Standing Stone (Sowerby)

From International Robin Hood Bibliography
Coordinate 53.71601, -1.965112
Adm. div. West Riding of Yorkshire
Vicinity c. 1.75 km W of Luddenden Foot
Type Natural feature
Interest Local tradition
Status Defunct
First Record 1775
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Approximate former location of the Standing Stone and c. 150 m south the location to which it was moved or the location of another standing stone.

By Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2014-10-19. Revised by Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2021-01-06.

The Standing Stone in Sowerby was a pillar about 180 cm in height near the Long Causeway on the boundary between the townships of Sowerby and Mytholmroyd. According to tradition, Robin Hood threw this rock off a nearby hill with a spade as he was digging (see 1775 Allusion). The stone is first referred to – without any mention of Robin Hood – in minister's accounts of 1403 and the Wakefield court rolls of 1525. There are several later references.[1] According to the 'Northern Antiquary', the monolith was still standing in situ in 1852, but by the early 20th century it had been moved to another location in the vicinity, and subsequently it has vanished without a trace.[2] As an armchair explorer I am in no position to deny the validity of this, but I must note that on the 6" O.S. maps of the area published 1894 to 1950 is indicated not only "Standing Stone (Site of)" but c. 150 m south of this another "Standing Stone" which was then still standing. Were there once two standing stones or do these maps give us the former and (then) current location of one and the same stone? If the latter is the case, is the stone still there?


[1775:] SOWERBY
Has in it a rude stone pillar, called the Standing Stone, near six feet high, which may have been an idol of the Heathen inhabitants of this land, such as was forbidden Leviticus xxvi. I. "Ye shall make you no idols, nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image (in the original, a pillar) neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it." Or it might mark out the burial place of some great person; as when Rachel died, "Jacob set up a pillar on her grave," Gen. xxxv. 20; or, lastly, it might be erected to perpetuate some remarkable event, the very tradition of which is now lost.[3]


1775 - Watson, John - History and Antiquities of Halifax (1)

On Saltonstall moor [...] Soon after I had left the moor, on the right side of the road leading to the village of Luddenden, I saw what is generally called Robin Hood's Penny-stone, for the country people here attribute every thing of the marvellous kind to Robin Hood, as in Cornwall they do to king Arthur. Thus, for instance, he is said to have used this stone to pitch with at a mark for amusement; and to have thrown the standing stone in Sowerby off an adjoining hill with a spade as he was digging; but I confess, that some of the common people will smile when they relate these stories; they are not quite so credulous now as their great grandfathers were. This last mentioned remain is a stone of several tons weight, laid upon a massy piece of rock, with a large pebble of a different grit between them, which is wedged so fast, that it is very plain it was put there by human art, or strength. I could not learn whether this [p. 28:] would ever rock or not, (meeting with but one person to converse with,) but if it did, probably it was poised on this pebble, and might some time or other have been thrown off its center. (See No. 6. of the plate.)[4]

1836 - Crabtree, John - Concise History of Halifax (1)

On the right side of the road leading to the village of Luddenden there was formerly the remains of an altar, called Robin Hood's Penny Stone, who is said to have used this stone to pitch with at a mark for amusement, and to have thrown the Standing Stone, in Sowerby off an adjoining hill with his spade as he was digging ! Report says that it was surrounded with a circle, but a few years ago this relic of antiquity was broken up for building purposes.[5]