Black Beck enclosure, Hawksworth Moor, West Yorkshire

Enclosure:  OS Grid Reference – SE 1413 4397

Getting Here

Arc of low walling

Make your way to the Black Beck tomb and walk west for some 50 yards.  If the heather has grown any more than a foot tall, it’s impossible to see.

Archaeology & History

Near the northernmost section of the Hawksworth Shaw prehistoric graveyard, some 50 yards west of the Black Beck cairn, exists the remains of a small prehistoric enclosure whose walling is deeply embedded in the peat.  Although I describe the place as an ‘enclosure’, we don’t know for certain whether it is a ruined settlement or large hut circles (although this latter idea is the more improbable).

Walling, looking N
Arc of walling, looking S

Two large open arcs of walling—like large letter “C’s”—with their open sides to the east, have been constructed next to each other, virtually coming together in the shape of an inverted number “3”.  The walling in the southern arc—measuring some 33 yards in length and barely higher than 1 foot above ground level—consists of standard stones and rubble, similar to some of the hut circles that are found in greater abundance on the north-side of Ilkley Moor.  The smaller, less visible arc of stones—some 18 yards of it—is lower in the earth.  Both lines of walling may have been robbed in part to construct some of the extensive cairns close by, as neither of the two arcs were very high and it was very difficult to work out even what sort of structure they might have been.

Like many other prehistoric sites on Rombalds Moor, only an excavation is going to tell us precisely what was going on here…

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Skirtful Spring, Hawksworth Moor, West Yorkshire

Sacred Well:  OS Grid Reference – SE 13846 44288

Getting Here

Site shown on 1851 map

Easiest way to find this is from the Great Skirtful of Stones.  From here, follow the line of the fence 250 yards south, then climb over and walk dead straight south onto Hawksworth Moor for 150 yards.  You can clearly see the mass of reeds and marshy ground way before you reach it; just be very careful not to walk straight into the reeds or you’ll get sucked down into the waters—and it’s pretty dodgy if you walk into the wrong spot, with good old Jenny Greenteeth lurking beneath the surface!

Archaeology & History

The Skirtful Spring

Highlighted on the 1851 OS-map of the area, this all-but-forgotten clear spring emerges a short distance south of the Great Skirtful of Stones and adjacent to the Hawksworth Moor cairnfield—a proximity that was probably not without meaning in prehistoric times.  Curious though it may sound, in traditional cultures across the world, water is as much an important ingredient in the cosmologies of the dead as it is in the land of the living. In earlier centuries this water-source was much more fast-flowing and wider than it is today and it would obviously have been vital for our prehistoric ancestors.  Its virtues and folklore have long since been forgotten.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Hawksworth Shaw, Hawksworth Moor, West Yorkshire

Cairnfield:  OS Grid Reference – SE 143 439

Also Known as:

  1. Hawksworth Moor cairnfield (2)

Getting Here

Curious small ‘long cairn’ (photo © James Elkington)

It’s a bittova pain-in-the-arse locating this site unless you’re into walking off-path, through excessive dense heather  or burnt coarse ground.  You can either follow the directions to the Black Beck tomb, or set off from Horncliffe Circle and walk up parallel to the fencing for nearly 300 yards (275m).  From here, walk due east for nearly half a mile through the deep heather until you reach an overgrown track that keeps you eastwards towards a line of grouse butts abaat 275 yards (250m) on.   Naathen, walk on the north-side of this path-track and for a few yards and you’ll begin to see either small piles of stones, or heather-covered mounds.  Zig-zag about.  You’re in the middle of the cemetery!

Archaeology & History

This cairnfield, or burial ground, or necropolis (choose whichever term you prefer) is a bittova beauty!  Although some of the tombs here had been ‘officially’ noticed a few years back, the magnitude of it was understated to say the least.  On a visit to the place a few months ago in the middle of one fuckova downpour, James Elkington and I found not only the large Black Beck tomb, but scattered clusters of many more cairns.  But it wasn’t until a few weeks after that we got a longer time to check it over and, even then, I think the job was only half-done.  So this site profile is merely an overview of some of what we found there.  Along with the Black Beck tomb, we found more than thirty examples of prehistoric cairns—probably Bronze Age in nature—around the Hawksworth Shaw area near the middle of Hawksworth Moor, scattered around (seemingly) in no particular order.

…and another one…
Round cairn in foreground

Three types of cairns were identified in this large cairnfield.  The majority of them are of the standard circular form, averaging 3-4 yards across and rising to about two feet high.  They are of the same architectural form as those found in the Hawksworth Moor cairnfield 4-500 yards northwest of here (there is the possibility that the two of them are part of the same necropolis, but unless we can locate an unbroken continuity between the two groups, it’s best to present them as separate clusters).  When we looked at them a couple of weeks ago, most cairns of the ’round’ type were overgrown, albeit in low growth, as a couple of the photos here show.  The main cluster of the round cairns are just a few yards off the aforementioned track, but there are others scattered here and there at other points on this part of the moorland.  A number of these cairns seem to have have been damaged and robbed of stones to build a line of grouse butts close by.

One of the ‘long cairns’
Another ‘long cairn’ during an utter downpour!

The second type of cairn in the necropolis—close to the main cluster of round cairns—are curious small, long cairns.  Each one of them measures between 8-10 yards in length, are up to three yards across, and rise to a height of about one yard.  They are built of the usual mass of small stones typical of the huge number of other cairns on Rombalds Moor, but have been constructed in an elongated form, in contrast to the more usual circular ones.  Four of them are very close to each other with a fifth further away from this main group.  A sixth one appears to be under the heather 50-60 yards away to the northeast.  Unlike some of the nearby round cairns, this group looks as if it’s barely been touched by the hand of man, with only fallen scatters of stones around the outer edges of them.  Tis an interesting group…

Small cairn, 50 yards N of Black Beck cairn
Small cairn 100 yard SE of Black Beck tomb (photo © James Elkington)

The third architectural cairn-types are scattered unevenly across the necropolis and are characterized as smaller, mini-versions of the round cairns, i.e, small piles of stones between 1-2 yards across and and just one or two feet high.  Each of this type of cairn are more deeply embedded in the peat with more vegetational growth covering them due to their small size.  This makes them much more difficult to see in comparison to their larger  compatriots.  One example (at SE 1423 4404) can be seen in the photo, above left, some 50-60 yards north of the Black Beck tomb; with another, above right, some 100 yards away to the southeast.  There is the possibility they may be so-called ‘clearance cairns’, although I have some doubts about this and believe they are more likely to be individual graves…. but I could be wrong…

There’s little doubt that other tombs are hiding away in this area, waiting for fellow antiquarians to uncover them.  Equally probable is the existence of hut circles or similar living-quarters lost beneath the heather.  Two such sites have been found on recent ventures here: one a short distance west of the Black Beck tomb and another hiding away nearly 300 yards southwest, right beside the Black Beck.  The main thing lacking up here are cup-and-ring stones.  Apart from several uninspiring cup-marked rocks it seems few exist hereby; but there are, no doubt, some hiding away that have been hidden for millenia…

One final thing: the grid-reference given for this necropolis is based loosely on where some of the cairns can be found, but there are others whose positions lies slightly beyond that grid-ref, as you’ll find if you potter about.

Acknowledgements:  With huge thanks, as always, for James Elkington for use of his photos.  Also to the evolving megalith and landscape explorer Mackenzie Erichs; and to Linzi Mitchell, for additional input…

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Black Beck Tomb, Hawksworth Moor, West Yorkshire

Cairn:  OS Grid Reference – SE 14233 43987

Also Known as:

  1. Small Skirtful of Stones

Getting Here

Old tomb looking east (photo © James Elkington)

Probably the easiest way to find this is to use other sites as guides.  From the Great Skirtful of Stones tomb, get over the fencing and follow it eastwards for exactly 500m (238 yards) where you’ll meet a small footpath on your right that goes southeast up the small slope of Craven Hall Hill and onto the moorland.  Go along here for literally 0.2km (223 yards) and, just where the path bends slightly to the left, drop diagonally down the slope to where the moorland levels out close to the Craven Hall Hill (2) tumulus.  From here walk WSW onto the flat moorland for literally ⅓-km (0.21 miles; 365 yards) where you’ll find either a large rounded mass of stones, or a large heather-covered mound—depending on whether there’s been a burning.  Best o’ luck!

Archaeology & History

…and looking NE (photo © James Elkington)

Very troublesome to locate when the heather’s fully grown, this large prehistoric tomb was uncovered very recently as a result of extensive moorland fires.  It’s the largest such structure in a cluster of more than thirty cairns near the middle of Hawksworth Moor, many of which were rediscovered at the end of May, 2021.  Due south of the Great Skirtful of Stones, this smaller skirtful of stones measures some 45 feet across and is more than three feet high in parts.  Probably built in the Bronze Age, the tomb looks as if it’s been deliberately robbed at some time in the past, probably before the Victorians by the look of things—although only an excavation would tell us for sure.  Primarily, the cairn has been robbed from its centre outwards mainly on its western side, where you’ll also see a small and rather dodgy cup-marked stone.  Scattered into the surrounding peat are visible remains of where some of the loose stones have been cast.

Small hole in the middle
Northern edge of cairn

A possible alternative to this being simply a large cairn, is that it’s a much-disturbed ring cairn.  Some sections on the north and western edges give the impression that the mass of stones may be collapsed rubble walling.  There are also a couple of internal features beneath the overgrowth of peat and compressed vegetation: one being a small circular piece of stonework that has either fallen in on itself, been dug into, or is the home of an animal; and a yard or two from this is what looks like another internal U-shaped stone structure – again, deeply encased by centuries of encroaching peat.  But I must emphasize that these features are far from certain and can only be proven one way or the other by an excavation.

Small Skirtful, looking S (photo © James Elkington)
Ring-cairn or just a cairn? (photo © James Elkington)

The site is well worth seeing, not only for its own merit, but also because of its place in a much wider prehistoric cemetery in the middle of Hawksworth Moor.  There are at least six small single cairns (which may be clearance cairns) scattering this area—the closest of which from here is some 20 yards to the north.  A more curious group of at least five small long cairns exist about 100 yards to the south; and below these is the largest cluster of standard tombs in the form of small round cairns.  A curious D-shaped hut circle structure can be found less than 100 yards to the northwest, and what seems to be remains of a larger deeply embedded enclosure exists beyond the long cairns.  Check ’em out!

AcknowledgementsWith huge thanks, as always, for James Elkington for use of his photos.  Also to the evolving megalith and landscape explorer Mackenzie Erichs; and to Linzi Mitchell, for additional stimuli…

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Black Beck, Hawksworth Moor, West Yorkshire

Hut Circle:  OS Grid Reference – SE 1415 4401

Getting Here

Hut circle, looking NW

Take the same directions as if you’re going to visit the Black Beck cairn.  From here, walk through the heather northwest for about 60 yards.  If the heather’s been cleared, you’ll see it low down, otherwise you’re pretty much screwed when it comes to finding this one!

Archaeology & History

Seemingly in isolation, this low-walled, D-shaped hut circle is presently the only the structure of its kind known to exist on this part of Hawksworth Moor; although to be honest we should expect there to be such structures in the area when we consider the size and proximity of the associated cairnfields immediately north and southeast of here.

Southern arc of walling
NW section of walling; Black Beck tomb to rear

As with most hut circles, it’s nowt special to look at in all honesty.  The south side of the structure is rubble walling typical of these structures, curving round as usual; but its more northern section straightens out, creating a D-shaped structure.  This  line of straight walling seems attached to another, outer parallel wall 3 feet away, creating its very outer edge.  The rubble walls themselves average three  feet across; whilst the hut circle measures 6-7 yards across.  We assume that it was constructed during the same period as the adjacent prehistoric necropolis.

Acknowledgements:  With huge thanks, as always, for James Elkington for use of his photos.  Also to the evolving megalith and landscape explorer Mackenzie Erichs; and to Linzi Mitchell, for additional input…

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Craven Hall Hill (2), Hawksworth Moor, West Yorkshire

Ring Cairn:  OS Grid Reference – SE 14574 44098

Getting Here

Site shown on 1851 map

Unless the heather’s been burnt back, this takes a bitta finding.  Direction-wise, the easiest is from the moorland road above Menston.  Go up Moor Lane and then turn right along Hillings Lane. 350 yards on is a dirt-track on your right marked as Public Footpath.  Walk up here for two-thirds of a mile—going past where the track goes left to the Shooting Range—to where the track splits.  Bear left and after 250 yards you reach a fence on your left where the moorland proper begins.  Follow this fence SW for 300 yards until it does a right angle turn.  Just before this, you’ll see a large worn overgrown trackway or path running north into the moorland.  Walk up here for nearly 100 yards and look around.  Best o’ luck!

Archaeology & History

Western arc of earth & stone

Shown on the 1851 OS-map adjacent to the long prehistoric trackway that runs past Roms Law, the Great Skirtful and other prehistoric sites, the antiquarian wanderings of Forrest & Grainge (1868) came past here and, although didn’t mention the Craven Hall cairns directly, they did write of “a group of barrows” hereabouts, and this may have been one of them.  James Wardell (1869)  gave an even more fleeting skip, only mentioning “pit dwellings” hereby.  A little closer to certainty was the literary attention Collyer & Turner’s (1885) pen gave, where they described, “near the adjoining old trackway, which runs from East to West, will be seen a small barrow”—but this could be either of the Craven Hill sites.  And the usually brilliant Harry Speight (1900) gave the place only more brevity….

Structurally similar to Roms Law nearly ¾-mile northwest of here, this little-known and much denuded prehistoric tomb has seen better days.  It is barely visible even when the heather’s low—and when we visited recently, the heather was indeed low but, as the photos here indicate, it’s troublesome to see.  It’s better, of course, with the naked eye.

Highlighted ring cairn, looking NE
Highlighted ring cairn, looking SE

It’s the most easterly cairn in the large Bronze Age necropolis (burial ground) on Hawksworth Moor.  Measuring some 12 yards across and roughly circular in form, the ring is comprised mainly of many small stones compacted with peat, creating a raised embankment barely two feet high above the heath and about a yard across on average.  A number of larger stones can be seen when you walk around the ring, but they don’t appear to have any uniformity in layout such as found at the more traditional stone circles.  However, only an excavation will tell us if there was ever any deliberate positioning of these larger stones.  It would also tell us if there was ever a burial or cremation here, but the interior of the ring has been dug out, seemingly a century or two ago…


  1. Collyer, Robert & Turner, J.H., Ilkley: Ancient and Modern, William Walker: Otley 1885.
  2. Faull, M.L. & Moorhouse, S.A. (eds.), West Yorkshire: An Archaeological Guide to AD 1500 – volume 1, WYMCC: Wakefield 1981.
  3. Forrest, C. & Grainge, William, A Ramble on Rumbald’s Moor, among the Rocks, Idols and Altars of the Ancient Druids in the Spring of 1869, H. Kelly: Wakefield 1868.
  4. Speight, Harry, Upper Wharfedale, Elliott Stock: London 1900.
  5. Wardell, James, Historical Notes of Ilkley, Rombald’s Moor, Baildon Common, and other Matters of the British and Roman Periods, Joseph Dodgson: Leeds 1869.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Hawksworth Moor Cairnfield (01), West Yorkshire

Cairns:  OS Grid Reference – SE 140 443

Getting Here

One of Hawksworth Moor's cairns
One of Hawksworth Moor’s cairns, looking west

Take the same directions as if you’re visiting the Great Skirtful of Stones giant cairn on the boundary of Burley and Hawksworth.  Cross the wire fence on its southern-side and, cross the (usually overgrown) prehistoric trackway 50-60 yards away.  Keep in the same direction onto the pathless moor for about the same distance again, zigzagging back and forth, keeping your eyes peeled for some small overgrown rocky rises.  You’ll find ’em.

Archaeology & History

Not to be confused with the much larger Bronze Age graveyard further south on the same moorland, this little-known prehistoric cemetery has had little of any worth written about it since the 19th century and—like many sites on these moors—has received no modern archaeological attention.

Close-up of one of the cairns
Close-up of one of the cairns
Two of the cairns, looking NW
Two of the cairns, looking NW

On my last visit to this site with James Elkington in 2015, only four of the heather-clad cairns were visible; but if you explore here after the heather has been burned away, a half-dozen such tombs are found in relatively close attendance to each other.  They are each about the same size, being roughly circular and measuring between 3-4 yards across, 10-12 yards in circumference and a yard high at the most. As you can see in the attached images, they are quiet visible even when the heather has grown on them.

Another cairn in this group
Another cairn in this group

This small cairnfield may stretch across and link up with the secondary cairnfield a half-mile to the southwest.  More survey work is required up here.

As with the circle of Roms Law and the Great Skirtful of Stones, this relatively small cluster of cairns seems to have had a prehistoric trackway approaching it, running roughly east-west.  A short distance west are the much-denuded waters of the Skirtful Spring.


  1. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  2. Faull, M.L. & Moorhouse, S.A. (eds.), West Yorkshire: An Archaeological Guide to AD 1500 (4 volumes), WYMCC: Wakefield 1981.
  3. Wardell, James, Historical Notes of Ilkley, Rombald’s Moor, Baildon Common, and other Matters of the British and Roman Periods, Joseph Dodgson: Leeds 1869. (2nd edition 1881).

Acknowledgements: Huge thanks to James Elkington for use of his photo in this site profile.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Horncliffe Well, Hawksworth Moor, West Yorkshire

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – SE 13214 43326

Also Known as:

  1. Horncliff Well

Getting Here

Horncliffe Well – as it once was

From the famous Dick Hudson’s pub on the south side of Ilkley Moor, take the road right (east) for a half-mile until you reach the large Weecher Reservoir just off the roadside on your right.  Less than 300 yards past the reservoir, a footpath takes you onto the moor itself.  Walk up the path for about ⅔-mile — crossing one wall, then walking roughly parallel with another on your right — until you reach a crossing of paths where there are 2 gates or stiles.  Take the lower of the two stiles, through the wall, but below the fence.  You’ll see an awful Yorkshire Water cover, which has just about destroyed the once-fine well that had always flowed here.  Below this, by the wallside, are the trickling remains of our old healing spring.

Archaeology & History

When I was a young boy, Horncliffe Well was the site we would visit every weekend as our first stopping-spot on our regular ventures exploring these moorlands — “from Wrose to Rombalds,” as we use to call it!  The old well was always very plentiful, strong-flowing, cold and truly refreshing.  It was undoubtedly the best water source on the entire Rombalds Moor region, never drying up.  Even in the great droughts of 1976 and 1995, after all others had just about failed, the waters at Horncliffe were still flowing as strong as ever, as they had always done.  But not anymore…

Edna Whelan’s old drawing

First described in land records of 1273 CE, this has always been a well of great repute and oral tradition told that this great old well never ran dry. It marked the ancient boundary point where the moorlands of Hawksworth, Burley and Bingley all meet.  By name alone it is associated with the nearby and curious Horncliffe Circle, whose status itself is unclear (the circle seems more a place of refuge or living than a true ritual site).

Horncliffe House around 1801

The remains of old buildings on the flat just above where the waters once flowed were built in much more recent centuries.  The building appears to have been started around 1799, for E.E. Dodds (1985) told that in 1800 it was used as a school for several years by local teacher Joshua Briggs.  J. Horsfall Turner (1907) published a copy of an old drawing of the school, as it was soon after construction.

Horncliffe Well was dug into by the privatized water company known as Yorkshire Water (owned by rich greedy fuckers) in the 1990s, who channelled most of its endless supply away for commercial benefit.  When their company was stealing the water from the moors, the workmen snapped an old markstone at its base next to the adjacent Horncliffe House (in ruins).  The waters had always flowed fast and freely, but after Yorkshire Water had finished their ‘work’ here, the great majority of Horncliffe’s water supply subsided considerably, leaving walkers, birds and animals to suffer from its demise.  In all sincerity, it’s to be hoped that good people someday will visit this once-fine site and return it to its previous healthy status.


When we were kids we came here every weekend and got to know the old ranger who we’d meet either here or at the adjacent Horncliffe Circle, 250 yards NNE, where we’d sit and eat.  In the mid-1970s, he told us that the old well was once a site where the fairy-folk would play, around Mayday (beltane).  And though in later years I’ve sought for any information about this in all early antiquarian books that cover this area, I’ve never found any mention of this tale in print.  The old ranger knew the moors and its history better than anyone I’ve ever known and many old stories died with him after his death.


  1. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Chieveley 2003.
  2. Dodd, E.E., Bingley: A Yorkshire Town through Nine Centuries, M.T.D. Rigg: Guiseley 1985.
  3. Laurence, Alastair, A History of Menston and Hawksworth, Smith Settle: Otley 1991.
  4. Turner, J. Horsfall, Idle Upper Chapel Burial Registers and Graveyard Inscriptions, Harrison & Son: Bingley 1907.
  5. Whelan, Edna, The Magic and Mystery of Holy Wells, Capall Bann: Chieveley 2001.
  6. Whelan, Edna & Taylor, Ian, Yorkshire Holy Wells and Sacred Springs, Northern Lights: Dunnington 1989.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Roms Law, Burley Moor, West Yorkshire

Ring Cairn: OS Grid Reference – SE 13648 44719

Also known as:

  1. Grubstones Circle
  2. Rumbles Law
  3. Rums Law

Getting Here

Early drawing of 'Grubstones'
Early drawing of ‘Grubstones’

Get to the Twelve Apostles stone circle, then walk just 100 yards down the main footpath south, towards Bingley, and watch out for a small footpath immediately to your left.  Walk on here and head for the rocky outcrop a half-mile ahead of you.  Once past the outcrop, take the first footpath right and walk down for another 100 yards.  Stop! – and walk into the heather.  The circle’s about 50 yards away!  You can of course come from the Menston side of the moor, following the same directions for the Great Skirtful of Stones, but keep walking on for another 200 yards, towards the rocky outcrop again, turning left down the path for 100 yards, before stopping and walking 50 yards into the heath again!

Archaeology & History

Roms Law circle
Roms Law circle

This is one of my favourite sites on these moors. I’m not 100% sure why – but there’s always been something a bit odd about the place. And I don’t quite know what I mean, exactly, when I say “odd.” There’s just something about it… But it’s probably just me.  Though I assume that me sleeping rough here numerous times in the past might have summat to do with it, playing with the lizards, and of course…the sheep… AHEM!!! Soz about that – let’s just get back to what’s known about the place!

Grubstones is an intriguing place and, I recommend, recovers its original name of Roms or Rums Law.  It was described as such in the earliest records and only seems to have acquired the title ‘Grubstones’ following the Ordnance Survey assessment in the 1850s.  The name derives from two compound words, rum, ‘room, space, an open space, a clearing’; and hlaw, a ‘tumulus, or hill’ – literally meaning here the ‘clearing or place of the dead,’ or variations thereof.  But an additional variant on the word law also needs consideration here, as it can also be used to mean a ‘moot or meeting place’; and considering that local folklore, aswell as local boundary records tell of this site being one of the gathering places, here is the distinct possibility of it possessing another meaning: literally, ‘a meeting place of the dead’, or variations on this theme.

The present title of Grubstones was a mistranslation of local dialect by the Ordnance Survey recorders, misconstruing the guttural speaking of Rum stones as ‘grub stones.’  If you wanna try it yourself, talk in old Yorkshire tone, then imagine some Oxford or London dood coming along and asking us the name of the ring of stones!  It works – believe me….

The site has little visual appeal, almost always overgrown with heather, but its history is considerable for such a small and insignificant-looking site.  First described in land records of 1273 CE, Roms Law was one of the sites listed in the local boundary perambulations records which was enacted each year on Rogation Day (movable feast day in Spring).  However in 1733 there was a local boundary dispute which, despite the evidence of written history, proclaimed the Roms Law circle to be beyond the manor of Hawksworth, in which it had always resided.  But the boundary was changed – and local people thenceforth made their way to the Great Skirtful of Stones on their annual ritual walk: a giant cairn several hundred yards east to which, archaeologically, there is some considerable relationship.  For at the northern edge of the Roms Law circle is the denuded remnants of a prehistoric trackway in parts marked out with fallen standing stones and which leads to the very edge of the great cairn.  This trackway or avenue, like that at Avebury (though not as big), consists of “male” and “female” stones and begins – as far as modern observations can tell – several hundred yards to the west, close to a peculiar morass of rocks and a seeming man-made embankment (which I can’t make head or tail of it!).  From here it goes past Roms Law and continues east towards the Great Skirtful, until it veers slightly round the southern side of the huge old tomb, then keeps going eastwards again into the remnants of a prehistoric graveyard close by.

In my opinion, it is very likely that this trackway was an avenue along which our ancestors carried their dead. Equally probable, the Roms Law Circle was where the body of the deceased was rested, or a ritual of some form occurred, before taken on its way to wherever.  It seems very probable that this avenue had a ceremonial aspect of some form attached to it. However, due to the lack of decent archaeological attention, this assertion is difficult to prove.

A previously unrecognised small single tomb is in evidence to the immediate southeast (5 yards) of the circle.  There is also another previously unrecognised prehistoric trackway that runs up along the eastern side of the circle, roughly north-south, making its way here from Hawksworth Moor to the south.  The old legend that Roms Law was a meeting place may relate to it being a site where the dead were rested, along with it being an important point along the old boundary line. Records tell us that the chant, “This is Rumbles Law” occurred here at the end of the perambulation – which, after the boundary change, was uttered at the Great Skirtful.  This continued till at least 1901.

Northern section of the Ring
Northern section of the Ring

Modern archaeological analysis of the site is undecided as regards the actual nature of Roms Law.  Ordnance Survey maps show it as an “enclosure” (which is vague); Faull & Moorhouse’s survey (1981) erroneously tell us it had no funerary nature, contrary to Eric Cowling’s (1946) report of finding bones and ashes from the small hole in near the centre of the ring, aswell as the 1880 drawing of the site in Collyer & Turner’s survey (above).  And we find the single cairn on the south-eastern edge of the ring indicating burial rites of sorts definitely occurred here.  Described variously by previous archaeologists as a stone circle, a ring cairn, cairn circle, an enclosure, aswell as “a rubble-fill wall of a circular house” (by some anonymous member of the West Yorkshire Archaeology Service, who didn’t respond to my queries about this curious assumption), the real nature of Roms Law leans more to a cairn circle site.  A fine example of a cup-and-ring stone — the Comet Stone — was found very close to the circle, somewhere along the Grubstones Ridge more than a hundred years ago, and it may have had some relevance to Roms Law.

This denuded ring of stones is a place that has to be seen quite blatantly in a much wider context, with other outlying sites having considerable relationship to it.  Simple as! (If you wanna know more about this, check out my short work, Roms Law, due out shortly!)

Describing the status and dimensions here, our great Yorkshire historian Arthur Raistrick (1929) told that:

“The larger stones still standing number about twenty, but the spaces between them are filled with stones of many intermediate sizes, so that one could with only considerable detail of size, etc, number the original peristalith.”

…Meaning that we’re unsure exactly how many stones stood in the ring when it was first built!  Although a little wider, the Roms Law is similar in form to the newly discovered ‘Hazell Circle‘ not far from here.  The site has changed little since Raistrick’s survey, though some halfwits nicked some of the stones on the southwestern edge of the site in the 1960s to build a stupid effing grouse-butt, from which to shoot the birds up here! (would the local council or local archaeologist have been consulted about such destruction by building the grouse-butt here? – anyone know?)  Thankfully, this has all but disappeared and the moorland has taken it back to Earth.

There is still a lot more to be told of Roms Law and its relationship with a number of uncatalogued sites scattered hereby.  Although it’s only a small scruffy-looking thing (a bit like misself!), its archaeology and mythic history is very rich indeed.  “Watch This Space” – as they say!


Alleged to be haunted, this site has been used by authentic ritual magickians in bygone years. It was described by Collyer & Turner (1885) “to have been a Council or Moot Assembly place” — and we find this confirmed to a great extent via the township perambulation records.  Considerable evidence points to an early masonic group convening here in medieval times and we are certain from historical records that members of the legendary Grand Lodge of All England (said to be ordained in the tenth century by King Athelstan) met here, or at the adjacent Great Skirtful of Stones giant cairn 400 yards east.

The boundary perambulations which occurred here on Rogation Day relate to events just before or around Beltane, Mayday.  Elizabeth Wright (1913) said of this date:

“These days are marked in the popular mind by the ancient and well-known custom of beating the parish bounds, whence arose the now obsolete name of Gang-days, and the name Rammalation-day, i.e., perambulation-day, for Rogation-Monday.  The practice is also called Processioning and Possessioning… The reason why this perambulation of the parish boundaries takes place at Rogationtide seems to be that originally it was a purely religious observance, a procession of priest and people through the fields to pray for a fruitful Spring-time and harvest.  In the course of time the secular object of familiarizing the growing generation with their parish landmarks gained the upper hand, but the date remained as testimony to the primary devotional character of the custom.”

And the calling of, “This is Rumbles Law” maintained this ancient custom when it used to be uttered here.

…to be continued…


  1. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  2. Bennett, Paul, The Roms Law Circle, Ilkley Moor, Heathen Earth: Keighley 2009.
  3. Bennett, Paul, The Twelve Apostles Stone Circle, TNA Publications 2017.
  4. Collyer, Robert & Turner, J. Horsfall, Ilkley: Ancient and Modern, William Walker: Otley 1885.
  5. Colls, J.N.M., ‘Letter upon some Early Remains Discovered in Yorkshire,’ in Archaeologia 31, 1846.
  6. Cowling, E.T., Rombald’s Way, William Walker: Otley 1946.
  7. Devereux, Paul, Places of Power, Blandford: London 1989.
  8. Faull & Moorhouse, West Yorkshire: An Archaeological Survey – volume 1, WYMCC: Wakefield 1981.
  9. Gelling, Margaret, Signposts to the Past, Phillimore: Chichester 1988.
  10. Gelling, Margaret, Place-Names in the Landscape, Phoenix: London 2000.
  11. Gomme, G.L., Primitive Folk-Moots; or Open-Air Assemblies in Britain, Sampson Low: London 1880.
  12. Raistrick, Arthur, ‘The Bronze Age in West Yorkshire,’ in YAJ, 1929.
  13. Smith, A.H., English Place-Names Elements – volume 2, Cambridge University Press 1956.
  14. Smith, A.H., The Place-Names of the West Riding of Yorkshire – volume 4, Cambridge University Press 1963.
  15. Speight, Harry, Chronicles and Stories of Old Bingley, Elliott Stock: London 1898.
  16. Wardell, James, Historical Notices on Ilkley, Rombald’s Moor, Baildon Common, etc., Leeds 1869.
  17. Wright, Elizabeth Mary, Rustic Speech and Folk-Lore, Oxford University Press 1913.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Horncliffe Circle, Hawskworth Moor, West Yorkshire

Stone Circle:  OS Grid Reference – SE 13335 43532

Getting Here

Get to the famous Dick Hudson’s pub on the south-side of Ilkley Moor and go east for about 700 yards till you get to Weecher reservoir (posh doods go yachting there).  From here cross the road and walk on for 150 yards till you reach the stile which takes you onto the moors. Walk!  Follow the footpath and you’ll go over another wall before eventually hitting the beautiful fresh waters of Horncliffe Well (this has never dried up – even in the summers of ’76 and ’95).  Sit here for a while before heading for the circle which is on the east-side of the moorland fence just a coupla hundred yards up onto the moor (you’ll cross a coupla streams before reaching the site).  You’ll know you’re close when, to your left by the fence, you’ll see a boundary stone with the name ‘Thos. Pulleyn’ engraved on it.

Archaeology & History

Early drawing of Horncliffe Circle (Speight 1898)
Early drawing of Horncliffe Circle (Speight 1898)

Horncliffe is a bittova strange site, inasmuch as we don’t honestly know precisely what it is, nor its age.  It used to be categorized as a ‘stone circle’, but this was abandoned many moons ago.  The inner circle of this ellipse-shaped monument was thought to have perhaps contained a burial, but Victorian excavations here found no such evidence; no burials have ever been found, though fires were evidently burned in the small central ring.

Nowadays I’m of the opinion that this was more for living-in, than any ritual site.  It ‘smells’ like that anyway (modern OS-maps now term it as an ‘enclosure’); and this may be borne out by the ancient name of the trackway travelling north from here called ‘Castle Gate’, meaning ‘entrance or path by the fortification.’  Faint ‘cup-markings’ reported by Harry Speight (1898) on the outer edge of the ring are very likely Nature’s handiwork.

Horncliffe is a double-ringed ellipse structure, surrounded on its northern side by a natural embankment of earth.  It was first mentioned in J.N.M. Colls’ (1846) survey, but more was said of it by James Wardell in 1869, who told that,

“there is a circle of stones of various sizes, from three-feet to five-feet in height; they are chiefly set upon their edges and are of sandstone grit.  This circle is forty-three feet in diameter and within it there is a smaller circle, composed of stones of the same composition…and set in the same manner.”

A few years later, the Yorkshire literary giant Harry Speight (1898) penned his first words about this curious circle, saying:

“The best example of a stone circle in the vicinity of Bingley lies on the moor close to the parish boundary, on land belonging to Mr Fawkes, of Farnley Hall.  It is a complete circle, consisting of about twenty stones, placed close together (a very unusual arrangement), from two to four feet high, the circumference being about 35 yards.  An excavation was made in the middle of it some years ago, when bits of flint were found, but no trace of burial.  It is built on a slight slope of the moor, facing the south, and is now much concealed by heather.  It is, doubtless, the oldest known evidence of man’s handiwork remaining in the neighbourhood of Bingley, and there is small doubt that it was originally intended to fence a burial, such “Druids’ Circles” being primarily meant to enclose places of sepulchre in the same way that walled enclosures came to be adopted round our churchyards.  A large flat stone on the top side, about three yards distant, is marked with cups and channels, and probably was in the centre of the circle originally.”

When Arthur Raistrick (1929) visited the circle, his measurements differed somewhat from those of Mr Wardell, telling the site to have diameters of 25 feet (east-west) and 32 feet (north-south), with 46 stones in the outer ring and 17 in the inner circle.

This is one of many sites on these moors that I slept at over the years when I was a kid.  It used to be a really peaceful spot that was rarely troubled by other visitors (not sure if it’s still the same though).


Although we have nothing specific to the circle, around the nearby Horncliffe Well a coupla hundred yards away we had accounts told us by the old warden whose job it was to look after this moorland, that will-o-the-wisps had been seen here.  There is a seeming alignment to the equinoxes from here to Reva Hill – though this is more fortuitous than deliberate.  A dowsing survey found aquastats in and around the circle, but no plan of these were ever made.


  1. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  2. Colls, J.N.M., ‘Letter upon some Early Remains Discovered in Yorkshire,’ in Archaeologia 31, 1846.
  3. Raistrick, Arthur, ‘The Bronze Age in West Yorkshire,’ in YAJ 1929.
  4. Speight, Harry, Chronicles and Stories of Old Bingley, Elliot Stock: London 1898.
  5. Wardell, James, Historical Notices on Ilkley, Rombald’s Moor, Baildon Common, etc., Leeds 1869.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian