Ancient Monuments

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The Calderstones: six monoliths decorated with rock art

A Scheduled Monument in Church, Liverpool

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Latitude: 53.3821 / 53°22'55"N

Longitude: -2.8974 / 2°53'50"W

OS Eastings: 340401.847389

OS Northings: 387622.315829

OS Grid: SJ404876

Mapcode National: GBR 7RY.6L

Mapcode Global: WH87G.G8H2

Entry Name: The Calderstones: six monoliths decorated with rock art

Scheduled Date: 15 August 1994

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1008531

English Heritage Legacy ID: 23692

County: Liverpool

Electoral Ward/Division: Church

Built-Up Area: Liverpool

Traditional County: Lancashire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Merseyside

Church of England Parish: Allerton All Hallows

Church of England Diocese: Liverpool


The monument is known as the Calderstones, a group of six decorated sandstone
monoliths thought originally to have formed part of a Neolithic chambered tomb
constructed approximately 4,000 years ago. These stones have been removed from
their original context and are now arranged in a circle and located in the
vestibule of Harthill Greenhouses in Calderstones Park. They display an
abundance of prehistoric rock carvings and were closely examined by
Forde-Johnston in 1954 after their removal from an earlier location close to
the entrance to Calderstones Park where they had been erected for display in
1845. They were erected in their present location in 1964 and placed in a
random order.

Upon entering the greenhouse vestibule the nearest stone is Forde-Johnston's
stone B. It measures about 2m long by 1.5m wide with a maximum thickness of
about 0.5m. There are markings on the front face and both edges which include
spirals, concentric circles, arcs, cup marks, footprints, a Bronze Age axe,
and a cross considered to have been carved at a much later date than the
prehistoric artwork. Moving clockwise the next stone is Forde-Johnston's stone
E which measures 1.5m long by 1m wide and about 0.6m thick. On the front face
are spirals and concentric circles, while on the rear face are concentric
circles and footprints, plus a Maltese cross generally attributed to the
medieval period. Stone C is the largest and measures nearly 3m long by 2m wide
and 0.27m thick. On the front face are spirals, cup marks and a circle; on the
rear face there is a group of four concentric circles and numerous cup marks.
Stone D measures about 5m long and 1m wide. It displays cup and ring marks and
a triangle on the front face, and seven 19th century carvings of the outlines
of boots on the rear face. Stone A measures approximately 2.5m in height and
about 1m in width. On the front face are concentric circles, parallel lines
and two footmarks, while on the rear face there are concentric circles and
spirals. The final stone, stone F, measures about 1m long and 0.75m wide and
is decorated on its rear face only with a sun or wheel motif. After examining
the prehistoric artwork Forde-Johnston concluded that the spirals, concentric
circles, cup and ring marks, arcs and parallel lines identified on the
Calderstones are also found at chambered tombs in Ireland, Anglesey and west
Wales, while the footmarks have connections with tombs in Brittany.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 1 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Prehistoric rock art is found on natural rock outcrops in many areas of upland
Britain. It is especially common in the north of England in Northumberland,
Durham and North and West Yorkshire. The most common form of decoration is the
`cup and ring' marking where expanses of small cup-like hollows are pecked
into the surface of the rock. These cups may be surrounded by one or more
`rings'. Single pecked lines extending from the cup through the `rings' may
also exist, providing the design with a `tail'. Other shapes and patterns also
occur, but are less frequent. Carvings may occur singly, in small groups, or
may cover extensive areas of rock surface. They date to the Late Neolithic and
Bronze Age periods (2800-c.500 BC) and provide one of our most important
insights into prehistoric `art'. The exact meaning of the designs remains
unknown, but they may be interpreted as sacred or religious symbols.
Frequently they are found close to contemporary burial monuments and the
symbols are also found on portable stones placed directly next to burials or
incorporated in burial mounds. Around 800 examples of prehistoric rock-art
have been recorded in England. This is unlikely to be a realistic reflection
of the number carved in prehistory. Many will have been overgrown or destroyed
in activities such as quarrying. All positively identified prehistoric rock
art sites exhibiting a significant group of designs will normally be
identified as nationally important.

Despite being moved from their original location and context as elements of a
Neolithic chambered tomb, the prehistoric rock carvings displayed on the
Calderstones survive reasonably well. The stones contain good examples of the
artwork of that period including unusual `footmark' designs, and will
facilitate any further study of the distribution patterns and development of
prehistoric rock carvings.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Forde-Johnston, , Megalithic Art in the NW of Britain - The Calderstones, Liverpool, (1957), 20-39
'Merseyside Archaeological Society' in The Calderstones - a Prehistoric tomb in Liverpool, (), 1-40

Source: Historic England

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