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.

References:

  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

Ruston Beacon tumulus

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Ruston Beacon tumulus 54.036652, -0.385331 Ruston Beacon tumulus

Nafferton Slack, Driffield, East Yorkshire

Standing Stone (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – TA 040 587

Archaeology & History

Information on this stone is sparse and the grid-reference cited is a close approximation of its precise location.  And were it not for the records of Victorian folklorists, its existence may have been completely lost.  The first reference I’ve found of it is in Nicholson’s East Yorkshire (1890) survey, but I am hoping that someone, somewhere, made archaeological notes of the site (am I hoping for too much here…?)  The stone appears to have stood upon, or was very close to, the local boundary line between Nafferton and Driffield—which means there could be a record of it in any perambulation accounts of the region.

Folklore

John Nicholson (1890) told us the following intriguing bitta folklore about this stone, saying:

“About half way down the hill forming the eastern slope of Nafferton Slack, by the roadside, to prevent waggons leaving the roadway, stood a large stone, which was believed to have wonderful powers.  At night, at certain seasons, it glowed like fire, sometimes it seemed but the portal of a well-lighted hall; and one old stone-breaker declared he had heard wonderful music issuing therefrom, the like of which he had never heard before; while on one occasion he had seen troops of gaily-dressed elfins repairing thither, some on foot and some on carriages, and they all went into this mysterious hall.  The old man is dead, the stone is gone, and the fairies have departed.”

Some twenty years later, Mrs Gutch repeated the story, but added no further details.  One wonders whether the information about a fairy hall implied the former existence of a mound or tumulus next to the old stone (a few hundred yards south, just off the same boundary line, we find the remains of the curiously named tumulus of Cheesecake Hill).  Any further info would be most welcome…

References:

  1. Gutch, Mrs E., Examples of Printed Folk-lore Concerning the East Riding of Yorkshire, David Nutt: London 1912.
  2. Nicholson, Folk-lore of East Yorkshire, Simpkin Marshall: London 1890.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Nafferton Slack stone

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Nafferton Slack stone 54.014154, -0.413440 Nafferton Slack stone

Mill Hill, Eastburn, Driffield, East Yorkshire

Tumulus:  OS Grid Reference – SE 986 553

Also Known as:

  1. Barrow no.268 (Mortimer)

Archaeology & History

Once located on the south side of the stream between the ‘lost’ village of Eastburn and the cottages at Battleburn, this burial mound was one of many explored by the great J.R. Mortimer (1905), who told that:

“On June 24th, 1884, it measured about 40 feet in diameter and 4½ in elevation, and had a depression in the centre, which might have been caused by a former opening.  By the old inhabitants of the neighbourhood it is known — like several other similar mounds near settlements — by the name of Mill Hill.  A 15-feet square was cut from the centre and the natural ground beneath was found to consist of 3 feet of clay, resting upon chalk gravel.  Through this clay and into the chalk gravel beneath was a roughly-cut trench, 3½ feet deep by about 3 feet wide, running north and south the whole width of our excavation and beyond, and from about the centre of the mound a similarly roughly-formed trench was observed to run east and west…”

In the sections that Mortimer and his fellows excavated, they uncovered various intriguing deposits, including the remains of ox, goats and horses.  Later deposits were also located in and around the mound, showing it had been used in more recent centuries.

Folklore

Mortimer suggested this site was once an old moot site; comparing it to a place of the same name a short distance west at Kirkburn.

References:

  1. Mortimer, J.R., Forty Years Researches in British and Saxon Burial Mounds of East Yorkshire, A. Brown & Sons: London 1905.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Mill Hill barrow

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Mill Hill barrow 53.984347, -0.497061 Mill Hill barrow