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)

St. Margaret’s Stone, Dunfermline, Fife

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NT 10837 85060

Getting Here

St Margarets Stone on 1856 OS-map

Take the A823 road out of Dunfermline south towards Rosyth. A half-mile before you hit the motorway roundabout, at the roundabout where Carnegie Avenue takes you east, turn west and park up along the road where the modern business park lives.  30-40 yards from the roundabout, set back on the pavement, you can’t really miss the huge flat slab of stone, covered in cup-markings, resting on a stone plinth with ‘St Margaret’s Stone’ stamped on it!

Archaeology & History

On the 1856 OS-map of this area, St Margaret’s Stone is shown at the roadside just above a farm of the same name, a short distance away from its present location.  In October 1879, Alexander Stewart (1889) told us that funds were raised and steps taken to properly fix and preserve this ancient ‘resting-place’ of Queen Margaret on the Queensferry Road.  It was quite a few years later before it was moved the few hundred yards further to its present location.

Cups on stone’s edge

Early writers tell us that originally its position in the landscape was on the crest of one of the rises in the land between Dunfermline and the sea, making it visible for some considerable distance.  This would seem to have been a deliberate placement.  In my mind, and in accordance with the placement of many a prehistoric tomb, St Margaret’s Stone may originally have been part of a neolithic or Bronze age cairn, long since gone.  The size and shape of the rock implies it too, with similarities here of the impressive cist or gravestone found inside the Netherlargie North cairn at Kilmartin.  However, this wasn’t the thought of the prodigious Scottish historian, William Skene.  He thought that St Margaret’s Stone originally stood upright, being a Pictish-style standing stone that was mentioned in the first Statistical Account of the area.  The brilliant Scottish antiquarian, John Stuart (1856)—who gave us an illustration of the ‘standing stone’ in question—told us:

“It has been supposed by some that “St. Margaret’s Stone,” a block now lying on the side of the highway leading from Inverkeithing to Dunfermline, and about midway between these places, can be identified with the standing stone referred to in the Statistical Account.  Mr Skene has noted below a sketch of St. Margaret’s Stone:-  “The sculpture upon this stone has been lately chipped off in mere wantonness, so as to leave few traces of the subject recorded upon it.”  He farther states that it formerly stood erect, and was called “The Standing Stone.” According to Mr. Skene’s measurement, St. Margaret’s stone is about nine feet and a half in length, one foot in thickness, and four feet broad at the widest end, and broken off to a narrow point at the other.”

The missing ‘standing stone’

In this instance, Skene was confusing St Margaret’s Stone with the lost Pictish monolith (left) that used to exist nearby, which had carved horse figures and other memorial designs upon it and which he thought had faded away.  Whereas the large slab we are looking at here, and which Skene visited and measured, is covered on one side by a gathering of prehistoric cup-markings—much earlier than any Pictish or early christian carvings.  At first glance, it seems that some of these cups may well be natural, but it has to be said that some of them are distinctly man-made.  And if we were to believe the archaeo-accounts of the stone, the cupmarks are only to found on one side of the stone.  Which aint true.  As we can see here, a number of cupmarks run along the edge of the stone.  We cannot say for sure whether all of them are artificial, but they certainly look like it!  Also, on the other side of the flat surface, one or two single cups are visible.  It would be good if we could get an artist to give us a detailed impression of the prehistoric carvings without the modern engraving of St Margaret’s Stone etching on the main face. (is there anybody out there!?)

The Royal Commission (1933) lads visited the stone in 1925 and, several years later in their write-up, told us simply:

“This stone…stands with its main axis due north and south and measures 8 feet 6 inches, by 4 feet 7 inches, by 1 foot 6 inches.  On one side the entire surface is cup-makred, the markings varying in size from 1¼ inches to 3¼ inches and having an average depth of from ½ to ¾ inch.”

When the Scottish petroglyph writer and explorer, Ron Morris (1968) came to the site, he gave it an equally brief description, merely telling us:

“On standing stone (8 1/2 feet high, 4 1/2 feet wide), built in to roadside fence, over 80 cups, up to 4in in diam, 3/4in deep, some run together as rough dumbells.”

It’s well worth checking out!

Folklore

St Margarets Stone in 1825

When the Saxon Queen Margaret landed on the shores just west of Queensferry at Rosyth Castle (NT 1087 8200), legend reputes that she and her entourage made Her way north towards Dunfermline.  Halfway along the ancient track She rested at this large stone, which thereafter gained its name.  Subsequebt to this, Margaret was said to use the stone as a seat and would go to rest there upon occasions.  The tale probably has some germ of true in it.  Additional elements were also said of the great rock:

“The large stone here is associated with St Margaret and was visited by women who hoped to conceive or sought a successful birth. The eight-foot high stone is said to mark the resting place of St Margaret when she journeyed between Queensferry and Dunfermline. Margaret had eight successful pregnancies and probably needed to rest quite a few times on her travels!”

The fertility aspects of the rock were not the only pre-chritian virtues attached to it.  We also find that oft-cited motif of rocks moving of their own accord: in this case, as J.B. MacKie (1905) told us, local people had always

“been told that the stone rose from its bed and whirled thrice round in the air every time it heard the cock at the adjoining farm crow.”

Cocks crowing are symbolic of sunrise, obviously.  Whether the rest of the short theme is a folk memory of the stone becoming animated when something in the sky occurred – at sunrise perhaps, in accordance with many an alignment found in the ancient tombs up and down the country.

References:

  1. Chalmers, Peter, Historical and Statistical Account of Dunfermline, William Blackwood: Edinburgh 1844.
  2. Fernie, John, A History of the Town and Parish of Dunfermline, John Miller: Dunfermline 1815.
  3. Henderson, Ebenezer, The Annals of Dunfermline, John Tweed: Glasgow 1879.
  4. MacKie, J.B., Margaret, Queen and Saint, Oliphant: Edinburgh 1905.
  5. Morris, Ronald W.B., “The cup-and-ring marks and similar sculptures of Scotland: a survey of the southern Counties – part 2,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 100, 1968.
  6. Royal Commission Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Inventory of Monuments and Constructions in the Counties of Fife, Kinross, and Clackmannan. HMSO: Edinburgh 1933.
  7. Rupert-Jone, John A., Rosyth, A. Romanes: Dunfermline 1917.
  8. Stewart, Alexander, Reminiscences of Dunfermline and Neighbourhood, Scott Ferguson: Edinburgh 1889.
  9. Stuart, John, Sculptured Stones of Scotland – volume 1, Spalding Club: Aberdeen 1856.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

 

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  56.050067, -3.433078 St Margaret\'s Stone

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)

Rough Haw Carvings, Flasby, North Yorkshire

Cup-Marked Stone: OS Grid Reference – SD 96396 55834

Rough Haw cupmarks

Getting Here

The quickest way to get here is to follow the directions to the Sharp Haw Trig Stone. From the Trig Stone keep heading down the footpath until you see the gate at the bottom. Go through the gate and Rough Haw is straight in front of you.  Head towards Rough Haw and you will see a track going straight up the middle. Go right up that track and over the top till your on the summit, keep walking forward about 50-60 yards and you will see it.

Archaeology & History

Second lot of cups

Some petroglyphs have been found near the top of the prehistoric Iron Age settlement called Rough Haw, a few miles north of Skipton. Not previously recorded, this long flat stone and its companion are littered in cup markings (perhaps a couple of dozen).  There could be more cups and other markings than we saw today, but by the time we reached here the sun had disappeared, so poor daylight made it difficult to see if there were any more.  Another venture up onto this hillfort might be worthwhile to see if anymore can be found.

© Chris Swales, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  53.998526, -2.056467 Rough Haw CR-1

Sharp Haw, Flasby, North Yorkshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SD 9594 5532

Getting Here

Sharp Haw cups

The quickest way to get here is to head out of Skipton towards the B6265 Grassington Road. Once on the B6265 you will go past the Craven Heifer Pub on your left hand side. About ¾-mile past the pub you will see a small turning on your left called Bog Lane. Turn on to Bog Lane and travel ¼-mile till you come to a sharp left bend; and on the right you will see a gateway with room to park. Once you have parked, you will notice a sharp-pointed hill—and that’s Sharp Haw!  You’ll need to go through the gate, up the gravel track to another gate; go through that, and continue on the track for 100 yards where you will notice a footpath going off to your right, get on it. Keep on this path heading to Sharp Haw to the stile in the wall; once there go over it and up to the trig point.  From the trig point you need to keep going and about 10 yards after you will notice a footpath starting to go down to the right. Head down and the stone is on your left. You can’t miss it!

Archaeology & History

Sharp Haw hill

Not previously recorded, this carved stone near the top of Sharp Haw is intriguing in shape.  It is found on the vertical face of the rock.  The petroglyph has one large cup with three smaller faint ones above it.

There are many more distinct cup-markings found on the flat rocks on top of Rough Haw close by.

© Chris Swales, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  53.993903, -2.063416 Sharp Haw CR-1

Salachary Stones, Kilmartin, Argyll

Standing Stones:  OS Grid Reference – NM 8405 0403

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 22831

Getting Here

Two of the Salachary stones

Roughly halfway between the staggering standing stone at Kintraw and the farmhouse of Salachary a coupla miles east along the A816 road to Kilmartin, a small overgrown car park nearly hides on the south-side of the road, just below the forestry.  50 yards west of this, a small track winds uphill.  650 yards (0.6km) up here, once it levels out, a hairpin in the track veers NW; ignore it, instead walking into the marshy grass in front of you (south) for 50-60 yards up and round the small rocky crag.  Once you get round the edge of this, immediately east, you’ll see one of the tall monoliths 50 yards ahead of you.

Archaeology & History

Rediscovered in recent times by Marion Campbell (1962), this damaged row of three tall standing stones is cited in Swarbrick’s (2012) poorly-arranged survey as being “difficult to find in broken ground”; although patience brings the stones clearly into sight for any explorer.   They’re big too!  Sadly only one of them still remains fully upright—but that one’s nearly 9 feet tall!

In Miss Campbell’s initial description of the site, following their rediscovery, she told how,

“A chance sighting led to the discovery of a group of three monoliths, one erect, one sloping and one prostrate, on the West side of a wide glen leading S from the upper part of the Bealach Mor; the site commands a fine view into the northern hills. The spot is about 550ft above sea level and this is therefore the highest group of standing stones so far recorded in the area.

“The erect stone is 8ft 4in x 2ft x 1 ft, lozenge-shaped in section, with a pointed top. The leaning stone, also lozenge-shaped, is 10ft x 1ft 8in x 1ft, and pointed. The fallen stone is over 11ft x 2ft wide, too deeply buried in turf for the thickness to he measured. The stones appear to have stood in line, the nearest points of the first and third stones 9ft apart and the line joining them running north and south.  Along a ridge running S behind the stones are a number of small ruins, oval and rectangular, in old cultivations. No surviving placename has been recovered for the site so far.”

Section of the fallen stone
Looking west

Indeed, no subsequent investigation has led to either an early name nor any traditions about the site, and the stones cannot be found on any early maps of the area.  A pity, as they’re quite impressive stones and would have had some old stories known of them in ages gone by.

Twenty years after Miss Campbell’s discovery, in May 1982, the stones were visited and surveyed by the Royal Commission lads.  Their description very much tallied with Miss Campbell’s, but it’s worth citing anyway.  They told us that:

“On a terrace on the W side of an unnamed valley to the S of Bealach Mor and about 850m SW of Salachary, there is a setting of three large standing stones which is aligned from N to S.  Only the N stone is still upright; it measures 0.7m by 0.72m at the base and rises with straight sides to a pointed top at a height of 2.75m.  The central stone is of similar proportions, but it now leans to the NE at an angle of about 15° to the horizontal.  The S stone, which measures 3.4m by 0.65m has fallen with its top to the SE.”

Royal Commission plan
Alexander Thom’s plan

Around the same time, Clive Ruggles (1984) assessed the Salachary stones for any potential astronomical alignments and found—as Alexander Thom & Aubrey Burl did in their own survey (1990)—that as they pointed virtually north-south they stood beyond any solar or lunar functions.  Thom found the stones align almost perfectly north-south, with a notch in the southern horizon at 178°, and on the northern horizon the hilltop of Meall Reamhar at 2° west of north.  This northern line may relate to the airt of death, although no other immediate archaeological remains have been found to fortify this idea (however, other unrecorded standing stones are close by and their relationship with Salachary has yet to be adequately assessed).

Aubrey Burl’s first description of this stone row told us:

“There are three stones in a N-S row situated on a terrace on the W side of a glen.  The N stone, with a pointed top, stands 8ft 4 (2.5m) high.  The central stone leans dramatically at 20°.  It is 10ft (3m) in length.  The S stone is prostrate and half-buried.  It is 11ft (3.4m) long.  The row is about 13ft (4m) long.  From the site there is a fine view of the northern hills.”

Looking north

In truth, the main north-south axis relates to the more open geological avenue of the landscape.  Both the east and west are all but blocked by crags and hills, and the stones seem to have been positioned to echo the hollowed section of the landscape.  The land runs in curious geological folds and has a distinct genius loci which I enjoyed in differing (usually wet) conditions when I used to live nearby.  The site is well worth a walkabout if you’re in the area – and there are more unrecorded stones still hiding in Nature’s rocky folds nearby.

References:

  1. Burl, Aubrey, From Carnac to Callanish, Yale University Press 1993.
  2. Campbell, M. & Sandeman, M., “Mid Argyll: An Archaeological Survey,” in Proceedings Society Antiquaries Scotland, volume 95, 1964.
  3. Campbell, Marian, Salachary, Kintraw’, in Discovery & Excavation Scotland, 1962.
  4. Ferguson, Lesley, “A Catalogue of the Alexander Thom Archive Held in the National Monuments Record of Scotland,” in Records in Stone (ed. C. Ruggles), Cambridge University Press 1988.
  5. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Argyll – volume 6: Mid-Argyll and Cowal, HMSO: Edinburgh 1988.
  6. Ruggles, Clive L.N., Megalithic Astronomy, BAR: Oxford 1984.
  7. Ruggles, Clive L.N., “The Stone Alignments of Argyll,” in Records in Stone (ed. C. Ruggles), Cambridge University Press 1988.
  8. Swarbrick, Olaf, A Gazetteer of Prehistoric Standing Stones in Great Britain, BAR: Oxford 2012.
  9. Thom, A., Thom, A.S. & Burl, Aubrey, Stone Rows and Standing Stones – volume 1, BAR: Oxford 1990.
  10. Weston, Garth, Monuments and Mountains, Ashridge: Bakewell 2007.

Acknowledgements:  This site profile could not have been written without the help and of Nina Harris, Paul Hornby, Frank Mercer and Belinda Sales.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.179807, -5.480990 Salachary stone row

Blakey Topping, Allerston, North Yorkshire

Stone Circle:  OS Grid Reference – SE 8719 9338

Getting Here

Old stones of Blakey Topping (James Elkington)

From Pickering, take the A169 towards Whitby. When you get to the Car Park at the ‘Hole-of-Horcum’ – (you can’t miss it), park the car and walk North along the side of the road towards Whitby. After 60 yds, take the track East. Follow this for approximately a mile until the track splits. Take the concrete track left towards the farm-house of ‘Newgate Foot’. Go through the yard past the house on the right, and you will come to a stream and a gate. Enter the field on the right and up the track. The stones are in front of you.

Archaeology & History

The great rounded hill of Blakey Topping—recorded as early as 1233 CE and meaning the ‘black mound’ or ‘black meeting-place’— has the ruins of a stone circle living several hundred yards to its south, little-known to many.  The early writer George Young (1817) seemed to come close here, mentioning the ‘druidic’ standing stones of Blakey Moor and district, but gave no specific indication of the ruinous ring we’re visiting here.  Instead, the first real description was penned by Robert Knox (1855) who, at the time of writing, was under the academic spell of druidism: prevalent as it was amongst most universities and places of learning back then.  Also, beset by the equally sad plague of Biblical comparitivism—beloved even to this day by halfwits—Knox’s formula about this ancient ring was founded on the druidical reverence of Blakey Topping as a site beneath which our Bronze age tribal ancestors erected their stones with the rounded hill immediately to the north, as signified by its early name, black. (In early place-names, ‘black’ and its variants—dubh, dove, etc—relates to the cardinal direction of ‘north’ and actually means ‘shining’; and white or ban is ‘south’, when both elements are located in relative proximity.)  Knox told us:

“At the southwest side of this arch-Druid’s tomb-like hill (Blakey Topping) a far more conspicuous cluster of larger Druid stones occurs; here three pillars form a triangle…and a smaller one…stands one hundred and fifty paces east of these nearer to the farmhouse there.  These single stones, possibly, once formed part of a circle… The diameter of a circle formed on this triangle of stones would be about fifty-five feet; but as these pillars form a nearly equilateral triangle, the number of stones in that circle cannot now be correctly ascertained, if, indeed, they ever formed part of a circle…

“These three sandstone pillars, untouched by tools…are much weather-worn; and hence it may be inferred that they are very ancient.  I shall only add that the tallest pillar here is nine feet high, from two-and-a-half to three feet wide, and rom fifteen to twenty inches thick, and is the tallest ancient pillar next to the celebrated one in Rudston churchyard, now standing in the eastern part of Yorkshire.  When I last visited the Blakey Topping Druid-stones in 1836, I learned that the farmer, on whose ground they stand, “had talked about breaking the three large ones to pieces,” and perhaps nothing but the trouble of doing so has hitherto preserved them, and many others.  I told him what had been their use, and begged he would preserve them.”

Stone re-used as gatepost (James Elkington)

And thankfully they remain there to this day!  Around the same time of Mr Knox’s visit, the Ordnance Survey lads came here too and, in 1854, highlighted the remaining ‘Druidical Stones’ on the first map of the area.  But references to the stones from here onwards are sparse and add nothing pertinent to its archaeomythic status.  It was a Mr & Mrs Elgee (1930) who were the next to tell us about the site in their exposition on Yorkshire archaeology.  They wrote:

“Three large standing stones about 6 feet high on the south-west side of Blakey Topping…are the remains of a circle about 18 yards in diameter.  Two or three hollows in the ground indicate the position of other stones, some of which are serving as gateposts nearby. Others have been broken up to help build a wall.  These stones are associated with a large settlement sites similar to (one) on Danby Rigg not very far from the imposing Bridestones and approached by an ancient trackway known as the Old Wife’s Trod.”

The general interpretation by the great megalithic archaeologists Aubrey Burl, John Barnatt and their fellow associates, is that these stones are the remains of a stone circle – which seems apt.  But of even greater importance seems to be the great hill of Blakey Topping itself, to which this olde ring no doubt related to.  Many other prehsitoric sites once scattered this area, but sadly most of them have been destroyed.

References:

  1. Barnatt, John, Stone Circles of Britain (2 volumes), BAR: Oxford 1989.
  2. Burl, Aubrey, A Guide to the Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, New Haven & London 1995.
  3. Burl, Aubrey, The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, Yale University Press 2000.
  4. Elgee, F., Early Man in Northeast Yorkshire, Frank Bellows: Gloucester 1930.
  5. Elgee, F. & H.W., The Archaeology of Yorkshire, Methuen: London 1933.
  6. Gutch, Mrs E., Examples of Printed Folklore Concerning the North Riding of Yorkshire, David Nutt: London 1899.
  7. Knox, Robert, Descriptions Geological, Topographical and Antiquarian in Eastern Yorkshire, London 1855.
  8. Phillips, Guy Ragland, Brigantia, RKP: London 1976.
  9. Smith, A.H., The Place-Names of the North Riding of Yorkshire, Cambridge University Press 1928.
  10. Spratt, D.A., Prehistoric and Roman Archaeology of North-East Yorkshire, BAR: Oxford 1982.
  11. White, Stanhope, Standing Stones and Earthworks on the North Yorkshire Moors, privately printed: Scarborough 1987.
  12. Young, George, A History of Whitby and Streoneshalh Abbey – 2 volumes, Clark & Medd: Whitby 1817.

Links:

  1. Mountains, Myths and Moorlands

Acknowledgements:  Big thanks to the photographer James Elkington, for use of his photos in this profile. Cheers mate.  Also, accreditation of early OS-map usage, reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.

© Paul Bennett & James ElkingtonThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  54.328552, -0.660786 Blakey Topping circle