Broomridge (1), Ford, Northumberland

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NT 97298 37110

Archaeology & History

In 1863, a bunch of reputable Victorian authors and antiquarians met with the Duke of Northumberland in Alnwick Castle to discuss the matter of making decent images of the petroglyphs which, at the time, had only just been rediscovered in the area.  At one of their meetings, the floor in one of the Castle rooms was covered with rubbings of carvings that they’d made—this one included.  I’d loved to have been there!  Subsequently, from this meeting, sketches of this carving were done and included in the works by George Tate (1864; 1865) and then a few years later in J. Collingwood Bruce’s (1869) rare tome that had been published with the help of dosh from the Duke.

Found along a raised geological ridge running roughly east-west, a number of other carvings are close by and well worth looking at when you visit here.  The basic (and first) description of the site by Tate told that here,

Tate’s 1864 sketch
Collingwood’s 1869 image

“on a high ridge on Hunter’s Moor, a large surface of rock, some forty yards by twenty, having a gentle slope to the northward, is partially uncovered.  In one part, which has been entirely cleared of turf, fourteen figures are scattered over an area of 15 feet by about from 5 to 7 feet.  Some of the figures are of the common type, one of which is 28 inches in diameter; but others present new features; and several are curiously united by straight and curved grooves.  Across the entire diameter of a group of four concentric circles, runs a groove connecting them with other combined figures.  An irregularly shaped, rounded, angular figure, encloses two hollows or cups; and united to this is a broad oval figure.  One figure around four cups approaches to the reniform.”

When the modern rock art expert Stan Beckensall wrote about this site, he mentioned how his own picture of the carving consisted of a number of elements that weren’t included by the 19th century pioneers—which isn’t unusual.


  1. Beckensall, Stan, Northumberland’s Prehistoric Rock Carvings – A Mystery Explained, Pendulum: Rothbury 1983.
  2. Beckensall, Stan, Prehistoric Rock Motifs of Northumberland – volume 1, Abbey Press: Hexham 1991.
  3. Bruce, John Collingwood, Incised Markings on Stone; found in the County of Northumberland, Argylshire, and other Places, privately printed: London 1869.
  4. Tate, George, “The Ancient British Sculptured Rocks of Northumberland and the Eastern Borders,” in Proceedings of the Berwickshire Naturalists Club, volume 5, 1864.
  5. Tate, George, The Ancient British Sculptured Rocks of Northumberland and the Eastern Borders, Henry Hunter Blair 1865.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Holy Well, Bingfield, Northumberland

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid reference – NZ 01 74

Archaeology & History

We add this site in the hope that a local historian may be able to rediscover its whereabouts.  Long since lost, the last account of it was mentioned in notes by the prodigious northern antiquarian John Crawford (1899) in his vast work on Northumbrian history.  Its whereabouts is vague as its final writings were scribed in The Black Book of Hexham in 1479 CE, where it was told that “the Haliwell flat (was) lying between the vill of Bingfield and Todridge.”  Mr Crawford told us it was somewhere in this area:

“The south-west extension of Grundstone Law is a tract of poor pasture land called Duns Moor; and rising opposite to it on the north-east is the Moot Law, in Stamfordham parish, the valley between being watered by an affluent of the Erring burn.”

The Well was included in Binnall & Dodds’ (1942) fine survey, with no additional notes.  To my knowledge, no more is known of the site.


  1. Binnall & Doods, “Holy Wells in Northumberland and Durham – Part 2,” in Proceedings Society of Antiquaries, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, July 1942.
  2. Hodgson, John Crawford, The History of Northumberland – volume 4, Andrew Reid: Newcastle-upon-Tyne 1899.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Hawklemass Well, Whittingham, Northumberland

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – NU 0683 1228

Archaeology & History

Hawklemass Well on 1866 map

Hawklemass Well on 1866 map

References to this site seem very scarce.  A well is highlighted on the 1866 OS-map of the region close to the spot which D.D. Dixon (1895) said it was found, “near to the Howbalk Lane end, where is also the Hawklemass Stile and Hawklemass Well.”  A stone trough could once be seen here, but its presence today needs to be confirmed by local researchers.  The site is listed in Binnall & Dodds (1943) survey, but with no additional comments to those made by Mr Dixon.


The historian D.D. Dixon (1895) told that the village of Whittingham only had one ghost, but it was known as the “Hawklemass Ghost” and was occasionally encountered at the Hawklemass Well:

“This was a place never passed after nightfall by the youth of the village without feeling an eerie, creepy sensation, and with many a furtive glance on either side.  This unearthly visitant, in its gambols and uncanny pranks, was said to rattle the chain by which it was supposed to be bound in a fearsome manner.  It was usually seen or heard by persons who, having lingered long at the village inn, could say with Tam o’ Shanter,

“While we sit bousing at the nappy,
An gettin’ fou and unco happy,
We think na on the lang Scots miles,
The mosses, waters, slaps and styles,
That lie between us and our hame.”

One Saturday night many years ago—perhaps fifty—a poor fellow on his way from Whittingham to Glanton fel into the roadside at Hawklemass, where he was found, quite dead, the next morning by some persons on their way to Glanton meeting.  This sad affair may have given rise to the tradition of the Hawklemass Ghost.”

The name of the old lane at whose junction the Hawklemass Well once flowed, ‘Howbalk Lane’, may derive from a lost tumulus, as the word how (and its variants) regularly relate to prehistoric mounds in our more northern climes.  Such an ancient tomb, close to the well, may be the origin of the ghost story.


  1. Binnall, P.B.G. & Dodds, M.H., “Holy Wells in Northumberland and Durham – part 2”, in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 10:2, 1943.
  2. Dixon, David Dippie, Whittingham Vale, Northumberland, Robert Redpath: Newcastle 1895.

Acknowledgements:  With thanks to Gill Rutherford for prompting me to finish this; and to Claire Heron for the OS-map reference.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Fairy Stone, Fourstones, Northumberland

Legendary Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NY 893 680

Archaeology & History

Thought to have been destroyed in the 19th century, folklorists and historians alike didn’t seem to be able to locate this little-known folklore relic, which is still alive and well in one of the fields by the village.  The exact nature of the stone isn’t known for certain.  Legend reputes it to have been one of the four boundary stones which gave the village its name; it was also said that they were Roman altars and the Fairy Stone was one of them, which was moved from the village boundary during the Rebellion of 1715 and placed nearer the centre.

Folklorist M.C. Balfour (1904) seemed to think that stone had gone when he wrote about it.  Writing about it in the past tense, he told,

“The Fairy Stone however, certainly had an existence, for a person, 80 years of age, remembered its situation to the south of the village, near the old road, and that it was squared, and had a square “cistern hewn out of its top,” which was called the Fairy Trough, and traditionally said to have had a pillar fixed in it.”

But when former Ley Hunter editor Paul Screeton (1982) came looking for the stone in the late 1970s, he was fortunate in coming across an old local:

“Some time ago while looking for the Fairy Stone at Fourstones…I came across a farmer who pointed it out and remarked that a few years previously when the road was widened the local lengthsman made sure it was not destroyed, though it had to be moved a short distance.”


Of the four boundary stones surrounding the village, they were “supposed to have been formed to hold holy water,” said Balfour (1904).  But the title Fairy Stone given to one of them had this tale to account for it:

“A couple of miles or more down the South Tyne is Fourstones, so called because of four stones, said to have been Roman altars, having been used to mark its boundaries. A romantic use was made of one of these stones in the early days of “The Fifteen.” Every evening, as dusk fell, a little figure, clad in green, stole up to the ancient altar, which had been slightly hollowed out, and, taking out a packet, laid another in its place. The mysterious packets, placed there so secretly, were letters from the Jacobites of the neighbourhood to each other; and the little figure in green was a boy who acted as messenger for them. No wonder that the people of the district gave this altar the name of the ‘Fairy Stone’.”


  1. Balfour, M.C., Country Folk-lore volume 4: Examples of Printed Folk-lore Concerning Northumberland, David Nutt: London 1904.
  2. Screeton, Paul, “The Long Man of Wilmington,” in The Ley Hunter, no.92, 1982.
  3. Terry, Jean F., Northumberland Yesterday and Today, Andrew Reid: Newcastle 1913.
  4. Watson, Godfrey, Northumberland Place Names, Sandhill: Morpeth 1995.

Acknowledgements:  Big thanks to Paul Screeton for the grid-reference!

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Barrasford Common, Barrasford, Northumbria

Settlement:  OS Grid Reference – NY 9212 7538

Also Known as:

  1. Toddle Crags Settlement
  2. Gunnerton Settlement

Archaeology & History

Aerial view of settlement, 1967 (courtesy, Antiquity journal)

Some of the extensive remains of an Iron Age settlement on the northeastern edges of Barrasford Common, on the edge of Toddle Crags a couple of miles north of Chollerton, are thankfully still visible, despite the increased quarrying operations taking their toll on other (now lost) prehistoric sites between the little villages of Gunnerton and Great Swinbourne.  The remains of earthworks and walling are clearly visible at ground level, despite being overgrown.

The archaeologist J.K. St. Joseph (1970) described them in a short piece in Antiquity journal more than 40 years ago, saying:

“The site as first described by the reverend G. Rome Hall (1876) in the course of a survey of settlements around Birtley and Barrasford, made a century ago.  It is the easternmost of three settlements that he noted on the crags east of Gunnerton, and his sketch-plan shows rather irregular enclosures within which appear a dozen hut-circles, between 27ft and 15ft…in diameter according to his account.  The western of the three settlements was subsequently excavated by Rome Hall about 1880, and re-examined in 1941 by Mr A.H.A. Hogg (1942), who was able…to show that the period of occupation fell within the Roman Age. Mr Hogg refers to the earthworks illustrated (above) as ‘a very large settlement, much robbed.’

“…The site consists of a roughly square enclosure, 300ft across, or a little more, defined by a low bank… The SW and SE sides are straight: on the other two sides the boundary mark conforms to the cont0urs of the ground.  The enclosure is subdivided, and evident traces of hut circles and of more rectangular-shaped buildings are still to be seen.  Some of the small compounds may be pens for stock, and the general impression conveyed by the earthworks is of a settlement that has developed over a period of time, additions and rebuildings being involved.  It is thus a notable example of the rectangular settlements of the Roman Iron Age, which occur widely in south Northumberland, as Mr G. Jobey has demonstrated.  The earthworks compare well in point of weathering, at least in an aerial view, with the best preserved of the Iron Age settlements on the moors in the north of the county.”

The writer notes how the this settlement had evidence of continued human use all the way from the Iron Age to perhaps as late as the 18th century!  This isn’t too unusual.  The best example I’ve yet to come across is the little-known settlement complex in the far north, on the small plateau known as Baile Mhargaite near Bettyhill, Sutherland, where a living community began in the neolithic period and only came to an end with the Highland Clearances two hudnred years ago!


  1. Hall, George Rome, “Ancient British Remains near Birtley and Barrasford, North Tyne,”  in Archaeologia Aeliana, Volume 7, 1876.
  2. Hogg, A.H.A., “The Native Settlement at Gunnar Peak,” in Archaeologia Aeolina, Volume 20, 1942.
  3. St. Joseph, J.K., “Air Reconnaissance: Recent Results 19,” in Antiquity no.173, March 1970.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS:  Many thanks to Antiquity Journal for use of the photo.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

Pike Hill, Stamfordham, Northumbria

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NZ 0774 7048

Archaeology & History

1928 photo of carving

Found inside a prehistoric tomb that was excavated in the late 1920s “by Messrs R.C. and W.P. Hedley at Pike Hill, near Stamfordham,” this fascinating-looking carving was found on a stone that “was overlying the primary burial” cist in the middle of the tumulus, measuring “2 feet 9 inches long by 2 feet wide and 12 inches deep, with an orientation on the longer axis of NE.”  As we can see in the old photo that accompanied Mr Hedley’s (1928) short article in Antiquity journal, four single cups are arranged in a rough square and are joined with each other by a single line, running from cup to cup, outlining a clear quadrilateral formation.  Two other single cups are outliers on the left and right side of the ‘square.’

A second smaller cist was also found inside the same mound and on the central inner face of this was another, more simplistic carving described as “a very fine cup-mark 1½ inch in diameter and ¾-inch deep.”  These carvings are no longer in situ (I think they’re in Newcastle Museum) and apparently this second single cup-marked stone can no longer be located.


  1. Beckensall, Stan, Northumberland’s Prehistoric Rock Carvings, Pendulum: Rothbury 1983.
  2. Beckensall, Stan, Prehistoric Rock Motifs of Northumberland – volume 2: Beanley to the Tyne, Abbey Press: Hexham 1992.
  3. Hedley, R. Cecil, “Ancient British Burials, Northumberland,” in Antiquity Journal, volume 2, December 1928.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Lee Hall Well, Bellingham, Northumberland

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – NY 861 797

Archaeology & History

Very little is known about this forgotten heathen water source.  It was described in some notes attached on a piece of paper accompanying John Warburton’s description of Lee Hall and its surroundings.  The notes were first printed in an early edition of Archaeologia Aeliana and subsquently included in Binnall & Dodds’ (1942) fine survey on the holy wells of the region.  It’s exact whereabouts appears to be lost, and may be either the small pool across from the present Hall, or a small spring found in the edge of the small copse of trees just east of Lee Hall Farm. Anyone know for sure?


Written verbatim in that dyslexic olde english beloved of old folklorists like misself, the only bitta folklore said of this spring of water told:

“At the Lee hall an exclent spring, the vertue is such that if the lady of the Hall dip aney children that have the rickets or any other groone destemper, it is either a speedy cure of death.  The maner and form is as followeth: The days of dipping are on Whitsunday Even, on Midsumer Even, on Saint Peeter’s Even.  They must bee dipt in the well before the sun rise and in the River Tine after the sun bee sett: then the shift taken from the child and thrown into the river and if it swim…child liveth, but if it sink dyeth.”

The latter sentence echoing the crazy folklore of the christians to identify witches in bygone days!


  1. Binnall, P.B.G. & Dodds, M. Hope, ‘Holy Wells in Northumberland and Durham,’ in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (4th Series), 10:1, July 1942.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Crowbar Stone, Weetwood Moor, Wooler, Northumbria

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NU 021 278

Also known as:

  1. North Plantation 3
  2. Fowberry Moor Stone 3

Archaeology & History

Davison’s sketch

This is an excellent-looking carving which, it would seem, remains buried in the Earth nice n’ sleepy!  Located “in the inner rampart on the south side of an unrecorded camp in North Plantation, Fowberry Moor, Chatton,” the carving was unexpectedly found during some basic excavation work on the camp itself.  Described and illustrated by W.B. Davison (1934), this was one of two cup-and-ring stones hereby.  He reckoned it wasn’t in its original position and seems – from the illustration here – to have been etched onto a fallen monolith.  Davison’s detailed description told:

“The…stone was completely excavated and was found to be built into the inner rampart across its track.  This stone measures 7’6″ north to south, is 1’2″ wide at its north end, 1’11” at its widest part, and 1’3″ at its foot.  The average depth is 2’6″.  The base is rough-surfaced and is prow-shaped at the northern end.

“Incised markings occur on the top only, and are as follows, reading from north to south.  1 cup surrounded by a ring and a half-ring lying east to west by south.  1 small cup.  1 cup.  1 cup surrounded by four rings, the largest of which has a diameter of 13½”.  On the top of the outer ring occurs an abutting semicircle enclosing a cup.  On the accompanying (image) will be observed what appears to be another cup on the innermost ring.  1 cup.  1 cup surrounded by a ring and a half-ring lying north to south by west.  This marking rests on a two-inch deep slot possibly made for quarrying purposes.  No other markings occur between this slot and the foot of the stone.  Tool marks are very distinct on some of the above markings.”

Rock art researchers Jan Brouwer (2007) and Stan Beckensall have searched unsuccessfully for the stone in recent years.


  1. Beckensall, Stan, Northumberland’s Prehistoric Rock Carvings, Pendulum: Rothbury 1983.
  2. Beckensall, Stan, Prehistoric Rock Art in Northumberland, Tempus: Stroud 2001.
  3. Brouwer, Jan, ‘In Search of the Crowbar Stone,’ BRAC 2007.
  4. Davison, W.B., ‘Cup-and-Ring Marked Rocks at Fowberry Park,’ in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (4th Series), 4:7, October 1934.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian