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