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Clifton Standing Stones

In the pasture on the eastern bank of the Louther, In the way to Clifton, are several cairns, or carracks, as the Scotch call them, made of dry stones heaped together; also many other monuments of stones, three, four, five set upright together. They are generally by the country people said to be done by Michael Scot, a noted conjuror in their opinion, who was a monk of Holm abbey in Cumberland: they have a notion too that one Turquin, a giant, lived at Brougham castle; and there is a tower there, called Pagan tower; and Sir Lancelo de Lake lived at Mayborough, and flew him. Near Clifton is a famous spring, where the people go annually on May-day to drink, by custom beyond all remembrance: they hold it an earnest of good luck the ensuing year, to be there and drink of the water before sun-rise. This no doubt has been continued from British times, and is a remain of the great quarterly festival of the vernal equinox.
William Stukeley, Iter Boreale (northern tour of 1725) p45

Newtown Mill (Standing Stone / Menhir)

The tale attributed to a stone further to the south of Northumberland may actually be this stone.

The tale of subterranean creatures released during an attempt to find buried treasure can be seen here

Drake Stone (Natural Rock Feature)

The Drake stone gets a mention in a few places, most recently on climbing websites. It merits a mention and a photo in the Bords' 'The secret Country'. In this book, and in other local histories, the Drake Stone is reported to have the ability to cure sick children who are passed over it. Tomlinson (1888) even goes so far as to comment that although he has seen no direct evidence of this, ""Harbottle is an exceptionally healthy place ........and mortality among children almost unknown"
It's possible that Tomlinson took his information from a slightly earlier source, Murray's Northumberland: handbook to durham and Northumberland (part II London 1873, p 324.) where it is stated that:
"Half a mile from Harbottle is the Drake Stone, a very interesting relic, being the Draag stone of the druids. By a small tarn near it is a druidical rock basin. The custom which still prevails in harbottle, of passing sick children over the drake stone may be a relic of druidical times, when they were probably passed through the fire on the same spot."

Other folklore associated with the stone tells of a plan to drain the lough, which was abandoned after the workmen ran away afer hearing a disembodied voice cry:
"Let alone, let alone
Or I'll drown Harbottle
And the Peels
And the bonny Holystone"

Which could of course just have been a good way to get out of what would have been an unenviable task. Folklore also has it that disembodied cries for help emanating from the stone were not unusual, with passing travellers spending the night in safety at the top but unable to descend in the morning.

The Bowden Doors (Natural Rock Feature)

There is a tale of an otherworldly being known as a 'Dunnie', who haunted the area between here and Chatton, who was often heard at night lamenting the fact that he could not return to the realm from which he came,

"Ah've lost the key to the Bowden Doors, Alas I'll ne'er gan hame nae more..."

A couple of versions of this tale are kicking about, at least one of which links the Dunnie to the spirit of a Border Reiver, but the one relating it directly to The Bowden doors seems to be the oldest, dredged from 'The Denham Tracts'.

Leacet Circle (Stone Circle)

Haunted Britain by Elliot O'Donnel, prints a letter from a correspondant about a 'druidical circle' in Westmorland

"The only personal experience I have had happened at a druids circle. The phenomena consisted of a sickly sweet death-like smell, and the sense of some 'presence' approaching. I hastily retreated to a distance and saw a figure clad in white or light grey, glide from the adjoining wood and vanish near the largest stone of the circle. I may say that the circle is half in pine wood, and that a stone wall has been built across the circle, cutting it into two parts. The cause of the phenomena probably is that the largest stone was dug up in the late 70s of the last century. An urn was found, and is now in a museum."

This is a smashing example of the symptoms associated with 'Temporal Lobe Lability', which has been touted as a possible mechanism by which ambient electro-magnetic fields can initiate experiences of high-strangeness. A good spot for any future rounds of the Dragon project maybe?

A Brooks 1998 'Ghosts and Legends of the lake district' places this as possibly Oddendale, presumably due to the wall by Oddendale Cairn1, though another contender could Iron Hill Cairn North , but as the letter mentions a circle bisected by a wall, with pine plantation, I suspect Leacet is the actual spot being referred to. In fact, now I come to think about it, I did get some anomalous jpegs on me camera at Leacet… Electromagnetic fields, memory cards, hmmm…

The King Stone (Standing Stone / Menhir)

Edwin and Mona Radford's 1948 'Encyclopedia of Superstitions' also makes mention of the Witch Elder tree.

Their version states that the Elder is held to be the same witch who petrified the King and his army, and that at each year at midsummer, prior to the ceremonial cutting (and bleeding) of the Witch Elder a feast was held next to the stone, which would later indicate it's approval with a nod.

Midstead (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art)

According to some folklorists, the name "Jenny-wi't'-lantern" is a Northumbrian term for Will-o-the-wisps.

Earthlights? Faultlines? Rock art? Hmmm.

Duddo Five Stones (Stone Circle)

The narrow waists of the stones, where they meet the soil, have are partly responsible for a pseudonym, 'The Women'. This, combined with the whistling of the wind through the fluted grooves, has caused this to be extended to 'The Singing Women'.

Five Kings (Stone Row / Alignment)

The name has been attributed in recent times as the memory of five brothers who owned adjacent patches of land.

Other explanations, making reference to the inclusion of Denmark in the title, have drawn connections with Morte d'Arthur, where Five Danish Kings apparently do battle with some of the roundtablers.

Middleton (Standing Stone / Menhir)

Of "a field between Lilburn and Middleton, near Morpeth" a tale is told of a stone of "religious significance", which was not to be moved, on pain of awakening it's guardian demons.

Two local farm workers decided this was an indicator of buried treasure, and set about the stone with shovels. After a while, they began to think they were wasting their time, and tales of demons guarding the stone must be as false as those of treasure. Whereupon they were spooked by a slight movement beneath their newly dug pit. Despite this ominous sign, their greed encouraged them to keep digging.

Now the earth shuddered, and a monstrous creature, resembling a swan, flapped its wings and flew out of the pit, with a strange and hideous cry. The peasants fled to escape the evil creature, and the stone remains inviolate to this day.

This from 'Myth and Magic of Northumbria' (Coquet Editions, SandhillPress Ltd, 1992, ISBN 0 94098 27 1), but there's a whopping discrepancy. Lilburn is at the other end of Northumberland, near Wooler. Up there there is another Middleton, Middleton Hall, and more or less 'twixt the two, is the standing stone at Newton Mill
So maybe this tale relates to the stone near Wooler.

Wayland's Smithy (Long Barrow)

I'm posting this as folklore as much as to see if anyone can confirm the tale, else it's in danger of becoming newly minted 'folklore for the future', at least in Tyneside.

During the great storm of 1987, when trees all over England were toppled by sudden great winds (the storm the Met Office didn't predict), many of the trees surrounding Wayland's Smithy were uprooted. However, none of them fell inwards, thus protecting the barrow from damage.

Is this true? and if so, is there a nice tidy rational explanation, possibly to do with air pressure or soil density, that doesn't require the invocation of protective tree spirits?

Simonside (Sacred Hill)

Tales recorded in the 19th century, but possibly of much older origin, mention the "dwarf-like inhabitants of the darker recesses of the hill".

These entities are known collectively as the 'Duergar', a term which is allegedly confined to Simonside. The Duegar apparently were serious tricksters, with a penchant for leading the unwary over precipices in the mist.

See references to the writings of D.D. Dixon in Paul Frodsham's 'Archaeology in the Northumberland National Park' CBA, 2004.
ISBN 1-902771-38-9

Carreg y Bwci (Round Barrow(s))

"A farmer told Lewis Edwards in the 1940s that when he approached Carreg-y-Bucci (The Hobgoblin Stone) - on top of a prehistoric mound near Lampeter, Wales - with the intention of breaking it up for gateposts,
'There was a violent thunderstorm, the worst I have ever known. I ran for my life, but it followed me all the way home'.
Three men had been killed by lightning alongside the stone."

From 'Places of Power' by Paul Deveraux.

Piper's Chair (Hillfort)

According to locals,the Piper's Chair has long been the site of gatherings, with people visiting at special times of the year to make offerings in the rain filled basins on the top of the rock.

In recent years, pagan types have been known to congregate there and 'dance about like loonies' according to a local resident.

Tales of ghostly white figures are possibly attributable to the alleged presence of a nearby monastery. Attempts to find it and determine what kind of monks, came to nil.

I still haven't been able to find out where the name comes from. Though the site is named as both 'Piper's chair' and 'The Punchbowl' on the old maps. The punchbowl being the font-like carved bowl, which apparently was put there in the late 18thC as part of party celebrations, and filled with booze. Libatory continuity?

The Poind And His Man (Standing Stone / Menhir)

Not only related to this mound and stone, but to the three surviving burial monuments in the Bolam area. Recent folklore reports the appearance of a hairy anthropoid, in the Yeti/Sasquatch style. It has been suggested by some researchers into such phenomena, that reports of this kind of creature are related to transient electrical phenomena emanating from faultlines in the bedrock.
Others have suggested that prehistoric monuments are also related to faultlines (not leylines). Perhaps there's a fault in the Bolam area that ties these reports of creatures with the prehistoric monuments in the vicinity. (mebbe!). I have chosen to believe that a combination of these ideas, combined with the presence of iron in the bedrock, is what played havoc with the memory card in my camera. As the closeup of an iron nodule on the Man was wiped, and other images on the card were scrambled. Spooky action at a distance? Or an overactive imagination?

The Shearers (Stone Row / Alignment)

According to local Tales, the Shearers are associated with a tale of Roman military misfortune.
A general recorded in his journals that he was having not recurrent problems with deserters. Many of the Levied troops from far flung roman provinces would regularly go AWOL. These troops were usually rounded up and punished. However, one group is recorded as having never been found, bar one individual. The chap was incapable of relating the whereabouts of his comrades however, as he had apparently lost his sanity at some point during his unsanctioned holiday. It was "As though he had gazed into the face of Orcus(the Roman god of death and the underworld, similar to Hades in Greek mythology), and his mind struck asunder by the horrors that he saw."

This is more juicy than the other account for the name, which is that the stones are crop shearers who were petrified for working on the Sabbath. At least they weren't dancing.

Local information courtesy of Kelspook. (Thanks dude!)

The Goatstones (Stone Circle)

According to a local farmer, the stones were said to have been the site of a grave of one of the "pot people".

Warton Crag (Hillfort)

“It is believed that the entire summit of Warton Crag was once a fort, built by the Brigantes (an early British tribe) in the 1st century AD, making use of the defences provided by the natural rock formation. The path crosses the remains of semi-circular ramparts which can just be traced within the woodland to the north of the summit. The fort evidently gave Warton its name, meaning the turn (town) by the Weard (a watch place, or look-out)”


(which also gives very detailed directions for the walker)

Old Hartley (Standing Stone / Menhir)

According to the Pub Barstaff, the bluestone directly in front of the Deleval Arms is not the original, but was placed as a decoy to prevent drunken locals damaging the original, which has been dumped in the beer garden at the back of the pub.

It's also said that the correct spelling is 'Blewstone' and that this refers to the stone's original status as the 'ancient saxon oath stone' that was previously in the centre of the now demolished village of Hartley.

The immediate area is dripping with macabre folklore regarding the Deleval family, who had a reputation for madness, wild parties and witch-burning.

According to 'County Folklore Vol IV, Northumberland', 1904, by MC Balfour, this stone was known as the witches obelisk. It had a variation of an old common theme which said that if you were to run round it seven times without stopping, 'The Witch' would appear.

Here's the text on display in the Deleval Arms Hotel:

"The Blue whinstone at the Old Hartley, near the entrance to the Deleval Arms Hotel, once marked the centre of the village of Old Hartley. A number of these large stones can be seen at various places on the Northumberland coast.
It is generally supposed that they rolled down during the ice age when the ice moved from west to east at the time of the great thaw.
In the early English and Saxon periods, they were called 'Moot Stones' and were used as a meeting place by the 'Wittan', a council of Village elders who gathered to formulate the laws and dispense justice.
During Norman times these stones were used as markers for castles and boundaries.
"Ye large Blew Stone marked ye site of Warkworth Castle" and at Mokseaton, "Ye Boulder Stone was a large "Blew Stone" near ye burn".
The Old Hartley Blue Stone marked the centre of the village and stood near the Blacksmith's shop, it was here that the villagers would meet before setting out on a journey.
At the time of the black death in 1348 it was thought that if one touched the stone they would be immune from the plague.
Over the years the stone became a symbol of good fortune and it was said to become a citizen of Old Hartley you had first to kiss the Blue Stone.
The Story goes that William Carr, the Hartley Samson, who was born at the Hartley Old Engine, and who was in his prime was the strongest man in all England, used to demonstrate his strength by lifting the stone and carrying it under his arm.
When the old village was demolished in 1940, the stone was buried in the path leading from the Blacksmith's shop to the PM chapel and when the new road was planned, Mr Wesley Dickinson removed the stone for safe keeping. When the roadworks were completed in 1973, the Whitley Bay Borough Council replaced the stone as near as possible to it's original position."

According to C.T. Trechmann in 1913, the area immediately to the east of the stone yielded evidence of prehistoric flintworking.
Whilst this proves nowt about the age of the stone, the concentration of flints opposite St Mary's island was in direct contrast with the paucity of similar evidence between this area and the mouth of the Tyne.

'Notes on Neolithic Chipping Sites in Northumberland and Durham' (Transactions Natural History Society of Northumberland, Durham and Newcastle, 2, IV pt. 1, p. 81)
I like the Prehistoric Rock Art of Northumberland:

Ketley Crag
Weetwood Moor
Dod Law
Roughting Linn
Fowberry Cairn
Old Bewick

Currently obsessed with waving torches at things, often including rocks, as a prelude to some serious waving of torches at rocks that will inevitably appear here on tma at some point :)

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