Almscliffe Crag carving, North Rigton, North Yorkshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 26777 48952

Also Known as:

  1. Ormscliffe Crags

Getting Here

Almscliffe’s cup-&-ring

This is an outstanding site visible for miles around in just about every direction – so getting here is easy! If you’re coming from Harrogate, south down the A658, turn right and go thru North Rigton.  Ask a local.  If you’re coming north up the A658 from the Leeds or Bradford area, do exactly the same! (either way, you’ll see the crags rising up from some distance away)  As you walk to the main crags, instead of going to the huge central mass, you need to follow the line of walling down (south) to the extended cluster of much lower sloping rocks.  Look around and you’ll find it!

Archaeology & History

On the evening of May 27, 2024, I received a phone call from a Mr James Elkington of Otley.  He was up Almscliffe Crags and the wind was howling away in the background, taking his words away half the time, breaking the sentences into piecemeal fragments.  But through it all came a simple clarity: as the sun was setting and the low light cut across the rocky surface, a previously unrecorded cup-and-ring design emerged from the stone and was brought to the attention of he and his compatriot Mackenzie Erichs.  All previous explorations for rock art here over the last 150 years had proved fruitless—until now!

Looking northwest
Central cup-&-ring

On the east-facing slope of the stone, just below the curvaceous wind-and-rain hewn shapes at the very top of the boulder, is a singular archetypal cup-and-ring.  It’s faint, as the photos show, but it’s definitely there.  What might be another cup-and-ring is visible slightly higher up the sloping face, but the site needs looking at again when lighting conditions are just right! (you can just about make it out in one of the photos)  But, at long last, this giant legend-infested mass of Almscliffe has its prehistoric animistic fingerprint, bearing fruit and giving watch to the countless heathen activities going back centuries.  Rombald’s wife Herself might have been the mythic artist of this very carving! (if you want to read about the many legends attached to the major Almscliffe rock outcrop, check out the main entry for Almscliffe Crags)

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, “Almscliffe Crags, North Rigton,” Northern Antiquarian 2010.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

High Sleets, Hawkswick, North Yorkshire

Enclosure:  OS Grid Reference – SD 95415 69019

Getting Here

Enclosure walls beneath the long crags

Going along the B6160 road from Grassington to Kettlewell and taking the little road to Arncliffe on your left just a few hundred yards past Kilnsey Crags, after ¾ of a mile keep your eyes peeled for the small parking spot on the left-side of the road, with the steep rocky stream that leads up to the Sleet Gill Cave. Walk up this steep slope, following the same directions to reach the Sleets Gill Top enclosure. From here you’ll notice a large gap in the rocky crags about 200 yards WSW that you can walk through. On the other side of this gap, along a small footpath about another 200 yards along you’ll reach a large ovoid rock.  Just before this, on your right, is a long rocky rise with distinct drystone walling below it.  That’s the spot!

Archaeology & History

Walled section, looking S

Encircling a slightly sloping area of ground that stretches out beneath a long line of limestone crags is this notable walled enclosure running almost the full length of the rocky ridge.  Measuring 40 yards (36m) in length by 10 yards (9m) across at its greatest width, this elongated rectangular enclosure has all attributes of being Iron Age in origin, much like many others in this area.  However, in comparison with the others close by, this is a pretty small construction and—if used for human habitation, as is likely—would have housed only two or three families.

Western end of enclosure

Within the enclosure itself, near its  western end, we find an internal line of walling that creates a single room: enough for a single family, or perhaps even where animals were kept.  Only an excavation would tell us for sure.

Curious stone ‘cupboard’

One notable interesting feature exists roughly halfway along the enclosure, up against the crag itself: here is small man-made stone “cupboard” of sorts, akin to some modern pantry.  You’ll get an idea of it in the photo.  At first I wondered if this would have been a sleeping space, but, unless it was where a shaman liked to encase him/herself inside a domestic household cave (highly improbable), it would have served a simple pragmatic function. Make up your own mind.

I liked this place. It’s surrounded by crags on almost all sides with some ancient spirit-infested rocky hills very close by, giving it a beautiful ambience.  Immediately below the enclosure is what looks to be a large dried-up pool, which was probably well stocked with fish.  A perfect living environment.  Check it out!

References:

  1. Raistrick, Arthur, Prehistoric Yorkshire, Dalesman: Clapham 1964.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Cat Nab, Brotton, North Yorkshire

Tumulus (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NZ 6692 2154

Archaeology & History

Location on 1930 OS-map

This long lost burial mound was first located by the local antiquarian William Hornsby in the early 20th century.  It had been constructed close to the summit of the prominent rise  of Cat Nab, immediately east above Saltburn.  Its position was shown on the 1930 OS-map of the area.  Destroyed by quarrying, it was thankfully excavated by Hornsby in 1913; and although his finds were never published, he left notes which told us that,

“there were two cremations and the sherds of at least three vessels: a collared urn, a pygmy cup and a vessel with an everted rim.” (Crawford 1980)

Crawford (1980) told that these finds could been seen in the Middlesborough Collection.

References:

  1. Crawford, G.M., Bronze Age Burial Mounds in Cleveland, Cleveland County Council 1980.

Acknowledgements:  Huge thanks for use of the Ordnance Survey map in this site profile, reproduced with the kind permission of the National Library of Scotland

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian


Way Hagg, West Ayton Moor, North Yorkshire

Cup-Marked Stones (lost):  OS Grid Reference – SE 9657 8840

Archaeology & History

In the autumn of 1848, antiquarian John Tissiman (1850) and his associates took to uncovering two burial mounds amidst a large cluster of them on the eastern edge of West Ayton Moor.  This one at Way Hagg was quite a big fella, measuring 36 yards across.  When they cut into its northern edge towards the centre, 8-10 feet in, they came across an upright stone, nearly two feet high, on which five cup-marks had been cut. (see sketch, no.2)  Slightly beyond this were three other stones (in sketch, nos.1, 3 & 4), each with cup-marks on them, beneath which was a tall urn.  Whether or not the carvings had been deliberately positioned to cover the urn, we do not know. Nonetheless, we can be reasonably assured that these petroglyphs had some mythic association with death when they were placed here.

Tissiman gave us the following detailed measurements of the respective carvings:

1: Nearly even surface. Length, from 16 to 18 inches; breadth, 10 to 20 ditto; depth, 8 to 9 ditto; with large oval hole cut in the centre, 7½ inches long, 4 inches broad, and 3½ inches in depth.  On the opposite side are three holes, from 2 to 3 inches in diameter, and from 1 inch to 1½ deep.  2: Uneven surface. Length, 23 inches; breadth, 14 inches; depth, 13 inches; with five holes, from l½ to 3½ inches in diameter, and 1 to 1½ inches in depth.  3: Uneven surface. Length, 33 inches; breadth, 22 inches; depth, 10 inches, with four holes, the largest being 4½ inches in diameter and 3 inches deep; the others, from 1½ inches to 2 inches in diameter, and 1 to 1½ inches deep.  4: Uneven surface. Length, 27 inches; breadth, 23½ inches; depth, 10 inches, with 13 holes, from 1½ inches to 5 inches in diameter, and ¾ of an inch to 3 inches in depth; also three lines at the end of the stone.”

The carvings were included in Brown & Chappell’s (2005) fine survey, but they weren’t able to find out what happened to them after Tissiman’s excavation. They remain lost.  If anyone has any information as to where they might be, please let us know.

References:

  1. Brown, Paul & Chappell, Graeme, Prehistoric Rock Art in the North York Moors, Tempus: Stroud 2005.
  2. Tissiman, John, “Report on Excavations in Barrows, in Yorkshire,” in Journal British Archaeological Association, April 1850.

Acknowledgements:  Huge thanks for use of the Ordnance Survey map in this site profile, reproduced with the kind permission of the National Library of Scotland

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Raven Stones (east), Thruscross, North Yorkshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 12000 57932

Getting Here

Ravenstones (east)

Take the A59 road from Harrogate and Skipton and at the very top of the moors near the Gill Head Enclosures, take the small Kex Ghyll road up past the disused quarry works north for a mile or so. At the junction go left for about 1½ miles where, on your left, is Burnt House farm.  A hundred yards past here is a small spot to park on the right-hand side of the road, opposite the gate to Rocking Hall House (make sure you leave enough room for tractors to pass you!).  Across the road is the track to Rocking Hall and, 2 miles along the track, look out for the copse of trees ½-mile NE.  Head towards it and, as you get close to the wall, walk slowly downhill towards the stream where a single block of stone lives.  You’ll find it!

Archaeology & History

Design from above

Rediscovered on Rocking Moor by Rod Chambers on August 15, 2023, this reasonably large sloping block of stone has between 21 and 24 cups cut quite deeply and scattered erratically into it, very similar to one some 200 yards to the northwest (Raven Stones carving 559).  It seems pretty obvious that some of these cups were Nature’s handiwork, but have been modified by human hands.   There’s nothing complex about it, but there may be a semi-circular arc around one of the cups, centre-left of the natural crack that cuts across the top of the stone, but this is very faint and could be just a trick of the eyes.  Going there at sunrise and wetting the stone might tell us for sure.

Acknowledgements:  Big thanks to Rod Chambers for use of his photo in this site profile.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

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 

St. George’s Well, Harrogate, North Yorkshire

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 2997 5561

Also Known as:

  1. St. George’s Spa

Archaeology & History

About 50 yards away from the Royal Promenade on the east-side of Parliament Street, there used to the flowing water of this old holy well, later becoming one more of Harrogate’s spa wells.  It was first recognized as a medicinal spring about 1792 when Thomas Garnett (1794) uncovered it beneath the overgrowth of vegetation surrounding the spring-head.  In doing so, it became evident that at some time in the past it had been used by local people as,

“a wall was discovered round the spring, but whether this had been built with an idea of its being a medicinal water, or with an intention of collecting water for cattle, I cannot determine.”

Chalybeate (iron-bearing) in nature, the waters were analyzed by Adam Hunter (1830) in the 1820s and, although possessed of soluble iron, had less than its medicinal compatriots nearby, meaning that its fortifying qualities weren’t quite as good. He told us how,

“it had been known (by locals) for many years, but at no time much used internally; it had acquired some celebrity however as a wash for sore eyes, for which purpose it was well adapted.  As chalybeate water has long been a favourite popular remedy for a wash in various weaknesses, and chronic affections of the eyes, it is proper to state that (the nearby) John’s Well, the Tewit Spa, or the succeeding one at Starbeck, are the only three chalybeates which can at present be recommended for that purpose.”

A few years after Hunter had been here, the well was destroyed “by the making of a highway drain.” Jennings 1981)

Folklore

St George (saint’s day – April 23) was one of the christian dragon-killers.  There is no known tradition of the saint or festivities that may once have occured here.

References:

  1. Garnett, Thomas, A Treatise on the Mineral Waters of Harrogate, Thomas Gill: Leeds 1794.
  2. Hunter, Adam, The Waters of Harrogate and its Vicinity, Langdale: Harrogate 1830.
  3. Jennings, Bernard, A History of the Wells and Springs of Harrogate, Interprint: Harrogate 1981.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

St. Ann’s Well, Harrogate, North Yorkshire

Holy Well (lost):  OS Grid Reference – SE 298 548

Archaeology & History

Very little is now known about this sacred site that was once found “a few hundred yards east from the New Church at Low Harrogate.” (Hunter 1830)  Even most of travellers and medical experts who wrote about the numerous Harrogate wells in the 18th and 19th century bypassed its quietude; and by the time Mr Hunter wrote about it in his great descriptive catalogue, its healing or medicinal qualities had been forgotten.

He told that “the spirit in the water…or that with which it is infused, has long been most actively engaged in adding real or fancied comforts to the (Harrogate) Fair, and is now in much more general use” than the two other holy wells in the town. It was, he said, “the best water for making tea and more extensively used for that purpose than any in the neighborhood of Harrogate.”  It would also appear to have been built over at some time in the not-too-distant past…

Folklore

St Ann (saint’s day – July 26) was a giant in early christian and Islamic myths.  An apocryphal figure, She was the Great Mother of the mother of Christ—the Virgin Mary—and was Herself a Virgin until, in Her old age, after seeing a bird feeding a chick, decided She wanted a child and so eventually gave birth to Mary.  An old woman giving birth when the Springtime appears (when birds and other animals become fertile) is the same motif found in the lore of the Cailleach in Ireland and Scotland (and parts of northern England).  Pre-christian lore at this old well would seem evident here.

References:

  1. Hunter, Adam, The Waters of Harrogate and its Vicinity, Langdale: Harrogate 1830.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Raven Stones (562), Thruscross, North Yorkshire

Cup-Marked Stone: OS Grid Reference – SE 1194 5810

Getting Here

The Raven stone setting

Take the A59 road from Harrogate and Skipton and at the very top of the moors keep your eyes peeled for the small Kex Ghyll Road on your left(it’s easy to miss, so be diligent!).  It goes past some disused disused quarry and after a mile or so where you hit a junction, turn left, past the Outdoor Centre of West End and straight along Whit Moor Road.  About a mile past the Outdoor Centre go left down to Brays Croft Farm and over the ford, then keeping to the footpath up to the right (west) and note the clump of trees on the moors above you to the west.  That’s where you need to be.

Archaeology & History

Several of the cupmarks

Several natural basins that might have been worked in prehistoric times are accompanied by several distinct cup-marks near the middle-edge of the stone, in a rough triangular formation, with two others slightly more eroded a little further down the same side.  Boughey and Vickerman (2003) noted several other cupmarks on the rock, some distinct, some not so.

Adjacent to this carved stone is another naturally worn stone of some size, with incredibly curvaceous ripples over the top of the rock which, in all probability, possessed some animistic property to the people who carved this and other nearby carvings. Check the place out.  It’s a gorgeous setting!

References:

  1. Armstrong, Edward A., The Folklore of Birds, Collins: London 1958.
  2. Boughey, Keith & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, WYAS: Wakefield 2003.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian 

Warsett Hill, Brotton, North Yorkshire

Round Barrows (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NZ 692 214

Archaeology & History

Tumuli shown on 1920 map

On top of the large plateau that is Warsett Hill, on the southwest side of the old trig-point, could once be seen a cluster of at least seven burial mounds or tumuli.  The mounds are shown on the first OS-map of the area, but merely as mounds.  It wasn’t until there’d been a subsequent investigation here by local historian J.C. Atkinson in the 19th century that they were highlighted on the 1920 map as “Tumuli.”  Sadly, since then, they’ve all been destroyed.

Very brief notes were written on six out of the seven tombs here by William Hornsby (1917), with only one of them receiving any real attention.  “Of the other six,” Crawford (1980) wrote,

“there is very little information; all were excavated by Atkinson prior to 1893, but his excavations revealed no finds and he stated that all of the mounds had been previously disturbed.  They were later dug by Hornsby, who stated that although he found no sepulchral deposits, all the mounds contained flints.”

In medieval times this became a beacon site, where bonfires were lit.  I can find no further information about this. (NB: This site should not to be confused with another Warsett Hill that exists two miles southeast of here above Skinningrove.)

References:

  1. Crawford, G.M., Bronze Age Burial Mounds in Cleveland, Cleveland County Council 1980.
  2. Hornsby, William & Stanton, R., “British Barrows near Brotton,” in Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, volume 24, 1917.

Acknowledgements:  Huge thanks for use of the Ordnance Survey map in this site profile, reproduced with the kind permission of the National Library of Scotland

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian