Rocking Stone, Warley Moor, Halifax, West Yorkshire

Legendary Rock:  OS Grid Reference – SE 03399 30199

Also Known as:

  1. Sleepy Lowe

Getting Here

The old rocking stone, on the right
The old rocking stone, on the right (looking east)

From Denholme, take the A6033 Hebden Bridge road up, but shortly past the great bend turn off right up the steep road towards the moorland windmills until you reach the flat dirt-tracked road, past the reservoir below.  A coupla hundred yards past the track to the reservoir, take the footpath south into the tribbly grasslands and moor.  A few hundred yards down you’ll note the large rock outcrop ahead of you. The rocking stone is there!

Archaeology & History

The old rocking stone
The old rocking stone

A small moorland arena with a neglected history. Many lost memories surround this site, with barely legible ruins from medieval and Victorian periods prevailing against scanty snippets of neolithic and Bronze Age rumours and remains.  The rocking stone here—which moves slightly with a bit of effort—sits amidst a gathering of other large rocks, some of which have debatable cup-markings on their smoothly eroded surfaces.

Our rocking stone, resting 1350 feet above seal level, was first mentioned in John Watson’s (1775) magnum opus, who gave a quite lengthy description of the site:

“On a common called Saltonstall-moor, is what the country people call the Rocking-stone… The height of this on the west side (which is the highest) is, as I remember, about three yards and a half.  It is a large piece of rock, one end of which rests on several stones, between two of which is a pebble of a different grit, seemingly put there for a support, and so placed that it could not possibly be taken out without breaking, or removing the rocks, so that in all probability they have been laid together by art.  It ought to be observed, that the stone in question, from the form and position of it, could never be a rocking stone, though it is always distinguished by that name.  The true rocking stone appeared to me to lie a small distance from it, thrown off its centre.  The other part of this stone is laid upon a kind of pedestal, broad at the bottom, but narrow in the middle; and round this pedestal is a passage which, from every appearance, seems to have been formed by art, but for what purpose is the question.”

Dubious cup-markings
Dubious cup-markings
Watson's 1775 drawing of the Rocking Stone
Watson’s 1775 drawing of the Rocking Stone

Watson then goes onto remark about other rocking stones in Cornwall and further afield with attendant “druid basins” upon them, noting that there were also “rock basins” here on Warley Moor, a few of which had been “worked into this rocking stone,” which he thought “helps to prove that the Druids used it.”  And although these rock basins are large and numerous over several of these rocks, like the cup-markings that also scatter the surfaces, they would seem to be Nature’s handiwork.

Turner's 1913 drawing
Turner’s 1913 drawing

Some 60 years later when the literary thief John Crabtree (1836) plagiarized Watson’s words verbatim into his much lesser tome, it seemed obvious he’d never ventured to explore the site.  But in the much more valuable historical expansion written by John Leyland around 1867, he at least visited the site and found the old stone, “still resting on its shady pedestal.” Later still, when Whiteley Turner (1913) ventured this way on one of his moorland bimbles, he added nothing more to the mythic history of these west-facing megaliths…

Folklore

Still reputed locally to have been a site used by the druids; a local newspaper account in the 1970s also told how local people thought this place to be “haunted by goblins.”

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  2. Crabtree, John, Concise History of the Parish and Vicarage of Halifax, Hartley & Walker: Halifax 1836.
  3. Leyland, F.A., The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Halifax, by the Reverend John Watson, M.A., R.Leyland: Halifax n.d. (c.1867).
  4. Smith, A.H., The Place-Names of the West Riding of Yorkshire – volume 3, Cambridge University Press 1961.
  5. Turner, Whiteley, A Spring-Time Saunter round and about Bronte Lane, Halifax Courier 1913.
  6. Watson, John, The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Halifax, T. Lowndes: London 1775.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  53.768126, -1.949914 Rocking Stone

Robin Hood’s Penny Stone, Midgley Moor, West Yorkshire

Legendary Rock:  OS Grid References – SE 01831 28436

Also Known as:

  1. Robin Hood’s Pennystone
  2. Robin Hood’s Rock

Getting Here

If you follow the directions to reach the Churn Milk Joan stone, then continue onto the moor following the same directions to find the Miller’s Grave, once you’ve reach this you’ll see a large rounded boulder a couple of hundred yards away on your left, to the northwest.  That’s Robin Hood’s Penny Stone!

Archaeology & History

Robin Hood’s Pennystone, Midgley Moor

In terms of this site’s archaeology, it has none to write home about in official records (other than a few flints found nearby), but there’s more to this place than meets the eye.  A large rounded boulder sat upon the moorland plain with a large Nature-worn bowl on its top, the site is some 112 yards (102m) northwest of the little-known, but impressive Miller’s Grave prehistoric cairn (close to being a midsummer/midwinter line).  North and south of the rock are small lines of prehistoric walling — though their context is difficult to assess.  The Greenwood Stone and Greenwood B stone can be found about 200 yards west.

Folklore

A singular footpath once led up to this old boulder, atop of which – in its large ‘bowl’ – vinegar used to be poured. In this, coins were left by local people who suffered the plague and in return food was left for them.  And of course it is said that Robin Hood frequented the place in bygone times.

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  2. Robert, Andy, “Our Last Meeting,” in NEM 37, 1989.
  3. Robert, Andy, Ghosts and Legends of Yorkshire, Jarrold: Sheffield 1992.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  53.752288, -1.973712 Robin Hood\'s Penny Stone

Mount Skip, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire

Tumulus (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 0095 2748

Archaeology & History

Up behind the old pub that was The Mount Skip, high on the ridge above Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd, overlooking the Calder Valley for many miles, was once — it would seem — a number of fine prehistoric remains, long since destroyed by the industrial advance of quarrying and such likes.  Amidst what seems to have been settlement remains and, perhaps, timber circles, an ancient grave was also known here.  In Mr Ling Roth’s (1906) essay on the prehistoric remains of the Halifax region, he wrote:

“In May, 1897, a grave was discovered at a quarry above Mount Skip Inn.  The first indications were the rolling down of pieces of urns which the delvers called flower pots.  Then in digging into a hole to fix the leg of a crane, human bones were discovered,  Mr Crossley Ainsworth told me: “The grave was about 6ft (1.8m) long, from 14 to 18in (35-45.7cm) wide and about 2ft (61cm) deep…the head and feet were almost exactly north and south, with the face right towards the midday sun.”  The bones were very brittle and crumbled easily in the hand.  There was a lot of charcoal in the grave.  In the ends of the grave which were undisturbed, “there appeared to be about 6in (15cm) thick of charred wood and bones mixed together at the bottom.  Flints were also found.  Also the larger half of a small earthenware vessel which had rolled down into the quarry ; this was picked up by a man named Thos. Greenwood, of Shawcroft Hill.”

The site was mentioned again nearly fifty years later in Geoffrey Watson’s (1952) survey, but with no additional details.

References:

  1. Roth, H. Ling, The Yorkshire Coiners 1767-183; and Notes on Old and Prehistoric Halifax, F. King and Son: Halifax 1906.
  2. Watson, Geoffrey G., Early Man in the Halifax District, Halifax Scientific Society 1952.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  53.743697, -1.987075 Mount Skip tumulus

Churn Milk Joan, Midgley Moor, West Yorkshire

Standing Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 01974 27684

Also Known as:

  1. Saville’s Low

Getting Here

Churn Milk Joan, Midgley

From the village of Midgley, high above the A646 Halifax-to-Todmorden road, travel west along the moorland road until you reach the sharp-ish bend in the road, with steep wooded waterfall to your left and the track up to the disused quarry of Foster Clough.  Go up the Foster Clough track for 100 yards and, when you reach the gate in front of you, go over it but follow the line of the straight walling uphill by the stream-side (instead of following the path up the quarries) all the way to the top. Here you’ll see the boundary stone of  Churn Milk Joan.

Archaeology & History

The present large standing stone you see before you isn’t prehistoric.  However, the small broken piece on the ground by its side may have been its prehistoric predecessor; and there is certainly something of an archaic nature here — albeit a contentious one — as we find old cup-markings cut into its eastern face.

Two ‘cup-marks’ on eastern face

The upright is roughly squared and faces the cardinal points.  It was described in Mr Heginbottom’s  (1977) unpublished survey on Calderdale rock art, where he described there being a few cup-markings inscribed on its east- and south-facing edges, some of which may be prehistoric — though they would obviously have had to have been carved upon the upright stone when it still lay earth-fast.  However, we must posit the the notion (unless some of you have better ideas) that the tradition of etching cup-marks onto rocks was still occurring in this part of Yorkshire until the late Middle Ages, as this stone was, as we know from boundary records, only placed upright to mark the meeting of the three boundaries of Wadsworth, Hebden Royd and Sowerby.

Churn Milk Joan’s other name, Saville’s Low, originates from the great Saville family who owned great tracts of land across the region in the fourteenth century, possibly when the Churn Milk Joan we see today was created.  The word “lowe” may derive from the old word meaning, “moot or gathering place,” which this great stone probably served as due to its siting at the junction of the three townships.*

Folklore

In modern times the stone has become a focus for a number of local pagans and New Agers who visit and ‘use’ the site in their respective ways at certain times of the day, albeit estranged (ego-bound) from the original mythic nature of the site.

The name of the stone comes from an old legend about a milk-maid named Joan who, whilst carrying milk across the moors between Luddenden and Pecket Well, got caught in a blizzard and froze to death.  When her body was found many days later, the stone we see here today was erected to commemorate the spot where she died.  Although such a scenario is quite likely on these hills, as Andy Roberts (1992) said,

“Considering the sheer amount of sites with similar legends this explanation is unlikely to be true and we should looker deeper for the meaning behind Churn Milk Joan, to be found in its positioning in the landscape and ourindividual feelings about it.”  [see profiles for the Two Lads and the Lad o’ Crow Hill sites)

The monolith’s other title, Churnmilk Peg, is the name given to an old hag who is said to be the guardian of nut thickets.  How this female sprite came to find her abode upon these high hills is somewhat of an enigma, but it was first stated as such in an article by Andy Roberts (1989) in “Northern Earth Mysteries” magazine.  E.M. Wright (1913) noted this supernatural creature in her work on folk dialect, describing it as a West Yorkshire elemental who, along with another one known as Melsh Dick:

“are wood-demons supposed to protect soft, unripe nuts from being gathered by naughty children, the former being wont to beguile her leisure by smoking a pipe.”

Another legend of the stone tells how it is said to spin round three times on New Year’s Eve when it hears the sound of the midnight bells at St. Michael’s church (St. Michael was a dragon-slayer) at Mytholmroyd in the valley below.  Another piece of folklore tells that coins used to be left in a small hollow at the very top of the stone which, according to Haslem (1981), was “a gift to the spirit world, to bring luck” – a common folk motif.  It may equally originate from the custom of it as a plague stone.  This tradition of leaving coins atop of the stone is still perpetuated by some local folk.

Mr Haslem also made some interesting remarks about the nature of Churn Milk Joan standing as a boundary stone, representing something which stands not just as a physical boundary, but as a boundary point between this and the Other- or spirit world.  In folklore, streams and rivers commonly carry this theme.  But here on Midgley Moor, as a standing stone at the junction of three boundaries, we may be looking at the place as an omphalos: a centre point from which the manifold worlds unfold. (see Almscliffe Crags, the Ashlar Chair and the Hitching Stone)

The other motif here, of milk and snow [both white], have been speculated to represent power of the sun at midwinter, and geomantically we find the position of the stone in the landscape exemplifying this: it stands midway in the moorland scenery facing south, the direction of solar power, yet is bounded as an equinox marker from east and west.  The winter tales it has nestled around it are merely complementary occult augurs of its more wholesome elements at this point in the hills.

There is however, another much more potent element that has not been conveyed about the site and its folklore—and one which has more authenticity and primary animistic quality.  Regardless of ‘Joan’ or ‘Peg’ being the elemental preserved in the landscape title, the ‘churning’ in its name and the ‘spinning’ of the stone in myth at the end of one year and the start of the next at New Year, are folk memories of traditional creation myths that speak of the cyclical seasons endlessly perpetuated year after year after year, in what Mircea Eliade (1954) called the ‘myth of the eternal return.’  As season follows season in the folk myths of our ancestors, everything related to the natural world: a world inhabited (as it still is) by feelings and intuitions learned from an endless daily encounter, outdoors, with the streams, hills, gales, snow and fires.  Their entire cosmology, as with aboriginal people the world over, saw the cycles of the year as integral parts of their daily lives.  Here, at Churn Milk Joan with its central landscape position along an ancient boundary, the churning and turning of the year was commemorated and mythologized year after year after year; with maybe even the Milky Way being part of the ‘milk’ in its title, from which, in the shamanistic worlds that were integral to earlier society, the gods themselves emerged and came down to Earth.

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  2. Eliade, Mircea, The Myth of the Eternal Return, Bollingen 1954.
  3. Haslem, Michael, “Churn Milk Joan: A Boundary Stone on Midgley Moor,” in Wood and Water, 1:8, 1980.
  4. Heginbottom, J.A., “The Prehistoric Rock Art of Upper Calderdale and the Surrounding Area,” Yorkshire Archaeology Society 1977.
  5. Ogden, J.H., “A Moorland Township: Wadsworth in Ancient Times,” Proceedings of the Halifax Antiquarian Society, 1904.
  6. Robert, Andy, “Our Last Meeting,” in NEM 37, 1989.
  7. Robert, Andy, Ghosts and Legends of Yorkshire, Jarrold: Sheffield 1992.
  8. Wright, Elizabeth Mary, Rustic Speech and Folk-Lore, Oxford University Press 1913.

* The great stone at the cente of the Great Skirtful of Stones, Burley Moor, which previously stood at the centre of the Grubstones Circle, was just such a moot stone.  Upon it is carved the words “This is Rumble’s Lawe”.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Churn Milk Joan

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Churn Milk Joan 53.745529, -1.971553 Churn Milk Joan

Greenwood ‘B’ Stone, Midgley Moor, West Yorkshire

Standing Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 01659 28449

Also Known as:

  1. Midgley Moor Standing Stone

Getting Here

Midgley Moor Standing Stone

Takes a bitta finding – especially if some dood’s knocked it down again (as happens up here).  Best thing to do is get to the Miller’s Grave prehistoric cairn, which is only a few hundred yards away.  From Miller’s Grave, walk due west for 200 yards till you hit once a ditched footpaths, where you should turn right.  A short distance along you’ll hit a 5-foot-tall boundary stone called the Greenwood Stone with ‘1775’ carved on one side.  From here, walk due south into the heather for 75 yards.  You’re very close!

Archaeology & History

We resurrected this old standing stone in 1996, several years after first discovering it laid amidst the heather in the early 1990s. It appeared to mark an old boundary line (no longer used) betwixt Wadsworth Moor and Midgley Moor, but its nature is distinctly prehistoric. The remains of a small hut circle (seemingly Bronze Age, though excavation is needed) can be found a short distance to the west, though this is hard to find when the heather has grown. Other seemingly prehistoric remains scatter the ground nearby, none of which have received the attention of archaeologists.

Greenwood ‘B’ on a grey day

As you can see from these grey, rain-swept images, this upright stone is well-weathered (though we need to visit here again soon and get some better photos). It stands some 4-feet tall and may have accompanied one or two other monoliths close by.  The suggestion by one Peter Evans that the Greenwood B stone stood “possibly at the centre of a stone circle” is sadly untrue (soz Peter); though it probably had some relationship with the Millers Grave cairn site, a few hundred yards equinox east.

References:

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

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Greenwood 'B' Stone

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Greenwood \'B\' Stone 53.752405, -1.976320 Greenwood \'B\' Stone

Miller’s Grave, Midgley Moor, West Yorkshire

Cairn:  OS Grid Reference – SE 01912 28366

Getting Here

Millers Grave cairn

From the village of Midgley, high above the A646 Halifax-to-Todmorden road, travel west along the moorland road until you reach the sharp-ish bend in the road, with steep wooded waterfall to your left.  From here, across the road (roughly) there’s a track onto the moor.  Go up this, keeping to the line of the straight walling uphill by the stream-side (instead of following the path up the quarries) all the way to the top. Here you’ll see the boundary stone of  Churn Milk Joan. Take the footpath to its side for up onto the moor 250 yards or so, taking a right turn into the deeply cut footpath and walk along for several hundred yards, keeping your eyes to the north (right).  You’ll see the rocky cairn of Miller’s Grave not far away in the heather, near to the large rounded boulder known as Robin Hood’s Pennystone.

Archaeology & History

Ascribed by some as neolithic, and others as Bronze Age (the more probable), here is a curious archaeological relic: curious, inasmuch as it’s received very little attention from archaeologists.  It’s quite a large monument — and perhaps the fact that it has always seemed to be in isolation from other prehistoric remains has held it back a little.  But recent ventures here have brought about the discovery of more cairns (though singular small ones), neolithic walling, hut circles and other prehistoric remains that have never previously been reported.

Millers Grave01
Miller’s Grave, Midgley Moor (in VERY heavy rain!)
Central stone aligning north to Nab End

It’s a decent site aswell.  Mainly consisting of the usual mass of smaller stones piled up and around one main point; in the middle of this ‘tomb’ is a large split glacial erratic boulder, which may have been the original focus of the builders.  Some may even ascribe a coupla cup-markings on this ‘ere central rock form — but they’d be pushing it a bit! This large central feature aligns to the high peak of Nab Hill several miles north, above Oxenhope.  Whether this feature was of any significance in the cairn’s construction is debatable (though as north represents death in pre-christian peasant lore, this ingredient has to be noted).

Profile shot – looking NE
Looking SE, with small cairn in foreground

The cairn is a goodly size: some 4 feet tall and about 50 foot across at its greatest diameter.  Some of the stones near the centre of the stones have been put there in more recent years.  In previous centuries, treasure-seekers came here in the hope that they’d uncover gold or other trinkets and stripped off much of the original cover, moving many rocks to the edges.  Others were also stolen from here to make some of the grouse-butts, not far from away.  In a foray to the site on 5.9.10. we were lucky to find the heather had been burnt back and found, some ten yards to the north and to the southwest, the remains of small, outlying singular cairns (though these need excavating to ascertain their precise nature).

Calderdale Council’s archaeology notes on Miller’s Grave tell it to be “situated on the summit of Midgley Moor”, which is quite wrong.  The summit of the moor is some distance west of here, near where an old standing stone called the Greenwood B stone (75 yards south of the Greenwood Stone) and the much denuded remains of other prehistoric sites could once be found — though I’m not sure that they, nor the regional archaeologist for Upper Calderdale has ever been aware of them.

Folklore

In F.A. Leyland’s (c.1869) extensive commentary to Watson’s History of Halifax (1775), he relates a fascinating tale which seems to account for the name of this old tomb:

“About ninety years ago,” he wrote, “that is, towards the end of the eighteenth century – one Lee, a miller, committed suicide in Mayroyd Mill near Hebden Bridge. The jury at the inquest held on the occasion returned a verdict of felo-de-se, and the body was buried at Four Lane Ends, the Rough, in Midgley. The fact, however, of the body of one who had laid violent hands upon himself, lying in unconsecrated ground at a point where the highways met, and at a spot which the inhabitants passed early and late, oppressed the people of the neighbourhood with an irresistible dread. Persons going to market and passing from village to village, feared and avoided the unhallowed spot, until the feeling increased to one of insupportable terror; and, in the night time, a multitude collected with torches to disinter the body. This was speedily effected and violence was even offered to the dead. A man named Mark Sutcliffe, and others, who attempted to prevent the exhumation, were stoned* by the mob, and the body was hurried to the cairn on Midgley Moor, where it was hastily interred. Here however, it was not allowed to rest; the isolation of the body, though buried in a lonely spot, was yet apart from the common cemetery where the dead lie together in their special domain; and this invested the surrounding district with a superstitious awe difficult to describe. The body was still too near the haunts of the living; and, to the perturbed imagination of the inhabitants, the unquiet ghost of the suicide constantly brooded over the hills. As this was not to be endured, the body was at last removed from the cairn, and finally buried in the churchyard of St. Thomas a’ Beckett’s, Heptonstall. Although the interment of Lee, at the cairn, has conferred upon the spot the name of the Miller’s Grave, it cannot be doubted that the large quantity of heavy stones which we find heaped together at this place…was piled up in distant times…”

Modern pagan folklore ascribes the name of this site to relate to Much, the Miller’s Son: acquaintance of the legendary Robin Hood, whose ‘Penny Stone’ boulder is just 100 yards west of here.

References:

  1. Abraham, John Harris, Hidden Prehistory around the North West, Kindle 2012.
  2. Leyland, F.A. (ed.), The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Halifax by the Rev. John Watson, R. Leyland: Halifax n.d. (c.1869)

* Nothing too unusual there for the people of Hebden Bridge!

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Miller's Grave

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Miller\'s Grave 53.751658, -1.972484 Miller\'s Grave

Cock Hill, Wadsworth Moor, West Yorkshire

Cist:  OS Grid Reference – SE 009 275

Also Known as:

  1. Mount Skip tomb

Getting Here

OK – OK – stop laughing at the title!  If you wanna check the hill out for yourselves, get to Hebden Bridge, then go up the long and very steep Birchcliffe Road.  Keep going all the way to the very top (a couple of miles uphill).  When you reach here, the building in front of you was the Mount Skip pub.  From here, walk up over the golf course and you’ll hit the disused quarries on the moor edge.

Archaeology & History

The grid reference given above is an approximation.  The tomb (long gone) was within 100 yards of the coordinate.  But don’t let that put you off having a good bimble around the moors here, cos there are several sites to see.

This long-lost burial was located in May, 1897, when quarrying operations were being undertaken behind the Mount Skip Inn, on the edge of Wadsworth Moor.  Ling Roth (1906) told that

“the first indications were the rolling down of pieces of urns which the delvers called flower pots.  Then in digging a hole to fix the leg of a crane, human bones were discovered.”

Geoffrey Watson (1952) later echoing Mr Roth’s comments wrote that,

“a grave containing a skeleton was discovered at a quarry about Mount Skip Inn.  The grave was about 6ft long, 14-18 in wide, and about 2ft deep.  The bones, which were exceedingly brittle, crumbled on handling.  Within the grave, and mainly at the ends, there appeared to be about 6 in of mixed charred wood and bones.  The larger portion of a small earthenware vessel was picked up and retained by one of the quarrymen.”

According to Mr Roth, the “earthware vessel picked up…by one of the quarrymen” was “picked up by a man named Thomas Greenwood, of Shawcroft Hill.”   What became of it, I do not know! If anyone knows, please let us know!

The description telling that “the grave was about 6ft long, 14-18 in wide, and about 2ft deep,” implies it to have been a stone cist – although this is quite long.  The nearest of any similar form would be the giant cairns at Low Bradley, 12½ miles (20km) to the north  This may have been the last remnants of a giant cairn (its landscape position would allow for this).

References:

  1. Roth, H. Ling, The Yorkshire Coiners…and Notes on Old and Prehistoric Haifax, F. King: Halifax 1906.
  2. Watson, Geoffrey G., Early Man in the Halifax District, Halifax Scientific Society 1952.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Cock Hill cist

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Cock Hill cist 53.743877, -1.987833 Cock Hill cist

Crow Hill Circle, Midgley Moor, West Yorkshire

Ring Cairn: OS grid reference – SE 026 271

Getting There

Best approached by taking the same direction to the unexcavated Foster Clough ‘enclosure.’ From here, walk towards the walling about 100 yards to your east. Follow it along on the moorside for another 100 yards then follow the small sheep-path up the angle of the slope onto the moor itself. Once you’re at the top and on the level, it’s right ahead of you! If the heather’s deep though, you might as well give up before y’ start! (honest – I went there a while back for a night’s sleep & couldn’t find the damn thing!) But if you’ve made the effort getting here, wander 200 yards towards Crow Hill and keep yer eye out for the large heather-clad tumulus.

Archaeology & History

This site was rediscovered in October 1995, when I was bimbling about on the southern side of Crow Hill. It was one of those good periods, when the heather had been extensively burnt back, so enabling a better examination of the moors for any potential prehistoric remains. I unknowingly walked right into the middle of this small ring of stones with a fella called John Billingsley, who seemed quite unaware of what I was getting excited about until I pointed out to him exactly what we were standing in the middle of! (he couldn’t see what was under his nose, which was a bit weird considering he edits an earth-mystery mag) But I wouldn’t have even been looking for this site, were it not for what happened just a few days earlier…

I was on one of my many ambles across the moortops, which to many people watching would seem like some seemingly aimless, lost soul – an apt description at times! – wandering across the hills (those who know me well, have long called such seemingly aimless treks, Barmy Bennett Expeditions!). It was a lovely day: a shallow snow-cover lay across the moors and as the wind brushed across the earth and up, Her wisps of breath were freezing. But I was well-wrapped and sat, upon occasion, behind the small rock outcrops I was checking for cup-and-rings for shelter when needed. But as the day fell on and the sun touched the western hills, I had to turn for home as the cold was strengthening. Being on the moors at night, in this sort of weather, is never a good idea unless you’ve got your gear with you — and this day I hadn’t. So I set off back for home in Hebden Bridge, in that dreamy sort of state which the hills elicit after a day’s ambling. The colours of Earth and Sky were crisp in the bracing air and as I headed for the footpath towards the old stone known as Churn Milk Joan, I gazed at Crow Hill a half-mile or so away…

Without warning, it came like a thunderbolt up through my dreaming mind: ‘There’s a stone circle over there!‘ came the words. And though the words were quiet and simple, their effect was anything but! I focused quickly – very quickly! My mind staggered out of the dreaming and into the ego state, trying quick to rationalise what had just emerged from my unconscious. An adrenalin rush hit me and amidst the snow-filled hills I started to bound, gazelle-like, across the wibbling moors, straight towards Crow Hill. But then I stopped!

“Wait… She’s nearly dark,” I said to myself. “You’ve no food and there’s gonna be no no light. Come back in a day or two and you’ll have all the time you need to explore.”

And so I wandered back in the dark to the warmth of fire and home and waited a few days, for the Earth to drink Her snow, and hope that the curious intuition — as it had been on numerous other occasions — proved fruitful. And so it did…

If you can find the place (almost impossible when the heather’s in full growth), you’ll see that this ‘cairn circle’ is little more than 32 feet across, with the tallest stone in the ring little more than 2 feet tall. A curious small squared circle of loose stones exists in the south side of the ring and a raised embankment surrounds the site. Scatterings of small, football-sized stones are found both in, out and at the edge of the circle. (Please note – to those of you who wanna cross-reference – that the photos alleging to show this site on The Megalithic Portal are not of the right place.)

Close by are other neolithic remains, including extensive walling, 2 or 3 other small standing stones and a large tumulus which one rather myopic hobbyist (Mike Haigh) reckoned – in a poor attempt at sarcasm – might be the burial tomb of a successful local farmer.  Hmmmm…..

The site was later described in an article by the same Mike Haigh (in Billingsley’s Aspects of Calderdale) as being discovered by John Billingsley himself, which wasn’t just a mistake but a rather huge lie.  John was there with me when I found it, as he knows full well.  But it seems here we have an example of people who like to try give themselves credit for discovering things that they did not do.*  Even sillier, Mr Billingsley then moaned when I described the site (in my Old Stones of Elmet) without mentioning his name! But in all honesty, if that’s the disreputable way in which they go about their business, what do they expect in return!? (What’s worse is that the site was first described in an article in his own Northern Earth Mysteries mag in 1995, which I co-authored, and then when I asked if he could point out the error and correct it, he ignored the request in just the same way politicians do.  Pure bloody ignorance no less.  But then, he is one of those incoming Southern-types – y’ know the sort…)

This aside: the entire region hereabouts requires considerable archaeological attention as we have here the remains of either a neolithic settlement, or graveyard, or both!

* see the note at the bottom of the ‘About TNA‘ page on such issues.

References:

  1. Abraham, John Harris, Hidden Prehistory around the North West, Kindle 2012.
  2. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  3. Billingsley, J. & Bennett, P., ‘Recent Fieldwork on Midgley Moor,’ in NEM, 65, 1995.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Crow Hill circle

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Crow Hill circle 53.740277, -1.962060 Crow Hill circle