Into Eden – Dacre

Skirsgill

Heading west from Great Salkeld towartds Dacre, I called in on an old friend, the Skirsgill standing stone. Tucked away on an industrial estate, the huge stone is almost lost in foliage, not a bad thing perhaps. I took this picture of the stone in 2004

Plaque

St Andrew’s Church, Dacre. A Norman church built on a pre-conquest Christian site.

Dacre

A beautiful 9th century cross shaft.

Cross Shaft

Description

The slab-like shaft is complete, as is clear from the presence of both upper and lower border mouldings to the panels on sides D and E. The edge of the head on face A and all faces of the shaft were bordered laterally by a roll moulding.

A (broad): At the top and bottom of the shaft is a border formed by a single incised line; two wavering parallel lines divide the two panels on the shaft. On the head are remains of interlace of unidentifiable type. At the top of the shaft is a backward-turning contoured quadruped with a small scooped ear; the ground around the animal has not been cut back. Below are two human figures, the larger to the right, whose hands are joined over a rectangular object with two pellet-like legs. Between their heads is a cluster of three pellets. The ground to the right of the figures has not been cleared completely but sprouts curling or circular branches.

Below the left-hand figure is an uncarved area shaped like a boat, which partially separates this scene from the one below which contains a horned quadruped on whose back is a crouching wolf/dog with curling tail. The ground in front of the horned animal and between its legs has not been cut back.

Below the incised border the lower panel contains a Fall scene. The female figure to the left is clothed in a short kirtle and reaches to pluck a fruit pellet from the tree. The right-hand figure, who is not clearly clothed, grasps a branch. A snake coils to the left of the tree. The ground around this scene has not been completely cleared.

Source – The Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture 

 

The Dacre Bears

The bears are a genuine mystery, no one really knows their origin or meaning. This is from the St Andrew’s church website

The Dacre Bears are a special feature at St. Andrew’s. There are four stone statues located within the churchyard. A recently expressed archaeological opinion is that they are pre-Saxon and may originally have marked the boundaries of some pagan sacred site, however, the origin of the Bears is unknown and has been a puzzle for centuries.

 

The Old Stones

Old Stones

I recently bought a copy of a new book called The Old Stones. The Book describes itself as ‘A Field Guide to the Megalithic sites of Britain and Ireland’ and ‘the most comprehensive and democratically selected list of prehistoric sites that has ever been put in a book like this.’ The book is a collaborative work and utilises the knowledge and experience of the users of the Megalithic Portal website.

I have been visiting prehistoric sites around Britain and Europe for over 30 years but I don’t consider myself experienced enough to give a qualified opinion on the national coverage of the book so I’ll focus on the treatment of North Yorkshire and Cumbria.

The gazetteer covers the major monuments of the Yorkshire Wolds, the Ure-Swale Plateau and a couple of Pennine sites. Sadly only two North York Moors sites have made it into the book, Nab Ridge and The High and Low Bridestones. Both of these are lovely sites although it could be argued that the Low Bridestones are merely a group of fairly underwhelming low walls. There is no mention of  any of the impressive moorland standing stones or burial monuments. Even the nationally important prehistoric rock art site of Fylingdales Moor with its 200+ carved rocks and monuments, fails to get a mention.

The book then travels westwards to Cumbria and manages to capture many significant Cumbrian sites. Surprisingly the Greycroft and Elva Plain circles fail to get a mention. After Cumbria the book back-tracks east to Barningham Moor, then jumps 60 miles north to Northumberland.

The book promotes itself as a field guide, this is only part true, in eastern Cumbria it would be a handy book to keep in your car but in the case of the North York Moors and the Northern Pennines it would be of little use. It is also quite a heavy book to be toting around in your rucksack. My final gripe, the regional guides section at the end of the book fails to list any guides covering Northern England, Wales, most of Scotland and all of the island of Ireland. That said, it does list many useful many online resources.

Putting together a book of this size and scope was always going to be a massive task. There are over 1000 sites listed in the book and it is admirable that such an endeavour has even been attempted. Despite my criticisms, I am enjoying reading the book and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the Prehistoric sites of our islands. It is well laid out, easy to read and has full colour photographs and maps. There a forward by Mike Parker Pearson, an lovely piece discussing Prehistoric Landscapes by Vicci Cummins. There are a number of excellent articles scattered throughout the book on topics ranging from the Top 10 Urban Prehistory Sites to Archaeoacoustics.

This book serves to remind us of the sheer range and quantity of prehistoric monuments that exist in our islands. It is a fitting tribute to the hard work and devotion to recording these sites by Andy Burnham and the members of the Megalithic Portal website.

Buy it here

Urban Megaliths – Middle Beck Stone Circle

Lat: 54°.3  NZ 522 184

A modern circle (2000CE) located on the east bank of the Middle Beck on the Town Farm Estate, Middlesbrough.

The circle contains examples of the three major rock types. There appears to be no obvious grading of the stones according to size. There is evidence of the re-use of stones, particularly three Shap granite boulders. There is some evidence of burning within the circle. A number of the stones have been decorated.

A potential alignment to the Winter Solstice sunrise over Godfaltar Hill.

Burl classification (1)

Thanks to Barry Jobson

Battling Stones

The Bulmer Stone in Darlington is a Shap granite boulder. The stone was named after a nineteenth century town crier called Willy Bulmer. Prior to this it was known as the Battling Stone.

Bulmer sign

This 1895 account by Michael Denham shows that there were once a number of Battling Stones in the area.

Battling Stones

These now unused relics of a former period are still numerous throughout the length and breadth of the land, and must remain so, unless they have the ill-luck to meet the fate of the noble Piersebridge specimen, which was blown to fragments by means of gunpowder, by a fellow in the place, A.D. 1826. The are generally found on the margin of a stream, with the upper surface inclined towards the water. These stones were used by thrifty housewives some thirty years ago, whereupon to beat, battle, or beetle their home made linens or huckabacks, which even then pretty generally prevailed for domestic wear. The linen was thrown into the running stream and gradually drawn upon the stone, and there beat with a beetle or battling staff. The Piersebridge stone lay on the  north side of Carlebury beck, a yard or two below the present footbridge. Another stone of this class, but greatly deficient in magnitude, still exists on the Cliffe side of the Tees, with one side in the river. It is on the premises of the George and Dragon Inn, not far from the bridge. I have seen it used. It is a granite boulder, as was the other.

The Denham Tracts.

Michael Aislabie Denham. 1895

Urban Megaliths – Redcar

West Dyke Road. Origin – Recent. Three groups of Three. Stones graded with the smallest, always red sandstone, to the west and the tallest to the the north.

West Dyke iiiWest DykeWest Dyke i

Knox was perhaps the first to recognise the stone triangle. He records one from Ramsdale Hill Top, two miles west-south-west of Robin Hood’s Bay made of stones 4-6 feet high; also three small stones near a small barrow at Dry Heads, Harwood Dale.

Early Man in N.E. Yorkshire

Frank Elgee

1930

Knox

Descriptions, Geological, Topographical, and Antiquarian in Eastern Yorkshire, Between the Rivers Humber and Tees: With a Trigonometrically Surveyed Map Extending Twenty-five Miles from Scarborough, [etc.]

Robert Knox (of Scarborough.)
January 1, 1855