Thimble Stones, Morton Moor, West Yorkshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 1088 4515

Also Known as:

  1. Carving no.77 (Hedges)
  2. Carving no.246 (Boughey & Vickerman)

Getting Here

Thimble Stones, 1851 map

You can either head up to the Twelve Apostles stone circle, then a short distance west to the Ashlar Chair and head just head west along the moorland footpath that runs parallel with the old walling for ¾-mile (1.2km).  This is the boggier route, beloved of real walkers!  The other route is from the top of the Roman Road that bisects the moor at Whetstone Gate.  From here, where the normal ‘road’ meets up with the dirt-track at the very top of the moors, take the footpath east for ½-mile (0.75km) until you reach the large cluster of rocks, just over the wall on your right-hand side.  The carving is on top of one of them there stones.

Archaeology & History

Without doubt there’s one helluva spirit to this cluster of large weather-worn rocks whose bodies gaze in every cardinal direction—and it’s a place where me and a number of earlier historians thought cup-and-rings could be found.  The first petroglyphic context of the rocks was made in the 1860s by the grand 19th century historians Forrest & Grainge (2012) where they gave it the usual druidic associations, so beloved of academics and antiquarians alike at the time.  They wrote:

Very faint cup-and-3-rings
Thimble Stones gazing south

“The Thimble Stones are a ½-mile north of the Two Eggs, with which they are nearly in line.  They are of the same outcrop of stratification and appear as though they had been pushed upwards by some force acting from beneath, breaking them up with a vertical fracture, and separating them so as to leave wide spaces between the blocks.  They are about a furlong in length and in front about 10ft in height, diminishing eastward to the level of the ground.  Two of them a few feet apart are 7ft high, and bear on their eastern angles the cups and channels which we designate the marks of Druidic consecration.”

Subsequently, in Collyer & Turner’s (1885) work they told that the rocks “bear cups on two margins”; and when the great Harry Speight (1900) came here, he found they were “bearing cups and grooves.”  Yet no-one reported any rings.  And in the countless visits I’ve made here—thinking that there must have been cup-and-rings!—no such symbols have ever cried out.  The various large ‘bowls’ and lines that Nature has carved here—some of which may have been important in ancient days—are all that the casual eyes can see.  Until now…

The local rambler and photographer James Elkington and James Turner were up here a couple of years ago.  The light was falling through a clear bright sky and so, as James likes to do at such times, he clicked his camera a few times to catch the landscape.  Clambering onto the rocks, Mr Turner unknowingly stood upon the carved rings, and when he moved his foot Mr Elkington spotted them!  And as we can see on the image above, only just, there’s a single cup-mark surrounded by a concentric triple ring.  Incredibly faint, it is without doubt the real McCoy—and the highest of all petroglyphs on these moors.  In the photo it seems that there may be other elements to the carving, but until conditions allow for a further examination, we won’t know for sure.

James is hoping to get back up there when conditions are just right so he can get clearer photos.  But if you hardcore antiquarians and petroglyph seekers wanna get up there y’selves to get some photos of your own, please send us whatever you might find.

Folklore

On the esoteric side, the Thimble Stones were a favoured spot for a ritual magickal Order in years gone by.

References:

  1. Allen, J. Romilly, ‘Cup and Ring Sculptures on Ilkley Moor,’ in Reliquary & Illustrated Archaeology, volume 2, 1896.
  2. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  3. Boughey, Keith & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, WYAS: Wakefield 2003.
  4. Collyer, Robert & Turner, J. Horsfall, Ilkley, Ancient and Modern, William Walker: Otley 1885.
  5. Feather, Stuart, “Mid-Wharfedale Cup-and-Ring Markings,” in Bradford Cartwright Hall Archaeology Group Bulletin, 6:3, 1961.
  6. Forrest, Charles & Grainge, William, A Ramble on Rombald’s Moor, Northern Antiquarian: Bradford 2012 (1st published 1867-69).
  7. Hedges, John (ed.), The Carved Rocks on Rombalds Moor, WYMCC: Wakefield 1986.
  8. Speight, Harry, Upper Wharfedale, Elliott Stock: London 1900.

Acknowledgements: Huge thanks as always to James Elkington for use of his photos.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

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