Ruston Beacon, Ruston Parva, East Yorkshire

Tumulus (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – TA 0584 6128

Archaeology & History

Ruston Beacon tumulus on 1854 map

Ruston Beacon tumulus on 1854 map

A fallen tumulus that once marked the southwestern side of the village boundary line, and was once adjacent to the prehistoric Green Dikes earthworks that once passed here.  Sadly however, sometime early in the 20th century, this ancient burial mound fell victim to usual ignorance of arrogant land-owners who place money ahead of history and local tradition and it was ploughed-up and destroyed.  Thankfully we have an account of the site in J.R. Mortimer’s (1905) incredible magnum opus.  Listing it as ‘Barrow no.272’ in the number of tombs excavated, he told us that:

“It is situated on elevated ground about half-a-mile (south)west of Ruston Parva.  On September 20th and 21st, 1886, it measured about 70 feet in diameter and 2 feet in elevation; and had originally been several feet higher, as an old inhabitant remembered assisted in removing its upper portion, which was carried away and spread on the surrounding land many years previously.  At the base of the barrow, near the centre, was a long heap of cremated bones which had been interred in a hollow log of wood with rounded ends, about 3 feet in length and 14 inches in width, well shown by impressions in the plastic soil, and by the remains of the decayed wood.  The heap of bones was rather large and probably consisted of the remains of more than one body.  No relic accompanied them.  Several splinters and flakes of flint were picked from the mound.”

The tumulus (as its name implies) became a spot besides which one of East Yorkshire’s many ancient beacons were built.  In Nicholson’s (1887) survey of such monuments, he told that

“the modern beacon, apparently, stood on the site of the old one, on the high ground in the angle of the road from Driffield to Kilham.  It was a prominent object and would be well-known to the coachmen and guards…for it stood on the side of the road from Driffield to Bridlington.  Mr John Browne, of Bridlington, remembers it; and says, ‘It would be the last of the beacons that remained in this district and was removed between fifty and sixty years ago.  My recollection of it is that it was a tall pole, with a tar barrel at the top, and had projected steppings to reach the barrel.”

One of the earliest accounts of the beacon from the late-1500s told that it took signal for its light from the beacon at Rudston, which stood upon one of the Rudston cursus monuments, a short distance from the massive Rudston monolith.


  1. Mortimer, J.R., Forty Years Researches in British and Saxon Burial Mounds of East Yorkshire, Brown & Sons: Hull 1905.
  2. Nicholson, John, Beacons of East Yorkshire, A. Brown & Sons: Hull 1887.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

The Falls (1), Boulby, Easington, North Yorkshire

Cairn:  OS Grid Reference – NZ 74954 19429

Also Known as:

  1. Rockcliff Beacon

Archaeology & History

Tumulus on 1920 map

Occupying a prominent position above the ever-closer North Sea, upon which an old beacon was subsequently placed, this denuded prehistoric tomb was first surveyed by the Ordnance Survey lads in 1913, and subsequently in an essay by Messers Hornsby & Laverick (1920) on the ancient sites of Boulby, east of Easington.  This was the first one they explored, calling it ‘Mound No.1.”  They located it,

“due south of the ‘Soldier’s Garth’ in the east corner of the field called The Falls.  It was a cairn with a diameter of 50ft.  Two-and-a-half feet northwest of the centre peg, at a depth of 21 inches below the present surface, there was an unaccompanied burnt burial, which occupied a space of 15in by 18in.  In a centre cut 7ft 6in by 6ft, at a depth of 3ft 6in, we found much burnt bone and many potsherds of the Bronze Age type, scattered over the whole space of the trench, down to a further depth of 3ft 10½in.  In the south corner there were four stones set on edge and running in a direct (straight) line.  The interment had been placed upon the clay, the soil of the original surface having been cleaned off.  With this burial we found a good flint made from a polished celt and worn smooth at the point—possibly through having been used for striking fire on iron pyrites—many chips and several cupstones.”

The “several” cup-marked stones they describe at the end seem to have been lost; perhaps sleeping in some museum cellar somewhere (does anyone know?).

This cairn was one in a complex of eight that Frank Elgee (1930) suggested may have been laid out deliberately in the form of the constellation of Ursa Major, or The Plough, also known as ‘Charles Wain’.


  1. Brown, Paul & Chappell, Graeme, Prehistoric Rock Art in the North York Moors, Tempus: Stroud 2005.
  2. Crawford, G.M., Bronze Age Burial Mounds in Cleveland, Cleveland County Council 1990.
  3. Elgee, Frank, Early Man in North-East Yorkshire, John Bellows: Gloucester 1930.
  4. Hornsby, William & Laverick, John D., “British Barrows round Boulby,” in Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, volume 25, 1920.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian