Cat Nab, Brotton, North Yorkshire

Tumulus (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NZ 6692 2154

Archaeology & History

Location on 1930 OS-map

This long lost burial mound was first located by the local antiquarian William Hornsby in the early 20th century.  It had been constructed close to the summit of the prominent rise  of Cat Nab, immediately east above Saltburn.  Its position was shown on the 1930 OS-map of the area.  Destroyed by quarrying, it was thankfully excavated by Hornsby in 1913; and although his finds were never published, he left notes which told us that,

“there were two cremations and the sherds of at least three vessels: a collared urn, a pygmy cup and a vessel with an everted rim.” (Crawford 1980)

Crawford (1980) told that these finds could been seen in the Middlesborough Collection.

References:

  1. Crawford, G.M., Bronze Age Burial Mounds in Cleveland, Cleveland County Council 1980.

Acknowledgements:  Huge thanks for use of the Ordnance Survey map in this site profile, reproduced with the kind permission of the National Library of Scotland

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian


Way Hagg, West Ayton Moor, North Yorkshire

Cup-Marked Stones (lost):  OS Grid Reference – SE 9657 8840

Archaeology & History

In the autumn of 1848, antiquarian John Tissiman (1850) and his associates took to uncovering two burial mounds amidst a large cluster of them on the eastern edge of West Ayton Moor.  This one at Way Hagg was quite a big fella, measuring 36 yards across.  When they cut into its northern edge towards the centre, 8-10 feet in, they came across an upright stone, nearly two feet high, on which five cup-marks had been cut. (see sketch, no.2)  Slightly beyond this were three other stones (in sketch, nos.1, 3 & 4), each with cup-marks on them, beneath which was a tall urn.  Whether or not the carvings had been deliberately positioned to cover the urn, we do not know. Nonetheless, we can be reasonably assured that these petroglyphs had some mythic association with death when they were placed here.

Tissiman gave us the following detailed measurements of the respective carvings:

1: Nearly even surface. Length, from 16 to 18 inches; breadth, 10 to 20 ditto; depth, 8 to 9 ditto; with large oval hole cut in the centre, 7½ inches long, 4 inches broad, and 3½ inches in depth.  On the opposite side are three holes, from 2 to 3 inches in diameter, and from 1 inch to 1½ deep.  2: Uneven surface. Length, 23 inches; breadth, 14 inches; depth, 13 inches; with five holes, from l½ to 3½ inches in diameter, and 1 to 1½ inches in depth.  3: Uneven surface. Length, 33 inches; breadth, 22 inches; depth, 10 inches, with four holes, the largest being 4½ inches in diameter and 3 inches deep; the others, from 1½ inches to 2 inches in diameter, and 1 to 1½ inches deep.  4: Uneven surface. Length, 27 inches; breadth, 23½ inches; depth, 10 inches, with 13 holes, from 1½ inches to 5 inches in diameter, and ¾ of an inch to 3 inches in depth; also three lines at the end of the stone.”

The carvings were included in Brown & Chappell’s (2005) fine survey, but they weren’t able to find out what happened to them after Tissiman’s excavation. They remain lost.  If anyone has any information as to where they might be, please let us know.

References:

  1. Brown, Paul & Chappell, Graeme, Prehistoric Rock Art in the North York Moors, Tempus: Stroud 2005.
  2. Tissiman, John, “Report on Excavations in Barrows, in Yorkshire,” in Journal British Archaeological Association, April 1850.

Acknowledgements:  Huge thanks for use of the Ordnance Survey map in this site profile, reproduced with the kind permission of the National Library of Scotland

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Raven Stones (east), Thruscross, North Yorkshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 12000 57932

Getting Here

Ravenstones (east)

Take the A59 road from Harrogate and Skipton and at the very top of the moors near the Gill Head Enclosures, take the small Kex Ghyll road up past the disused quarry works north for a mile or so. At the junction go left for about 1½ miles where, on your left, is Burnt House farm.  A hundred yards past here is a small spot to park on the right-hand side of the road, opposite the gate to Rocking Hall House (make sure you leave enough room for tractors to pass you!).  Across the road is the track to Rocking Hall and, 2 miles along the track, look out for the copse of trees ½-mile NE.  Head towards it and, as you get close to the wall, walk slowly downhill towards the stream where a single block of stone lives.  You’ll find it!

Archaeology & History

Design from above

Rediscovered on Rocking Moor by Rod Chambers on August 15, 2023, this reasonably large sloping block of stone has between 21 and 24 cups cut quite deeply and scattered erratically into it, very similar to one some 200 yards to the northwest (Raven Stones carving 559).  It seems pretty obvious that some of these cups were Nature’s handiwork, but have been modified by human hands.   There’s nothing complex about it, but there may be a semi-circular arc around one of the cups, centre-left of the natural crack that cuts across the top of the stone, but this is very faint and could be just a trick of the eyes.  Going there at sunrise and wetting the stone might tell us for sure.

Acknowledgements:  Big thanks to Rod Chambers for use of his photo in this site profile.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Little Almscliffe Crags, Stainburn, North Yorkshire

Legendary Rocks:  OS Grid Reference – SE 23237 52275

Also Known as:

  1. Little Almes Cliffe
  2. Little Almias Cliff Crag

Getting Here

Little Almscliffe Crag (photo – James Elkington)

Coming from Harrogate, take the B6162 and B6161 road to Beckwithshaw, through the village and, 4-500 yards on, turn right onto Norwood Lane.  2 miles along, keep your eyes peeled on your left for a gravelled parking spot and you’ll see the large rock outcrop 200 yards south of the road. …Otherwise, from Otley: go over the river bridge and turn right up Farnley Lane and follow the B6451 for a few miles, thru Farnley village up the Washburn valley, past Norwood and at Bland Hill, turn right along Broad Dubb Road for 1¾ miles where you’ll reach that same gravelled parking spot.

Archaeology & History

Very much the ‘little brother’ of Great Almscliffe, 3 miles (4.83km) to the southeast, this site would be more of interest to the travelling geologist, perhaps, than to antiquarians.  But that depends what tickles y’ fancy I s’ppose.

In 1702 when the northern antiquarian Ralph Thoresby mentioned this and its big brother to the southeast, he described the “two famous crags of Almes Cliff—in some old writings called Aylmoys ut dicitur—but have seen nothing memorial of it, saving its remarkable lofty situation.”  He missed the cup-and-ring carving on the east-side of the crags, obviously, which indicates that it had some form of animistic sanctity in ancient times.

The location on 1851 map
Little Almscliffe c.1900

Little Almscliffe was one of many impressive places located within the ancient Forest of Knaresborough; and although it wasn’t on the original boundary line, a perambulation (i.e., annual ritual walking to the old stones, trees and wells defining the region) of the area written in 1770, in what Mr Grainge called “the Copyhold Forest”, was undertaken by the Enclosure Commissioners.  It differed from the more ancient perambulation rite, in that the newer one included a mention of,

“five bounder stones also marked F to an earth-fast stone, lying northeast of Little Almes Cliffe, marked also with an F; (and) from thence by other four bounder stones marked F to Sandwith Wath…”

The letter ‘F’ here signifying the word ‘forest’, as in the Forest of Knareborough.

William Grainge (1871) also believed these crags to have been a place of druidic worship.  He wasn’t the only one.  Many other writers of the time thought the same thing; and although we have no concrete evidence to prove this, it is highly likely that these rocks would have served some ritual purpose in pre-christian days.  Certainly in more recent times (during the 1980s and ’90s) we know that ritual magickians used this site for their workings.  On a more mundane level, the crags were previously used as a site for for beacon fires.  One was erected here in 1803 when the first Bonaparte threatened to invade England; but I can find no written accounts of earlier beacons here.

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  2. Bogg, Edmund, From Eden Vale to the Plains of York, James Miles: Leeds 1895.
  3. Bogg, Edmund, Higher Wharfeland, James Miles: Leeds 1904
  4. Cowling, E.T., Rombald’s Way, William Walker: Otley 1946.
  5. Grainge, William, History & Topography of Harrogate and the Forest of Knaresborough, J.R. Smith: London 1871.
  6. Parkinson, Thomas, Lays and Leaves of the Forest, Kent & Co.: London 1882.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian 

St. George’s Well, Harrogate, North Yorkshire

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 2997 5561

Also Known as:

  1. St. George’s Spa

Archaeology & History

About 50 yards away from the Royal Promenade on the east-side of Parliament Street, there used to the flowing water of this old holy well, later becoming one more of Harrogate’s spa wells.  It was first recognized as a medicinal spring about 1792 when Thomas Garnett (1794) uncovered it beneath the overgrowth of vegetation surrounding the spring-head.  In doing so, it became evident that at some time in the past it had been used by local people as,

“a wall was discovered round the spring, but whether this had been built with an idea of its being a medicinal water, or with an intention of collecting water for cattle, I cannot determine.”

Chalybeate (iron-bearing) in nature, the waters were analyzed by Adam Hunter (1830) in the 1820s and, although possessed of soluble iron, had less than its medicinal compatriots nearby, meaning that its fortifying qualities weren’t quite as good. He told us how,

“it had been known (by locals) for many years, but at no time much used internally; it had acquired some celebrity however as a wash for sore eyes, for which purpose it was well adapted.  As chalybeate water has long been a favourite popular remedy for a wash in various weaknesses, and chronic affections of the eyes, it is proper to state that (the nearby) John’s Well, the Tewit Spa, or the succeeding one at Starbeck, are the only three chalybeates which can at present be recommended for that purpose.”

A few years after Hunter had been here, the well was destroyed “by the making of a highway drain.” Jennings 1981)

Folklore

St George (saint’s day – April 23) was one of the christian dragon-killers.  There is no known tradition of the saint or festivities that may once have occured here.

References:

  1. Garnett, Thomas, A Treatise on the Mineral Waters of Harrogate, Thomas Gill: Leeds 1794.
  2. Hunter, Adam, The Waters of Harrogate and its Vicinity, Langdale: Harrogate 1830.
  3. Jennings, Bernard, A History of the Wells and Springs of Harrogate, Interprint: Harrogate 1981.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

St. Ann’s Well, Harrogate, North Yorkshire

Holy Well (lost):  OS Grid Reference – SE 298 548

Archaeology & History

Very little is now known about this sacred site that was once found “a few hundred yards east from the New Church at Low Harrogate.” (Hunter 1830)  Even most of travellers and medical experts who wrote about the numerous Harrogate wells in the 18th and 19th century bypassed its quietude; and by the time Mr Hunter wrote about it in his great descriptive catalogue, its healing or medicinal qualities had been forgotten.

He told that “the spirit in the water…or that with which it is infused, has long been most actively engaged in adding real or fancied comforts to the (Harrogate) Fair, and is now in much more general use” than the two other holy wells in the town. It was, he said, “the best water for making tea and more extensively used for that purpose than any in the neighborhood of Harrogate.”  It would also appear to have been built over at some time in the not-too-distant past…

Folklore

St Ann (saint’s day – July 26) was a giant in early christian and Islamic myths.  An apocryphal figure, She was the Great Mother of the mother of Christ—the Virgin Mary—and was Herself a Virgin until, in Her old age, after seeing a bird feeding a chick, decided She wanted a child and so eventually gave birth to Mary.  An old woman giving birth when the Springtime appears (when birds and other animals become fertile) is the same motif found in the lore of the Cailleach in Ireland and Scotland (and parts of northern England).  Pre-christian lore at this old well would seem evident here.

References:

  1. Hunter, Adam, The Waters of Harrogate and its Vicinity, Langdale: Harrogate 1830.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Raven Stones (562), Thruscross, North Yorkshire

Cup-Marked Stone: OS Grid Reference – SE 1194 5810

Getting Here

The Raven stone setting

Take the A59 road from Harrogate and Skipton and at the very top of the moors keep your eyes peeled for the small Kex Ghyll Road on your left(it’s easy to miss, so be diligent!).  It goes past some disused disused quarry and after a mile or so where you hit a junction, turn left, past the Outdoor Centre of West End and straight along Whit Moor Road.  About a mile past the Outdoor Centre go left down to Brays Croft Farm and over the ford, then keeping to the footpath up to the right (west) and note the clump of trees on the moors above you to the west.  That’s where you need to be.

Archaeology & History

Several of the cupmarks

Several natural basins that might have been worked in prehistoric times are accompanied by several distinct cup-marks near the middle-edge of the stone, in a rough triangular formation, with two others slightly more eroded a little further down the same side.  Boughey and Vickerman (2003) noted several other cupmarks on the rock, some distinct, some not so.

Adjacent to this carved stone is another naturally worn stone of some size, with incredibly curvaceous ripples over the top of the rock which, in all probability, possessed some animistic property to the people who carved this and other nearby carvings. Check the place out.  It’s a gorgeous setting!

References:

  1. Armstrong, Edward A., The Folklore of Birds, Collins: London 1958.
  2. Boughey, Keith & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, WYAS: Wakefield 2003.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian 

Folly Top, Barden Moor, North Yorkshire

Ring Cairn:  OS Grid Reference – SE 03536 59756

Getting Here

Folly Top ring, looking E

It’s easier to explain how to get here if you’re coming from the Burnsall-side of the B6160 road that leads to Bolton Abbey.  A half-mile out of Burnsall village you a small woodland with a small parking spot.  From here, a footpath runs up the steep hill above the parking spot.  It zigzags a little and you eventually come out on the south-side of the trees where it meets some tall walling.  Follow this walling further uphill for more than 600 yards (past more woodland) until the land starts to level out.  Hereby, go thru an opening in the wall and less than 100 yards away (west) amidst the overgrown heather, you’ll see what you’re looking for.

Archaeology & History

A large but peculiar site resting on a moorland plateau on the eastern edges of the mighty Barden Moor.  Peculiar inasmuch as it’s completely isolated from any other monument of the same age and type anywhere on these huge moors.  A few miles east, on the moors around Appletreewick, Thruscross and Beamsley we have a plethora of prehistoric sites—but up here on Barden Moor there’s apparently nowt else!  I find that hard to believe….

Inner rubble walling
Rubble walling, looking N

Listed on official websites as being a ring cairn, it’s difficult without a detailed excavation of the site (there hasn’t been one) so say that’s what it is.  But we’ll stick with it for the time being.  My initial impression of the site was that it was a crude form of a collapsed Scottish dun: impressive large circular monuments—buildings if you like—with very well-built large stone walls, usually several yards thick, a little bit like the Scottish brochs (mighty things indeed!).  This thing at Folly Top isn’t quite as impressive, but it’s like a collapsed version of a dun.

Arc of western walling

The site consists of large ring of raised collapsed rubble walling, more than a yard high in places, and about three yards thick all the way round, measuring roughly 21 yards (N-S) by 19 yards (E-W) from outer wall to outer wall.  There are “entrances” on the east and west sides; but there seemed to be little of any note in the middle of the ring, although the site was somewhat overgrown on our visit here.  Outside of the ring there was also nothing of any note.  It’s a pretty isolated monument which seems to have more of an Iron Age look about it than the Bronze Age—but until there’s an excavation, we’ll not know for sure.

It’s well worth checking out—and from here, walk onto the huge moorland above you to the west….

Acknowledgements:  Huge thanks to the Crazy-gang of Sarah, Helen and James for their awesome assistance on our venture up here.  A damn good day indeed!  Cheers doods. 🙂

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Mixing Stone, Low Snowden, Askwith, North Yorkshire

Cup-and-Bowl Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 18074 51241

Getting Here

Follow the directions to reach the Ancestors’ Stone and the Sunrise Stone; and there, roughly halfway between them, right by the edge of the old collapsed walling, you’ll see this rise of a stone with a large ‘bowl’ on top.  That’s it!

Archaeology & History

Mixing Stone, looking E

Laid upon the same geological ridge as our Ancestors’ and Sunrise carvings, there are one, possibly two faint cup-marks visible on the low flat surface near the edge of this rock, barely visible unless the light’s right.  But the important element here, perhaps regardless of the cup-marks, is the ‘bowl’ or rock basin on top of the stone.  Internally, it’s smoothed equally on all sides and, due to being in-between the two impressive petroglyphs, may well have had a practical function to it.  Bear with me on this one…

The Mixing Stone’s bowl

Stone ‘bowls’ or cavities—natural and otherwise—have been made use of in many cultures for simple functional purposes, such as grinding flour, herbal mixes, etc.  We find such traditions in some of the bullauns of Ireland and Scotland; whereas in similar stone bowls known as cat troughs in nearby Haworth, milk was poured to appease the spirits of the land (this tradition was still being maintained in 2001!).  Folklore and traditions of such rock basins spread far and wide beyond the UK: one of the German terms for rock basins is Opferkessel, meaning ‘sacrificial basin’ and suggests ritualistic usage by early societies.  Elsewhere on Earth there are numerous accounts of the ritual use of petroglyphs in which indigenous peoples tell of their use of plant- or rock-based paints (in many cases red ochre) to decorate the carvings.  And it’s this element that I’m interested in here.

Water-painted cupmarks

The Sunrise and Ancestors’ Stones 10-15 yards either side of this Mixing Stone are ideal candidates for such petroglyphic paintings using early ochre and other stone or plant-based agents.  Such activities would always have been ritualised, either in honour of ancestors, genius loci, calendrical rites, or whatever the pertinent ingredient was at that place and time.  I’m suggesting simply that the rock basin on the Mixing Stone was used for just such purposes.  This is no spurious suggestion, but at the same time it’s important to recognise that my thoughts here represent merely an idea, nothing more—not a fact.  Whilst we know full well that these carvings were imbued fundamentally with animistic properties—a simple ‘fact’—this functional idea is just that—an idea.  Students and petroglyph-nuts need to understand this.  And the faded cup-marks at its edge are perhaps merely incidental…. though I don’t buy that misself!

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian 

Ancestors’ Stone, Low Snowden, Askwith, North Yorkshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid-Reference – SE 18083 51229

Also Known as:

  1. Carving no.606 (Boughey & Vickerman)

Getting Here

The Ancestors Stone

If you’re coming up from Otley or Askwith, take the same directions as if you’re going to visit the impressive Naked Jogger Carving (stone 612), not far from the well-known Tree of Life Stone.  From the Naked Jogger carving, walk up to the small outcrop of rocks that bends above you.  There’s a small collapsed line of walling just behind the outcrop.  Walk along this up the slope as if you’re heading for the Sunrise Stone carving, but only 30 yards along, low down and right into the edge of the wall itself, you’ll see this elongated piece of stone.  That’s the spot!

Archaeology & History

If you’ve caught the petroglyph-bug, you’ll like this one!  It received its name from the curious fusion of natural cracks with the man-made pecked lines that shows, quite distinctly when the light is right and the stone is wet, the outline of two humanesque forms joined to each other.  Figurative rock engravings of ancestors in the UK are extremely rare and when we came across this example, we noticed how the design could be interpreted as two Askwith Moor ancestor figures. Figurative rock art images elsewhere in the world such as the magnificent Wandjina paintings and the extensive galleries of figures engraved at Murujuga (Burrup Peninsula) in Western Australia, might provide an initial comparison, though more specific work needs to be done to better understand this unique petroglyph.

Sketch of the carving

You can almost make out the figures in the above photo: the upper torsos of two beings on the right-hand side of the rock, almost fused together.  And the carved shapes of these “ancestral beings” are morphically similar to some elements in the Sunrise Stone just 50 yards away – which themselves remind me of a Northumbrian carving near Doddington known as West Horton 1a. (Beckensall 1991)  But we should’t get too carried away by the idea because—as we can see here in the sketch of the carving—when looked at from a different angle above, we could infer the right-hand carved elements to be representative of an animal: a deer, perhaps.  Rorscharch’s once more tickle the exploring mind….

The rock has been quarried into at same time in the past (just like the nearby Sunrise Stone), leaving us to wonder what the complete carving might have looked like.  No doubt some pieces of it will be in the collapsed walling either side of the stone.  All we have left to see are the two unfinished cup-and-rings above the natural cracks that give rise to the “ancestral being” appearance.  The faint double cup-and-ring has curious linear arcs to its side, with two well-defined cups enclosed by two of them.  It’s a nice-looking carving when the light is good.  The petroglyph was carved over a long period of time, as evidenced by the differing levels of erosion in different sections of the design.  It’s a common attribute.  The oldest section is the faint double cup-and-ring, whose mythic nature was added to / developed at a much later date, perhaps even centuries later.

In the always-expressive archaeocentric description of Boughey & Vickerman’s (2003) otherwise valuable tome, they told this carving to be,

“Long, narrow, thick rock of medium grit. Six cups, one with a double ring with a tab out and two with at least partial single rings, grooves.”

Evocative stuff!

It’s very likely that this carving had some mythic relationship with its close neighbours either side of it, probably over a very long time period and I’m inclined to think it somehow related to the rising of the sun, just like its solar companion further up the slope.  Please note how I emphasize this ingredient in the site profile of its neighbour, the Mixing Stone 10-15 yards away—roughly halfway between this and the Sunrise Stone.   A distinct place of ritual was happening in this close-knit cluster of carvings…

References:

  1. Beckensall, Stan, Prehistoric Rock Motifs of Northumberland – volume 1, 1991.
  2. Boughey, Keith & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, WYAS: Leeds 2003.
  3. Reeder, Phil, “Snowden Carr Rock Carvings,” in Northern Earth Mysteries, no.40, 1990.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian