Clochoderick Stone, Kilbarchan, Renfrewshire

Rocking Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NS 37363 61280

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 42329

Archaeology & History

The Clochoderick Stone

On the outer southern edge of Kilbarchan parish—right near the ancient boundary line itself—this giant stone of the druids is seems to be well-known by local folk.  Located about 40 yards away from the sacred ‘St Bride’s Burn’ (her ‘Well’ is several hundred yards to the west), it was known to have been a rocking stone in early traditions, but as Glaswegian antiquarian Frank Mercer told us, “the stone no longer moves.”  The creation myths underscoring its existence, as Robert Mackenzie (1902) told us, say

“This remarkable stone, thought by some to have been set up by the druids, and by others to have been carried hither by a glacier, is now believed to be the top of a buried lava cone rising through lavas of different kind.”

Clochoderick Stone on 1857 map

The site was highlighted on the first OS-map of the area in 1857, but the earliest mention of it seems to be as far back as 1204 CE, where it was named as Clochrodric and variants on that title several times in the 13th century.  It was suggested by the old place-name student, Sir H. Maxwell, to derive from ‘the Stone of Ryderch’, who was the ruler of Strathclyde in the 6th century.  He may be right.

Folklore

Folklore told that this stone was not only the place where the druids held office and dispensed justice, but that it was also the burial-place of the Strathclyde King, Ryderch Hael.

References

  1. Campsie, Alison, “Scotland’s Mysterious Rocking Stones,” in The Scotsman, 17 August, 2017.
  2. MacKenzie, Robert D., Kilbarchan: A Parish History, Alexander Gardner: Paisley 1902.

Acknowledgements:  Big thanks to Frank Mercer for use of his photos and catalytic inception for this site profile.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  55.817286, -4.597285 Clochoderick Stone

Maen Sigl, Llandudno, Caernarvonshire

Legendary Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SH 7792 8297

Also Known as: 

  1. Rocking Stone
  2. St. Rudno’s Stone

Archaeology & History

Maen Sigl on 1901 OS-map

Highlighted on the 1901 OS-map of the area, this old rocking stone was located on the heights of Pen y Filas above Llandudno.  Originally a site of heathen worship—the druids, it is said—the site was later patronised by the Irish saint, Tudno: a hermit who lived in a cave (Ogof Llech) a mile to the northwest, on the heights of the legend-filled Great Orme.

Rocking stones are well-known as geo-oracular forms (stone oracles) in folklore texts across the country, although they’re almost entirely rejected by historians as little more than ‘curiousities’ and meaningless geological formations.  In olde cultures elsewhere in the world however, stones like this were always held in reverence by traditional people – much as they would have done in Wales and elsewhere in Britain.

References:

  1. Hughes, Arthur R., The Great Orme: Its History and Traditions, R.E. Jones: Conway n.d. (c. 1950)
  2. Jones, H. Clayton, “Welsh Place-Names in Llandudno and District” in Mountain Skylines and Place-Names in Llandudno and District, Modern Etchings: Llandudno n.d. (c.1950)

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  53.329504, -3.834657 Maen Sigl

Rocking Stones, Kirriemuir, Angus

Legendary Rocks (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NO 3813 5496

Archaeology & History

Like many rocking stones across the British Isles that were written about by early 18th and 19th century authors, the ones at Kirriemuir have fallen prey to the vandalism of those people (christians, Industrialists and other self-righteous fools) that has so blighted our heritage, and ancestral history, with an intolerance of indigenous beliefs and remarkable geological formations.  But, I suppose, at least we have a record of them, which at least in some way gives us the ability to add further our knowledge of the traditional practices of our peasant ancestors and their perception of the landscape.

Rocking stones shown on 1865 6-inch OS-map
Rocking stones shown on 1865 6-inch OS-map
Rocking stones shown on 1865 25-inch OS-map
Rocking stones shown on 1865 25-inch OS-map

The exact location of the legendary rocks were highlighted on early Ordnance Survey maps, thankfully; and there were in fact two rocking stones here, very close to each other by the sound of it.  Mentioned only in passing by E.S. Valentine (1912), the place was best described in A.J. Warden’s (1884) massive history work on the region. He told that:

“On the top of the Hillhead, Kirriemuir, there were two fine specimens of these interesting memorials, upon which the dwellers in the district looked with wonder and awe.  These time honoured monuments of a long past age were, in 1843, blasted with gunpowder, and the shattered pieces used in building dykes and forming drains, to the deep regret of antiquarians, and of the inhabitants of the district. …These stone memorials of a remote age are thus described by the Rev., T. Easton, D.D., in the new Statistical Account of the parish — ‘The one of them is a block of whinstone, nearly oval, and is three feet three inches in height, and four feet ten inches in breadth. The other, of Lintrathen porphyry, is two feet in height, eight feet in length, and five feet in breadth.’ He gives no description of the bases upon which the magic pivots moved, or other details of them.”

About a half-mile east you would have looked across at the large standing stone on Kirriemuir Hill, which legend asserts was once a stone circle (it too, destroyed).   If anyone has any further information about these old stones, please let us know…

References:

  1. Valentine, E.S., Forfarshire, Cambridge University Press 1912.
  2. Warden, Alex J., Angus or Forfarshire: The Land and People – Descriptive and Historical – volumes 1 & 4, Charles Alexander: Dundee 1880-1884.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.682284, -3.011423 Kirriemuir rocking stones

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

Panorama Woods (227), Ilkley, West Yorkshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 11467 47287

Also Known as:

  1. Carving no.101 (Hedges)
  2. Carving no.227 (Boughey & Vickerman)
  3. Rocking Stone

Getting Here

Panorama stone 227 – once a rocking stone

Come out of Ilkley/bus train station and turn right for less than 50 yards, heading left up towards White Wells.  Go up here for less than 100 yards, taking your first right and walk 300 yards up Queens Road until you reach the St. Margaret’s church on the left-hand side.  On the other side of the road, surrounded by trees is a small enclosed bit with spiky railings with Panorama Stones 227, 228 and 229 all therein: the least-decorated one on the left being the one we’re dealing with here.

Archaeology & History

This is another of the caged Panorama Stones, found within the awful spiked fencing across from St. Margaret’s Church, just out of Ilkley centre.  Originally located ¾-miles (1.2km) WSW of its present position in Panorama Woods (at SE 10272 46995), along with its petroglyphic compatriots in this cage, the carving was moved here in 1890 when a Dr. Little—medical officer at Ben Rhydding Hydro—bought the stones for £10 from the owner of the land at Panorama Rocks, as the area in which the stones lived was due to be vandalized and destroyed. Thankfully the said Dr Little was thoughtful and as a result of his payment he had some of the stones saved and moved into their present position.

Original location of stones
J.T Dale’s 1879 sketch

It was first described by the northern antiquarian and petroglyph pioneer, J. Romilly Allen (1879) , who saw it in the now-destroyed “rough inclosure”, as he called it, along with the other stones now in the same Ilkley ‘cage’. Its present position does it no justice whatsoever in terms of its original position.  It was ostensibly a rocking stone: this seemingly trivial-looking boulder was sat on top of the much-cropped Panorama Stone 228 (a yard east of the three in this outdoor cage).  Allen (1879) was fortunate enough to have seen the stone before it was uprooted, telling us how this topmost stone, “has eleven cups, wo of which are surrounded by single rings.”  The modern archaeologist John Hedges (1986) told it to be in a “bad state,” with “very worn carvings, fourteen cups, one with partial ring and groove.” Its situation deteriorated further, as stated by rock art students Boughey & Vickerman (2003), who noted,

“medium-sized, roughly triangular rock, its surface recorded as in a bad state in 1986 and now (2002) even worse.  Fourteen cups, one with partial ring, one groove.”

And its condition isn’t helped by its inaccessibility, when groups like the ‘Friends of Ilkley Moor’ or the local archaeologist should be at least annually cleaning this and the adjacent carvings.  If they’re incapable, there are sincere people in antiquarian, history and pagan groups who would probably help out…

John Hedges 1986 sketch
Faint cupmarks visible

In truth, this carving cannot be seen in isolation, nor merely reduced to a numeric catalogue in some rock art corpus.  We must contextualize its relationship with the once much-larger multiple cup-and-ring stone on which it sat and then see it as it was in the landscape.  Originally of course the rocking stone was Nature’s very own creation.  As humans began migrating over and eventually occupying this once-wooded arena, the rocking stone became intimately related with animistic magickal rites and, over time, petroglyphs began to be etched upon the stone.  Most probably the flat underlying rock surface was carved upon first, and a symbiotic relationship was forged between Earth’s surface and the small rocking stone, both of which were used in oracular and other rites.  Over centuries, as the cups and rings on the earthfast stone grew, the mythic status of this small rocking stone allowed for the encroachment of carvings, and eventually cup-marks began to be etched upon it too.  Later still, as the neolithic period moved into the Bronze Age, the people began to build a low-walled stone enclosure around this and the nearby multiple-ringed carving – similar to the multi-period enclosure at Woofa Bank and other sites on these moors.  It was all a very long and gradual process.

In truth, the mythic status of this once-impressive site would have been maintained—in one form or other—well into the medieval period.  But that’s another matter altogether…

References:

  1. Allen, J. Romilly, “The Prehistoric Rock Sculptures of Ilkley,” in Journal of British Archaeological Association, volume 35, 1879.
  2. Bennett, Paul, The Panorama Stones, Ilkley, TNA: Yorkshire 2012.
  3. Bennett, Paul, Aboriginal Rock Carvings of Ilkley and District, forthcoming.
  4. Boughey, Keith & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, WYAS: Leeds 2003.
  5. Cowling, Eric T., Rombald’s Way, William Walker: Otley 1946.
  6. Downer, A.C., “Yorkshire Archaeological and Topographical Association,” in Leeds Mercury, August 28, 1884.
  7. Eliade, Mircea, The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion, Harcourt, Brace & World: New York 1959.
  8. Hadingham, Evan, Ancient Carvings in Britain, Souvenir Press: London 1974.
  9. Hedges, John, The Carved Rocks on Rombald’s Moor, WYMCC: Wakefield 1986.
  10. Heywood, Nathan, “The Cup and Ring Stones of the Panorama Rocks”, in Transactions Lancashire & Cheshire Antiquarian Society, Manchester 1889.
  11. Speight, Harry, Upper Wharfedale, Elliott Stock: London 1900.

Acknowledgements:  With huge thanks to both Dr Stefan Maeder for help in cleaning up the stones; and to James Elkington for allowing use of his photos in this site profile.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian 

 

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  53.921599, -1.826888 Panorama Stone CR-227

Robin Hood’s Bed, Blackstone Edge, Lancashire

Legendary Rocks: OS Grid Reference – SD 97204 16356

Getting Here

Robin Hoods Bed on 1851 map
Robin Hoods Bed on 1851 map

Follow the same directions to get to the Aiggin Stone.  Once here, go over the stile by the fence opposite towards the great geological ridge less than half-a-mile south.  Head for the triangulation pillar right on the top of the ridge, and there, about 20 yards past it, higher-up than the triangulation pillar at the very top of Blackstone Edge, is Robin Hood’s legendary stone bed!

Archaeology & History

Robin Hoods Bed, looking north

There’s very little of archaeological interest known up here, save a mass of flints and scrapers that have been found scattering the moorland heights hereby, from the mesolithic period onwards.  But we have a relative lack of neolithic to Iron Age remains — officially anyhow!  A possible standing stone can be found a few hundred yards south, but there’s little else.

The rock that’s given its name to Robin Hood’s Bed overlooks the very edge of the ridge, detached from the main section, with a large and very curious nature-worn ‘bed’ on its very crown, more than 4 feet wide and about 7 feet long, into which one comfortably lays.  It was named in the boundary records of the township of Rishworth in 1836, where it describes other historical stones, saying:

“thence under Robin Hood’s Bed to a stone marked ‘W.S.G.S. 1742, 1770, 1792, and the following figures and letters, ‘1826 I.L.S.'”

Folklore

This enormous millstone grit boulder, sitting 1550 feet upon the high moors is, according to legend, a place where our famous legendary outlaw once slept.  Whilst sleeping here, some of his followers were said to have kept guard and looked over him.

Robin Hood’s Bed, from below

A rather odd piece of folklore recited by Jessica Lofthouse (1976) is that “no winds ever blow” at Robin Hood’s Bed, who then went on to tell of the time she visited the place.  Walking along the rocky ridge where the stone bed is found, the winds were such that “we had almost been blown over the edge,” until just a few hundred yards further when they eventually reached the fabled site, Nature granted them a sudden calmness unknown to all the high moorlands around, affirming the curious folklore.

The ceremonial stone ‘bed’

Robin Hood’s Bed itself was undeniably an important ceremonial site for both rites of passage and ritual magick to our indigenous ancestors.  The place screams of it!  It also seems very likely that the hero figure of Robin Hood replaced an earlier mythological character, akin to the fabled female creation deity, the cailleach, found commonly in more northern and Irish climes, whose echoes can still be found around our Pennine hills.  For we find that Robin Hood was said to have taken a large boulder from here and with a mighty heave threw it six miles across the landscape due west into the setting sun, where it eventually landed at Monstone Edge, near Rochdale!  Local people were so astounded at this feat that the stone was given the name of Robin Hood’s Quoit.

7ft tall natural standing stone

The old place-name authority Eilert Ekwall (1922) related the folklore that the giant ridge of Blackstone Edge “is said to refer to a boundary stone between Yorkshire and Lancashire.”  Which may be the curious upright standing stone, more than 7 feet tall, less than 50 yards NNE which gives a very distinct impression of having been deliberately stood upright, amidst this mass of loose geological droppings!  It would be helpful if there was a geologist in the house who could tell us decisively one way or the other…

Another etymological possibility that has been posited relates to the word ‘bed’ at this site.  Ordinarily it would be sensible to attach the word to the great stone ‘bed’ atop of the poised boulder.  But with the attached legends symptomatic of prehistoric monuments, it would not be improper to highlight that the old Welsh word ‘bedd‘ (a place-name element that is not uncommon in Lancashire) means, “a grave or tomb”.  And this site would be ideal for such an old prehistoric cairn…

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  2. Ekwall, E., The Place-Names of Lancashire, Manchester University Press 1922.
  3. Lofthouse, Jessica, North Country Folklore, Hale: London 1976.
  4. Smith, A.H., The Place-Names of the West Riding of Yorkshire – volume 3, Cambridge University Press 1961.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Robin Hood's Bed

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Robin Hood\'s Bed 53.643726, -2.043759 Robin Hood\'s Bed

Rocking Stone, Meltham Moor, West Yorkshire

Legendary Rock (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 0728 0944

Archaeology & History

The Rocking Stone in 1720

Here we have the case of yet another rocking stone destroyed by a bunch of morons in bygone days.  Although marked on the first Ordnance Survey of the region around 1850, the site had already been destroyed by then — but at least the surveyors had recorded its position in the landscape. And a dramatic and barren landscape it sat within!

It could be found high up in the middle of the moors above Brow Grains by the Wicken Stones, nearly 1400 feet above sea level, heading towards West Nab, and had lived here, safely, for untold thousands of years.  But then, on Whitsun Monday morning in either 1827 or 1828, there came, wrote Joseph Hughes (1866),

“some half-dozen masons (who) planned and executed the work of destruction for a frolic.  They first endeavoured to accomplish it by blasting it with gunpowder and, on the failure of this scheme, they fetched tools from Deer Hill, with which they drilled a hole and then wedged it, when the stone fell with a tremendous crash, hardly allowing the man on its summit who was drawing in the wedge to escape without injury.”

It’s a huge pity that the boulder didn’t crush him to death for his actions.  At least it would have taught the halfwits a lesson (forgive me if I sound a bit harsh – but I have an increasingly lower opinion of selfish humans the older I get).  Thankfully though, one hundred years before the stone was destroyed, Mr John Warburton of the Somerset Herald visited the region in 1720 and on one of the days here, took a long walk up to the Rocking Stone, from where we have this rare old drawing of the site.  As Mr Ahier (1942) told us,

“His sketch plainly shows one stone superimposed upon another, and it is conceivable that the uppermost stone could be rocked on the lower one.”

There was also another Rocking Stone in the locale, it too destroyed, this time “by a former gamekeeper” no less, using the time-honoured excuse:

“because persons going to see it crossed the moor, and, in doing so during the nesting season, were liable to tread on eggs or upon young birds.”

This excuse is an even poorer one these days (as any honest ranger will tell you – which includes me in my former capacity as an assistant moorland ranger), as walking the moors causes much less damage than the moorland “management” of draining the bogs, dyke cutting, grouse-shooting, bracken control, letting the Snoots drive their vehicles over the heathlands, upgrading modern footpaths, etc.  (God – I’m on a rant!)

References:

  1. Ahier, Philip, The Legends and Traditions of Huddersfield and District, Advertiser Press: Huddersfield 1942.
  2. Hughes, Joesph, The History of the Township of Meltham, John Russell Smith: London 1866.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  53.581503, -1.891514 Rocking Stone

Rocking Stone, Golcar, West Yorkshire

Legendary Rock (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 076 163

Also Known as:

  1. Holed Stone
  2. Holy Stone
  3. Whole Stone

Archaeology & History

Like many old rocking stones, this was destroyed due to quarrying operations many years ago and sadly, I believe, we have no illustrations of the place to show the site.  This legendary site—also known as the ‘Holed’ or ‘Holy Stone’—is preserved in the place-name of Rocking Stone Hill and, unlike many other alleged rocking stones, actually swayed to and fro if the old records are owt to go by.  Not far away (and also destroyed some 200 years back) were two stone circles which probably had some mythic relationship to this legendary rock.

The stone was first described by John Watson in his monumental History of Halifax (1775), where he told that is was,

“so situated as to be a boundary mark, dividing the two townships of Golcar and Slaightwait in the Parish of Huddersfield, adjoining to the Parish of Halifax on Wholestone Moor.  The stone as measured by the late Thomas Perceval, or Royton…is 10½ feet long, 9ft 4in or 5in broad, and 5ft 3in thick.  Its weight…is 18 tons, 190lbs.  It rests on so small a centre, that at one particular point, a man may cause it to rock; though some years ago it was damaged a little, in this respect, by some masons, who endeavoured, but in vain, to throw it off its centre, in order to discover the principle on which so large a weight was made to move.”

Mr John Crabtree (1836) included it in his survey, and it was illustrated on the very first Ordnance Survey map in the 1840s where it was described as ‘Supposed Druidical’.  But the old stone sadly didn’t last much longer.  Once the self-righteous Industrialists got here, round about the year 1886, the Rocking Stone was destroyed by quarrying operations.  All that remains of the place today is a small cluster of place-names..

Folklore

Thought by Watson (1775) and his contemporaries to have had druidic associations (without evidence), when Philip Ahier (1942) came exploring this area in 1936, he came upon “an old resident (who) informed me that he had sat upon the stone when a youth and had caused it to rock.”

References:

  1. Ahier, Philip, The Legends and Traditions of Huddersfield and District, Advertiser Press: Huddersfield 1942.
  2. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  3. Crabtree, John, Concise History of the Parish & Vicarage of Halifax, Hartley & Walker: Halifax 1836.
  4. Watson, John, The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Halifax, T. Lowndes: London 1775.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

 

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  53.643158, -1.886516 Rocking Stone

Alcomden Stones, Stanbury Moor, West Yorkshire

Legendary Rocks: OS Grid Reference – SD 97313 35737

Also Known as:

  1. Oakenden Stones

Getting Here

The ‘druidic’ Alcomden Stones

Takes a bitta getting to this spot, but it’s worth the effort!  Make a day of it and walk up here via the little-known Cuckoo Stones monoliths.  From here the walk gets steeper!  Follow the footpath from the standing stones, uphill, to the legendary Wuthering Heights building of Bronte-fame a half-mile ahead of you.  Then walk immediately up the slope at the side of the derelict house higher onto the moor (there’s no real footpath to follow) until the moorland levels out.  From here, look west and walk that way for a few hundred yards where you’ll be seeing a large rock outcrop ahead of you.  That’s where you’re heading! (if you reach the triangulation pillar, take the small path from there along the top of the moor towards this large rock outcrop)

Archaeology & History

Alcomden’s Altar Stone

To those of you who like a bitta wilderness, or healthy normal people I suppose, this is a stunning place!  Even though there’s little by way of archaeology here — save the usual expectations of a few flints and arrowheads — its geomancy, its position in the landscape, makes it excel as a once important ritual site for our ancestors in not-so-distant centuries.  Although local tradition gave these great rocks a prehistoric pedigree, the archaeological record doesn’t say as much — but that doesn’t really mean much up here.  We’ve found a singular Bronze Age cairn on the level at Middle Moor Flat 400 yards northwest (not in the record books), some prehistoric walling on the flat east of here (not in the record books), so a lot more attention is needed hereby to see what more may be hiding in this rocky heathland area.

The main feature amidst this extensive scattering of rocks is the large rocking stone, said to weigh six- or seven-tons, resting upon other glacial deposits.  The rock itself can be made to rock very slightly.  It was described in Lewis’ Topographical Dictionary as a

“cromlech, an evident druidical remain, (which) consists of one flat stone, weight about six tons, placed horizontally upon two huge upright blocks.”

But the placement here was done by Nature and not humans — making it much more important to our ancestors.  This was a site for solace, for ritual and to commune with the gods themselves.  A few visits to this place show this quite clearly — unless you’re unable to relax that is! It’s a place I wanna spend more time working with, as the mythic history around these stones feels strong, despite their absence from written records.

The ‘altar’ resting on rocks
Alcomden’s “altar”

The druidic sentiments espoused by Lewis were all but echoed by our otherwise sober historian, J. Horsfall Turner, in his history of Haworth (1879), where he describes the Alcomden Stones as “the remains of a Druid’s Altar.”  On top of the main ‘altar stone’ are what could be ascribed as worn cup-markings, but it seems they’re Nature’s handiwork once again; though this wouldn’t deny them as having some significance to our ancestors.  A number of other boulders amidst this mass of rocks also have what seem like cup-markings, but none of them can be said with any certainty to have been carved by people.  Indeed, the entirety of this legendary rock outcrop seems to have been created solely by the spirits of Nature.

One view of Earth, from Alcomden
View of Earth, from Alcomden

It was first described as ‘Alconley’ in 1371, then in the 1379 Poll Tax returns as ‘Halcom’, the etymology of which is difficult.  Al- is a cliff or rock, many of which occur here; den is certainly a valley, over which we look to the northeast (to Ponden Kirk, 500 yards away); but the central element of ‘com‘ is the greatest puzzle.  Blakeborough (1911) tells of the old Yorkshire word ‘con’ — found in the 1371 spelling — meaning “to scan, or observe critically,” which one can certainly apply here in a topographical sense, i.e., “observation stones above a valley.”  It’s simple, succinct, and makes sense!

Folklore

As Elizabeth Southwart (1923) rightly said,

“Our forefathers, instinct and imagination more highly developed than knowledge, peopled their woods with fairies and their valleys with ghosts.  On the high, wind-swept spaces they built their altars to Unknown Gods.”

Turner's 1913 drawing
Turner’s 1913 drawing

And such she thought was done at this “heap of rocks called Oakenden Stones.”  It seems likely, as this place is superb for ritual magick and meditative systems.  But all we have are the repeats of numerous old historians, from Whiteley Turner (1913) and his namesake J. Horsfall, to James Whalley, J.W. Parker and more, who recorded what the old locals said: that is was a place of the druids.  There may be a grain of truth in it somewhere…

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  2. Blakeborough, Richard, Wit, Character, Folklore and Customs of the North Riding of Yorkshire, W. Rapp: Saltburn 1911.
  3. Parker, J.W., Guide to the Bronte Country, J.W. Parker: Haworth n.d. (c.1971)
  4. Southwart, Elizabeth, Bronte Moors and Villages: From Thornton to Haworth, John Lane Bodley Head: London 1923.
  5. Turner, J. Horsfall, Haworth, Past and Present, Hendon Mill: Nelson 1879.
  6. Turner, Whiteley, A Spring-Time Saunter round and about Bronte Lane, Halifax Courier 1913.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Alcomden Stones

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Alcomden Stones 53.817904, -2.042295 Alcomden Stones

Rocking Stone, Rishworth Moor, West Yorkshire

Legendary Rock:  OS Grid Reference – SD 990 150

Archaeology & History

Rishworth Moor Rocking Stone, 1775
Rishworth Moor Rocking Stone, 1775

The reverend John Watson (1775) first wrote about this place, describing it as, “a group of stones, laid, seemingly, one above another, to the height of several yards, and called the Rocking stone.”  Very little archaeological remains have been described hereabouts, save the odd flint scatters here and there.  Anything which might have been here in the past was likely destroyed when the M62 was built right next to the site.

Folklore

The rocking stone was long ascribed in local tradition to be a  site used by the druids.  It was said that in bygone days the great boulder would rock, but this must have been a long time ago as even when Mr Watson described it, he told how “that quality is lost.”

Close by is the sometimes dried-up spring known as the Booth Dean Spa, which Watson thought might have been related to whatever ancient rituals occurred here.

References:

  1. Watson, John, The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Halifax, T.Lowndes: London 1775.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  53.631525, -2.016596 Rocking Stone