A STONE CIRCLE, HOB’S HEAP & THE COAL MINES OF HARLAND MOOR PT. 3

Hob-Trush Hob, wheer is thoo?

I’s tryin’ on my left-foot shoe,

An’ I’ll be wi’ thee–noo!

After a little bit of  to-ing and fro-ing Chris and I arrived at Obtrusch Rook. The cairn is not not difficult to find, it’s marked clearly on the OS map, visible on the ground and set apart from the bell pits. It isn’t located on the highest part of the moor but you can see that the site was chosen to maximise the views across Farndale and Blakey Rigg to the north and east with the Vale of Pickering opening out to the south. The cooling towers and chimneys of the power stations at Drax and Ferrybridge are visible on the far horizon, a distance of about 60 miles.

obtrush-s

The ruined cairn with Blakey Rigg in the distance. A Sonotaphonomist provides scale.

Frank Elgee discussed the origins of the name Obtrusch Rook in his worderful book, Early Man in North East Yorkshire (1930)

Rook, from the old Norse hraukr, means a pile or heap of anything, more particularly of stones or turves, though occasionally, as in the present instance, it is bestowed on barrows. Obtrush or Hobtrush was the name of a local supernatural being, akin to an elf or hobgoblin, of whom many quaint stories are current, and who haunted ancient sites. Besides Hobtrush Rook, the goblin’s heap, we also have Hob-on-the -Hill, a barrow on Guisbrough Moor, Hob Hill, an Anglian burial ground near Saltburn; and Hob Hole near a prehistoric settlement in Baysdale.

rudland-map

The cairn is fairly ruined and shows very little of the features recorded during its 1836 excavation by the  pioneering Yorkshire Geologist, John Phillips. His account is given below.

obtrusch

Near the line of the road which has been mentioned, a conspicuous object for many miles round, was the large conical heap of stones called Obtrush Roque. In the dales of this part of Yorkshire we might expect to find, if anywhere, traces of the old superstitions of the Northmen, as well as their independence and hospitality, and we do find that Obtrush Roque was haunted by the goblin. But ‘Hob’ was also a familiar and troublesome visitor of one of the farmers, and caused him so much vexation and petty loss, that he resolved to quit his house in Farndale and seek some other home. Very early in the morning, as he was trudging on his way, with all his household goods and gods in a cart, he was accosted in good Yorkshire by a restless neighbour, with “I see you’re flitting.” The reply came from Hob out of the churn – “Ay, we’re flutting.” Upon which the farmer, concluding that change of air would not rid him of the daemon, turned his horse’s head homeward. This story is in substance the same as that narrated on the Scottish Border, and in Scandinavia; and may serve to show for how long a period and with what conformity, even to the play on the vowel, some traditions may be preserved in secluded districts.

This goblin-haunted mound was elevated several feet above the moorland, and was covered with heath. Under this was a great collection of sandstones loosely thrown together, which had been gathered from the neighbouring surface. On removing them, a circle of broader and larger stones appeared set on edge, in number 25, or, allowing for a vacant place, 26. Within this was another circle, composed of smaller stones set edgeways, in number 25 or 26 ; and the centre of the inner space was occupied by a rectangular kist, composed of four flagstones set edgeways. The sides of this cyst pointed east and west and north and south ; the greatest length being from east to west. On arriving at this fortunate result of our labour, our expectations were a little raised as to what might follow. But within the kist were no urns, no bones, no treasures of any kind, except a tail-feather from some farmyard chanticleer. The countrymen said this place of ancient burial had been opened many years ago, and that then gold was found in it. It seemed to us that it must have been recently visited by a fox.

Considering the position of the kist, set with careful attention to the cardinal points; the two circles of stone; the number of these stones, which if completed appeared to be 26; it seemed not unreasonable conjecture, that the construction contained traces of astronomical knowledge, of the solar year, and weekly periods. I dare not confidently affirm this. Was this a relique of an early British chief, or of a later Scandinavian warrior ? for such circles have been raised in Scandinavia and the Orkney Islands by the Northmen, and this is a district which the Northmen colonized. A similar circle of stones occurs at Cloughton near Scarborough.

The Rivers, Mountains & Sea Coast. London.1853

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