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Rudston Monolith

Standing Stone / Menhir

<b>Rudston Monolith</b>Posted by RuneImage © Rune
Also known as:
  • Monument No. 79482

Nearest Town:Bridlington (7km E)
OS Ref (GB):   TA097677 / Sheet: 101
Latitude:54° 5' 35.57" N
Longitude:   0° 19' 20.89" W

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25/09/2017 – We had popped down to Scarborough for a long weekend just for a bit of walking really. A few days before we came I noticed that we weren’t too far from Rudston so we crammed 3 days of walking into 2, leaving our last day free for a visit to this mega monolith.

Easy enough to get to by car but we were on the bus, which still wasn’t too tricky. Morning 121 bus from Scarborough to Burton Agnes and then a 3 mile or so walk down quietish country roads to Rudston.

We arrived at the south side of the church and had a little debate as to which way round the church we wanted to go for our first sight of the stone. These things are important I think, it’s not every day you get to see the tallest standing stone in Britain for the first time. We chose clockwise.

Rounding the corner of the building and there it stood in all its glory. It really is impressive and as wonderful as I hoped it would be. It seemed to grow and grow as we edged closer. It was hard not to just keep staring at it. So solid and timeless. I know the church and graveyard setting isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but I quite liked it and loved the difference in height between the monolith and the similar shaped gravestones round it.

After having a look at the small stone and cist in the corner (it looked a little sad hidden away and dark with the overhead leaves at this time of year) we sat across the road on a bench and had our butties.

The inside of the church is worth a look and has a small display about the history of the area.

After one last look at the stone we started the slow walk back to the bus stop. We kept an eye out for any sign of the cursus that crosses the road to the south of Rudston but no luck. Did manage to find a coffee shop in Burton Agnes which helped with the wait for the bus.

Top day out and the Rudston monolith is a must see site.

Happy us on the bus back to Scarborough for an evening of chips and gravy and two penny falls.
thelonious Posted by thelonious
29th September 2017ce
Edited 2nd October 2017ce

Visited 1.8.17

Looking at my previous fieldnote I am back here exactly 2 years later - I had no idea!

When you are anywhere near the area of this hugely impressive stone you just have to visit. And it is just as impressive the second time around (no doubt also the third, fourth, fifth etc).

All was quiet in the churchyard (we were the only visitors), the sun was shining, the birds chirping - very peaceful on this late summer evening.

The stone still dominates the church, as it has always done. Rudstone is one of those special places that everyone should try to visit at least once in their lives.

*** Don't forget to check out the cist and Roman coffin lid in the corner of the churchyard under the trees.
Posted by CARL
6th August 2017ce
Edited 6th August 2017ce

Visited 1.8.15

Wow! This stone is incredible. As soon as you see the church you see the stone. It hits you between the eyes. It dominates and overpowers the church. It is huge, not just in height but in depth and width. It is even bigger in real life than it looks in pictures.

All of this is true but what is most impressive is the power this stone radiates. If ever a stone was a symbol of power, prestige or greatness - this is it.

There is little more to say than come and visit and see for yourself.

Although it was evening when I arrived at the church I was pleasantly surprised to find it still open. The church is nice inside and well worth a look. I was also able to pick up a couple of postcards of the monolith and an information leaflet.

This morning I received news that a lifelong friend of mine suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. This came as a great shock and is one of those moments when you consider your own mortality. I dedicate these notes to my friend Keith (known to us as 'The Trend'). Thank you for the memories. May you rest in peace.
Posted by CARL
1st August 2015ce

Just visited Rudston Monolith it's enormous. Whilst driving around came across a information panel at nearby Bracey Bridge and the marks on the side of the stone are fossilised Dinosaur footprints!

Do a great Bacon sandwich at Bracey Bridge as well.
Posted by north bucks
10th September 2014ce

The Rudston Monolith stands proud in the yard of the local church. A truly massive and awe-inspiring feature it stands 26 feet above ground with a lot more below. The monolith from the road gives the impression that it is much smaller, indeed my companion said to me at the time that it only looked the same size as the stones of Callanish. As soon as you get close though, it really does hit you. It is gargantuan, enormous, huge, this is something else, a lone monolith standing proud. How many odds must it have defied to stay standing in a place which has clearly been Christianised. I would wager that the only reason it did survive is because of its size. Indeed at one point in its history a cross had been placed upon its top. Not there any more I hasten to add! Now its crown is adorned by a metal helmet to help prevent erosion.

I had heard a rumour that the site was formally surrounded by a stone circle. I do not feel that this is folly! Of all the places that a stone circle should have stood this is surely it although there are no real remains of it left. The outer wall church yard is made up of red brick so no clues there. No sarsens remain in the walls to tell us their story. But the fact that a church has been built slap bang next to a clear Neolithic structure should be clue enough. Also part of the boundary walls look as though they could have once been circular. If that isn't enough there are earthworks in the grounds of the churchyard which go round in a circular motion. Maybe I'm reading too much into things but its all very coincidental. Plus it also appears that the church and the churchyard have been built on a mound with clear earthworks visible - further signs?
notjamesbond Posted by notjamesbond
10th June 2004ce

How this survived in a churchyard, God only knows. Woooo! I challenge anyone not to be impressed by this monster though it is made to look silly with its little metal helmet. I lay on the ground and looked up from its base watching the clouds scudding past. I was intrigued by its juxtaposition with the gravestones and its proximity to the church itself.

In the corner of the graveyard, under a tree lies a couple of broken standing stones one of which has the most amazing bright white lichen on one side only. Seek this out, it's fab. Next to this is a gorgeous, open stone-lined coffin. Loads to see here!
Jane Posted by Jane
11th February 2004ce

Access can be seen from road. Park just outside church gate, which from memory, is average size, weight etc. Easy walk – a few yard across churchyard.

Sunday 24 August 2003
The biggest (tallest?) monolith in Britain wears a stupid hat. But I guess I'd rather the look of the stone is spoilt by a lead cover than by ruinous erosion!

Well, that aside, it's pretty spectacular! Like one of the Devil's Arrows after a run-in with a steak-tenderiser, the Rudston monolith is wafer-thin but slightly taller and maybe wider than the DAs. And peeping from under the lead tip, there are signs that it has weathered in a similar way.

Took me a while to decide, but I think it'd be marginally more impressive if the bloody christians hadn't dumped their god's gaff right next to it…!!!
Moth Posted by Moth
14th September 2003ce
Edited 15th September 2003ce

There is so much history about Rudston. It is apparently the oldest village in Britain. There is the monolith, that was part of a larger site with some processional routes still surviving (just) as earthworks around the area. Also the Romans came and built the roman road and a villa. So was the site occupied because of its sacred connections?
The Christians also built thier church to encompass the monolith probably because they dare not, or could not destroy it?
There are also several lost villages and Thorpe Hall that lies on the bridlington road is a wonderful example of a country manor house and it all goes to make Rudston into a wonderful example of the history of britain.
Posted by Julious
16th October 2002ce

This is a Yorkshire stone!
It's big and brash and where it shouldn't be.
How the hell this fella survived the building of the church and graveyard beats me.
This is a world class standing stone both for its height and its Yorkshire balls for surviving to tell the tale.
Like all big fellas, he's got a little mate tucked away in the corner of the boneyard, just sat there squat and watching.
Go check him out, he will not fail to impress you.
fitzcoraldo Posted by fitzcoraldo
25th March 2002ce
Edited 10th January 2003ce

Second time we've visited, and if anything the rain was even heavier. A fantastic megalith which the christian dickheads have done their best to conceal and subdue - no chance. It's another site where you wonder what else was there-the small stone in the corner, aligned on the road, the circular aspect to parts of the churchyard-who knows? (Send for Time Team, I don't think). Chris Posted by Chris
28th October 2001ce

After many years of wanting and waiting I finally managed to visit Rudston with my family this August. We arrived at lunch time coming from Burton Agnes over the Rudston Beacon with fine views over the countryside down to Filey and Cayton Bays. I always look for a hawk these days when approaching new sites as there is usually one to greet me, a habit started about six or seven years ago after visiting Stoney Littleton Barrow. Sure enough a Kestrel hovered over the car as we approached the village. Seeing as Rudston is the tallest standing stone in Britain it is surprisingly well camouflaged by the Christians being almost completely obscured by trees and the church itself which stands within the monolithÍs sacred ground. You could miss it easily if you did not walk around to the back of the church where it suddenly hits you with its magnificence as you turn the corner. A rudestone indeed, grey, pockmarked and toweringly important. The shallow finger holes in the stone are familiar, why do so many stones have them? I touch the monolith and imagine with my eyes closed offerings and libations to the stone, flowers and oils anointing the centre of this now nearly destroyed Neolithic landscape. My dreaming was disturbed by the distant peal of thunder and the storm moved in over the area as we sheltered in the very peaceful church. In the corner of the graveyard is one further small squat stone next to some very old smashed stone coffins. This stone although only three feet or so high itself is remarkable in its covering of lichens. One side was completely white as though washed with lime, the other green and hoary. This stone was very aliveƒ.We left with spirits uplifted and a break in the weather from dull and rainy to bright hot sunshine. Posted by Porkbeast
28th August 2000ce


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On assembling round the monolith, the Rev. E. M. Cole, M.A., gave an interesting description of this massive monument of the past. He stated that there were numerous theories put forward to account for the presence of the stone, the most prevalent opinion being that it is "a thunderbolt dropped from the clouds, which stuck in the ground point first." Others think that it was thrown at the church by the devil - and just missed the chancel!
This article also contains some information about its hat:
The parish register contains a quaint description of the monolithwritten by one of the parish clerks. After a rough pen-and-ink sketch of the monolith appears the following:-

This is nearly the form of a stone wch stands at ye east end of Rudston Church, within ye churchyard, which is situated on an high hill. There are no authorities to be depended upon in regard to either the time, manner, or occasion of its erection. It is almost quite grown over with moss from top to bottom.
In the year 1773 its top being observed to decay through the rains descent upon it, Mrs. Bosville ordered a small cap of lead to be put on it in order to preserve it, wch was accordingly done.
Its dimensions within ground are as large as those without, as appears from an experiment made by ye late Sr. Wm. Strickland, of Boynton.
From the Hull Scientific Club's visit, recorded in the Leeds Mercury, Sat. May 20th, 1899.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
8th April 2008ce
Edited 8th April 2008ce

The late Archdeacon Wilberforce, who was at that time Rector of Burton Agnes, had come over to make an archdiaconal inspection of the Church, when he met an old parishioner in the Church yard. The Archdeacon said to him,
" Well ! my good man, can you tell me anything about this wonderful stone ?
" Na, I can't say as how I can," was the answer.
"Why ! you've lived here a great many years, and surely you must know something about it," said the Archdeacon.
" Na, I doint," was the laconic reply.
"Well then if you don't know anything about it and can't tell me anything about it," said the Archdeacon, " you can tell me what they say about it."
" Whoy ! yaas, I can tell you what they say about it," was the information derived this time.
" Come then, my friend, let me hear what they do say about it," said the Archdeacon.
" Well ! " replied our Rudstonian friend,
" they says it was put up here to com-memorate a great vict'ry 'tween Danes and Roman Cath-licks."

Rudston A Sketch of its History and Antiquities
the Rev. P. Royston.

Taken from
Publications of the Folk-Lore Society
County Folk-Lore Vol VI
Examples of printed folk-lore concerning the East Riding of Yorkshire
Collected and edited by
Mrs Gutch
fitzcoraldo Posted by fitzcoraldo
7th December 2007ce
Edited 7th December 2007ce

Folklore from 'DF' at Driffield Online
Many moons ago - when I was small, we were led to believe that if you ran round the stone backwards 100 times an Angel would appear from the top, blowing a trumpet. Many's the time that my friend and I got to 99 times but never dared to run the last lap!!
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
23rd March 2005ce
Edited 23rd March 2005ce

The explanation related in 'Reader's Digest "Folklore Myths and Legends of Britain"' has the effect of craftily Christianising the monolith's arrival.

Legend has it that the stone simply fell from the sky "killing certain desecrators of the churchyard". Act of God rather than the Devil. Makes a change.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
15th March 2005ce

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


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Details of stone on Pastscape

Late Neolithic or Early Bronze Age standing stone in churchyard, with modern cap of metal, and suggested cup and ring markings. The stone is approximately 8 metres high, 1.75 metres wide and 1 metre thick, the stone tapers to a point which at some point has been broken and repaired with a lead hood. Excavations in the 18th century suggested the monument extends as deep below the ground as it stands above. The monolith is of gritstone, the nearest source of which is 10-20 miles away. It is unclear whether it was brought to the site in the Neolithic/Bronze Age or arrived much earlier in a glacier flow. It has been suggested that the stone marks the convergence of the Rudston cursus monuments. Cursus A passes to the east of the monolith and cursus C passes to the north, where they converge. The terminus of cursus B is probably on the spur of land on which the monolith stands, but this is concealed by the village. Cursus D runs along the valley floor below the monolith. There is no dating evidence to suggest which came first, but if the monolith is of Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age date it almost certainly post-dates the cursuses.
Chance Posted by Chance
9th May 2016ce

Doreen Valiente in her book 'An ABC of Witchcraft Past and Present' reckons the name of Rudston is derived from the Old-Norse Hrodr-steinn meaning 'the famous stone' stubob Posted by stubob
8th November 2008ce

Perhaps something enlightening about the 'miniliths' / 'stone coffins' mentioned in peoples' fieldnotes / photos:

Two cists in the churchyard were placed there in 1871, having been dug out of a field near by in 1869.

On reflection, quite an odd thing to do (unless the vicar was an antiquarian himself, which is possible. Still, to put them in the churchyard rather than the rectory garden?)

from 'Standing Stones and Stone Circles in Yorkshire' by A L Lewis, in
Man, v14 (1914), pp163-6.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
24th April 2008ce
Edited 24th April 2008ce

"At Rudston, a village upon the Wolds, about five miles west of Bridlington, stands a obelisk worthy the attention of the antiquary. It is a single natural stone, of the same quality and shape, but of superior magnitude to the celebrated pillars near Boroughbridge. The entire height is not known but the elevation above ground is twenty nine feet, and it has been traced to a depth of twelve below without reaching foundation.
It stands in the church yard, on the north side of the church, and has some fissures on the top, which Mr Boswell of Thorpe Hall ordered to be covered with lead to prevent further injuries from the weather. The cause of its erection can not be ascertained, though it is generally agreed to have given its name to the town."

The History & Antiquities of Scarborough
Thomas Hinderwell
fitzcoraldo Posted by fitzcoraldo
15th August 2006ce
Edited 15th August 2006ce

The Rudston Monolith is the tallest example of a standing stone in Britain. It's 25' 9" high, though was probably 28' before it lost its point. Now it sports a lead hat, supposedly to protect it from the elements. Perhaps there was a cross put on top of it at one time - it seems to have been very tolerated by the church! - and in fact Rudston might come from Rood/Cross and Stan/Stone in Old English. It's also been known as the Grandmother of the Church. One theory about its origins has the devil throwing it here, but this 40ton giant could also have been dragged 10 miles from the nearest obvious source of gritstone. It stands right near the Gypsey Race. Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
17th May 2002ce
Edited 4th April 2013ce


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Cursuses relating to the Rudston Monolith

The Rudston cursus group consists of four cursuses stretching along the bottom and sides of the Great Wold Valley. At least one end of each of the monument are to be found on the elevated chalk ridges which surround Rudston. The valley contains the Gypsey Race, one of the rare streams across the chalklands, and two of the cursuses (A and C) cross this stream. The Rudston group contains an unparalleled concentration of cursus monuments. Cursus A is the southern most of the group. The southern end of the cursus survives as an earthwork and the remainder is visible on air photographs as two parallel ditches. The cursus is 2700 metres long by circa 58 metres, it tapers to 41 metres at the south terminal. Cursus A is the only one of the group where both ends are visible, both of the terminals are square in plan. The earthwork was excavated in the mid 19th century by Greenwell and showed what appeared to be a round barrow raised upon the surface of a long mound. This excavation produced six burials (two with Beakers), only one of which Greenwell considered to be primary, and a considerable amount of pottery. These burials were inserted into the south end of the cursus monument in the early bronze age. Greenwell also found sherds of earlier Neolithic pottery, along with worked flint and animal bones on the ground surface beneath the bank of the cursus. A second excavation across the west ditch in 1958 recovered 24 small pieces of Beaker pottery from the bottom 18 inches of the ditch fill, excluding the primary fill, and 4 larger pieces from the primary fill. There is evidence to suggest that the ditch was recut at this point explaining the presence of the later pottery.
moss Posted by moss
30th September 2017ce
Edited 30th September 2017ce