Slack Bottom Stone, Heptonstall, West Yorkshire

Standing Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SD 98374 28800

Also Known as:

  1. Dawson City Field Stone

Getting Here

Go all the way up and through Heptonstall village until you reach the hamlet of Slack, by the road junction.  From here walk down the road as if you’re going back into Hebden for less than 200 yards, then take the footpath on the left downhill and walk along. After a couple of stiles, keep a keen eye on the walling where the holly trees are, above the tree-line of Hardcastle Crags.  You’ll see it soon enough!

Archaeology & History

Slack Bottom stone

Arguably the best-named standing stone in Britain, it was first discovered by Absalom Voist in the late 1990s (and first described in my Old Stones of Elmet), hiding away in the more modern walling, beneath a holly tree.  But the stone itself is very nicely eroded and seems of good age, aswell as being a good near-six-foot tall specimen of a standing stone, just above the tree-line south of Hebden Dale.  The stone gets its name from the fact that it’s at the bottom end of Slack village (which is actually called ‘Slack Bottom’ – with a house-sign there above the door to prove it!).  It may be part of what was originally some original Iron Age walling instead of an authentic standing stone — tis hard to say really — but it’s a nice stone nonetheless.  David Shepherd (2003) named this stone as ‘Dawson City Field’ in his later survey of megaliths in upper Calderdale.

Not far from here, along the edge of the woodland, is the little-known remains of an old cross-base which I think has eluded all previous surveys.  Next time I’m up here, I’ll try remember to get some photos of the place!

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  2. Shepherd, David, ‘Prehistoric Activity in the Central South Pennines,’ in Proc. Halifax Ant. Soc., 2003.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  53.755559, -2.026140 Slack Bottom stone

Reap’s Cross, Heptonstall Moor, West Yorkshire

Cross:  OS Grid Reference – SD 94360 30269

Also Known as:

  1. Long Stoop
  2. Ralph’s Cross

Getting Here

Reaps Cross on 1851 OS-map

Reaps Cross on 1851 OS-map

From Hebden Bridge go up the Heptonstall road, going round the village and onto and through Slack, keeping straight on the road until it goes uphill for a short distance, then levels out; then watch out for the small right-turn at Colden and the single-track road heading to a dead-end.  Go right to the end, the very end, and go through the gate and walk up the track onto the moor.  As you reach the ridge and the moorlands open up before you, note the small ‘standing stone’ on your right, about 10 yards off-path— and there, 100 yards the opposite direction to your west, the tall upright Reaps Cross is sat on the moortop.  Y’ can’t miss it!

Archaeology & History

Found in the middle of a beautiful nowhere not far from the prehistoric standing stone on Standing Stone Hill, this old tall monolith was said to have stood as a marker beside the old road which ran from Halifax over the moors to Colne, until the more recent Widdop Road became the more preferred route.  Known locally as the Long Stoop, in 1900 George Tyack said of it,

“This stone, which is composed of millstone grit, lay for a long tine broken and overthrown, but has in recent years been replaced on its original site and restored.  It is a simple Latin cross standing twelve feet high amidst the heather of the Yorkshire moors.”

Longbottom's 1897 sketch

Longbottom’s 1897 sketch

Waddington's 1884 sketch

Waddington’s 1884 sketch

Shortly before Tyack’s description, the local historian John Longbottom (1897) wrote a series of articles on the old stone crosses of the region and gave us this old sketch of the site (right).  Even in his day the cross had been “wilfully thrown down” (probably by the screwy Puritans at that time), but a short time later it had been “repaired and restored to its original position.”  In Longbottom’s day there were short ‘arms’ extending outwards from near the top of the obelisk, defining it as a distinct ‘cross’, but these have subsequently been lost following further local demolition attempts. He told how,

“Reaps Cross is known locally to shepherds, gamekeepers and farmers at ‘T’ Long Stoop’, and…apart from its religious associations, it forms an important landmark, now as in ancient times, to many a poor weary traveller crossing the dreary and lonesome hills between Lancashire and Yorkshire.”

The cross keeps getting knocked over, by both lightning and idiots of various persuasions; but thankfully the old fella keeps getting resurrected and put back in its place. It’s history is a curious one.  When Clifford Byrne (1974) wrote about the site in his unpublished survey, he told how

“This cross appears to be of medieval origin and…in 1973 the monolith lay broken, one section lying in the grass, whilst the other section still stood in the pedestal.  It is seen to have been broken once before, for the remains of iron clamps are seen on both sections.  The arms have been broken off in some age… A local farmer insisted that the correct name was Ralphs Cross not Reaps Cross, and it should be noted that a section of moor at Widdop (the valley with the high cliffs) is named after a Ralph.”

Standing some 12 feet tall, this is the highest of all the crosses in West Yorkshire and obviously some considerable work went into its creation all those centuries ago.  Nobody is sure when it was first made, but the educated guess is 12th century.  Why it was erected here, way off from anywhere in the middle of the wild moors, is equally puzzling.  It may have had something to do with the nearby medicinal springs; it may have been as a guide-post to travellers—”to Rastric Greave”, according to Waddington (1884); it may have marked an ancient religious route; or it may have distracted people away from the prehistoric upright that gave its name to Standing Stone Hill, a short distance to the west  We simply don’t know.  It’s well worth visiting though, as the moorland landscape up here is truly expansive and civilization seems thankfully centuries away…

Folklore

Local tradition told that the cross marked an old corpse route, along which the dead were carried before being buried at Heptonstall.  Here at Reaps Cross, the bodies were rested by the weary travellers.  If this is true, it is probable that the ancient standing stone more than half-a-mile to the west once had something to do with such old rites and routes.

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  2. Byrne, Clifford, A Survey of the Ancient Wayside Crosses in North-East Lancashire, unpublished MS, 1974.
  3. Longbottom, John, “Ancient Crosses in Halifax Parish – Part 2,” in Halifax Naturalist, 2:8, June 1897.
  4. Taylor, Henry, The Ancient Crosses and Holy Wells of Lancashire, Sherratt & Hughes: Manchester 1906.
  5. Tyack, George, The Cross in Ritual, Architecture and Art, William Andrews: London 1900.
  6. Waddington, J. Arthur, “The Crosses in and Around Burnley,” in Transactions of the Burnley Literary & Scientific Club, volume 1, 1884.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  53.768734, -2.087046 Reaps Cross

Walshaw Dean, Wadsworth Moor, West Yorkshire

Stone Circle:  OS Grid Reference – SD 9647 3355

Getting Here

Walshaw Dean stone circle

The site is usually invisible, being under the waters of Walshaw Dean Middle Reservoir.  But in good droughts you can catch a glimpse of the place.  So take the Widdop road as it’s known locally, from either Hebden Bridge up past Heptonstall, or from Burnley, Nelson & Colne side, and park-up by the pub a few hundred yards east of Widdop Reservoir.  Walk a few hundred yards back down the road (east) and take the dirt-track on the other side of the road on the Calder-Aire link leading to the Pennine Way.  Walk up past the first reservoir, keeping to its west-side, until you reach the Lodge house where the second lake appears.  Now, if the water’s down, walk along its western-edge for about 50 yards, looking into the dried flat ahead of you and you’ll see the loose ring of small stones.  That’s it!  Or as Mr Roth described the place in 1906, “The position of the circle is on the left-hand side of the valley going up, a few yards above the dam of the second reservoir.”

Archaeology & History

Earliest photo of the circle

This is a somewhat bizarre archaeological site, whose nature we may never fully recover.  Although listed and scheduled as a plain stone circle by Aubrey Burl (2000) and others, both the placement and structure of the site implies a more funerary aspect to it.  This was suggested by Ling Roth (1906) when he first wrote about it.  But for me, the position of the site in the landscape calls into question the archetypal ‘stone circle’ category, as it is somewhat hemmed-in both east and west, with limited views north, and only a good view of open lands to the south (summer).  It’s just a bit odd when compared to other megalithic rings in the Pennines.  But perhaps this ‘privacy’ was intended — as there is only scattered evidence of other human activity in this valley and on the moors above.  Perhaps this site was meant to be ‘cut off’ from the rest of the world.  We might never know…

There is also the peculiar addition inside this stone circle of an arc of walling facing southeast, which is unique in this part of Britain.  But this walling seems to have been a later addition and has the hallmarks of being some small shelter, or even an early grouse-shooting butt (there’s tons of game-birds here, and this would be an excellent spot to shoot from)  This internal wall may have been constructed from stone that came from the circle itself: perhaps in a rubble wall, perhaps an internal cairn.  It seems likely.  Mr H. Ling Roth (1906) also mentions this feature in what was the first description of the site, where he told:

“The stone circle at Walshaw Dean Reservoir…was discovered by Mr W. Patteson, the resident engineer, in July 1902.  The circle consists of ten irregular stones apparently local rock, varying considerably in size, one measured 6ft 3in (1.9m) long and stood about 30 inches (76cm) above the clay when the peat surface was removed.  Whether the stones are deeply embedded has not been ascertained, but where they were covered by the peat a clear white band is apparent.  The circle is 36 feet (11 metres) is diameter and of very fair exactitude.  Inside the circle as shewn on the plan and in the view there was a rouhg carved wall which measured across the ends 12ft (3.7m).  The wall had been partly pulled down and reset immediately before examination by a party of visitors soon after the discovery.  Its presence in the circle may be fortuitous, but after the two unsystematic disturbances to which the ground had been subjected, it is not possible to form an opinion about it.  That something had been buried in the centre of the circle is probable when we bear in mind the circumstances of stone circles elsewhere, but an examination shewed only that the ground had been disturbed and Mr Patteson explained to me that such disturbance was not of recent date.”

To my knowledge, no subsequent excavation of the site has ever been done, but it would appear that the waters have washed part of the site away and any remains that may once have been found within the ring have been discarded by more than a century of erosion.  Traces of small walled structures have also been noted close to the circle in recent years, suggestive of settlement remains.  On a TNA outing last year, we also found previously unrecorded prehistoric remains on this hills above here.  When Geoffrey Watson (1952) wrote his survey on prehistoric Calderdale, he suggested that the Walshaw Circle may have been placed alongside the branch of an early trade route running along the northern edge of the valley.  Not so sure misself…

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  2. Burl, Aubrey, The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, Yale University Press 2000.
  3. Roth, H. Ling, The Yorkshire Coiners, 1767-1783; and Notes on Old and Prehistoric Halifax, F.King: Halifax 1906.
  4. Watson, Geoffrey G., Early Man in the Halifax District, HSS: Halifax 1952.

Links:

  1. Walshaw Dean Stone Circle on The Megalithic Portal

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

 

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  53.798243, -2.055073 Walshaw Dean stone circle

New Edge Chalybeate, Colden, Heptonstall, West Yorkshire

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – SD 95447 29403

Getting Here

Take the Heptonstall road up from Hebden Bridge, going round the village (not into it) and head through Slack and onto Colden.  Just as the road begins to go downhill to Colden, note the small single-track road on your right called Edge Road.  Go on here for a good mile until it becomes a dirt-track and there, on your left, is the half-run-down old farmhouse called New Edge.  Just yards past it, off to the right by the trackside, you’ll see this large copper-coloured stone basin oozing with the same-coloured liquid.

Archaeology & History

New Edge Chalybeate, above Colden

This is one of what Thomas Short (1724) called “the ten thousand chalybeats”, or iron-bearing springs,  inhabiting the Yorkshire uplands — but he didn’t include this site in his huge survey.  But it’s a beauty amongst chalybeates, as a visit here clearly shows!  The well is one of two found on either side of the old building known as New Edge (as contrasted with Old Edge, a little further along the lane), and its waters trickle gently from the old stone trough.

The waters are undoubtedly enriched with large amounts of iron, as the photo here shows, giving the waters clear medicinal value.  In tasting them, not only do the waters give you that copper-coloured hue, but you can clearly taste the minerals in the water. As with other iron-bearing springs, the water from the New Edge spring is good for the blood, good for anæmia, loss of energy and a low immune system.

References:

  1. Short, Thomas, The Natural, Experimental and Medicinal History of the Mineral Waters of Derbyshire, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, privately printed: London 1734.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  53.760961, -2.070542 New Edge Well

Standing Stone Hill, Heptonstall, West Yorkshire

Standing Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SD 95355 30184

Getting Here

Standing Stone Hill monolith

From Hebden Bridge, go up the Heptonstall road, going round the village and onto and through Slack, keeping straight on the road until it goes uphill for a short distance, then levels out; then watch out for the small right-turn and the single-track road heading to a dead-end.  Go right to the end, the very end, and go through the gate and walk up the track onto the moor.  As you reach the ridge and the moorlands north open-up before you, note the small ‘standing stone’ on your right, about 10 yards off-path.  Go up past it, following the path up the small hill and keep going till you hit the triangulation pillar.  From here, keep walking on the same path ESE for another 200 yards.  Y’ can’t miss it!

Archaeology & History

The name of the place rather gives the game away a bit, yeah…?  When I first moved to nearby Hebden Bridge in the 1990s, I noted the conspicuous place-name ‘Standing Stone Hill’ on the maps — so when I met local earth-mystery enthusiast John Billingsley and asked him about any remains up here, he said, with conviction, “there’s nowt up there!” (or words to that effect)

“Are y’ sure?” I asked. To which he repeated his dictum. But I wasn’t convinced of his words and, like any decent chap with energy for old stones and such things, wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer and went to check for myself – and wasn’t too surprised when I found this lovely looking standing stone — and a fine specimen of a monolith it is indeed!

Standing stone, looking south
Standing Stone, looking east

Although not a tall specimen by any means, this rounded and weather-worn upright has fine character and age to it.  Standing more than 3 feet in height and nearly as wide, the stone has a faded but distinct artistic carving of the letter ‘T’ on its western face (which you can make out on the photo, hopefully).  It was thought this may have been an old boundary marking, but the stone aint on any boundary line so possibly relates to some local family who marked it with that deluded notion of ‘ownership’ of this part of the desolate moors.

It’s a beautiful spot up here, out on its own.  I’ve sat here many times, both alone and with good heathen friends, gazing across the endless silence on days coloured with snows, mists, bright sunshine and heavy rains.  It has that feeling of solitude, of being forgotten, of being truly untouched.

Standing Stone Hill on 1851 map
Standing Stone Hill on 1851 map

There are a couple of other possible standing stones on this section of moorland.  One in particular appears to have been taller in bygone times and is marked on the 1851 OS-map of the region about 100 yards southwest of the triangulation pillar (you’ll notice it on your right, off-path, as you’re walking towards the pillar—shown at the position on the map here, right).  Further west is the tall medieval Reaps Cross, where corpses were rested in their journey over the moors.

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  53.767980, -2.071949 Standing Stone Hill

King Common Rough, Heptonstall, West Yorkshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SD 95303 30997

Also Known as:

  1. Black Scout carving

Getting Here

The carved rock in its setting

From Hebden Bridge, take the Heptonstall road and go past the legendary Slack Bottom (no lies!), until a few hundred yards further on at Slack Top, take the Widdop road on the right. Amble the long and winding road for a mile – mebbe a bit more – until the valley on your right runs out of trees! (on the OS-map this is called Hebden Dale, but it’s generally known as Hardcastle Crags [after the name of the rock outcrop halfway up]). Just about here there’s a track to your left, by the rather desolate bus-stop! If you hit the wibbly hair-pin bend by the Blake Dean scout-hut, you’ve gone too far. Walk along the track for a coupla hundred yards and take the first opportunity you have to cross the deep dike on your immediate left. Then just walk along the edge of the stream itself until you reach the large rocks another few hundred yards along.

Archaeology & History

As Richard Stroud’s photo above shows, this is a beautiful spot — when the weather is good anyway!  Much of the landscape around you is scattered with occult history and folklore: boggarts, witches, corpse routes, spirit animals, old stone crosses, standing stones and more! A damn good day out can be had in this area by any enthusiastic antiquarian or enquiring heathen.

Cups and faint rings

The carving we have here is an almost typical cup-and-ring stone, but it’s pretty isolated with no other ringed companions anywhere on these hills.  It was first described in David Shepherd’s (2003) survey of prehistoric remains of the region — although I was initially a little cautious about the veracity of David’s findings, as some cup-marked stones in his survey are probably natural and some “standing stones” he cites nearby are simply natural earthfast rocks.  But this particular carving seems man-made with large faint rings encircling at least one of the cup-marks, as you can see in Richard Stroud’s photo here.  In Mr Shepherd’s survey, he said of this site:

“A prominent double boulder.  On the top surface are two eroded cup marks by the south edge and one by the north edge.  Two eroded cup marks with rings are on the northwest segment.”

References:

  1. Shepherd, David, “Prehistoric Activity in the Central South Pennines,” in Transactions of the Halifax Antiquarian Society, new series, volume 11, 2003.

Acknowledgements:  With thanks to Richard Stroud for use of his photos in this site profile.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

King Common Rough CR

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King Common Rough CR 53.775287, -2.072751 King Common Rough CR

Dove Stones, Widdop Moor, West Yorkshire

Legendary Rocks:  OS Grid Reference – SD 9333 3479

Also Known as:

  1. Dew Stones

Getting Here

Dove Stones (after ‘QDanT’)

Get to Widdop reservoir in the hills west of Hebden Bridge and park up. The great rock faces to your right (north) is where you’re going. Clamber to the top until the moor levels out, making sure you head NNW for less than a mile. The moors you’re now on are supposed to be private – but folk like me pay no attention!  There are no footpaths to this great outcrop, only the heathlands and scattered stones – but keep walking for a half-mile north and you’ll get to them!

Archaeology & History

Erroneously ascribed by the place-name masters Eilert Ekwall and A.H. Smith (1961) as being ‘a place where doves gathered,’ this gigantic rock outcrop on the Yorkshire-Lancashire border — as shown on early maps — is actually the Dew or Black Stones (from the Gaelic, dubh).  It’s an awesome place!  Takes a bitta getting to, but it’s well worth the venture.

Dove Stones on 1848 map
Dove Stones on 1848 map

This long geological ridge, rising higher as you walk along it to the north, has the occasional cup-mark on it, with the giant Dove Stone at the very end having a cup-and-half-ring on its crown (be careful not to fall off). From here, you look across a huge, desolate, U-shaped valley, the far side of which we rise to 1700 feet and the grand setting of the Lad Law.

Folklore

The folklorists Harland and Wilkinson (1882) included this in their survey of druidical sites, mentioning the several cup-markings, or druid basins as they called them. (though most of ’em on here are Nature’s handiwork)

For me, this is an incredible place – full of raw power and magick. It has a curious geomantic relationship with the Whinberry Stones, a couple of miles to the south, around which should be a ring of stones…though none can be found.

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Chieveley 2001.
  2. Harland, John & Wilkinson, T.T., Lancashire Folk-lore, John Heywood: Manchester 1882.
  3. Smith, A.H., Place-Names of the West Riding of Yorkshire – volume 3, CUP 1961.

Links:

  1. More images of the Dove Stones

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

Dove Stones

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Dove Stones 53.809356, -2.102772 Dove Stones