Meg Dyke, Barkisland, West Yorkshire

Enclosure / Settlement:  OS Grid Reference – SE 0496 1747

Getting Here

Meg Dyke earthworks

If you’re coming via Ripponden, take the B6113 road uphill to Barkisland; but if from the Huddersfield direction, take the B6114 to Barkisland.  Once in the village, stick to the B6114 Saddleworth road going south.  After passing the unmissable Ringstone Edge reservoir (the Ringstone circle is on its far side) the Saddleworth road begins to straighten out and you hit the large quarry on your right.  But before the quarry entrance, keep your eyes peeled on your left for the minor Scammonden Road that slopes downhill.  50 yards down, a gate and stile allows you into the field on your left (north) where you’ll see the scruff of earthworks.  Y’ can’t really miss it

Archaeology & History

Watson’s 1775 plan

On the face of things, this is nowt much to look at unless you’re a prehistoric settlement freak!  It is however a very notable rectangular set of ditches and embankments, with the ditches averaging between 10-12 feet across and 3-4 feet deep in places; whilst the raised banks vary between 13-20 feet across.  The place was quarried into sometime at the end of the 19th century, casusing obvious damage, but its outer ramparts are still plain to see.  It’s been known about for quite a few centuries too.  Even before the Ordnance Survey lads had stuck it onto their brilliant mapping system, the great John Watson (1775) described these old ruins as,

“a piece of ground inclosed within deep ditches, on the side of the hill called Pikelow, one of which, to the west, is fifty-three yards long, full five yards wide, and about two yards deep; the opposite side to this cut by a wall and a road, but is very visible in the adjoining field, the plough not having yet been able to destroy it. The ditch to the south measures also fifty-three yards, but it is not so entire as the other. There is an opening at each corner of the western ditch which, if continued, would make the whole to be ninety-six (sic) yards each way. One of the sides towards the east is nearly levelled, the rest is in good preservation.”

Meg Dyke on 1854 OS-map
Petch’s 1933 photo

He thought the remains to be Roman—a sentiment echoed by local archaeologist James Petch in 1924.  More recently however, following a small excavation at the site by the Huddersfield Archaeology Group, Faull & Moorhouse (1981) suggested it to be Iron Age in nature—though with no hardcore evidence to confirm one way or the other.  When Arthur Longbotham (1933) assessed Meg Dyke in his short rare work, the Roman question was explored—and ditched.  Instead he thought that this settlement was “very likely the place of assemblage of all the warrior Brigantes from the surrounding hills and villages.”  I think it’s likely that this is pretty close to the mark.  My take on the place is a similar one, i.e., it’s either Iron Age or Romano-British in nature, simply due to its similarity with other remains from those periods: the Cowling’s enclosure on Askwith Moor being one such example.


  1. Faull, M.L. & Moorhouse, S.A. (eds.), West Yorkshire: An Archaeological Guide to AD 1500 – volume 1, WYMCC: Wakefield 1981.
  2. Longbotham, Arthur T., Prehistoric Remains in Barkisland, Halifax 1933.
  3. Petch, James A., Early Man in the District of Huddersfield, Tolson Memorial Museum: Huddersfield 1924.
  4. Watson, John, The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Halifax, T. Lowndes: London 1775.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Ringstone Edge, Barkisland, Ripponden, West Yorkshire

Ring Cairn:  OS Grid Reference – SE 04436 18247

Also known as:

  1. Ring of Stones
  2. Wolf Fold
  3. Wolf Stones

Getting Here

Ring of Stones on 1854 map
Ring of Stones on 1854 map

From Ripponden, taken the steep road up to Barkisland, but at the crossroads just before the village, turn right (south) and keep going for a mile till you reach the reservoir.  At the far-end of the reservoir, take the track down by its side and follow the footpath that bends round the edge of the grasslands.  Go up onto this small moorland and,  once you’re on the level, head towards where you’ll see a large pile of stones a coupla hundred yards away.  That’s it!

Archaeology & History

Artist’s impression of site (© Inmaculada Ibanez-Sanchez)

If we visit this site today, all we are left with is a scattered mass (or perhaps that should that be ‘mess’) of many hundreds of stones: the last remnants of what once would have been a proud circle of one form or another upon this small moorland plain.  Its significance was such that the very moor on which its remains are scattered, was named after it: the Ringstone Edge Moor.  But as with many sites from our megalithic period, this old place is but a shadow of its former self.

Gone are the upright monoliths which, tradition relates, once surrounded this low scattered circle of small loose stones (which would have made it look not unlike the wonderful stone circle of Temple Wood, Argyll). These standing stones were, so the folk record tells, removed near the end of the 18th century for use in some walling.

Described variously as a stone circle, ring cairn, cairn circle, an enclosure, and more, the site first seems to have been written about in 1775 by the great historian John Watson.  When he was vicar of the local parish in Halifax (not far from here) this “ring of stones” as he called them, was “called the Wolf-fold.”  Nearly one hundred years later, in F.A. Leyland’s superb commentary to Watson’s work, he wrote,

“The stones which constituted the circle at the time of their removal stood upwards of three feet…and the remain formed a striking object on the moor. The original number of stones of which the circle was formed is unknown, having long been in ruin and reduced in quantity before being finally removed. This was effected about twelve years since by the present tenant of the dam.” – that is, around 1859.

However, when Crabtree (1836) described the circle a decade or two earlier, he made no mention of such standing stones — although we must consider that Crabtree was very much like many modern academic archaeologists who tended to copy the works of others, much less than getting out in the field to see for himself.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the lore telling of the standing stones’ demise was repeated by local historian John Priestley (1903), when he said that: “all the large stones…were carted away about forty years ago” — that is, around 1863.

So it would seem that the very final destruction of the standing stones here, occurred sometime during the four year gap which Messrs. Leyland and Priestley describe.

More than fifty years later, Huddersfield historian James Petch (1924) came here to explore whatever remains he could find, and told:

“On top of a flat plateau on this moor, with an extensive view on all sides save on the north, where there is a gentle slope for some hundreds of yards up to the summit of the hill, there are distinct traces of a circular ring of small stones.  Pygmie flints have been picked up within a yard or two, but the only other fact to be noted about this earthwork is that there is a tradition to the effect that much earth has been removed from this site. It is not altogether impossible that this is a scanty remnant of a round barrow.”

This latter remark of Mr Petch seems most probable. The excessive scatter of small stones typifies the remains of many of the Pennine giant cairns, from the Little Skirtful on Burley Moor and giant tombs of the Black Hills near Skipton, to the similar monuments of our Devil’s Apronful, Pendle, etc, etc.

Close to this cairn circle, wrote Sidney Jackson (1968), there used to be the remains of an Iron Age settlement, “marked by wall foundations (but) is now covered by the waters of Ringstone Reservoir.”


There is very little folklore that I’ve found here. Watson (1775) throws the usual idea that the place was a site of druidical worship; but other than that we only have a local Ripponden writer’s account, which told that there was once the ghost of a white lady that was once said to walk along the path somewhere between here and the Beacon Hill tumulus, a short distance to the north.

…to be continued…


  1. Abraham, John Harris, Hidden Prehistory around the North West, Kindle 2012.
  2. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  3. Burl, Aubrey, The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, Yale University Press 2000.
  4. Crabtree, John, Concise History of the Parish and Vicarage of Halifax, Hartley & Walker: Halifax 1836.
  5. Jackson, Sidney, “Tricephalic Heads from Greetland, Yorks,” in Antiquity journal, volume 42, no.168, December 1968.
  6. Keighley, J.J., ‘The Prehistoric Period,’ in Faull & Moorhouse’s West Yorkshire: An Archaeological Guide to AD 1500, WYMCC: Wakefield 1981.
  7. Leyland, F.A. (ed.), The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Halifax by the Rev. John Watson, M.A., R. Leyland: Halifax n.d. (c.1867)
  8. Longbotham, A.T., ‘Prehistoric Remains at Barkisland,’ in Proceedings of the Halifax Antiquarian Society, 1932.
  9. Petch, James A.,  Early Man in the District of Huddersfield, Advertiser Press: Huddersfield 1924.
  10. Priestley, John H., The History of Ripponden, John Mellor: Ripponden 1903.
  11. Smith, A.H., The Place-Names of the West Riding of Yorkshire – volume 3, Cambridge University Press 1963.
  12. Watson, Geoffrey G., Early Man in the Halifax District, HAS: Halifax 1952.
  13. Watson, John, The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Halifax, T.Lowndes: London 1775.
  14. Whiteley, Hazel, Ryburn Tapestry, Halifax Evening Courier n.d. (c.1974)

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian