I have added a number of images of stones that I suspect may have originally have been used in the Shap Avenues. These images were taken over the summer solstice June 21-22nd 2007
The main piece of evidence I have to support my suspicion that these stones were once used in the avenues is that just as when Stu and I looked for these stones*, all of these boulders occur along the route of the avenues, the southern end of the village. Once you move to the northern end of the village there is a distinct lack of large granite boulders to be found.
*see my weblog; The Shap Avenues or Caught by the Bullocks
Numbers of Druidical stones (or, as some people say, in honour of Danish heroes) are scattered about Shap; they are different from the mother stone* (*Granite) of the neighbourhood, yet they seem too large to have been brought by art, and too careless on the surface to have formed there.
It is said that many of them were broken up to build Shap Abbey in 1158, which is, in its turn, dismantled to build paltry houses. Part of the steeple, with trees upon it that have withered with age, and cells under the once body of the abbey, are the only remains of this ruin: it has been shamefully dismantled. A fine stream runs near it, and the ground produces sweet grass, and hay that is all fragrance!
In our evening walk we passed a man who was driving his cart towards Bampton, and we asked him what names they called these stones* by, and how they came there? -- He stared, and asked "What dun yaw want t'kno for?" -- I dare say this answer was occasioned by evening fears, especially as he was to go by a barn that has always been the reputed haunt of ghosts, and which I believe is never passed in the day without a thought of them.
*"The Devil's Stepping Stones" by the country people.
In Joseph Palmer's "A fortnight's ramble to the lakes in Westmoreland, Lancashire, and Cumberland" of 1792.
In addition to the quote given by A.L. Lewis in Rhiannon's post below, the missing part of Stukeley's description can be found in his Iter. Boreal of 1725:-
On the south side of the town of Shap, six miles south of Penrith, we saw the beginning of a great Celtic Avenue, on a green common. This is just beyond the horrid and rocky fells, where a good country begins. This avenue is seventy foot broad, composed of very large stones, set at equal intervals: it seems to be closed at this end, which is on an eminence, and near a long flattish barrow, with stone works upon it: hence it proceeds northward to the town, which intercepts the continuation of it, and was the occasion of it's ruin; for many of the stones are put under the foundations of houses and walls, being pushed by machines they call a betty, or blown up with gunpowder. Though it's ourney be northward, yet it makes a very large curve, or an arc of a circle, as those at Abury, and passes over a brook too. A spring likewise arises in it, near the Greyhound inn. By the brook is a little round sacellum, composed of twelve stones, but lesser ones, set by one great stone belonging to the side of the avenue: the interval of the stones is thrity-five foot, half the breadth of the avenue: the stones, no doubt, did all stand upright, because three or four still do; but they were not much higher then, than now as fallen, because of their figure, which is thick and short: they are very large, and prodigiously hard, being nothing else but a congeries of crystals of very large sizes, of a flakey nature. Houses and fields lie across the track of this avenue, and some of the houses lie in the inclosure: it ascends the hill, crosses the common road to Penrith, and so goes into the corn-fields on the other side of the way westward, where some stones are left standing; one particularly remarkable, called Guggleby stone. The people say these were set up by enchantment: and the better sort of folks, as absurdly affirm, they are made by art. I doubt not but they are gathered somewhere off the surface, among the fells, and that there was a great temple of the old Britons, such as that at Abury, which it resembles very much, as far as I can judge at present; for the rainy weather, which in this country is almost perpetual, hindered me from making at this time a thorough disquisition into it.
Hep, Hepe, or as now 'tis called Shap, a small Village, once famous for a small Monastery, of which we shall hereafter in its Place particularly speak, but now of no Note, save for certain great Stones in the Form of Pyramids, (some of them nine Foot high, and fourteen thick) almost in a direct Line, and at equal Distances for a Mile together. They seem intended to be the memorials of some Action or other, but Distance of Time hath made it impossible for us to find out the occasion, having no history of this county.
Magna Britannica et Hibernia.Volume 6: Westmorland
by Thomas Cox
"Towards the south end of the village of Shap, near the turnpike road, on the east side thereof, there is a remarkable monument of antiquity, which is an area upwards of half a mile in length, and between 20 and 30 yards broad, encompassed with large stones (which that country abounds) many of them three or four yards in diameter, at 8, 10 or 12 yards distance, which of such immense weight that no carriage now in use could support them. Undoubtedly this hath been a place of druid worship, which they always performed in the open air, within this kind of enclosure, shaded with wood, as this place of old time appears to have been, although now there is scarce a tree to be seen (Shap Thorn only excepted, planted on top of the hill for the direction of travellers). At the high end of this place of worship, there is a circle of the like stones about 80 feet in diameter, which was the sanctum sanctorum (as it were) and place of sacrifice".
From: The History and Antiquities of the Counties of Westmorland and Cumberland
By Joseph Nicolson, Richard Burn
Available via Google Books
"On the east side of the road, soon after you leave the village [Shap going S], observe a double range of huge granites, pitched in the ground, and at some distance from each other, leading to circles of small stones, and increasing the space between the rows as they approach the circles, where the avenue is about 27 paces wide. They are supposed to have run quite through the village, and terminated in a point. It has long embarrassed the antiquaries what to call this very uncommon monument of ancient date. Mr. Pennant has given a plausible explanation of it from Olaus Magnus, and supposes the row of granites to be the recording stones of a Danish victory obtained on the spot, and the stony circles to be grateful tributes to the memory of consanguineous heroes slain in the action."
Guide book, A Guide to the Lakes
by Thomas West,
published by William Pennington, Kendal
The following letter from a person who signs himself 'DRUID' appeared in the Gentleman's Magazine 1844:
Druidical Temple near Shap
NOTWITHSTANDING the alleged increase of good taste at the present day, I find the intention of the projectors of the Lancaster and Carlisle Railway to carry their line through and destroy, a most interesting remnant of antiquity, the remains of a Druidical Temple situated in a field the property of the Earl of Lonsdale, on the road from Kendal to Shap, and about 2 miles from the latter place. I am surprised the noble Earl should permit such barbarity, with such influence as he possess over the company.
The accompanying Sketch of this curious monument, which will probably be in a short time no longer in existence, may be interesting to your leaders. It consists of 13 stones of Shap granite, the largest of which is 7 or 8 feet high, placed in a circle about forty feet in diameter.
Yours, &c. DRUID.
In a book published in 1833 with the longwinded title of 'The Worship of the Serpent Traced Throughout the World, and its Traditions referred to the Events in Paradise' John Bathurst Deane described the Shap Avenues as "The longest dracontium in Britain, and the only one that in extent could compete with Carnac". He then goes on to give the following description of the avenues.
The temple of Shap begins at about half a mile south of the village"..."crossing the road near Shap in two rows. The greatest width of the avenue ...measures eighty-eight feet. At this extremity it is bounded by a curved line of six stones placed at irregular intervals: but they appear never to have been erected. Near Shap the two rows converge to a width of fifty-nine feet, and again separating, but not so much as to destroy the appearance of parallelism, proceed in a northerly direction, in which course they may be traced at intervals for a mile and a half…tradition states it once extended to Moor Dovey (? Divock), a distance of seven miles from Shap!…About a mile to the N.E. of Shap is a circle composed of large stones, in tolerable preservation.
Source: The Worship of the Serpent Traced Throughout the World, and its Traditions referred to the Events in Paradise,John Bathurst Deane, 1833.
On-line copy available at Google Books.
In Iter Lancastrense: A Poem written in 1636 by the Rev Richard James the following lines appear:
Whilst theirs through all ye world were no lesse free
Of passadge then ye race of Wallisee,
Ore broken moores, deepe mosses, lake and fenne,
Now worcks of Giants deemd, not arte of men.
On theis their stages stood their forts and tombs;
They were not onely strrets but halydoms:
In his 1845 notes to the manuscript, the Rev Thomas Corser wrote:
Dr Holme informs me that at Shap in Westmoreland there are, or were, two rows of large upright stones placed at regular distances, running parallel with the turnpike road for nearly three quarters of a mile, called there Shap Race, and in a work he cannot at present recollect, Shap Giants. The remains of the Ancient Britons at Stonehenge are also called the Stnehenge Giants. It is possible that Shap Race might obtain its name from being supposed (locally) to have been a British Cursus.
Source: Iter Lancastrense; A Poem, Written AD 1636 by the Rev Richard James B.D.
Edited with notes and an introductory memoir by the Rev Thomas Corser M.A.
Printed for the Chetam Society, 1845
Dr Stukeley, writing about the middle of the last century, says: " At the south side of the town of Shap we saw the beginning of a great Celtic avenue on a green common; this avenue is 70 feet broad, composed of very large stones set at equal intervals; it seems to be closed at this end, which is on an eminence and near a long flattish barrow with stone works upon it, hence it proceeds northward to the town, which intercepts the continuation of it and was the occasion of its ruin, for manyo f the stones are put under the foundations of walls and houses, being pushed by machines they call a 'betty,' or blown up with gunpowder; . . . houses and fields lie across the track of this avenue, and some of the houses lie in the enclosure; it ascends a hill, crosses the common road to Penrith and so goes into the cornfields on the other side of the way westward, where some stones are left standing, one particularly remarkable, called the 'Guggleby' stone. . . I guess by the crebrity [sic] and number of the stones remaining there must have been 200 on a side...
Stukeley quoted in
On the Past and Present Condition of Certain Rude Stone Monuments in Westmoreland.
A. L. Lewis
The Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol. 15. (1886), pp. 165-170.
"Here the river Eimet , flowing out of a great Lake and for a good space dividing this shire from Cumberland, receiveth the river Loder into it, nere unto the spring head whereof, hard by Shape, in times past Hepe, a little monastery built by Thomas the sonne of Gospatrick, sonne of Orms, there is a well or fountaine which after the manner of Euripus ebbeth and floweth many times in a day; also there be huge stones in forme of Pyramides, some 9 foote high and foureteene foot thicke, ranged directly as it were in a rowe for a mile in length, with equall distance almost betweene, which may seeme to have bin pitched and erected for to continue the memoriall of some act there atchieved, but what the same was, by injurie of time it is quite forgotten."
From 'Rude Stone Monuments in all Countries - their age and uses' by James Fergusson, 1872.
"All are agreed that the principle monument was an alignment, according to some a double row of stones, of which others can only trace a single row... commencing at the Thunder Stone in the North where there are seven large stones ina field; six are arranged as a double row... According to popular tradition the stone avenue originally extended to Muir Divock, a distance of rather more than five miles, to which it certainly points. Though this is most improbable, it is not wholly without reason, as on Muir Divock there are five or six circles of stone and several tumuli.."
He whinges repeatedly about the weather - I think he must have had a bad experience. He mentions Stukely complaining about the weather and agrees that "rain on a bleak exposed moor like Shap is singularly inimical to antiquarian pursuits." Later he says ".. a bleaker and more ungenial spot is not inhabited in any part of these islands." I'll spare you the rest.
William Camden (1551-1623) was one of the very first antiquarians, and a leading member of the Society of Antiquaries, established around 1588. In his book of 1586 'Britannia', written in Latin and translated and published a number of times the first in 1610, Camden describes man made and natural wonders.
"Near that bleak and dreary region, between Penrith and Kendal, called Shapfells, was, some thirty years ago, another remarkable Druidical monument; but upon the inclosure of the parish of Shap the stones were blown up by gunpowder, and were converted into rude fences." (see photos above).
Stu and I came across this stone whilst hunting down the lost stones of the Shap Avenues.
Stu's GPS puts it at NY 55821529
The cup mark is of a similar dimension to the carvings on the nearby Asper's Field stone and the Goggleby Stone - 12 X 12 cm with possible peck marks visible.
From the looks of the staining on this stone it appears that the carving has previously been buried in the soil/vegetation and has therefore been overlooked.
It begs the question, how many other marked stones are there laying around in the fields surrounding Shap?