A Stone Circle, Hob’s Heap & the Coal Mines of Harland Moor Pt 1.

Yesterday I realised that I’d recently written a blog post about manhole covers..manhole covers! I’ve had a fairly odd few weeks which have left me unable to venture to far from home, I needed to clear my head and for me the best way do do that is a mooch across an empty moor. I sent my good friend and co-conspirator Chris Whitehead a message, an hour and a half later we met in the car park of the Lion Inn on Blakey Ridge, our destination Harland Moor.

It’s a lovely drive down to Harland Moor we stopped briefly on Blakey Rigg to admire the beautifully carved handstone.


After dodging suicidal pheasants we arrived at the circle which is marked on the OS map as a cairn. The circle was discovered by W R Crosland in 1930 and was described as an embanked circle 70ft in diameter with upright stones set at intervals.  

It had been at least a decade since I last visited the circle and remembered it as a rather ruinous place. I was surprised to find it quite recognisable, a slightly raised bank set with stones. The circle is bisected by a hollow way with dense heather and bracken in the northern and eastern quadrant, which made spotting the stones a little difficult.



Britain’s foremost expert on stone circles, Aubrey Burl, gives the circle a classification of 3 (Ruined but recognisable), I wouldn’t argue with that. A few metres to the west of the circle there are a number of stones that may be the remains of prehistoric walling but are so ruined that it is hard to tell. Interestingly, the three stones in the picture below are aligned 130 – 300 degrees which roughly aligns to the winter solstice sunrise and summer solstice sunset for 2000BCE.


The main viewshed from the circle is to the south and west across the green tabular hills dipping down to the fertile Vale of Pickering below. The views to the north and east are of the golden brown high moors intercut with fertile green dales.

We decided to leave the circle, fortified by ripe, fat, sweet, juicy bilberries we headed north across the moor.


A History of Helmsley & Rievaulx & District. J. McDonnell 1963

Prehistoric & Roman Archaeology of North East Yorkshire. D A Spratt 1993

The Stone Circles of Britain Ireland and Brittany (Revised Edition). A Burl 2000

Eston Nab – A Response to Craig Hornby

The background to this post is a proposal by Craig Hornby to build a new monument on Eston Nab. Craig had posted his plan on the Friends of the Eston Hills (FOEH) Facebook page and invited comments. I recently posted a link to a blog on the page which prompted Craig to directly address me on the FOEH facebook page. My response to him is rather long-winded so I thought a blog post would be an appropriate reply.

Craig’s proposal can be see here 

Hi Craig,

the linked blog isn’t mine, it belongs to Mick Garratt. I posted it as I thought it would be of interest to the group.

Regarding your comments

As the proposed developer I’m sure you have read the schedule for this area and understand the level of protection that has been placed on this National Monument, but for those who haven’t, here’s an excerpt

Eston Nab is the only surviving hillfort of any date in the county of Cleveland; it is very well preserved and, although it has been subject to partial excavation, the extent of disturbance is limited and its archaeological deposits remain largely intact. Evidence relating to its construction and to the complex history of the entire hilltop as well as the nature and duration of its use will be preserved within the archaeological deposits. Evidence relating to the Bronze Age environment around the monument and of the wider landscape will also survive. The importance of this monument is enhanced by the survival of contemporary settlements and funerary monuments in the vicinity; such evidence provides a clear indication of the extent of Bronze Age settlement and activity in the area and has the potential to increase greatly our knowledge of Bronze Age society. 


NAME: Eston Nab hill fort, palisaded settlement and beacon

SCHEDULING REVISED ON 16th February 1993

You are proposing the construction of a structure with a footprint , I’m guessing here because it is not fully detailed on your plans, of approximately 4 x 11m. The structure, railings and footpaths will all require foundations, that is an area of destruction covering approximately 44+ square meters on a regionally important, archaeologically sensitive, National Monument. That to me is a far worse case of vandalism than anything that currently happens on the moor. Litter & burned-out cars can be removed, the moor regenerates after a fire but the deliberate and irreversible destruction of our archaeological heritage is unforgivable.

Previous excavation has shown that the land below your proposed development was occupied by people in the Bronze Age, the first Teessiders. They lived, farmed and buried their dead on this land. These were our ancestors and the moor not only carries archaeological value, it carries spiritual value, your plan you will be deliberately desecrating this ground for what? Their monument is the moor.

You’ve stated that a ‘new dig’ will be undertaken, will this dig cover the whole site? who has agreed to undertake it?

Any excavation may well reveal new findings but the process of excavation involves the destruction of the materials you are excavating, what will be left for future generations? some old dig reports and a box of finds? Over Five thousand years of intact archaeological deposits will be lost for the sake of a monument that commemorates a period of a hundred years. You talk about legacy, if your development were to go ahead, I believe it will be viewed by future generations as an act of vanity at best, ignorant and wilful vandalism at worse.

So what else can be done?

  • Situate the monument in a more appropriate place, i.e. amongst the community whose dead it commemorates.
  • A monument already exists on the site, unlike the proposed monument, this one is built of local stone by local people and is already a well-loved Teesside landmark. The existing monument is not included in the schedule and could therefore be altered, plaques erected and the whole thing rededicated to the miners. A flagpole could also be included on the existing monument.
  • Use the monies raised to create an FOEH Endowment fund to train one or two full time local wardens. As well as keeping an eye on the moor they could work with local groups and landowners on the history, ecology and archaeology of the moor much in the same way National Park wardens do.
  • Create a volunteer group to support the wardens and engage with other local groups, schools, young offenders etc.
  • Plant trees in a commemorative woodland on a less-sensitive section of the moor. One tree for each miner, each one sponsored.
  • Your film, A Century of Stone, successfully told the story of the mines and is a fitting legacy to the community of mining families who lived in Eston, it has massively raised awareness of our local mining legacy. What about the FOEH fundraising to commission a similar film to tell the full story of the hills? This will reach far more people than some words and pictures on a foreign, black granite monolith ever could. Any profits from the film can be ploughed back into FOEH.

Ultimately Craig, this is all talk, the decision whether this development should go ahead does not lie with you, me or FOEH, it lies with the people who are charged with protecting our finite, irreplaceable, fragile national monuments.



The Gatherley Moor Magic Tables

About the year 1789, two curious specimens of supposed Magic Tables, on lead, were found by Wm. Hawksworth Esq. enclosed in a tumulus near the Roman road Watling Street, which crosses Gatherley Moor in Middleton Tyas parish north of Richmond.

The Tablets read – I do make this that James Phillip, John Phillip his son, Christopher Phillip and Thomas Phillip his sons, shall fle Richemondshire , and nothing prosper with any of them in Richemondshire – I did make this that the father, James Phillip, John Phillip and all the kin of Phillip, and all the issue of them, shall come presently to utter beggery, and nothing joy or prosper for them in Richemondshire.

Examples of printed folklore concerning the North Riding of Yorkshire, York and the Ainsty.

Mrs E Gutch 1901

Robinson in Saltburn

One of the many ways I used to embarrass my children when they were young was to stop and look at manhole and drain covers. Well not just manhole covers, I’ve always been fascinated with any sort of street furniture but cast iron covers are my favourite. I bought an album once solely because the band were named after a drain cover, Stanton Warriors. The Stanton Company make drain covers, older models had wonderful names, Chieftain, Trojan, Challenger, Centurion and of course the Stanton Warrior.

My favourite covers are those made in local foundries. They are small items of unrecorded history, the foundries that manufactured them are rarely still in business. I came across this one the other day, surprisingly the foundry that cast it still exists.


I’m not sure when the foundry started but it appears on the 1913 OS six inch map as the Zetland Foundry. The wonderful East Cleveland Image Archive states that the foundry was originally owned by the Robinson Brothers, it was then taken over by Tinsley and sons and is currently owned by Brough and Horner.


I visited the foundry once to collect a steel beam when I was working as a builders labourer. The job was to convert a house into a bookmakers shop and flat on Skelton High Street. Mr Brough, the foundry owner was also a local Bookie with a number of shops in East Cleveland. I was a terrible labourer and was sacked after a couple of weeks, no great loss to the building trade.

Shap Granite – Saltburn


The Middlesbrough & Redcar Railway Company was incorporated in July 1845 to construct a line from Middlesbrough to Saltburn.  The line was leased by the Stockton and Darlington Railway which in turn was absorbed into the North Eastern Railway in 1863. The North Eastern Railway Company also had a line from Darlington to Tebay in Westmoreland.


From – The Journey in Brief, London to Carlisle. Published by the London Midland & Scottish Railway.



Boulder Clay

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The lower and upper boulder clays of Teesside were regarded by Smith (1981) as products of Late Devensian ice sheets. The first deposited lodgement till and outwash as it retreated and these deposits subsequently were overridden by the second ice sheet, which left behind its own lodgement till and outwash. The lower boulder clay is brown in colour and contains clasts from the western southern uplands and the Lake District as well as southern Scandinavia.

The geotechnical properties of some till deposits occuring along the coastal areas of eastern England. F.G. Bell. Engineering Geology 63 (2002)