The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland


The Anvil Stone, Near Nelson, Lancashire

The Anvil Stone with Walton’s Spire in the background.

OS Grid Reference: SD 89391 37498. At the northwestern edge of Shelfield Hill, close to Walton’s Spire, near Nelson, Lancashire, is a large and oddly-shaped stone, which is variously known as ‘The Anvil Stone’, ‘The Altar Stone’, ‘The Druids’ Stone’ and ‘Thor’s Stone’ (Thursden Valley is not far away from here). The stone resembles an anvil or an altar at certain angles, but it also takes on the form of an animal head. It was obviously a sacred stone in the distant past and may have been venerated by our ancient ancestors. It seems to have been moved at some point. I believe this large stone (the so-called Anvil Stone) stands on an alignment with other nearby ancient sites. To reach the stone from Nelson town centre head up Barkerhouse Road (all the way), then turn (left) at the top and go along Southfield Lane as far as Gib Clough farm. Here, turn (right) up Back Lane for ½ a mile to where the land flattens out. Over to the right in the muddy field is the Anvil Stone – with Walton’s Spire in the back-ground at the top of the Shelfield plateau.

The Anvil Stone viewed from a different angle.

The Anvil Stone viewed from a different angle.

This quite large, smooth-shaped lump of sandstone, which has locally been called ‘The Anvil Stone’ because it is shaped like a blacksmith’s anvil, is between 4-5 feet high and double that or more in its girth. It is said to weigh well over a ton. The farmer did, I understand, once try to move it but it proved to be too heavy for his tractor’s lifting equipment, and so he left it where now it stands, but at some point in the past it had been moved a short distance. The stone appears to have been fashioned into the shape that we see today – be that an anvil, an altar or an animal head or, maybe the shape of a seat, according to John A. Clayton (2014). The Norse god Thor could, just as well, have given his name to this stone. His name is to be found in Thursden (Thor’s Valley) a couple of miles to the northwest, where many a thunderstorm forms in the summertime; Thor using his trusty hammer upon the anvil, hopefully not on the Anvil Stone! 

The Anvil Stone viewed from yet another angle.

John A. Clayton (2006) says: “To add another feature to the equation, there is a group of stones some two-hundred metres to the south of the Spire, the largest of which I have named the Anvil Stone for the sake of descriptive simplicity, this is the only one of the group left in its original position, no doubt because its sheer weight would prevent it from being removed. The other stones have been cleared from the field and lie in a large depression in the earth (possibly an abandoned coal pit), these may have been part of a larger arrangement, such as a circle. The Anvil Stone is of particular interest, not only because it has been heavily worked to attain its shape, it also weighs about one and a half tons and is on an exact alignment with other ancient features of Black Hameldon, the tumulus at Ell Clough, Ringstone Hill and the Spire monolith.” 

John A. Clayton (2014) also tells that “The photograph……….. shows why the stone was described as being shaped like a blacksmith’s anvil – from this viewpoint the similarity is clear. However, I now realize that I appear to have ‘missed a trick’ with this stone. Firstly, I think that I was viewing it from the rear and secondly the stone is actually not in situ. As always, local knowledge is an invaluable asset in historical and archaeological research and so it proved in this case.

“The Shelfield Hill farmer informs me that the stone was originally buried in the field about 250 metres to the north-west of where it is now located. Around twenty years ago the field was being re-seeded and the shallow plough persistently hit stones beneath the surface. These were dug up and moved up the hill to be piled on the edge of the soakaway – the largest stone was placed separately to this group and this is the reason why the ‘anvil’ stone is situated where we now see it.”

John goes on to say that: “It further struck me that not only was I possibly viewing the stone from the back, I was also looking from the wrong angle. When the stone is viewed from a ninety-degree angle it strongly resembles a seat or chair. This might sound somewhat far-fetched but, in defence of my sanity, the stone has been heavily worked on all of its faces – the ‘front’ face in particular having been sculpted into the profile………”

John adds: “From what can be seen of the neighbouring boulders there is no evidence of them having been worked; they appear to be typical of the stones utilized in field boundaries and hut foundations. The size and shape of the massive block clearly lent itself to being shaped into its present form; whether it was intended to function as a seat is, of course, pure speculation and, as we shall see later, there could be other possible contexts here.” 

Walton’s Spire or Walton’s Monument, a well-known landmark to the northeast of Anvil Stone, is a Victorian four-armed cross set upon a 10th century menhir or monolith, which became known as ‘the Battle Stone’. This was eventually carved, as we see it today, by workmen employed by Richard Roe Walton of Marsden Hall, Nelson, in 1835. See the link, below.

Sources and related websites:-

Clayton, John A., Valley of the Drawn Sword — The Early History of Burnley, Pendle and West Craven, Barrowford Press, 2006.

Clayton, John A., Burnley And Pendle Archaeology — Part One — Ice Age to Early Bronze Age, Barrowford Press, Spring 2014.

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

http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=25255

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2018.


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:-

http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=24405

https://megalithix.wordpress.com/2013/06/26/lundin-links/

http://www.ancient-scotland.co.uk/site/108

http://www.scotlandsplaces.gov.uk/record/rcahms/32656/lundin-links-standing-stones-lundin/rcahms

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

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


Maen Huail, Ruthin, Denbighshire, Wales

Maen Huail Stone at Ruthin, Denbighshire (Illustration).

Maen Huail Stone at Ruthin, Denbighshire (Illustration).

    OS grid reference: SJ 1239 5828. At the front of Exmewe House (Bar-clays Bank) on St Peter’s Square (Market Square), Ruthin, Denbighshire, there is a large block of rude Limestone called Maen Huail (Stone of Huail). According to the legend, a 6th century warrior called Huail was beheaded upon the stone by King Arthur. The roughly square-shaped boulder could actually be a former standing stone; it is curved inwards at one side. How it came to be here is not really known, but it has no doubt stood here for some considerable time, although the stone has been moved on a couple of occasions to make way for modern-day building construction; at one point it had to moved from its original site to make way for a car park. It eventually came to rest at its present location Exmewe House which is also known as the HSBC bank.

    From history we know that Huail was one of the sons of Caw Cawlwyd of Brydyn, who was a chieftain of noble descent from the Lower Clyde region of Scotland. One of his brothers being the famous St Gildas the Historian (Barber & Williams, 1989) – the other two brothers were St Caffo and St Maelog, but unlike his brothers, he did not decide on a monastic life, far from it. Huail seems to have led the life of a troublemaker and womanizer, but he was also a chieftain and it has been suggested that he had his base on Moel Fenli, a hill-fort and British camp some 2 miles to the east of Ruthin.

     It would seem likely that the Maen Huail Stone was originally in use as a ‘market stone’ or ‘civic stone’ upon which business affairs were sorted, or it was ‘a preaching stone’, because at the end of the 17th century it stood in the middle of the market square; it measures 1.2m x 0.6m x 0.6m, according to coflein.

    The renowned author Geoffrey Ashe in his work ‘A Guidebook to Arthurian Britain’, tells us much more about the ‘Legend’ and personality of Huail. He says: “This warrior appears in Welsh stories as a dashing and resolute opponent of Arthur. Their first clashes were in the north. Raiding southward, perhaps as far as Wales, Hueil continued to make trouble. According to one chronicler it was not confined to matters of war. When Arthur was at Caerwys, about 9 miles to the north of Ruthin, Hueil arrived in the neighbourhood and paid court (presumably during a truce) to one of Arthur’s mistresses. A duel resulted, and Arthur was wounded in the knee. He promised that there should be peace between them so long as Hueil kept silent about the knee. However, he remained slightly lame.

    “Some time later Arthur went to Ruthin in female disguise to visit another lady. He took part in a dance. Hueil, who was watching noticed the limp and realized who it was. ‘You would be a good dancer’, he said, ‘if it weren’t for that knee of yours.’ It was a fatal blunder: he had mentioned the wound and released his enemy from all obligations towards him. Arthur ordered his arrest, and ended their long conflict by beheading him on the stone in the market place.”

Sources:

Ashe, Geoffrey., A Guidebook to Arthurian Britain, Longman, London, 1980.

Barber, Chris & Williams, John Godfrey., The Ancient Stones of Wales, Blorenge Books, Abergavenny, Gwent, 1989.

http://www.coflein.gov.uk/en/site/306840/details/MAEN+HUAIL,+ST+PETER’S+SQUARE,+RUTHIN/

http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=15597

The AA, The Illustrated Road Book Of England & Wales, The Automobile Association, London WC2, 1961.


Robin Hood’s Stone, Allerton, Liverpool, Merseyside

Robin Hood's Stone, Liverpool (photo by Rept0n1x for Wikimedia Commons)

Robin Hood’s Stone, Liverpool (photo by Rept0n1x for Wikimedia Commons)

   OS grid reference: SJ 3998 8638. A prehistoric standing stone, now heavily worn by thousands of years erosion, stands behind railings on Brooker Avenue at the junction of Archerfield Road in Allerton, Liverpool, Merseyside, near to West Allerton Railway Station. The heavily grooved monolith is thought to be one of the famous Calder Stones, which now reside in the Palm House in Calderstones Park, a quarter of a mile or so to the north-east, but ‘a few’ historians have considered the stone to date from the early part of the 16th century, and in particular the reign of King Henry VIII, when arrows were sharpened upon it. Archerfield Road is a giveaway here, I think. But just where Robin Hood the famed outlaw of Sherwood Forest features in the long history of this monument am at something of a loss like everyone else before me, but mythical and legendary heroes from our history ‘very often’ have their names attributed to stones that are: in no way “whatsoever” connected’, though it does give the ancient monument ‘in question’ a more interesting name.

   The red sandstone monolith is 2.4 metres high (7 foot 9 inches) and 0.9 metres (2 foot 11 inches) in width. It was apparently dug-up in 1928 in a field in the Forty Pits area – where it then stood for some considerable time until a new housing estate was built, and, then it was moved (once gain) to its present position on Brooker Avenue, just opposite Archerfield Road, at the beginning of the 1970s. There are ‘said’ to be several prehistoric cup-marks at the base of the stone, but sadly these are now beneath the soil. The author Derek M. Whale in his book ‘Lost Villages Of Liverpool – Part One’, says of Robin Hood’s Stone:-

    “Josias Booker’s field, called Stone Hey, in which the stone originally stood, is said to have accommodated butts for arches – probably about the time of Henry VIII. The King ordered most of his male subjects under 60 to practice archery and butts – mounds of sods to which targets were attached – were built in fields in almost every township. Most of the grooves were found on the side of the stone facing the sun – suggesting that most of the shooting took place from that side of the field, with archers firing with the light at their backs.”

   In 1970 a similar stone was ploughed up in a farmer’s field at Haskayne, north of the city, and this also had grooves made by thousands of years of weathering. And so it is presumed this, and the so-called Robin Hood’s Stone, were probably part of the Calder Stones which date back 4,000 years to the Bronze-Age. The Calder Stones had once formed part of a megalithic burial tomb in the Allerton area of Liverpool, but they were eventually brought to Calderstones Park and re-housed in the Palm House. But I can see ‘why’ some have considered the so-called Robin Hood’s Stone to be a relic of the early 16th century – as the deep scoring marks made by arrow-sharpening are still very visible on the stone. 

Sources: 

https://thejournalofantiquities.com/2014/07/19/the-calderstones-allerton-merseyside/

http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=8435

http://www.roydenhistory.co.uk/mrlhp/local/calders/calders.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Robin_Hood%27s_Stone,_Liverpool_(1).JPG  – This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Whale, Derek M., Lost Villages Of Liverpool – Part One, (second edition), T. Stephenson & Sons Ltd., Prescott, Merseyside, 1985. 


London Stone, Camden, Greater London

London Stone (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

London Stone (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Os grid reference: TQ 3267 8090. Hidden-away in a recess at the front of what was the Bank of China on Canning Street, Camden, London, close to the Cannon Street Underground Station, is the so-called London Stone, a relic perhaps of Roman Londinium. Sometimes also called ‘the Brutus Stone’ or ‘Britto Stone’ after the Celtic leader of the same name who was hailed as king of what would become London, according to The Legend. It is actually a squat round-shaped stone that is now much diminished in size and which may, in fact, have been a 15th century boundary stone? The stone’s location is close to the corner of St Swithins Lane and nearly opposite Bush Lane. St Paul’s Cathedral is 1 mile to the west while the river Thames and London Bridge are about a quarter of a mile to the south of Canning Street.

London Stone and its former stone surround (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

London Stone and its former stone surround (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

At the front of the W.H.Smith building at no.111 Canning Street in a specially designed stone recess stands the curious ‘London Stone’, a round-shaped stone that could be part of a Roman altar that was dedicated to the goddess, Diana, so says Geoffrey Ash in his great work ‘Mythology Of The British Isles’. It was apparently set-up by Brutus, grandson of Aeneas of Troy, a self-styled king of what would become “London”. Brutus is said to have had a palace on the site of the present Guildhall about 1 mile to the south-west, beside the river Thames. The stone is 1 foot 5 inches high by 1 foot 9 inches wide and is made of Limestone that was quarried in Rutland, though it has been suggested that it is Bath stone? It sits securely behind a decorative iron grill, fronted by a very nicely-carved outer recess made of Portland stone, at the top of which there is an information plaque; the inner recess is surrounded by thick glass for extra security.

The stone originally stood at the north-side of Canning Street – where it was set into a niche in the south wall of St Swithin’s Church, close to the Mansion House, according to Janet & Colin Bord ‘Mysterious Britain’. St Swithin’s church was demolished after it suffered from being bombed during the 2nd World War; the stone was moved to the Guildhall museum, then eventually to its present site in Canning Street.

According to documentary evidence the stone was in existence in 1100 and 1188, and in the 16th century it was mentioned again by the antiquary John Stow, who was to describe it as: a great stone called London Stone, fixed in the ground very deep, fastened with bars of iron, and otherwise so stronglie set that if carts do runne against it through negligense the wheeles be broken, and the stone itself unshaken”. In the work ‘Mysterious Britain’ the Bords say that: “Although there is no tradition of it being used as a stone of initiation, the London Stone is of great intiquity and was held in veneration by the citizens who would make binding pacts across it and issue proclamations from it”.

It would appear, therefore, that over many hundreds of years folk, maybe travellers and pilgrims, have been chipping away and breaking pieces off the London Stone to take away as a relic in case it possessed some sort of magical healing power – it may well have done so – and if that be the case it would have originally been a much bigger block of stone, maybe even some sort of pagan altar in the time of the Romans, or maybe from ancient Britain, long before the Romans ever came to Britain but, Brutus who was a Celtic leader – had set his eyes on our shorline! If he did ever come to Britain and reside at London, then it would have been roughly 1100 BC?

The author James MacKillop says in his ‘great tome’ ‘Dictionary Of Celtic Mythology’ says that Brutus was a progenitor of the British people. He was leader of the Trojans and had “dreams” of the Temple of Diana beyond the setting sun. After invading the island [Britain] he defeats the mythical giant Gogmagog and then establishes law upon the land named for him – Britain (Prydain). But actually Gogmagog was killed by being hurled over a cliff by another giant called Corineus of Cornwall who was a champion wrestler of great strength and valor – Reader’s Digest ‘Folklore Myths and Legends of Britain’. Very gruesome-looking stone effigies of Gogmagog and Corineus stand inside the Guildhall in King Street. Geoffrey of Monmouth mentions the legend of Brutus and the giants in his work ‘History of the Kings of Britain’ (1136). More likely than not London Stone was a ‘Milliarium’, a stone that was used to measure road distances in both Roman times, and long after that. And there is the famous saying: ‘So long as the Brutus Stone is safe, so long shall London flourish’.

Sources:

Ash, Geoffrey., Mythology Of The British Isles, Methuen, London, 1993. 

Bord, Janet & Colin., Mysterious Britain, Paladin (Granada Publishing), London, 1984.

MacKillop, James., Dictionary Of Celtic Britain, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1998.

Photo Credits:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_Stone

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

The Megalithic Portal:  http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=8349


Long Stone Of Punchestown, Naas, Co. Kildare, Southern Ireland

Long Stone Of Punchestown.

Long Stone Of Punchestown.

Irish grid reference: N 9171 1656. This very impressive Bronze-Age standing stone known as Long Stone Of Punchestown, or Punchestown Standing Stone, one of the finest examples of its kind, according to ‘Nicholson’s Guide To Ireland,’ stands surrounded by a wooden fence in a field just outside the perifery of Punchestown racecourse, just to the east of Craddockstown road, and south of the town of Naas, in County Kildare. However the monument is not that easy to reach. It is almost certainly the tallest standing stone in Ireland and is similar to some of the standing stones that are to be found in Brittany. In 1931 it fell over but it was re-erected 3 years later and, at the same time a burial cist was found at its base. There are several other standing stones in this area but none of them are as tall as this particular one. The town of Naas is 1 mile to the north, Blessington is 3 miles to the south-east on the R410 road, Kildare is 7 miles to the west on the M7, while the city of Dublin is 5 miles north-east on the N81 and N82 roads.

Today the granite standing stone of Punchestown is only 5.7 metres high (19.6 feet) having originally being a massive 7.1 metres high (23 feet); its circumference at its square-shaped base is 11 feet, but this gradually gets less as the stone tapers away to its shaped-needle point at the top. However beneath the ground the stone is said to be dug in by several feet. In 1931 the stone fell over but was re-erected in 1934 by less than 3 feet because it was considered to be unsafe due to the extra height. Whilst it was being re-erected a cist-type grave was discovered at the base, although no human bones or grave-goods were found. It is said to weigh over 9 tonnes. There are another seven tall standing stones in County Kildare, two of which can each be found respectively:- just along the road at Craddockstown West, and at Furness, near Naas, stands The Forenaghts Great Stone, although neither of these can really rival The Longstone of Punchestown

According to legend, the stone was hurled by the mythical Irish giant Finn MacCumhaill at his wife, who just so happened to be in Punchestown at the time, from the Hill of Allen to the north-east, or from the Hill of Tara, in County Meath, but as was always the case, he missed her! Another legend tells us that a local big-wig Viscount Allen wanted the stone for his mansion garden some 14 miles away, so he had a number oxen made ready and yoked-up for the effort, but they could only pull it out so far, making it lean at a precarious angle; he eventually gave up and left the stone where it had stood for thousands of years. Apparently the Welsh cleric and historian, Gerald of Wales, made mention of the standing stone when he toured southern Ireland in the 12th century.

Sources:

Nicholson – Guide To Ireland, Robert Nicholson Publications Limited, London W1, 1983.

Reader’s Digest Illustrated Guide To Ireland, (First Edition), The Reader’s Digest Association Limited, London W1X, 1992.

http://www.megalithicireland.com/Punchestown%20Longstone.htm

http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=135

 

 

 

 


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The Crossgates Stone, Seamer, North Yorkshire

The Crossgates Stone near Seamer railway station.

The Crossgates Stone near Seamer railway station.

Os grid Reference: TA 1268 8163. In a grassy area at the top of Station road, Crossgates, Seamer, some 3 miles south-west of Scarborough, stands a solitary glacial erratic boulder that is known to have been deposited by a glacier many thousands of years ago. Local legend says the boulder originated from the Lake District, or did it? The large stone has been a landmark here for many years, but originally it stood a little further down the road, and there may have been other glacial boulders in this area. The village of Seamer is about 1 mile up the road, while Scarborough is 3 miles to the north-east on the B1261 and A165 roads.

The Crossgates Stone at Seamer near Scarborough.

The Crossgates Stone at Seamer near Scarborough.

This large, solitary granite boulder is around 6 feet in height and double that in girth, and is set well into the grassy ground at the top of Station road (at the junction of the B1261 Scarborough road and Station road), but it had originally stood in the yard of Seamer railway station at the bottom of the road where it had resided for some considerable time. In 1947 permission was granted for the boulder to be moved up the road from the old railway station. The information plaque alludes to the fact that the stone was carried here by a glacier moving south-eastwards from Shap in Cumbria at the end of the Ice-Age thousands of years ago, but could it in fact have been carried south from Scotland or maybe Northumbria instead? On the way south it apparently got dislodged in a natural gap in the higher land at either side – the B1261 and A165 roads to Scarborough now run through this naturally-formed gap. So it’s ‘highly probable’ that there were other boulders in this area, though where they are remains something of a mystery.

The Crossgates Stone close-up.

The Crossgates Stone close-up.

The iron information plaque at the front of the stone does not say a great deal about the stone’s history, but in brief it says that:- “A boulder of Shap granite moved to Seamer by a glacier in the Ice Age. It was moved to this site on 3rd December 1947 from Seamer station grounds with the co-operation of The British Railways Board and Dowsett Ltd.”