

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

http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=18858

                                                                                  © Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2017.

 


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The Knave Hill Burial Mounds, Near Nelson, Lancashire

Knave Hill long barrow near Nelson, Lancashire

   OS Grid Reference: SD 89636 36991. On the lower slope of Knave Hill between Walton Spire and Float Bridge Farm, 2 miles east of Nelson, Lancashire, there are two burial mounds, one of which is quite a large, well defined long barrow, while the other one close-by is a smaller mound but is also probably a long barrow. They are thought to have originally been built in the early Bronze Age, but then in the 10th century AD to have been re-used for the burial of Viking warriors who had died in the slaughter of the Battle of Brunanburh (937 AD) which may have been fought in the vicinity of Knave Hill, or a few miles away in the Burnley area near the river Brun. There are 2 or 3 other small mounds in the vicinity, one of which is just visible at the northwest side of Knave Hill. The hill itself is sometimes spelt “Nave Hill.” To reach the site from Nelson town centre head up Netherfield road and then to the top of Barkerhouse road. Then turn left, then right, and follow Delves Lane (with Walton Spire on your left side). At the junction of four lanes go straight ahead and down the hill. On the left is a farm track (footpath) to Knave Hill farm. The mounds lie a short distance to the east of the modern barns.

Knave Hill long barrow.

   In a most excellent article for ‘Pendle & Burnley’ Magazine by the local historian by Mr H. Hindle (1987) we learn that “Knave Hill farm, only two fields below the ancient monolith (Walton Spire) probably derives its name from the Nave Hill burial, a long barrow measuring approximately 2oo feet long by 120 feet wide, and 14 feet high, close to which are two smaller round barrows. Collins New English Dictionary explains ‘Nave’ as the middle or body of a Church, so called because of its resemblance in shape to an inverted ship. Another indication to the antiquity of mans presence in the area is the nearby Ringstone Hill and the countless number of cairns and burial mounds.”

Knave Hill near Walton Spire (smaller mound).

   The other mound lies just a little to the east of the larger, long barrow, but is much smaller in overall size. This mound measures roughly 126 feet long, 90 feet wide, and is about 7 feet in height. It could be that this smaller mound is also a long barrow, with its origins in the early Bronze Age but re-used in the 10th century AD. However, these two mounds or barrows are not recorded on any OS maps as far as I can tell, but we do have three or so sources of information with regard to their history – those sources being H. Hindle, Thomas T. Wilkinson (19th century antiquarian of Burnley Grammar School) and John A. Clayton, who mentions these burial mounds in his works of 2006 and 2014. There is another burial mound (possibly even two mounds) at the northwest side of Knave Hill, close to Shelfield lane which skirts the hill upon which is Walton Spire (see link below), a Victorian cross that sits on top of an ancient battle-stone that may have its origins in the 10th century AD, or maybe even earlier. Knave, in place-name form, was probably originally Cnebba or Cnabha (Hill of Cnebba). There is also Jeppe Knaves Grave, a Bronze Age cairn, near Sabden in Lancashire (see link below). And there is a Knave Hill near Todmorden, west Yorkshire.

Knave Hill burial mounds (at centre) and other “possible” mounds, from Shelfield Lane.

   The Battle of Brunanburh in 937 AD was fought by a collection of rag-tag armies of Celts, Saxons, Norsemen and some others. King Athelstan and the Saxons ‘were’ victorious in the said battle. But where was the Battle of Brunanburh fought? Mr Hindle offers a local place-name: he suggests Emmot in the Forest of Trawden being a strong possibility. But Thomas T. Wilkinson writing in the mid-19th century offers several other possibilities: Saxifield and Daneshouse near the River Brun in Burnley, or between Warcock Hill, near the Long Causeway at Stipernden, and another Warcock Hill at the north side of Thursden Valley. Mereclough near Burnley is another contender for the battle site as there is an area there called “Battlefield”. Bonfire Hill between Briercliffe and Swinden is another strong possibility. Or could it have taken place on the moors above Bacup, Lancashire, or even at Bromborough on the Wirral? We will probably never know.

Sources and other related websites:-

Hindle, H., Colne & Surrounding Areas (article in Pendle & Burnley) Magazine No. 4 (Christmas Issue), Valley Press, Ramsbottom, Bury, Lancs., 1987.

Clayton, John A., Valley of The Drawn Sword, Barrowford Press, 2006. 

Clayton, John A., Burnley And Pendle Archaeology – Part One – Ice Age to Early Bronze Age, Barrowford Press, 2914.

https://thejournalofantiquities.com/2012/05/01/walton-spire-nelson-lancashire/

https://thejournalofantiquities.com/2013/10/10/jeppe-knaves-grave-sabden-lancashire/

http://www.barrowford.org/page123.html

http://placenames.org.uk/browse/mads/epns-deep-32-d-mappedname-003089

                                                                             © Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2017.

 


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Medieval Stone Carving In Marsden Park, Marsden, West Yorkshire

The Laycock Memorial in Marsden Park by Humphrey Bolton (Wikimedia)

   OS Grid Reference: SE 05080 11474. At the base of a memorial to the Lancashire poet Samuel Laycock in Marsden Park at Marsden, 8 miles southwest of Huddersfield, west Yorkshire, there is  a curious carved stone, which has been called  ‘Celtic’  by local historians down the years. It is strangely carved with elements of nature that do indeed seem to be “Celtic” in origin. However, the stone is more likely to be late medieval. But where did this curious carved stone come from? No one seems to know. Maybe it came from some Medieval church or priory (though there is no record of that), or from some sacred grove beside a riverbank. The monument was actually set up to commemorate the Lancashire dialect poet Samuel Laycock (1826-93) who was born in Marsden, but his poetry was mostly about Lancashire and the ‘hardships’ of the Cotton Industry. Laycock died in Blackpool, Lancashire. The monument with its curious carved stone stand close by the bandstand in Marsden Park near Carrs Road. So just head for the bandstand and the monument is on the other side – just opposite the war memorial – dedicated to local men who died in the Great War.

Celtic Stone in Marsden Park, at Marsden, west Yorkshire.

   Apparantly the curious carved stone was found at Marsden in the late 19th century and then in 1911 it was seen fit to place it at the base of Samuel Laycock’s memorial in Marsden Park. But why? Maybe it was seen as ‘a fitting tribute’ to such a great poetic genius for Samuel Laycock was just that. The stone is thought to be Late Medieval and to date probably from somewhere be-tween the 14th-16th centuries, but could it be much earlier? A few local historians have con-sidered it to be Celtic in origin! Well at least the carvings look to be Celtic! And also carved on the stone is what looks to be the head of a Celtic sun god with sunrays radiating from it. Or is this carving a depiction of ‘The Tree of Life’- maybe. Another theory being that the oval-shaped face is that of a Celtic saint complete with a halo; the crown of oak leaves being associated with saints of the Old British Church both in folklore and literature.

   In an article called Reading the Environment by David Fletcher & David Ellis in the ‘Pennine’ magazine (1980) we are told about this curious Celtic stone in Marsden Park. They say that: “At the base of this modest monument is a mysterious stone carved in low relief depicting an oval-shaped face with a garland or crown of oak leaves, acorns and flowers. This stone was found somewhere in Marsden  during the last century, no-one seems to know exactly where, but the local worthies realizing its antiquity placed it at the feet of the local bard when his memorial was erected in 1911. Nothing could be more appropriate because it is my opinion that this mysterious stone can introduce us to a people who inhabited the Pennines for perhaps a thousand years—the Celts.”

   Fletcher and Ellis go on to say that: “The symbolic head with an oval face, and the crown of oak leaves suggest to me that this was part of a pagan shrine and who knows, perhaps it was the focus of worship in a sacred grove by the river Colne.”

Sources and other related websites:-

Fletcher, David & Ellis, David, (Reading the Environment article), Pennine magazine (No 5), Pennine Heritage Ltd., Pennine Development Trust, Hebden Bridge, West Yorks, June/July 1980.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Marsden,_West_Yorkshire#/media/File:The_Laycock

http://northernantiquarian.forumotion.net/t350-stone-in-marsden-park-marsden-west-yorkshire

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marsden,_West_Yorkshire

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

http://halfwayhike.com/2014/02/03/a-marsden-poetry-trail/

                                                                                  © Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2017.