Nine Stones Close, Harthill, Derbyshire

Stone Circle:  OS Grid Reference – SK 2254 6264

Also Known as:

  1. Grey Ladies
  2. Hartle Moor Stone Circle

Getting Here

Nine Stones Close circle

From Bakewell take the A6 Matlock road, follow this till just past the signs for Haddon Hall where you take a right (the first major junction) for Youlgreave the B5056.  After about 1km take the first left over the bridge.  You then take the first right turn: a steep lane with restriction signs (don’t worry there’s access for cars but no wide vehicles). Take the first left you come to by the barn and then just follow the road, up through the woodland where the lane narrows then shortly after you’ll see Robin Hood’s Stride to your left.  Park a little way after the field gateway and look across the field to your left.  The stones are visible from the road.

Archaeology & History

This is a fine-looking ring of stones — though perhaps the word ‘ring’ is slightly misleading here, as only four of (apparently) nine originals still remain and they are, by definition, more in a square-shape than a circle!  But it’s a lovely site.  When Geoff brought us here for the first time only last weekend, despite the dark clouds and cold grey day, along with the fact that we’d been sleeping rough the night before and got soaking wet through, there was a subtle feel to this place which my shivering senses still touched.  Only just though…!

Two southernmost stones

Mebbe it was the rising crags of Robin Hood’s Stride to its immediate south?  Or the quietly hidden companionship with other stones and sites in the locale?  I don’t really think so.  There was something a little more about its own genius loci that tingled very slightly on the rise in the field upon which the circle sits.  Some people would, perhaps, acquaint my sense of a subtle genius loci here to the various leys or ley-lines that have been drawn through here by other writers— but it wasn’t that.

When earlier writers came here, they too had various inspirations of differing forms.  John Barnatt’s (1978) early impressions of the place had him signing astronomical events in and around the remaining stones here, despite knowing that the site had been damaged.  In later years he revised his early notions — as most of us do as our perspectives are enriched — but the astronomy is still assumed here.  As Clive Ruggles (1999) told:

“Other rings are located where natural features coincide with astronomical events, such as Nine Stone Close in Derbyshire…from which the Moon at the southern major standstill limit, sets behind the gritstone crag of Robin Hood’s Stride to the SSW, between ‘two stubbly piles of boulders jutting up at either end of its flat top.'”

Major Rooke’s drawing of the Nine Stones Circle, c.1780

The stones that remain here are quite tall, between 6½ and 8 feet tall.  One of them seems to have originally been taken from a stream or river-bed.  They stand upon the small rise in the field and has diameters of 40 and 45 feet respectively.  Aubrey Burl described there being seven uprights still here in 1847, and the early drawing of the site near the end of the 18th century by Major Hayman Rooke highlights 6 stones around the spot where the circle now stands.  In J.P. Heathcote’s (1947) summary, he wrote that,

“Bateman, in his Vestiges, says an excavation in 1847 yielded some indications of interments in the form of ‘several fragments of imperfectly-baked pottery, accompanied by flint both in a natural and calcined state.’  In 1877, Llewellyn Jewitt and Canon Greenwell…turned their attention…to the Nine Stones.  They dug at the foot of the second highest stone and the Canon directed a good deal of digging within the circle, but nothing special turned up. The area in the circle is now quite level, but it is probable that there was, as Bateman says, a tumulus in the centre.”

This latter remark is the impression I got of the place.  Tis a really good little site.  All around here are a number of other sites: cup-marked stones, enclosures or settlements, prehistoric trackways, and more.

Folklore

One of the old names of this site was The Grey Ladies.  This came from the well known tale found at other sites across the world, that some ladies were dancing here at some late hour and were turned into stone.  A variation on this theme told how Robin Hood stood on the nearby rock outcrop to the south and pissed over the landscape here, “where seven maidens upon seeing it turned to stone.”  In this case, Robin Hood replaced an older, forgotten account of a giant, who forged the landscape and the sites around Harthill Moor.

Another tale — whose origins and nature are allied to that of the petrification of the Grey Ladies — narrated with considerable sincerity by local people, was that the circle was a place where the little people gathered and where, at certain times of the year, “fairy music and the sight of hundreds of dancing shapes around the stones” would happen.

Said by Rickman and Nown (1977) to be “Derbyshire’s most magical ancient site,” they thought the site was on a ley that linked up with Arbor Lowe, less than 5 miles west, crossing a couple of tumuli on its way.

References:

  1. Barnatt, John, Stone Circles of the Peak, Turnstone: London 1978.
  2. Burl, Aubrey, A Guide to the Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, Yale University Press 1995.
  3. Clarke, David, Ghosts and Legends of the Peak, Jarrold: Norwich 1991.
  4. Heathcote, J. Percy, Birchover – Its Prehistoric and Druidical Remains, Wilfrid Edwards: Chesterfield 1947.
  5. Rickman, Philip & Nown, Graham, Mysterious Derbyshire, Dalesman: Clapham 1977.
  6. Ruggles, Clive, Astronomy in Prehistoric Britain and Ireland, Yale University Press 1999.
  7. Thom, A., Thom, A.S. & Burl, Aubrey, Megalithic Rings, BAR: Oxford 1980.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Nine Stones Close circle

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Nine Stones Close circle 53.160450, -1.664395 Nine Stones Close circle

Nine Stones Monolith, Harthill, Derbyshire

Standing Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SK 2253 6256

Getting Here

Taking the roughly north-south road betwixt the village of Elton and the town of Youlgrave, rising up to see the great rock outcrop of Robin Hood’s Stride, park-up by the roadside and walk down the path across the fields to the Nine Stone Close stone circle. Once at the circle, look at the wall immediately south of here (looking towards the great Robin Hood’s Stride rock towers) about 100 yards away and you’ll see a large, nicely-worn ‘standing stone’ in the walling, with another a few yards to its side.

Archaeology & History

Nine Stones monolith, with stone circle behind

It seems like there’s been quite a lot written of this particular stone — much of it deeming, or speculating, that it once had summat to do with the stone circle of Nine Stones Close (which you can see in the background on one of the photos). The local archaeologist and writer, J. Percy Heathcote (1947) told us that around 1819, a Mr Glover said that this stone and a companion stood next to each other, but Mr Heathcote thought that,

“Judging from its size alone, only one of these is large enough to be compared to the stones in the circle.”

Standing Stone and Robin Hood’s Stride in background

Heathcote continued:

“Dr Phillips apparently assumes this stone to be connected with the circle in the same way as the similarly placed King Stone was connected with the Nine Ladies (Stanton Moor).  However, it seems more reasonable to suppose that the stone was brought by a farmer into the wall and not that he built the wall up to the standing stone.”

In more modern times however, John Barnatt (1978) thought that this stone was originally in the circle, but “has been moved across the field to the south to act as a gatepost.”

It’d be hugely improbable that it didn’t have summat to do with the stone circle, but exactly what, we can only speculate.

References:

  1. Barnatt, John, Stone Circles of the Peak, Turnstone: London 1978.
  2. Heathcote, J. Percy, Birchover – Its Prehistoric and Druidical Remains, Wilfrid Edwards: Chesterfield 1947.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Nine Stones monolith

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Nine Stones monolith 53.159734, -1.664512 Nine Stones monolith

Nine Stones Cup-Mark, Harthill, Derbyshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SK 2254 6284

Getting Here

Taking the roughly north-south road betwixt the village of Elton and the town of Youlgrave, rising up to see the great rock outcrop of Robin Hood’s Stride, park-up by the roadside and walk down the path across the fields to the Nine Stone Close stone circle. Once at the circle, the walling closest to the stones runs along a bit (north), then downhill. Follow it. About 25 yards before hitting more walling that crosses your path, there’s a break in the wall to a field immediately left. Just below this gate opening, in the same wall, a few yards down, look for the stone!

Archaeology & History

 

This small carved stone, typical of the size you get in drystone walls all over the country, was discovered for the first time on November 29, 2009, by Geoff Watson, during an ambling foray exploring the megalithic sites in and around the Birchover district.  Not quite sure how his nose picked this little fella out, but once seen (and eyes adjusted!) it was obviously a portable cup-marked stone.  Though what, we first wondered, was it doing in the walling here?

Similar in size and form to the Bent Head cup-marked stone found in drystone walling near Todmorden, West Yorkshire, the proximity of the Nine Stone Close megalithic ring further up the slope from this example illustrated that prehistoric man found this location of some importance; but as the cup-markings — two definites, perhaps a third — had been etched onto a small portable rock, typical of those found in prehistoric tombs, we wondered whether or not a prehistoric grave had once stood close by. Thankfully, a persual of Barry Marsden’s (1977) catalogue later proved fruitful.  For in the adjacent field below where this carved stone sits in its wall, at SK 2255 6286, there’s a scattered mass of loose rocks and smaller stones (akin to the one here with its cup-markings), which Marsden listed as a prehistoric tomb.  It seems probable that this cup-marked ‘portable’ originally came from this much denuded burial spot.

Likelihood is — there’ll be more of ’em hiding in walling and elsewhere hereby…

NB – Please note – the images we took of the stone aint too good as the sky was grey, cloudy and overcast all day. We await a better visit on a finer day, when conditions allow for better images. As we all know, gerrin’ decent photos of cup-markings and their ilk can be a pain in the arse even on the best of days!

References:

  1. Heathcote, J. Percy, Birchover – Its Prehistoric and Druidical Remains, Wilfrid Edwards: Chesterfield 1947. (see MegaDread’s comment, below)
  2. Marsden, Barry, The Burial Mounds of Derbyshire, privately printed: Bingley 1977.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Nine Stones CR

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Nine Stones CR 53.162260, -1.664318 Nine Stones CR