Legendary Rocks (destroyed): OS Grid Reference – SE 0886 4479
Archaeology & History
Kirk Stones on 1851 map
A place-name that is still recognised on modern Ordnance Survey maps, even though the original site giving rise to it was all but destroyed some one hundred-and-fifty years ago. Derived from the old word kirk, meaning a church or sacred site, no christian remains of any kind have ever existed here and so we must presume an earlier, more heathen site of sanctity (an abundance of prehistoric petroglyphs exist very close by). The singular reference detailing the nature of these Kirk Stones is in J.A. Busfield’s (1875) rare tract on the history of Upwood, in the parish of Bingley. Upwood Hall was built by the Busfield family and, as the author tells,
“one of the most striking features in the vicinity at this age [c.1800, PB] was the fine range of magnificent rocks called Kirkstones, which had existed for countless ages. These grand rocks, towering one above another, extended along the whole southern boundary of the [Whetstone] Allotment on the left of the road to Ilkley, and were really a fine object, but alas!, through the ignorance or stupidity of the agent Colonel Bence, the “Crags of Kirkstone” were broken up and disposed of in the construction of the Bradford Water Works about the year 1854.”
Sadly we have neither illustrations nor other references to these fine sounding sentinels.
Undoubtedly the Kirkstones were a natural feature, despite their venerated title. It would have been their very appearance that gave rise to their revered title, as in the great and contorted rock masses seen at Brimham Rocks which, from Bensons’s description, these Kirk Stones seem reminiscent. The only piece of extant lore to these stones is that the uprights that went into making the recently destroyed Bradup stone circle a short distance south of here, came from this sacred outcrop. It seems reasonable to assume that they played an important role in the magickal history of these hills when they were scattered with forest.
The Kirk Stones aligned along the equinox axis to the Black Knoll standing stone less than a mile [1.4km] due east.
Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
Busfield, Johnson Atkinson, Fragments Relating to a History of Bingley Parish, Bradford 1875.
Smith, A.H., English Place-Name Elements – Part 2, Cambridge University Press 1956.
Not far from the little-known site of Beacon Hill, this once important megalithic ring was described by Arthur Raistrick in 1929 as “the finest stone circle” in West Yorkshire. Sadly however, the complete destruction of the place in recent years has now left us with nothing to go by (you would think such actions were illegal, but we’ll come to that shortly).
The site measured thirty feet across and, until only a few years back, had a distinct embankment surrounding it. In 1885 Robert Collyer described 18 stones here; but in Raistrick’s (1929) survey only 12 were visible. He told:
“The circle is situated on the west side of the Keighley to Ilkley road, in the rough pasture called ‘Brass Castle’…immediately south and west of Bradup Bridge. The circle is approximately 30 feet diameter, but has been very damaged at some period since 1885. At that date 18 stones were standing, but now only 12 remain, though there are large unfilled holes on the sites from which the other stones have been removed. There are slight traces of a bank, but the most notable feature is the large size of the stones (millstone grit from the neighbouring escarpment) of which the circle has been made. There are some traces of a double circle, but it is not possible to be sure of this now. It seems certain that the stones were removed from this circle to repair the neighbouring Bradup Bridge, an act of vandalism always to be deplored… There is no appearance of this circle having been used for interment, nor any record extant of exploration.”
When Eric Cowling (1946) visited the site in the 1930s, his notes indicate that it was much as Raistrick had described a few years prior, telling:
“This circle is situated at the west side of the Keighley-Ilkley road near Bradup Bridge on the Airedale side of Rombalds Moor, near the crest. Only twelve stones remain standing; these are large and apparently obtained from the nearby escarpment (Kirkstones, PB); holes mark the site of stones removed. The ring is thirty feet in diameter with some traces of a circular bank; the position of some stones suggests that the circle may have been continuous. I have heard this place referred to as ‘Kirkstones’ and ‘Brass Castle’, both suggestive names.”
A newspaper account of the site in 1960 reported that 12 stones were still in situ and that “there are large holes from which the other stones have been removed.” This fact was echoed by a local walker, Ken Pickles, who knew the site well and said:
“I first walked this moor in 1945,” he says. “In the late 1960s there were definitely 12 there. It was a perfect stone circle. It offends me that children should be denied things like this.”
As if to affirm the status and number of stones again, when archaeologist Ian Longworth (1965) wrote about it he told that,
“Twelve stones remain in this badly damaged circle, which measures about 30 feet across. The stones are of local millstone grit. Several seem to have been removed from the site to repair Bradup Bridge.”
By 1995 only one stone was in situ, but a very distinct, albeit low circular embankment was still in evidence. I sat here quite a few times when I was young, munching mi sarnies, having a rest, alone and with friends (once in the company of holy wells author Edna Whelan and fellow rock art researcher and author Graeme Chappell) before journeying back home. It looked that at least one other stone was buried just beneath the grassy surface on the northeastern side of the banking.
Bradup is included in the respective archaeological magnum opuses of both Burl (2000) and Barnatt (1989); where the latter visited the site in the 1980s and thought it may have been “the last vestiges of a cairn.”
Arthur Raistrick’s (1929) plan shows that at least two stones stood near the centre of the circle, which may have related to a solstice sunrise alignment with the old standing stone at nearby Black Knoll hill on Morton Moor (replaced at an unknown date in the past by a stone cross). And when Mr Raistrick told this to be the best stone circle in the region, he knew what he talking about! He had surveyed many other prehistoric remains and was the leading archaeological authority in the region at the time. Today, we have no such professional authority in the region who is worthy of such an accolade. The sorry series of events that led to the destruction of Bradup’s stone circle took a little time to emerge, but after a series of emails to various departments several years ago, the culpability seemed to spread across several people, each of whom made simple mistakes; but these were mistakes that have led directly to Bradup’s demise. I hope some of you will forgive me telling its story…
I first received an email from a colleague in 2002 asking whether or not I was aware of what seemed to be the final destruction of the Bradup stone circle, as the land-owner from Upwood Farm had been over the field and uprooted some buried stones — plus the last visible upright in the ring — and moved them into a pile at the top southern-end of the field in which the circle previously stood. So a small bunch of us went over to have a look and, much to our horror, found the report to be true. The field itself had been completely levelled and the circular embankment flattened, with the upright stone and any buried ones dragged and dropped into the pile of stones that obviously constituted the megalithic structure we’d sat within and visited so many times down the years. Someone — the land-owner it seemed — quite recently in early 2002, had destroyed the Bradup stone circle.
How the hell had this happened…!?
In 2006, Pippa Pemberton was the person working for English Heritage who had the stately title of ‘Field Monument Warden for West Yorkshire’ and elsewhere — and it was Pippa who told the sorry tale, albeit through the well-disguised erudition of avoiding blame to any of them! Amongst several allegedly ‘professional’ archaeologists who I emailed, it was the one to Neil Redfern that was responded to. As you’ll read below, my email asks how this stone circle had been destroyed, with the lengthy ‘explanation’ giving the official reasoning:
Bradup Stone Circle Destroyed
From: Paul Bennett Sent: 10 March 2006 14:05 To: REDFERN, Neil Subject: Stone circle destroyed nr Ilkley
I sent you an email quite a long time ago (below) concerning the complete destruction of Bradup stone circle on Ilkley Moor, for which I have heard nothing since. I wonder, out of respect, if you could either let me know the circumstances surrounding my query, or perhaps pass me on to the relevant person:
“Out of interest (and on the same moorland region) I wonder if you could let me know who it was from English Heritage who de-scheduled a site once known as the Bradup stone circle (also known as Kirk Stones) after a visit to the place a few years ago? (SE 0897 4393) The incorrect site/location was examined and the real stone circle, close by, was subsequently destroyed by the adjacent land-owner. Evidence of the destruction is still there at the top of the field in the form of a few oddly-piled small boulders.
“I think it important that whoever de-scheduled this site should be taken to task for their error. (I don’t mean sack the poor soul, although it’s evident that some re-training is probably in order.) or perhaps the land-owner taken to task for the destruction of the site.
“I would be interested to hear what you, or one of your fellow workers, think about what’s happened here.
Best wishes – Paul Bennett”
Sometime later, I received the following response:
Your email was passed on to me by Neil Redfern, as I am currently the person dealing with scheduled monuments in West Yorkshire. Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding to you – we have been working with Heritage Action on this issue, and it was accidentally assumed that you were associated with that organisation too.
In response to your query I have copied an extract from a recent letter I sent to Heritage Action about Bradup, outlining the history of the case and the justification for its descheduling. I hope that this text answers your concerns. For your information, should you require any further assistance with this case, I recommend that you return to me quickly as I am due to start maternity leave at Easter and we do not yet know who will be dealing with this casework in my absence.
With best wishes
English Heritage Yorkshire Region, Field Monument Warden – West Yorkshire & Districts of Scarborough & Ryedale.
Scheduling and location of the Bradup site
Scheduled Monuments are currently provided statutory protection under the 1979 Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act, which replaced earlier legislation and is itself currently under review by the government (DCMS) in their Heritage Protection Review. Scheduled Monuments are a land-based designation, which means that they are fixed in space, with defined boundaries within which specific protection applies. The legally protected location of a Scheduled Monument is recorded on maps and described in associated documentation. Together these documents provide the legal record of the site and are the basis on which protection is applied.
Our records show that a site at Bradup was scheduled as a stone circle in 1933 at grid reference SE 0895 4391, based on information provided by a partial survey of the site made by Dr A Raistrick in 1920 and on reports recorded in 1885. This site was known by the name of Bradup Stone Circle. The location of this site is shown on the map attached to this email.
Subsequently the Ordnance Survey visited the site in 1961, when R Emsley undertook a measured survey of the locations of the stones and hollows included within the scheduled site. However he noted that the stones appeared, by that stage, to be haphazard in their distribution and he appears to have been unconvinced by the description of the site as a stone circle. On the basis of this visit by Emsley, the Bradup stone circle was marked on the 6” Ordnance Survey map, with the location given by Emsley as SE 0895 4392. In addition, Emsley noted that the unscheduled site known as ‘Kirkstones’ was located nearby at SE 0907 4479, but did not describe this site. We have no information on file about this site.
Visits were then made to the scheduled Bradup site by two Royal Commission / English Heritage Field Monument Wardens in 1981 and 1985, with the purpose of monitoring the management of the site. Both of these officers found the site difficult to distinguish, noting stones in a rough pasture field.
Subsequently, it appears that several other locations have been claimed for the Bradup Stone Circle across several fields in the locality, including SE 0897 4393 (Paul Bennett). This latter would place the circle within the adjacent improved pasture field and outside the previously scheduled area.
Descheduling the site
During 1994, a visit made to the site at SE 0895 4391 under the English Heritage Monuments Protection Programme (MPP) noted that the site described by Raistrick does not correspond with the remains then visible. According to this MPP officer, the spatial relationships between the stones and stone holes differed from those Raistrick recorded whilst he also appeared to have omitted others. In their opinion, the scheduled site was not a stone circle, but “a haphazard group of rocks … situated on a hillside which has been quarried and has naturally occurring gritstone boulders. The site itself consists of a random collection of boulders and small holes left by stone quarrying on a slight rise and has a roughly rectangular hollow in the centre which may be an excavation.” “The site is lacking in any of the other features normally associated with stone circles … Whether the extra stones represented by the stone holes are taken into account or not there are no grounds for considering this site to be a stone circle or any other type of prehistoric monument. It is therefore recommended for descheduling”.
Subsequently the recommendation for descheduling would have passed by the officer to the Monuments Protection team, who would have passed it to the relevant Inspector of Ancient Monuments for their consideration and approval. It would then have been passed to a committee of archaeological advisors for their consideration and approval before finally being submitted to the Department of Environment (now DCMS) for their approval and action.
Review visit to the descheduled Bradup site
In response to Heritage Action’s concerns, a site visit was undertaken to the descheduled site by several members of English Heritage’s Heritage Protection team in November 2005. At SE 0895 4391 they observed a number of exposed stones in a rough pasture field, some earthfast, and also hollows that may represent removed stones. The team could not relate the remains at this location to either Raistrick’s description or the Ordnance Survey drawing and concluded that the remains at this location had been mis-attributed (comprising natural boulders and quarrying) and that descheduling was the appropriate action. If a stone circle had been located in the nearby improved pasture field, which was never protected by scheduling, then any remains have been removed. “Either way [they conclude], de-scheduling was the correct action, and unless evidence is produced that demonstrates surviving prehistoric remains no further action should be undertaken”.
In conclusion then, the site afforded legal protection between 1933 and 1995 as a Scheduled Monument was located in the rough pasture field at SE 0895 4391. Since the 1970s several successive archaeologists have been unable to locate the remains of a stone circle in this location, leading to an interpretation of mis-attribution and the descheduling of this site; an interpretation that has recently been upheld by the Heritage Protection team. There has been no landscape change in this area subsequent to descheduling, with the land-use remaining as rough pasture and the previously protected stones and hollows remaining in place.
Other accounts place a potential stone circle in a nearby field. This potential site was never subject to any legal protection as a designated Scheduled Monument, and any potential surface remains have been removed by the farmer, within his legal rights, during its conversion to improved pasture.”
In this reply, notice the remark describing the position of the circle: “Our records show that a site at Bradup was scheduled as a stone circle in 1933 at grid reference SE 0895 4391, based on information provided by a partial survey of the site made by Dr A Raistrick in 1920 and on reports recorded in 1885.” This is either deliberate misinformation, or bad record-keeping, as neither Robert Collyer’s 1885 reference, nor Arthur Raistrick’s 1929 account cites such a grid-reference. It is possible that when the Ordnance Survey lad, R. Emsley, visited here in 1961, that he looked at the wrong dubious ‘ring’ of low stones over the fence into the heather. Somehow he, or his subsequent record-keepers, mistook what Raistrick said were the “most notable feature (are) the large size of the stones”, for the small earthfast rocks over the fence. This is pretty shit when you consider that the 1970s 1:10,000 OS-map of this area clearly shows the circle to be in the field, indicating that the Ordnance Survey fella had been, seen and recorded it correctly.
One final element on this “grid-reference” error: I have in front of me the List of Scheduled Monuments in the Bradford District (“The Schedule is currently not available on” their website cos the people who get paid to do such a thing can’t be arsed), dated from the 1990s. The “Bradup stone circle near Bradup Bridge, Morton” is cited as being at “SE 0900 4400” and not the OS grid reference described in the explanation about the site’s destruction. Funny that innit…?
There’s much more that I could say in response to this excuse for de-scheduling and allowing the destruction of Bradup stone circle, but I’m hoping that people can see for themselves that ‘excuses’ are the order of the day in this report. Simply put: the Bradup stone circle was destroyed due to the ineptitude of ‘authorities’ mistaking several natural earthfast rocks at the grid-reference they give (if indeed even that’s the right one for it!) for the real prehistoric circle in the adjacent field. In short, they fucked up – and the email above is their attempt at an excuse to cover up their mistakes. We all know how they cover each others backs when they screw up. If you or I did this, we’d be in court.
Also known as the Brass Castle and the Kirkstones (indicating it as a place of worship), Cowling (1946) told how “local lore suggests that the place is haunted.” The name Kirkstones derives from the rock outcrop 800 yards north of here, where the stones which made this site may have come from. A dowsing survey found there to be water beneath the circle, but this wasn’t mapped.