Simon Howe Stone Row, Goathland, North Yorkshire

Stone Row:  OS Grid Reference – SE 83016 98119 (SSW) to SE 83031 98142 (NNE)

Getting Here

Simon Howe stone row (photo by James Elkington)

From Pickering take the moor road towards Whitby (A169) for approx. 12 miles.  After passing the Fylingdales Early Warning radar on the right (you can’t miss it), the road dips down to cross Eller Beck as a dog leg. After a half mile turn off left (west) towards Goathland (signposted). Follow the road under the North Yorks Moor railway bridge and after a third-of-a-mile the road turns slightly left.  Park in the little layby and follow the track onto the moors. Cross the small stream and walk along the narrow track through gorgeous heather for a mile and a half. Ahead you will see Simon Howe prominent on a ridge, with a stone row leading to it.

Archaeology & History

Not included in either of the giant megalithic alignments surveys of Burl or Thom, it seems that the first archaeological reference to this site was made by Raymond Hayes (1988).   He visited the site in 1947, shortly after a moorland fire had cleared away all the vegetation, allowing for a clearer view of the stones and, after his brief description of the adjacent Simon Howe tomb, he told that,

“The ridge is also the site of what is an unusual feature for the moors: a stone alignment consisting of three, formerly five upright stones that lead to a low eroded cairn c.65m to the south(west).  A moor fire in 1947 revealed the fourth, fallen stone, and I was able to locate the socket of a fifth.”

Raymond Hayes 1947 photo
Stone row on GoogleEarth

From hereon, Hayes seemed to more interested in seeking out and describing a large number of flints that he found scattered on the ground around Simon Howe and its associated monoliths than the stones themselves.  Very sad…  The exact position of the missing fifth stone seems to be shown on Hayes’ plan as being closest to the cairn, about 10-15 yards away, but no trace of this remains.  However, of the remaining monoliths, they are all clearly visible from the air on Google Earth!

Looking SW (Photo by James Elkington)
Looking NE (photo by James Elkington)

The most southerly of the four stones (SE 83016 98119) stands just over 3 feet tall and the second upright, leaning at an angle, is just slightly taller, with the tallest of the three uprights at the northeastern end, being some 6 feet tall.   The fourth fallen stone (SE 83031 98142) lies just beyond this in the heather and which, if resurrected, would stand some 4 feet in height.  The length of the row, stone-to-stone, is just over 29 yards (26.6m).  I’m not aware if this site has ever been assessed as having an astronomical function, but its angle to the northeast might suggest a lunar rising.  Perhaps more pertinent would be another prehistoric cairn that can be seen less than 100 yards away past the northern end of stone row…

References:

  1. Hayes, Raymond H., North-East Yorkshire Studies: Archaeological Papers, YAS: Leeds 1988.
  2. White, Stanhope, Standing Stones and Earthworks on the North Yorkshire Moors, privately printed: Scarborough 1987.
  3. Windle, Bertram C.A., Remains of the Prehistoric Age in England, Methuen: London 1909.

Links: 

  1. Simon Howe Stone Row on Stone Rows of Great Britain

Acknowledgements:  A huge thanks to James Elkington for use of his excellent photos in this site profile, as well as telling us about Getting Here. 🙂

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  54.372026, -0.723399 Simon Howe stones

Simon Howe, Goathland, North Yorkshire

Cairn:  OS Grid Reference – SE 83007 98096

Getting Here

Simon Howe on 1854 map

From Pickering take the moor road towards Whitby (A169) for approx. 12 miles.  After passing the huge Fylingdales Early Warning radar on the right (you can’t miss it), the road dips down to cross Eller Beck as a dog leg. After a half mile turn off left (west) towards Goathland (signposted). There’s a free car park on the left where you can sit for awhile and enjoy the views.  Follow the road under the North Yorks Moor railway bridge, and after a third-of-a-mile the road turns slightly left.  Park in the little layby and follow the track onto the moors. Cross the small stream and walk along the narrow track through gorgeous heather for a mile and a half. Ahead you will see Simon Howe prominent on a ridge, with a stone row leading to it.

Archaeology & History

This impressive prehistoric tomb was first described in deeds as early as 1335 as Simondshou, which A.H. Smith (1928) translates to mean ‘Sigemund’s mound’ – alluding it to have been either the burial of someone with that name, or a name given to it by the incoming Vikings, oh so many centuries ago.  The latter is the more probable of the two…

Simon Howe (photo by James Elkington)
Hayes’ 1947 photo of Simon Howe

With excellent views in all directions, this monument is found high up in the landscape at the meeting of four paths that are closely aligned to the cardinal directions.  It was highlighted as a tumulus on the 1854 OS-map of the region and subsequently included in Windle’s (1909) listings as a “round barrow”, found in association with “three upright stones” running to the northeast. There are in fact four stones.

Not much has been written of it in archaeological circles.  Thankfully a brief survey of it was undertaken in 1947 by Raymond Hayes (1988) after a moorland blaze had cleared the heather that enabled good conditions to see the site clearly.  When he came here he told that,

“Simon Howe…is very mutilated, what survives indicates that it was 11.50m in diameter and it is clear that it incorporated a stone kerb.”

This “stone kerb”, or surrounding ring of stones, is a feature found at other tombs on these hills—Flat Howe (1) being just one example.  However, in contrast to Flat Howe (1), Simon Howe has had most of its central mound totally stripped by peoples unknown a few centuries ago.  The remains we see today look more like a small ruined stone circle with internal rubble and a new walker’s cairn emerging from its centre.  Outside the cairn, just a few yards northeast, a fascinating megalithic stone row emerges.  Whether these were erected at the same time (in the early to mid-Bronze age, in my opinion) only an excavation would show.

References:

  1. Hayes, Raymond H., North-East Yorkshire Studies: Archaeological Papers, YAS: Leeds 1988.
  2. Smith, A.H., The Place-Names of the North Riding of Yorkshire, Cambridge University Press 1928.
  3. White, Stanhope, Standing Stones and Earthworks on the North Yorkshire Moors, privately printed: Scarborough 1987.
  4. Windle, Bertram C.A., Remains of the Prehistoric Age in England, Methuen: London 1909.

Links

  1. Simon Howe on The Megalithic Portal
  2. Simon Howe on Stone Rows of Great Britain

Acknowledgements:  A huge thanks to James Elkington for use of the photograph in this site profile, as well as telling us about Getting Here.  And the map accompanying this site profile is Reproduced with the kind permission of the National Library of Scotland

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  54.371618, -0.723775 Simon Howe

Petrifying Well, Grosmont, North Yorkshire

Sacred Well:  OS Grid Reference – NZ 82844 06665

Archaeology & History

Petrifying Well on 1853 map

Petrifying wells are found across the British Isles and would be deemed as being medicinal, or curative at the very least.  In Jeremy Harte’s (2008) massive study, he infers that some of them will have been regarded as sacred or ‘holy’. Their ability to calcify objects would be seen as a very strange effect indeed!  Yet despite this Eskdale example being shown on the first OS-map in 1853, its history seems to have been forgotten.  Back then, you could find it on the east side of the Murl Slack Beck, nearly a mile north of Grosmont village.  I highlight the site in the hope that someone may be able to unearth something about its past and/or its present condition.

References:

  1. Harte, Jeremy, English Holy Wells – volume 1, Heart of Albion Press: Marlborough 2008.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  54.448638, -0.723902 Petrifying Well

Pen Howe (2), Sleights Moor, Sleights, North Yorkshire

Tumulus:  OS Grid Reference – NZ 8566 0369

Archaeology & History

The low rise of Pen Howe-2

Prehistoric companion to the more pronounced Pen Howe (1) Bronze Age cairn just 20 yards to the west, this overgrown tumulus is hardly noticeable when the heather’s deep and is probably only of interest to dedicated antiquarians and geomancers.  Its position in the landscape, whilst not as prominent as its companion and the nearby Breckon Howe, would still have been important to its builders and the relative proximity of the two tombs may imply a continuity of tribal companionship in the Land of the Dead.  But hey! – that’s just a silly idea of mine! 🙂

Rising barely three feet above ground level, this is slightly smaller than Pen Howe (1), being just 13 yards across; and there is no indication that it has ever been dug into.

References:

  1. Elgee, Frank, Early Man in Northeast Yorkshire, Frank Bellows: Gloucester 1930.

Acknowledgements:  Big huge thanks to my Lindsay Mitchell for getting us up to see this old tomb (which is nearly as old as Linzi 🙂).

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  54.421443, -0.681341 Pen Howe (2)

Pen Howe (1), Sleights Moor, Sleights, North Yorkshire

Tumulus:  OS Grid Reference – NZ 85638 03722

Getting Here

Pen Howe from the north

Along the A169 road between Sleights and Pickering, some two miles south of Sleights turn right as if you’re going to the tombs of Flat Howe and the Bride Stones, but just park up 80 yards along by the cattle grid.  From here, a fence runs southeast and the mound is on the near skyline, just over 100 yards away.  Just walk through the heather to reach it.

Archaeology & History

Shown on the first OS map of the area in 1853, this somewhat overgrown prehistoric tomb is one of two in close attendance to each other (see Pen Howe 2); and is some 435 yards (398m) away from the more prominent Breckon Howe tomb to the southwest.  Like others on Sleights Moor, no real archaeological attention has been paid here, with Frank Elgee (1930) only giving it the slightest mention in passing.

Pen Howe on 1853 map
Pen Howe, looking SE

Smaller than its nearby companions of Flat and Breckon Howe, the overgrown cairn raises about four feet above ground level and about 20 yards across.  Probably Bronze Age in origin, it has a slightly concave top that gives the impression that someone at sometime in the not-too-distant past has had a bittova dig here to see if there’s owt inside.  But we have no record of such a thing.

surmounted by a relatively recent boundary stone, sits at the highest point on the moors in these parts.  Despite this (as with others on these moors), very little has been written about the place and it has received only minimal attention in archaeology tomes.  Even the renowned pen of Frank Elgee (1912; 1930) gave it only passing mention.  Perhaps it aint a bad thing to be honest.

References:

  1. Elgee, Frank, Early Man in Northeast Yorkshire, Frank Bellows: Gloucester 1930.

Acknowledgements:  Big huge thanks to my Lindsay Mitchell for getting us up to see this old tomb and its companion.  (which is nearly as old as Linzi 🙂 )

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  54.421733, -0.681675 Pen Howe (1)

Breckon Howe, Sleights Moor, Sleights, North Yorkshire

Tumulus:  OS Grid Reference – NZ 85374 03406

Also Known as:

  1. Brakken Howe
Breckon Howe on 1853 map

Getting Here

Along the A169 road between Sleights and Pickering, some two miles south of Sleights at the highest point on the moors just above the west side of the road, you’ll see a large mound with what looks like a standing stone on top of it.  A minor road turns off the A169 at this point, heading southeast, and the large mound is 150 yards from the roadside. You can’t really miss it!

Archaeology & History

Shown on the first OS map of the area in 1853, this conspicuous prehistoric tomb surmounted by a relatively recent boundary stone, sits at the highest point on the moors in these parts.  Despite this (as with others on these moors), very little has been written about the place and it has received only minimal attention in archaeology tomes.  Even the renowned pen of Frank Elgee (1912; 1930) gave it only passing mention.  Perhaps it aint a bad thing to be honest.

Breckon Howe, from the south

As well as being conspicuous, it’s large.  Rising some six feet above the natural ground level, it measures 26 yards across its east-west axis, and 29 yards north-south, with a rough circumference of 88 yards.  The boundary stone that surmounts its crown sits in a hollow that looks like it was opened up a century or two ago by antiquarians (much like ourselves).  But its position of the tomb in the landscape that is most striking.  The view from here is considerable, having a clear 360º view for many miles around.  Other prehistoric tombs can be seen from here, but more importantly this tomb can be seen on the skyline from many others.  This was probably a deliberate feature intended by its builders–and it’s not uncommon, as many of our upland regions are crowned with ancient tombs like Breckon Howe.  In all likelihood this would have been the resting place of some important ancestral figure: a tribal elder or a shaman, whose spirit after death could view and travel across the landscape they inhabited in life.

Although the tomb presently sits amidst an endless sea of heather (Calluna vulgaris) typical of moorland across our northern lands, the name of the site ‘breckon’, according to George Young (1817) derives from the dialect word meaning ferns or bracken.  This is echoed in Francis Kildale’s (1855) local dialect study and subsequently in Joseph Wright’s (1898) unequalled magnum opus.

Folklore

In the early 19th century, one George Calvert who lived in the area, collected as much folklore as he could, as it was dying off with the coming of the Church.  One such piece told that there was once a hob who lived by this old tomb.  A hob is generally known as a supernatural creature, but in this area it can also be a medicine man.  Some hobs were good, others were malicious.  We know not what type of hob lived lived here, but Calvert simply told us there used to be “T’ Hob of Brackken Howe”.  Nowt more!  It would be good to find the story behind this old character, if it hasn’t been lost entirely…

References:

  1. Elgee, Frank, Early Man in Northeast Yorkshire, Frank Bellows: Gloucester 1930.
  2. Elgee, Frank, The Moorlands of North-Eastern Yorkshire, A. Brown: London 1912.
  3. Kildale, Francis, A Glossary of Yorkshire Words and Phrases Collected in Whitby and the Nieghbourhood, J.R. Smith: London 1855.
  4. Home, Gordon, The Evolution of an English Town, J.M. Dent: London 1905.
  5. Wright, Joseph, English Dialect Dictionary – volume 1, .Henry Frowde: London 1898.
  6. Young, George, A History of Whitby and Streoneshalh Abbey – volume 2, Clarke & Medd: Whitby 1817.

Acknowledgements:  A huge thanks to Lindsay Mitchell for getting us up to see this great tomb and its companion.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  54.418942, -0.685822 Breckon Howe

Flat Howe (2), Sleights Moor, Sleights, North Yorkshire

Cairn:  OS Grid Reference – NZ 85510 04614

Also Known as:

  1. Flat Howe (south)

Getting Here

Flat Howe-2 on 1853 map

Along the A169 road that runs may miles from Whitby to Pickering, as you go through the small town of Sleights, the road gets steep for a mile or so, until you reach the moorland tops, where the road runs dead straight.  After 1.2 miles (1.93km) along the straight road, a small minor road is to your right.  Go along here for literally half-a-mile (0.8km) where you’ll see a small dirt-track on your right, with a locked gate.  There’s room to park here.  Walk straight onto the moor towards the large rounded mound about 200 yards northeast.  That’s it!

Archaeology & History

Highlighted as a blip on the 1853 OS-map (see above) 250 yards south of Flat Howe (1), this is the slightly smaller of the two prehistoric cairns on this flat piece of moorland (which covered in scattered woodland at the time of its construction).  It has been severely robbed of stones by some land-owning fuckwits in the 19th century, who saw fit to build a shooting hut into the tomb itself!  Knob-heads!   As a result, much of the content of the cairn has been severely depleted, with only its western side having any real height to it.

Flat Howe 2 looking south (photo, James Elkington)
Flat Howe 2, looking east

Just like Flat Howe 1, it seems that it’s never been excavated, so we can only guess about how old it is; though it is very probably Bronze Age.  The cairn is roughly 25 yards across and oval in form, but was probably more circular before those morons built their hunting lodge into it.  Its western side stands some 4-5 feet tall, which was probably the uniform height all round it before it was vandalized.  A few yards to the south is what may be a cup-marking on one of the flat earthfast rocks, although I’m slightly sceptical of it.

The position of the site in the landscape is a fine one: living on a large flat open expanse of land, which was probably cleared of some trees when it was first built, allowing for a very wide view in all directions, just like its companion 250 yards to the north.  Well worth checking out.

Folklore

It’s worth repeating the myth we have of a place on Sleights Moor that I’ve also cited in the Flat Howe 1 site profile.  Although we have nothing specific relating to this tomb, an olde creation myth tells us that the local giants, Wade and his wife Bel, left their young son (whose name seems to have been forgotten) somewhere on Sleights Moor (which aint a big place).  The story was first written down by George Young (1817) in his magnum opus on Whitby and the tale was subsequently re-told by many others – Mrs Gutch (1901) for one:

“Young Wade, even when an infant, could throw a rock several tons weight to a vast distance; for one day when his mother was milking her cow near Swarthoue, the child, whom she had left on Sleights moor, became impatient for the breast, and seizing a stone of vast size, heaved it across the valley in wrath, and hit his mother with such violence, that though she was not materially hurt, her body made an impression on the stone which remained indelible, till the stone itself was broken up, a few years ago, to mend the highways!”

This rock was Bel’s Rock, whose exact location seems to have been lost.

References:

  1. Elgee, Frank, Early Man in Northeast Yorkshire, Frank Bellows: Gloucester 1930.
  2. Elgee, Frank, The Moorlands of North-Eastern Yorkshire, A. Brown: London 1912.
  3. Grinsell, Leslie V., The Ancient Burial Mounds of England, Methuen: London 1936.
  4. Gutch, Mrs, County Folk Lore – volume 2: Examples of Printed Folk-lore Concerning the North Riding of Yorkshire, York and the Ainsty, David Nutt: London 1901.
  5. Jeffrey, P. Shaw, Whitby Lore and Legend, Home: Whitby 1923.
  6. Roberts, Anthony, Sowers of Thunder, Rider: London 1978.
  7. Smith, A.H., The Place-Names of the North Riding of Yorkshire, Cambridge University Press 1928.
  8. Young, George, A History of Whitby and Streoneshalh Abbey – volume 2, Clarke & Medd: Whitby 1817.

Acknowledgements:  A huge thanks to Lindsay Mitchell for getting us up to see this great tomb and its companion; and to James Elkington for use of the photograph.

Links:  Flat Howe on The Megalithic Portal

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  54.429770, -0.683386 Flat Howe (2)

Sheriff Hill, Malham, North Yorkshire

Cairn:  OS Grid Reference – SD 8994 6405

Also Known as:

  1. Friar’s Heap
  2. Monk’s Grave

Getting Here

‘X’ marks the spot!

There’s nowhere to park any vehicles anywhere near this place if you wanna reach this site.  And so, from Malham village, take steep eastern road up Malham Rakes (ask a local if needs be) for exaclt half-a-mile (0.81 km) where, at a bittova sharp turn in the road, there’s a footpath on your left.  Walk along here for about 350 yards until you hit a straight line of walling on your left.  Follow this along, about 30 yards before it turns at a right-angle. On the other side of the wall from here, a barely discernible denuded heap is in the overgrown field.  That’s it!

Archaeology & History

To be found above the grand rise of Malham Cove—on its eastern side—the earliest mention I’ve found of this once-large prehistoric burial cairn was in the Cravendale travelogue of William Howson (1850).  His description was only a brief one, telling us how,

“The workmen engaged on the fences have lately opened a large barrow, which is known by the local as the Friars’ Heap, near the eastern arm of the Cove, and a quantity of human bones were found.”

In Howson’s opinion he thought “the spot is much more likely to be connected with the marauding Scots than the peaceful monks”; but he was wrong on both counts.  When the site was later visited and described by the great northern antiquarian, Harry Speight – aka, Johnnie Gray (1891) – he told us that the place “was much more likely to have been a British or Danish burial mound.”

Originally standing to a height of more than six-feet, the tomb has subsequently been reduced to half that height.  The most lengthy descriptions of it were written by the regional antiquarian Arthur Raistrick.  In his topographical literary meanderings across the Malham landscape, he gives a fine overview of its features and locale:

“Across the clints the old valley which leads to the edge of the Cove is seen, and looking upstream a grand impression of the Dry Valley, properly called Watlowes, is obtained.  Across the foot of the valley a stile crosses rhe wall, and a footpath goes up the hill near to the boundary wall of the Cove; this is Sheriff Hill.  At the prominent corner of the wall where the path resumes a level course, it joins the path from Malham Lings called Trougate.  Between here and the road there are abundant traces of the Celtic fields, nestling under the small limestone crags that offer shelter from the northeast, evidently as unwelcome a quarter for the wind when these were occupied as today.  Where the wall turns at right-angles again towards the Cove, there is a very prominent circular mound nearly a hundred feet in diameter.  This is a burial mound of late Iron Age.  It was dug into about the year 1845 and in addition to many human bones , fragments of an iron spearhead were found.  It is to be regretted that no careful account of this excavation was preserved, as there seems no doubt that this was a multiple burial of some importance.  Like other burial mounds in this district, the site was well chosen with a most extensive view which includes many notable hill summits…”

This latter remark could well have come from the pen of the old ley-hunter, Alfred Watkins (1925), who noted time and again how landscape features would seemingly connect one site with another, and another. (the modern idea of leys as ‘energy-lines’ is an American invention and wholly without merit)

A few years after Raistrick gave us his initial description, the cairn was excavated.  In his short work on the archaeology of Malham Moor (1961), he wrote:

“A burial mound (that was) three-quarters removed at the time of the enclosures (about 1845) when the mound was dug as a quarry for walling stones. The remaining fragment was trenched right through and was found to be built entirely of stone with a kerb of large flaggy stone laid on the slope at the foot of the mound.  Many fragments of decorated pottery were founmd under the turf cover and were associated with what appeared to be discarded gravel from the original quarrying, so may have come from the centre.  At the inner edge of the kerb and under a carefully placed cover-stone, a smal oval vessel was got.  This is of thick bluey-grey paste, red outside and very flaky so that part of the surface is lost on the two-thirds of the vessel which remains.  Prof Stuart Piggott has reported on the pottery.  Of this vessel he says — “an oval cup of the so-called ‘Incense Cup’ class: one sherd is of the wall and base of one end, the other a piece spalled off from the inside of the base. I only know of one paralle to this remarkable pot, another oval incense-cup from Far Fields, Lockton, N.R. Yorks, in the York Museum.  A very odd little oval ‘cup’ of sandstone from Defford, Bredon, Worcs, in the Hastings Muesum at Worcerster is a stray find and might be of any age, and anyway only provides a vague parallel.”

Another “vessel is represented by sherd of what appears to be a small cinerary urn of collared or overhanging-rim type with the yellow-brown surface characteristic of so many pots of this class.  The decoration appears to be in alternating panels of vertical and horizontal lines of uncertain width, the whole forming the so-called ‘hurdle’ pattern.  The ornament is made of double lines of twisted cord, one with a right-hand and the other with a left-and twist: such ornament is widely distributed on such vessels…

“A third “vessel is represented by a few sherds with purple-red exterior, decorated with impressed cord, whipped cord and grooving.  It is diffcitul to say what sort of pot is represented, but I suspect something within the food vessel class… The whole assemblage could well be contemporary and would fall withini the Middle Bronze Age of conventional nomenclature, somwhat in the middle of the second millenium BC…”

The most striking feature of this site is its position in the landscape, typical of large cairns in the Pennines and much further afield.  The view to the south is extensive and would have had some bearing on its construction, as such heights allow for the spirits of the dead to move across the landscape.  The huge cliffs of Malham Cove below may also have been an important factor.  In the days when this tomb was built, a great waterfall existed at the Cove that has subsequently fallen back to Earth.  In many traditional cultures, water is an extremely important element.  Its relationship to life is obvious; but also in the Lands of the Dead water feeds the spirit on its journeys.  These animistic and geomantic features are essential in looking at the nature of the placement of sites—and this at Sheriff Hill would have been no exception.

Enjoy your sojourns and meditations here…

References:

  1. Gray, Johnnie, Airedale, from Goole to Malham, 1891.
  2. Howson, William, An Illustrated Guide to the Curiosities of Craven, Whittaker: London 1850.
  3. Raistrick, Arthur, Malham and Malham Moor, Dalesman: Clapham 1947.
  4. Raistrick, Arthur & Holmes, Paul F., Archaeology of Malham Moor, Headley Bros: London 1961.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

 

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  54.072281, -2.155226 Sheriff Hill cairn

Flat Howe (1), Sleights Moor, Sleights, North Yorkshire

Tumulus:  OS Grid Reference – NZ 85483 04866

Also Known as:

  1. Flat Howe (north)

Getting Here

Flat Howe-1 on 1853 map

Along the A169 road that runs may miles from Whitby to Pickering, as you go through the small town of Sleights, the road gets steep for a mile or so, until you reach the moorland tops, where the road runs dead straight.  After 1.2 miles (1.93km) along the straight road, a small minor road is to your right.  Go along here for literally half-a-mile (0.8km) where you’ll see a small dirt-track on your right, with a locked gate.  There’s place to park here.  You’ll see the large rounded mound of Flat Howe-2 about 200 yards NE.  Head there, then another 250 yards north.  You’ve arrived!

Archaeology & History

Of the two ‘Flat Howe’ burial mounds on Sleights Moor, this is the northern one of the two, being 250 yards (230m) away from its southern companion (at NZ 85510 04614).  It’s quite a big fella too – and so you’d expect there to be quite a bit of information about it.  But there isn’t!  No recorded excavation has taken place here, despite the top of the monument being cut into.  But this might have occurred when the Ordnance Survey lads built one of their triangulation pillars into the side of it.  Thankfully it’s not done too much damage.

I was quite surprised to find that even Frank Elgee (1912; 1930) had little to say about either of the two Flat Howes, simply mentioning them in passing in relation to the numerous other prehistoric tombs on these moors.  Despite this, the archaeologist L.V. Grinsell (1936) thought this site to be one of “the finest peristalith barrows I have ever seen.”  And this one in particular is still very impressive.

Flat Howe from the south
Flat Howe (by James Elkington)

First shown on the 1853 OS-map, this large heather-covered mound of earth and stone is some six feet high and measures roughly 22 yards (20m) east-west by 19 yards (17.5m) north-south.  The tomb was originally constructed within a circle of reasonably large boulders, some of which were upright.  These can still be seen, mainly along the western and southern sides of the monument, although many have been dislodged over time and fallen at various angles, as you can see in the photo.  Whether or not these stones were erected first and then the mound built inside the ring, we do not know.  It’s the highest point in the landscape on Sleights Moor, with damn good views in all directions: an element that is common to many large prehistoric tombs, for obvious reasons.  Other tombs of similar size and probably similar periods in prehistory can be seen close by and on the skyline.  Whether this was a deliberate visual ingredient by our tribal ancestors is difficult to say, as the moors here were covered in scattered woodlands in prehistoric times.  Only detailed archaeo-botanical surveys would be able to tell us one way or the other.

Folklore

Flat Howe, with large stones defining its edge

Although we have nothing specific relating to this tomb, an olde creation myth told us that the local giants, Wade and his wife Bel, left their young son (whose name seems to have been forgotten) somewhere on Sleights Moor (which aint a big place).  It is worth narrating simply because it may have related to this tomb or its companion close by.  Giant legends have long been associated with the creation of many prehistoric tombs in this country and abroad.  The story was first written down by George Young (1817) in his magnum opus on Whitby and the tale was subsequently re-told by many others – Mrs Gutch (1901) for one:

“Young Wade, even when an infant, could throw a rock several tons weight to a vast distance; for one day when his mother was milking her cow near Swarthoue, the child, whom she had left on Sleights moor, became impatient for the breast, and seizing a stone of vast size, heaved it across the valley in wrath, and hit his mother with such violence, that though she was not materially hurt, her body made an impression on the stone which remained indelible, till the stone itself was broken up, a few years ago, to mend the highways!”

This rock was Bel’s Rock, whose exact location seems to have been lost.

References:

  1. Elgee, Frank, Early Man in Northeast Yorkshire, Frank Bellows: Gloucester 1930.
  2. Elgee, Frank, The Moorlands of North-Eastern Yorkshire, A. Brown: London 1912.
  3. Grinsell, Leslie V., The Ancient Burial Mounds of England, Methuen: London 1936.
  4. Gutch, Mrs, County Folk Lore – volume 2: Examples of Printed Folk-lore Concerning the North Riding of Yorkshire, York and the Ainsty, David Nutt: London 1901.
  5. Jeffrey, P. Shaw, Whitby Lore and Legend, Home: Whitby 1923.
  6. Roberts, Anthony, Sowers of Thunder, Rider: London 1978.
  7. Smith, A.H., The Place-Names of the North Riding of Yorkshire, Cambridge University Press 1928.
  8. Young, George, A History of Whitby and Streoneshalh Abbey – volume 2, Clarke & Medd: Whitby 1817.

AcknowledgementsA huge thanks to Lindsay Mitchell for getting us up to see this great tomb and its companion; and to James Elkington for use of the photograph.

LinksThe Megalithic Portal on Flat Howe

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  54.432038, -0.683730 Flat Howe (1)

Nor Hill, Skipton Moor, North Yorkshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 02181 51125

Getting Here

Along the A65 near Draughton, go (south) uphill at Height Lane until it levels out.  ¾-mile (1.2km) up, a modernized stone milepost is where the road crosses the ancient Roman Road. From here, walk west for just over a mile (1.8km), past the trees on yer right, until you approach a small copse on yer right. In the field just before the copse, walk uphill until you reach the highest of the two rises and walk about. You’re damn close!

Archaeology & History

Nor Hill cup-marked stone
Cupmarks, top & side

This small cup-marked rock was rediscovered by Chris Swales in April 2018.  It’s probably only for the purist petroglyph fanatics amongst you, consisting of just a single cup-mark on its vertical west-face, and another near its top western edge.  Official records show no other carvings in the immediate vicinity, but local antiquarians may find it profitable in surveying the area.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  53.956212, -1.968251 Nor Hill CR-1