As in countless villages and towns across the British Isles, Gomersal also once had its maypole near or at the village centre. We don’t know when the first maypole was erected in the village and many local sites were openly destroyed by rampant christian puritans and similar idiots. It stood not far from the Moor Lane Well and was described by the regional historian H.A. Cadman (1930), who told:
“The Maypole was at the top of Moor Lane and one can imagine the welkin echoing to the very old song:
‘Come lasses and lads take leave of your dads
And away to the maypole hie.
For every fair has a sweetheart there
And the fiddlers standing by.
For Willy shall dance with Jane
And Johnny has got his Joan.
To trip it, trip it, trip it, trip it,
Trip it up and down.’
Yet as with maypoles up and down the land, testosterone-fuelled Springtime fall-outs happened. Mr Cadman told:
“Very often May Day gatherings ended up with fights. Great jealousy always existed between the inhabitants of Great Gomersal, Little Gomersal and Spen. There is a tradition which has been handed down that the last Maypole in this district stood on Liversedge Green. This Maypole was demolished in a fight by the Gomersalians and there is a similar tradition about the Maypole on Cleckheaton Green, so as Mr Frank Peel says, “It is evident that ancient inhabitants of Gomersal were more pugnacious than their neighbours.” I have no evidence when the Gomersal Maypole ceased to exist, but there is abundant evidence to prove that there was one in Gomersal, the proof being that the vane is now in Batley Museum. It is in the form of a fish.”
If anyone has any further information on this important relic, or its history, please let us know.
Cadman, H. Ashwell, Gomersal, Past and Present, Hunters Armley: Leeds 1930.
Follow the same directions for the Croft Moraig stone Circle. Then check out the largest of the fallen or elongated stones on the northwest side of the ring, with a smoothed sloping surface, just at the side of the overgrown stone platform on which it rests. Y’ can’t really miss it.
“noticed that several of the upright stones…show cup-markings on their perpendicular surfaces. Some of these are quite distinct, but others are so worn through weathering that they can only be traced with the fingers.”
This is one of them. Barely visible at the best of times, the cup-markings are faded and very hard to see unless daylight conditions are just right. As you can see in the photos, several distinct cup-like impressions are visible, but it only appears that two of them are cup-marks. The others seem to be more geophysical in nature – but I’d love to be wrong!
The great northern Antiquarian Fred Coles (1910) noted that this particular stone (stone D in his ground-plan of the circle) had “been polished by the sliding of generations of children”. This playful action on stones elsewhere in the UK and around the world sometimes relates to fertility rites (i.e., the spirit of the stone could imbue increased fertility upon the practitioner), but Mr Coles made no mention of such rituals here.
The easiest way to find this is by going along the B9113 road that runs from the east side of Forfar, out to Montreathmont Forest. Along this road, pass the Rescobie Loch and keep going for another mile or so, until you hit the small crossroads. Go left here as if you’re going to Aberlemno. Barely 100 yards up, opposite the newly-built Westerton house, the standing stone is on the rise in the field.
Archaeology & History
A truly fascinating heathen stone in a parish full of Pictish and early christian remains, with the faint remains of an intriguing carving that can still, thankfully, be discerned on the southwestern face of the upright….amongst other things…
Marked as a singular stone after the Ordnance Survey lads visited here in 1901, early mentions of the site are very scant indeed. In Sir James Simpson’s (1866; 1867) early masterpiece on prehistoric rock art, in which he named the place as the “Circle of Turin,” he related how his friend and associate Dr Wyse told him how this stone “once formed one of a fine circle of boulder stones at Nether Turin,” but said little more. (Simpson was the vice president of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, a professor of medicine, as well as being one of Queen Victoria’s chief physicians.) The “Dr Wyse” in question was very probably Thomas Alexander Wise, M.D., who wrote the little-known but informative and extravagent analysis of prehistoric sites and their folklore in Scotland called A History of Paganism in Caledonia (1884). Therein he told us:
“At Turin, in Forfarshire, there is a large boulder which had formed one of the stones in a circle. On the flat top are several cups arranged irregularly, and without any enclosing circles. This boulder stone is on the NW face of the circle. The other side was towards the SE, facing the rising sun.”
As a result of these early references the site is listed and documented, correctly, as a “stone circle” in Aubrey Burl’s (2000) magnum opus. We do not have the information to hand about who was responsible for the circle’s desctruction—but it was likely done by the usual self-righteous industrialists or christians. It is a puzzle therefore, why Barclay & Halliday (1982) sought to reject an earlier “megalithic ring” status as mentioned by Sir James and Dr Wise, with little more than a flippant dismissal in their short note on the Westerton stone. Unless those two writers can offer vital evidence that can prove that the Westerton standing stone was not part of a megalithic ring, we can of course safely dismiss their unsubstantiated claim.
Despite this however, they do give us an intriguing description of a curious carving, faintly visible, of an upright male figure etched onto the west side of this standing stone. The carving has unfortunately been damaged—probably by intruding christians or puritans of some sad form. You’ll see why I’m blaming them in a minute! In their short account of the carving, Barclay & Halliday (1982) state:
“Much of the original surface of the SW face of the stone has scaled off, but, on the surviving portion, there is a part of a human figure…apparently naked, outlined by grooves, measuring between 5mm and 15mm in breadth and up to 7mm in depth. Of the head, only the lower part of the jaw and neck can be identified, and a second groove at the back of the neck probably represents hair or some form of head-covering. The left arm passes across the body into the lap and the arch of the back is shown by a groove which detaches itself from the upper part of the arm. The left leg is bent at the knee and is lost below mid-calf; from mid-calf to jaw is a distance of some 0.85m”
In interpreting this carving the authors make a shallow, if not poor attempt to describe what he may be doing, saying:
“The figure is viewed from its left side and is turned slightly towards the observer. The position of the left arm and leg may be compared with those of a fighting figure depicted on the Shandwick Stone, Easter Ross…but they may also reflect a riding posture; no trace of a mount, however, has survived.”
Well – that is intriguing. But we have to recognise that our authors work for the Royal Commission, which may have effected their eyes and certainly their minds—as everyone else sees something not drawn out of Rorscharch’s famous psychology test! When I put the drawing you can see here (left) onto various internet archaeology group pages (including the Prehistoric Society, etc) the response was virtually unanimous, with some comical variants on what the carved man is doing — i.e., masturbating, or at least committing some sort of sexual act, possibly with another creature where the rock has been hacked away by the vandals. But a sexual act it is! Although such designs are rare in Britain, they are found in prehistoric rock art and later architectural carvings in most cultures on Earth. The nearest and most extravagant examples of such sexual acts can be found in the Scandinavian countries, where fertility images are profuse, often in tandem with typical prehistoric cup-and-ring designs. (see Coles 2005; Gelling & Davidson 1969, etc)
…And, on the very top of the stone, running along its near-horizontal surface, a line of six cup-markings are clearly visible. Intrusions of natural geophysical scars are also there, but the cup-marks are quite distinct from Nature’s wear, all on the west side of the natural cut running along the top. These cup-marks were first mentioned in Simpson’s (1866; 1867) early tome, where he told how his “esteemed friend Dr Wyse discovered ‘several carefully excavated cavities upon its top in groups, without circles.'” Whether these neolithic to Bronze Age elements had any association with the later Pictish-style wanking fella (fertility?) is impossible to know, sadly…
Barclay, G.J. & Halliday, S.P., “A Rock Carving from Westerton, Angus District,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 112, 1982.
Burl, Aubrey, The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, Yale University Press 2000.
Coles, John, Shadows of a Northern Past, Oxbow: Oxford 2005.
Gelling, Peter & Davidson, Hilda Ellis, The Chariot of the Sun and other Rites and Symbols of the Northern Bronze Age, J.M. Dent: London 1969.
Sherriff, John R., “Prehistoric Rock Carvings in Angus,” in Tayside & Fife Archaeological Journal, volume 1, 1995.
From Askwith village go up the Moor Lane and at the crossroads go straight across (Snowden Moor is across left). Go down and along Snowden Carr Road until the road levels out and, watch carefully, about 500 yards on from the crossroads on your left you’ll see a small crag of rocks in the fields above. Stop and go through the gate walking up the field and as you near the top you’ll see a gate across to your left that leads onto the moor. Go through this and on the path which veers up to the right up to the Tree of Life Stone. About 20 yards along, keep your eyes peeled just off-path, to the left, where a small rounded stone hides at the edge.
Archaeology & History
This was one of a number of cup-markings that Graeme Chappell and I came across in the early 1990s, though it didn’t receive any literary attention until included in Boughey & Vickerman’s (2003) survey. It’s only a small fella, consisting of just six or seven cups on its upper rounded surface — though what may be a carved line runs round the southern side of the stone. It seems to have been associated with a small cairn close by (a common feature on these moors) and adjacent prehistoric settlement walling. In Boughey & Vickerman’s text, they gave the following notes:
“Small rock with rounded surface at ground level, near scattered cairn. Seven or eight cups, possible grooves at edge.”
[You’ll notice in the photo above that the local phantom painter had been here again, artistically highlighting the cup-marks. The photos we took were done earlier this year, when the paint (or whatever it is) was first noted. It had not been painted-in the previous autumn. But most notably is the fact that this carved stone has never previously appeared on the internet (until today) and the only other reference to it is in the standard Boughey & Vickerman text. This would indicate that whoever it is that’s painting the carvings up and down mid-Wharfedale possesses a copy of that text, aswell as being relatively new to the subject of rock art.]
Boughey, Keith & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, WYAS 2003.
From Askwith village go up the Moor Lane and at the crossroads go straight across, down and along Snowden Carr Road until the road levels out and, watch carefully, for a small crag of rocks in the fields above on your left. Keep a keen eye out for the gate into the field immediately below these rock, right by the roadside (it’s easily missed). This carving is the large rock sticking out on the slope in front of you thru the gate (carving 613 is lower down to the right).
Archaeology & History
When seen in the right light, this carving’s a beauty! What you could call, an archetypal cup-and-ring stone. But the toll of time has played its part — on the uppermost section of the rock in particular. It seems as if the top, higher section of the boulder has always been exposed to the elements, whereas the slightly lower part of the rock has only been unearthed and exposed to the elements in more recent decades — perhaps by Stuart Feather, who made notes of some carvings in this region in 1973. This assumption is especially apparent when we look at the excellent, well-preserved multiple ringed design near the southern edge of the stone…and from where the carving gets its title, the Naked Jogger Stone.
But let’s deal with the uppermost section of the stone first. There are various natural undulations and cracks over its surface and, at first sight, they can interfere or confuse some of the man-made carved aspects to this stone. But the main feature here — which becomes more and more noticeable the more you gaze and look — are at least two very faded multiple-rings surrounding faded central cups. It’s unknown whether or not these rings ever completely surrounded the cups, or whether they were actually left deliberately unfinished. The more faded of these two multiple-rings has between three or four cups around the outer ring at selected intervals (visible in the photo here). A few feet away from this we can also make out the faded remains of another cup-and-half-ring design. Several other cups have also been carved along this upper portion of the stone. When you sit above and look across this from the grass to the side, one may be forgiven for adding a solar interpretation to this section of the carving!
But another, more extrovert interpretation can be forgiven for the most notable aspect of this cup-and-ring stone. Near the southern edge of this large rock is the well-preserved multiple-ring design, surrounding a single cup. It’s impressive! And when you first see this you get the impression that it was uncovered in the very recent past (turf dug away obviously) as it is in such an excellent state of preservation. But there are other, odd-looking aspects below this primary feature: of cracks and lines and deep cups along this same level of the rock. The majority of the cups and lines on this part of the stone are in a much better state of play than the artistic elements on the upper layer of the stone. And one section of the carving in particular here gave me at least (pervert that I am!) the impression of a man running, with a distinctive hard-on sticking out in front as he’s jogging away! Keep looking at it in the photo here and see if that’s what you see as well. Note that the torso section of the ‘body’ (between his cock and the multiple-ringed head) is made-up primarily of a natural crack in the rock, but this should not be seen as unusual; for in rock art across the world, many of the natural cracks and markings on stones are regularly utilized. We know that such ‘cracks’ in rocks have been used by shamans as entrance points for their spirit to enter the rock itself.
Early carvings of humans in other parts of the world show bloke’s with hard-ons, either dancing or hunting — so why not here aswell, in deepest Yorkshire!? (check Dennis Slifer’s Serpent and the Sacred Fire for many North American examples) It could, of course, be little other than my very simple minds response to non-linear etchings in the old Rorscharch ink-blot style. Either way, it doesn’t really matter — unless of course you’re some academic or witchy character who’s after isolating early prehistoric fertility carvings for your thesis or religion. Oh – and there’s the more renowned Tree of Life carving a bit further up this hill, about 150 yards away: alleged in folklore to have been a place for Beltane rites—wholehearted fertility no less!
In the important archaeo-academia files, little has ever been written of this fine, ornate petroglyph. It was described by Boughey & Vickerman (2003) thus:
“About twenty cups, two very large, one cup having three rings and two more also having traces of three rings, with at least four others having parts of single rings, all very worn.”
Simple and to-the-point I suppose. But this old carving has much more grace and mythic history embedded within its scarred surface. It clearly speaks to other aspects of the landscape (as do some of the other carvings further up the hill, where oracular aspects predominate), but much more work is needed here before any archaeoholistic framework can be moulded. Nonetheless, this is an excellent meditation site!
Boughey, Keith & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, WYAS 2003.
Slifer, Dennis, The Serpent and the Sacred Fire: Fertility Images in Southwest Rock Art, Museum of New Mexico Press: Santa Fe 2000.