Rudstoop Monolith, Cragg Vale, West Yorkshire

Standing Stone/s:  OS Grid Reference – SD 99269 23652

Getting Here

1st edition OS-map showing the stone

From Mytholmroyd, go up the Cragg Vale Road, then 2 miles up take the road steep on your right down and round St. John’s Church, then keep going along the road up to Withens.  About a mile up, a road turns sharply right.  Go up here for a few hundred yards, past the trees, and 100 yards on the road splits in a ‘V’.  Stop here.  Go into the field on your left which slopes downhill and less than 100 yards down you’ll see the large long stone laid in the grass.  That’s it!

Archaeology & History

The fallen stone, with Teddy! (image courtesy ‘QDanT’)

Included in the Addenda of The Old Stones of Elmet (p.222), here is a recumbent monolith more than 8 feet long and 6 feet across which really needs to be resurrected as it would be an impressive sight! Found halfway up Withens Clough, a local land-owner told me it was one in a row of several such stones, though no trace of the others can be found. Found in the appropriately called Standing Stone Fields, it was last shown on the 1850 OS-map, as the attached illustration shows and is positioned just above the “S” of the smaller highlighted “standing stone”, just where the little blob is! The small valley to its immediate west is called Rudstoop, from which I give the stone its name.

A description of the site is given in F.A. Leyland’s scarce commentary on the History of Halifax (c.1867), where he wrote:

“Standing Stone Fields: Not far distant from Hill Top, in this township (Erringden), there is a rough piece of ground known by this name.  It is situated on the slope of the same hill as the remain last described and commands a view of the northern side of Sowerby, with the outlines and rocks of Langfield and the Withens. The locality was anciently the site of a number of upright single stones: most of these have been broken up and used in the construction of the adjoining fences. But one, the last of the series, which the quarrying operations on the spot respected during the whole time they were carried on, was undermined and overthrown a few years ago, by a number of mischievous boys. The rock is a slab of millstone grit, measuring upwards of 9 feet in length, 7 feet 8 inches in width, at the base, and 4 feet 9 inches at the top: at the latter point it is 9 inches thick, and is 1 foot 6 thick at the base. The remain has, originally, been pyramidal in form, but the apex has been either broken off by violence or reduced to its present dimensions by decay.”

An impression of the land here indicates the other, lost monoliths, were in a row which headed east from here, towards the cup-and ring-marked ‘Upper Lumb Stone’.  There is also the possibility that these monoliths were aligned with the enigmatic Two Lads cairns less than a mile SW of here.

Well worth checking out!

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milveton 2001.
  2. 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)

Links:

  1. More images of the fallen monolith

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  53.709291, -2.012552 Rudstoop monolith

Two Lads, Withens Moor, West Yorkshire

Cairns: OS Grid Reference – SD 98394 22116

Getting Here

Best way here is, from Mytholmroyd go up the Cragg Vale road for a coupla miles, then turn right and heading down, then up, towards Withens Clough reservoir.  Once there, walk onto the moor to your left (south) until you’re on the ridge above you.  Keep walking until y’ see the rocky cairn-like creatures stood in isolation on a flat moorland plain.

Archaeology & History

Two Lads – on a dark, rainy, windy day

Truly weird spot this one, but I love it! Seemingly miles from anywhere, it’s one helluva walk to most folk, but utterly worthwhile when your arrive.   On a clear day you can see for miles and the landscape is adorable!  On a cloudy rainy day, the feel of the place changes if you take care to stay with the site, saturated, meditating (as no other people ever turn up when She’s like that – so you and the place get the best from each other!).

The site comprises of two boulders, each crowned with a cairn of stones.  The westernmost one of the two (SD 98392 22111) is intriguing as it has, carved upon the rock beneath the stone cairn on the northwestern edge of the stone, what looks like a singular cup-marking, plus a large water-worn bowl on its northern edge, and a very distinct deeply-cut cross-base, several inches deep, near the northeastern corner of the rock.  This cross-base seems slightly more rectangular in form than square; although the large covering of stones makes an accurate ascription difficult.  If this cross-base and cup-markings are authentic, we would have here a clear example of the christianization of a previously heathen site.

A cursory examination of the easternmost of the Two Lads (SD 98397 22117) doesn’t indicate any artificial workings on the rock surface.

Two Lads on 1853 OS-map
Two Lads on 1853 OS-map

Although the two ‘cairns’ on top of these two rocks are not prehistoric in nature, about 20 yards behind the Two Lads (south) may once have been the severely denuded remains of a once large prehistoric cairn.  Although the position in the landscape is perfect for such a construction, this is somewhat tentative, it’s gotta be said!  Further examinations are obviously necessary here.

The studious A.H. Smith (1961-63) believes that a field-name record from 1624, describing some ‘Lad Stones’ in the parish of Heptonstall relates to this site.  We know with certainty however, that this site was first illustrated on Greenwood’s 1771 map of Yorkshire, then highlighted on more recent 19th century Ordnance Survey maps as ‘cairns.’

Folklore

Drawing of the Lads in 1877

The creation myth behind this place is that two lads were walking over the moor in midwinter and got caught in a blizzard. Losing all sense of visibility they tried to shelter from the wind and snow by hiding behind these rocks, but perished. Sometime later their bodies were found and the curious “cairn” of rocks were mounted onto the boulders to mark where they’d died.  This is a folktale we find at many other old stone remains on the hilltops of northern England and Scotland.

The Two Lads seems to be very close to a midwinter alignment (or izzit a lunar standstill line?), linking it with the huge Rudstoop Standing Stone and, eventually, Robin Hood’s Penny Stone on Midgley Moor – which might be the root of the folktale. (i.e. midwinter, snow, death)  Any archaeoastronomy buffs out there wanna check this one out?  Then we can confirm or dismiss it.

References:

  1. Anonymous, “The ‘Two Lads’, Withens Moor,” in Todmorden & Hebden Bridge Historical Almanack, T. Dawson: Todmorden 1877.
  2. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  3. Smith, A.H., The Place-Names of the West Riding of Yorkshire, Cambridge University Press 1961-63.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

 

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  53.695483, -2.025800 Two Lads