The Hambleton Street is an ancient ridgeway that runs along the western edge of the North York Moors escarpment. A document in the Rievaulx Chartulary refers to the road as a ‘Regalis Via’ or ‘King’s Way’. According to KJ Bonser “it is the best preserved stretch of drove road in Yorkshire, – part of a track of great antiquity, Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze Age, Romano- British, from the Channel to Scotland.”
The street passes along the eastern edge of Thimbleby Moor before climbing along the edge of Black Hambleton. The hill dominates the views to the east, to the west the moor looks out over the Vale of Mowbray towards the distant Pennines.
Until recently a large section of the moor was covered with forestry. The trees have been harvested leaving this area of the moor covered in tree stumps and debris.
In the late 1970s Spratt and Brown undertook an aerial survey of the moor and reported “an extensive system of small irregular fields with tumbled stone walls covering large parts of the northern slope of the recently burnt off heather moor. The are also a few round cairns. To the south, on the crest of the moor, there are four standing stones and some fallen megaliths (The Nine Stones), perhaps the remains of a double alignment leading to the site.”
The Nine Stones site is bisected by a stone wall, open moorland on one side, the remains of modern forestry on the other. Old maps show the majority of the Nine Stones located on the forestry side of the wall.
There are a number large stones lying prone in the tangled chaos of the forestry clearance. The weathering patterns on a few of these stones indicates that they may have once stood upright.
The moor has a number of areas that are littered with stones. It is almost impossible not to see alignments amongst these stones, most are coincidental, others may be deliberate. The alignment below terminates at a small standing stone and appears to refer to the distant barrow topped peak on Cringle Moor. This is also a very rough alignment on the summer solstice sunrise.
A low embankment runs across the moor from a small standing stone towards Black Hambleton. This is probably one of Spratt & Browns field walls.
Another alignment of small upright stones points to where Hambleton Street traverses the shoulder of Black Hambleton. The stones are also roughly aligned to the winter solstice sunrise.
In common with a number of the moorland prehistoric sites the exact nature of Nine Stones is unknown, a number of people have tried to interpret the site but without further study and excavation we will never know its true nature. The alignments I have mentioned are all my own opinion and are extremely imprecise and unproven.
Old Roads and Pannierways in North East Yorkshire. Raymond H. Hayes. 1988
The Yorkshire Archaeological Register 1976. The Yorkshire Archaeological Journal. Volume 49. 1977
Map reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland