Rocking Stone, Warley Moor, Halifax, West Yorkshire

Legendary Rock:  OS Grid Reference – SE 03399 30199

Also Known as:

  1. Sleepy Lowe

Getting Here

The old rocking stone, on the right
The old rocking stone, on the right (looking east)

From Denholme, take the A6033 Hebden Bridge road up, but shortly past the great bend turn off right up the steep road towards the moorland windmills until you reach the flat dirt-tracked road, past the reservoir below.  A coupla hundred yards past the track to the reservoir, take the footpath south into the tribbly grasslands and moor.  A few hundred yards down you’ll note the large rock outcrop ahead of you. The rocking stone is there!

Archaeology & History

The old rocking stone
The old rocking stone

A small moorland arena with a neglected history. Many lost memories surround this site, with barely legible ruins from medieval and Victorian periods prevailing against scanty snippets of neolithic and Bronze Age rumours and remains.  The rocking stone here—which moves slightly with a bit of effort—sits amidst a gathering of other large rocks, some of which have debatable cup-markings on their smoothly eroded surfaces.

Our rocking stone, resting 1350 feet above seal level, was first mentioned in John Watson’s (1775) magnum opus, who gave a quite lengthy description of the site:

“On a common called Saltonstall-moor, is what the country people call the Rocking-stone… The height of this on the west side (which is the highest) is, as I remember, about three yards and a half.  It is a large piece of rock, one end of which rests on several stones, between two of which is a pebble of a different grit, seemingly put there for a support, and so placed that it could not possibly be taken out without breaking, or removing the rocks, so that in all probability they have been laid together by art.  It ought to be observed, that the stone in question, from the form and position of it, could never be a rocking stone, though it is always distinguished by that name.  The true rocking stone appeared to me to lie a small distance from it, thrown off its centre.  The other part of this stone is laid upon a kind of pedestal, broad at the bottom, but narrow in the middle; and round this pedestal is a passage which, from every appearance, seems to have been formed by art, but for what purpose is the question.”

Dubious cup-markings
Dubious cup-markings
Watson's 1775 drawing of the Rocking Stone
Watson’s 1775 drawing of the Rocking Stone

Watson then goes onto remark about other rocking stones in Cornwall and further afield with attendant “druid basins” upon them, noting that there were also “rock basins” here on Warley Moor, a few of which had been “worked into this rocking stone,” which he thought “helps to prove that the Druids used it.”  And although these rock basins are large and numerous over several of these rocks, like the cup-markings that also scatter the surfaces, they would seem to be Nature’s handiwork.

Turner's 1913 drawing
Turner’s 1913 drawing

Some 60 years later when the literary thief John Crabtree (1836) plagiarized Watson’s words verbatim into his much lesser tome, it seemed obvious he’d never ventured to explore the site.  But in the much more valuable historical expansion written by John Leyland around 1867, he at least visited the site and found the old stone, “still resting on its shady pedestal.” Later still, when Whiteley Turner (1913) ventured this way on one of his moorland bimbles, he added nothing more to the mythic history of these west-facing megaliths…

Folklore

Still reputed locally to have been a site used by the druids; a local newspaper account in the 1970s also told how local people thought this place to be “haunted by goblins.”

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  2. Crabtree, John, Concise History of the Parish and Vicarage of Halifax, Hartley & Walker: Halifax 1836.
  3. 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).
  4. Smith, A.H., The Place-Names of the West Riding of Yorkshire – volume 3, Cambridge University Press 1961.
  5. Turner, Whiteley, A Spring-Time Saunter round and about Bronte Lane, Halifax Courier 1913.
  6. Watson, John, The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Halifax, T. Lowndes: London 1775.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  53.768126, -1.949914 Rocking Stone

Mount Zion, Illingworth, Halifax, West Yorkshire

Cist (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 068 297

Archaeology & History

As with a number of prehistoric burials in the Halifax district, there is no longer any trace of the original site here.  It was a place that I wrongly attributed as being a dolmen in my early survey on West Yorkshire’s megalithic remains (Bennett 1994) — but at least I got the prehistoric tomb part of it right!  It was first found, quite accidentally, in February of 1877, when a grave-digger working in the grounds of the Mount Zion Chapel at Ovenden (as it was known in them days) hit upon a large stone beneath the earth he was digging.  Thankfully the grave-digger was a conscientious chap and, instead of just digging up the obstruction, decided to inform others of his discovery.  A temporary halt was made on his grave-digging and thereafter a careful dig was organized to explore what he’d found.  Some years later an account of the discovery was reported in H. Ling Roth’s (1906) work on the history of Halifax, where he told:

“On digging about 2ft (61cm) below the surface of the ground, a slab of stone impeded the work, and on its removal, a square cavity, formed of four upright stones, was discovered, in which the urn had been placed bottom upwards (see old photo, PB), and the mausoleum filled with gravel… The urn had not been disturbed since its removal from its present site, but still remains on its original base: a rude stone which formed the floor of its ancient sepulchre.  The urn measured when first discovered 19in (48cm) in height by 13in (32.5cm) in diameter at its orifice, but only 4in (10.2cm) at its base.  Below its rim it has the usual curved division which is here ornamented with dots made with a pointed instrument when the clay was in a soft state.”

Mr Roth went on to tell how a Dr Dolan of Halifax examined the broken bones and contents within the urn and found them to be human.  Intriguingly it seems there was some evidence of prehistoric dental practice from the remains!  Dr Dolan told:

“There is unmistakable evidence on this point from some of the bones of the skull, particularly from the preserved portions of the petrous part of the temporal bone showing meatus auditorius, from the right malar bone, and from fragments of the flat bones of the cranium.  The teeth offer confirmatory evidence.  I have found several which had evidently been subjected to great heat, as they were completely calcined.  But there was one which had been only partially burnt, the burnt part being quite black; and another, unburnt, which seems to have dropped from the jaw before the fire had reached it.  One of the teeth seems to me to have been ‘stopped’, and this opens out a question  whether the art of dentistry was known to the inhabitants before the Roman invasion.  From the size and structure of the bones, I believe the majority of them to have belonged to a female of adult age.  There are certain bones, particularly some phalanges, which seem to me to be those of a child.  As we do not however possess the whole of the original contents of the urn — much having been extracted from it on its discovery — there may probably have been, when first interred, the relics of others than those we at present possess.”

The remains of the urn were eventually presented to the care of the Bankfield Museum by the Halifax antiquary, F.A. Leyland.  We have no notes of any further discoveries in or around the graveyard in question.

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, Circles, Standing Stones and Legendary Rocks of West Yorkshire, Heart of Albion Press: Loughborough 1994.
  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)
  3. Roth, H. Ling, The Yorkshire Coiners, 1767-1783; and Notes on Old and Prehistoric Halifax, F.King: Halifax 1906.
  4. Watson, Geoffrey G., Early Man in the Halifax District, HSS: Halifax 1952.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  53.763609, -1.898328 Mount Zion tomb

The Carrs, Ovenden, Halifax, West Yorkshire

Enclosure:  OS Grid Reference – SE 0555 2993

Also Known as:

  1. Rough Carrs

Getting Here

Aerial view of enclosure & outlying earthworks

Troublesome to get to if you don’t know the area. You can get here rom Halifax, up through Highroad Well towards Wainstalls, keeping to the road that leads to the Oxenhope windmills.  A short distance before the windmills, as the road levels out, keep your eye out on the right where the valley drops down (east) to the Halifax golf-course.  If you’re coming from Oxenhope, walk up past the windmills at Nab End until the road starts going back downhill.  As you look down and walk past the valley with the golf course in it, a footpath is on your left running diagonally over a field.  Cross the stile and walk alongside the wall for about 200 yards until you reach a gate on your left.  Go through this and walk along until you see the ditched earthworks that make up this little-known monument…

Archaeology & History

Not to be confused with the large circular enclosure that once crowned the nearby Hunter Hill, the nature and age of this large D-shaped earthwork has long been a source of speculation, with the majority of it centring around a Roman origin — and for good reason, it has to be said!

NW section of earthworks
Southern section of ditch

More than 280 yards (260m) in circumference, its north-south axis measures 82 yards (75m) at the greatest and 88 yards (81m) east-west.  Its main feature is a decent ditch that averages 8-10 feet across round most of the D-shaped feature, and between 2-3 feet deep.  It would obviously have been deeper than this when the ditches were first dug, but it’s now very overgrown across the entire site with Juncus grasses and tribbles (tussocks). A small internal ditch runs into the enclosure from the northern side.  Its function is unknown.  A small mound near the centre of the site has been posited by Calderdale archaeologists to be modern remains.

Carrs enclosure on 1852 map
Carrs enclosure on 1852 map

Although the main feature is the D-shaped earthwork, other features are apparent.  For example, what looks like another man-made dyke cutting into the site on the southwestern side is in fact a natural stream channel.  This natural feature may have been an integral part of the enclosure when it was first built.  Above the northwestern edge of the ditch (as can be seen on the aerial photo) are other earthworks that run around the western edge of the main feature.  This is probably what F.A. Leyland (1867) meant when he described there to be “the remains of several lines of intrenchments” here.  Also coming into the southwestern side are what are thought to be the remains of a Roman Road.  Early OS-maps (above) show the road running within yards of this enclosure — and it was this which, logically, led many earlier researchers to posit the notion that this site was in fact Roman.  However, a dig here in 1951 recovered prehistoric pottery, which knocked the date back to the Iron Age.

Northern line of ditch

On the south and east sides, parts of the ditch and embankment have been removed by quarrying and farm-workings, with the walling on the eastern side completely ruining that part of the monument.   A great number of flints have been found on the hills above here.  I’m unable to give a more detailed exposition on the archaeological finds at this site as I don’t have a copy of Mr Varley’s (1997) essay that he wrote for the Transactions of the Hunter Archaeological Society, which apparently gives more info.  When I manage to get a copy of the journal/essay, I’ll add the relevant data to this profile.

A note must also be made of another, previously unrecognized enclosure on the same hilltop a couple of hundred yards to the west from here.  Very little trace of it is still visible at ground level, but the outline of the curvaceous quadrilateral ditch form can be seen from the air.  It would appear from its form to be consistent with an Iron Age enclosure, though without further research this has to be proclaimed as hypothetical.  No excavations are planned here in the near future.

Folklore

In F.A. Leyland’s (1867) superb commentary to Mr Watson’s History of Halifax, he told us:

“There is a well-preserved tradition amongst the inhabitants that a battle in which numbers fell was fought at a place called the Slaughters or Slaughter Gap, in the hollow between the Carrs and Hunter-hill.  Fragments of gun-barrels and locks, with human bones, have been found about the place…”

But Leyland deemed the armoury finds here — that appeared to substantiate the folklore — were from a much later period in history than the enclosure.  But I must draw attention to the remarkable Mixenden Finds, as they’ve become known: a collection of finely polished prehistoric axes and other stone remains a few hundred yards below The Carrs and which may relate to such folklore.

References:

  1. 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)
  2. Varley, Raymond, “The Excavation of Castle Stead at Manywells Height, near Cullingworth, West Yorkshire,” in Transactions of the Hunter Archaeological Society, volume 19, 1997.
  3. Varley, Raymond A., “Lost Neolithic and Bronze Age Finds from Mixenden, near Halifax, West Yorkshire,” in Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 70, 1998.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

The Carrs enclosure

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The Carrs enclosure 53.765690, -1.917286 The Carrs enclosure