Devil’s Stone, Winceby, Lincolnshire

Legendary Rock (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – TF 3127 6901

Also Known as:

  1. Big Stone of Slash Lane

Archaeology & History

Stone shown on 1887 map

There is no specific archaeological information about this stone.  However, we must take note of the so-called “devil’s footprint” that was on the boulder.  In some parts of the UK, some devilish and other mythic footprints on stone are prehistoric cup-markings; but we have no idea whether this impression was such a carving or—more probably in this case—Nature’s handiwork.  The field in which the stone existed was said to be the place where the so-called Battle of Winceby occurred.

Folklore

The stone was mentioned in several old tomes, with each one generally repeating the same familiar story, and with motifs that will be familiar to antiquarians and folklorists alike.  In an early edition of Notes & Queries we were told of,

“the large stone in Winceby field, where soldiers had sharpened their swords before the battle. This was a stone of fearful interest, for much treasure was supposed to have been buried under it. Numerous attempts have been made to get at this treasure, but they were always defeated by some accident or piece of bad luck. On the last occasion, by ‘yokkin’ several horses to chains fastened round the stone, they nearly succeeded in pulling it over, when, in his excitement, one of the men uttered an oath, and the devil instantly appeared, and stamped on it with his foot.  “Tha cheans all brok, tha osses fell, an’ tha stoan went back t’ its owd place solidder nur ivver; an’ if ya doan’t believe ya ma goa an’ look fur yer sen, an’ ya’ll see tha divvill’s fut mark like three kraws’ claws, a-top o’ tha stoan.’  It was firmly believed the lane was haunted, and that loud groans were often heard there.”

The tale was retold in Grange & Hudson’s (1891) essay on regional folklore.  In Mr Walter’s (1904) excellent local history survey, there was an additional shape-shifting element to the story which, in more northern climes, is usually attributed to hare; but this was slightly different.  The stone, as we’ve heard,

“was supposed to cover hidden treasure, and various attempts were made at different times to remove it, sometimes with six or even eight horses. At one of these attempts, his Satanic Majesty, having been invoked by the local title of ‘Old Lad’ appeared, it is said, in person, where upon the stone fell back, upsetting the horses.  On another occasion a black mouse, probably the same Being incarnate in another form…ran over the gearing of the horses, with a similar result.  Eventually, as a last resort, to break the spell, the boulder was buried, and now no trace of the boulder, black mouse, or Satan’s foot-print remains.”

Sadly we have no sketches of the devil’s ‘footprint’; and if local lore is right, we’ll never know.  For tis said that a local farmer in the 1970s dug down and removed the stone completely.  All that he found were numerous broken ploughshares around the rock, indicating that many tools had been used to shift the stone.

References:

  1. Grange, Ernest L. & Hudson, J.C. (eds.), Lincolnshire Notes and Queries – volume 2, W.K. Morton: Horncastle 1891.
  2. Gutch, Mrs & Peacock, Mabel, Examples of Printed Folklore Concerning Lincolnshire, David Nutt: London 1908.
  3. Walter, J. Conway, Records, Historical and Antiquarian of Parishes around Horncastle, W.K. Morton: Horncastle 1904.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

 

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  53.201966, -0.036193 Devil\'s Stone

Witches Stone, Pittensorn, Murthly, Perthshire

Cup Marked Stone: OS Grid Reference — NO 0851 3881  

Getting Here

Witches Stone on 1867 map

Park up at Murthly village, follow the farm road west, opposite the Kinclaven junction up to the cross roads, and turn right and go past Douglasfield Farm, following the road as it bends to the left; then through the metal gates and walk on until you come to an earth bridge over the ditch to your left. Cross the bridge and the low-lying Witches Stone is about 30 yards on to your left by the drainage ditch.

Archaeology & History

The stone with cupmarks highlighted in blackberries

Not recorded on the Canmore online database, the Witches Stone is a low-lying, domed, earthfast rock bearing at least 12 cup marks. One cup mark has been drilled at some time in the past. Did the land owner do this as a preliminary to blowing it up with gunpowder? There is an interesting story relating to the origin of the cup marks, and it seems the name of the rock and its folklore may point to its ritual significance having passed down through oral tradition from the Bronze Age to historical times.

Close-up of cups

Folklore

The mid-nineteenth century Ordnance Survey Name Book has the following record, attested by Sir W.D. Stewart, Mr. T. Cameron & Mr. J. Cameron:-

“A small rock nearly level with the ordinary ground surface, underneath which it is traditionally held that a large sum of money is buried. In order to test the truth of this tradition, it is said that some years ago a man commenced to excavate the soil around the rock in order, if possible, to secure the hidden treasure, while so employed, a small dog suddenly appeared on the top of the rock and desired the man to desist, assuring him at the same time that the reputed treasure was really there, but it was never intended that the eye of mortal should behold it. There are some marks on the rock which the superstitious tell you are the prints of this very sagacious dog’s paws.”

References:

  1. Ordnance Survey Name Book: Perthshire – volume 50, page 63, 1859-62.

© Paul Hornby 2017, The Northern Antiquarian

Witches Stone CR

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Witches Stone CR 56.532391, -3.488979 Witches Stone CR