Cup-and-Ring Stone: OS Grid Reference – SE 10617 46586
Also Known as:
- Carving no. 75 (Hedges)
- Carving no. 244 (Boughey & Vickerman)
- I/1 carving (Davis)
- Silverwell Stone
From Ilkley town centre take the road up to White Wells (ask any local if y’ can’t find it), but instead of heading up the track to the wells, keep on the road and, after just over 200 yards, turn left up the Keighley Road. Half-a-mile up there’s a dirt-track on your right which leads to Silver Well Farm. Walk along here for about 150 yards, keeping your eyes peeled for a large rock in the heather about 50 yards up onto the moor. You’ll find it.
Archaeology & History
Located just 100 yards west of the old Roman road that effectively runs north-south through the middle of Rombalds Moor and which, when this carving was executed, was a prehistoric trackway, this is an impressive carving, all but unknown by many. On my last visit to this stone—maybe 10 years ago or more—it was a cloudy day. I know this from the fact that the design on the stone was difficult to see in its entirety. But not anymore! When the northern antiquarian Dave Whittaker came a-wandering this way a few years back, the stone so overgrown in vegetation that the design was very difficult to appreciate and, like any healthy curious antiquarian, he wanted to know what the full carving would look like. He enquired whether or not it was OK to uncover the stone from beneath its mass of heather to see the full image and, as far as we were concerned the idea was a good one. And so, following in the footsteps of Beckensall, Currie, Chappell, me and a few others, he got stuck in!
As you can see in Dave’s fine photos, the petroglyph is indeed a fine one. It comprises mainly of four cup-and-rings, two of which are incomplete The rings, as you can see, are very faint, whilst the cups, both in the rings and those outside of them, are notably deep; perhaps indicating that they were carved into many times over a long period.
One of the great petroglyphic pioneers, J.Romilly Allen (1882) seems to have been the earliest to record this carving. Allen’s early sketch (below) was obviously drawn on a shady day, as it misses several of of the rings that are clear to see when the the daylight is just right. It’s an easy mistake to make. He wrote:
“One mile south-west of Ilkley is a road leading over the top of the Moor…very appropriately as Weary Hill. To the west of the road, and between it and the boundary-wall of Silver Well Farm, is a small boulder of gritstone with cup-markings on it. It lies at a level of 900 ft. above the sea, and it measures 8ft by 5ft. On its upper surface, which is nearly level, are carved ten cups, varying in diameter from 2 to 3 ins., one of them being surrounded by a single ring.”
The pseudonymous “A. Reader” (1891) also included the stone in his international overview of prehistoric carvings, but merely copied the notes of his predecessors. Nearly a hundred years later when archaeologist John Hedges (1986) did his survey of these moors, he described this carving simply as:
“Medium seized rock…in grass, heather and crowberry with c.ten cups, four with rings, two with grooves from rings, three depressions and series of probably natural lines running down to bottom edge.”
And as with the pseudonymous A. Reader (1891), Boughey & Vickerman’s (2003) also just copied Hedges’ earlier description.
The greatest analysis of this carving to date is by physicist and mathematician Alan Davis. He set out in 1983 to explore the possibility of there being a universal measurement used in neolithic times that was coded into our cup-and-rings—a theory first espoused by the great archaeo-astronomer Alexander Thom. (1968) He selected carvings from Rombalds Moor and Northumberland, including this one at Weary Hill (calling it the I/1 carving) to see if a ‘megalithic inch’ (MI) that was propounded by Thom had any foundation in fact. As a mathematician he was ideally qualified to examine this proposition. His 1983 paper found there to be “substantial support” for this prehistoric megalithic inch. However, in a subsequent 30-page analysis of the same carvings Davis (1988) found that some criteria in his initial investigation needed re-examining. In his updated report he told that “many of these deficiencies have now been remedied.”
His initial 1983 report concluded the Weary Hill carving possessed a deliberate mathematical code in accordance with Thom’s MI. However in the subsequent 1988 report, Davis found that the measurements were based on 5MI and 3 MI, but only in the cup-and-rings and not the single cups. Despite this, there remained an overall scepticism in terms of any deliberate universal use of the MI. My own take on this is a simple one: there was no deliberate use of any MI at carvings. Where we do find precise MIs, this is due simply to the average size of human hands, meaning that some obvious figurative correspondences will occur upon investigation. The more you think about it, the more obvious it becomes.
Anyhow, all this intriguing geometry aside: to those of you who take the time to check this out, have a bimble in the heather barely 100 yards west and you’ll find a few other carvings sleeping quietly, whose site profiles I’ve yet to do…
- Allen, J. Romilly, “Notice of Sculptured Rocks near Ilkley,” in Journal of the British Archaeological Association, volume 38, 1882.
- Anonymous, Walks Around Cup and Ring Stones, ITIC: Bradford n.d. (1995)
- Boughey, K.J.S. & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, WYAS: Leeds 2003.
- Collyer, Robert & Turner, J. Horsfall, Ilkley, Ancient and Modern, William Walker: Otley 1885.
- Davis, Alan, ‘The Metrology of Cup and Ring Carvings near Ilkley in Yorkshire,’ in Science and Archaeology, 25, 1983.
- Davies, Alan, ‘The Metrology of Cup and Ring Carvings,’ in Ruggles, C., Records in Stone, Cambridge 1988.
- Hedges, John (ed.), The Carved Rocks of Rombald’s Moor, WYMCC: Wakefield 1986.
- Reader, A., Archaic Rock Inscriptions, privately printed: London 1891.
- Thom, Alexander, “The Metrology and Geometry of Cup and Ring Marks,” in Systematics, volume 6, 1968.
- Turner, J. Horsfall, Historical Notices of Shipley, Saltaire, Idle, Windhill, Wrose, Baildon, Hawksworth, Eccleshill, Calverley, Rawdon and Horsforth, Shipley Express: Idle 1901.
- Weary Hill Stone on The Megalithic Portal
Acknowledgments: Huge thanks to Dave Whittaker for his work at this stone, plus allowing us use of his photos in this site profile.
© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian