East Wall Stone, Burley Moor, West Yorkshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 13924 45493

Getting Here

East wall stone on the right

Follow the directions to reach the impressive Woofa Bank prehistoric enclosure.  You need to find the walling that constitutes the enclosure itself and walk along to its eastern side where you’ll reach an ‘opening’, as if it may once have been an entrance at that side of the enclosure.  A reasonably large sloping rock is on one side of this ‘entrance’.  You can’t really miss it!

Archaeology & History

Unlike many of the other petroglyphs found within the Woofa Bank enclosure, the design on this one is faint — very faint indeed (much like the recently uncovered triple-ring petroglyph by the Thimble Stones).  Comprising simply of a small cluster of cup-marks, you’ll struggle to see this one — unlike its compatriot on the western wall of the enclosure.

Looking down on the rock
Some very faint cupmarks

It consists of a single cup-mark on the northern edge of the stone, whilst on the sloping southern part of the rock are a number of very faint cups, eroded by them there millenia of Nature’s wind and weathering.  One or two of the cups are just visible in good lighting, but what are almost certainly a few more can be seen when the rock is wet and in low daylight hours.  It’s a design that’s probably only of interest to the hardcore petroglyph fanatics, but without doubt this is yet another carving within this obviously important prehistoric enclosure.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  53.905410, -1.789560 East Wall Stone

Conichan East, Glen Almond, Perthshire

Settlement:  OS Grid Reference – NN 84645 32074  —  NEW FIND

Getting Here

The setting of the remains

The setting of the remains

Park up and walk the long estate track up Glen Almond for nearly three miles until, on your left, you’ll see a small pond.  From here, walk up the slope and, about 100 yards above you, note the large solitary boulder ahead, above the dyke of a small walled stream, where the land levels out.  Just past the rock itself is the first of several remains.

Archaeology & History

First things first: the grid-reference cited here is centred upon the largest of several rings of stone found on this small grassy plateau, 150 yards north above the River Almond, just past the huge boulder.  It’s an impressive site – and a previously unrecorded one.

The raised ring of Conichan

The raised ring of Conichan

Looking southeast

Looking southeast

At least three large hut circles can be clearly seen on this small ridge, amidst a sea of prehistoric sites scattered all down this lonely Scottish glen.  When Paul Hornby, Lara Domleo and I meandered up here the other day (to visit the Clach na Tiompan megaliths), extensive prehistoric walling called my nose up the slopes to see if anything was hiding away—and a large prehistoric ring, more reminiscent of the Derbyshire stone circles and ring cairns than any hut circle, appeared before me.

The first and largest that I came across is the one immediately north of the huge boulder (which may have slight traces of ancient walling running up to it).  The large ring is clearly raised onto a flat level platform, with an entrance on its southern edge.  The ring itself measures, from outer-wall to outer-wall some 12 yards wide (E-W) and 11 yards N-S.  The northernmost section of the walling or stone embanked structure is built into the sloping hill to the rear, with the east and western walls constructed simply onto the flat land.  The walling itself is typical of prehistoric structures, comprising the usual mass of small stones packed within a number of larger upright stones; although much of it is very overgrown with centuries of vegetation.  The walling that constitutes the ring itself is between 1-2 yards across and about two-feet high above the present ground-level.

Second circular remains

Second circular remains

...and from another angle

…and from another angle

To the east of this is a smaller, roughly circular construction of similar form.  The rocks that make up this site are much more visible and may have been robbed and used in the more extensive walling above and the dykes below.  It is unclear whether the nature of this site is the same as that of the more defined circular enclosure we have just described.

The remains of a third structure was clearly evident a short distance to the east of this, but I didn’t have much time here and another visit is needed to make further assessments.  Iron Age walling and other undocumented prehistoric remains were also found close by.

Acknowledgements:  Many thanks to the noses of little Lara Domleo and Prof. Paul Hornby for their bimbling aid to relocate this site – and one or two others that have been off the radar for many-a-century.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.466712, -3.873784 Conichan East

Toad Stones, Baildon Moor, West Yorkshire

Ring Cairn:  OS Grid Reference – SE 1305 4004

Getting Here

Much overgrown Toad Stones ring

Much overgrown Toad Stones ring

From the double-ring that is the Brackenhall Circle at Shipley Glen, go up the road towards the hills and seek out the cup-marked Glovershaw Quarry Stone.  Shortly before this, notice the small trees close the quarry edge.  From here, walk straight east, as if you’re going toward Baildon Hill.  Barely 10 yards into the bracken you’ll notice this small ring of stones (best looked for in winter before the bracken grows back – otherwise you’ve no chance!).

Archaeology & History

This site was explored when James Elkington, Paul Hornby and I came across it on Wednesday, 11 March 2015, after returning from a short excursion to look at some of the petroglyphs on Baildon Hill.

Ostensibly it is a small ring of stones comprising of at least 7 large rocks that are set deeply into the peat and bracken-mass, with a small eighth movable stone on the northern side.  It seemed likely that another, larger rock was beneath this small portable rock, but we didn’t dig into the vegetative mound to explore this.  The most curious thing about the ring of stones was that it measured barely 4 yards in diameter.  My initial thought was that this was a previously unrecorded cairn, but there seemed to be no internal mass of rocks in the centre that characterize such monuments and which you’d expect in a ring of this size – meaning that it may be, perhaps, the smallest stone circle in Britain.  It’s a pretty good contender at least! (the stone circle known as “Circle 275” at Penmaenmawr in Wales is of similar size to this one, but with less stones in that ring)

Close-up of the stones

Close-up of the stones

It would be good if the regional archaeologists could give this site their attention and clean it up to see exactly what lays beneath the boscage.  Close by are several cup-marked stones and a couple of other larger cairn circles.

The name of the site came after I almost stood on a hibernating toad, found beneath the bracken-mass right at the edge of one of the stones.  I carefully picked him up and reburied him in another spot close by, leaving him (perhaps) to ponder his venture into the bright daylight of consciousness!  Mr Hornby promptly declared – “these are the Toad Stones!” – and it stuck.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  53.856426, -1.803085 Toad Stones cairn

Foster Clough Delph, Midgley Moor, West Yorkshire

Enclosure:  OS Grid Reference – SE 0234 2708

Getting Here

Near the centre of this photo, the large 'ring' can be seen
Near the centre of this photo, the large ‘ring’ can be seen

From Midgley go west along Height Road and take the track up on your right, at the tree-lined bend, up Foster Clough and onto the moor as if you’re gonna go to Churn Milk Joan.  As you reach the footpath at the quarries up the hill, go to the top of them and take the small footpath where the land levels-out and head east towards the walling.  Just a hundred yards or so before the walling, keep your eyes peeled, cos you’re damn close!

Archaeology & History

Best seen when looking down from the slopes above, this is a fascinating site that is lucky to still be here!  For just a few yards to the west are extensive quarry works that could easily have destroyed the place had they continued.  But thankfully we have here a near-perfect circular enclosure: measuring roughly 27 yards in diameter east-west, and about 25 yards north-south, the circumference around the outer-edge is approximately 82 yards (75m).  It has all the appearance of an overgrown henge monument, with an outer bank and inner ditch, then a central flat arena—and it may indeed be such a monument—but until we have a decent excavation of the site, we’ll stick to calling it a simple enclosure—which it is!

Eastern arc of bank & ditch
Eastern arc of bank & ditch

The outer bank is very much overgrown, but as it runs round and defines this site, it measures 1-2 feet high most of the way, except on the westernmost spot, where it seems there may be an ‘entrance’.  The inner ditch is only a couple of feet deep, again all the way round the monument.  The internal level of the site is pretty flat, like most henges; but there seems to be a small central ‘cairn’ of some sort in the middle.  Again, this is very overgrown by our traditional moorland vegetation.

Aerial image, 2009
Aerial image, 2009
Aerial image, 2006
Aerial image, 2006

So what is it exactly?  An enclosure, a settlement, or even (as local research student John Billingsley once suggested) a henge?  Tis difficult to say for sure without further and more detailed archaeological excavation.  My estimate is that the site is either Bronze- or Iron-Age in nature, and is definitely an ‘enclosure’ of some sort.  We have located other prehistoric sites on the slopes just above here to the north, like the Crow Hill cairn circle and accompanying tumulus, remains of a neolithic settlement and a number of other small single cairns that are only visible when the heather has been burnt back.  If you intend to explore any of the ancient sites sites on this moor, check this one out!

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Foster Clough enclosure

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Foster Clough enclosure 53.740098, -1.966002 Foster Clough enclosure

Round Dikes, Addingham, West Yorkshire

Enclosure:  OS Grid Reference – SE 0552 5013

Also Known as:

  1. Round Dykes
  2. The Camp

Getting Here

Round Dikes on 1850 map

First highlighted on the 1850 Ordnance Survey map of western Addingham in the same year William Howson described it, this large oval embankment sits on the eastern side of Counter Hill, amidst its gigantic earthworks, with attending tumuli, cup-and-rings, buried standing stones and other enclosures, like one huge prehistoric family of ancient sites!  The earthworks here are in slightly better condition than the nearby ones at Marchup, as we can still make out the ditch marking the site.

There have been many literary visitors to the Round Dikes and its cluster of sites.  One of the early ones was by the renowned historians and antiquarians, Forrest & Grainge (1868) who, in the second part of their ‘rambles’ exploring the prehistoric sites on and around Rombald’s Moor in the 1860s, told us:

“The Camp—known locally as Round Dykes—is of an irregular oval shape, the longest axis measuring over all 300 feet, and the shorter 250 feet.  The trench outside the vallum is about 15 feet wide, and 4 or 5 feet in depth.  The area is level, showing no indications of buildings or works of any kind.  A feeble spring of water rises at one corner.  The trench is regular and even, and does not appear to have ever been used as a series of pit dwellings.  This work commands a large and splendid view of Wharfedale…”

Although suggested by Thomas Whitaker (1878) in his magnum opus on the history of Craven, to have been constructed by the Romans—who laid a road nearby on top of another earlier trackway—the site is obviously prehistoric.  But when the late great Harry Speight (1900) ventured over for a gander at the end of the 1890s, he too thought it might be Roman.  Finding the place to be “thickly overgrown with ling,” it was still in very good condition he said, telling “how its outline is almost as perfect as when made seventeen or eighteen centuries ago.” He continued:

“The form bespeaks a rather late date, having the characteristic angles, which makes the ordinary streight-sided rectangle into an octogan, giving it the appearance superficially of a round or oval.  Its dimensions are based on the most approved form of castramentation, the length being one-third greater than the breadth, namely sixty yards wide and eighty yards long.  A watch-mound has been thrown up within the southwest angle, and the whole camp defended with a double rampart having an intervening ditch.  There is an old and excellent spring of water on the east sie of the camp; the site having been well chosen, commanding as it does, a splendid view of the valley and Street as it runs towards Olicana.”

By the time Eric Cowling (1946) came and looked at these earthworks, the opinion had truly swayed to seeing Round Dikes as a prehistoric site and not Roman.  Cowling placed it firmly in the Iron Age!  His profile of the site told:

“On the Western slope of Counter Hill and with a wide view of Wharfedale to the east is a second enclosure with five sides.  Three of these form the three sides of a square and the remaining two bend outwards to enclose a spring on the lower eastern side.  This enclosure is one hundred feet across from east to west and in the opposite direction the greatest measurement is seventy-three feet.  The ditch is fifteen feet wide and varies in depth from three to five feet and there appears to have been an entrance in the eastern angle.  There is an unfinished look about the earthwork; the inner and outer banks vary in height and are not continuous.  The position is badly sited for defence, being overlooked from the higher ground to the west.  The site would be very suitable for excavation, for it has been untouched by cultivation and is undisturbed.”

E.T. Cowling’s plan

And as far as I’m aware, no such excavation has yet been done here; and as we all know the local archaeologist is pretty poor when it comes doing such things round here, so god only knows when the real explorers and scientists will ever get their teeth into the place!  However, the writers and archaeology consultants John and Phillip Dixon told that “a limited survey of parts of Round Dykes defined nine hut circles or parts of circles and possible hearth sites” in the 1980s.  And although they ascribe the large earthwork as being Iron Age, the tumulus which sits near the southern edge of the enclosure is ascribed as Bronze Age.

It’s likely that the internal tumulus (a separate profile of it is forthcoming) was of communal and religious importance at Round Dykes.  There was probably ritual function here within the enclosure, though only at certain times, when and where the ancestral spirits in the tomb awoke or were required to help the living.  The spring of water on the eastern side of the enclosure, above the tumulus, was obviously not just the main drinking supply for the people who stayed here, but would also have had ritual importance (water, forget not, is tantamount to blood in ancestral cosmologies, and not a ‘commodity’ as the half-witted retards in modern culture have profaned it in their shallow beliefs).  In the Lands of the Dead, water is vital for gods, spirits and the sustenance of the underworlds. (Eliade 1979)  You might not think that; judæochristians might not think that — but the worlds of experience are much wider and deeper than the failing beliefs of atheists and monotheists…

…to be continued…

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  2. Bennett, Paul, The Prehistoric Sites of Counter Hill, Addingham, forthcoming 2013.
  3. Cowling, Eric T., Rombald’s Way, William Walker: Otley 1946.
  4. Forrest, C. & Grainge, William, A Ramble on Rumbald’s Moor, among the Dwellings, Cairns and Circles of the Ancient Britons in the Spring of 1868: Part 2 – Counterhill and Castleberg, W.T. Lamb: Wakefield 1868.
  5. Dixon, John & Phillip, Journeys through Brigantia – volume 1: Walks in Craven, Airedale and Wharfedale, Aussteiger Publications: Barnoldswick 1990.
  6. Eliade, Mircea, A History of Religious Ideas – volume 1, Collins: London 1979.
  7. Howson, William, An Illustrated Guide to the Curiosities of Craven, Whittaker: Settle 1850.
  8. Speight, Harry, Upper Wharfedale, Elliott Stock: London 1900.
  9. Whitaker, Thomas Dunham, The History and Antiquities of the Deanery of Craven in the County of York, (3rd edition) Joseph Dodgson: Leeds 1878.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  53.947245, -1.917385 Round Dikes

Marchup, Addingham, West Yorkshire

Enclosure:  OS Grid Reference – SE 0478 4987

Getting Here

Aerial view of Marchup

Take the A6034 road between Addingham and Silsden and, at the very top of the hill between the two towns, at Cringles, take the small road of Cringles Lane north towards Draughton.  Less than a mile on, veer to left and go along Bank Lane until you reach the track and footpath on your right that takes you to Moorock Hall.  On the other side of the Hall, take the track on your left, along the wallside; and where the track turns left again, look into the field on the other side of the wall.  You can see some of the ditch and embankment running across the field.

Archaeology & History

Found within the southwestern segment of the gigantic Counter Hill enclosure, near Woofa Bank, Eric Cowling (1946) described “an almost obliterated fortification” which has certainly seen better days — though you can make out the ditched earthwork pretty easily at ground level.  When T.D. Whitaker visited this place sometime before 1812, he described it as a camp that “was found to contain numbers of rude (?!?) fireplaces constructed of stone and filled with ashes.”  He also thought the enclosure was Roman in nature.

Western line of embankment

It’s a large site.  Running around the outer edge of the embankment, this enclosure measures roughly 378 yards (345m) in circumference.  It has diameters measuring, roughly east-west, 132 yards (121m); and north-south is 95 yards (87m).  The ditch that defines the edges of the enclosure averages 6-7 yards across and is give or take a yard deep throughout — but this is not an accurate reflection of the real depth, as centuries of earth have collected and filled the ditch.  An excavation is necessary to reveal the true depth of this.  There also seems to have been additional features constructed inside the enclosure, but without an excavation we’ll never know what they are.  Examples of cup-marked stones can be found nearby.

The Marchup Hill enclosure was described by the early antiquarian James Wardell (1869), who visited this and the other earthworks around Counter Hill.  He told that this was,

“of oblong form, but broadest at the west end, and rather larger than the other.  When the area of this camp was broken up, there were found some numbers of rude fireplaces constructed of stone and filled with ashes, and also a large perforated bead of jet.”

E.T. Cowling’s plan

Modern opinion places the construction of this enclosure within the Iron Age to Romano-British period, between 1000 BC to 300 AD.  E.T. Cowling (1946) thought the Iron Age to be most likely, but it may indeed be earlier.  His description of the site was as follows:

“At the foot of the southern slope of Counter Hill and close to the head waters of Marchup Beck is an almost obliterated fortification.  These remains are roughly rectangular, but one side is bent to meet the other; the enclosure has rounded corners and has a ditch with the upcast at each side.  The inner area is naturally above the level of the surrounding ground.  In spite of heavy ploughing, the ditch on the western side still has a span of fifteen feet and a depth of five feet between the tops of the banks.  Whitaker states that the camp “was found to contain numbers of rude fireplaces constructed of stone and filled with ashes.” These hearths appear to be the remains of cooking-holes such as are often found on Iron Age sites… Cup and ring markings are close at hand, but no flints have been found or trace of Mid-Bronze Age habitation.  The enclosure is badly planned, the upcast on the western side would aid an attack rather than the defence.”

…to be continued…

References:

  1. Cowling, Eric T., Rombald’s Way, William Walker: Otley 1946.
  2. Wardell, James, Historical Notes of Ilkley, Rombald’s Moor, Baildon Common, and other Matters of the British and Roman Periods, Joseph Dodgson: Leeds 1869. (2nd edition 1881).
  3. Whitaker, Thomas Dunham, The History and Antiquities of the Deanery of Craven in the County of York, (3rd edition) Joseph Dodgson: Leeds 1878.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Marchup enclosure

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Marchup enclosure 53.944916, -1.928664 Marchup enclosure

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

Counter Hill, Addingham, West Yorkshire

Enclosure:  OS Grid Reference – SE 051 501

Getting Here

Counter Hill, looking north

You can come from various angles to approach this site, but I reckon the best is from along the old trackway of Parson’s Lane, between Addingham and Marchup.  From Silsden go up the long hill (A6034) towards Addingham until the hill levels out, then turn left on Cringles Lane (keep your eyes peeled!) for about 500 yards until you reach the Millenium Way or Parson’s Lane track, to your right.  As you walk along this usually boggy old track, the rounded green hill ahead, to the left, if where you’re heading.  Less than 100 yards past the little tumulus of High Marchup there’s a stile on your left that takes you into the field.  You’ll notice the depression that runs across near the top, at an angle.  That’s part of the earthworks!

Archaeology & History

The Counter Hill earthworks just over the far western edge of Rombald’s Moor – thought to be Iron Age – are truly gigantic.   More than ¾-mile across along its longest NW-SE axis, and a half-mile from north-south at its widest point, this huge ellipse-shaped earthwork surrounds the rounded peaked hill that gives the site its name: Counter Hill.  And although Harry Speight (1900) thought the hill got its name from the old Celtic conaltradh, or Irish conaltra, as in the ‘hill of debate or conversation’ — a possibility — the place-name master Mr Smith (1961) reckoned its name comes from little other than ‘cow turd hill’!  We may never know for sure…

Earthworks south of Counter Hill
Cowling’s 1946 plan

The Lancashire historian Thomas Dunham Whitaker (1878) appears to have been one of the first people to describe the Counter Hill remains, though due to the sheer size of the encampment he thought that it was Roman in nature.  Within the huge enclosure we also find two large inner enclosures, known as the Round Dikes and the Marchup earthworks.  Whitaker’s description of Counter Hill told:

“There are two encampments, on different sides of the hill, about half a mile from each other: one in the township of Addingham, the other in the parish of Kildwick; the first commanding a direct view of Wharfedale, the second an oblique one of Airedale; but though invisible to each other, both look down aslant upon Castleburg (Nesfield) and Ilkley.  Within the camp on Addingham Moor are a tumulus and a perennial spring; but by a position very unusual in such encampments, it is commanded on the west by a higher ground, rising immediately from the foss.  The inconvenience, however, is remedied by an expedient altogether new, so far as I have observed, in Roman castramentation, which is a line of circumvallation, enclosing both camps, and surround the whole hill: an area, probably, of 200 acres.  A garrison calculated for the defence of such an outline must have been nothing less than an army.  But it would be of great use in confining the horses and other cattle necessary for the soldiers’ use, which, in the unenclosed state of the country at the time, might otherwise have wandered many miles without interruption.  The outlines of these remains is very irregular; it is well known, however, that in their summer encampments the Romans were far from confining themselves to a quadrangular figure, and when we consider their situation near the Street, and the anxious attention with which they have been placed, so as to be in view of Ilkley or Castleburg, there can be little danger of a mistake in ascribing them to that people.”

Counter Hill earthworks, looking west

And though Whitaker’s sincerity and carefully worded logic for the period is quite erudite (much moreso than the greater majority of historians in modern times), his proclamation of the Counter Hill earthworks as Roman is very probably wrong (soz Tom).  The embankments are much more probably Iron Age in nature and are very probably the result of indigenous tribal-folk than that of the incoming Romans.  Most modern archaeologists and historians tend to see the entrenchments as being from such a period and I have to concur.

Folklore

The old antiquarian Edmund Bogg (1904) wrote that the Counter Hill earthworks were built as a result “of the struggle between the Anglians and the Celt,” long ago.  The great Yorkshire historian Harry Speight (1900) narrated similar lore just a few years earlier, but told that the tradition was  “of how the Romans drove the natives from this commanding site of Counter Hill.”

References:

  1. Bogg, Edmund, Higher Wharfeland: The Dale of Romance, James Miles: Leeds 1904.
  2. Cowling, Eric T., Rombald’s Way, William Walker: Otley 1946.
  3. Fletcher, J.S., A Pictureseque History of Yorkshire – Part IX, J.M. Dent: London 1901.
  4. Smith, A.H., The Place-Names of the West Riding of Yorkshire – volume 6, Cambridge University Press 1961.
  5. Speight, Harry, Upper Wharfedale, Elliott Stock: London 1900.
  6. Whitaker, T.D., The History and Antiquities of the Deanery of Craven, 3rd edition, Joseph Dodgson: Leeds 1878.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Counter Hill

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Counter Hill 53.946980, -1.923785 Counter Hill

Castlestead Ring, Cullingworth, West Yorkshire

Earthworks:  OS Grid References – SE 0514 3627

Also Known as:

  1. Blood Dykes

Getting Here

The complete Castlestead Ring on 1852 map
The complete Castlestead Ring on 1852 map

Dead easy this one!  On the Keighley-Halifax A629 road, about 500 yards south past Flappit Spring (public house), there’s a small road to your right.  Walk on here for 200 yards and look in the field to your right.  If the grass is long you might struggle to see it, but gerrin the field and it runs right up against the wall.  Y’ can’t miss it really!  You can park up a coupla hundred yards down the A629 main road, by the old quarry, and walk back to get here.

Archaeology & History

Although I’ve earlier described this as “nowt much to look at,” the more I come here, the more I like the place (sad aren’t !!?).  The hard-core  archaeology folks amidst you should like it aswell.  Not to be confused with the site of the same name a mile to the south of here, this large earthwork was shown on the 1852 OS-map as a complete ring, which is also confirmed in old folklore; and a survey done by Bradford University in the late 1970s indicated a complete circle was once in evidence.  To view this for yourself: if you type the OS grid-reference into Google maps, you’ll see from the aerial image that a complete ring was indeed here at sometime in the not-too-distant past.

Bend in the ditch on northern side of the ring
Harry Speight’s 1898 drawing

Today however – indeed, since William Keighley described it 1858 – there’s only a shallow, semi-circular ditch to be seen in the fields.  But despite this, its remains have brought it to the literary attention of about a dozen writers – though we still don’t know exactly what it was!  The best conjecture is by the archaeologist Bernard Barnes (1982), who thinks it best to describe as a enclosure or earthwork dating from the Bronze Age.  Eighty feet across and covering more than 1.5 acres, an excavation of the site in 1911 found nothing to explain its status.

One of the first descriptions of this site comes from the pen of the industrial Bradford historian, John James in 1876 (though Hearne, Leland and Richardson describe it in brief much earlier). Talking of the sparsity of prehistoric remains in the region (ancient history wasn’t his forte!), he said, “I know of no British remains in the parish that are not equivocal, unless a small earth-work lying to the westward of Cullingworth may be considered of that class.”

Indeed it is! He continued:

“It is situated on a gentle slope, about two hundred yards from a place called Flappit Springs, on the right-hand side of the road leading thence to Halifax. The form has been circular. (my italics) The greater part of it to the south has been destroyed by the plough. I took several measurements of that part which remains, but have mislaid the memoranda I then made; I however estimate the diameter to have been about 50 yards. The ditch to the westward is very perfect. It is about two yards deep and three wide; with the earth thrown up in the form of a rampart on the inner side. The remain is less perfect to the eastward.”

James then speculates on the nature of the site, thinking it to be “one of a line of forts erected by the Brigantes…to prevent the inroads of the Sistuntii.” Intriguing idea!

A few years later when William Cudworth (1876) visited the site, he described:

“At present there only remains about one-fourth part of a circle representing the appearance of a considerable earthwork or rampart. The remainder has been cut away by the construction of the road leading to the allotments.”

Echoing Mr James’ sentiments, Cudworth also suggested “it may have been an enclosure to guard their cattle, while in summer they grazed on the vast slope on which it stands.”  Y’ never know…

NW section showing bank and ditch
Exposed stonework of inner embankment

A visit to the place on October 21 2007, found not only a profusion of mushrooms scattering the field (varying species of Amanita, Lycoperdon, Panaeolina, Psilocybes, etc), and the remnants of two old stone buildings 20 yards of the NE side, but a distinctive ‘entrance’ on the northern side of the ring, which gave the slight impression of it being a possible henge monument. It’s certainly big enough! All traces of the southern-side of the ring however, have been ploughed out.

The views from here are quite excellent, nearly all the way round. You’re knocking-on a 1000 feet above sea level and the high hills of Baildon, Ilkley, Ogden Moor and the Oxenhope windmills are your mark-points. There’s one odd thing to think about aswell: if this is a prehistoric site, it’s pretty much an isolated one according to the archaeo-catalogue – and as we know only too well, that aint the rule of things. We’ve got adjacent moorlands south and west of here, very close by. Likelihood is, there’s undiscovered stuff to be foraged for hereabouts…

Folklore

An old folk-name given to this ring is the Blood Dykes, which is supposed to relate to the place being the site of a great battle.

References:

  1. Barnes, Bernard, Man and the Changing Landscape, Eaton: Merseyside 1982.
  2. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  3. Cudworth, William, Round about Bradford, Thomas Brear: Bradford 1876.
  4. Elgee, Frank & Harriett, The Archaeology of Yorkshire, Methuen: London 1933.
  5. Forshaw, C.F., ‘Castlestead, near Cullingworth,’ in Yorkshire Notes and Queries – volume 4, H.C. Derwent: Bradford 1908.
  6. James, John, The History and Topography of Bradford, Longmans: London 1876.
  7. Keighley, J.J., ‘The Prehistoric Period,’ in Faull & Moorhouse’s, West Yorkshire: An Archaeological Survey to AD 1500 – volume 1, WYMCC: Wakefield 1981.
  8. Keighley, William, Keighley, Past and Present, Arthur Hall: Keighley 1858.
  9. Speight, Harry, Chronicles and Stories of Bingley and District, Elliott Stock: London 1898.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Castlestead Ring

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Castlestead Ring 53.822678, -1.923402 Castlestead Ring

Holed Stone, West Overton, Wiltshire

Enclosure & Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SU 1285 7151

Aerial image of site
Aerial image of site

Getting Here

Follow the same directions to reach the Polisher Stone at the top-end of Overton Down as it meets Fyfield Down. From here, walk down the slope for 100 yards or so where you’ll notice, just above the long grassy level, a line of ancient walling running nearly east to west.  It’s very close to the yellow marker in the attached aerial image shot to the right. If you walk along this line of walling you’ll find it.

Archaeology & History

Overton’s Holed Stone

As I’ve only been here once, and briefly — under the guidance of the Avebury expert Pete Glastonbury — my bearings on this site may need revising.  There are two distinct sections of walling here: one has been excavated by Peter Fowler and his team; the other hasn’t. (correct me if I’m wrong Pete)  And in Fowler’s (2000) fine survey of this area he does not describe this very distinct holed-stone in the line of walling, or adjacent “linear ditch F4”, as it was called.  But then, many archaeologists don’t tend to find items such as these of any interest (unless their education stretches to other arenas, which isn’t usually the case). But the stone seems to be in a section of walling that isn’t in their survey; standing out in aerial imagery as a less well-defined, but still obvious line of walling that is closer to the fence, 70-80 yards north, with a decidedly Iron-Age look about it!

But, precision aside! — as you can see in the photos, the holed stone here isn’t very tall — less than 2 feet high; though we don’t know how deep the stone is set into the ground.  This spot is on my “must visit again” list for the next time we’re down here!

Folklore

Veritable vagabonds, Mikki, June, PeteG & Geoff, readying themselves for fertility rites!
Veritable vagabonds, Mikki, June, PeteG & Geoff, readying themselves for fertility rites!

There’s nowt specific to this stone, nor line of walling, nor settlement (as far as I know), but it seems right to mention the fact that in British and European folklore and peasant traditions, that holed stones just like the one found here have always been imbued with aspects of fertility — for obvious reasons. Others like this have also acquired portentous abilities; whilst others have become places where deeds and bonds were struck, with the stone playing ‘witness’ to promises made.

References:

  1. Fowler, Peter, Landscape Plotted and Pierced: Landscape History and Local Archaeology in Fyfield and Overton, Wiltshire, Society of Antiquaries: London 2000.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Holed Stone

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Holed Stone 51.442427, -1.816462 Holed Stone