For those who may not know, the terms ‘cairns’ and ‘tumuli’ are just prehistoric tombs. Another word we find as we move further north into Scotland is ‘cist’, which has a similar affiliation. A cairn is a pile of loose rocks and stones, which tends to be erected over a single or multiple burial or cremation – though without excavation we can never be sure which one it’s gonna be! A tumulus meanwhile (‘tumuli’ is the plural) is a heap of earth piled up over a burial or cremation. Small cairns and tumuli tend to cover single graves; whilst larger ones can have multiple burials therein. However we sometimes find that huge tombs have only one or two burials/ cremations inside. In such cases it’s likely that the people entombed there were of considerable importance: perhaps a tribal chief, a king, a queen, or powerful shaman. In many places across northern Britain, where there’s a profusion of cairns/tumuli we tend to find a good examples of prehistoric rock art, or cup-and-ring stones.
It’s easier to explain how to get here if you’re coming from the Burnsall-side of the B6160 road that leads to Bolton Abbey. A half-mile out of Burnsall village you a small woodland with a small parking spot. From here, a footpath runs up the steep hill above the parking spot. It zigzags a little and you eventually come out on the south-side of the trees where it meets some tall walling. Follow this walling further uphill for more than 600 yards (past more woodland) until the land starts to level out. Hereby, go thru an opening in the wall and less than 100 yards away (west) amidst the overgrown heather, you’ll see what you’re looking for.
Archaeology & History
A large but peculiar site resting on a moorland plateau on the eastern edges of the mighty Barden Moor. Peculiar inasmuch as it’s completely isolated from any other monument of the same age and type anywhere on these huge moors. A few miles east, on the moors around Appletreewick, Thruscross and Beamsley we have a plethora of prehistoric sites—but up here on Barden Moor there’s apparently nowt else! I find that hard to believe….
Listed on official websites as being a ring cairn, it’s difficult without a detailed excavation of the site (there hasn’t been one) so say that’s what it is. But we’ll stick with it for the time being. My initial impression of the site was that it was a crude form of a collapsed Scottish dun: impressive large circular monuments—buildings if you like—with very well-built large stone walls, usually several yards thick, a little bit like the Scottish brochs (mighty things indeed!). This thing at Folly Top isn’t quite as impressive, but it’s like a collapsed version of a dun.
The site consists of large ring of raised collapsed rubble walling, more than a yard high in places, and about three yards thick all the way round, measuring roughly 21 yards (N-S) by 19 yards (E-W) from outer wall to outer wall. There are “entrances” on the east and west sides; but there seemed to be little of any note in the middle of the ring, although the site was somewhat overgrown on our visit here. Outside of the ring there was also nothing of any note. It’s a pretty isolated monument which seems to have more of an Iron Age look about it than the Bronze Age—but until there’s an excavation, we’ll not know for sure.
It’s well worth checking out—and from here, walk onto the huge moorland above you to the west….
Acknowledgements: Huge thanks to the Crazy-gang of Sarah, Helen and James for their awesome assistance on our venture up here. A damn good day indeed! Cheers doods. 🙂
Tumulus (destroyed): OS Grid-Reference – TA 420 150
Archaeology & History
This long lost site is one of probably many such sites on the east coast of Yorkshire and Lincolnshire that used to exist, before the great North Sea took them away. The only account I’ve found of this one is from a short article in an early copy of the Lincolnshire Notes & Queries magazine by John Cordeaux (1891), who wrote:
“The Spurn, or Spurn Point, as it is now usually called, at the mouth of the Humber, is so closely connected with Lincolnshire history that it is unnecessary to apologize for recording in Lincs. N. & Q. an interesting sepulchral relic found there. This is a rude chest or coffin, roughly hewn and squarely hollowed, probably with stone implements, from the trunk of an oak, recently exposed by the action of the sea on the beach at Kilnsea. The total length overall of the chest is 51 feet, the interior (it was much decayed and fallen when I saw it) little, if anything, over four feet. In this space the skeleton, presumably of an adult male was found doubled up. Most unfortunately the original finders (labourers) scattered the bones, which subsequently were washed away. A thigh bone alone being recovered, and this is suggestive of a man probably a little below the average height.
“From oral evidence collected in the neighbourhood, I came to the conclusion that the body must originally have been buried with the head bent forward on the chest, and the legs tucked up like a trussed fowl, the knees near the chin. No corresponding lid or covering was found on the coffin, it had been placed in an excavation in the red or chalky boulder clay, and tenacious blue clay placed on it. The locality on the coast where it was found represents the Pit Marshes — that is before “the sea gat ’em ” — their position was about one-hundred and fifty yards south of the first sea-groin on Kilnsea beach. It is not improbable that a barrow or tumulus, either of earth or piled stones, at one time covered the interment, until levelled and dispersed by the sea’s encroachments on the land. Not far from this place on the beach, a small, simple, flat-sided celt, about four inches long, was picked up. It may or may not have borne some relation to the occupant of the oak coffin. When the foundations of the enlarged Chancel of St. James’ Church, Grimsby, were dug, a similar coffin or chest was exposed, partly within and partly without the line of the north chancel wall. I remember it was conjectured at the time, from the comparatively small interior, that it had been used for the interment of a child. It is more probable, however, that it had once contained an adult packed away in the manner indicated at Kilnsea.”
A very short distance north we find the place-name of “How Hill”, which may be a record its existence, as the word how in many places round here can mean a tumulus. Seems to make sense.
Chambered Cairn (destroyed): OS Grid Reference – H 277 998
Archaeology & History
Included in Eamon Cody’s (2002) magnum opus, this site has long since gone. It was highlighted on the 1845-47 OS-map of the area and the only subsequent information about it was written in the 1903 Ordnance Survey Name Book, where it was described as a “supposed Giant’s Grave” that was marked by a large spread of boulders.
Perhaps the only thing we can ascertain here is from the name Giant’s Grave. Invariably, giants are part and parcel of creation myths in early traditional societies. Such giants, as well as being huge mythical creatures, can also be the progenitor of tribes and communities, i.e., the person who laid the initial foundation of where the tribe came to live, usually an early queen, king or shaman figure. So, in the case of this Giant’s Grave, it was likely to have been known as the burial place of such a figure: mythical in importance as well as size.
Cody, Eamon, Survey of the Megalithic Tombs of Ireland: Volume VI – County Donegal, Duchas: Dublin 2002.
If you’re coming via Ilkley, cross the bridge to Middleton and turn left, following the long winding road for several miles until you hit Langbar village. If you’re coming via Bolton Bridge, go to Beamsley village and turn left up Lanshaw Bank until you hit Langbar village. Whichever of the two routes you use: on the north side of Langabr village is a distinct small rough car park. From here, cross the road where the footpath sign is and walk straight up the steep hill to Beamsley Beacon at the top. You can’t miss it!
Archaeology & History
At the highest point on these hills, 1300 feet up, we come across this ancient prehistoric cairn. Its position in the landscape is impressive to say the least, being visible from nearly every direction on the moorland heights for many miles around, as well as being conspicuous from the riverlands below. A visit to the site nowadays shows it surmounted by a more recent mass of small stones turning it into a large walker’s cairn with only its compact base showing any real sign of antiquity.
Mentioned briefly in parish records from 1658 onwards, it was highlighted on the earliest OS-map as simply a Beacon hill, due to it being used for beacon fires. We’re not certain when its beaconesque function first came about; and, it’s possible, that its beacon element could have replaced a much earlier heathen fiery function, typical of many hilltop sites up and down this and other countries. But we do know that such fires were lit here at the beginning of the 19th century. The great Harry Speight (1900) told that of its
“use as a prospecting-point and beacon there is no doubt. In the Bolton Abbey registers, under date 1803, is this entry:
“Apprehensive of a French invasion, Beamsley Beacon was put in a state of repair, and four people appointed to watch it. About — of the inhabitants of this chapelry inrolled themselves as Volunteers, the whole number of whom in Craven amounted to 1,200 Infantry and 200 Cavalry. A Sergeant was appointed to drill the volunteers of this chapelry at Bolton.”
The beacon at this time received light from Pinhaw on Carlton Moor and sent it forward to Otley Chevin, as appears by an old chart at Wakefield, dated 1803.”
The beacon’s ancient name of Howber Hill is literally the Hill of Tombs, as derived from the Teutonic haugr, and Anglian how, being a burial mound; and berg is a hill, sometimes fortified. Whilst there seems to be no evidence of ancient fortification, compacted cairn material at the base seems to confirms the -how element. Yet despite Speight citing this etymology, he was was somewhat sceptical wondering, instead, if the site was merely a giant boundary marker—which it has been for centuries.
A short distance along the footpath to the east is the denuded old cairn known as The Old Pike. Further east still, along the same boundary line, there was once another old tomb, long since gone…
I’m not sure whether this should gone in the folklore section or not. But, well, it’s here nonetheless! In Guy Phillips’s (1976) book on the mythic history of ancient Brigantia, he describes a number of alignments, or leys (not one of those stupid energy lines, which has nowt to do with leys)—one of which crosses Beamsley Beacon. It’s an west-east line that begins at Cockerham and from there goes,
“through Top of Blaze Moss SD 619525, Slaidburn (it is very clear here), Flambers Hill SD 877523, southern edge of Copy Hill 952523, Draughton (extremely clear), Beamsley Gibbeter and Beamsley Beacon, Heligar Pike, Scow Hall 203523, Little Almscliffe Crag, Tockwith church and on to the coast.”
I have to say that I’m sceptical of the veracity of this alignment.
Bogg, Edmund, Higher Wharfeland, James Miles: Leeds 1904.
Cobley, Fred, On Foot through Wharfedale, William Walker: Otley 1880.
Phillips, Guy Ragland, Brigantia – A Mysteriography, RKP: London 1976.
Smith, A.H., English Place-Name Elements – volume 1, Cambridge University Press 1956.
Smith, A.H., The Place-Names of the West Riding of Yorkshire – volume 5, Cambridge University Press 1963.
Speight, Harry, Upper Wharfedale, Elliott Stock: London 1900.
Acknowledgements: Huge thanks to James Elkington for use of his photo on this site profile. Cheers mate. 😉
It’s a bittova pain-in-the-arse locating this site unless you’re into walking off-path, through excessive dense heather or burnt coarse ground. You can either follow the directions to the Black Beck tomb, or set off from Horncliffe Circle and walk up parallel to the fencing for nearly 300 yards (275m). From here, walk due east for nearly half a mile through the deep heather until you reach an overgrown track that keeps you eastwards towards a line of grouse butts abaat 275 yards (250m) on. Naathen, walk on the north-side of this path-track and for a few yards and you’ll begin to see either small piles of stones, or heather-covered mounds. Zig-zag about. You’re in the middle of the cemetery!
Archaeology & History
This cairnfield, or burial ground, or necropolis (choose whichever term you prefer) is a bittova beauty! Although some of the tombs here had been ‘officially’ noticed a few years back, the magnitude of it was understated to say the least. On a visit to the place a few months ago in the middle of one fuckova downpour, James Elkington and I found not only the large Black Beck tomb, but scattered clusters of many more cairns. But it wasn’t until a few weeks after that we got a longer time to check it over and, even then, I think the job was only half-done. So this site profile is merely an overview of some of what we found there. Along with the Black Beck tomb, we found more than thirty examples of prehistoric cairns—probably Bronze Age in nature—around the Hawksworth Shaw area near the middle of Hawksworth Moor, scattered around (seemingly) in no particular order.
Three types of cairns were identified in this large cairnfield. The majority of them are of the standard circular form, averaging 3-4 yards across and rising to about two feet high. They are of the same architectural form as those found in the Hawksworth Moor cairnfield 4-500 yards northwest of here (there is the possibility that the two of them are part of the same necropolis, but unless we can locate an unbroken continuity between the two groups, it’s best to present them as separate clusters). When we looked at them a couple of weeks ago, most cairns of the ’round’ type were overgrown, albeit in low growth, as a couple of the photos here show. The main cluster of the round cairns are just a few yards off the aforementioned track, but there are others scattered here and there at other points on this part of the moorland. A number of these cairns seem to have have been damaged and robbed of stones to build a line of grouse butts close by.
The second type of cairn in the necropolis—close to the main cluster of round cairns—are curious small, long cairns. Each one of them measures between 8-10 yards in length, are up to three yards across, and rise to a height of about one yard. They are built of the usual mass of small stones typical of the huge number of other cairns on Rombalds Moor, but have been constructed in an elongated form, in contrast to the more usual circular ones. Four of them are very close to each other with a fifth further away from this main group. A sixth one appears to be under the heather 50-60 yards away to the northeast. Unlike some of the nearby round cairns, this group looks as if it’s barely been touched by the hand of man, with only fallen scatters of stones around the outer edges of them. Tis an interesting group…
The third architectural cairn-types are scattered unevenly across the necropolis and are characterized as smaller, mini-versions of the round cairns, i.e, small piles of stones between 1-2 yards across and and just one or two feet high. Each of this type of cairn are more deeply embedded in the peat with more vegetational growth covering them due to their small size. This makes them much more difficult to see in comparison to their larger compatriots. One example (at SE 1423 4404) can be seen in the photo, above left, some 50-60 yards north of the Black Beck tomb; with another, above right, some 100 yards away to the southeast. There is the possibility they may be so-called ‘clearance cairns’, although I have some doubts about this and believe they are more likely to be individual graves…. but I could be wrong…
There’s little doubt that other tombs are hiding away in this area, waiting for fellow antiquarians to uncover them. Equally probable is the existence of hut circles or similar living-quarters lost beneath the heather. Two such sites have been found on recent ventures here: one a short distance west of the Black Beck tomb and another hiding away nearly 300 yards southwest, right beside the Black Beck. The main thing lacking up here are cup-and-ring stones. Apart from several uninspiring cup-marked rocks it seems few exist hereby; but there are, no doubt, some hiding away that have been hidden for millenia…
One final thing: the grid-reference given for this necropolis is based loosely on where some of the cairns can be found, but there are others whose positions lies slightly beyond that grid-ref, as you’ll find if you potter about.
Acknowledgements: With huge thanks, as always, for James Elkington for use of his photos. Also to the evolving megalith and landscape explorer Mackenzie Erichs; and to Linzi Mitchell, for additional input…
Probably the easiest way to find this is to use other sites as guides. From the Great Skirtful of Stones tomb, get over the fencing and follow it eastwards for exactly 500m (238 yards) where you’ll meet a small footpath on your right that goes southeast up the small slope of Craven Hall Hill and onto the moorland. Go along here for literally 0.2km (223 yards) and, just where the path bends slightly to the left, drop diagonally down the slope to where the moorland levels out close to the Craven Hall Hill (2) tumulus. From here walk WSW onto the flat moorland for literally ⅓-km (0.21 miles; 365 yards) where you’ll find either a large rounded mass of stones, or a large heather-covered mound—depending on whether there’s been a burning. Best o’ luck!
Archaeology & History
Very troublesome to locate when the heather’s fully grown, this large prehistoric tomb was uncovered very recently as a result of extensive moorland fires. It’s the largest such structure in a cluster of more than thirty cairns near the middle of Hawksworth Moor, many of which were rediscovered at the end of May, 2021. Due south of the Great Skirtful of Stones, this smaller skirtful of stones measures some 45 feet across and is more than three feet high in parts. Probably built in the Bronze Age, the tomb looks as if it’s been deliberately robbed at some time in the past, probably before the Victorians by the look of things—although only an excavation would tell us for sure. Primarily, the cairn has been robbed from its centre outwards mainly on its western side, where you’ll also see a small and rather dodgy cup-marked stone. Scattered into the surrounding peat are visible remains of where some of the loose stones have been cast.
A possible alternative to this being simply a large cairn, is that it’s a much-disturbed ring cairn. Some sections on the north and western edges give the impression that the mass of stones may be collapsed rubble walling. There are also a couple of internal features beneath the overgrowth of peat and compressed vegetation: one being a small circular piece of stonework that has either fallen in on itself, been dug into, or is the home of an animal; and a yard or two from this is what looks like another internal U-shaped stone structure – again, deeply encased by centuries of encroaching peat. But I must emphasize that these features are far from certain and can only be proven one way or the other by an excavation.
The site is well worth seeing, not only for its own merit, but also because of its place in a much wider prehistoric cemetery in the middle of Hawksworth Moor. There are at least six small single cairns (which may be clearance cairns) scattering this area—the closest of which from here is some 20 yards to the north. A more curious group of at least five small long cairns exist about 100 yards to the south; and below these is the largest cluster of standard tombs in the form of small round cairns. A curious D-shaped hut circle structure can be found less than 100 yards to the northwest, and what seems to be remains of a larger deeply embedded enclosure exists beyond the long cairns. Check ’em out!
Acknowledgements: With huge thanks, as always, for James Elkington for use of his photos. Also to the evolving megalith and landscape explorer Mackenzie Erichs; and to Linzi Mitchell, for additional stimuli…
This is a helluva long way to walk to find such a small site, but the landscape makes it all the worthwhile. So… From Callander, head up the Bracklinn Falls road, going past the car-park there and on for 1½ miles, watching for the track on your left where you park-up. Walk down the track, over the river, then uphill until another track veers to your left. Follow this for nearly a mile until meeting another track that veers right. 4-500 yards along, on the same side as the burn on your left, the hill slopes up where a small grassy mound sits on its ridge. That’s it.
Archaeology & History
This site is likely to be of interest only to the hardcore antiquarians amongst you. It’s a small singular cairn sitting on a small hillock of once woodland-clad grasslands, a few hundred yards east of the small chambered cairn of West Bracklinn. Much of it is covered in vegetation, but sections of its stone structure are visible mainly on its south sides. Measuring 6 yards across and less than a yard high, it has been classed by Historic Scotland as Bronze Age in nature, although no excavation has been done here.
Royal Commission Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Braes of Doune: An Archaeological Survey, RCAHMS: Edinburgh 1994.
A small and seemingly prehistoric grave, or cist, destroyed sometime around 1840, once existed on the top of a large hillock close to the River Carron where the bridge leads from Dunipace to Denny. Thankfully, memory of its existence was preserved by Robert Watson (1845) in his short description of Dunipace parish. He first began by talking of some large natural mounds on the eastern side of the township which, folklore told, gave rise to the place-name Dunipace; but from those mounds,
“About two miles to the westward of these hills, there was a very beautiful one about forty feet in height, and covering nearly three roods of ground, said also to be artificial. This hill was mutilated, from time to time, for the purpose of repairing roads and other purposes. It was entirely removed about six years ago, to form an embankment on the turnpike road near Denny bridge. The strata of which this hill was composed, were carefully observed during its removal. These were so regular, and as if rising out of, and gradually returning again to similar strata in the circumjacent level ground, as to afford conclusive evidence that the hill was not the work of man. On the top of this hill, and about three feet below the surface, was found a coffin or tomb, composed of five large un wrought stones, in which were the bones of a human body, scull and teeth not much decayed. Along with these, was a vase of coarse unglazed earthenware, containing a small quantity of material resembling the lining of a wasp’s nest, probably decayed paper or parchment, which in the lapse of ages had assumed that appearance. No conjecture could be formed about the individual here interred, tradition being entirely silent on the subject ; but this circumstance corroborates the opinion of some writers, that the hills of Dunipace might have been used as burying-places for ancient chiefs.”
The site was included in the Royal Commission’s (1963:1) Inventory, but they found no additional data about it.
Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments Scotland, Stirling – volume 1, HMSO: Edinburgh 1963.
Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Archaeological Sites and Monuments of Stirling District, Central Region, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 1979.
Watson, Robert, “Parish of Dunipace,” in New Statistical Account of Scotland – volume 8, William Blackwood: Edinburgh 1845.
Unless the heather’s been burnt back, this takes a bitta finding. Direction-wise, the easiest is from the moorland road above Menston. Go up Moor Lane and then turn right along Hillings Lane. 350 yards on is a dirt-track on your right marked as Public Footpath. Walk up here for two-thirds of a mile—going past where the track goes left to the Shooting Range—to where the track splits. Bear left and after 250 yards you reach a fence on your left where the moorland proper begins. Follow this fence SW for 300 yards until it does a right angle turn. Just before this, you’ll see a large worn overgrown trackway or path running north into the moorland. Walk up here for nearly 100 yards and look around. Best o’ luck!
Archaeology & History
Shown on the 1851 OS-map adjacent to the long prehistoric trackway that runs past Roms Law, the Great Skirtful and other prehistoric sites, the antiquarian wanderings of Forrest & Grainge (1868) came past here and, although didn’t mention the Craven Hall cairns directly, they did write of “a group of barrows” hereabouts, and this may have been one of them. James Wardell (1869) gave an even more fleeting skip, only mentioning “pit dwellings” hereby. A little closer to certainty was the literary attention Collyer & Turner’s (1885) pen gave, where they described, “near the adjoining old trackway, which runs from East to West, will be seen a small barrow”—but this could be either of the Craven Hill sites. And the usually brilliant Harry Speight (1900) gave the place only more brevity….
Structurally similar to Roms Law nearly ¾-mile northwest of here, this little-known and much denuded prehistoric tomb has seen better days. It is barely visible even when the heather’s low—and when we visited recently, the heather was indeed low but, as the photos here indicate, it’s troublesome to see. It’s better, of course, with the naked eye.
It’s the most easterly cairn in the large Bronze Age necropolis (burial ground) on Hawksworth Moor. Measuring some 12 yards across and roughly circular in form, the ring is comprised mainly of many small stones compacted with peat, creating a raised embankment barely two feet high above the heath and about a yard across on average. A number of larger stones can be seen when you walk around the ring, but they don’t appear to have any uniformity in layout such as found at the more traditional stone circles. However, only an excavation will tell us if there was ever any deliberate positioning of these larger stones. It would also tell us if there was ever a burial or cremation here, but the interior of the ring has been dug out, seemingly a century or two ago…
Collyer, Robert & Turner, J.H., Ilkley: Ancient and Modern, William Walker: Otley 1885.
Faull, M.L. & Moorhouse, S.A. (eds.), West Yorkshire: An Archaeological Guide to AD 1500 – volume 1, WYMCC: Wakefield 1981.
Forrest, C. & Grainge, William, A Ramble on Rumbald’s Moor, among the Rocks, Idols and Altars of the Ancient Druids in the Spring of 1869, H. Kelly: Wakefield 1868.
Speight, Harry, Upper Wharfedale, Elliott Stock: London 1900.
Wardell, James, Historical Notes of Ilkley, Rombald’s Moor, Baildon Common, and other Matters of the British and Roman Periods, Joseph Dodgson: Leeds 1869.
Tumulus (destroyed): OS Grid Reference – SE 234 336
Archaeology & History
Today, Hough Hill has almost completely given way to modern housing; but in bygone centuries, this hilltop once housed a prehistoric burial mound—albeit an inconspicuous one. It was mentioned briefly in Faull & Morehouse’s (1981) magnum opus, but we know very little of its overall appearance and stature. Its existence was recorded posthumously thanks to the antiquarian John Holmes, without whose notes it would have been lost to history.
During quarrying operations at Hough Hill in December 1879, an ornamental urn was found,
“filled with calcined bones (that) was placed on a dish shaped hollow, some two or three feet deep, with charcoal and burnt earth.”
Holmes compared some markings that were upon this urn to one that was uncovered in Acrehowe Hill above Baildon by J.N.M. Coll in 1845. Unfortunately the Hough Hill urn was broken into fragments shortly after being uncovered. All remains of the burial mound have been completely destroyed.
Faull, M.L. & Moorhouse, S.A. (eds.), West Yorkshire: An Archaeological Guide to AD 1500– volume 1, WYMCC: Wakefield 1981.
Holmes. John, “A Sketch of the Pre-Historic Remains of Rombalds Moor,” in Proceedings of the Yorkshire Geological & Polytechnic Society, volume 9, 1886.
Wardell, James, Historical Notes of Ilkley, Rombald’s Moor, Baildon Common, and other Matters of the British and Roman Periods, Joseph Dodgson: Leeds 1869. (2nd edition 1881).