This single-grave burial — described by Barnes (1982) as a kerbed or revetted cairn — close to the very centre of modern-day Bolton, was once an impressive prehistoric tomb. It was described by a local historian, Matthew Dawes, amidst a variety of prehistoric remains in and around Bolton, most of which have long-since been forgotten.
“Near Haulgh, about a quarter of a mile south-east from Bolton Parish Church, on a piece of high flat land, on the east bank of the Croal, and about fifty feet above the river, was a tumulus, about thirty feet in diameter, and four feet deep, consisting of small boulders… It was discovered in September, 1826, in forming a branch of the new road leading from Bolton to Bury. It was probably much depressed in its formation and was covered with a few inches of mound. The cop or fence crossed it in a north and south direction. About the centre of this tumulus was a cist-vaen, about four feet six inches long and one foot deep, formed of four upright stones and a coverer, and its length was nearly north and south. In this cist-vaen was a skeleton, with the legs doubled up, and the head to the north. Near the head, and on the west side, was found an urn, inverted, four and a half inches in the widest diameter, and three and a quarter inches high, and perforated by four small holes in the widest part. On the other side of the head was a bronze spear-head, four and three-eighths inches long, and one and three-eighths inch wide, of which the point was bent back, and a piece of the side chipped away. The urn and spear-head were taken to the Countess of Bradford, the Earl of Bradford being the owner of the land.”
Intriguingly, if you’re from the Bolton region, Mr Dawes also told that, “A man in the employ of the Earl of Bradford, the superintendent of the work, who made the discovery, informs me (1862) that two other tumuli were found shortly after the one just described, a few yards to the south of it, in the same fence.” As yet I have no more information about these other tombs (gimme time though!)
Barnes, Bernard, Man and the Changing Landscape, Unversity of Liverpool 1982.
Dawes, M., ‘British Burial Places near Bolton,’ in Trans. Hist. Soc. Lancs & Cheshire, volume 4, 1852.
Scholes, James C., History of Bolton, Daily Chronicle: Bolton 1892.
Stone Circle (destroyed): OS Grid Reference – SE 138 403
Archaeology & History
The early northern antiquarian, J.N.M. Colls (1846), described visiting a ‘druidical circle’ of stones due east of the Dobrudden prehistoric graveyard, but it seems to have been completely destroyed soon after he wrote his essay, with the stones taken away for use in road-building. He told that here was,
“a double circle of stones, the outer ring numbering eighteen, with six stones making up the inner circle.”
…and his illustration shows just that! It’s possible that this inner ring may have covered a burial. Harry Speight — aka, ‘Johnnie Gray’ (1891) — is the only other writer I’ve found that refers to the megalithic remains up here, although he gave no additional details.
The site was to be found across the High Plain and Windy Hill, on the western edge of Baildon Hill, where there was once a greater profusion of seemingly neolithic and Bronze Age remains. Another possible early reference to the site is in Collyer & Turner’s Ilkley (1885), where they talk of a circle “on the highest part of the eastern moor,” fifty-six feet across with a similar appearance to the Pennythorn Hill circle, although they describe it as overlooking the hamlet of Sconce, which is hardly possible from the Windy Hill side of Baildon Moor.
The site looked across the horizon from south, through west to north and if used astronomically would have been used to observe sun and moonset times. Although we find a number of cup-and-ring stones in the vicinity, it really does seem that this site has bit the dust!
Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Chieveley 2001.
Colls, J.N.M., ‘Letter upon some Early Remains Discovered in Yorkshire,’ in Archaeologia 31, 1846.
Collyer, Robert & Turner, J. Horsfall, Ilkley, Ancient and Modern, William Walker: Otley 1885.
Gray, Johnnie, Through Airedale, from Goole to Malham, Elliot Stock: London 1891.
We were fortunate & taken here by the renowned local megalith authority, Pete Glastonbury – but without Pete’s help you might be ambling here & there for quite a while. It’s on the eastern side of The Ridgeway, down the slope past the stone known as The Polisher, across the flatland sea of many rocks until it begins rising again a few hundred yards east. Where a long straight embankment rises up a few feet (a boundary line), the rock’s just a few yards above it. Walk around!
Archaeology & History
Archaeologist A.D. Lacaille (1962) appears to have been the first person to have written about this little-known site, describing it as being “between the south-western corner of Totterdown Wood and Delling Cottage.” Here is what he described as,
“a cluster of unmistakably artificial and mostly well-preserved cup-markings on the smooth south-easterly sloping surface of a recumbent sarsen.”
And from the photos accompanying Lacaille’s article, it obviously looked a decent carving as well — and so it has transpired. Lacaille (1963) briefly mentioned the carving again a year later in his lengthier essay on the nearby Polisher Stone up the slope a few hundred yards away. But then Wiltshire’s only known cup-marked stone was all-but ignored by archaeologists and left in the literary wilderness until, years later when rock art became a fad in such circles, regional archaeologists Pete Fowler & Ian Blackwell (1998) described the carving as “a cluster of several round depressions…each about two inches across”; though incorrectly ascribed it as the “southernmost example” of cup-marked stones outside of Cornwall.¹ Another rock-art student known as Mr Hobson, following his excursion to the site with the regional authority Pete Glastonbury, wrote:
“The cups themselves are very smoothed out, and fit the bill from the drawing. The horseshoe is very evident, as is the ‘slug’ mark, possibly a half-finished groove from one of the cups near the horseshoe. There are also some angular, yet serpentine (?) grooves at turf level on the south side of the stone. These look like they might be enhanced natural marks in places.”
The rock itself isn’t in its original position, having been moved from another point very close by (probably only yards away). It is sited on the edge of an old boundary line — which made me wonder whether the ‘U’- or ‘C’-shaped ingredient in the carving was a later addition, perhaps of one of the old land-owners hereabouts. The cups however, seem typical of the thousands that we find in northern Britain.
The isolation of this carving is rather anomalous. Others should be in the area but archaeo-records are silent (though the majority of Wessex archaeologists are academically illiterate when it comes to identifying such carvings). The carving may simply be the product of nomadic northerners, showing what their tribes do ‘up North’, so to speak. However, considering the tough nature of southern sarsen stones, it’d have taken ages to etch just this one stone. You can visualise it quite easily: southern tribal folk looking on, somewhat perplexed, as a northern traveller tried to convey what they etch on their stones in the northern lands, only to struggle like hell with cup-marks they’d do with ease on the softer rocks of their homelands. Wessex tribes-folk may have watched, seen the trouble their traveller had over such inane and (perhaps) meaningless carvings, and didn’t see the mythic point s/he was trying to convey…
Or maybe not!
The lesson with rock-art tends to be simple: where there’s one carving, others are nearby. The rule aint 100% of course — but when we were here the other day I was wanting to dart here, there and everywhere to check the many thousands of outcrop rocks that scatter this entire area. Us rock-art nuts tend to do things like that. It’s a madness that afflicts…
There were one or two stones with ‘possible’ single cup-markings on them, but I wasn’t going to start adding them to any catalogues. They were far too questionable. I was wanting something a bit more decent than that. And then, when Mikki, June, Pete, Geoff and I got to the collapsed long barrow known as the Devil’s Den a few hundred yards further down this rock-strewn sea of a valley, there was something with a bit more potential that we came across…
In recent years this cup-marked stone has already attracted imaginative notions, with little foundation. Archaeologists Fowler & Blackwell (1998), in their otherwise fine book, think this carving was related to goddess worship, describing how,
“On Dillion Down…the Great Mother’s help was permanently invoked by patiently indenting a special stone with symbols of her potency.”
Adding that this “was a new idea brought in from the North, and Fyfield was the only place to have such a stone.” Weird! I could’ve sworn there were plenty of other rocks between here and there!
Fowler, Peter J., Landscape Plotted and Pieced: Landscape History and Local Archaeology in Fyfield and Overton, Society of Antiquaries London 2000.
Fowler, Peter & Blackwell, Ian, The Landscape of Lettice Sweetapple, Tempus: Stroud 1998.
Lacaille, A.D., ‘A Cup-Marked Sarsen near Marlborough, Wiltshire,’ in Archaeological Newsletter 7:6, 1962.
¹ Along with the cup-markings atop of Devil’s Den a few hundred yards to the south, across in Somerset we had the Pool Farm example; there are a number of examples in Dorset, including the Badbury Rings carving; plus others in Devon, etc.