The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland


Cup-And-Ring Stone in Museum Gardens, York, North Yorkshire

Photo: See below.

NGR: SE 5996 5209. In the Yorkshire Museum Gardens, on Museum Street, at York, North Yorkshire, there’s a very nice cup-and-ring marked stone with well-defined carvings (petroglyphs) that date from the Bronze Age. There were originally two carved stones here, but the other one has been lost; the other stones alongside (which people sit on) are not of any real interest. This rectangular block/slab of stone stands beneath a tree at the side of one of the main footpaths at the southwest side of the Yorkshire Museum. There are at least six small cups and a number of concentric circles, and one connecting groove carved on this rough hewn slab of stone. However, there is much uncertainty as to just where the stone came from. Some think it came from a larger block of rock on the north York Moors, to the north of Whitby, while another thinks that it came from the Ravenscar area on the east Yorkshire coast. Could it have come from a cist grave on the moors? And why, and how, did it come to be in the museum gardens at York? At least a couple of these questions cannot really be answered with any great certainty.

Having probably been hewn from a larger rock-face somewhere above Robin Hood’s Bay, or from the Ravenscar area, on the East Yorkshire coast in the late 19th Century – the stone was presented to the York Philosophical Society, who in turn in I would imagine, gave it to the Yorkshire Museum. But the carving should really be undercover inside the museum. There are six small cup-markings with several concentric rings around each of them, and the middle carving, which has four rings, has a groove running to the edge of another ring (where there is a break in the stone) and then out to the edge of the stone itself,  and there looks to be another ‘possible’ (shorter) groove running from a cup-mark and then out to the edge.  So, all-in-all, this is a very interesting panel of rock-art. The stone is also numbered ROB2A in Chappell & Brown’s ‘Prehistoric Rock Art in the North York Moors’ 2005 (PRANYM), according to the excellent website: stone See their website link, below.

Source / References & Related Websites:-

Photo is courtesy of Patrick John Leonard. Many thanks Patrick.

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2020.


Southfield Lane Cup-And-Ring Stone, Near Nelson, Lancashire

Southfield Lane Walling Cup-And-Ring Carving.

OS Grid Reference: SD 8847 3798. This is a “new” and “unrecorded carving”. The carving is to be found in the walling beside Southfield Lane above Marsden Park golf-course and the town of Nelson, in Lancashire. It is 1½ miles northeast of the town centre. The little carving is very faint, in particular the ring is very worn, and looks as if it might be unfinished, and so it is very easily missed, but it is a nice cup-and-ring carving and, a very unexpected and rare find for this area. But where did this stone come from? Did it perhaps originate on the moorland above Thursden Valley, or Boulsworth Hill (where there are tumuli) and, was it perhaps hewn from a larger block of stone? And about ¾ of a mile further south on Southfield Lane we have the hamlet of Catlow and some, now, destroyed Bronze-Age burial sites, and also the site of a former stone circle at Ring Stones Hill, near Crawshaw Lane.  

Southfield Lane carving, near Nelson, (close-up)

Southfield Lane carving (very close-up and b/w).

The walling running along the side of Southfield Lane where our single carving is could be a hundred years old or so, but there does not appear to be any other similar carvings hereabouts. However, there is a “possible” cup-marked stone (which forms the wall stile) beside Southfield Lane to the north of Castercliff Hillfort (NGR SD 88673880) in the direction of Colne. These cup-and-ring carvings called petroglyphs are usually, but not always, ascribed to the late Neolithic and early Bronze-Age periods of pre-history. But we don’t know why these circular depresssions and concentric rings were carved, and neither do we know, as yet, what they are meant to signify; though they obviously meant something quite personal to those Bronze-Age stone carvers. Archaeologists nowadays refer to these ancient carvings as ‘Rock Art’.

Related web pages:-

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2019.

Oakworth Old Lane Cup-And-Ring Stone, Cowling, North Yorkshire.

Oakworth Old Lane, Cowling, and the faint cup-and-ring carving.

OS Grid Reference: SD 97300 42625. Standing beside Oakworth Old Lane, near Cowling, North Yorkshire, is an old gritstone gatepost that has a faint and worn cup-and-ring carving on its top face. This Bronze Age carving (petroglyph) was only recently discovered by a local man from the nearby village of Cowling. Quite obviously this old stone has come from the moors above Cowling where it might have been a standing stone, or it might have been broken off a larger rock? However that’s merely speculation, but its a strong possibility. The gatepost has, at some point, been chopped off at the top edge where the outer carved ring is, but this has not really caused much damage, the carving has not really been affected. To reach the stone from the A6068 Keighley Road, Cowling, head up Oakworth Old Lane (Old Lane) by the cemetery. Go up the lane past the houses until you reach the fields; not far along on the left-hand side is the gatepost and field entrance, while on the opposite side of the lane a driveway can be seen. 

Oakworth Old Lane gatepost, with faint cup-and-ring carving.

Oakworth Old Lane. Close-up of the cup-and-ring carving.

This little carving of a single cup and single ring on the gritstone gatepost is now quite faint and worn, but nice all the same. The two holes lower down are recent additions. It is easily missed; but thanks to Mr Chris Swales of Cowling and The Northern Anti-quarian back in 2016 – it has been brought to everyone’s attention, and also to the farmer’s attention too! I went up there later that summer and got chatting to the farmer from Hallan Hill Farm; he was in the field with his tractor and spreading silage, I think, or transporting it somewhere else? He told me he didn’t realize what the carving was nor did he know how old it was, but he seemed genuinely interested. I informed him that it was “a prehistoric carving”. However, we don’t know where the stone came from – maybe it was brought from the moors above Cowling, where it could have been a standing stone? or did it come from a larger lump of stone and, if so, could it have had more cups-and-rings carved onto it. And how long has the gatepost stood in its present, lonely, position? Only in 2016 did the ancient carving get the attention that it deserves! 

Sources and related websites:,_Craven

With thanks to Chris Swales & TNA (The Northern Antiquarian).

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2019.

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Panorama Stones, St Margaret’s Gardens, Ilkley, West Yorkshire

Panorama Rocks Information Board at St Margaret’s Gardens, Ilkley.

   OS Grid Reference: SE 11496 47298. In the woodland of  St Margaret’s Gardens also known as the Park opposite St Margaret’s Church on Queens Road in Ilkley, west Yorkshire, lie (behind iron railings) three large flat stones that were originally situated upon Ilkley Moor, ½ a mile to the southwest. These three stones or rocks were famous for their cup-and-ring carvings, but unfortunately the carvings are now very faint and not easy to make out; and two of the rocks were broken while being transported to their current location. There is a good information board here which gives details and illustrations of the 5,000 year old rock carvings. From the B6382 (The Grove) walk south up the steep Back Parish Ghyll Road and onto Albany Walk, then cross over the road and continue south up the steep lane to Queens Road and St Margaret’s Church. Walk onto Princess Road and there on the right-hand side are St Margaret’s Gardens and the railed off enclosure beneath the trees; the section with the stones in was locked when I last visited. 

Panorama Stone in St Margaret’s Gardens at Ilkley, west Yorkshire.

Panorama Stone and a close-up of the carvings.

   The three stones with their 5,000-year-old carvings are rather hidden behind the iron railings in the woodland at the edge of St Margaret’s Gardens, and the carvings (petroglyphs) are now quite faint and not easy to see, and they often have leaves covering them and moss growing in the cup-markings. The largest rock of the three is the actual Panorama Stone and, with the two smaller stones, was originally located behind the reservoir in Panorama Woods at about SE101470. They were brought to their current location in the late 19th century after ‘being’ found to be in the way of the town’s building extensions onto the edge of Ilkley Moor, also known as Rombald’s Moor; two of the rocks, one being the actual Panorama Stone itself, sadly, cracked as they were being lifted and this was made worse during transit. All three stones have cups with concentric ring carvings, or just cups on their own, but there are other curious designs too including lines or gulleys and ladder-like carvings linking or not linking cups, though most of these carvings are now only visible when the light is right!

    Author Paul Bennett (2001) while discussing ‘Barmishaw Stone’ on Ilkley Moor and its ladder-like carvings, says: “These ladder-like images, also found on the Panorama Stone opposite St Margaret’s Church in Ilkley, are unique in British rock art. While author J. C. Barringer (1982) while discussing the stone circles on Rombalds Moor, says that: “Perhaps better known and more intriguing than the stone circles are the carved ‘cup and ring’ stones which occur all along the north facing edge of Rombalds Moor on the exposed masses of millstone grit. He goes on to mention the clusters of cup-and-ring stones that can also be seen upon Snowdon Moor above Washburn Valley and the Chevin above the town of Otley, west Yorkshire. And Ian Longworth (1969) says that the carvings are: “circular hollows pecked into the rock’s surface sometimes surrounded by concentric rings.”                                                                                                                                                                          

Sources and related websites:-

Barringer, J. C., The Yorkshire Dales, Dalesman Publishing Company Ltd., 1982.                               

Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann Publishing, Milverton, Somerset, 2001.

Longworth, Ian, Regional Archaeologies – Yorkshire, Heineman Educational Books Ltd., London, 1969.

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2017.





Haystack Rock, Ilkley Moor, West Yorkshire

Haystack Rock on Ilkley Moor, west Yorkshire.

Haystack Rock from a different angle.

   OS Grid Reference: SE 13027 46313. A large and squat-shaped gritstone rock known as Haystack or Haystacks Rock on Ilkley Moor, west Yorkshire, has many cup-and-ring carvings, but also some more recent graffiti. The rock is thought to resemble a haystack and so the name has stuck. It is just one of many rocks and boulders upon Ilkley Moor, also known as Rombald’s Moor, many of these often strange-shaped rocks having ancient cup-and-ring carvings that date from the Neolithic and Bronze Age periods of prehistory. However, these carvings are often almost ‘lost to the heather’ and not that easy to find – though there are said to be 400 of them on the moor. Best to park at Cow & Calf Rock Café on Hangingstone Lane, then walk up to Cow & Calf rocks and walk along the moorland footpath going southwest for a while, then head south and up onto the footpath along the ridge to Haystack Rock; while on the horizon further in front of you you will see the strange-shaped Pancake Stone perched on the edge of the ridge.

Haystack Rock, Ilkley Moor, with cup-and-ring carvings.

Haystack Rock. Close-up of the cup-and-rings

   Haystack Rock, also known as Rombald’s Moor 141, is a glacial erratic boulder that was deposited here thousands of years ago and then, during the Bronze Age the curious if strange rock-art known as cup-and-rings were carved onto the sloping face of the rock by ancient people who lived in hut circles and settlements on the moor, or they were simply traversing it from one side to the other, building their stone circles and erecting standing stones as they moved around.  The climate at this time would have been much milder in the Winter than what it is today. The millstone grit boulder is 2m high and over 5m in length, and resembles a haystack depending on what angle you are viewing it from. There are said to be 70 cup-and-ring carvings on the rock, some having channels linking and running away from them, as well as a few other curious carvings; but there is more recent graffiti too, some of which is obviously from the Victorian age. It is briefly mentioned by Paul Bennett on page 56 in ‘The Old Stones of Elmet’ (2001), and there is much more information on ‘The Northern Antiquarian’ website (see below).

   Author Brian Spencer writing in 1986 says that: “Visitors to Ilkley can hardly avoid seeing the distinctive mass of the Cow and Calf rocks. Behind them the moor is rich in the carved stones of our prehistoric ancestors who have left not only their cairns and circles but enigmatically carved ‘cup-and-ring’ and ‘swastika’ stones. A walk from the Cow and Calf along the edge of the moor will take in all these features.” 

Sources and related websites:-

Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann Publishing, Milverton, Somerset, 2001.

Spencer, Brian, The Visitor’s Guide To The Yorkshire Dales, Teesdale & Weardale, Hunter Publishing Inc., Edison, NJ USA, 1986.

                                                                                          © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2017

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Currer Woods Rock Carving, Steeton And Eastburn, West Yorkshire

Currer Woods Rock Carving, near Eastburn, West Yorkshire.

Currer Woods Rock Carving, near Eastburn, West Yorkshire.

   OS grid reference: SE 02514 43844. A very strange little rock carving almost hidden away in a secluded corner of a field at the southern edge of Currer Woods, at Steeton, west Yorkshire. This seems to be one on its own, and there don’t appear to be any other carvings at this location, although you never know. To reach the stone carving walk up the footpath on the opposite side of the B6265 road from Airedale Hospital in Steeton; the path runs south up to the western edge of Currer Woods. Or you can reach it via Redcar Lane and then Intake Lane: take that same foot-path from the stile beside the rough track; going down the slope for a while, then via off north-east along the edge of Currer Woods and through the field with rocks; the carving is in the next field along, close to the wall, in what is a secluded corner with trees over-hanging the site.

Close up of the Currer Woods Rock Carving, near Eastburn.

Close up of the Currer Woods Rock Carving, near Eastburn.

   This interesting little rock carving can be found on a cluster of gritstone rocks close to a wall and just out of the tree-line. It would seem that the rock upon which the carving is situated has suffered from damage by being broken off in two or three places at one end, but thankfully the carving, which consists of maybe two or three tiny cup-marks which are partially surrounded by half rings or arcs, has not been destroyed and seems to be intact. From a distance it has the appearance of a face with eyes and a nose – the nose being formed by a notch just below but whether this was part of the original carving – I don’t know. It might be part of the stone itself? Or maybe it was meant to be. It was discovered in 2009 by Paul Bennett of  ‘The Northern Antiquarian’, whilst taking shelter from heavy rain! But for the rain it might never have been spotted. (See the link below). There do not appear to be any more rock carvings here, but further to the west (220m) on the slope above Eastburn Crags there might be a few “possible” cup-markings but these look to be more recent in date, and others have probably been caused by erosion. I have not, as yet, investigated any of the large moss-covered rocks in Currer Woods itself.

Sources and other related websites:-,_West_Yorkshire

                                                                   © Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2016.

Cup-And-Ring Marked Rocks on Rivock Edge, Near Riddlesden, West Yorkshire

OS trig point no. S4563 on Rivock Edge.

OS trig point no. S4563 on Rivock Edge, West Yorks

    OS grid reference: SE 0742 4446. In close proximity to the Ordnance Survey triangulation pillar (no: S4563) at the north-western side of Rivock Edge, near Riddlesden, west Yorkshire, there are several prehistoric cup-and-ring marked rocks. However, some of these carved rocks are easily missed as they now lie amongst dead tree branches and stumps – the forest here having been cut down in the last couple of years. The trig point on Rivock Edge can be accessed from Silsden Road – to the north-west of Riddlesden. A footpath runs north-west across a field to a wall stile, then walk towards the television mast, but before that take the footpath (not the trackway) that heads north-east around the northern-side of Rivock Edge to Rivock Oven Cave. From here walk up-hill and head south-west across the wood-strewn moor, keeping sight of the wall and concrete trig pillar. It’s now just a case of looking out for the many large and small cup-marked stones and rocks, and they are widely scattered about.

Cup-And-Ring Marked Rock at Rivock Edge.

Cup-And-Ring Marked Rock at Rivock Edge.

Cup-and-ring marked rock on Rivock Edge.

Cup-and-ring marked rock on Rivock Edge.

    One of the best cup-and-ring marked rocks on this part of the moor is undoubtedly,  in my opinion, the large gritstone rock located some 350m east of the trig point (SE 0743 4462). From the trig pillar follow the footpath east beyond the wall. This large, weather-worn rock has several well-defined cups and also a few that have faint concentric rings. Other carved rocks and stones can be found in the vicinity of the wall, while others are a bit further away. There may well be some that are hidden beneath the tree foliage, and a few that are still unrecorded.

Cup-marked rock on Rivock Edge, west Yorks.

Cup-marked rock on Rivock Edge, west Yorks.

Cup-marked stone on Rivock Edge, west Yorks

Cup-marked stone on Rivock Edge, west Yorks

    Cup-marks are circular depressions on rocks, usually on flat-sided gritstone and sandstone rocks, but not exclusively so, and often but not always these are surrounded by concentric circles. Sometimes these circular depressions and rings are joined or intersected with gulleys or lines running from other cup-marks; other patterns and designs can sometimes be seen on these rocks too. They are sometimes confused with larger, deeper depressions, or holes in the rock’s surface that are caused by natural water erosion; these are generally steep-sided.

Stone with cup-marks on Rivock Edge, west Yorks.

Stone with cup-marks on Rivock Edge, west Yorks.

Large rock with cup-marks, Rivock Edge.

Large rock with cup-marks, Rivock Edge.

    These ancient carvings (petroglyphs) or rock-art, have generally been dated to the Neolithic, but they are perhaps more likely to date from the early Bronze Age. But no-one seems to know, with any ‘real’ certainty, what they actually represent or signify, or why they were carved on rocks high-up on the bleak, windswept moors. Were these prehistoric cups-and-rings carved onto rocks to represent the stars or were they perhaps maps of the stars, or maybe maps showing where burials were located, or sacred places, springs, ancient pathways and caves that were, at that time, only known to our ancient ancestors? Or were they simply the doodlings and graffiti of ancient peoples?  So these carvings must remain, for the time being at least, something of an “ancient enigma”. Probably we will never really know their true meaning or symbolism.

    Author John Dixon in his work ‘Journeys Through Brigantia’, (Volume One), says of these mysterious carvings that: A comprehensive field study of the cup and ring stones of the moor has been published by the Yorkshire Archaeological Service. From that survey a few broad conclusions are possible.

    “The marked stones fall into three main types: cup and ring marked; cup marked only; and more complex designs. The marked boulders tend to be found in clusters on the flanks of the moor—both in Airedale and Wharfedale. Cup and ring marked stones are found in other parts of the British Isles—but Ilkley represents a unique concentration of carvings. It is clear that the stones were cut over a comparatively long period of time—and unfor-tunately some stones have been recut in modern times. Certain glacial markings may have been interpreted as the hand of man.”

    John goes on to say that: “We can be sure however that the stones themselves were sacred in ancient times. The kings of the Picts, the most ancient people we can identify by name in the Isles, were proclaimed upon a stone. The Stone of Scone  is now incorporated into the English Coronation Throne in Westminster Abbey. At Hexham and Beverly the thrones of the Anglo-Saxon bishoplords exist cut from a single stone.

    “Throughout history and throughout the world ancient places of assembly are often signified by stones or physical features—unchanging in a changing world. The signifi-cance of certain stones being stressed by the marking of the stone. Sacred marked stones can indeed be found worldwide, from Ilkley Moor to Ayers Rock.

    And the great Arthur Raistrick in his work ‘The Pennine Dales’, has an interesting theory regarding the climate in the Bronze Age. He says: “The wet period began to fall off about 3000 B.C. and the later Neolithic and Bronze Age people had a warm, dry period during which the forest cover of oak, alder, lime, and ash, with birch, spread over the fells to over 2,000 ft OD. The climate during the Bronze Age was better than that of today, and man could occupy many sites which now would be almost untenably cold and wet.”

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.

Raistrick, Arthur, The Pennine Dales, Arrow Books Ltd., London, 1972.

                                         © Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities.