Little Almscliffe Crags, Stainburn, North Yorkshire

Legendary Rocks:  OS Grid Reference – SE 23237 52275

Also Known as:

  1. Little Almes Cliffe
  2. Little Almias Cliff Crag

Getting Here

Little Almscliffe Crag (photo – James Elkington)

Coming from Harrogate, take the B6162 and B6161 road to Beckwithshaw, through the village and, 4-500 yards on, turn right onto Norwood Lane.  2 miles along, keep your eyes peeled on your left for a gravelled parking spot and you’ll see the large rock outcrop 200 yards south of the road. …Otherwise, from Otley: go over the river bridge and turn right up Farnley Lane and follow the B6451 for a few miles, thru Farnley village up the Washburn valley, past Norwood and at Bland Hill, turn right along Broad Dubb Road for 1¾ miles where you’ll reach that same gravelled parking spot.

Archaeology & History

Very much the ‘little brother’ of Great Almscliffe, 3 miles (4.83km) to the southeast, this site would be more of interest to the travelling geologist, perhaps, than to antiquarians.  But that depends what tickles y’ fancy I s’ppose.

In 1702 when the northern antiquarian Ralph Thoresby mentioned this and its big brother to the southeast, he described the “two famous crags of Almes Cliff—in some old writings called Aylmoys ut dicitur—but have seen nothing memorial of it, saving its remarkable lofty situation.”  He missed the cup-and-ring carving on the east-side of the crags, obviously, which indicates that it had some form of animistic sanctity in ancient times.

The location on 1851 map
Little Almscliffe c.1900

Little Almscliffe was one of many impressive places located within the ancient Forest of Knaresborough; and although it wasn’t on the original boundary line, a perambulation (i.e., annual ritual walking to the old stones, trees and wells defining the region) of the area written in 1770, in what Mr Grainge called “the Copyhold Forest”, was undertaken by the Enclosure Commissioners.  It differed from the more ancient perambulation rite, in that the newer one included a mention of,

“five bounder stones also marked F to an earth-fast stone, lying northeast of Little Almes Cliffe, marked also with an F; (and) from thence by other four bounder stones marked F to Sandwith Wath…”

The letter ‘F’ here signifying the word ‘forest’, as in the Forest of Knareborough.

William Grainge (1871) also believed these crags to have been a place of druidic worship.  He wasn’t the only one.  Many other writers of the time thought the same thing; and although we have no concrete evidence to prove this, it is highly likely that these rocks would have served some ritual purpose in pre-christian days.  Certainly in more recent times (during the 1980s and ’90s) we know that ritual magickians used this site for their workings.  On a more mundane level, the crags were previously used as a site for for beacon fires.  One was erected here in 1803 when the first Bonaparte threatened to invade England; but I can find no written accounts of earlier beacons here.

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  2. Bogg, Edmund, From Eden Vale to the Plains of York, James Miles: Leeds 1895.
  3. Bogg, Edmund, Higher Wharfeland, James Miles: Leeds 1904
  4. Cowling, E.T., Rombald’s Way, William Walker: Otley 1946.
  5. Grainge, William, History & Topography of Harrogate and the Forest of Knaresborough, J.R. Smith: London 1871.
  6. Parkinson, Thomas, Lays and Leaves of the Forest, Kent & Co.: London 1882.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian 

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