Stews, South Ronaldsay, Orkney

Standing Stone: OS Reference – ND 46558 88998

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 9516
  2. Stowse

Getting Here

A wind blown stone

Take the third left road off the A961 past St Mary’s Hope, travelling south, taking the right fork at Lythes, and continue down to the end of the metalled road. From there, walk up the slope to your right (south) and follow the fence on your left into the next field and the stone will be seen in a fenced enclosure.

Archaeology & History

Two things strike you when you first see this stone, the triangular shape of the east facing side, and the lichen which covers this face and much of the rest of the stone giving it the distinct illusion of having a green velvet coat! From another angle it has a distinct lean and there are quite a few packing stones around its base. The Royal Commission inventory (1946) describes it thus:

Stone on 1881 map

“On a ridge barely a quarter of a mile S of the farmhouse of Stews is a triangular block of red sandstone nearly 6 ft high, set with a packing of small stones at the base and with its axis N-S.  At the bottom where it is widest it measures 2 ft. 6 in. across and is from 12-13 in. thick.  As it rises it tapers gradually to a pointed top, which is slightly inclined towards the W.”

George Low on his 1774 tour wrote:

“Left this spot, and May 12th, proceeded southward by Stowse head; observed on the hill the remains of a tri-angular monument, but very much defaced, and two of the stones broke to the stumps. Tradition is there none as to the reason &c. of its erection.  The figure with a plan follows…”

George Low’s 1774 sketch
A coat of lichen

There is now no trace on the surface of the other two stones of this group so we are fortunate to have Mr Low on the spot sketch to record them. The stones would have been visible to the seafarers of times past who may have used them as navigation landmarks in pre-literate times, this being one of a number of surviving coastal stones on the Orkneys but whether they were erected for this purpose cannot be known.  If you’ve been to see the Sorquoy stone up the coast, the surviving Stews stone is worth the journey if only for its ‘velvet’ coat.

References:

  1. RCAHMS, Twelfth report with an inventory of the ancient monuments of Orkney and Shetland, 3v. Edinburgh. 1946
  2. Low, George, A Tour Through the Islands of Orkney and Schetland…collected in 1774, William Peace & Son: Kirkwall 1879.

Acknowledgements:  Big thanks for use of the 1st edition OS-map for this site profile, Reproduced with the kind permission of the National Library of Scotland

© Paul Hornby 2020, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  58.785227, -2.926164 Stews

Gill Head, Blubberhouses Moor, North Yorkshire

Enclosures:  OS Grid Reference – SE 1338 5493

Getting Here

Upright stone in prehistoric walling

ON the A59 Harrogate to Skipton road, right on top where it crosses the barren moors, get to the parking spot right near where the road levels out at the highest point (2-300 yards past the turning to the derelict Dovestones Quarry). From here, go thru the gate onto the moor for about 100 yard. Then turn straight east (left) for another few hundred yards till y’ reach the spot marked as Gill Head Peat Moor on the OS-map. This small standing stone (right) is where you need to start – the other remains continue east of here.

Archaeology & History

Richard’s original photo, with walling clearly visible

The discovery of this site began in April 2005, when rock art student Richard Stroud and I were exploring the moors here and he called our attention to what seemed like a singular upright standing stone, some 3 feet high, with a debatable cup-marking on top, standing amidst a scatter of smaller stones running north and south from here, implying that the stone may have been a part of some much denuded walling from our ancient past.  But we weren’t sure—and simply noted its location (at SE 13378 54924) and carried on our way.  But in revisiting this site after looking at some old archaeology papers, Paul Hornby and I chanced to find a lot more on the burnt heathland running east of here.

The upright stone found by Mr Stroud is certainly part of some ancient walling, but it is much denuded and falls back into the peat after only a short distance.  A short distance west of this stone is a small cairn which seems of more recent origin; but due east, along the flat plain on the moorland itself, the burnt heathland showed a scattering of extensive human remains, comprising mainly of walling, hut circles and possible cairns—lots of it!

One issue we have to contend with on this moorland is the evidence of considerable peat-cutting in places, which was being done on a large scale into the Victorian period.  Scatterings of medieval work are also found across this moor, in places directly interfering with little-known Bronze Age monuments in the middle of the remote uplands.  There is no doubt that some of these medieval and later workings have destroyed some of the uncatalogued prehistoric archaeological remains on this moor.  But thankfully, on the ridge running west to east along Gill Head to above the source of the Black Dike, scattered remains of human habitation and activity are still in evidence.  The only problem with what we’ve found, is the date…

Two rows of straight walling, with stone scatter all round
Another overgrown curve of walling

In 1960, Mr J. Davies first mentioned finding good evidence of flint-workings at a site close by; then described his discoveries in greater detail in the Yorkshire Archaeological Journal (1963) a few years later — but contended that the remains were of mesolithic origin.  A few years earlier, Mr D. Walker described a similar mesolithic “microlith site” a bit further north at Stump Cross.  Earlier still, Eric Cowling (1946) and others had made similar finds on these and adjacent moors.  Yet all of them missed this scatter of habitation sites, perched near the edge of the ridge running east-west atop of the ridge above the A59 road.  It’s quite extensive and, from the state of the walled remains, seems very early, probably neolithic in origin.

A number of small hut circles, 2-3 yards across, are scattered amidst the heather, with lines of walling—some straight, some not—broken here and there by people who came to gather their peat for fuel.  The walling and hut circle remains are very low to the ground, having themselves been robbed for stone it would seem.  The area initially appeared to be little more than a mass of stones scattered across the Earth (and much of it is), but amidst this are very clear lines of walls and circles, although they proved difficult to photograph because of the excessive growth of Calluna vulgaris.

Curious man-made structure in dried peat-bog

A couple of hundred yards south there are remains of one of the many dried black peat-bogs—with one large section that has been tampered with by humans at some point in the ancient past.  Over one section of it there has been built a small stone path, or possible fish-trap; plus elsewhere is a most curious rectangular walled structure (right) obviously made by people a long time ago.  Also amidst this dried peat-bog are the truly ancient remains of prehistoric tree-roots emerging from the Earth, a few thousand years old at least – and perhaps the last remnants of the ancient forests that once covered these moors.

How far back in time do all these walled remains take us?  Iron Age? Bronze Age?  Or much much further…?  Excavations anyone!?

References:

  1. Cowling, Eric T., Rombald’s Way, William Walker: Otley 1946.
  2. Davies, J., “A Mesolithic Workshop in Upper Wharfedale,” in Bradford’s Cartwright Hall Archaeology Group Bulletin, 5:1, 1960.
  3. Davies, J., “A Mesolithic Site on Blubberhouses Moor, Wharfedale,” in Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, part 161 (volume 41), 1963.
  4. Walker, D., “A Site at Stump Cross, near Grassington, Yorkshire, and the Age of the Pennine Microlith Industry,” in Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society, volume 22, 1956.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

 

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  53.990244, -1.797423 Gill Head enclosure

Cnoc Mor, Garbhallt, Argyll

Standing Stone (destroyed?): OS Grid Reference – NS 005 945

Getting Here

Somewhat out of the way with seemingly nothing left of the site, from Clachan Strachur, take the A886 road southwest along Loch Fyne for a few miles until you turn right (make sure you don’t drive past it!) towards Garbhallt. Go through here and on for another mile until you see a rounded knoll in the forest to your left (if you hit Barnacarry house, you’ve gone too far). Tis upon this hill where our old stone once stood.

Archaeology & History

Nowt much to write really. A description many moons back told there was an old stone standing ‘pon this hill. It was only a small creature compared to many of Argyll’s monoliths, only three-and-half feet tall, all alone, looking across the loch and speaking with the hills a gentle voice. I found it a little odd (though aint been here for many years) and seemed to tell that a tomb was in attendance, but this too seemed long gone. The Royal Commission chaps thought that some of the other slabs of stone lying about here may have been relevant, but we may never know. I reckon a few good days ambling hereabouts would produce some new finds. And the fact that only a half-mile away we find an old cross and holy well seems to indicate a christian rendering of something heathen close by…..

References:

  1. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Argyll – volume 6: Mid-Argyll and Cowal, HMSO: Edinburgh 1988.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.102180, -5.209989 Cnoc Mor stone

 

Water Sheddles Cross, Oakworth Moor, West Yorkshire

Standing Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SD 9711 3826

Also known as:

  1. Hanging Stone
  2. Standing Stone
  3. Waterscheddles Cross

Getting Here

The old stone, lost amidst the colour of hills
The old stone, lost amidst the colour of hills

Pretty easy to find.  Go along the Oakworth-Wycoller road, between Keighley and Colne, high up on the moors.  When you get to the Water Sheddles Reservoir right by the roadside (y’ can’t miss it), stop!  On the other side of the road walk onto the moor, heading for the walling a coupla hundred yards to your east (right).  Where the corner edge of the walling ends, your standing stone is right in front of you!  If for some reason you can’t see it, wander about – though beware the very boggy ground all round here.

Archaeology & History

This seven-foot tall monolith, leaning to one side thanks to the regularly water-logged peat beneath its feet, stands on the Yorkshire-Lancashire.  It is locally known as the Hanging Stone and the Standing Stone, but the name ‘Water Sheddles’ is a bittova puzzle.  The place-names authority, A.H. Smith (1961) thinks it may derive from the middle-english word, shadel, being a ‘parting of the waters’ – which is pretty good in terms of its position in the landscape and the boggy situation around it.  But ‘sheddle’ was also a well-used local dialect word, though it had several meanings and it’s difficult to say whether any of them would apply to this old stone.  Invariably relating to pedlars, swindling or dodgy dealings, it was also used to mean a singer, or someone who rang bells, or a schedule, aswell as to shuffle when walking.  Perhaps one or more of these meanings tells of events that might have secretly have been done here by local people, but no records say as such — so for the time being I’ll stick with Mr Smith’s interpretation of the word!  Up until the year 1618 it was known simply as just a ‘standing stone’, when it seems that the words “Hanging Stone or Water Sheddles Cross” were thereafter carved on its west-face, as the photo below shows.

Cross carved on the head of the stone
Cross carved on top of the stone
The old stone, with its names carved for all to see

Whether or not this stone is prehistoric has been open to conjecture from various quarter over the years.  Is it not just an old boundary stone, erected in early medieval times?  Or perhaps a primitive christian relic?  Certainly the stone was referred to as “le Waterschedles crosse”, as well as “crucem”, in an early record describing the boundaries of the parish of Whalley, dating from around the 15th century.  This has led some historians to think that the monolith we see today is simply a primitive cross.  However, sticking crosses on moortops or along old boundaries tended to be a policy which the Church adopted as a means to ‘convert’ or christianize the more ancient heathen sites.  It seems probable in this case that an old wooden cross represented the ‘crucem‘ which the monks described in the early Whalley parish records.

Site marked on 1892 map

This monolith likely predates any christian relic that might once have stood nearby; although the carving of a ‘cross’ on the head of the stone may have supplemented the loss of the earlier wooden one.  But it seems likely that this carved ‘cross’ was done at a later date than the description of the ‘crucem‘ in the parish records — probably a couple of centuries later, when a boundary dispute was opened, in 1614, about a query on the precise whereabouts of the Yorkshire-Lancashire boundary.  After several years, as John Thornhill (1989) wrote,

“the matter was resolved on the grounds that the vast Lancastrian parish of Whalley had claimed territorial jurisdiction as far east as the Hanging Stone, thus the county boundary was fixed on the Watersheddles Cross.”

Water Sheddles stone looking SW
Water Sheddles stone looking SW

Certainly the stone hasn’t changed in the last hundred years, as we can tell from a description of it by Henry Taylor (1906), who said:

“The remains consist of a rough block of stone, leaning at an angle of about forty-five degrees against a projecting rock. The top end has been shaped into the form of an octagon, on the face of which a raised cross is to be seen. The stone is about six feet long and two feet wide, tapering to eleven inches square at the upper end, and appears once to have stood upright. Some local authorities have cut on it the words, ‘Hanging Stone or Waterscheddles Cross.'”

So is it an authentic prehistoric standing stone?  Tis hard to say for certain I’m afraid.  It seems probable – but perhaps no more probable than the smaller Great Moss Standing Stone found just a couple of hundred yards away in the heather to the west, on the Lancashire side of the boundary.  Tis a lovely bitta moorland though, with a host of lost folktales and forgotten archaeologies…

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  2. Brigg, J.J., ‘A Disputed County Boundary”, in Bradford Antiquary, 2nd Series, no.8, 1933.
  3. Smith, A.H., The Place-Names of the West Riding of Yorkshire – volume 6, Cambridge University Press 1961.
  4. Taylor, Henry,The Ancient Crosses and Holy Wells of Lancashire, Sherratt & Hughes: Manchester 1906.
  5. Thornhill, John, ‘On the Bradford District’s Western Boundary,’ in Bradford Antiquary, 3rd Series, vol.4, 1989.
  6. Wright, Joseph, English Dialect Dictionary – volume 5, Henry Frowde: Oxford 1905.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  53.840580, -2.045403 Water Sheddles Cross

Green Crag Plain, Ilkley Moor, West Yorkshire

Standing Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 131 457

Getting Here

Standing Stone on Green Crag Plain, Ilkley Moor
Standing Stone on Green Crag Plain, Ilkley Moor

The best way to get here it is to head from the Cow and Calf Hotel up the hillside to where the great rock is sticking out (the Pancake Stone).  From here, head straight onto the moor toward the Idol Stone — close to the Idol Rock which you can see 400 yards south in front of you.  From here, follow the footpath up the hill before you and keep on the path towards Lanshaw Lass.  About 100 yards on, turn straight west into the heather and keep your eye towards the south.  About 250 yards on, about 100 yards away from the Green Crag Top cup-marked boulder,  you’ll see it!

Archaeology & History

One of very few solitary standing stones on Ilkley Moor, and one which I relocated after The Old Stones of Elmet (2001) had gone to press — which was a great pity.  Nearly four feet tall, this is a good chunky monolith which stands close to being on line with the summer solstice alignment from the nearby Twelve Apostles stone circle. (I was gonna call it the Summer Stone, but thought better of it!)

There’s another recumbent stone, more than five feet tall when erected, 200 yards northwest of here. (This is also very close to being in line with with our chunky monolith, plus the Twelve Apostles. Anyone out there with a GPS who can check if this possible alignment is the last remnant of a summer solstice stone row? It probably isn’t, but it’d be good to find out.)  On the same moorland level, heading back down, when the heather’s burnt back you’ll find a number of prehistoric tombs along the edge of the ridge.  These don’t appear to be in the archaeological registers.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Green Crag Plain stone

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Green Crag Plain stone 53.907295, -1.802086 Green Crag Plain stone

Yoni Stone, Utley, Keighley, West Yorkshire

Standing Stone:  OS grid reference – SE 0390 4333

Also known as:

  1. Cunt Stone

Getting Here

From Keighley town centre, head north towards Cliffe Castle, but turn left beforehand and along Hollins Lane.  Go past Hollins Hall for a few hundred yards and then through the gate on your left, then straight up the steep hill to the small woodland at the top.  On the OS-map it’s shown as ‘Great Snowden.’  You’re here!

Archaeology & History

A standing stone found recently by Lindsay Lockwood to the west of Keighley, albeit on supposedly private—ahem!—land (a number of old locals tell you, quite rightly, to ignore this selfishness; but be careful of the land-owners here, who can be quite miserable).  Tis less than four-feet tall but with a very noticeable female genital carving on its top western face.  This carving however, is perhaps 200 years old at the very most.  It’s in a quite beautiful setting aswell…

The Yoni or Cunt Stone, Utley
Buddhist scholar Steve Hart fondling the stone

What may be the remains of an old hut circle, or an old  drained-out pond (a big difference, I know!), can be found about 100 yards northwest, and one – possibly two – ‘cairns’ can also be found in the scattered trees immediately to the northeast. An old ‘druid’s bowl’ (natural cup-marking into which rain-water collects) can also be seen on an adjacent earthfast boulder.  Some folk might wanna allege a bullaun, but it’d be pushing it a bit I think. More recent walling and what appears to be stonework from more recent centuries (medieval) appears evident close by.  Whilst below the hill we have the recently discovered Dragon Stone cup-and-ring carving just a few hundred yards away.

The setting is not unlike the beautiful little standing stone of Tirai on the slopes of Glen Lochay, where amidst the recently deserted village the short squat standing stone is found. You get the same sorta feeling of more recent going-on with this site aswell.

The carved ‘cunt’ gives an even more intriguing thought as to what the stone was used for, around Beltane perhaps, by folk like misself and other straightforward doods!

I wasn’t sure exactly what to call the stone after Lindsay had found it.  However, due to the carved minge near the top, it seemed right to give the stone a name relative to the carving — and as we have a Devil’s Cunt in the Netherlands, I opted to call it something similar.*  Although ‘cunt’ is an old European word for ladies’ lovely parts, the word ‘Yoni’ is an eastern title, which has become very acceptable in Western parlance.  In recent years there has emerged a distinct aversion to using our own, old word for female genitals (indicating how detached people have become from even their own roots).

* of the name ‘cunt stone’: the word cunt itself, as explored eloquently in the fine study by Peter Fryer, Mrs Grundy: Studies in English Prudery (Corgi: London 1965), was the acceptable term for ladies’ genitals in the days when this carving was evidently done, so thought it a most applicable title.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

 

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  53.886143, -1.942151 Yoni Stone

Crosley Wood, Gilstead, Bingley, West Yorkshire

Enclosure / Settlement:  OS Grid Reference – SE 1186 3859

Getting Here

Along the main Aire Valley road (A650) between Cottingley and Bingley, turn right by Beckfoot Grammar School and wander along and up the winding road, over the canal bridge where the Fisherman’s pub is on Primrose Lane.  On the slope above you amidst the scatter of trees on the left-hand side of the road is this Romano-British site (the map below should help).  Check it out!

Archaeology & History

Excavated in the 1960s by the archaeologist P. Mayes, this little-known but reasonably well-preserved enclosure-cum-settlement comprises of a large oval of stone walling, double in places, about 200 feet across at its widest point.

Crosley Wood ground plan (YAJ 42, 1967)
Crosley Woods map (YAJ 42, 1967)

Thought to have been constructed sometime between the Iron Age and Romano-British period, for some reason one of the stones on the western edge has long been given the name of the ‘Giles Stone’ or Stile — though nobody knows for certain why.  It’s about three-feet tall with a smaller upright by its side.  Any other remains that might once have been here were destroyed by the housing estate that sits above here.  When Mr Mayes (1967) and his associates did their work here, cutting across sections of the walling, he told:

“The best preserved section of wall was amongst the trees on the lines of the south wall of the enclosure and included the boulders of both the inner and the outer faces of the wall.  A trench 6ft by 38ft was laid out at right angles to it.  The turf was removed showing the boulders of the wall with the smaller stone filling between them.  On either side of the wall was a relatively small quantity of loosely tumbled stones, the angle of rest of which suggested the wall as their source of origin… Careful examination of the wall filling failed to show any sign of post settings.”

Mr Mayes said that it was “doubtful whether the Crosley Wood site, dated by one pot to the late 3rd or early 4th century AD, was ever conceived of as an occupation site.”  In reference to his excavations he continued, “Certainly no evidence of settled living was found” here, concluding:

“It seems probable that the main enclosure at Crosley Wood served as a cattle pound; its defensive potential being invalidated by the scarp to the north, whilst the short stretches of external walling are all that remains of a rectilinear field system for arable or pastoral farming.”

References:

  1. Mayes, P., ‘Excavations at Crosley Wood, Bingley,’ in Yorkshire Archaeology Journal, volume 42, 1967.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Crosley Wood enclosure

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Crosley Wood enclosure 53.843422, -1.821232 Crosley Wood enclosure

Crooked Stane, Elvanfoot, Lanarkshire

Standing Stone:  OS grid reference – NS 96590 15333

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 47316

Archaeology & History

Described by Tam Ward and Douglas Graham (1989) as “the only surviving standing stone in Clydesdale” (which isn’t quite true), this lovely looking monolith, leaning to one side, appears to have several cup-markings on its surface, but they’re actually Nature’s handiwork. The stone aligns to the hill a short distance north, Bodsbury Hill, upon which a fortress was later built sometime in the Iron Age.

I must have a wander round this region sometime: there’s some very attractive place-names nearby crying out for archaeo-attention to rub myself up and down upon!

References:

  1. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historic Monuments of Scotland, Lanarkshire: An Inventory of the Prehistoric and Roman Monuments, HMSO: Edinburgh 1978.
  2. Ward, Tam & Graham, Douglas, Ancient Monuments of Clydesdale, CDC: Lanark 1989.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  55.420956, -3.635292 Crooked Stane

Connel, Oban, Argyll

Standing Stone (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NM 9169 3408

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 23281

Archaeology & History

Connel stone on 1871 map

The Royal Commission for Historic Scotland (1974) recorded this “stone that formerly stood within the area now occupied by Connel Station,” which was thought to have been destroyed shortly before construction of the said building.  Thankfully the Ordnance Survey lads recorded its position on their cartographic ventures here in 1871.  Mr R.A. Smith (1874) also mentioned the site, albeit briefly, in his fine series of essays on the antiquities of Loch Etive, telling us:

“Above Connell Ferry we come to a small brook called Lusragan, and a few houses with a mill called Clachaleven. To the east, in a  field above the road, is a large standing stone, and around it marks where others, well remembered, lately stood.”

But sadly it seems, these have all gone.

References:

  1. Royal Commission for Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, Argyll – volume 2: Lorn, HMSO: Edinburgh 1974.
  2. Smith, R. Angus, “Descriptive List of Antiquities near Loch Etive, part 3,” in PSAS, 10, 1874.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.452715, -5.381718 Connel standing stone

Cnoc na Carraigh, Gigha, Argyll

Standing Stone (destroyed): OS grid reference – NR 6426 4817

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 38540

Archaeology & History

The Scottish Royal Commission (1971) reported a very large

“standing stone that stood 185m NNW of Achmore House (that) was removed at the beginning of the 19th century. It was reported that is measured 4.9m in height (16ft), 1.2m in breadth and 0.2m in thickness.”

A prehistoric cairn seemed to have accompanied this monolith—as reported by Thomas Pennant in 1772—but it too has been destroyed.  Pennant told us how the monolith was,

“a great rude column, sixteen feet high, four broad and eight inches thick.”

Not bad at all!  It was still extant, although leaning to the southwest in the year 1790 (OSA 1791-9); appearing to have been removed about 1800.  No trace of it remained when the Ordnance Survey lads looked here in 1869.

References:

  1. Royal Commission for Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Argyll – volume 1: Kintyre, HMSO 1971.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  55.668653, -5.751129 Cnoc na Carraigh