An inspection of the Bridestones, 1895

THE BRIDESTONES (1895)

By J. T. Arlidge, B.A., M.D., F.R.C.P.

ON the southern slope of Cloud Hill, lying to the east of the town of Congleton, is a group of massive stones commonly known as the Bridestones.

The greater part of the stones, composed of the millstone grit of the neighbourhood, are employed to form an oblong box, much like a gigantic coffin, 18 feet by 11 feet. In the interior, about a third from the east end, is a cross stone, only a little above the level of the soil. The side stones are of irregular flat shape, stood on edge, but seem to have been roughly cut so as to fit together at the angles of contact. This is well seen in one large side stone now prostrate, but which, if raised, would fit in and make up accurately the vacant gap. Ward states that the whole of this side of the Kistvaen was originally of one stone, but that owing to a bonfire made in the enclosed area it was split, and this portion fell outwards. On what authority this assertion is made I know not, and I am not prepared to receive it, at least in its entirety.

Near the north-east angle of the stone enclosure is the largest rock on the ground. It stands quite apart from the Kistvaen — for such is the structure described in the nomenclature of Druidical remains. This stone is about eight feet high, three feet wide, and a foot and upwards in thickness, and roughly hewn, and its upper edges are rounded at the angles by weather and by destructive visitors.

It might be compared to a great headstone of a grave, but it is not placed in line relative to the direction of the Kistvaen. This pillar-like block calls to my mind some stones found in Ireland, in the Isle of Man, Scotland, and elsewhere, which bear those very primitive and difficultly deciphered markings known as the Ogham characters. My examination of it was too hurried and superficial to enable me to say if any trace of such characters exist upon it. I fear, indeed, that if ever they did so the mischievous hands of ignorant visitors and the wear and tear of the elements have destroyed them.

Further away and to the north of this largest mass is a smaller rock set upright, and about four feet high, much damaged by weather and other causes of injury.

But the surface of the ground within the enclosure clearly indicates the existence of other stones, which it would be interesting to uncover. For it is clear that we have not before our eyes the whole of this interesting monument as originally constructed. In fact, I was told by the present owner of the locality, that some very large stones were removed many years since to cover a neighbouring culvert or drain in an adjoining field.

The name applied to this monument — the Bridestones — admits of no explanation other than it is a corruption of some ancient word. Legend, however, has found for it, as in many like instances, an explanation to suit the word, asserting that a bride was buried on the spot; or, according to another version, that, in ancient British times, marriages were celebrated at the spot.

Mr. Abner Dale, the present owner of the spot, called my attention to the existence of very numerous long mounds, resembling grave mounds, in the adjoining fir coppice. These mounds are placed all in the same direction, east and west, and in parallel lines. They certainly have not the look of accidental elevations, and Mr. Dale informed me farther that when dug into the soil was found to be a mixture, and not virgin soil ; also that, having on one occasion to dig into a rabbit burrow, he came upon an impression in the earth bearing the semblance of a human form, and especially of the chest and ribs. I could much wish that some archaeologist living not far from this region would, with the kind permission of the owner, carefully open up two or three of these mounds.

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