Legendary Rock: OS Grid Reference – SD 893 171
Also Known as:
In terms of getting here, follow the directions given by H.C. Collins (1946), who reached here from Healey, north of Rochdale. “Once past Lousy Hillock the track continues in front of Brown House Reservoir… The track climbs Faffelty Brow under the lea of Man Stone Edge on the left”, above the Rossendale Way footpath. You can of course come straight up from Whitworth, heading up the eastern hill over Lobden golf course. The site’s to the northeast edge of the course.
I first read of this a couple of decades back, in Jessica Lofthouse’s (1976) folklore book, but her pronunciation of the site — which I sought and sought, without success — made finding the place really troublesome. Thankfully, the local guidebook of Harold Collins (1946) has brought this site into focus once more and, it would seem, the probable site of prehistoric archaeological remains. But until we get over here and have a good look round, that aspect of the Man Stone will have to await assessment.
Collins (1946) described the “huge stone on the moortop on the left of the track” he’d been walking along, telling how “according to legend it bears the imprint of a human hand and was thrown (here) from Blackstone Edge by Robin Hood.”
Lofthouse (1976) told similarly when she was describing the folklore of Robin Hood’s Bed, about six miles east of here, by the Yorkshire-Lancashire border, saying,
“Robin was a mighty hurler as well as a bowman without peer. To while away waiting time in the Bed he took a large boulder from the giant’s overspill at hand, threw it and watched its course. Six miles away on Monstone Edge that boulder dropped, a feat amazing , and has been called Robin Hood’s Quoit ever after!”
But the “quoit”, said Lofthouse, was there centuries before any legendary Robin Hood — as it would have been. As far as I can find though, no such prehistoric relic ‘officially’ exists upon this hill. But as those of us who’ve been into seeking these old sites know, that doesn’t necessarily mean a thing. Henry Fishwick’s (1889) notes about the markings on the rock — “and certain impressions on its surface are said to be the marks of the fingers and thumb of the thrower” —may also prove fruitful.
Adding fuel to an authentic animistic history is the existence, once, of the Old Man’s consort: his Old Woman, or Cailleach, whose well and other landscape features existed to the north. Much of our peasant history is clearly just beneath the surface in this unexplored archaeomythic region…
- Collins, H.C., Rambles round Rochdale, Thomas Yates: Rochdale 1946.
- Fishwick, Henry, History of the Parish of Rochdale, James Clegg: London 1889.
- Lofthouse, Jessica, North Country Folklore, Robert Hale: London 1976.
© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian