The Legend of the Giant’s Lapstone
A giant lived in a cave near the top of Stony Ridge. He was a kindly bloke, a cordwainer by trade. The giant had a daughter who is described by Blakeborough as rarely with her father, and whilst absent on mysterious and ethereal missions left control of the household to an old housekeeper. The daughter longed to transform the cave into a luxurious home but could only use her magical powers for the good of others.
A wicked baron moved into the district and went about corrupting the local young men leading them into licentious, drunken and debauched behaviours. The women of the district were terrified of the baron and his entourage, many of the women fled in fear.
The giant began to hear tales of the shame that the baron was bringing to the women of the district and a number of men and women approached the giant to ask for his protection. On hearing of what was happening the giant was so shocked that his lapstone dropped from his knee with a crash that shook the local hills. He took the stone and hung it over the entrance to his cave. Then taking a metal bar he struck it three times calling on the gods to rise in vengeance.
Soon a beautiful chariot, fashioned in the shape of a giant boot and drawn by thirteen swans, descended from the sky driven by the giant’s daughter. The daughter demanded to know why she had been summoned. Her father showed her the men and women who had come asking for his protection.
The daughter turned to the men and told them that they had fallen because they were inclined to evil therefore their sin was their own. She then turned to the women and said that their case, in some, was different. Some were forced to wickedness but others, like the men, had brought themselves to shame and that they would be tested. The daughter then took her father’s knife and magically fashioned a hole in the lapstone, she then called upon each of the women to step forward and be tested by attempting the place their leg into the hole, then, depending on the verdict of the stone, divided the women into two groups.
Once the testing was complete the daughter addressed the first, largest group telling them that they had nothing to feel ashamed about and any children born to them would crown their heads with blessing and not with remorse or shame, she also informed them that any wrong done to them would be avenged on that very day. She then turned to the second, smaller, group of women and told them that the stone had convicted them and although their tempter will be removed, their shame will follow them for the rest of their days. The daughter then took the lapstone into her flying chariot and was seen, in the distance, to drop it onto the side of the bank of the Basedale Beck.
As the group retuned home from the giant’s cave they met a maiden who told them that she had been chased by the baron and his hounds. She told them how she had fled to the Basedale Beck hoping that she could escape from the pack by crossing running water. As she reached the edge of the beck the baron was just about to seize her when she lost her footing and slipped down the bank. At that moment she heard a loud thunderbolt fall to earth at which point she fainted. When she came around the hounds were lying dead around a large stone that had fallen to earth and there was no sign of the baron. Blakeborough ends the tale saying that the stone had at once become a Nemesis and a tombstone, and had rid the district of an evil thing.
Source – The Hand of Glory. J. Fairfax Blakeborough. 1924
Image of Venus on her chariot being drawn by swans by Albumasar Abalachi [CC BY 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
The Giant’s Lapstone
The Giant’s Lapstone was a large boulder on the southern slope of the Basedale Beck valley at Hob Hole. The boulder was described by Blakeborough as Hanging, as though balanced and held by some unforeseen agency. he goes on to state that The massive rock was believed to possess the power of detecting those maidens who had in any way deviated from the paths of virtue..It was recognised as a testing-place of virginity and purity.
In the centre of the boulder was a hole about two feet deep shaped like a foot print. The tradition held that a maiden whose purity was tarnished would be able to place her leg in the depression without difficulty, whereas the leg of a virtuous women would cause the cavity to close towards the apex thus preventing her foot from being fully inserted.
The stone was also a place of pilgrimage for newly married women seeking a blessing on any children that they may have. For a pilgrim to receive a blessing from the stone she had to the perform the following ritual.
The visit must be made on a Monday, the mother to be had to bring a cobblers hammer and a shoe for her left foot. She had to then sit on the stone and recite a long doggeral rhyme. Blakeborough gives us an imperfectly remember version of the rhyme.
Cobbler, cobbler, look on me,
I come to crave thy blessing,
I beat thy leather for thee.
Nine nails to bind the heel I take.
A wild boar’s bristle, long and strong,
To thy wax-end I fix it.
To nine long strands well rolled,
I wax them well with drawn wax,
I wax, I wax it well for thee.
I wet the welt, I beat the welt,
As on they last I lay the welt.
Tough and firm from the middle hide,
Well-beaten on they lapstone,
I lay my sole upon thy last.
Strong as nine wax-ends thrice doubled,
So none but thy giant hands could pull asunder.
Now lifting up the shoe the supplicant had brought along with her, she continued:
The shoe is now made,
As well shaped as it I now put on, I pray
May all my children be;
Strong in every part.
I claim but one shoe from thee today.
May I never have a two-birth.
I cast my old shoes from me,
Poor and shapeless.
No part upon the lapstone ever lay-
Into the water I cast it-
To it may all my ill-luck cling,
And that of all that shall be mine.
So cobbler look upon me
With favour and great graciousness,
I pray thee look upon me,
And all mine yet unborn;
Ere I bid thee good-day.
Sadly, nothing remains of the Lapstone. Some time around 1830 the boulder slipped into the valley bottom causing an obstruction in the beck and the stone was broken up by blasting. The portion of the stone with the footprint shaped depression was taken to Castleton where it was used as a mounting-stone outside of one of the inns. This stone is thought to have been broken-up to repair the road. The legend of the Giant involves a wicked Baron and a boot-shaped chariot drawn by thirteen swans. I will write that tale in another post.
Source – The Hand of Glory. J Fairfax-Blakeborough. 1924
This morning I headed over to Westerdale Moor. I’ve been visiting this moor for many years and have always had the place to myself. As I walked up to the moor from Hob Hole I noticed a group of estate workers over on Little Hograh Moor, I made a small bet with myself that I’d be getting a visit from a gamekeeper within half an hour of setting foot on the moor.
The heather is in full bloom and the moors look stunning, after a few short minutes my boots were covered in a fine dusting of heather pollen. Later I encountered thousands of tiny bees congregating on a sandy bank at the side of the path, I presume these were Miner bees making the most of the pollen harvest.
My first landmark on the moor was the standing stone which can be seen from the footpath on the west end of the moor, this stone is below the crest of the ridge and is about 1.2m tall
Due north of the stone and about 100m over the ridge of the moor is an alignment of standing stones and boulders that runs for about 70m towards the Baysdale Beck, also known as the Hob Hole Beck. This alignment has been interpreted as a Bronze Age boundary and features in Blaise Vyner’s inventory of Cross Ridge Boundaries.
Returning to the path I noticed an object embedded in the dry mud at the side of the track. It was a Swiss Army knife, it had obviously been there for a while and had a name dymo-taped onto it, Roger Pybus. I pocketed the knife and a minute or two later noticed a large 4×4 pickup heading across the moor towards me, less than half and hour, I had won my bet.
I walked up to the pickup and had a chat with the keeper. He was friendly enough and told me that he was checking to ensure that I wasn’t going to have a barbecue or fly a drone over the moor. He told me about the sculpture that his boss had erected on the far horizon. I told him that I was more interested in standing stones and asked him if Roger Pybus was one of the blokes he worked with, he said he was so I gave him the knife to return to its’ owner.
On the skyline, Seated Man, a sculpture by Sean Henry commissioned by the estate owner David Ross and erected on Castleton Rigg. To the right of the sculpture are a group of visitors.
The keeper, satisfied that I wasn’t a hungry drone pilot, went on his way and I continued eastward across the moor. This side of the moor is dotted with low cairns and banks.
My next destination was the large embanked enclosure on eastern end of the moor. The enclosure is located on fairly level ground just before it dips down into the valley to where the River Esk meets the Baysdale Beck.
The Enclosure is about 40m square with fairly well defined walls. The walls are made of stones with the occasional large upright stone on the inner face. The walls stand at about 1.5m high and 2-3m wide. There is a 3m entrance on the east side. The general consensus is that the structure is Iron Age in date, but this is not certain.
I spent a little time walking around the enclosure and admiring the views along the Esk Valley to Castleton and then headed back to the road and Hob Hole via the Esk Valley Walk footpath.
Regarding the relationship between Hob Hole and the prehistoric remains, Stanhope White makes this observation
..the belief in a race of little men who lived under the earth may stem from the first interaction of the Celts with the indigenous Bronze Age people. When from time to time, a howe was opened for some purpose, possibly to win stone, if the so-called incense cups were found, they were regarded as proof of the presence of little men.
The North York Moors. An Introduction. Stanhope White. 1979
Frank Elgee’s map of Crown End.
A lidar image and aerial view of the Crown End enclosure