Cup-Marked Stone (missing): OS Grid Reference – SE 1687 3868
Archaeology & History
This carving was originally located somewhere close to the old disused Brackenhall Mills on the edge of Thackley, just before you drop down to Thackley tunnel. It was uprooted sometime in the 1950s and taken several miles away to the Cartwright Hall Museum at Manningham, Bradford, where it sat outdoors behind some fencing for many a-year, accompanied by the large fossil of an ancient tree.
I first saw it there when I lived close by in 1981, in the days before I had such a thing as a camera. Hence I only have this scruffy old sketch of the design, which I did without adding any notes to help remind me which carving it was! So this sketch has sat, all-but-forgotten, on a scrap of paper since then, until I recently sussed out which carving it was!
The stone itself was akin to a very large portable rock, with a simplistic design consisting of at least nine cup-marks cut into one of the rounded faces. One account of the stone suggested there may have been a possible incomplete ring around one of the cups. When I went back to see the stone about 20 years ago, it had gone. So I called into the adjacent museum to inquire what had become of it. The curator (or whoever it was) that I spoke with told me that the stone had been put into a box and placed in the cellars, but refused to let me see it. I asked to make an appointment to see the stone and he refused that too. It has not been seen since. Does anyone know what’s become of it?
Keighley, J.J., “The Prehistoric Period,” in Faull & Moorhouse’s, West Yorkshire: An Archaeological Survey to AD 1500 (WYMCC: Wakefield 1981).
From Shipley town centre open market, take the Kirkgate road up to Saltaire, past the old town hall. On the other side of the road take the little path into the Bowling Club, in the trees (if you hit the church you’ve gone too far). Once standing in front of the bowling green itself, you need to walk along the left-side path. Two-thirds of the way down, now laid in the ivy-covered area below the old quarry face, you’ll find what you’re looking for.
Archaeology & History
I remember first seeking out this carving when I was still at school and wondering how the hell it got here – and believed it to be a fallen standing stone at the time! It seems that the stone was cut and readied for use as a gatepost instead, at some time long ago.
The curious cup-marked stone has travelled about a bit, somehow. Formerly at the edge of a field in the grounds of Bradford Grammar School 3 miles away (at SE 1523 3583), the fella was then built into the wall of the now-demolished Shipley Old Hall, before reaching its present resting place at the edge of the bowling green. Consisting of around 16 cup-markings with carved lines seeming to link them here and there, it was first mentioned by the late great Sydney Jackson (1955) in an early edition of the Bradford Archaeology Journal. The carving was recently included in the Boughey & Vickerman (2003) survey, where they described it as,
“Medium-sized fairly smooth grit rock with coarse line down top, probably natural, evidence of quarrying on edge. Sixteen or seventeen cups, one with a groove out has a deeper cut within it and twelve of the others are linked in pairs by short grooves. This has been interpreted as feathering for quarrying, but the grooves are across the line of likely split, rather than along it.”
And for those of you who live nearby: if you check this out, see if you can locate an earthfast boulder near here which I recall having a cluster of distinct cup-marks running on top of the rock along one side. I couldn’t find it when I looked a short while ago, it’s not in the archaeology survey lists, and it remains lost—in the heart of Shipley no less!
Boughey, Keith & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, WYAS: Wakefield 2003.
Jackson, Sydney, “Cup-Marked Boulder, Shipley Old Hall,” in Bradford Cartwright Hall Archaeology Group Bulletin, 1:10, 1955.
To get here, start from Bingley centre, go through Myrtle Park, across the river bridge and turn right at the dirt-track. Walk on & go over the old bridge/ford of Harden Beck, keeping with the track until the next set of buildings and be aware of a footpath left here. Take this and cross the golf-course, bearing SE until you reach the edge of Cottingley Woods. Take the distinct footpath into the trees & walk up the vivid moss-coloured path until you reach the level at the top where the woods become more deciduous. Here, turn left for 100 yards into the bit of woodland which has been fenced-off and walk about. You’ll find it!
Archaeology & History
This is a truly superb cup-and-ring stone which anyone into the subject must take a look at! It was first found by the old forester here, Ronald Bennett, in 1966 — ten years before the rock art student Keith Boughey (2005) mistakenly reported it to have been found “by Valerie Parkinson…in 1976.” Everything about it’s excellent — but I think the setting in woodland is what really brings it out.
The first published account and photograph of this superb carved stone seems to have been in Joe Cooper’s (1982) precursory essay on the Cottingley Fairies in an article he wrote for The Unexplained magazine in the 1980s. A few years later I included the stone in a short article on local folklore (Bennett 1988), then again much later in The Old Stones of Elmet (2001). It was curiously omitted from Boughey & Vickerman’s (2003) survey, as were the other carvings that are found very close by. Not sure why… But of the small cluster here (I’ll add the others later), this carving stands out as the best of the bunch by far! Its name has nothing to do with the Cottingley Fairy folk down town: it simply originates from my own teenage thoughts and the true ambience of the setting. Check it out!
The rock is typical millstone grit and its carved upper surface measures roughly 3 yards east-west and 2 yards north-south, sloping gently into the ground. As the photo shows, this is an elaborate design seemingly centred around two large and another smaller circular form, each enclosing a number of internal cups, ring and lines. The next time we’re over there, we’ll try get some clearly images and make a detailed drawing of the old fella! In the event that you visit here, check out the other three carvings close to this primary design — and try work out which one of the three was carved by the scouts in more modern times! Another simple cup-marked stone was recently found in the undergrowth a short distant east of this group.
Recently the carving was given attention with what’s known as photogrammetry software: this enables a more complete image of the 3-dimensional nature of objects scrutinized. In the resulting photos (which I’m unable to reproduce here due to copyright restrictions), a previously unseen long carved line was detected that runs across the middle of the larger of the two enclosing rings. Hopefully in the coming months, those with the software (can’t remember whether it’s English Heritage or Pennine Prospects who won’t allow it) might allow us to reproduce one or two of their images to enable the rest of the world to see what their images have uncovered. After all, considering that we peasants brought this carving to their attention, you’d at least hope they could repay the finds. Some of these larger organizations, despite what they may say, simply don’t swing both ways!
In an early edition of my old Fortean archaeology rag of the 1980s, I narrated the tale of one Anne Freeman, who was walking through the woods here. When she reached the top of the woods, near some stones she heard a loud chattering and allegedly saw two tiny figures barely one-foot tall wearing red outfits and green hats in “medieval peasant dress”. Andy Roberts (1992) later repeated the tale and illustrated the carving in his Yorkshire folklore work.
In the 1960s, the old ranger Ronnie Bennett (no relative of mine) who first found these carvings, also reported that he saw little people here: “not one, but three,” as he said. Not fairies with wings, but more gnome-like.
Bennett, Paul, Of Cups and Rings and Things, unpublished: Shipley 1981.
Bennett, Paul, ‘Tales of Yorkshire Faeries,’ in Earth 9, 1988.
Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.