Foster Clough Delph, Midgley Moor, West Yorkshire

Enclosure:  OS Grid Reference – SE 0234 2708

Getting Here

Near the centre of this photo, the large 'ring' can be seen
Near the centre of this photo, the large ‘ring’ can be seen

From Midgley go west along Height Road and take the track up on your right, at the tree-lined bend, up Foster Clough and onto the moor as if you’re gonna go to Churn Milk Joan.  As you reach the footpath at the quarries up the hill, go to the top of them and take the small footpath where the land levels-out and head east towards the walling.  Just a hundred yards or so before the walling, keep your eyes peeled, cos you’re damn close!

Archaeology & History

Best seen when looking down from the slopes above, this is a fascinating site that is lucky to still be here!  For just a few yards to the west are extensive quarry works that could easily have destroyed the place had they continued.  But thankfully we have here a near-perfect circular enclosure: measuring roughly 27 yards in diameter east-west, and about 25 yards north-south, the circumference around the outer-edge is approximately 82 yards (75m).  It has all the appearance of an overgrown henge monument, with an outer bank and inner ditch, then a central flat arena—and it may indeed be such a monument—but until we have a decent excavation of the site, we’ll stick to calling it a simple enclosure—which it is!

Eastern arc of bank & ditch
Eastern arc of bank & ditch

The outer bank is very much overgrown, but as it runs round and defines this site, it measures 1-2 feet high most of the way, except on the westernmost spot, where it seems there may be an ‘entrance’.  The inner ditch is only a couple of feet deep, again all the way round the monument.  The internal level of the site is pretty flat, like most henges; but there seems to be a small central ‘cairn’ of some sort in the middle.  Again, this is very overgrown by our traditional moorland vegetation.

Aerial image, 2009
Aerial image, 2009
Aerial image, 2006
Aerial image, 2006

So what is it exactly?  An enclosure, a settlement, or even (as local research student John Billingsley once suggested) a henge?  Tis difficult to say for sure without further and more detailed archaeological excavation.  My estimate is that the site is either Bronze- or Iron-Age in nature, and is definitely an ‘enclosure’ of some sort.  We have located other prehistoric sites on the slopes just above here to the north, like the Crow Hill cairn circle and accompanying tumulus, remains of a neolithic settlement and a number of other small single cairns that are only visible when the heather has been burnt back.  If you intend to explore any of the ancient sites sites on this moor, check this one out!

References:

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

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Foster Clough enclosure

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Foster Clough enclosure 53.740098, -1.966002 Foster Clough enclosure

Rudstoop Monolith, Cragg Vale, West Yorkshire

Standing Stone/s:  OS Grid Reference – SD 99269 23652

Getting Here

1st edition OS-map showing the stone

From Mytholmroyd, go up the Cragg Vale Road, then 2 miles up take the road steep on your right down and round St. John’s Church, then keep going along the road up to Withens.  About a mile up, a road turns sharply right.  Go up here for a few hundred yards, past the trees, and 100 yards on the road splits in a ‘V’.  Stop here.  Go into the field on your left which slopes downhill and less than 100 yards down you’ll see the large long stone laid in the grass.  That’s it!

Archaeology & History

The fallen stone, with Teddy! (image courtesy ‘QDanT’)

Included in the Addenda of The Old Stones of Elmet (p.222), here is a recumbent monolith more than 8 feet long and 6 feet across which really needs to be resurrected as it would be an impressive sight! Found halfway up Withens Clough, a local land-owner told me it was one in a row of several such stones, though no trace of the others can be found. Found in the appropriately called Standing Stone Fields, it was last shown on the 1850 OS-map, as the attached illustration shows and is positioned just above the “S” of the smaller highlighted “standing stone”, just where the little blob is! The small valley to its immediate west is called Rudstoop, from which I give the stone its name.

A description of the site is given in F.A. Leyland’s scarce commentary on the History of Halifax (c.1867), where he wrote:

“Standing Stone Fields: Not far distant from Hill Top, in this township (Erringden), there is a rough piece of ground known by this name.  It is situated on the slope of the same hill as the remain last described and commands a view of the northern side of Sowerby, with the outlines and rocks of Langfield and the Withens. The locality was anciently the site of a number of upright single stones: most of these have been broken up and used in the construction of the adjoining fences. But one, the last of the series, which the quarrying operations on the spot respected during the whole time they were carried on, was undermined and overthrown a few years ago, by a number of mischievous boys. The rock is a slab of millstone grit, measuring upwards of 9 feet in length, 7 feet 8 inches in width, at the base, and 4 feet 9 inches at the top: at the latter point it is 9 inches thick, and is 1 foot 6 thick at the base. The remain has, originally, been pyramidal in form, but the apex has been either broken off by violence or reduced to its present dimensions by decay.”

An impression of the land here indicates the other, lost monoliths, were in a row which headed east from here, towards the cup-and ring-marked ‘Upper Lumb Stone’.  There is also the possibility that these monoliths were aligned with the enigmatic Two Lads cairns less than a mile SW of here.

Well worth checking out!

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milveton 2001.
  2. 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)

Links:

  1. More images of the fallen monolith

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  53.709291, -2.012552 Rudstoop monolith

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

Turley Holes Stones, Cragg Vale, West Yorkshire

Standing Stones: OS Grid Reference – SD 9954 2199

Also Known as:

  1. Turley Holes Moor Standing Stones

Getting Here

The 3 main stones (on a piss-wet thru afternoon!)

Get right to the top of the valley, past the end of the tree-line where the moor opens up ahead of you. Keep going till you reach the farmhouse on the left (there are usually sheepdogs outside, barking their heads off!). Take the track on the right, making sure y’ close the gate (the farmer here is infamous – so please shut the gate!). Cross the yummy stream at the bottom & double-back on y’self. If or when y’ reach the derelict house (an old shooting house), drop down the small valley, over the stream and stick to the bottom edge of the slope. (if y’ don’t reach the house, just cross the stream and keep to the contours) Keep walking for about 200 yards, keeping your eyes peeled for some uprights!

Archaeology & History

As with the Turvin Stone a half-mile southwest of here, this too is a very peculiar site.  ‘Peculiar’ inasmuch as no-one really seems to be able to make head or tails what the place actually was.  As you’re approaching the place, it looks like some decent ‘four-poster’ stone circle is ahead of you; but once you reach the place there are a veritable number of other earthfast rocks and tumbled stones all round, making your initial appraisal of the place suddenly grind to a halt! Added to this is the oddity of finding the standing stones on a considerable geological slope, unlike most other megalithic sites in the region (and elsewhere for that matter!).

The tallest standing stone

The tallest, easternmost of the three stones (SD 99547 21992) is more than five-feet tall and is lower down the slope than the other uprights here.  Almost ‘surrounded’ by some denuded stone enclave (a large robbed cairn perhaps?), this is the most visually impressive of the stones here.  Up the slope from here 15 yards (13.56m) away is what may, or may not, be a simple earthfast boulder (at SD 99535 21999): but it’s upright, about 3 feet tall, and due to proximity gives the impression that it was part of whatever monument this site once was.  Due west of the tallest standing stone nearly 20 yards (17.6m) away, is a more rounded stone of ‘female’ character, less than 4 feet tall (at SD 99528 21993).  That’s the general gist of the place.

If you visit here you’ll notice another smaller upright a short distance further down the slope in the green, less than three feet tall  And there’s possibly another one of similar stature more than  200 yards SSE.  But what is this place?  Is it prehistoric?  Was it built in the Dark Ages?  Medieval times?  Does anyone have a clue!?

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  2. Burl, Aubrey, Four Posters: Bronze Age Stone Circles of Western Europe, BAR 195: Oxford 1988.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  53.694353, -2.008443 Turley Holes Stones

Two Lads, Withens Moor, West Yorkshire

Cairns: OS Grid Reference – SD 98394 22116

Getting Here

Best way here is, from Mytholmroyd go up the Cragg Vale road for a coupla miles, then turn right and heading down, then up, towards Withens Clough reservoir.  Once there, walk onto the moor to your left (south) until you’re on the ridge above you.  Keep walking until y’ see the rocky cairn-like creatures stood in isolation on a flat moorland plain.

Archaeology & History

Two Lads – on a dark, rainy, windy day

Truly weird spot this one, but I love it! Seemingly miles from anywhere, it’s one helluva walk to most folk, but utterly worthwhile when your arrive.   On a clear day you can see for miles and the landscape is adorable!  On a cloudy rainy day, the feel of the place changes if you take care to stay with the site, saturated, meditating (as no other people ever turn up when She’s like that – so you and the place get the best from each other!).

The site comprises of two boulders, each crowned with a cairn of stones.  The westernmost one of the two (SD 98392 22111) is intriguing as it has, carved upon the rock beneath the stone cairn on the northwestern edge of the stone, what looks like a singular cup-marking, plus a large water-worn bowl on its northern edge, and a very distinct deeply-cut cross-base, several inches deep, near the northeastern corner of the rock.  This cross-base seems slightly more rectangular in form than square; although the large covering of stones makes an accurate ascription difficult.  If this cross-base and cup-markings are authentic, we would have here a clear example of the christianization of a previously heathen site.

A cursory examination of the easternmost of the Two Lads (SD 98397 22117) doesn’t indicate any artificial workings on the rock surface.

Two Lads on 1853 OS-map
Two Lads on 1853 OS-map

Although the two ‘cairns’ on top of these two rocks are not prehistoric in nature, about 20 yards behind the Two Lads (south) may once have been the severely denuded remains of a once large prehistoric cairn.  Although the position in the landscape is perfect for such a construction, this is somewhat tentative, it’s gotta be said!  Further examinations are obviously necessary here.

The studious A.H. Smith (1961-63) believes that a field-name record from 1624, describing some ‘Lad Stones’ in the parish of Heptonstall relates to this site.  We know with certainty however, that this site was first illustrated on Greenwood’s 1771 map of Yorkshire, then highlighted on more recent 19th century Ordnance Survey maps as ‘cairns.’

Folklore

Drawing of the Lads in 1877

The creation myth behind this place is that two lads were walking over the moor in midwinter and got caught in a blizzard. Losing all sense of visibility they tried to shelter from the wind and snow by hiding behind these rocks, but perished. Sometime later their bodies were found and the curious “cairn” of rocks were mounted onto the boulders to mark where they’d died.  This is a folktale we find at many other old stone remains on the hilltops of northern England and Scotland.

The Two Lads seems to be very close to a midwinter alignment (or izzit a lunar standstill line?), linking it with the huge Rudstoop Standing Stone and, eventually, Robin Hood’s Penny Stone on Midgley Moor – which might be the root of the folktale. (i.e. midwinter, snow, death)  Any archaeoastronomy buffs out there wanna check this one out?  Then we can confirm or dismiss it.

References:

  1. Anonymous, “The ‘Two Lads’, Withens Moor,” in Todmorden & Hebden Bridge Historical Almanack, T. Dawson: Todmorden 1877.
  2. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  3. Smith, A.H., The Place-Names of the West Riding of Yorkshire, Cambridge University Press 1961-63.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

 

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  53.695483, -2.025800 Two Lads

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