The Rudston Monolith - an entrenched Yorkshire mystery

Living History

The Rudston Monolith - an entrenched Yorkshire mystery

The Rudston Monolith is the tallest ancient megalith in the United Kingdom, at over 25 feet tall. It stands in the churchyard in the village of Rudston, in Yorkshire. How it got there is a mystery ...

However the Monolith arrived in its position, it was a considerable feat of engineering skill and human effort in the late Neolithic or Bronze Age.

The stone is hewn out of glomerate Moorstone grit, from the Cleveland Hills, west of Whitby, possibly at Grosmont, 40 miles away. The task of transporting this immense megalith such a distance to Rudston must have presented a staggering challenge of labour and strength. It suggests that this exercise was a matter of extreme importance to the creators of the monolith.

It seems likely that the stone marked a prehistoric holy place or worship centre for an indigenous pagan religion, and that Anglo—Saxon missionaries will have followed the successful strategy of "Christianising" this already sacred object - possibly by fixing a cross to the top. This could account for the name 'Rudston', for the old English word for cross is ‘rood' and stane means 'stone'.

At ground level, the megalith's circumference is 5 metres and its present height is just under 8 metres. An excavation conducted by Sir William Strickland in the late 18th century suggested that its depth below ground is as great as its height.

A church may have been built on the site of the present church by which it stands, in Saxon times. But all traces have now vanished, and no church building was recorded at Rudston in the Domesday survey of 1086. A popular myth about the origin of the stone is that the devil, angered at the building of a church on this pagan sacred hill, hurled a huge stone javelin or thunderbolt at it to destroy it, but by divine intervention his aim was deflected ,and the stone landed in its present position.

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