A prehistoric carving that is missing and possibly destroyed since being rediscovered in 2001 by Barbara Brown (2008) and subsequently described in her book on North Yorkshire petroglyphs. She told it to be in “Thornton Steward field hedge bottom” and was a simple glyph, being a
“rectangular slab (with) single cup-mark located in hedge bottom part of old walling.”
When she revisited the site with her husband in 2006, the old hedge and wall had been removed, with “new hedging in place.” The carved stone may be buried within a pile of clearance stones adjacent to the hedgerow, but it has yet to be relocated. If anyone finds it, please let us know! It was one of several cup-marked stones that exist in the wider neighbourhood.
Brown, Paul & Barbara, Prehistoric Rock Art in the Northern Dales, Tempus: Stroud 2008.
A couple of miles west of the Hutton Moor henge we find the faint remans of another large prehistoric ritual site, soon to fade from existence. Although the local farmer was aware of the existence of this ‘earth circle’ in his fields in the 1940s, the place wasn’t officially catalogued until Prof. J.K. St. Joseph noticed it following an aerial survey of the region in 1951 (from whence the aerial photo comes). Today sadly, much of the site has succumbed to the ravages of excessive agricultural activity and is all but destroyed. Faint traces of it can be seen at ground level when the crops are down, but most of it’s gone. Even when first discovered, the remains were sparse, as the photo (below) shows.
Neolithic in origin, the site was excavated in 1961 by D.P. Dymond who explored a portion of the bank and ditch and stripped a small internal section. His findings showed it to be structurally similar to the other henges in the area and of considerable size. Measuring 690 feet across, the henge spread across two fields and was bisected by a hedge and farm track. When Dymond first explored the henge he reported how the surrounding bank was between 1-3 feet high and had been spread to a width of 120 feet; the ditch was just a couple of feet deep; and the original ‘entrances’ north and south of the ring were still just visible as “slight depressions in the bank.”
The Nunwick henge was classed as a Class II henge (after Atkinson). Five feet smaller than the Thornborough (south) Henge, its entrances are close to north-south. The River Ure is less than half-a-mile from the site and the presence of other streams close by further emphasizes water as a potentially relevant ingredient. This element seems to have had some factor in the structure of the henge as there were many water-worn stones found in the embankment, which probably came from the nearby river. However, like many henges, very few remains were discovered upon excavation here, as Mr Dymond’s (1963) account tells:
“The 1961 Excavation was restricted to a single long section through the northwest side of the circle, to examine the structural details of the bank and ditch, and to confirm the apparent absence of an outer ditch.
“A small area, 22ft square, was stripped inside the ditch to test for pits or postholes, but nothing was found in the sandy silt which covers the gravel deposits. Air-photographs gave no indication of a former presence of standing features within the enclosure.
“The ditch was found to be 45ft wide and 5ft 10in deep, with a wide, shallow profile. Allowing for the destruction by ploughing of the upper edges of the ditch, the orignal dimensions of the ditch were undoubtedly greater. The edges of the ditch were not easy to see in excavation, as the fill was similar to the natural gravel subsoil and some slumping had occurred on the loose gravel faces. The ditch had apparently silted slowly with material washed in from both sides. At an early stage in the silting, when the accumulation was about 1ft, there had been occupation in a limited area, revealed by a circular patch of burnt material, 10ft in diameter, which contained many split pot-boilers reddened by fire.
“Between the ditch and bank there was originally a berm of 30ft. On the surface, this is not visible as the bank shades imperceptibly into the ditch. The bank was originally about 60ft wide, but is now considerably spread on both sides. In the 1961 section the bank survived only 18in high; this was sufficient, however, to show clear traces of tip-lines and the interleaving of loads. The lowest two inches of bank material consist partly of turf… Under the bank, the original turf-line was visible as a purple-black line, 1-3in thick, with traces of a weakly developed iron-pan. In the original composition on the bank there were many water-worn stones (3-9in across), now in the outer spread and in the bottom of the ditch; on the northern side of the circle where the bank is best preserved there are large quantities of these stones on the plough soil. Quarried from the bottom of the ditch, where the aggregate of the gravels was much larger, these stones were probably on the top of the bank.
“Two square were dug outside the bank, on the line of the section to text for an outer ditch. This confirmed the evidence of air-photographs that no such ditch existed. Of the six henges in the Ripon area, Nunwick is therefore the only one without two ditches.
“No dating evidence was found in the 1961 excavation. Three worked flints however, were picked up from the plough soil of the southwestern field near the henge. They consist of two waste flakes and a small flake scraper of opaque brown flint.”
Archaeologists and ley hunters alike have described how the Nunwick Henge aligns with the three prominent Thornborough Henges to the north. Significant…?
Dymond, D.P., “The Henge Monument at Nunwick, near Ripon – 1961 Excavation,” in Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, part 161 (volume 41), 1963.
Wainwright, Geoffrey J., “A Review of Henge Monuments in the Light of Recent Research,” in Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society, volume 35, 1969.
From the small town of Bainbridge, head south down the Carpley Green Road. Less than a mile before the end, look to the west-facing slope of Addlebrough Hill and this huge Devil’s Stone can be seen resting halfway up the slope.
Archaeology & History
One of the legends of this place suggested there might be cup-and-ring markings on the stone, but the curious markings on top of the rock seem to be natural. It’s a superb stone though, dropped here no doubt by some great glacier as it retreated north, in ages truly olde…
There’s a lot of archaeology round here that aint in the books. We’ve come across some intriguing stuff of late, which you’ll read about soon enough.
One legend tells that long ago Addlebrough was the home of a great unnamed giant — but a friendly giant by all acounts. However, one day the devil turned up and wanted possession of the giant’s hill and so a fierce row broke out between them. Perched on the top of the crag — which is the rough ridge to the west of here — the giant who lived here hurled huge boulders down at the devil, but they fell short and landed at the side of Lake Semerwater (itself an important spot in local prehistory). In return, Old Nick himself began throwing boulders back — and one of those which the devil threw landed here, halfway up the western flank of Addlebrough Hill (a couple of the large granite boulders which the giant threw can be seen on the edge of Semerwater and are known as the Carlow and Mermaid stones). Hence it’s name of the Devil’s Stone!
In Edmund Bogg’s Richmondshire (1908), he told how, “the curious markings on (the Devil’s Stone) are accounted due to the pressure of the devil’s fingers” which were caused when he threw this giant stone from somewhere to here.
This is a theme we find at countless other stone sites, i.e. the Devil burning holes into rock — and in some cases these devil’s “fingerprints” have turned out to be prehistoric cup-markings. Such tales relate to the pre-christian Creation Myth of a place and would, before the “devil” was supplanted onto a site, have had wider significance in the landscape as a whole, in a manner known to the local people. Devils usually replaced legendary giants, or hero-figures, who created the land in primordial times according to the myths of our ancient ancestors. A greater examination of the nearby sites in association with the folklore of the region would no doubt be quite profitable…
Bogg, Edmund, Richmondshire, James Miles: Leeds 1908.