Ashlar Chair, Burley Moor, West Yorkshire

Legendary Rock:  OS Grid Reference – SE 12075 44833

Ashlar Chair, looking southeast

Also Known as:

  1. Carving no.111 (Hedges)
  2. Carving no.115 (Boughey & Vickerman)
  3. Druid’s Chair
  4. Etching Stone

Getting Here

There are two large boulders here, one of which was deemed the Ashlar many moons back. You can approach it from the lazy way: park y’ car at the top of the road by the Whetstone Gate TV masts and walk east right along the boundary path till you get here. The better way is from Twelve Apostles: from there walk a coupla hundred yards north to the Lanshaw Lad boundary stone, where a small path heads west. Along here for another coupla hundred yards, then hit the footpath south for the roughly the same distance again. You’ve arrived!

Archaeology & History

The Ashlar Chair is ascribed in folklore, said Harry Speight (1892), “to be a relic of druidism,” as one of its titles in ages past was the Druid’s Chair.  In the nineteenth century it also became known as the Etching Stone, (Smith 1961-63) but it has retained its present title for more than two hundred years.  Shaped more like a couch than a chair, its present title—the Ashlar—is important in ritual Freemasonry, which has two aspects to it: the ‘rough’ and the ‘perfect’.  The first represents the neophyte; the latter, the illumined one.  Oaths are sworn on the ashlar, and laws are spoken from it.  In its higher aspect it is representative of the spiritual maturity  of evolved man.

Ashlar Chair on 1851 map

Although there are no public records as to who gave the site its present name, the land which lays before it, The Square, is an even greater indicator that this rock was was considerably more than just a curious place-name, for the open moorland that is overseen from Ashlar Chair—The Square — is 396,000 square yards of flat open heathlands that have never been archaeologically explored.  The Square is also one of the most important elements of Freemasonry: representing the manifest universe, its laws are spoken from the Ashlar. (Jones 1950)

Between the two of them, represented here in the landscape near the very tops of these moors, we have a form of late geomancy, although the names of our geomancers are nowhere to be found.  It is obvious though, simply from the name of the land, that dramatic ritual of some form was enacted here.  In recent times, ritual magickians from differing Orders have found the place most effective, as have wiccan folk and other pagans who have frequented it at the summer solstice.  The possibility that some members of the Grand Lodge of ALL England (a legendary Masonic Order, said by the modern London masons not to have existed until the eighteenth century) gave this place its name is not unreasonable.  Records show that in the fourteenth century at least one member of the Order, Sir Walter Hawksworth, frequented ritual circles on these moors; and another member of the same Lodge from the nearby Washburn valley was an ally to the Pendle and Washburn witches who, we know, met on these moors at Twelve Apostles stone circle and probably the Ashlar.  But it proves nothing I suppose. (I tend to believe (not a necessarily healthy viewpoint) that the Grand Lodge did use the Ashlar as one of their moot points, along with the Pendle and Washburn witches.)

Its primary geomantic attribute is as an omphalos.  Geographically the Ashlar Chair is the meeting-point of Bingley, Burley, Morton and Ilkley moors and, metaphorically speaking, when you stand here you are outside the confines of the four worlds yet still a purveyor of them.

Nature’s cups-and-grooves on the Ashlar

Upon the large rock itself it are carved the faint initials, “MM, BTP, ISP and IG, 1826.”  Several early records described cup-and-ring designs on the Ashlar: firstly in Forrest & Grainge’s (1868) archaeological tour; then in Collyer & Turner’s Ilkley (1885); and lastly by the great Yorkshire historian and topographer Harry Speight (1892, 1900), who said “it bears numerous cups and channels.”  Although we can see some of these on top of the Ashlar, they are mainly Nature’s handiwork.  It is possible that some man-made cup-and-rings once existed on the rock, but if so they have eroded over time.

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  2. Collyer, Robert & Turner, J.H., Ilkley Ancient & Modern, William Walker: Leeds 1885.
  3. Forrest, C. & Grainge, William, A Ramble on Rumbald’s Moor, among the Dwellings, Cairns and Circles of the Ancient Britons in the Summer of 1867 – Part 1, W.T. Lamb: Wakefield 1868.
  4. Jones, Bernard E., Freemason’s Guide and Compendium, Harrap: London 1950.
  5. Speight, Harry, Chronicles & Stories of Old Bingley and District, Elliott Stock: London 1892.
  6. Speight, Harry, Upper Wharfedale, Elliott Stock: London 1900.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Ashlar Chair

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Ashlar Chair 53.899528, -1.817721 Ashlar Chair

Stoodley Pike Circle, Mankinholes, West Yorkshire

Ring Cairn (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SD 9730 2418

Getting Here

Stoodley Pike is unmissable! Get to either Hebden Bridge or Todmorden – ask someone – then get to it! Nice climb – nice view – excellent moors all round!

Archaeology & History

Artist’s impression of Stoodley Pike Circle (bottom left of ruin)

All traces of this site have gone, but local gossip still tells there was once something here. When building work commenced on the huge folly in 1814, in clearing the ground “an accumulation of stones (and)…a quantity of bones” were unearthed. After the huge folly had been built, a curious ritual was made by local Freemasons, from here to the nearby Slake Well. The circle was only a small one, but ideal for the spirit of the ancestor to both look-out from, and fly across the landscape.  In another description of the place from 1832 — wrote E.M. Savage (1974) — local writer and poet, William Law, told how “a rude heap of stones had stood on the site from time immemorial.”

Folklore

Suggested by earlier writers to have been an old beacon site, though evidence for this is uncertain.  The site was said to be a meeting place of the “gude grannies,” who met here and told old stories.  E.M. Savage (1974) told us:

“Another story was that the cairn marked the grave of an old chietain and that the bones of a human skeleton had been found… A contemporary of (William) Law, called Holt…stated that this was so.  Another story was that someone had been murdered and buried there.  Many years later, Law quizzed the workmen.  Bones had been found but no one knew whose bones, or their age, so the mystery remained.

“Yet another story had it that the occupant, presumably owner, of Stoodley, had to keep the original Pike, the cairn, in neat and good order.  If a single stone was out of place, no one could sleep.  The banging of doors and other noises started up, to remind the owner to tidy up the stones.  Elusive flames were to be seen playing round the stones. Sor the stories went.”

As can be seen in the artist’s drawing above, done more than a century after the cairn had been destroyed, a ring of stones is shown just below the remains of the earlier of the Peace Monuments, which today carries the old name of Stoodley Pike.

References:

  1. Booth, Thomas, Ancient Grave Mounds on the Slopes of the Pennine Range, R. Chambers: Todmorden 1899.
  2. Savage, E.M., Stoodley Pike, Todmorden Antiquarian Society 1974.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  53.714030, -2.042387 Stoodley Pike cairn

Maiden or Tailor’s Cross, Foulridge, Lancashire

Cross:  OS Grid Reference – SD 890 423

Getting Here

Not hard to locate.  From Colne head up to Foulridge via the skipton Road and as you get to the middle of the town ask find the cenotaph just off the main road.

Archaeology & History

The Maiden or Tailor's Cross, Foulridge
The Maiden or Tailor’s Cross, Foulridge

The Maiden or Tailor’s Cross has at least two old traditions attached to the site, which local historians think originate from the Civil War period.  The first tells of a Royalist tailor who – sensibly – refused to make uniforms for Oliver Cromwell’s traitorous soldiers; but as a result, the poor tailor was shot by the troops and the remains of his body were placed over the old stone cross as a warning to his fellow workers.  If you look closely on the cross you can see a crude carving of what looks like a pair of scissors or shears, and it is this carved symbol which has seemingly given birth to the legend of the tailor.  There may, of course, be some truth in the story; but the carved shears is more likely an old Masonic carving – though quite who did it and when isn’t known.

The other legend is the one which apparently gave birth to the title of the Maiden’s Cross.  It tells of a certain Margaret Burnard whose husband went into battle (on the side of the treacherous Cromwell), but who agreed before he set out that she should wait for him for to return by the side of the old cross; and this she did each and every day, waiting for her husband, Robert, to come back from the Civil War.  But he was one of the many who died in the Battle of Marston Moor.  However, Margaret refused to accept his death and returned to the cross each evening to their agreed meeting place.  The story goes that Margaret herself herself was eventually killed by Royalist soldiers – and her body was buried at the cross where she had so often waited in vain.

It seems likely that this old cross originally replaced an old ‘heathen’ site in Foulridge.  Several such spots were known here, though virtually nothing now remains.  But notices of these sites will appear on TNA in the near future.

References:

  1. Oldland, F., The Story of Foulridge, PHCL: Pendle 1990.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Maiden Cross

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Maiden Cross 53.877260, -2.168095 Maiden Cross