Chesters House, Humshaugh, Northumberland

Cup-and-Ring Stone (lost):  OS Grid Reference – NY 909 702

Archaeology & History

Chesters carving 1887

The whereabouts of this carving is somewhat of a mystery.  Originally found three or four hundred yards away to the northeast of Chesters mansion, it was moved from there into the porch entranceway of the place—and here it lived for, hmmmm….well, we’re not quite sure how long it was here.  The only description of the carving seems to have been made by the Rev. G.R. Hall in 1887, and between then and sometime in the 20th century, it’s disappeared to who-knows-where.  The only known photo of the carving (right) suggests that the original design was somewhat bigger as the stone looks to have been broken off from a larger piece.  Mr Hall told us:

“this stone is 3 feet in length by 2 feet 6 inches in breadth, of irregular form.  It has five incised cups on each side of a wide, slightly curved channel, which crosses the stone at nearly its widest part.  Two other grooves intersect this longest channel, one forming a segment of a circle.  At the opposite end of the slab are two nearly parallel grooves passing towards the largest hollow. The ten cups vary from 1½ inches to 3 inches in diameter, and are from half an inch to an inch in depth.”

All being well, the carving is hiding in a wall somewhere, or maybe beneath His Lordship’s bed.  Hopefully it’ll re-appear sometime soon…


  1. Beckensall, Stan, Northumberland’s Prehistoric Rock Carvings – A Mystery Explained, Pendulum: Rothbury 1983.
  2. Hall, G.R., “On Some Cup-incised Stones, found in an Ancient British Burial-mound at Pitlands Hills, near Birtley, North Tynedale,” in Archaeologia Aeliana (2nd Series) volume 12, 1887.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian


Fairy Stone, Fourstones, Northumberland

Legendary Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NY 893 680

Archaeology & History

Thought to have been destroyed in the 19th century, folklorists and historians alike didn’t seem to be able to locate this little-known folklore relic, which is still alive and well in one of the fields by the village.  The exact nature of the stone isn’t known for certain.  Legend reputes it to have been one of the four boundary stones which gave the village its name; it was also said that they were Roman altars and the Fairy Stone was one of them, which was moved from the village boundary during the Rebellion of 1715 and placed nearer the centre.

Folklorist M.C. Balfour (1904) seemed to think that stone had gone when he wrote about it.  Writing about it in the past tense, he told,

“The Fairy Stone however, certainly had an existence, for a person, 80 years of age, remembered its situation to the south of the village, near the old road, and that it was squared, and had a square “cistern hewn out of its top,” which was called the Fairy Trough, and traditionally said to have had a pillar fixed in it.”

But when former Ley Hunter editor Paul Screeton (1982) came looking for the stone in the late 1970s, he was fortunate in coming across an old local:

“Some time ago while looking for the Fairy Stone at Fourstones…I came across a farmer who pointed it out and remarked that a few years previously when the road was widened the local lengthsman made sure it was not destroyed, though it had to be moved a short distance.”


Of the four boundary stones surrounding the village, they were “supposed to have been formed to hold holy water,” said Balfour (1904).  But the title Fairy Stone given to one of them had this tale to account for it:

“A couple of miles or more down the South Tyne is Fourstones, so called because of four stones, said to have been Roman altars, having been used to mark its boundaries. A romantic use was made of one of these stones in the early days of “The Fifteen.” Every evening, as dusk fell, a little figure, clad in green, stole up to the ancient altar, which had been slightly hollowed out, and, taking out a packet, laid another in its place. The mysterious packets, placed there so secretly, were letters from the Jacobites of the neighbourhood to each other; and the little figure in green was a boy who acted as messenger for them. No wonder that the people of the district gave this altar the name of the ‘Fairy Stone’.”


  1. Balfour, M.C., Country Folk-lore volume 4: Examples of Printed Folk-lore Concerning Northumberland, David Nutt: London 1904.
  2. Screeton, Paul, “The Long Man of Wilmington,” in The Ley Hunter, no.92, 1982.
  3. Terry, Jean F., Northumberland Yesterday and Today, Andrew Reid: Newcastle 1913.
  4. Watson, Godfrey, Northumberland Place Names, Sandhill: Morpeth 1995.

Acknowledgements:  Big thanks to Paul Screeton for the grid-reference!

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian