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Robin Hood's Penny Stone (Wainstalls)

Locality
Coordinates 53.755, -1.9311111111111
Adm. div. West Riding of Yorkshire
Vicinity Immediately W of Lumb Lane in Wainstalls
Type Natural feature
Interest Robin Hood name
Status Defunct
First Record 1775
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Robin Hood's Penny Stone.
Robin Hood's Penny Stone, cut based on a drawing from 1761 (from John Watson 1775)
Illustration from Gutch, John Mathew, ed. A Lytell Geste of Robin Hode, with Other Ancient & Modern Ballads and Songs relating to this Celebrated Yeoman (London, 1847), vol. II, p. 301. This woodcut purports to show "Robin Hood's Penny-stone, near Halifax", but like several others in the book it has only the most general resemblance to its supposed motif.
Robin Hood's Penny Stone would be inside, or at any rate very close to, the barn near the centre of the photo were it to suddenly rematerialize at the spot where it used to sit.

By Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2013-07-30. Revised by Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2018-07-12.

Robin Hood's Penny Stone was a now vanished logan or rocking stone situated a few meters to the west of Lumb Lane in Wainstalls. It is indicated in black letter — which means the object itself was no longer there — on a 6" O.S. map of the area published in 1852 but surveyed 1847-49.[1] A.H. Smith,[2] followed by Dobson & Taylor,[3] seems to have been led by Watson's mentioning "the road leading to the village of Luddenden" in the 1775 Allusion into believing that the Robin Hood's Penny Stone concerned there is that on Midgley Moor. The distance between the two can only have been about 3 km, yet it is clear that the rock Watson was discussing must have been that near Wainstalls. The cut he prints — shown below — clearly does not show the Midgley Moor stone. Under the heading of "Warley", Watson discusses "what the country people call the Rocking-stone", which is situated on "a common called Saltonstall-moor".[4] "Saltonstall-moor" was at the southern end of what is now known as Warley Moor, where the Rocking Stone is located.[5] When Watson saw Robin Hood's Penny Stone "[s]oon after I had left the moor, on the right side of the road leading to the village of Luddenden" (1775 Allusion), this must therefore be at Wainstalls, which is close both to Saltonstall Moor and to a road that leads to Luddenden, the nearest village, 2.5 km to the south measured as the crow flies. Referring to Watson, Crossland noted in 1902 that "Robin Hood's Penny Stone, formerly at Wainstalls, has been broken up and removed".[6] He thus takes for granted that the rock mentioned by Watson was that at Wainstalls.

In 1836, John Crabtree published under his own name a book that is a somewhat condensed and modernized paraphrase of Watson (see 1836 Allusion). This sad example of plagiarism deserves to be ignored completely, but it does add this interesting tidbit about the penny stone: "Report says that it was surrounded with a circle, but a few years ago this relic of antiquity was broken up for building purposes".[7] I believe "this relic of antiquity" refers to the entire complex of rocking stone and base plus surrounding stone circle rather than just the latter, but this is of course not certain.

F.W. Fairholt's woodcut (reproduced below) from J.M. Gutch's 1847 collection of Robin Hood ballads purports to show "Robin Hood's Penny-stone, near Halifax".[8] It obviously does not show the same stone as the illustration in Watson 1775 (also preproduced below), while the other Robin Hood's Penny Stone is a big boulder, which if anything looks even less like the pillar in Fairholt's woodcut. I think this little mystery dissolves when one takes a look at the other illustrations Fairholt produced for Gutch's book. Several of them bear only the most general resemblance to the obejcts they purport to depict. Someone must have decided that any stone, well, grave etc. would do.

Allusions

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.)[9]

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.[10]

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