Acrehowe Circle, Baildon Moor, West Yorkshire

Ring Cairn:  OS Grid Reference – SE 14245 40686

Also Known as:

  1. Coll’s Burial Mound
  2. Rerehowe

Getting Here

Acrehowe site on 1852 map

Go up through Baildon centre and head onto the moors. Crossing the cattle-grid, a coupla hundred yards further up, turn left. Past the small reservoirs on your left, another 100 yards or so and you reach the brow of the hill.  As you begin going down the road, there’s a small car-park right by the roadside.  The curious remains of the earthworks at the side of the old circle are discernible in the grassland right to its side.

Archaeology & History

Illustrated on the 6-inch OS-map of 1852 as “Site of a Barrow” (similar to how it appears in the image drawn here by Mr. C.N.M. Colls) a short distance below Pennythorn Hill top, there are still considerable traces of the earthworks surrounding the east and southern sides of what was once some form of ring cairn or tumulus that was once at this prominent place in the landscape.

Aerial view of siteThe site was first explored by Mr Colls in 1843 (his results were reported a few years later), who found a loose double-ring of stones, fifty feet across, surrounded by a shallow trench which was most notable on the south and east sides. Two urns were also uncovered near the centre of the ring, nearly two feet down, containing the cremated remains of people.  A few years later, the Leeds historian James Wardell (1869) told a most fascinating note about what happened during their excavation, saying:

“This…examination was attended by a circumstance not soon to be forgotten by the persons engaged therein (on the excavation). They had almost reached the place where the broken urn and bones were deposited when, at once, such a fearful storm of thunder, lightning and rain came on, that they were not only considerably alarmed, but driven from the Common to seek shelter in the village.”

Colls’ 1846 sketch

We hear this sorta thing at many of our ancient places!

Colls 1846 plan

One anonymous writer in 1955 described the site as a ‘stone circle’, and a number of subsequent archaeologists copied this without question; but in all probability this site was more typical of an old cairn circle or ring-cairn, similar in size and design to the Roms Law circle two miles north of here.  However, the earthworks at its side give the impression of some sort of exaggerated hengiform enclosure.

The place-name element howe strongly indicates a burial site and is a suffix found at many prehistoric tombs across northern England.  The prefix ‘acre’ may relate to “a plot of arable or cultivated land, a measure of land (an acre) which a yoke of oxen could plough in a day” (Smith 1956), or may be a corrupted form of the Old English word, ‘acen’, relating to oak trees.  Early literary examples of the place-name would enable a clearer understanding of the prefix element here.


  1. Anonymous, Colls’ Burial Mound Stone Circle, Baildon Moor, Museum Leaflets: Bradford 1955.
  2. Baildon, W. Paley, Baildon and the Baildons (parts 1-15), St. Catherines: Adelphi 1913-26.
  3. Barnes, Bernard, Man and the Changing Landscape, Eaton: Merseyside 1982.
  4. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  5. Colls, J.N.M., ‘Letter upon some Early Remains Discovered in Yorkshire,’ in Archaeologia, 31, 1846.
  6. Collyer, Robert & Turner, J.H., Ilkley: Ancient and Modern, William Walker: Otley 1885.
  7. Smith, A.H., English Place-Name Elements – volume 1, Cambridge University Press 1956.
  8. Wardell, James, Historical Notes of Ilkley, Rombald’s Moor, Baildon Common, and other Matters of the British and Roman Periods, Joseph Dodgson: Leeds 1869. (2nd edition 1881)

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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