East Wall Stone, Burley Moor, West Yorkshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 13924 45493

Getting Here

East wall stone on the right

Follow the directions to reach the impressive Woofa Bank prehistoric enclosure.  You need to find the walling that constitutes the enclosure itself and walk along to its eastern side where you’ll reach an ‘opening’, as if it may once have been an entrance at that side of the enclosure.  A reasonably large sloping rock is on one side of this ‘entrance’.  You can’t really miss it!

Archaeology & History

Unlike many of the other petroglyphs found within the Woofa Bank enclosure, the design on this one is faint — very faint indeed (much like the recently uncovered triple-ring petroglyph by the Thimble Stones).  Comprising simply of a small cluster of cup-marks, you’ll struggle to see this one — unlike its compatriot on the western wall of the enclosure.

Looking down on the rock
Some very faint cupmarks

It consists of a single cup-mark on the northern edge of the stone, whilst on the sloping southern part of the rock are a number of very faint cups, eroded by them there millenia of Nature’s wind and weathering.  One or two of the cups are just visible in good lighting, but what are almost certainly a few more can be seen when the rock is wet and in low daylight hours.  It’s a design that’s probably only of interest to the hardcore petroglyph fanatics, but without doubt this is yet another carving within this obviously important prehistoric enclosure.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  53.905410, -1.789560 East Wall Stone

Deer Track Stone, Ilkley Moor, West Yorkshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 13858 45562

Also Known as:

  1. Carving no.190 (Hedges)
  2. Carving no.367 (Boughey & Vickerman)
Carving with Woofa Bank enclosure to rear

Getting Here

The easiest way to find this is to take the same directions to reach the Woofa Bank settlement.  Get your compass out and make sure that you’re at the northern edge of the settlement walling.  From here, walk about 60 yards northwest and keep your eyes peeled for a rock about 2 feet high, curved and elongated with its top surface above the heather.  You’ll find it.

Archaeology & History 

The name I’ve given to this stone is a conjectural one based entirely on comparative petroglyph designs elsewhere in the world.  Or to put it more simply: elsewhere in the world we find examples of prehistoric rock art showing animal tracks and rituals relating to hunting animals, and in the design of this petroglyph on Ilkley Moor I wondered if we might be looking at something similar.  Internationally respected anthropologists, archaeologists, geologists and rock art specialists such as Lawrence Loendorf (2008), Polly Schaafsma (1980), Dennis Slifer (1998) and many others show examples of animal tracks in the US and Mexico (examples exist throughout the world), and it’s not unlikely that some of the petroglyphs in the UK represent such things.  But, like I say, this particular carving may have nowt to do with such a thing and the idea is entirely conjectural on my part and is probably way off the mark.

Deer-print motif & cup

Located less than 60 yards (54m) northwest of the impressive Woof Bank enclosure, it’s possible that the first literary note of this was by Stuart Feather (1968) when he made note of five cup-and-ring marked rocks (which) have been revealed by erosion in 1968,” telling us that some of the motifs on the rocks included cups with and without rings, channels and eye-shaped marks (occuli)— the latter of which may relate to this stone.

A more definite description of the stone was made in John Hedges (1986) survey where he described it in that usual simplistic form, telling us: “Long rock, its surface on two levels, sloping N to S in heather.  Two large oval cups and one cup at N end.  One clear cup at S end.”

Hedges’ 1986 sketch

It is these two elongated cups that have the distinct appearance of deer tracks. (another animal with a similar footprint is the goat)  The cup-mark in front of them and the one at the back of the rock may be something relative to the animal.  But more important than this is to recognise that, in lots of cultures, animal tracks are represented in some petroglyphs.  That’s more important to think about when you look at British rock art, than the improbability of this design being such a thing…

References:

  1. Boughey, Keith & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, WYAS: Wakefield 2003.
  2. Feather, Stuart, “West Yorkshire Archaeological Register – Ilkley (WR) Green Crag Slack,” in Yorkshire Archaeology Journal, volume 42, 1968.
  3. Hedges, John, The Carved Rocks on Rombalds Moor, WYMCC: Wakefield 1986.
  4. Loendorf, Lawrence L., Thunder and Herds – Rock Art of the High Plains, Left Coast: Walnut Creek 2008.
  5. Schaafsma, Polly, Indian Rock Art of the Southwest, University of New Mexico Press 1980.
  6. Slifer, Dennis, Signs of Life – Rock Art of the Upper Rio Grande, Ancient City: New Mexico 1998.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  53.906033, -1.790559 Deer Track Stone

Lower Lanshaw Dam (02), Burley Moor, West Yorkshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 14223 44888

Getting Here

Along the moorland road between Cow & Calf and The Hermit pub, park up at the small wooded bit by the right-angle bend and cross over the Coldstone Beck.  Walk up onto the moor itself and stick to the path that runs roughly parallel with the slowly-drying stream, towards Lower Lanshaw Dam.  About 100 yards before it, walk left, into the heather, for about 50 yards.  You’re damn close!

Archaeology & History

Lower Lanshaw Dam carving
Close-up of cupmarks (by James Elkington)

This is another neolithic or Bronze Age carving I first came across during one of my weekly rambles across these hills as a child, and upon revisiting the place a few days ago with James Elkington, found it associated with nearby cairns and what looks to be the remains of prehistoric walling – none of which I noticed when I was a kid.  The petroglyph is a simple design, primarily consisting of two rows of three cup-marks: one row of three along the top or spine of the rock, and another one immediately beneath it, an inch or so below.  The topmost line of cups runs into a natural crack in the rock, which runs down the northwest edge of the stone.  A possible faint cup and partial ring emerges on the southeast side of the topmost row of cups, but this is difficult to make out.  On the sloping northwest face of the rock is another single cup-marking.

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, Of Cups and Rings and Things, unpublished: Shipley 1981.

Acknowledgements:  Many thanks to James Elkington for use of his photo to illustrate this petroglyph

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Lower Lanshaw Dam CR-2

loading map - please wait...

Lower Lanshaw Dam CR-2 53.899968, -1.785029 Lower Lanshaw Dam CR-2

Lower Lanshaw Dam (01), Burley Moor, West Yorkshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 1416 4489

Getting Here

Take the same directions as if you’re visiting the Lanshaw Dam 2 petroglyph, then keep walking directly towards the Lanshaw Dam, 130 yards east.  Halfway between the two, closer to the footpath, look out for a stone of similar shape and dimensions to Lanshaw 2, just by a prehistoric cairn.  You’ll find it!

Archaeology & History

Cup-marked stone & cairn
Close-up of cup marking

As with a great number of petroglyphs in and around Yorkshire, this large single cup-marked rock is found in close association with a reasonably large prehistoric cairn (several others are close by), some 3 yards in diameter.  The cup-marking here is larger than yer average cup-mark on these moors, being four inches across. It can clearly be seen on the southern vertical face of the rock and doesn’t appear to have been recorded before.  On the whole, it’s nothing special to look at and is probably just one for the petroglyphic purists amongst you.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Lanshaw Dam CR-1

loading map - please wait...

Lanshaw Dam CR-1 53.899988, -1.785988 Lower Lanshaw Dam CR-1

Coldstone Beck, Burley Moor, West Yorkshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 143 453

Getting Here

Coldstone carving, looking S
Coldstone carving, looking S

From Burley train station, take the road uphill onto the moor edge, turning right at the top. Go on for a few hundred yards and park up round the sharp bend. Walk up the steep-ish path on the right-hand side of the rocky valley of Coldstone Beck. Once your on the level with the moors, veer to your right (west) on the footpath parallel with the walling. Barely 50 yards along, watch in the grasses and heather to your left (south).  Keep looking and you’ll find it. (apologies for just a 6-figure grid-ref for this stone, but I paid little attention to its position when I was in walkabout mode)

Archaeology & History

A couple of hundred yards east of the Cold Stone monolith is another petroglyph that has evaded the diligent archaeologists of the region!  But it’s easily missed if the daylight conditions aren’t too good.  The most notable element on the stone is the large, possibly natural cup-marking on its top-right SW side.  It’s that which initially gets your attention and, due to its initial singularity on the rock, you’d turn away and shake your head, muttering that well known petroglyphic mantra of “dunno.”  But when the sun and air are clear or low on the horizon, other more faint etchings, almost lost in the worlds of erosion, catches the eye.

Carving faintly highlighted
Carving faintly highlighted
Looking straight down
Looking straight down

At least four cups are visible on the stone, perhaps six, mainly near its middle and faintly highlighted in one of the images here.  But there is also a pecked carved line here too, running across the shorter northern side of the stone.  Near the bottom of this line there is the faint impression of a carved ring, but whether this is a trick of the light or real, I won’t hazard to guess.  Not far away is the curiously shaped Chair Stone and its cup-marks. Others are in the vicinity.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Coldstone Beck CR

loading map - please wait...

Coldstone Beck CR 53.903669, -1.783839 Coldstone Beck CR

Lichen Stone, Burley, West Yorkshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone: OS Grid Reference – SE 150 440

Archaeology & History

Lichen Stone cup-and-ring
Lichen Stone cup-and-ring

This is another of the many unrecorded cup-and-ring carvings in the region—and one in a small cluster hereby.  It was rediscovered several years ago on a Northern Antiquarian outing and, thankfully, remains in good condition.  Encrusted by layers of gorgeous lichens, deep into the rock, it has hence proven difficult to explore the entirity of the exact design without tearing off the old covering—which I’ve no intention of doing.

Lichen Stone, from above
Lichen Stone, from above

There are at least a dozen cup-markings etched onto the upper surface of this curved stone, with the majority of them clustering around its eastern side.  It seems there is only one single cup-mark on the western side of the rock, with the rest of them starting in the middle and then moving to its east.  But the curious features are the interlinking carved lines which you can see have been highlighted on the top and sides of the stone.  Some of them typically link-up with other cups, whilst a number of them have been carved along and down the vertical faces of the rock, primarily on the east and northeast edges.  At least seven of them have been done and they all reach down to ground-level.

Cups & carved lines
Cups & carved lines
Carved lines highlighted
Carved lines highlighted

It seemed obvious that a greater design was apparent on the rock, but the stone had been covered in an age of lichen (hence the name) which I didn’t want to disturb; and although no distinct cup-and-ring can be seen here, it seemed as if one such motif was hiding beneath the lichen cover.  But let’s leave the rock and lichen to their own quiet life and move on our way…

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Lichen Stone CR

loading map - please wait...

Lichen Stone CR 53.892150, -1.773225 Lichen Stone CR

Cold Stone, Burley Moor, West Yorkshire

Standing Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 14236 45433

Getting Here

Cold Stone, looking NW
Cold Stone, looking NW

From Burley-in-Wharfedale train station, take the road uphill to the moors, turning right at the top, until you hit the bend where the stream and rocky valley of Coldstone Beck appears. Walk up the right-hand (west) side of the beck until the moorland levels out.  Walk along the footpath above Stead Crag for a coupla hundred yards, keeping your eyes peeled for the largest upright stone in the heather about 50 yards into the moors. The other way is to get to Woofa Bank Enclosure and keep walking east through the heather for a coupla hundred yards till you see the tallest upright stone in the heather.

Archaeology & History

Apart from my own short entry about this site in The Old Stones of Elmet, we have no archaeological account of this standing stone, less than four feet tall and nearly as wide at its maximum, living in a landscape renowned for its excess of neolithic and Bronze Age remains.  For those of us who love our megaliths it’s nothing special — but at the same time it’s worth looking at, if only because of the other mass of prehistoric remains close by.  It received its name from the adjacent Coldstone Beck a short distance to the east, whose etymology isn’t clear.

Cold Stone, looking east
Cold Stone, looking east
Gazing into a hazy SW
Gazing into a hazy SW

Although we know that many of the sites on this ridge are prehistoric in origin (incredibly some of it still aint registered by those who get paid to do such things), we also need to take into consideration that this site may have been effected by the early industrialists who also made their mark on this section of the moor: they have scarred some cup-and-rings along here, destroyed other remains and left incisions on some rocks which could easily be mistaken as ancient.  There is also the possibility that this upright and its adjacent stones were once part of a cairn.   If evidence comes to light that the Cold Stone is more recent, we will of course amend this site entry.

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Chieveley 2001.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Cold Stone

loading map - please wait...

Cold Stone 53.904866, -1.784806 Cold Stone

Fraggle Rock, Burley Moor, West Yorkshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference — SE 150 440

Archaeology & History

Early photo of the carving
First photo of the carving

This carving is one in a cluster of at least 17 previously unrecorded petroglyphs, uncovered nearly two years ago on a Northern Antiquarian bimble on the northern edge of Rombald’s Moor.  The carvings were found as a bi-product of uncovering a previously undiscovered cairn circle, close to the Twelve Apostles stone circle.  In assessing and exploring the newly-found circle, it was noticed that a small opening in the near horizon highlighted a rise in the landscape barely a mile away.  This ‘opening’ in the land was not visible if you walked 25 yards either side of the cairn circle – but was very notable at the circle itself.

“We need to have a look at that site,” I said.  “It’s position looks to have been relevant to this circle.” (or words to that effect) And a couple of weeks later we met up and walked to the place in question.

Fraggle Rock carving, looking west
Fraggle Rock carving, looking west
Fraggle Rock carving, looking south
Fraggle Rock carving, looking south

Within five minutes we came across a couple of previously unrecorded cup-marked stones, of simple design, right in line with the cairn circle.  As we walked around this spot, then headed back in the direction of the circle, a cluster of small stones were noticed on the slope.  One had what looked like a single cup-marking near its edge, but the rest of the rock was completely covered in vegetation.  Paul Hornby and Michala Potts had, by now, already found several other previously unrecorded cup-marked stones close by; but as I carefully rolled back the vegetation at the edge of this particular rock, cups-and-rings and carved lines seemed to be covering most of its surface.  It was a good one!

Face on the Fraggle Rock
Face on the Fraggle Rock

We called it the Fraggle Rock after noticing that when you look at the stone from one end, the two main cup-and-rings are likes two large eyes carved above a large natural down-turning ‘mouth’ feature, similar to some of the creatures’ faces on the muppets or the similar kid’s TV show, Fraggle Rock! (sad aren’t we!?)  The photo here shows you what we mean.

The primary design consists of at least 3 cup-and-rings, 2 partial cup-and-rings, 28 cups and several carved lines along which some cup-markings are linked to others.  The most notable of the carved lines is the longest (barely visible in the photos), running from a single cup-mark at the southernmost rounded end of the stone, almost straight and parallel with a natural ridge or dip along the rock, until it meets the largest of the cup-and-rings (one of the eyes on the Fraggle’s face!).  Don’t ask me why, but for some reason this long faint line seemed the most perplexing element of the carving.

Eastern edge, with cups at ground level
Eastern edge, with cups at ground level

Most of the design is carved on the upper face of the stone, but a small part of the rock dips into the ground on its eastern side and a small group of cups and a single carved line, in a very good state of preservation, are etched right at the edge of the stone.  Unusual.  Another faint cup-and-ring is 10 yards south; and a fascinating cup-and-lines stone, with at least four long carved ridges running like hair from the top of the stone into the Earth, is 20 yards west of this.

References:

  1. Jack, Jim, “Old Fraggle Rock is Found on Burley Moor,” in Ilkley Gazette, March 4, 2013.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

Fraggle Rock CR

loading map - please wait...

Fraggle Rock CR 53.891851, -1.773167 Fraggle Rock CR

Woofa Bank Enclosure, Burley Moor, West Yorkshire

Enclosure:  OS Grid Reference – SE 13890 45516

Getting Here

Aerial view showing enclosure outline

From Ilkley, take the Cowpasture Road up past Cow & Calf rocks, the hotel and along the moorside.  A few hundred yards further, just before the next farm-building on your right, walk up the Rushy Beck path to the top. Crossing the stream at the top, now walk  diagonally south-ish into the heather for some 200 yards, a short distance before the hillside begins to rise up again onto the next ridge.  Remains of this ‘enclosure’ is all around you!

Archaeology & History

When the normal moorland vegetation covers this prehistoric site, you’d barely know there was anything here apart from various rocky rises and undulations in the ground, with what seem to be lines of stone walls bending away onto the moor.  But when the heaths have been burnt back, a whole new vista unfolds itself!  You see before you a fantastic, well-preserved, unexcavated prehistoric enclosure, whose origins are probably neolithic, but whose history and use stretched through the Bronze Age and into the Iron Age—and it’s not alone!  East, west and south of this particular enclosure, other prehistoric walled structures are found stretching all across the landscape hereby, structurally similar and also used over very long periods in prehistory.  For antiquarians and historians alike, this is a truly impressive place indeed.  In all honesty, the description I give here does not do the place justice!

Northwestern section of enclosure walling

Things like ‘settlements’ and ‘enclosures’ are traditionally relegated by purist archaeologists to be little more than domestic or utilitarian sites: places where our ancestors kept cattle; or were used for defensive purposes; or lived for long periods of the year.  Of course, these simple ideas are effective and true at some places; but here at Woofa Bank—in this particular enclosure—something more than just domestic activity was enacted, and over the period of many centuries by the look of things.   We surmise this by the incidence of at least fifteen cup-and-ring stones being found within the enclosure itself; and at its very centre is a small standing stone, not previously recorded, that has at least five petroglyphs around it.  The incidence of such a cluster of cup-and-ring stones here implies ritual activity.

Carved rock & central stone
Close-up of, dancing anthropomorphic figure?

One of the carvings at the centre of the enclosure (listed in the Boughey & Vickerman survey as Carving 372) has been suggested to represent a dancing human figure (the image here shows the anthropomorphic element), which it may well be.  The incidence of this central stone and its surrounding petroglyphs has important magico-religious implications, relating it as a site used for creation myth narratives and repetitions (transpersonal explorations at this site may prove worthwhile).  The wider extended enclosure with more petroglyphs contained inside it, suggest additional ritual  performances were enacted here: they may have had something to do with the cluster of prehistoric tombs scattered on the moorland plain 100 yards to the west, but we might never know.

Easternmost standing stone

It seems that the walled enclosure itself was constructed around the earlier cup-and-ring stones, probably many centuries later—but we need excavations here to find out more precise details.  Much of the walling itself has the hallmarks of being late Bronze Age to Iron Age in structure, whilst we know that prehistoric rock art can date back into the neolithic period; and from this period Eric Cowling (1946) reported that, at Woofa Bank, “at the western end of the ridge,” just above this enclosure, a neolithic flint site existed.

Cowling’s 1946 plan

Cowling (1946) himself was one of very few archeologists to even mention this impressive site, in a section exploring the “Iron Age” sites along Green Crag Slack at the eastern end of Ilkley Moor.  He wrote:

“At the other end of the site under the shadow of Woofa Bank and near the source of the Rushy Beck, is another D-shaped enclosure apparently unfinished.  The plan is of a circle with a flattened side and does not exceed twenty-four yards across in any direction.  Here the enclosing wall shows five or six courses at the lower end side and a simple entrance to the west.”

Western entrance to enclosure
Stone marking eastern entrance

Though Cowling’s measurements are way out!  The enclosure itself is much larger than he describes.  For the most part, three-quarters of it gives the impression of it being a large oval shape, but the design and outline of the walling changes on its southeastern side and kinks inward, in an arc, to eventually meet the walling in the middle eastern section.  Its entire circumference measures approximately 220 yards all the way round; it is 65 yards across east-west; and about 61 yards north-south.  The average height of the main walling is between 2-3 feet tall, and is made up of many large rocks, some of them positioned upright as standing stones, all packed together with earth and countless thousands of smaller stones.  The walling itself is between 2-3 yards wide in many places and has two main entrances: one near the middle of the western wall and the other almost opposite to the east.  The eastern entrance is marked by a standing stone between 3-4 feet tall.  No gaps are visible at all on the northern curved section of the enclosure.  On the overgrown southern edges, not all of the walling is visible and it’s much overgrown.  It’s still very much as Cowling found it when he explored the place, with the arc of walling in this part of the enclosure difficult to make out clearly.  There is also another line of walling that runs off to the east, beyond the main enclosure itself.

Carved rock in western wall

The clearer, more visible western line of walling, running south of the entrance on that side, has a large singular cup-and-ring stone laid right along its axis (carving 366 in the Boughey & Vickerman [2003] survey), a short distance before the walling changes direction east-west and runs along the bottom of the slope.

Folklore

Tradition tells that the tribal people from this site were involved in the last battle with the Romans along the moorland plain here.

…to be continued…

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Chieveley 2001.
  2. Boughey, Keith & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, WYAS: Wakefield 2003.
  3. Cowling, Eric T., Rombald’s Way, William Walker: Otley 1946.
  4. Eliade, Mircea, Images and Symbols, Harvill Press: London 1961.
  5. Hedges, John (ed.), The Carved Rocks on Rombalds Moor, WYMCC: Wakefield 1986.
  6. Size, Nicholas, The Haunted Moor, William Walker: Otley 1934.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  53.905621, -1.790069 Woofa Bank enclosure

Little Skirtful Carvings, Burley Moor, West Yorkshire

Cup-Marked Stones: OS Grid Reference – SE 13830 45195

Eastern edge of Little Skirtful

Also Known as:

  1. Carving nos. 391a, 391b, 391c, 391d
  2. Little Skirtful of Stones’ Carvings

Getting Here

Follow the directions to reach the Little Skirtful of Stones giant prehistoric cairn. Once here, look for the singular rocks out of the many thousands which make up the giant cairn, mainly from the middle to the northern-half of the cairn, and you’ll find them amidst the mass!

Archaeology & History

Cup-marking near the centre of the cairn

Despite the task sounding difficult, it’s not too hard locating the cup-marked rocks within this giant cairn. As I recall there should be five of them, though the Boughey & Vickerman (2003) survey only list four and I only have photos of four of them as well…so I reckon age is probably getting to me at last!  There could very well be more of them amidst this massive tomb.  But we certainly can’t rely on the Boughey & Vickerman (2003) survey for the carvings at this site as they give the wrong grid references for each of the cup-markings listed, with them all being a kilometre east from the site of the tomb itself! Awesome! God knows what their cartographer was on when he did the profiles for these carvings! (there are plenty of spliff-butts scattered over this moor…..)  Not only that, but the position they cite of the relative cup-markings within the cairn are also wrong.

Another portable cup-marking
Cup-marking at outer edge of Little Skirtful

But for those of you who like to know the archaeological data, here’s what was said: Carving 391a is a “small rock towards SW edge of cairn, with single worn cup”; but this stone is actually closer to the northern section of the cairn.  Carving 391b was told to be a “small dome-shaped rock at extreme S edge of cairn with single, small clear cup at top of dome.”  This again is more on the northern section of the cairn, away from the centre.  Carving 391c was described as a “small oval, rounded rock at N edge of cairn, with single, broad, shallow worn cup.”  Whilst carving 391d which was told to be a “small rock at SSE edge of cairn, with single small worn cup.”  However, we have to take into account that any errors about their position may simply be down to the fact that the small rocks have been moved.

Smoothed cup-marked stone
Close-up of different rock-type

As you’ll see in the photos here, one of them is actually near the very centre of the cairn, with the cup-marking etched into the edge of the small rock itself.  I’m not quite sure if this is the additional fifth carving in the cairn, or whether it’s one of those wrongly ascribed as being in another position.  It’s hard to tell, as the local Ilkley Archaeology team don’t publish their findings and information on-line as they should do and unless you’re in their little club they’re hard to get info out of.  So this will have to do for the time being I’m afraid.  Also note how one of the cup-marked stones is of a rock-type different to the local millstone grit.

Folklore

The creation myth of the Little Skirtful itself tells that the giant Rombald (who gives his name to the moor) was in trouble with his wife and when he stepped over to Almscliffe Crags from here, his giant wife – who is never named – dropped a small bundle of stones she was carrying in her apron. Harry Speight (1900) tells us of a variation of the tale,

“which tradition says was let fall by the aforementioned giant Rumbalds, while hastening to build a bridge over the Wharfe.”

Variations on this story have said it was the devil who made the site, but this is a denigrated christian variant on the earlier, and probably healthier, creation tale. Similar tales are told of the Great Skirtful of Stones, 500 yards south.

The cluster of portable small stones with single cup-marks on them relates to traditions found in other cultures in the world where, usually, women would carry such items in their aprons and deposit them at or on the tomb, in honour of the ancestor or spirit known to be resident at the sacred site.  The folklore found at the Little Skirtful (and Great Skirtful too) of Rombald’s wife dropping the rocks here and forming the giant tomb, probably derive from variants of this same honorary practice.

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Chieveley 2001.
  2. Boughey, Keith & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, WYAA 2003.
  3. Cowling, Eric T., Rombald’s Way, William Walker: Otley 1946.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Little Skirtful carvings

loading map - please wait...

Little Skirtful carvings 53.902739, -1.791000 Little Skirtful carvings