Could a well known but little visited megalithic site in the Vale of York, suggest the origin of a little known megalith in the Ribble Valley.
The Devils Arrows consist of three stone monoliths, and are located on Roecliffe Lane on the edge of Boroughbridge. The stones are roughly aligned north/south. Approached from Boroughbridge the tallest megalith stands by the side of the lane on the left hand side. Two slightly smaller megaliths are to be found in the field on the right hand side of the lane. The tallest stone is 22 feet high. Below is a photograph of the stone. For purposes of comparison the figure standing next to the stone is five feet
ten inches tall. The “Arrows” are undoubtedly an impressive monument.(SE391666)
It is thought that these megaliths were cut from beds of millstone grit located eight miles away near Knaresborough. The stones were erected about four thousand years ago in the early Bronze Age. The Arrow’s should maybe not be seen in isolation, but part of a larger cult area including the group of henge monuments to the east of Ripon. Sadly the A1(M) motorway runs very close to the site. The motorway obscures the observation that the stones were located very close to the river Ure. The Ure becomes the Ouse then the Humber, the principal river of this geographical region. In ancient times Boroughbridge (Milby) was the highest point of navigation on this river system. Professor Jackson concluded that the river name Ure was of very ancient origin - pre Celtic. Indeed the people who erected the Arrow’s could have known this river as the Ure. The origin of the river name comes from the same root as Urdu. In the context of the Arrows site Ure means the river of the valley (Vale of York). It was undoubtedly the people of the valley - the Ur folk, who erected these monoliths.
To the casual observer the most curious feature of all three stones are the deep grooves running down each stone, formed by four thousand years of rain.
It is held that there were once four megaliths at Boroughbridge, but one was removed and now forms part of a bridge across the brook which passes though the town (St Helena Bridge) For those who visit the Arrows, Boroughbridge is a pleasant brick built town with a good selection of café’s and other places of refreshment. At nearby Aldborough remains of the Roman capital of Brigantia are well worth a visit.
The Pendleton Fiddle Stone is a slab which was once in use as a bridge across the village brook. In early part of the last century the stone was removed and safely stored at Standen Hall. In 2000 the stone was relocated besides the brook at the upper end of the village. Pendleton is sign posted from the A59 Whalley/Clitheroe by pass. The layout of the village is very ancient. The village consists of two rows of cottage/farms facing each other. The village brook runs down the middle of the village. The narrowing of the village street at each end indicates the ancient moor gate and field gate respectively. There has been a settlement on this site for over a thousand years. The road towards Pendle passes to the east of the Fiddle Stone and past a farm building. After the farm but before the church a footpath leads down to the brook which is crossed by a small modern wooden bridge. This was the location of another clam, single slab foot bridge. This majestic ancient stone was broken up by council workers within the last decade. The foot path follows a very ancient route to the ancient settlement of Wymondhouses high on the flank of Pendle. In 1890 the brook was crossed by two fords and two foot bridges. One footbridge is still in place and the second, the Fiddle Bridge, was replaced by the road bridge at the top end of the village.
The weathering on the Fiddle Stone indicates its ancient origin but exact dating is not possible. However the weathering on both flanks of the stone suggests distant antiquity. The strange shape of the stone indicates that it was not cut to purpose. Indeed it could be argued that the shape of the stone was as a result of natural forces when the stone stood in an upright position for a very long period of time. It is not in the least uncommon for stone artifacts to be reused in later periods. A shaft of stone could always be used as a gate post or incorporated into the fabric of a building.
In 1905 the Journal of the Darwen Ramblers noted that near the church at Pendleton there stood certain large stones - similar to the one spanning the brook. The existence of the now lost Pendleton stones is linked to the folk tale concerning a giant throwing stones from Pendle towards the castle at Clitheroe. What do these lost stones represent? The first modern map of the village was the original ordinance survey of over one hundred and fifty years ago. Close to the church ruins are indicated, however it transpires that these ruins represent the remains of the parish poor house which once stood on this site. There is no trace of these lost monoliths to be seen today. An intriguing reference in a book by Jessica Lofthouse (The Three Rivers 1948) refers to a single standing stone in the fields above Pendleton. This stone is still in place in a field four hundred yards from the church towards the Nick of Pendle. The stone stands next to a very small dry stone wall enclosure. The tree planted within the enclosure was planted as a memorial to Thomas Bullcock of Clough Head, Twiston. There is no public right of way to this site. The enclosure can be seen in a field west of the Wymondhouses/Pendleton footpath. The stone has weathering which was in legend linked to the hand print of the Devil. The stone is now lying flat. I have inspected the stone and would suggest that the marks are the result of it being exposed to the elements over a long period, when the stone was upright.
The earliest large scale map of the village shows no indication of any large stones near the church. The plan of the original sale of the land which the parish church was built is held at the Lancashire Record Office. Again there is no reference to any large stones on the site of the church. The field names of the village refer to lost barrows - Umpshill - Imps Hill a common medieval name for a barrow or tumulus. When Jessica Lofthouse recorded these names she could not have expected that a few decades later a Bronze Age burial would be found in the village - at Carriers Croft. Clearly this suggests that a number of barrows once existed hereabouts. Maybe the place name of near by Barrow between Whalley and Clitheroe refers to these lost monuments. It is a fact that in the Bronze Age barrows are often found sited close to ancient megaliths.
Alas, all we can do is speculate. Pendleton was a Royal Manor at the time of the Norman Survey. Field name and archaeological evidence suggest a cluster of Bronze Age burials. Was the Fiddle stone and the other lost clam bridge salvaged from a lost Megalithic monument? Was the Fiddle Stone used like the fourth Devils Arrow at Boroughbridge to form a bridge? Any information concerning the lost stones from the vicinity of the church might throw light on what is at present just an intriguing possibility. If this monument did exist it would have been a site of regional historic importance.
Nicholas Thomas, Guide to Prehistoric England, BT Batsford, 1960. Pages 244/5.
Professor K Jackson, Language and History in Early Britain, 1953-5.
Jessica Lofthouse The Three Rivers 1948. Pages 55 to 56.
Lancashire Record Office - Parochial Records & Map Collection.
David Barrowclough. Prehistoric Lancashire, History Press 2008. Pages 216 to 218.
Photo Credit Boroughbridge Tim Dixon.
John Dixon and Phillip Dixon 2009.