Until we’ve isolated this site, it’s difficult to suggest an age for it. It’s an all-but forgotten grave of some sort, last mentioned by John Clough (1886) in his rare work on Steeton township. Although the folklore indicates some medieval date here, the site may have been a prehistoric tomb, as it was located in the same valley a mile east of another little-known prehistoric burial at Crosshills. Mr Clough wrote the following of the site:
“Until AD 1790 the road to Kildwick would be down Pot Lane and past ‘The Lion’. Near a field, now called Nanny Grave Hill; there were four land ends; there are three lane ends yet; there was what i’s called Devil’s Lane, the lanes towards Eastburn and Steeton, and Wood Street… The junction of these four lane ends is the scene of one of Steeton’s tragedies. At this place is buried a suicide called Nanny, with “a stake in her inside.” Some people point out the mound under which she’s buried. When the suicide took place isn’t known, but it would certainly not occur later than the 17th century.”
But there are no records telling of the said ‘nanny’ and her death, nor archaeological accounts of any excavations hereby. The epithet nanny is sometimes used in northern counties to mean a witch, and although we have no remaining lore telling of such a character, the old name Devil’s Lane certainly infers some pre-christian or supernatural history hereby, common to many ancient burial mounds throughout Britain and across the world. Also a burial at an old crossroads is another heathen indicator; and the legend of the body having “a stake in her inside” is highly suggestive of further archaic death rituals, fixing the spirit of the dead at the site to prevent transmigration of any form, effectively ending the lineage of shaman or other heathen priestess. Any further information about this site would be most welcome.
…to be continued…
Clough, John, History of Steeton, S. Billows: Keighley 1886.
Go northwest along the country lane running between High Utley (on the outskirts of Keighley) and Steeton known as Hollins Lane, which then becomes Hollins Bank Lane. You’ll see the fine castle building as you go along, known simply as The Tower arising from the top of the tree-line. As you get to the driveway leading down to the Tower, a less impressive farm building is on the other side of the road, known as Hollins Bank Farm. On the right-hand side of this house is an old overgrown road. Walk along here to the end, going into the field immediately left where a small group of stones can be seen halfway up the field by the tree. You’re here!
Archaeology & History
First discovered one sunny afternoon on April 7, 2010, in the company of Buddhist scholar Steve Hart, this is a really curious carving, inasmuch as it seems to have been deliberately carved around what may be curious naturally eroded cup-forms. You’ll have to visit it to see what I mean. They’re a bit odd. Almost too perfect as cups to be the ancient eroded ones we’re used to looking at. But this aside….
It’s a lovely flat stone, with curvaceous lines running across the middle and edges and into cup-markings. Although some of the cups give an impression of being natural, others have the authentic-looking ring to them, with at least one of them possessing a near-complete ring encircling it (as you can faintly see in the close-up photo here). There are at least 19 cup-markings on this stone, and four main ‘lines’ running roughly in north-south directions, with the cups interspersed between them. At the top (north) end of the rock, separated by a crack, the lines stop and we just have some cup-markings. The crack in the stone may have been functional here.
Although graphically different, the carving has a similar feel in design (for me at least) to that of the Wondjina Stone at Rivock Edge, on the other side of the Aire Valley a couple of miles east of here — though this newly found carving is in a better state of preservation. The small scatter of rocks around it seem to have been unearthed or moved recently by the land-owner (who aint keen on you looking on his land, so be careful) and the good state of preservation may be that they were only unearthed sometime this century. We must also keep in consideration that the lines that run across the surface of this stone are water-lines and may be more the result of Nature’s hand than humans. It’s obvious that some human intervention has occurred here, but it may be difficult to ascertain the precise degree of affectation between the two agencies.
According to the archaeological record-books there are no carvings here, but another simple cup-marked stone accompanies this more extravagant serpentine design just a few yards away; a simple cup-marked stone may be seen at the top of the hill; and the faint Currer Woods carving can be found 0.68 miles (1.09km) due west of here, on the other side of the small valley. Other outcrop stones scatter the fields and slopes here, some of which still need checking to see whether or not further carvings exist.
…And for those who may bemoan my seemingly romantic title of the carving: remember! — close by in Steeton township, between the years 1562 and 1797, there was an old field-name known well to local folk, of “one parcel of arable land in town field called Drakesyke, 3 acres”, i.e., the dragon’s stream or dyke. (Gelling 1988; Smith 1956)
Clough, John, History of Steeton, S. Billows: Keighley 1886.
Gelling, Margaret, Signposts to the Past, Phillimore: Chichester 1988.
Smith, A.H., English Place-Names Elements – 2 volumes, Cambridge University Press 1956.
On the opposite side of the road (B6265) from Airedale General Hospital, Steeton, you’ll notice a footpath going up the field into some woods. Go up here. Once you come out the top of the woods, follow the dodgy path on your right (west) along the rocky edges for 250 yards, following the edges of the field walling. You’ll eventually reach the field with lots of rocks in it. It’s the field before this one, close to the walling. Look around!
Archaeology & History
I’ve been a little cautious about putting this carving on TNA simply because it seems to be an isolated example and was a little unsure about its veracity. If I’d have found the stone on the edges of Ilkley Moor, Rivock Edge, or the heights above Askwith, I wouldn’t have hesitated. The fact that no other carvings occur nearby has been my main trouble. But I suppose if the carving turns out to be nowt of the sort, I can discard it at a future date and, of course, make sure that a lot of other cup-and-ring stones are disregarded at the same time (there are a number of other designs much less defined than this one which have been okayed by archaeo’s who’ve been into this subject for much shorter periods of time than myself). But less of the waffle!
When we first found this, in April 2009, I was out looking for the remains of an old well (called Jane Well, a few hundred yards west of here). The heaven’s opened and I ended up in the woodland and then found the field full of large rocks, some seemingly used by man in more recent centuries, atop of the woods, and so had to check them out! But this was one of the first stones we found.
The rock itself, as the photo shows, appears to have had one end of it split or broken off (not unlike one edge of the Hanging Stones, Ilkley Moor) at some time in the past, intruding on the arc, or line, beneath which are two distinct ‘cups’. A possible third cup-marking and other linear aspects seem apparent, with the design giving the distinct impression of a face. I keep meaning to go back and get a rubbing of the carving, but aint got round to it yet. When (if!) I gerrit done, I’ll add it onto this profile.
And although there are said to be no other prehistoric remains close to this old carving, the fields a coupla hundred yards west used to be called the Barrow Fields, where tombs were once found; and a little further along the same geological ridge atop of the excellent Kirk rocks, possible cup-markings scatter the edges of two sections — but they’re a little dubious; then there’s the Dragon Stone and associated cup-marked stone not far away. In the adjacent woods are the remains of old walling, but I’ve not found other carvings hereabouts. However, the rule tends to be: “where there’s one, there are more!”
One of two ways to get here really. Easiest is from Sutton-in-Craven. Go thru the village and up the steep hill (don’t take the right turn as you start up the hill). Go all the way up until the hill starts to level out and on the left-side of the road you’ll notice a boundary stone stood upright (this is the Sutton Stoop). Stop here. Of the 2 gates, climb over the top-most one and walk down the path into the adjacent field, heading over to the gap a coupla hundred yards away where the gate to another field is. That’s it!
Archaeology & History
Now here’s a weird one. With a name like this you’d expect there to be plenty of info or historical comments. But despite all the books and journals in my huge library, aswell as visiting town libraries and exploring the resources on-line, there’s nowt written about this ‘ere spot. Not a jot! Even the usually satisfactory place-name fellas have a thing-or-two to say about sites with names such as this—but even their old tomes are closed-lipped. Hmmmmm…..
I visited the place several times to try ascertain what this site was, thinking — perhaps — that it was an old boundary stone whose name had been convoluted from some older, more obvious title.* The nearby Sutton Stoop boundary stone, right by the roadside, seemed a good indicator to such an assumption, as it was a recognised boundary marker with written history and a meeting point along the local perambulation. But the curiously-named Stinking Stone was neither on the same line, nor ever had been according to old records, and couldn’t be located either. There had been obvious quarrying and other industrial destruction along the hilltop where the old stone was marked and it seemed logical to assume that it had been destroyed in bygone years by that usual breed of capitalist industrial halfwits. Until a psilocybin venture one afternoon, last season…
Twas a lovely sunny day, though windy on the tops as usual. I was out with a couple of neophytes showing them Psilocybes and various other species, chewing them here and there and talking the way of healthy usage. We passed by an old well, long forgotten, before heading onto Stinking Stone Hill. Bimbling somewhat, and ruminating about the moss of colour, we decided to sit by the walling in-field and dream for a short while. As we hit the old gate the Stinking Stone came up right before us. Literally!
There in the old walling, blunt as you like, stood this four-and-a-half-foot tall standing stone, smoothed on one side by a short aeon of weathering, upright and proud as if it had been stood there for centuries, awaiting attention! I exclaimed a few triumphant expletives; rubbed myself here and there over the old thing, then sat for a while behind the wind with the old upright, solidly embedded in old earth — then awaited the dream…
Twas a good day…
And then I returned home and later sought what I could on a possible etymology. Around the hilltop a hundred yards away were small depressions and the faded remains of industrial workings, like I said; and with this in mind the awesome Mr Wright (1905) told us about the existence of ‘Stinking coals’, “an inferior kind of coal” no less. Referring us to a work from 1818, we’re told,
“The Stinking-coal is noted for containing a great proportion of sulphuret of iron, thick seams or layers of these pyrites running in it. In consequence of this it cannot be used for smelting purposes.”
Another account from 1868 telling us that:
“On opening the body, it contains a strong sulphureous smell, characteristic of the disease; hence it is called the stinking ill; and the stomach and bowels are prodigiously distended with air, having the same intolerable foetor.”
This old worn gatepost however, perhaps has a history that only goes back a few centuries. It has been cleaved in half, as you’ll see if you visit it; but its western face is old and worn and it’s been embedded in the ground for a long time. On its northern face are the curious etchings of carvings, which are more akin to wounds from some past offence (perhaps when it was split in half), cleaved by metal toolings and dragged by farmers to be fixed in into present spot. It’s history may not be truly ancient. Twouldst be good to know for sure though…
Wright, Joseph, The English Dialect Dictionary – volume 5, Henry Frowde: Oxford 1905.
* ‘Stinking’, stone-king or King Stone? Unlikely though…
This is a stupendous site! It looks like some of this may have been quarried, a long time ago, but it also seems that nothing at all has been written about it – even in the simple travelogues beloved by our Victorian historians. To come across it quite by accident, as I did (only yesterday), was excellent! When I first got here, by following the wooded ridge betwixt Hollins Lane and the main Keighley-to-Steeton road (A629), the place seemed brilliant; but as time went on and my amblings through the sometimes dense and also very old woodland were overcome by the dream of the place, I couldn’t believe how this place had become forgotten. Adrenalin rushed through me for a while, but then it was the dream of the place again. The memories here were ancient – and you could feel them. In places there was the solace of darkness, beloved of those who know old trees and dangerous places. For here, walk the wrong place too quickly and Death comes. Broken limbs await in the curious gorges which just appear in the woods, only a yard wide, but 50-60 foot deep, only to vanish again away from sight a few yards later. Caves and dark recesses, seemingly unknown, reach out to climb down. And all round is the aged covering of lichens and mosses that know centuries.
The Kirk itself – meaning simply, ‘place of worship’, in the old sense – is like something from Lord of the Rings! If you walk along its top, as I did, the great cliffs below come late to the senses. A curious ridge of cup-markings, seemingly natural ones, stretch along the very edges of the drop – which stretches on for some distance. And then as you walk along its edge, you find this great drop which looks north, is now on both sides of your feet! It’s quite breathtaking!
Trying to get down into the gorge below can be done, but it’s a bit dodgy! If you aint agile and crazy, stick to doing it by walking round – a long way round… Someone a few centuries back either cut into the rock, or laid steps, reaching into the mossy gorge, which runs to nowhere.
You can appreciate how this place would have been a sacred site: it’s big, it’s old, it takes your breath away, and it looks across to the great Rivock Edge where many fine cup-and-ring stones were cut. I’ll try and get some images of the place when I call here again in the very near future, but they’ll never capture the experience of being here.
The only thing I have come across which seemingly relates to this great edifice, tells of a great cave in the woodland, which legend tells stretches many miles to the north and emerges at Bolton Abbey. (Clough 1886) I wondered about the potential visibility factor in this legend and found it obviously didn’t work. However, if you stand on a certain part of The Kirk and look north, a dip in the horizon enables us to see, far away, hills which rise up directly above the swastika-clad Bolton Abbey. Twouldst be good to work out exactly which hill above the Abbey we can see from here.
On another issue, John Clough (1886) told that “on top of the rock there is a footprint and the initials of one of the Waites, who is said to have leaped over the chasm.”
Clough, John, History of Steeton, S. Billows: Keighley 1886.
Gray, Johnnie, Through Airedale from Goole to Malham, Walker & Laycock: Leeds 1891.
From Keighley town centre, head north towards Cliffe Castle, but turn left beforehand and along Hollins Lane. Go past Hollins Hall for a few hundred yards and then through the gate on your left, then straight up the steep hill to the small woodland at the top. On the OS-map it’s shown as ‘Great Snowden.’ You’re here!
Archaeology & History
A standing stone found recently by Lindsay Lockwood to the west of Keighley, albeit on supposedly private—ahem!—land (a number of old locals tell you, quite rightly, to ignore this selfishness; but be careful of the land-owners here, who can be quite miserable). Tis less than four-feet tall but with a very noticeable female genital carving on its top western face. This carving however, is perhaps 200 years old at the very most. It’s in a quite beautiful setting aswell…
What may be the remains of an old hut circle, or an old drained-out pond (a big difference, I know!), can be found about 100 yards northwest, and one – possibly two – ‘cairns’ can also be found in the scattered trees immediately to the northeast. An old ‘druid’s bowl’ (natural cup-marking into which rain-water collects) can also be seen on an adjacent earthfast boulder. Some folk might wanna allege a bullaun, but it’d be pushing it a bit I think. More recent walling and what appears to be stonework from more recent centuries (medieval) appears evident close by. Whilst below the hill we have the recently discovered Dragon Stone cup-and-ring carving just a few hundred yards away.
The setting is not unlike the beautiful little standing stone of Tirai on the slopes of Glen Lochay, where amidst the recently deserted village the short squat standing stone is found. You get the same sorta feeling of more recent going-on with this site aswell.
The carved ‘cunt’ gives an even more intriguing thought as to what the stone was used for, around Beltane perhaps, by folk like misself and other straightforward doods!
I wasn’t sure exactly what to call the stone after Lindsay had found it. However, due to the carved minge near the top, it seemed right to give the stone a name relative to the carving — and as we have a Devil’s Cunt in the Netherlands, I opted to call it something similar.* Although ‘cunt’ is an old European word for ladies’ lovely parts, the word ‘Yoni’ is an eastern title, which has become very acceptable in Western parlance. In recent years there has emerged a distinct aversion to using our own, old word for female genitals (indicating how detached people have become from even their own roots).
* of the name ‘cunt stone’: the word cunt itself, as explored eloquently in the fine study by Peter Fryer, Mrs Grundy: Studies in English Prudery (Corgi: London 1965), was the acceptable term for ladies’ genitals in the days when this carving was evidently done, so thought it a most applicable title.