Devil’s Stone, Winceby, Lincolnshire

Legendary Rock (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – TF 3127 6901

Also Known as:

  1. Big Stone of Slash Lane

Archaeology & History

Stone shown on 1887 map

There is no specific archaeological information about this stone.  However, we must take note of the so-called “devil’s footprint” that was on the boulder.  In some parts of the UK, some devilish and other mythic footprints on stone are prehistoric cup-markings; but we have no idea whether this impression was such a carving or—more probably in this case—Nature’s handiwork.  The field in which the stone existed was said to be the place where the so-called Battle of Winceby occurred.

Folklore

The stone was mentioned in several old tomes, with each one generally repeating the same familiar story, and with motifs that will be familiar to antiquarians and folklorists alike.  In an early edition of Notes & Queries we were told of,

“the large stone in Winceby field, where soldiers had sharpened their swords before the battle. This was a stone of fearful interest, for much treasure was supposed to have been buried under it. Numerous attempts have been made to get at this treasure, but they were always defeated by some accident or piece of bad luck. On the last occasion, by ‘yokkin’ several horses to chains fastened round the stone, they nearly succeeded in pulling it over, when, in his excitement, one of the men uttered an oath, and the devil instantly appeared, and stamped on it with his foot.  “Tha cheans all brok, tha osses fell, an’ tha stoan went back t’ its owd place solidder nur ivver; an’ if ya doan’t believe ya ma goa an’ look fur yer sen, an’ ya’ll see tha divvill’s fut mark like three kraws’ claws, a-top o’ tha stoan.’  It was firmly believed the lane was haunted, and that loud groans were often heard there.”

The tale was retold in Grange & Hudson’s (1891) essay on regional folklore.  In Mr Walter’s (1904) excellent local history survey, there was an additional shape-shifting element to the story which, in more northern climes, is usually attributed to hare; but this was slightly different.  The stone, as we’ve heard,

“was supposed to cover hidden treasure, and various attempts were made at different times to remove it, sometimes with six or even eight horses. At one of these attempts, his Satanic Majesty, having been invoked by the local title of ‘Old Lad’ appeared, it is said, in person, where upon the stone fell back, upsetting the horses.  On another occasion a black mouse, probably the same Being incarnate in another form…ran over the gearing of the horses, with a similar result.  Eventually, as a last resort, to break the spell, the boulder was buried, and now no trace of the boulder, black mouse, or Satan’s foot-print remains.”

Sadly we have no sketches of the devil’s ‘footprint’; and if local lore is right, we’ll never know.  For tis said that a local farmer in the 1970s dug down and removed the stone completely.  All that he found were numerous broken ploughshares around the rock, indicating that many tools had been used to shift the stone.

References:

  1. Grange, Ernest L. & Hudson, J.C. (eds.), Lincolnshire Notes and Queries – volume 2, W.K. Morton: Horncastle 1891.
  2. Gutch, Mrs & Peacock, Mabel, Examples of Printed Folklore Concerning Lincolnshire, David Nutt: London 1908.
  3. Walter, J. Conway, Records, Historical and Antiquarian of Parishes around Horncastle, W.K. Morton: Horncastle 1904.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

 

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  53.201966, -0.036193 Devil\'s Stone

De’il’s Stane, Waltonhill, Craigrothie, Fife

Legendary Stone: OS Grid Reference – NO 36304 09352

Also Known as:

  1. Devil’s Stone

Getting Here

Travelling South along the A916 just past Craigrothie, turn right down to Chance Inn, and turn left at the T junction. and follow the road on to just past the left hand bend when Waltonhill Farm will be seen on the right. Continue south down the road a few hundred yards until it takes a slight right turn. The De’il’s Stane, a huge flat faced slab of rock, will be seen at the roadside on the left side of the road, partly obscured by gorse.

Archaeology & History

According to a piece published in the Fife Herald & Journal in 1905:-

“Once upon a time, so runs the legend, Samson challenged the devil to match him at boulder throwing. As challenger, Samson stood on the West Lomond; Satan stood on the East. The signal was given; two mighty rocks whistled through the air. ‘The De’ils Stane’ fell where it now lies, on the road-side about a quarter of a mile west [sic] from Waltonhill Farm. Samson, though handicapped by three miles greater distance, flung his stone fully four hundred yards beyond that of Satan, and with such force that it split into three parts; which parts are now built into Waltonhill barn”.

The roadside location, just south of the bend

The De’il’s Stane, a huge slab of rock!

This is of course a variant of a creation myth that is to be found throughout Britain, of an Age of Giants who hurled rocks around and strode the land quarrelling with each other and the mortal humans . The original names of the Waltonhill Giants have been lost in the aeons of oral transmission of the legend from pre-history, and replaced by that of a probably equally legendary Middle Eastern strong man from the Christian’s Bible, in combat with the Christian’s Naughty Man. And this was of course done to prove the point of Christianity’s superiority over the old animistic cults of the land, and the De’il had to be demonstrably the loser.

De’ils Stane thrown by the Man in the Red Velvet Suit from East Lomond (Left)

Owing to the Stone being partly hidden by gorse, it was not possible to make a close inspection of the rock for carvings etc. A further visit will no doubt be made to try to clear some of the gorse so a closer inspection can be made. The Stone’s size (approximately 15′ high by 20′ wide by 4′ thick) and the way it is resting against a natural bank, does give a credence to the legend of its having been slung by a giant from East Lomond, clearly visible nearly 7¾ miles away.

Reference:

  1. Fife Herald & Journal, 1st November 1905, quoted in John Ewart Simpkins’ County Folklore – Volume VII: Fife, with some notes concerning Clackmannan and Kinross-shires, Folk-Lore Society by Sidgwick& Jackson: London 1914.

© Paul T. Hornby, The Northern Antiquarian 2018

De'il's Stane

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De\'il\'s Stane 56.272356, -3.030144 De\'il\'s Stane

Devil’s Well, Abernethy, Perthshire

Sacred Well:  OS Grid Reference – NO 19430 14758

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 28084

Getting Here

Devils Well on 1860 map

From Abernethy village, go west along the A913 road for half-a-mile, then turn left up the long and winding Glenfoot road up the Abernethy Glen.  About a mile up on your left-side is Craigden Farm and, just a bit past this, the forestry plantation.  Just before the trees, cut up the field and head uphill, passing the near forest of gorse, until you reach the huge detached house of Turflundie.  In the field immediately east, right up against the barbed-wire fence where it meets the depleted forestry, a very small trickle of water emerges beneath a small pile of rocks.  You’re here!

Archaeology & History

The trickling waters are on the other side of this fence

Long since thought to have been lost, the trickling remains of this old Well of the Devil are, in fact, still running beneath the pile of stones just over the barbed-wire fence on the edge of the forestry section.  A cluster of other worn rounded rocks scatter the ground just to the rear of where the water first comes out of the ground, suggesting, perhaps, that a small well-house covered the spring; but this is me being speculative, as there’s no mention of this in the early writings of the Ordnance Survey lads, nor is one shown on the first OS-map of the area in 1860.  And you’ll see on the OS-map how the well is slightly lower than where it presently trickles, but this is down to the fact that the source of it was piped-off at sometime in the not-too-distant past, as evidenced by remains of such piping laying just over the barbed-wire fence close to the source.  In truth, unless you’re hardcore, there’s very little to see.

Folklore

The dedication of this water-site to the christian ‘devil’ is obviously a corruption of its original traditional name, which may have simply been to the Bodach, or ‘Old Man’ in Gaelic and northern British lore.  The bodach‘s consort is the great prima Mater of the northern realms known as the Cailleach, but I can find no dedication to Her anywhere nearby.  The best we have are the ‘Witches Graves’ a half-mile to the northwest, below the edge of the geological ridge overlooking Abernethy, where folklore tells us 22 women were murdered and buried by the local christians several centuries ago.

References:

  1. Morris, Ruth & Frank, Scottish Healing Wells, Alethea: Sandy 1982.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.318429, -3.304175 Devil\'s Well

Deil’s Cradle, Dollar, Clackmannanshire

Legendary Rock:  OS Grid Reference – NS 9686 9906

Also Known as:

  1. Devil’s Cradle
  2. Devil’s Rock

Folklore

The Deil’s Cradle stone

Close to the legendary old Wizard’s Stone we find there’s a real cluster of witch-lore in this small area to the north of Dollar, which deserves careful analysis from competent researchers and students.  Not only is there the legendary Lochy Launds of the Black Goddess hereby, there was also this curious rock, described by one ‘J.C.’  in an early edition of the Scottish Journal (1848), which told:

“On the confines of the parish of Dollar, not far from Hillfoot, the seat of John McArthur Moir, Esq., lies a glen, called Burngrens, watered by a small stream and planted with numerous large trees.  A great number of these, however, have fallen, during the last few years, beneath the unsparing axe; but strong, healthy saplings are rising rapidly to supply their place.

“In this glen there is a large stone, of peculiar formation, in every way like a cradle. It is currently believed by the superstitious in the vicinity, that the stone, every Hallowe’en night, is raised from its place, and suspended in the air by some unseen agency, while “Old Sandy,” snugly seated upon it, is swung backwards and forwards by his adherents, the witches, until daylight warns them to decamp.

The following rather curious affair is told in connection with the “Cradle:”

“One Hallowe’en night a young man, who had partaken somewhat freely of the intoxicating cup, boasted before a few of his companions that he would, unaccompanied, visit the stone. Providing himself with a bottle, to keep his courage up, he accordingly set out.  The distance not being great, he soon reached his destination.  After a lusty pull at the bottle, he sat down upon the “Cradle,” boldly determined to dispute the right of possession, should his Satanic majesty appear to claim his seat. Every rustle of a leaf, as the wind moaned through the glen, seemed to our hero as announcing the approach of the enemy, and occasioned another application to fortifying “bauld John Barleycorn.” Overpowered at last by repeated potations, our hero, dreaming of “Auld Nick,” and his cohort of “rigwuddie hags,” fell sound asleep upon the stone.

“His companions, who had followed him, now came forward. With much shouting and noise, they laid hold of him, one by the head and another by the feet, and carrying him, half-awake, to the burn, dipped him repeatedly, accompanying each immersion with terrific yells. The poor fellow, thinking a whole legion of devils were about him, was almost frightened to death, and roared for mercy so piteously that his tormentors thought proper to desist. No sooner had our hero gained his feet than he rushed up the glen, and ran home, resolving never to drink more, or attempt such a feat again. For many a long day he was ignorant who his tormentors really were.

“We stood upon the stone about a week ago. Ivy and moss are slowly mantling over it, a proof that it is some considerable time since the Devil has been rocked on it.”

Historian Angus Watson (1995) told the place to be “south of Wizard’s Stone…near Kelty Burn,” and also that,

“it is said to be where witches rock Satan to sleep on Halloween.”

Above here, the tree-topped rounded hill to the north was one of the meeting places of the witches of Fife, Perthshire and Clackmannan.  Something of sincere pre-christian ritual importance was undoubtedly enacted in this region as the sites of the Maiden are also a short distance due north. Does anyone know more about this fascinating sounding place?

References:

  1. ‘J.C.,’ “The Deil’s Cradle”, in The Scottish Journal, February 5, T.G. Stevenson: Edinburgh 1848.
  2. Simpkins, John Ewart, County Folklore – volume VII: Examples of Printed Folk-Lore Concerning Fife, with some Notes on Clackmannan and Kinross-Shires, Folk-Lore Society: London 1914.
  3. Watson, Angus, The Ochils: Placenames, History, Tradition, PKDC: Perth 1995.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.173072, -3.662833 Deil\'s Cradle