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Devil's Stone (Birtley)

Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art


Donkeys do have quite dainty feet, but even so, this first snippet perhaps supports the idea the holes are a bit big for human-created rock art. But that they require supernatural explanation is interesting in itself.
Here in Northumberland [pot holes] are the hoof-marks of a devil as at Birtley, or basins formed by Queen Mab and her train for bathing in, as tradition pleasingly narrates, at Rothley. The soul has almost gone out of such legends now, but time was when they were of earnest import to mankind.

The Rev. G. R. Hall, F.S.A., has told the Birtley legend in a former Volume of these Transactions. A wandering demon, once upon a time, was unwary enough to drink at the Holy Well. But the sacred water disagreed with him like molten lead, and dashing his hoofs upon the stone he leaped a full mile from the spot. He alighted upon the rock beside the Leap Crag Pool in the North Tyne; in which deep black hole "tradition averreth he was drowned." At the Holy Well the tracks are about the size of a small donkey's, if I dare use the comparison, and consist of several pairs as if the miserable being had waxed fidgetty; beside the pool they swell to the size of an elephant's.
From a very long article called 'Tynedale Escarpments' by Hugh Miller, inNatural History Transactions of Northumberland, volume 7, 1877-79.

But if the marks are natural, the stone doesn't sound near the water? It's all rather unclear. Oh to nip up in the Van to check, it being a fine Sunday in (almost) summer.
The Birtley Halywell, or Holy Well, a chalybeate spring, issuing from the face of the sandstone cliff, amidst the ferns, harebells, heather, and other flowers that adorn its interstices, close to the romantic waterfall of the Holywell Burn, and to the curious so-called Devil's Stone, or Rock, in the near neighbourhood also of two ancient British camps, or oppida, is worthy of special mention among the medicinal wells of North Tynedale.

Though I cannot learn that any particular reverence was formerly shown to this well, which now merely trickles down the ochreous sides of the cliff, at Midsummer, yet I find that people "from far and near" used until recently to visit it on fine Sunday afternoons in summer, and itinerant vendors of refreshments from the village, which is about a mile distant, were wont to be present on the spot. Here, in close proximity, still exists the great upright, weather-worn monolith-- apparently a detached fragment split from the adjacent rock by some natural convulsion --already spoken of as the Devil's Stone. Tradition asserts this to have been, "once upon a time," the scene of a Satanic leap, the very "hoof-marks" being yet visible on its altar-like summit in the shape of what geologists would call "pot holes" -- a leap intended to result in the demon's descent at Lee Hall, on the opposite bank of the river, about half a mile distant; but the interval not having been carefully estimated, the consequence was a fall into the deepest abyss of North Tyne, just below the Countess Park Clints -- thence called the "Leap-Crag Pool," where the Satanic personage is said to have been drowned!
From Archaeologia Aeliana volume 8 (1880), in an article called 'Notes on Modern Survivals of Ancient Well-Worship in North Tynedale.." by the Rev. G. Rome Hall.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
5th May 2013ce
Edited 6th May 2013ce

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