Harden Moor Cairnfield, Bingley, West Yorkshire

Cairns:  OS Grid Reference – SE 0757 3869

Getting Here

Overgrown cairn, looking north

Follow the same directions to reach the Harden Moor circle.  From here, walk down the footpath at its side down the slope for 100 yards and take the first little footpath on your left for 25 yards, then left again for 25 yards, watching for a small footpath on your right.  Walk on here for another 100 yards or so, keeping your eyes peeled for the image in the photo just off-path on your left, almost overgrown with heather. 

Archaeology & History

This is just one of several cairns in and around this area (I’ll probably add more and give ’em their own titles and profiles as time goes by), but it’s in a pretty good state of preservation.  Nothing specific has previously been written about it, though it seems to have been recorded and given the National Monument number of 31489, with the comment “Cairn 330m north of Woodhead, Harden Moor.” (anyone able to confirm or correct this for me?)

It’s a good, seemingly undisturbed tomb, very overgrown on its north and eastern sides.  Three pretty large upright stones, a couple of feet high, remain in position with an infill of smaller stones and overgrowth (apart from removing a little vegetation from the edges to see it clearer, we didn’t try disturbing it when we found it).  It gives the impression of being a tomb for just one, perhaps two people and is more structured than the simple pile-of-stone cairns on the moors north of here above Ilkley and Bingley.  Indeed, the upright stones initially gave the impression of it once being a small cromlech of sorts!  Other cairns exist close by, but until we get heather-burning done up here, they’re difficult to find – or at least get any decent images of them!

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Harden Moor cairnfield

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Harden Moor cairnfield 53.844400, -1.886430 Harden Moor cairnfield

Castlestead Ring, Cullingworth, West Yorkshire

Earthworks:  OS Grid References – SE 0514 3627

Also Known as:

  1. Blood Dykes

Getting Here

The complete Castlestead Ring on 1852 map
The complete Castlestead Ring on 1852 map

Dead easy this one!  On the Keighley-Halifax A629 road, about 500 yards south past Flappit Spring (public house), there’s a small road to your right.  Walk on here for 200 yards and look in the field to your right.  If the grass is long you might struggle to see it, but gerrin the field and it runs right up against the wall.  Y’ can’t miss it really!  You can park up a coupla hundred yards down the A629 main road, by the old quarry, and walk back to get here.

Archaeology & History

Although I’ve earlier described this as “nowt much to look at,” the more I come here, the more I like the place (sad aren’t !!?).  The hard-core  archaeology folks amidst you should like it aswell.  Not to be confused with the site of the same name a mile to the south of here, this large earthwork was shown on the 1852 OS-map as a complete ring, which is also confirmed in old folklore; and a survey done by Bradford University in the late 1970s indicated a complete circle was once in evidence.  To view this for yourself: if you type the OS grid-reference into Google maps, you’ll see from the aerial image that a complete ring was indeed here at sometime in the not-too-distant past.

Bend in the ditch on northern side of the ring
Harry Speight’s 1898 drawing

Today however – indeed, since William Keighley described it 1858 – there’s only a shallow, semi-circular ditch to be seen in the fields.  But despite this, its remains have brought it to the literary attention of about a dozen writers – though we still don’t know exactly what it was!  The best conjecture is by the archaeologist Bernard Barnes (1982), who thinks it best to describe as a enclosure or earthwork dating from the Bronze Age.  Eighty feet across and covering more than 1.5 acres, an excavation of the site in 1911 found nothing to explain its status.

One of the first descriptions of this site comes from the pen of the industrial Bradford historian, John James in 1876 (though Hearne, Leland and Richardson describe it in brief much earlier). Talking of the sparsity of prehistoric remains in the region (ancient history wasn’t his forte!), he said, “I know of no British remains in the parish that are not equivocal, unless a small earth-work lying to the westward of Cullingworth may be considered of that class.”

Indeed it is! He continued:

“It is situated on a gentle slope, about two hundred yards from a place called Flappit Springs, on the right-hand side of the road leading thence to Halifax. The form has been circular. (my italics) The greater part of it to the south has been destroyed by the plough. I took several measurements of that part which remains, but have mislaid the memoranda I then made; I however estimate the diameter to have been about 50 yards. The ditch to the westward is very perfect. It is about two yards deep and three wide; with the earth thrown up in the form of a rampart on the inner side. The remain is less perfect to the eastward.”

James then speculates on the nature of the site, thinking it to be “one of a line of forts erected by the Brigantes…to prevent the inroads of the Sistuntii.” Intriguing idea!

A few years later when William Cudworth (1876) visited the site, he described:

“At present there only remains about one-fourth part of a circle representing the appearance of a considerable earthwork or rampart. The remainder has been cut away by the construction of the road leading to the allotments.”

Echoing Mr James’ sentiments, Cudworth also suggested “it may have been an enclosure to guard their cattle, while in summer they grazed on the vast slope on which it stands.”  Y’ never know…

NW section showing bank and ditch
Exposed stonework of inner embankment

A visit to the place on October 21 2007, found not only a profusion of mushrooms scattering the field (varying species of Amanita, Lycoperdon, Panaeolina, Psilocybes, etc), and the remnants of two old stone buildings 20 yards of the NE side, but a distinctive ‘entrance’ on the northern side of the ring, which gave the slight impression of it being a possible henge monument. It’s certainly big enough! All traces of the southern-side of the ring however, have been ploughed out.

The views from here are quite excellent, nearly all the way round. You’re knocking-on a 1000 feet above sea level and the high hills of Baildon, Ilkley, Ogden Moor and the Oxenhope windmills are your mark-points. There’s one odd thing to think about aswell: if this is a prehistoric site, it’s pretty much an isolated one according to the archaeo-catalogue – and as we know only too well, that aint the rule of things. We’ve got adjacent moorlands south and west of here, very close by. Likelihood is, there’s undiscovered stuff to be foraged for hereabouts…

Folklore

An old folk-name given to this ring is the Blood Dykes, which is supposed to relate to the place being the site of a great battle.

References:

  1. Barnes, Bernard, Man and the Changing Landscape, Eaton: Merseyside 1982.
  2. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  3. Cudworth, William, Round about Bradford, Thomas Brear: Bradford 1876.
  4. Elgee, Frank & Harriett, The Archaeology of Yorkshire, Methuen: London 1933.
  5. Forshaw, C.F., ‘Castlestead, near Cullingworth,’ in Yorkshire Notes and Queries – volume 4, H.C. Derwent: Bradford 1908.
  6. James, John, The History and Topography of Bradford, Longmans: London 1876.
  7. Keighley, J.J., ‘The Prehistoric Period,’ in Faull & Moorhouse’s, West Yorkshire: An Archaeological Survey to AD 1500 – volume 1, WYMCC: Wakefield 1981.
  8. Keighley, William, Keighley, Past and Present, Arthur Hall: Keighley 1858.
  9. Speight, Harry, Chronicles and Stories of Bingley and District, Elliott Stock: London 1898.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Castlestead Ring

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Castlestead Ring 53.822678, -1.923402 Castlestead Ring

Harden Moor Stone Row, Bingley, West Yorkshire

Standing Stones (lost):  OS Grid Reference – SE 07 38

Getting Here

This site hasn’t been located. However, if it hasn’t been destroyed by the quarrying on the SW side of the moor, remains of it should still be found amidst the heather and would be a good discovery for any enthusiast.

Archaeology & History

The first notes I found about this place were those by archaeologist Sydney Jackson in 1956, who wrote:

“It would be interesting to know what Dr Richard Richardson, of Bierley Hall, Bradford meant when, writing about 1709, he said that Mr Benjamin Ferrand show him a ‘skirt of stones’ on Harden Moor, near to a row of stones placed in a line nigh two hundred paces in length some two feet above the heath, others hidden beneath it.” (my italics)

The undoubted man-made nature of this row of stones was emphasized by Dr Richardson when he wrote,

“That these stones were placed here by design, no person can doubt; but for what I end cannot conjecture, having never seen anything of this kind before.”

The great Yorkshire historian Harry Speight (1898) also came across the same antiquarian notes many years before and speculated how,

“it may be inferred from this that it had been a double row of stones, like the avenue of Maiden Castle in Swaledale.”

The ‘skirt of stones’ that were described here may be the well-preserved Harden Moor Circle.  However in recently finding the short essay of Peter Craik (1907) of Keighley, this idea may need re-assessing, as Craik clearly shows in his survey of the the nearby Catstones Ring earthwork, what he described as the “remains of a cairn” on the northern edge of that ring, giving us a different location for this lost stone row.

However, another potential position for our lost stone row that needs exploring is the one described by Butler Wood following an exploratory visit here with the Bradford historian, William E. Preston, at the beginning of the 20th century.  Mr Wood (1905) told of them both coming across some sort of earth-and-stone line “half-a-mile north of” the Catstones Ring, telling:

“Mr W.E. Preston and myself traced a short time ago on Harden Moor, remains of an entrenchment for a distance of 80 or 90 yards.  It faces south, and lies near Spring Head Heights.  The wall consisting of boulder and earth rising three feet above the soil, but there is no trace of a ditch.”

This is obviously half the length described by Richardson and Ferrand in 1709, but nearly two centuries separate the two accounts (the position of Mr Woods’ line is roughly SE 072 387; whilst that nearer to the Catstones Ring would be nearer SE 069 383).

I’ve searched the tops of this moorland a number of times hoping to locate this seemingly important megalithic stone row, obviously without success.  Further searches on the moor are needed after the heather’s been burnt back.

References:

  1. Craik, Peter, “Catstones Ring,” in C.F. Forshaw’s Yorkshire Notes & Queries, volume 3 (H.C. Derwent: Bradford 1907).
  2. Jackson, Sidney, “Harden Circle Found,” in Cartwright Hall Archaeology Group Bulletin, 2:1, July 1956.
  3. Speight, Harry, Chronicles and Stories of Old Bingley, Elliott Stock: London 1898.
  4. Wood, Butler, ‘Prehistoric Antiquities of the Bradford District,’ in Bradford Antiquary, volume 2, 1905.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Harden Moor stone row

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Harden Moor stone row 53.844495, -1.892053 Harden Moor stone row

Catstones Ring, Harden, West Yorkshire

Earthworks:  OS Grid Reference – SE 0680 3808

Also Known as:

  1. Blood Dykes

Getting Here

Catstones Ring on 1852 OS-map

Various ways here. From Keighley, go up the Halifax Road, first left after the Ingrow West train station, uphill, then up the long zizaggy road till you hit the pub at the crossroads.  Park up and walk along the road in front of the pub for 1-200 yards and look at the hill above you! Alternatively, from Bingley go up to Harden on the B6429 and literally just where the village ends, there’s a small right-turn (if you’re going past the fields on either side, you’ve just missed the turning!). Go up there till the road reaches the top and stop! Catstones Hill is in the heather over the wall on your left!

Archaeology & History

A somewhat anomalous earthwork site, with lots of archaeohistorical speculation behind it, but no firm conclusion as to its precise nature as yet.  Defined variously as an earthwork, an enclosure (for both people and cattle!) and a settlement by respective archaeologists over the years, there is little to be seen of the place on the ground and it doesn’t tend to bring raptures of delight to the common antiquarian. When William Keighley (1858) described this place, Catstones Ring was,

“enclosed on three sides by a considerable bank of earth, and bears evident marks of the plough. The country people believe it to have been an intrenchment or camp.”

Mrs Ella Armitage (1905) thought this site may have been “a prehistoric fort,” but said little more about it.  In the same year however, Mr Butler Wood (1905) gave us a much better account of the place, describing Catstones Ring as “the most striking earthwork in the neighbourhood of Bradford.”  His broader description told that:

“It encloses the crest and slope of a hill, and measures 266 yards on the east side (which is perfect), and 100 yards on the north side; the latter, however, being traceable at least 100 yards further across cultivated fields.  The south side is almost obliterated by quarries, while the western portion has disappeared altogether.  The fosse which surrounded this fine fortification is still visible on the eastern side.”

A couple of years later two short notes were made of the site in Forshaw’s Yorkshire Notes and Queries.  Peter Craik (1907) of Keighley described the dimensions of the main ring as being “110 x 320 yards (rough guess),” and he also described finding the remains of a cairn in the outer dyke section (marked as ‘X’ on Craik’s diagram, below).  On the nature of the site, he wrote:

“Catstones would appear to have been built as a defence against invasion from the south, for in contrast to the early defensible approach from that direction is the fact that to the  north lies the undulating expanse of Harden Moor, which for the most part is on a level with the ring, even the highest point in the immediate vicinity being without the main circle, though enclosed in a minor outwork.  The large extent of the ring makes it rather difficult to believe that enough men could be collected in the immediate neighbourhood to man the lines satisfactorily; and again as a shelter for cattle, etc, in time of war it does not appear to be well designed, for most of the interior would be commanded within easy range of arrows.  Certain old excavations exist within the ring; probably they were made in search of gravel or some such material, but is this conjecture certain?  Can they possibly mark the site of dwellings?”

J.J. Brigg (1907) followed up Craik’s short piece with the suggestion that the site was Roman in origin, saying:

“In showing the 6in map to Professor Bosanquet of Liverpool…he said there was no reason why it should not be Roman, merely because there is no masonry.  The Roman legions went into laager* every night, and it is quite possible that some very large body of soldiers halting there for the night might have thrown up an earthwork and planted thereon the stakes which they always carried with them for that purpose.”

But I think this is most unlikely.  Very little has been found here to give us a better idea of dates and function; and in a limited excavation here in 1962, no artifacts of any kind were located.  A little more recently, J.J. Keighley (1981) has suggested the site to be Iron Age in date, describing it as one of the most impressive sites of its kind in the region. The Catstones Ring is “a 6.5 hectare quadrangular ditched enclosure,” he wrote, which he thought had been much destroyed by the adjacent quarrying.

“Aerial photographs taken by the County Archaeology Unit in 1977 however, shows that the southeastern corner of the enclosure and parts of its southern ditch survived the quarrying. Villy (1921) observed an outwork to the north of the main enclosure, which was visible on aerial photographs taken in 1948, and the 1977 aerial photographs…show a possible annexe attached to the outside of the northeastern corner of the main enclosure.”

P. Craik’s 1907 drawing

This extended section of Catstones’ main earthworks were, in fact, first described in the article by Peter Craik (1907), as shown in the hand-drawn plan of the site here.  And in all honesty, virtually nowt’s been done since these early antiquarians diggings and essays.  The information from the present day Sites and Monuments Record says that the site is a “late prehistoric enclosed settlement” and that quarrying has destroyed much of the west side.

Folklore

Harry Speight (1892) reported the earthworks here to have been a site where a great battle once took place, between the local people and the early Scottish tribes.

References:

  1. Armitage, E., ‘The Non-Sepulchral Earthworks of Yorkshire,’ in Bradford Antiquary, New Series 2, 1905.
  2. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  3. Brigg, John J., “Catstones Ring,” in C.F. Forshaw’s Yorkshire Notes & Queries, volume 3 (H.C. Derwent: Bradford 1907).
  4. Craik, Peter, “Catstones Ring,” in C.F. Forshaw’s Yorkshire Notes & Queries, volume 3 (H.C. Derwent: Bradford 1907).
  5. Keighley, J.J., “The Prehistoric Period,” in Faull & Moorhouse’s, West Yorkshire: An Archaeological Survey to AD 1500 (WYMCC: Wakefield 1981).
  6. Keighley, William, Keighley, Past and Present, R. Aked: Keighley 1858.
  7. Speight, Harry, Chronicles and Stories of Old Bingley, Elliott Stock: London 1892.
  8. Villy, Francis, Some Intrenchments of Large Size in the Keighley District, Keighley 1908.
  9. Villy, Francis, “The Slag-Heaps of Harden,” in Bradford Antiquary, volume 6, 1921.
  10. Wood, Butler, ‘Pre-Historic Antiquities of the Bradford District,’ in Bradford Antiquary, New Series 2, 1905.

* a formation of armoured vehicles used for quick resupply or refueling.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Catstones Ring

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Catstones Ring 53.838928, -1.898146 Catstones Ring

Elm Crag Well, Bingley, West Yorkshire

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – SE 1028 3907

Getting Here

From Bingley, take the B6429 road up to Harden.  After going up the wooded winding road for a few hundred yards, stop where it levels out.  Cross onto the right-hand side of the road and walk up the slope a little, veering to your right.  You’ll notice a small disused building just off the roadside, in overgrowth, with a pool of water.  You need to be about 100 yards up the slope above it!

Archaeology & History

Elm Crag Well, Bell Bank Wood, Bingley
Elm Crag Well, Bell Bank Wood, Bingley

This is a beautiful old place.  If you walk straight up to it from the roadside, past the derelict building, you have to struggle through the brambles and prickly slope like we did – but it’s worth it if you like your wells!  However, if you try getting here in the summertime, expect to be attacked on all sides by the indigenous flora!  The waters here emerge from a low dark cave, in which, a century of three ago, someone placed a large stone trough.  When I first came here about 25 years ago, some halfwits had built an ugly red-brick wall into the cave which, thankfully, someone has had the sense to destroy and rip-out.

Shown on the 1852 Ordnance Survey map and highlighted as a ‘spring,’ Harry Speight (1898) gives a brief mention to this site, though refers us to an even earlier literary source when it was first mentioned. In John Richardson’s 18th century survey of the Craven area, he makes reference to an exceedingly rare fern, Trichomanes radicans, which was later included in Bolton’s classic monograph on British ferns of 1785.  In it, Bolton wrote that the very first specimen of this plant was “first discovered by Dr. Richardson in a little dark cavern, under a dripping rock, below the spring of Elm Crag Well, in Bell Bank.”

Elm Crag Well
Elm Crag Well

The waters from here come from two sides inside the small cave and no longer run into the lichen-encrusted trough, seemingly just dropping down to Earth and re-emerging halfway down the hillside.  But the waters here taste absolutely gorgeous and are very refreshing indeed!  And the old elms which gave this old well its name can still be seen, only just hanging on to the rocks above and to the side, with not much time left for the dear things.

References:

  1. Bolton, James, Filices Britannicae: An History of the British Proper Ferns, Thomas Wright 1785.
  2. Speight, Harry, Chronicles and Stories of Old Bingley, Elliott Stock: London 1898.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Elm Crag Well

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Elm Crag Well 53.847769, -1.845230 Elm Crag Well

Harden Moor Circle, Bingley, West Yorkshire

Ring Cairn:  OS Grid Reference – SE 07496 38675

Getting Here

Harden Moor circle01
Harden Moor Circle, looking SE

From Harden, go up Moor Edge High Side (terraced row) till you reach the top. Follow the path thru’ the woods on the left side of the stream till you bend back on yourself and go uphill till you reach the moor edge. Keep walking for about 500 yards and keep an eye out to your immediate left.  The other route is from the Guide Inn pub: cross the road and go up the dirt-track on the moor-edge till you reach a crossing of the tracks where a footpath takes you straight onto the moor (south). Walk on here, heading to the highest point where the path eventually drops down the slope, SE. As you drop down, watch out for the birch tree, cos the circle’s to be found shortly after that, on your right, hidden in the heather!

Archaeology & History

This aint a bad little site hidden away on the small remains of Harden Moor, but is more of a ‘ring cairn’ than an authentic stone circle (a designation given it by previous archaeologists).  An early description of it was by Bradford historian Butler Wood (1905), who also mentioned there being the remains of around 20 small burials nearby.  When the great Sidney Jackson (1956; 1959) and his team of devoted Bradford amateurs got round to excavating here, he found “four or five Bronze Age urns” associated with the circle.  His measurements of the site found it to be 24 feet across, and although the stones are buried into the peat with none of them reaching higher than 3 feet tall, it’s a quietly impressive little monument this one.  About 20 upright stones make up the main part of the ring.

I’ve visited the place often over the last year or so since a section of the heather has been burnt away on the southern edges of the circle.  This has made visible a very distinct surrounding raised embankment of packing stones about a yard wide and nearly two-feet high, particularly on the southern and eastern sides of the circle, giving the site a notable similarity in appearance and structure to the Roms Law circle (or Grubstones Ring) on Ilkley Moor a few miles to the north.

There is also the possibility that this ring of stones was the site described by local historian William Keighley (1858) in his brief outline of the antiquities of the region, where he wrote:

“On Harden Moor, about two miles south of Keighley, we meet with an interesting plot of ground where was to be seen in the early days of many aged persons yet living, a cairn or ‘skirt of stones,’* which appears to have given name to the place, now designated Cat or Scat-stones. This was no doubt the grave of some noted but long-forgotten warrior.

* The Cairn was called Skirtstones by the country people in allusion to the custom of carrying a stone in the skirt to add to the Cairn.”

However, a site called the ‘Cat stones’ is to be found on the nearby hill about 500 yards southeast – and this mention of a cairn could be the same one which a Mr Peter Craik (1907) of Keighley mentioned in his brief survey of the said Catstones Ring at the turn of the 20th century.  We just can’t be sure at the moment.  There are still a number of lost sites, inaccuracies and questions relating to the prehistoric archaeology of Harden Moor (as the case of the megalithic Harden Moor Stone Row illustrates).

Section of the inner ring
Section of the inner ring

The general lack of an accurate archaeological survey of this region is best exemplified by the archaeologist J.J. Keighley’s (1981) remark relating specifically to the Harden Moor Circle, when he erroneously told that, “there are now no remains of the stone circle on this site” — oh wot an indicator that he spent too much time with paperwork!  For, as we can see, albeit hidden somewhat by an excessive growth of heather, the ring is in quite good condition.

It would be good to have a more up-to-date set of excavations and investigations here.  In the event that much of the heather covering this small moorland is burnt back, more accurate evaluations could be forthcoming. But until then…..

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  2. Craik, Peter, “Catstones Ring,” in C.F. Forshaw’s Yorkshire Notes & Queries, volume 3 (H.C. Derwent: Bradford 1907).
  3. Faull, M.L & Moorhouse, S.A. (eds.), West Yorkshire: An Archaeological Survey to AD 1500 – volume 1, WYMCC: Wakefield 1981.
  4. Jackson, Sidney, “Harden Moor Circle,” in Cartwright Hall Archaeology Group Bulletin, 1:18, June 1956.
  5. Jackson, Sidney, “Harden Circle Found,” in Cartwright Hall Archaeology Group Bulletin, 2:1, July 1956.
  6. Jackson, Sidney, “Bronze Age Urn found on Harden Moor,” in Cartwright Hall Archaeology Group Bulletin, no.7, 1959.
  7. Keighley, J.J., “The Prehistoric Period,” in Faull & Moorhouse, WYMCC: Wakefield 1981.
  8. Keighley, William, Keighley Past and Present, Arthur Hall: London 1858.
  9. Wood, Butler, ‘Prehistoric Antiquities of the Bradford District,’ in Bradford Antiquary, volume 2, 1905.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Harden Moor circle

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Harden Moor circle 53.844266, -1.887555 Harden Moor circle

Fairy Stone, Cottingley, Bingley, West Yorkshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 0980 3789

Also Known as:

  1. Black Hills Carving 01
  2. Cottingley Woods Carving 01

Getting Here

To get here, start from Bingley centre, go through Myrtle Park, across the river bridge and turn right at the dirt-track. Walk on & go over the old bridge/ford of Harden Beck, keeping with the track until the next set of buildings and be aware of a footpath left here. Take this and cross the golf-course, bearing SE until you reach the edge of Cottingley Woods. Take the distinct footpath into the trees & walk up the vivid moss-coloured path until you reach the level at the top where the woods become more deciduous. Here, turn left for 100 yards into the bit of woodland which has been fenced-off and walk about. You’ll find it!

Archaeology & History

Cottingley Woods Fairy Stone

This is a truly superb cup-and-ring stone which anyone into the subject must take a look at!  It was first found by the old forester here, Ronald Bennett, in 1966 — ten years before Keith Boughey (2005) mistakenly reported it to have been found “by Valerie Parkinson…in 1976.”  Everything about it’s excellent — but I think the setting in woodland is what really brings it out.

The first published account and photograph of this superb carved stone seems to have been in Joe Cooper’s (1982) precursory essay on the Cottingley Fairies in an article he wrote for The Unexplained magazine in the 1980s.  A few years later I included the stone in a short article on local folklore, then again much later in The Old Stones of Elmet (2001).  It was curiously omitted from Boughey & Vickerman’s (2003) survey, as were the other carvings that are found very close by.  Not sure why…  But of the small cluster here (I’ll add the others later), this carving stands out as the best of the bunch by far!  Its name has nothing to do with the Cottingley Fairy folk down town: it simply originates from my own teenage thoughts and the true ambience of the setting. Check it out!

Joe Cooper’s 1982 photo
Fairy Stone carving

The rock is typical millstone grit and its carved upper surface measures roughly 3 yards east-west and 2 yards north-south, sloping gently into the ground.  As the photo shows, this is an elaborate design seemingly centred around two large and another smaller circular form, each enclosing a number of internal cups, ring and lines.  The next time we’re over there, we’ll try get some clearly images and make a detailed drawing of the old fella!  In the event that you visit here, check out the other three carvings close to this primary design — and try work out which one of the three was carved by the scouts in more modern times!  Another simple cup-marked stone was recently found in the undergrowth a short distant east of this group.

Sketch of the design in 1981

Recently the carving was given attention with what’s known as photogrammetry software: this enables a more complete image of the 3-dimensional nature of objects scrutinized.  In the resulting photos (which I’m unable to reproduce here due to copyright restrictions), a previously unseen long carved line was detected that runs across the middle of the larger of the two enclosing rings.  Hopefully in the coming months, those with the software (can’t remember whether it’s English Heritage or Pennine Prospects who won’t allow it) might allow us to reproduce one or two of their images to enable the rest of the world to see what their images have uncovered.  After all, considering that we peasants brought this carving to their attention, you’d at least hope they could repay the finds.  Some of these larger organizations, despite what they may say, simply don’t swing both ways!

Folklore

In an early edition of my old Fortean archaeology rag of the 1980s, I narrated the tale of one Anne Freeman, who was walking through the woods here.  When she reached the top of the woods, near some stones she heard a loud chattering and allegedly saw two tiny figures barely one-foot tall wearing red outfits and green hats in “medieval peasant dress”.  Andy Roberts (1992) later repeated the tale and illustrated the carving in his Yorkshire folklore work.

In the 1960s, the old ranger Ronnie Bennett (no relative of mine) who first found these carvings, also reported that he saw little people here: “not one, but three,” as he said.  Not fairies with wings, but more gnome-like.

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, Of Cups and Rings and Things, unpublished: Shipley 1981.
  2. Bennett, Paul, ‘Tales of Yorkshire Faeries,’ in Earth 9, 1988.
  3. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  4. Boughey, Keith, “A Group of Four Cup-and-Ring-Marked Rocks at Black Hills, Cottingley Woods,” in Prehistory Research Section Bulletin, no.42, 2005.
  5. Cooper, Joe, ‘Cottingley: At Last the Truth,’ in The Unexplained 117, 1982
  6. Roberts, Andy, Ghosts and Legends of Yorkshire, Jarrold 1992.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  53.837173, -1.852563 Fairy Stone CR

Druid’s Altar, Bingley, West Yorkshire

Legendary Rocks: OS Grid Reference – SE 0924 3994

Getting There

Druid’s Altar, sitting with mist

Pretty easy to get to. Best thing to do really, is ask a local and they’ll send you in the right direction. From Bingley, take the Harden road (B6429) across the river. As it bends sharply left, note there’s a track going up into the woods to the right. Walk up it! Keep going and, unless you take a detour, you’ll end up at the rock outcrop eventually (where the woods come to an end, Druid’s Altar appears before you with the track running along its top-side).

Archaeology & History

Mentioned in the Tithe Awards of 1849, this lovely outcrop of rocks looking down the Aire Valley on the southern edge of Bingley has “an immemorial tradition” of druidic worship, said Harry Speight in 1898 – though quite when it first acquired such repute is outside of any literary record.  In Sidney Greenbank’s (1929) rare book on this place, he could find little by way of archaeological data to affirm the old tradition, save the odd prehistoric find of flints here and there; though it is said that Beltane fires were burned upon the crags here in bygone centuries.

1894 photo of Druid's Altar (courtesy Clive Hardy)
1894 photo of Druid’s Altar (courtesy Clive Hardy)

There was a 19th century account from the Ilkley Scientific Club where a member described there being a cup-and-ring carving “near the so-called Druid’s Altar, at Bingley,” but I’m unaware of the whereabouts of this carving and Boughey & Vickerman’s (2003) said nothing about it in their survey; though a possible cup-marking can be seen on one rock less than 100 yards west, which might account for the report. (a bit dodgy though!)

Folklore

Harry Speight (1898) makes what sounds like a rare flight of fancy when he described faerie being seen atop of the many oaks beneath the Druid’s Altar.  In Clive Hardy’s (2002) work (from whence the old photo of the Altar is taken), he tells how “local antiquarians say that the cobbled way running from the Brown Cow Inn towards the site, is an old processional route walked by the druids.”

One, possibly two wells, each beneath the Altar rocks, are also reputed to have been associated with the old pagan priests, as their names tell: the Altar Well and the Druid’s Well – though the Altar Well has seemingly fallen back to Earth in recent years.

References:

  1. Greenbank, Sidney, The Druid’s Altar, Bingley, R.G. Preston: Bingley 1929.
  2. Hardy, Clive, Around Bradford, Frith Book Ltd: Salisbury 2002.
  3. Moores, Les, Ancient Monuments and Stone Circles, Francis Frith Collection: Salisbury 2005.
  4. Speight, Harry, Chronicles and Stories of Bingley and District, Elliott Stock: London 1898.
  5. Turner, J. Horsfall, Ancient Bingley, Thomas Harrison: Bingley 1897.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Druid's Altar

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Druid\'s Altar 53.855608, -1.861011 Druid\'s Altar

Druid’s Well, Bingley, West Yorkshire

Sacred Well:  OS Grid Reference – SE 09394 39894

Getting Here

If you’re a bittova unhealthy dood, give this site a miss, as it takes a bitta getting to!  Otherwise, get to the rocks at the very bottom of the Druid’s Altar and walk to the right (east) until you hit the walling a few hundred yards along.  Near the bottom of the slope, where the land levels out, there are several lovely moss-strewn boulders in their music of graceful hues.  One of them, you’ll see, has water emerging from it base.  You’re here!

Archaeology & History

The Druid's Well, Bingley
The Druid’s Well

I first visited this old site with the holy wells writer Edna Whelan sometime in the early 1980s, when we went in search of the sacred spring of water known as the ‘Altar Well,’ shown on early maps to be just a short distance beneath the small cliffs called the Druid’s Altar.  We didn’t find it!  Another visit with Graeme Chappell and Edna (again) sometime later also proved fruitless – but something else was found which we didn’t know about on our first sojourn: the Druid’s Well, or more accurately the Druid’s Spring. (no stone trough y’ see)  Not far from the spot that the Altar Well could once be seen, this beautiful spring of sweet water emerges beneath the rich lichen-encrusted boulder, painted with dappled mosses and an overhang of vivid ferns.  Tis a fine oracular site, if ever there was one!

The waters run slowly from beneath the great old rock, upon which grows a fine specimen of a birch tree – a truly old thing!  And if there was ever any truth about this regions association with the druids, one of their most important sacraments grows profusely here when the season is right: no, not mistletoe (though it can be found sparingly upon the old oaks), but a wealth of the sacred Amanita muscaria, to whose spirit visionary journeys were bestowed.

Close-up of the waters beneath the boulder

The name of the woodlands in which our Druid’s Spring emerges — the Hollin Wood — might also have had some associative relationship with this well, or the Altar above (modern maps call it the Hollin Plantation, as much of the old woods have been felled and copsed by modern man).  Place-name texts ascribe this to be the ‘woodland of holly trees’, but during our wander through the woods a few weeks ago (when we got the photos of the Druid’s Well) holly trees were not common.  It may be that the Hollin Wood originally derived from ‘holy wood’, as this old well and the Druid’s Altar above would have surely made the site sacred to the druids.  Just a thought.  We will probably never know (if someone finds out for sure, one way or t’other, lemme know and I’ll amend where necessary!).

References:

  1. Greenbank, Sydney, The Druid’s Altar, Bingley, R.G. Preston: Bingley 1929.
  2. Speight, Harry, Chronicles and Stories of Old Bingley, Elliott Stock: London 1898.
  3. Whelan, Edna & Taylor, Ian, Yorkshire’s Holy Wells and Sacred Springs, Northern Lights: Dunnington 1989.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Druid's Well

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Druid\'s Well 53.855192, -1.858672 Druid\'s Well