The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian

Rudston Monolith

Standing Stone / Menhir


Could it be relevant that the church was built so that the monolith is on its North side? Not only has this cut the sun from the monolith, the door on the north of a church is known as the Devil's Door. It wasn't (isn't?) used so often - for taking the coffin out after a funeral, and also it was left ajar during christenings, so that the devil could escape through it and leave the child alone. Or perhaps it was just a way of making sure that the church-goers didn't go past it every time they went to a service, reminding them of it. But then, why not just demolish it? Scared eh? or respect? Hunt (in his Victorian 'Popular Romances of the West of England')says:
Strong prejudice has long existed against burying on, the northern side of the church. In many churchyards the southern side will be found full of graves, with scarcely any on the northern side.

I have sought to discover, if possible, the origin of this prejudice, but I have not been able to trace it to any well-defined feeling. I have been answered, "Oh, we like to bury a corpse where the sun will shine on the grave ;" and, "The northern graveyard is in the shadow, and cold ;" but beyond this I have not advanced.

We may infer that this desire to place the remains of our friends in earth on which the sun shines, is born of that love which, forgetting mortality, lives on the pleasant 'memories of the past, hoping for that meeting beyond the grave which shall know no shadow. The act of planting flowers, of nurturing an evergreen tree, of hanging "eternals" on the tomb, is only another form of the same sacred feeling.
A contributor to Notes and Queries in 1850 has this to say:
North Side of Churchyards (Vol. ii., pp. 55. 189).—One of your writers has recently endeavoured to explain the popular dislike to burial on the north side of the church, by reference to the place of the churchyard cross, the sunniness, and the greater resort of the people to the south. {254} These are not only meagre reasons, but they are incorrect.

The doctrine of regions was coeval with the death of Our Lord. The east was the realm of the oracles; the especial Throne of God. The west was the domain of the people; the Galilee of all nations was there. The south, the land of the mid-day, was sacred to things heavenly and divine. The north was the devoted region of Satan and his hosts; the lair of demons, and their haunt. In some of our ancient churches, over against the font, and in the northern walls, there was a devil's door.

It was thrown open at every baptism for the escape of the fiend, and at all other seasons carefully closed. Hence came the old dislike to sepulture at the north.


Another folktale is that the stone is supposed to have grown there in one night! Rather like a mushroom by the sound of it. Or maybe a toadstool (they've got a bad reputation themselves).

(from Grinsell's folklore of prehistoric sites, plus ideas about the North door from various internet pages and Hunt's book online at
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
17th May 2002ce
Edited 19th August 2006ce

Comments (1)

The vast majority of the later burials c. 1700-1900 (i need to take another look) are on the north side of the church, keeping company with the monolith. Little in the way of burials on the south side.
There are many churches in this area upon raised areas, at least 3 known to be built upon artificial or partially artificial mounds. In time i'll give a detailed run down on them all.
Posted by gypseyjon
31st December 2008ce
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