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 Location: Yorkshire, England. (O/S SE 319665).  Grid Reference: 54° 5' 33.5" N, 1° 24' 7.6" W.

 

The Devil's Arrows.      The Devil's Arrows: (Menhir Alignment).

Only three of the original four (possibly five) stones now remain.

The second largest standing stones in Britain, and bettered in height only by the Rudstone Monument near Scarborough.

These stones form an important part of the prehistoric landscape, forming alignments with other sites including several henges as far away as Thornborough complex (called the 'Stonehenge of the North'), and one of the most important prehistoric sites in Northern England.

Alfred Watkins suggested that these stones were 'mark-stones', of which he says 'I know of five', and 'close examination shows that... they must have been cut'  

(Click here for Map of site)

 

 

 

   The Devil's Arrows:

 ('The Devil's Bolts', 'Three Grey Hounds', 'Three Sisters')

Description - The Devils Arrows sit next to the A1 at Buroughbridge by the river Ure. Three stones remain, they are 18ft, 22ft and 22ft 6in tall, the last of these being taller than anything at Stonehenge. The smallest of the stones is rectangular – about 8ft 6in by 4ft 6in. The 22ft stone is 5ft by 4ft in girth and the third and tallest 4ft 6in by 4ft. (1)

Probably originally a five-stone row. The fourth stone was reputedly broken up in 1582 to build the bridge over the River Tutt, and the fifth is lost in history. The stones are of grit-stone, having pointed tops, with a fluted effect also seen in St Uzec, France, and are buried over 1.5m into the ground. (An excavation of the smallest stone in 1876 revealed a hole 4ft 6in deep and five years later, an excavation of the tallest Arrow showed 6ft of it to be buried in the ground) (1).

The three stones from North to South, becoming progressively taller and slimmer.

The stones are composed of millstone grit and the likely source is Plumpton Rocks two miles south of Knaresborough where erosion has produced large quantities of individual slabs. The lightest of the Arrows weighs over 25 tons and would have had to be pulled over a distance of some nine miles. Recent experiments (including one televised in 1996 “Secrets of Lost Empires”) have proved the feasibility of moving and erecting such stones without the benefit of modern equipment and technology. It is estimated that the arduous pull from Plumpton to Boroughbridge would have taken six months.

 

Chronology:

Suggested to have dated from around 2,700 BC (Site Plaque. 2007)

 

More Stones..

'A report of a visit by John Leland in the 1530s gives a clear and detailed description of four standing stones. Thirty years later William Camden wrote of seeing “foure huge stones, of pyramidal forme, but very rudely wrought, set as it were in a straight and direct line... whereof one was lately pulled downe by some that hoped, though in vaine, to find treasure”. (1)

 

Confusingly, the Yorkshire antiquarian Edmund Bogg (1895) just over a hundred years ago said:

“Peter Franck, a fisherman who travelled much about the world to enjoy his sport, came to Boroughbridge in 1694 and says he saw seven of these standing stones, Dr Stukeley mentions five, and John Leyland, in his travels, saw ‘four great stones wrought by man’s hands,’ but no inscription upon them. Camden, in 1592, saw four, but one of them at the time was thrown down, ‘for,’ says he, ‘the accursed love of gain.’ Part of this one is still to be seen, built into the Peggy Bridge which crosses the Tut on the entrance to the town, the top portion being preserved in the grounds of Aldborough Manor and this goes far to prove — and I have very carefully considered the question and examined the ground — that the original number of stones was far greater, and reached from the Yore, in equal distances to the Tudland of Leyland’s time, or the Staveley Beck of today. If this argument is correct, 2000 years ago there would be a line of at least 12 standing monoliths guarding the western approach to Isur Brigantium.”

 

The upper section of the fourth stone is claimed to stand in the grounds of Aldborough Manor and the lower part is believed to form part of the bridge which crosses the River Tutt in St. Helena just a few hundred yards away on the route into the town centre. Large pieces of the same millstone grit have turned up in the garden of a house bordering the field in  which the enclosure containing the largest arrow stands. Two large boulders of the same material as the stones have been found in the garden of a house only a hundred yards or so from the line of the stones and may possibly be part of the fourth stone.
 
 

The Alignments.

It is important to highlight that the three stones do not fall into a straight alignment.

Having noted an alignment relating to the three Thornborough Circles, one can see that these three henges also share an offset-alignment, as do the nearby henges on Hutton Moor, and a group of three tumuli there also. This 'elbow' alignment between three monuments is seen at several other circles in England, and is often suggested as being related to Orion's Belt.

(More about Triple-circles)

The Devils Arrows are the centre of the most important alignment of standing stones, henges and other remains in Northern England, all running roughly N/S alongside the ancient line of the A1, Stretching from Hutton Moor to Thornborough and beyond.

In the 1970’s Paul Devereux wrote in The Ley Hunter’s Companion that "the functions of the monoliths was to act as a multi-directional sighting or reference instrument." Devereux also quotes G Bernard Wood on "the Devil’s arrows stand in line "with an ancient ford across the River Ure."

Deveraux, Pennick and others have noted two distinct alignments from the Devil's Arrows.

 

Astronomy - The most likely astronomical alignment is the alignment with the southernmost summer moonrise (1). The stones were the site of a solstice fair in historical times according to Stuckley.

(Click here for more about Geometric Alignments)

 

Mythology.

The story which led to the latter name is thought to date from the end of the 17th century: Old Nick, irritated by some slight from Aldborough, threw the stones at the village from his stance on How Hill (south of Fountains Abbey). His aim, or his strength, being below par the “arrows’ fell short by a good mile.  It was also claimed, and perhaps still is, that walking 12 times around the stones anti-clockwise will raise the Devil. (1)

 

 

The Grooves: Grooved Stones.

The Devil's Arrows.

 

Each of the standing stones has a series of grooves at the top which are disputably thought to have been carved by man (or the result of weathering). They show no trace of tool working today – and the same grooves of varying lengths can be observed at Plumpton rocks where the stones for the Devil's Arrows are suggested to have originated.

The first recorded excavation at the foot of the stones was in 1709 when a 9ft area around the central stone was opened. This revealed that, just below the topsoil, cobbles, grit and clay had been packed around the stone to a depth of 5ft. The base of the stone had been dressed by pointed tools to produce a smooth bottom which sat squarely on the hard packed clay beneath.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Menhir de St. Uzec, Brittany, France.

 
Near the end of the 17th century a cross was installed, and the section below it was carved (on the other side), with the representations of the instruments associated with the passion of Christ, including a ladder and a lance. There is/was also a painting of the crucifixion on the menhir that had to be frequently retouched because of the high moisture content in Brittany.

 

 
 
 

 

 
Alfred Watkins said that he knew of five examples of vertically grooved stones. He said of them:

 
 

'Most amazing of all, are those like the 'Queen stone' (Right), near Symonds Yat on the Wye, which have deep grooves running down them. Several writers (as Mr. O. G. S. Crawford, in "Antiquity") have stated these to be naturally formed by rain action. But a close examination shows this to be impossible, and hat they must be artificially cut. Those of the Queen stone are from 5 to 7 inches deep and only 2 to 2½ inches wide, and suddenly ceasing near the base of the stone... They are also on all four sides of the (Queen) stone, whereas if stratification were a contributing cause, as Mr. Crawford suggests, the grooves could only be on two sides... The name in old Manor rolls is Quin Stone, and as I find 'gwyn', which is Welsh for white, is in the Cornish tongue corrupted to quin, the original name was the white stone, although its colour is red. Now white stones are mentioned in the Welsh Triads as of special importance for meetings'. (2)

 

 

The Robin Hood's Stone is reputed to be from the Calderstones chambered tomb (In 1964 the six stones were moved to their present site in the Harthill Greenhouse in Calderstones Park where they were erected in random order). It now stands in iron railings on the junction of Booker Avenue and Archerfield road in Allerton at SJ399863. This stone has a number of grooves on it similar to The Calderstones, and an old photograph from Watkin's 'Ley Hunters Manual' shows cup-marks on the end now buried. Before its present siting in August 1928, the stone stood in a nearby field known as Stone Hey. The stone was moved when the site was to be built over. A plaque on the base of the stone records the bearing from its present position to its former site; 198 feet at a bearing of 7 degrees east of true north.

 

 

 

 

Robin Hoods Stride - Peak District (Right) -

 

 

 

 

Gotland, Sweden - There are about 3,600 known grooves on stones scattered throughout the island of Gotland. 700 are scored directly into the limestone bedrock, the rest are found on about 800 stones. The length of the grooves varies from about 0.5 to 1 meter. They are between 5 cm to 10 cm wide and 1 cm to 10 cm in depth. The most important feature of the grooves appears to be in their alignment. A recent study of 1,256 grooves showed that they are aligned with certain positions of the celestial bodies, apparently the sun or the moon. Most of them are oriented east to west. (3)

 

Gallery of Images: The Devil's Arrows.

The Devil's Arrows.

 

(Menhirs Homepage)

(Other Prehistoric English sites)

 

 

 

References:

1). http://www.boroughbridge.org.uk/process/17/DevilsArrows.html
2). A. Watkins. The Ley Hunters Manual. 1989. Aquarian Press.
3). http://www.zodiacology.com/Gotland_Grooves.html

 

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