Causeway Edge, Littleborough, Lancs

‘Standing Stone’:  OS Grid Reference – SD 97239 17135

Getting Here

Causeway Edge stone, looking east

Get up to the Aiggin Stone and turn your back to Robin Hood’s Bed and Blackstone Edge, facing (roughly) north.  There’s a small path just to the left of the Aiggin Stone, running northwest (don’t take the more pronounced footpath on its right, or you’ll get a bit lost).  Walk down this path for about 60-70 yards and you can’t miss it!

Archaeology & History

Initially I thought this was the stone described in James Maxim’s (1965) exploratory study of the ancient route of the Long Causeway, not far from the Aiggin Stone, running up between Littleborough and Sowerby Bridge, across the Yorkshire border — but I quickly realised my error!  Maxim’s upright was one of the boundary markers and is a good 100 yards away from this little fella, seemingly divorced from history.  But he’s a curiosity that could do with an explanation…

Standing Stone, with Robin Hoods Bed on horizon

The stone is less than a metre tall but appears to have had been a little taller in earlier days, having the top of it knocked off — either accidentally or otherwise (someone suggested that the small stone on the ground by its side was once the top of the stone).  It stands just a yard to the side of an old causeway running from the disused quarries a few hundred yards away, up to the Aiggin Stone.  It may have been an old wayside marker stone.  It’s certainly old and nobody seems to have said owt about it, so I thought that I’d highlight it here.  Any further info on the little fella’s history would be most welcome!

In the heathlands above here we found remains of old walling in the edge of the ancient peat, some of it cutting through into view and some of it still beneath the surface.  There wasn’t much of it (though we weren’t here for long), but it looked familiar and old…  How old is hard to say at the moment.  Who built them?  How much more can be found nearby?  Were they part of the quarrying operations, or destroyed by them? Anyone know owt more?

References:

  1. Maxim, James L., A Lancashire Lion, J.L. Maxim Trustees: Leeds 1965.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Causeway Edge stone

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Causeway Edge stone 53.650731, -2.043240 Causeway Edge stone

Robin Hood’s Bed, Blackstone Edge, Lancashire

Legendary Rocks: OS Grid Reference – SD 97204 16356

Getting Here

Robin Hoods Bed on 1851 map
Robin Hoods Bed on 1851 map

Follow the same directions to get to the Aiggin Stone.  Once here, go over the stile by the fence opposite towards the great geological ridge less than half-a-mile south.  Head for the triangulation pillar right on the top of the ridge, and there, about 20 yards past it, higher-up than the triangulation pillar at the very top of Blackstone Edge, is Robin Hood’s legendary stone bed!

Archaeology & History

Robin Hoods Bed, looking north

There’s very little of archaeological interest known up here, save a mass of flints and scrapers that have been found scattering the moorland heights hereby, from the mesolithic period onwards.  But we have a relative lack of neolithic to Iron Age remains — officially anyhow!  A possible standing stone can be found a few hundred yards south, but there’s little else.

The rock that’s given its name to Robin Hood’s Bed overlooks the very edge of the ridge, detached from the main section, with a large and very curious nature-worn ‘bed’ on its very crown, more than 4 feet wide and about 7 feet long, into which one comfortably lays.  It was named in the boundary records of the township of Rishworth in 1836, where it describes other historical stones, saying:

“thence under Robin Hood’s Bed to a stone marked ‘W.S.G.S. 1742, 1770, 1792, and the following figures and letters, ‘1826 I.L.S.'”

Folklore

This enormous millstone grit boulder, sitting 1550 feet upon the high moors is, according to legend, a place where our famous legendary outlaw once slept.  Whilst sleeping here, some of his followers were said to have kept guard and looked over him.

Robin Hood’s Bed, from below

A rather odd piece of folklore recited by Jessica Lofthouse (1976) is that “no winds ever blow” at Robin Hood’s Bed, who then went on to tell of the time she visited the place.  Walking along the rocky ridge where the stone bed is found, the winds were such that “we had almost been blown over the edge,” until just a few hundred yards further when they eventually reached the fabled site, Nature granted them a sudden calmness unknown to all the high moorlands around, affirming the curious folklore.

The ceremonial stone ‘bed’

Robin Hood’s Bed itself was undeniably an important ceremonial site for both rites of passage and ritual magick to our indigenous ancestors.  The place screams of it!  It also seems very likely that the hero figure of Robin Hood replaced an earlier mythological character, akin to the fabled female creation deity, the cailleach, found commonly in more northern and Irish climes, whose echoes can still be found around our Pennine hills.  For we find that Robin Hood was said to have taken a large boulder from here and with a mighty heave threw it six miles across the landscape due west into the setting sun, where it eventually landed at Monstone Edge, near Rochdale!  Local people were so astounded at this feat that the stone was given the name of Robin Hood’s Quoit.

7ft tall natural standing stone

The old place-name authority Eilert Ekwall (1922) related the folklore that the giant ridge of Blackstone Edge “is said to refer to a boundary stone between Yorkshire and Lancashire.”  Which may be the curious upright standing stone, more than 7 feet tall, less than 50 yards NNE which gives a very distinct impression of having been deliberately stood upright, amidst this mass of loose geological droppings!  It would be helpful if there was a geologist in the house who could tell us decisively one way or the other…

Another etymological possibility that has been posited relates to the word ‘bed’ at this site.  Ordinarily it would be sensible to attach the word to the great stone ‘bed’ atop of the poised boulder.  But with the attached legends symptomatic of prehistoric monuments, it would not be improper to highlight that the old Welsh word ‘bedd‘ (a place-name element that is not uncommon in Lancashire) means, “a grave or tomb”.  And this site would be ideal for such an old prehistoric cairn…

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  2. Ekwall, E., The Place-Names of Lancashire, Manchester University Press 1922.
  3. Lofthouse, Jessica, North Country Folklore, Hale: London 1976.
  4. Smith, A.H., The Place-Names of the West Riding of Yorkshire – volume 3, Cambridge University Press 1961.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Robin Hood's Bed

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Robin Hood\'s Bed 53.643726, -2.043759 Robin Hood\'s Bed

Aiggin Stone, Blackstone Edge, Lancashire

‘Standing Stone’:  OS Grid Reference – SD 97329 17069

Getting Here

From Littleborough, take the Ripponden and Halifax A58 road up-uphill till you get to the White House pub near the very top.  From here, cross the road and walk  along the track below the disused quarry for a coupla hundred yards till you meet with the straight uphill track.  Go up here and, near the very top, you’ll see the upright stone right beside the footpath on your left.

Archaeology & History

Aiggin Stone and cairn

This ancient boundary stone has long been an etymological oddity.  It aint a prehistoric stone by any means (soz…), though its nature has never truly been decided for sure.  Some have posited it as Roman in origin, others that it’s merely a waymarker (in case y’ get lost in the fog up here), others that it’s a milestone, and the more common notion is that it’s a boundary marker of the counties of Yorkshire and Lancashire (it’s position in the landscape presently sits it in Lancashire).  As far as I’m concerned, the stone’s late-medieval in nature…

Standing by the old Roman road a short distance from the very top of these high Pennine hills on the Yorkshire-Lancashire border, a faint old Latin cross, plus the letters “I.T.” are etched onto its sides.  In the 1930s the stone was found laid in the moorland heather, but was thankfully resurrected in 1933.  Since then however, it’s been knocked over a couple more times, but presently stands proudly upright — until the day comes when some other halfwits decide to knock it down again!  In its earlier days, James Maxim (1965) described the stone thus:

“It is an irregular block of gritstone 7 feet long, tapering from 2 feet 6 inches to 2 feet wide and it is about 10 inches thick.  On one bedding face and a few inches from the top is an incised cross with the ends of the arms slightly expanded.  This is 1 foot 4 inches long and 10 inches wide, the horizontal bar crossing the vertical at about 5 inches from its upper end.”

Looking northeast

First highlighted on an engineer’s map from 1800, Herbert Collins (1950) assumes Aiggin to be “a corruption of Agger”, being a Latin word meaning, “a pile, heap, mound, dike, mole, pier – in Roman antiquity, an earthwork or other artificial mound or rampart.”  Due to the monolith’s proximity to the supposed Roman road there is great likelihood in it being as such, plus “agger” can also mean a Roman road or military way.  Collins cites other possibilities: aggerere, “to bear to a place, to heap up,” or “that which is gathered to form an elevation above a surface” – which is certainly applicable here!  James Maxim (1965) thought,

“The name ‘Aiggin’ suggests a pronunciation resembling either ‘edge’ or ‘hedge’ and thus it might mean ‘Edge Stone’. Alternatively it could be derived from the French ‘aguille’, meaning a needle or sharp-pointing rock.”

The view from here is truly excellent — though if you walk to the rocky crags of Blackstone Edge a half-mile to the south (y’ can’t miss ’em from here) and sit by Robin Hood’s Bed, it gets even better!  A smaller, possible standing stone can be seen just 200 yards northwest of our Aiggin Stone; with the top of the stone seemingly knocked off in bygone years. Not far from here are the remains of some old hut circles, emerging from beneath the old landscape.

References:

  1. Collins, Herbert C., The Roof of Lancashire, J.M. Dent: London 1950.
  2. Maxim, James L., A Lancashire Lion, J.L. Maxim Trustees: Leeds 1965.

Links:

  1. Ray Spencer on the Aiggin Stone

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

Aiggin Stone

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Aiggin Stone 53.650140, -2.041884 Aiggin Stone