Rocking Stone, Meltham Moor, West Yorkshire

Legendary Rock (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 0728 0944

Archaeology & History

The Rocking Stone in 1720

Here we have the case of yet another rocking stone destroyed by a bunch of morons in bygone days.  Although marked on the first Ordnance Survey of the region around 1850, the site had already been destroyed by then — but at least the surveyors had recorded its position in the landscape. And a dramatic and barren landscape it sat within!

It could be found high up in the middle of the moors above Brow Grains by the Wicken Stones, nearly 1400 feet above sea level, heading towards West Nab, and had lived here, safely, for untold thousands of years.  But then, on Whitsun Monday morning in either 1827 or 1828, there came, wrote Joseph Hughes (1866),

“some half-dozen masons (who) planned and executed the work of destruction for a frolic.  They first endeavoured to accomplish it by blasting it with gunpowder and, on the failure of this scheme, they fetched tools from Deer Hill, with which they drilled a hole and then wedged it, when the stone fell with a tremendous crash, hardly allowing the man on its summit who was drawing in the wedge to escape without injury.”

It’s a huge pity that the boulder didn’t crush him to death for his actions.  At least it would have taught the halfwits a lesson (forgive me if I sound a bit harsh – but I have an increasingly lower opinion of selfish humans the older I get).  Thankfully though, one hundred years before the stone was destroyed, Mr John Warburton of the Somerset Herald visited the region in 1720 and on one of the days here, took a long walk up to the Rocking Stone, from where we have this rare old drawing of the site.  As Mr Ahier (1942) told us,

“His sketch plainly shows one stone superimposed upon another, and it is conceivable that the uppermost stone could be rocked on the lower one.”

There was also another Rocking Stone in the locale, it too destroyed, this time “by a former gamekeeper” no less, using the time-honoured excuse:

“because persons going to see it crossed the moor, and, in doing so during the nesting season, were liable to tread on eggs or upon young birds.”

This excuse is an even poorer one these days (as any honest ranger will tell you – which includes me in my former capacity as an assistant moorland ranger), as walking the moors causes much less damage than the moorland “management” of draining the bogs, dyke cutting, grouse-shooting, bracken control, letting the Snoots drive their vehicles over the heathlands, upgrading modern footpaths, etc.  (God – I’m on a rant!)


  1. Ahier, Philip, The Legends and Traditions of Huddersfield and District, Advertiser Press: Huddersfield 1942.
  2. Hughes, Joesph, The History of the Township of Meltham, John Russell Smith: London 1866.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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