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A guest feature by Littlestone.
The Rudston Monolith
To quote Wikipedia, “The Rudston Monolith at over 7.6 metres (25 ft) is the tallest megalith (standing stone) in the United Kingdom. It is situated in the churchyard in the village of Rudston (grid reference TA098678) in the East Riding of Yorkshire.”
So, to mark this year’s St Valentine’s Day, Moss and I decided to make the 30 mile drive over from where we live in North Yorkshire to Rudston village to see for ourselves the ‘real thing’. Nothing quite prepares you for this ‘real thing’. Photos of the monolith we’d seen before but first sight, and first touch, of this towering Neolithic edifice left us both speechless. If there’s ever a stone that puts its neighbouring church into a shadow this is it. And the fact that it’s stood there for some 4,000 years makes it even more awe-inspiring. As ever, the similarity with other subsumed (Christianised) sites in Britain, seems the same. The Rudson Monolith stands close to a water source. A Roman villa once stood close by and there are Roman tiles in the church walls. There are also the remains of a Roman sarcophagus in the graveyard.
Outlier stone and the remains of a Roman sarcophagus behind it
Googling ‘Rudston Monolith’ will throw up all sorts of info but what intrigued me most, being actually there on site, was the smaller outlier stone in one corner of the graveyard. The stone is of the same composition as the monolith itself and evidently was once situated close to it. Could it be the missing top of the Rudsone Monolith? Did it fall away naturally or was it cut off because it offended past norms of acceptability? Who knows, but here’s an interesting comparison from Brittany in France.
Standing stone on the North York Moors
A Dream of Solstice
Qual e’ colui che somniando vede,
che dopo ‘l sogno la passione impressa
rimane, e l’altro a la mente non riede,
cotal son io…
Dante, Paradiso, Canto XXXIII
‘Like somebody who sees things when he’s dreaming
And after the dream lives with the aftermath
Of what he felt, no other trace remaining,
So I live now’, for what I saw departs
And is almost lost, although a distilled sweetness
Still drops from it into my inner heart.
It is the same with snow the sun releases,
The same as when in wind, the hurried leaves
Swirl round your ankles and the shaking hedges
That had flopped their catkin cuff-lace and green sleeves
Are sleet-whipped bare. Dawn light began stealing
Through the cold universe to County Meath,
Over weirs where the Boyne water, fulgent, darkling,
Turns its thick axle, over rick-sized stones
Millennia deep in their own unmoving
And unmoved alignment. And now the planet turns
Earth brow and templed earth, the crowd grows still
In the wired-off precinct of the burial mounds,
Flight 104 from New York audible
As it descends on schedule into Dublin,
Boyne Valley Centre Car Park already full,
Waiting for seedling light on roof and windscreen.
And as in illo tempore people marked
The king’s gold dagger when he plunged it in
To the hilt in unsown ground, to start the work
Of the world again, to speed the plough
And plant the riddled grain, we watch through murk
And overboiling cloud for the milted glow
Of sunrise, for an eastern dazzle
To send first light like share-shine in a furrow
Steadily deeper, farther available,
Creeping along the floor of the passage grave
To backstone and capstone, holding its candle
Under the rock-piled roof and the loam above.
Part 2… Hero to Zero!
Archaeology is a serious subject as we well know, but now and again things do happen that make you smile.
This (as written) from The Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall 1886 – 1889.
Re-erection of the Nine-Stones.
“On April 8th, Mr. F. R. Rodd, accompanied by Mrs. Rodd, took some men to the old circle of this name, which lies about three quarters of a mile S.E. of Fox Tor, and the diameter of which coincides with the boundary-line between Altarnon and North Hill. The stones (which happen to be nine in number), were all fallen except two: this was not to be wondered at considering none of them are more than 6 or 7 feet high, and they are not large of their kind; besides, the cattle constantly trampling round and rubbing against them hasten the effects of winds and rains. Two stones of the circle were missing; but the one in the centre, though fallen, was in place; for which a fresh pit was excavated, without, however, bringing to light any indications of there having been an interment there.
“This is but a small circle, and so not particularly valuable as a relic of antiquity yet the restoration of it none the less serves a good purpose, as tending to shew the moor-men, especially those on the look-out for gate-posts, that labour (i.e. money) is expended on their preservation: and therefore Mr.Rodd deserves the thanks of the Royal Institution of Cornwall. For this is the only practical way of carrying out the spirit of Sir John Lubbock’s Act, on these moors, where people are so scarce, and knowledge travels so slowly, that prehistoric remains may be destroyed and removed, without the discovery of such destruction, until too late to prevent it.”
The nine-stones in question are in fact the Nine Stones of Altarnun stone circle of course on East Moor just up the lane from where I live and my favourite circle. Its southern boundary is Ridge Hill.
Ridge Hill cairn as seen today © Roy Goutté
This follow-on piece in the same Journal is what made me smile… not the wanton destruction and desecration of a sacred and beautiful stone cairn of course, you understand, but the possibility that it may have been carried out by our former hero who gained such respect with his work done at the stone circle on East Moor a few hundred yards below. What an embarrassment!
Opening of a Cairn on Ridge Hill.
“On May 22nd, 1889, I received the following from Mr. Rodd, of Trebartha Hall:
“We have been raising a wall round the old plantation below Ridge Hill lately, and have driven an adit (a horizontal passage) through the cairn on the top, in order to get stone for the purpose. This morning I see that the men have arrived at a central rock, around which the cairn appears to have been built. The top of the cairn appears to have been disturbed at some former time, and to have been composed of a number (7 or 8) of irregularly shaped cells, or chambers, very roughly built: I cannot conceive for what purpose; we hope to go up there again with two carts and clear away stone to the centre of the ground-line: I should much like you to see what we have done.
“Accordingly on July 3rd, I accompanied Mr.Rodd and some friends, and found that a passage had been made from the circumference at the north side to the centre, and beyond the centre of the cairn, by removal of loose stones, and that the original ground-level of this portion of it was exposed to view. In the centre (or thereabouts) of the area on which the cairn had been constructed was a large slab of granite, about 5 feet long, 2 to 3 feet square, partially embedded, and apparently as laid there by nature. This block certainly seemed to have been the nucleus round which the cairn was formed, for it seemed to be the centre of some concentric circles of stones, on edge, which, at some little distance, circumscribed the block. The surface of the ground, and the faces of the loose stones all around in the “crater” of the cairn were so coloured and scarred with tar and tire from the bonfires, or beacon-tires of various generations, including the jubilee bonfire, and the molten tar had penetrated between the interstices of the stones, and permeated the soil to such an extent, that it was most difficult to determine whether the burnt earth immediately above the subsoil was due to this cause only, or was indicative of a funeral pyre. However, on excavating round the granite-slab previously divided into two parts for the more easy removal, it distinctly appeared by the depth of such darkened earth, the absence of any tar, and the homogeneity of the soil, that the ashes of the primal interment had been laid against, but not under the N.W. side of the granite block. There was no paving, fragment of pottery, or anything whatever of interest, just here, and the earth was turned over down to the “country 5″ apparently there had never been any kist-vean under the cairn; but it is possible there may have been another interment without kist-vean elsewhere below the ground level, in other parts of the cairn, where the ground has not yet been excavated.”
I wonder if Mr.Rodd (assuming it was the same person that is) was expecting the thanks of the Royal Institution of Cornwall for that little lot as well?
My thoughts every time I visit both the cairn and the circle focus on the centre stones of both and wonder is there is a direct connection. In their mindset, did whatever took place below on the moor in the living world, get replicated at the cairn in the next i.e. the Afterlife?
Leskernick North & South Stone Circles and Stone Row clearance, including the re-exposure of buried ring stones by the TimeSeekers Clearance Group Team Members. (Part 3 of 3 reports). Text and images © Roy Goutté.
Leskernick North & South Stone Circles and Stone Row clearance, including the re-exposure of buried ring stones by the TimeSeekers Clearance Group Team Members (Part 2 of 3 reports). Text and images © Roy Goutté.
Leskernick North & South Stone Circles and Stone Row clearance, including the re-exposure of buried ring stones by the TimeSeekers Clearance Group Team Members (Part 1 of 3 reports). Text and images © Roy Goutté.
Text and images © Roy Goutté.
The above photo of the southern end of the South Circle taken in April 2016