Linton Church, Grassington, North Yorkshire

‘Standing Stone’:  OS Grid Reference – SE 00426 63176

Getting Here

Pretty easy really. Get to the ancient St. Michael’s Church on the dead-end road just outside of Linton village.  As you approach it, look into the field on your right.  Y’ can’t miss it!

Archaeology & History

Linton 'Standing Stone'
Linton ‘Standing Stone’

This is an oddity.  It could perhaps be little more than one of the Norber erratics found a few miles further north — but it looks more like a smaller version of one of the Avebury sarsens!  Just under six-feet tall, it was shown to me by Adrian Lord yesterday (when the heavens subsequently opened and an outstanding downpour-and-half followed), who’d come across it only a week or two earlier themselves when they visited the ancient church next door.  The stone certainly aint in any archaeology registers (no surprise there); and as one local man we spoke to yesterday told us, “there used to be several other standing stones in the same field, cos I remember ’em when I was a kid. ” The gent we spoke to seemed to know just about everything about the local archaeology and history of the area (one of those “damn good locals” you’re sometimes lucky to find!).  He told us that the other stones which used to be there had been moved by the local farmer over the years, for use in his walls.  So it seems that this is the last one standing.  What looks like several other fallen stones can be seen further down the field, just next to the church.  But this one’s pretty impressive.

Close-up of gnarled rock
Close-up of gnarled rock
Looking south-ish!
Looking south-ish!

The church of St. Michael next door was, tells the information inside, built upon some old pagan site — which gives added thought to this upright stone perhaps being the ruin of an old circle, or summat along those lines.  The church, incidentally, is built right next to the River Wharfe.

Not far from here we find an almost inexhaustible supply of prehistoric remains at Grassington and district (less than a mile north).  A huge excess of Bronze- and Iron Age remains scatter the fields all round the town.  And aswell as the Yarnbury henge close by, there is — our local man told us,  “another one which no-one knows abaat, not far away”!

Folklore

The folklore of this area is prodigious!  There is faerie-lore, underworld tales, healing wells, black-dogs, ghosts, earthlights – tons of the damn stuff.  But with such a mass of prehistoric remains, that aint too surprising.  And although there appears no direct reference to this particular stone (cos I can’t find a damn reference about it), the old Yorkshire history magus, Harry Speight (1900), wrote of something a short distance away along the lane from the church.  He told that,

“In the field-wall beside the road may be seen some huge glacial boulders, and there is one very large one standing alone in the adjoining field, which from one point of view bears a striking resemblance to a human visage; and a notion prevails among the young folk of the neighbourhood that this stone will fall on its face when it hears the cock crow.”

Just the sort of lore we find attached to some other standing stones in certain parts of the country.  And in fact, from some angles, this ‘ere stone has the simulacrum of a face upon it; so this could be the one Speight mentions (though his directions would be, unusually, a little out).

There are heathen oddities about the church aswell: distinctly pre-christian ones.  An old “posset-pot” was used for local families to drink from after the celebration of a birth, wedding or funeral here.  And at Hallowtide – the old heathen New Year’s Day,

“certain herbs possessed the power of enabling those who were inclined to see their future husbands or wives, or even recognizing who was to die in the near future.”

And in an invocation of the great heathen god (the Church called it the devil), Speight also went on to tell that:

“The practice at Linton was to walk seven times round the church when the doomed one would appear.”

In a watered down version of this, local people found guilty of minor transgressions in and around Linton (thieves, fighters, piss-heads, etc),

“was compelled to seek expiation by walking three time around Linton Church.”

Linton stone05This would allegedly cure them of their ‘sins’!  Rush-bearing ceremonies were also enacted here.  On the hill above, the faerie-folk lived.  And until recently, time itself was still being measured by the three stages of the day: sunrise, midday and sunset; avoiding the modern contrivances of the clock, and maintaining the old pre-christian tradition of time-keeping.  Much more remains hidden…

References:

  1. Speight, Harry, Upper Wharfedale, Elliott Stock: London 1900.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Linton Church stone

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Linton Church stone 54.064526, -1.994984 Linton Church stone

Frogden Circle, Linton, Roxburghshire

Stone Circle (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NT 774 292

Also known as:

  1. Five Stones
  2. The Tryst

Archaeology & History

Less than a mile northwest of the hillfort on Linton Hill, modern OS-maps show the field-name of ‘Five Stone Field’ which is where, in bygone years, another important stone circle once stood.  Today unfortunately, not a single stone remains.  As the Scottish Royal Commission (1956) lads told:

“About a mile NE of Frogden, on the N side of the road between Frogden and Greenlees, there were formerly five or six upright stones forming a circle, ‘about the size of a cock-pit’ (1792 Statistical Account). This circle, which was adopted as a rendezvous by Border raiders in the Middle Ages and became known as The Tryst, has long since disappeared, but its approximate site is indicated on the OS map by the name Five…Stone Field.”

Folklore

One of many stone circles used as an old moot, or gathering spot.  This was described in one of the many footnotes to Sir Walter Scott’s (1802) Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, in which he told:

“At Linton, in Roxburghshire, there is a circle of stones surrounding a smooth plot of turf, called the Tryst, or place of appointment, which tradition avers to have been the rendezvous of the neighbouring warriors. The name of the leader was cut in the turf, and the arrangement of the letters announced to his followers the course which he had taken.”

This tradition was echoed around the same period in Robert Forsyth’s (1805) massive work on the history of Scottish life and landscape, saying:

“In different parishes, such as Moorbattle, Linton, and others, are to be found what are called tryst stanes. These are great stones commonly situated on high grounds. They are placed perpendicularly in rows, not unfrequently in a circular direction. It is said, as also the name imports, that in times of hostility they marked the places of resort for the borderers when they were assembling for any expedition of importance.”

References:

  1. Burl, Aubrey, The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, Yale University Press 2000.
  2. Forsyth, Robert, The Beauties of Scotland – volume 2, Thomas Bonar: Edinburgh 1805.
    Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Roxburghshire – volume 1, HMSO: Edinburgh 1956.
  3. Scott, Walter, Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, James Ballantyne: Kelso 1802.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  55.556301, -2.359174 Frogden circle