Ancient Monuments

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Druid's Altar four poster stone circle

A Scheduled Monument in Hetton-cum-Bordley, North Yorkshire

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Latitude: 54.0833 / 54°4'59"N

Longitude: -2.0787 / 2°4'43"W

OS Eastings: 394947.415815

OS Northings: 465270.767112

OS Grid: SD949652

Mapcode National: GBR FPX6.RZ

Mapcode Global: WHB6N.1MDH

Entry Name: Druid's Altar four poster stone circle

Scheduled Date: 24 November 1964

Last Amended: 23 August 1994

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1008773

English Heritage Legacy ID: 24468

County: North Yorkshire

Civil Parish: Hetton-cum-Bordley

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): North Yorkshire


The monument known as the Druid's Altar lies south of the Lantern Holes on
Malham Moor and includes a turf covered earth and stone mound approximately 1m
high which measures 13.5m by 10m. The long axis lies NNE/SSW. The mound has
been mutilated by robbing, especially on the south.
There are three standing stones situated centrally which protrude through
the remains of the mound and reach a height of 1m-1.3m. A fourth stone lies
prostrate in the centre of these and another measuring 1.5m by 0.9m on the
south west margin.
The monument was described by the antiquarian Speight in 1892 as a `round
stone and earth mound about 150ft in circumference and 3ft high, and was
formally surrounded by a circle of upright stones, only three of which are now
left standing'.
The name Druid's Altar derives from the inclusion at one time of a flat
stone resting across the top of two standing stones. This is said to have been
destroyed many years ago and no reliable record of it remains.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Stone circles are prehistoric monuments comprising one or more circles of
upright or recumbent stones. The circle of stones may be surrounded by
earthwork features such as enclosing banks and ditches. Single upright stones
may be found within the circle or outside it and avenues of stones radiating
out from the circle occur at some sites. Burial cairns may also be found close
to and on occasion within the circle. Stone circles are found throughout
England although they are concentrated in western areas, with particular
clusters in upland areas such as Bodmin and Dartmoor in the south-west and the
Lake District and the rest of Cumbria in the north-west. This distribution may
be more a reflection of present survival rather than an original pattern.
Where excavated they have been found to date from the Late Neolithic to the
Middle Bronze Age (c.2400-1000 BC). It is clear that they were designed and
laid out carefully, frequently exhibiting very regularly spaced stones, the
heights of which also appear to have been of some importance. We do not fully
understand the uses for which these monuments were originally constructed but
it is clear that they had considerable ritual importance for the societies
that used them. In many instances excavation has indicated that they provided
a focus for burials and the rituals that accompanied interment of the dead.
Some circles appear to have had a calendrical function, helping mark the
passage of time and seasons, this being indicated by the careful alignment of
stones to mark important solar or lunar events such as sunrise or sunset at
midsummer or midwinter. At other sites the spacing of individual circles
throughout the landscape has led to a suggestion that each one provided some
form of tribal gathering point for a specific social group. A four-poster
stone circle is a rectangular or sub-rectangular setting of four or five
stones, which are, or were once, upright. The corner stones of the rectangle
usually lie on the perimeter of a circle. They are confined to high ground,
clustered on Exmoor, the North Yorkshire Moors, Northumberland, Cumbria and
West Yorkshire with outliers in Shropshire and Derbyshire. Of the 250 or so
stone circles identified in England only 22 are examples of four-posters. As a
rare monument type which provides an important insight into prehistoric ritual
activity all surviving examples are worthy of preservation.

Although the monument has been disturbed at some time it remains in
reasonably good condition, preserving three limestone uprights and two
recumbent stones.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Burl, A, 'Stone Circles of the British Isles.' in Stone Circles of the British Isles, (1977), 327/349
Feather, S W, Manby, T G, 'Yorkshire Archaeological Journal.' in Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, , Vol. 42, (1970), 397
Raistrick, A , 'Yorkshire Archaeological Journal' in The Bronze Age in West Yorkshire, , Vol. 29, (1929), 356
Speight, H, 'Craven and the North-West Highlands.' in Craven And The North-West Highlands, (1892), 323

Source: Historic England

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