Thimble Stones, Morton Moor, West Yorkshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 1088 4515

Also Known as:

  1. Carving no.77 (Hedges)
  2. Carving no.246 (Boughey & Vickerman)

Getting Here

Thimble Stones, 1851 map

You can either head up to the Twelve Apostles stone circle, then a short distance west to the Ashlar Chair and head just head west along the moorland footpath that runs parallel with the old walling for ¾-mile (1.2km).  This is the boggier route, beloved of real walkers!  The other route is from the top of the Roman Road that bisects the moor at Whetstone Gate.  From here, where the normal ‘road’ meets up with the dirt-track at the very top of the moors, take the footpath east for ½-mile (0.75km) until you reach the large cluster of rocks, just over the wall on your right-hand side.  The carving is on top of one of them there stones.

Archaeology & History

Without doubt there’s one helluva spirit to this cluster of large weather-worn rocks whose bodies gaze in every cardinal direction—and it’s a place where me and a number of earlier historians thought cup-and-rings could be found.  The first petroglyphic context of the rocks was made in the 1860s by the grand 19th century historians Forrest & Grainge (2012) where they gave it the usual druidic associations, so beloved of academics and antiquarians alike at the time.  They wrote:

Very faint cup-and-3-rings
Thimble Stones gazing south

“The Thimble Stones are a ½-mile north of the Two Eggs, with which they are nearly in line.  They are of the same outcrop of stratification and appear as though they had been pushed upwards by some force acting from beneath, breaking them up with a vertical fracture, and separating them so as to leave wide spaces between the blocks.  They are about a furlong in length and in front about 10ft in height, diminishing eastward to the level of the ground.  Two of them a few feet apart are 7ft high, and bear on their eastern angles the cups and channels which we designate the marks of Druidic consecration.”

Subsequently, in Collyer & Turner’s (1885) work they told that the rocks “bear cups on two margins”; and when the great Harry Speight (1900) came here, he found they were “bearing cups and grooves.”  Yet no-one reported any rings.  And in the countless visits I’ve made here—thinking that there must have been cup-and-rings!—no such symbols have ever cried out.  The various large ‘bowls’ and lines that Nature has carved here—some of which may have been important in ancient days—are all that the casual eyes can see.  Until now…

The local rambler and photographer James Elkington and James Turner were up here a couple of years ago.  The light was falling through a clear bright sky and so, as James likes to do at such times, he clicked his camera a few times to catch the landscape.  Clambering onto the rocks, Mr Turner unknowingly stood upon the carved rings, and when he moved his foot Mr Elkington spotted them!  And as we can see on the image above, only just, there’s a single cup-mark surrounded by a concentric triple ring.  Incredibly faint, it is without doubt the real McCoy—and the highest of all petroglyphs on these moors.  In the photo it seems that there may be other elements to the carving, but until conditions allow for a further examination, we won’t know for sure.

James is hoping to get back up there when conditions are just right so he can get clearer photos.  But if you hardcore antiquarians and petroglyph seekers wanna get up there y’selves to get some photos of your own, please send us whatever you might find.

Folklore

On the esoteric side, the Thimble Stones were a favoured spot for a ritual magickal Order in years gone by.

References:

  1. Allen, J. Romilly, ‘Cup and Ring Sculptures on Ilkley Moor,’ in Reliquary & Illustrated Archaeology, volume 2, 1896.
  2. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  3. Boughey, Keith & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, WYAS: Wakefield 2003.
  4. Collyer, Robert & Turner, J. Horsfall, Ilkley, Ancient and Modern, William Walker: Otley 1885.
  5. Feather, Stuart, “Mid-Wharfedale Cup-and-Ring Markings,” in Bradford Cartwright Hall Archaeology Group Bulletin, 6:3, 1961.
  6. Forrest, Charles & Grainge, William, A Ramble on Rombald’s Moor, Northern Antiquarian: Bradford 2012 (1st published 1867-69).
  7. Hedges, John (ed.), The Carved Rocks on Rombalds Moor, WYMCC: Wakefield 1986.
  8. Speight, Harry, Upper Wharfedale, Elliott Stock: London 1900.

Acknowledgements: Huge thanks as always to James Elkington for use of his photos.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  53.902426, -1.835876 Thimble Stones

Two Eggs, Morton Moor, West Yorkshire

Legendary Rocks:  OS Grid Reference – SE 1058 4490

Getting Here

Two Eggs on 1851 map

By whichever route you wanna take, get y’self to the prominent cup-and-ring marked rocks known as the Thimble Stones near the very top of these moors. From here, walk roughly 400 yards southwest onto the bare open moors (there are no footpaths here) and you’ll see these two isolated prominent boulders living quietly on their own.  You can’t really miss ’em!  You’re there.

Archaeology & History

Of the two giant boulders here, both are included in the petroglyph surveys of Hedges (1986) and Boughey & Vickerman’s (2003) as possessing “all natural” cup-marks on their top and vertical surfaces.  Those on top of the rocks certainly seem to be Nature’s handiwork, whilst many of the seeming ‘cups’ on the vertical face of one (not the one pictured here) are due to gunshots.  I’m not quite sure when they were done, but they certainly didn’t exist during the many visits I made here in the in the 1970s and ’80s.

They stones included in most of the standard antiquarian surveys of the 19th century, with the earliest being Forrest & Grainge (1869) who described them as,

“two detached masses of rock, standing alone upon the moor.  The first is 14ft in length by 8ft in height, tapering to the ground; a set of cups and channels occupy the highest point.  The other, distant 13 yards, is of an irregular square form, 45 yards in circumference and 7ft high.  This stone appears to be tilted on its edge, presenting its cleavage upwards, and has hollows containing water, but is so much wasted above that if it has ever borne the cups and channels, they are now obliterated.”

On top of an Egg, c.1986

Collyer & Turner (1885) described “a number of cups” on the edge of the northern rock; and Romilly Allen (1896) likewise.  Even that historical literary giant, Harry Speight (1900), added his own tuppence here, telling folks how both Eggs “are channelled and bear cups.”

It’s very possible that these isolated stones did have some sort of significance to our prehistoric ancestors.  There are innumerable examples worldwide of rocks like this possessing ritual and mythic lore—and many in the British Isles too.  And the cupmarks on the stones may have been enhanced by those same prehistoric ancestors.  But we’ll never know for sure…

Folklore

The creation myth behind the Two Eggs is one echoed in traditions across the world.  Folklore tells that the Eggs were said to have been laid here by a great dragon who lived within a hill some distance to the south.  All other aspects of the tale have sadly long since been forgotten…

References:

  1. Allen, J. Romilly, “Cup and Ring Sculptures on Ilkley Moor,” in The Reliquary, volume 2, 1896.
  2. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  3. Boughey, Keith & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, WYAS: Wakefield 2003.
  4. Collyer, Robert & Turner, J.H., Ilkley: Ancient and Modern, William Walker: Otley 1885.
  5. Forrest, Charles & Grainge, William, A Ramble on Rombald’s Moor, Northern Antiquarian: Bradford 2012 (1st published 1867-69).
  6. Hedges, John (ed.), The Carved Rocks on Rombalds Moor, WYMCC: Wakefield 1986.
  7. Speight, Harry, Upper Wharfedale, Elliott Stock: London 1900.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  53.900162, -1.840471 Two Eggs

Kirk Stones, Morton Moor, West Yorkshire

Legendary Rocks (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 0886 4479

Archaeology & History

Kirk Stones on 1851 map

Kirk Stones on 1851 map

A place-name that is still recognised on modern Ordnance Survey maps, even though the original site giving rise to it was all but destroyed some one hundred-and-fifty years ago.  Derived from the old word kirk, meaning a church or sacred site, no christian remains of any kind have ever existed here and so we must presume an earlier, more heathen site of sanctity (an abundance of prehistoric petroglyphs exist very close by).  The singular reference detailing the nature of these Kirk Stones is in J.A. Busfield’s (1875) rare tract on the history of Upwood, in the parish of Bingley.  Upwood Hall was built by the Busfield family and, as the author tells,

“one of the most striking features in the vicinity at this age [c.1800, PB] was the fine range of magnificent rocks called Kirkstones, which had existed for countless ages. These grand rocks, towering one above another, extended along the whole southern boundary of the [Whetstone] Allotment on the left of the road to Ilkley, and were really a fine object, but alas!, through the ignorance or stupidity of the agent Colonel Bence, the “Crags of Kirkstone” were broken up and disposed of in the construction of the Bradford Water Works about the year 1854.”

Sadly we have neither illustrations nor other references to these fine sounding sentinels.
Undoubtedly the Kirkstones were a natural feature, despite their venerated title. It would have been their very appearance that gave rise to their revered title, as in the great and contorted rock masses seen at Brimham Rocks which, from Bensons’s description, these Kirk Stones seem reminiscent. The only piece of extant lore to these stones is that the uprights that went into making the recently destroyed Bradup stone circle a short distance south of here, came from this sacred outcrop.  It seems reasonable to assume that they played an important role in the magickal history of these hills when they were scattered with forest.

The Kirk Stones aligned along the equinox axis to the Black Knoll standing stone less than a mile [1.4km] due east.

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  2. Busfield, Johnson Atkinson, Fragments Relating to a History of Bingley Parish, Bradford 1875.
  3. Smith, A.H., English Place-Name Elements – Part 2, Cambridge University Press 1956.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Kirk Stones

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Kirk Stones 53.899193, -1.866724 Kirk Stones

Black Knoll Cross, Morton Moor, West Yorkshire

Cross:  OS Grid Reference – SE 1034 4465

Also Known as:

  1. Black Knowle Cross

Getting Here

Black Knoll on 1851 map

Get up to the Twin Towers right at the top of Ilkley Moor (Whetstone Gate), then walk east along the footpath, past the towers for about another 100 yards, looking out on the other side of the wall until it meets with some other walling running downhill onto Morton Moor.  Follow this walling into the heather for a few hundred yards.  Where it starts dropping down the slope towards the small valley, stop!  From here, follow the ridge of moorland along to your left (east) and keep going till you’re looking down into the little valley proper.  Along the top of this ridge if you keep your eyes peeled, you’ll find the stone cross base sitting alone, quietly…

Archaeology & History

This old relic, way off any path in the middle of the moor, has little said of it.  Whilst its base is still visible — standing on a geological prominence and fault line — and appears to taken the position of an older standing stone, christianised centuries ago, the site is but a shadow of its former self.  When standing upright may centuries back, the “cross” was visible from many directions. We discovered this for ourselves about 20 years back, when Graeme Chappell and I sought for and located this all-but-forgotten monument.  When we found the stone base, what seemed like the old stone cross lay by its side, so we repositioned it back into position on July 15, 1991.  However, in the intervening years some vandal has been up there and knocked it out of position, seemingly pushing it downhill somewhere.  When we visited the remains of the cross-base yesterday (i.e., Dave, Michala Potts and I) this could no longer be located.  A few feet in front of the base however, was another piece of worked masonry which, it would seem, may have once been part of the same monument.

Cross-base, looking north
Close-up of cross-base

Years ago, after Graeme and I had resurrected the “cross” onto its base, I went to visit the Bradup stone circle a few weeks later and found, to my surprise, the upright stone in position right on the skyline a mile to the northeast, standing out like a sore thumb!  This obviously explained its curious position, seemingly in the middle of nowhere upon a little hill.  This old cross, it would seem, was stuck here to replace the siting of what seems like a chunky 3½-foot long standing stone, lying prostrate in the heather about 10 yards west of the cross base.

Stuart Feather (1960) seems to be the only fella I can find who described this lost relic, thinking it may have had some relationship with a lost road that passed in the valley below here, as evidenced by the old milestone which Gyrus and I resurrected more than 10 years back.  Thankfully (amazingly!) it still stands in situ!

If you aint really into old stone crosses, I’d still recommended having a wander over to this spot, if only for the excellent views and quietude; and…if you’re the wandering type, there are some other, previously undiscovered monuments not too far away, awaiting description…

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Chieveley 2001.
  2. Feather, Stewart, “A Cross Base on Rombald’s Moor,” in Bradford Antiquary, May 1960.
  3. Feather, Stewart, “Crosses near Keighley,” in Cartwright Hall Archaeology Group Bulletin 5:6, 1960.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Black Knoll Cross

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Black Knoll Cross 53.897920, -1.844131 Black Knoll Cross