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Member of the Institute of France; of the
ON THE DRUIDICAL ROCK BASINS IN THE
NEIGHBOURHOOD OF BURNLEY.
By T. T. Wilkinson, F.R.A.S. &c.
(READ 15TH DECEMBER, 1864.)
PENDLE Hill and Boulsworth form two of the highest points of the Pennine chain on the borders of Lancashire and Yorkshire. The former lies a few miles from the boundary line between the two counties; whilst the latter, resting its base in both, throws off its “becks" and "brooks " respectively west and east into the Irish Sea and the German Ocean.
The border district of East Lancashire is remarkably wild and dreary. Its many bills, varying in height from about 1,300 to at least 1,800 feet above the level of the sea, are far beyond the limit of profitable cultivation, and hence have been little modified by the hand of man. Most of the moors are nominally parcelled out amongst the neighbouring landed proprietors; but in general they are little more than waste lands, plentifully stocked with game, and traversed only by a few sheep during the Summer season. In the Autumn, however, they mostly lose their dreary character, and may even be said to present a beautiful aspect. From the crests of the highest hills, the densely wooded ravines stretch far away between the lower ridges towards the more
expanded valleys below. The gently undulating surfaces which separate these are then clothed with a luxuriant crop of blooming heather, whose ever-varying hues, as it is bent by the passing breeze, add an almost inexpressible charm to the surrounding landscape. It is amongst these wild and dreary wastes that the
of the geologist will not fail to observe the immense masses of weather-worn rock and boulders of the millstone grit formation which rear their heads above the heather and seem, by their numbers and positions, to have been scattered abroad in the wildest profusion by some freak of nature. A little closer examination, however, will convince him that most of these occupy very nearly their original positions. All the detached boulders are of the same coarse sandstone; and their parent rocks may
be seen in situ at no great distance. Some of the groups may represent the ruins of ancient sea-cliffs, which have almost become levelled by the hand of time; others seem to have been transported from higher to lower levels ; and all pretty nearly indicate the outcrops of the strata which form the boundaries of the faults between the millstone grits and the succeeding limestone shales. On a former occasion I directed the attention of this Society (vol. ix, pp. 21-42) to the ancient fortifications, tumuli &c., which still exist on the lower ridges of the hills in East Lancashire. They formed an important item in my attempt to fix the site of the Battle of Brunanburh in the neighbourhood of Burnley; but, apart from this, they are interesting in themselves, as illustrating the modes of defence adopted by the different races of people which have successively occupied this portion of our county. In that communication I hinted that some of these remains pointed rather towards religious rites than the exigencies of
On further examination I am still more inclined to suppose that one or two of these circular, or “Druid Barrows," as Dr. Stukely termed them, (Fosbroke's Antiquities, vol. ii,
p. 544), were formed by the Ancient Britons for sacred purposes. This is more particularly the case with those on Broad Bank and Hellclough Hill, two marked prominences on opposite sides of Thorsden Valley. The name of the “clough ” and hill just mentioned suggests sepulchral rites, and the existence of tumuli in the immediate vicinity renders the conjecture at least not improbable.
But these are not the only instances in the neighbourhood of Burnley where traces of Druidical worship may be found. Dr. Borlase, in his Antiquities of Cornwall, notices the existence of Rock BASINS, which appear to have been scooped out of the granite rocks and boulders which lie on the tops of the hills in that county. Several such cavities are found on Brimham Rocks, near Knaresborough. They are also instanced by Messrs. Britton and Brayley as occurring on Stanton Moor in Derbyshire. Allen, in his History of Yorkshire, vol. iii, pp. 421-425, notices their existence at Plumpton and Rigton; and I have now the pleasure of announcing to this Society that they are found in considerable numbers around Boulsworth, Gorple, Todmorden, and on the hills which separate Lancashire from Yorkshire between these places.
If we commence our enumeration of the groups of boulders &c., containing rock basins, with the slopes of Boulsworth, about seven miles from Burnley, we have first the Standing Stones, which are mostly single blocks of millstone grit, situated at short distances from each other on the northwestern side of the hill. One of these is locally termed the Buttock Stone, and near it is a block which has a circular cavity scooped out on its flat upper surface. Not far from these are the Joiner Stones, the Abbot Stone, the Weather Stones, and Lad Law Stones. The last name is certainly suggestive of the religious rites of the Ancient Druids, (Sammes's Britannia Antiqua, p. 126); for Lad may mean