Carving no. 88 – a bit of a dry name, isnt it? This is the ‘official’ name for this exceptional rock tucked away in the wilds of Ilkley moor.
There must have been something very special about this 12 ft. long piece of rock in the middle of nowhere, as it contains over 100 ‘cups’, 10 ‘rings’, half a swastika and a dozen or more other carvings. All prehistoric and roughly estimated at about 6000 years old.
There are about 400 stones on these old moors which contain carvings, but this is one of the very best – although many of the marks are feint.
To the locals (and few actually know about this stone) it is called ‘The Badger Stone’ – which may seem a strange name for it as it doesn’t resemble a badger one bit. But digging into it’s history we can conclude that the name ‘Badger’ was another name for ‘a corn dealer, corn miller or miller’s man.’
As grain was probably used as one of the earliest forms of trade, it could be the name is much older. Also, the stone is at the side of a prehistoric trackway ‘Rombalds Way’, an important prehistoric route running across the mid-Pennines.
Nearby is the 12th Century ‘Cowpers Cross’ where, tradition tells, a market was held that replaced an older one close by – probably held at the Badger Stone.
It is thought by some that the cross was erected here by the Church to stop local people going the the Badger stone and possibly worshipping the ‘Old Gods’. Some others think that the cross was an old Boundary stone (it is at the side of a Roman road which crosses the moor) and was Christianised some time later. The cross has undergone many shapes during the years, having even been struck by lightning, and the original post has been replaced by a gate post years ago. It is also some evidence that the cross is erected on the site of an ancient burial.
There are a few other old stone crosses on these moors – many half destroyed and hard to find nowadays, over grown in the bracken or fallen over and buried by the heather. It is thought they served much the same purpose as Cowpers – to lure people away from the ‘old ways’ and to provide a Christian meeting place.
Another pecularity about the Badger Stone is it’s ability to change hue depending on the time of day. When I first came across it many years ago, it was late afternoon and the sun was low. The stone looked a dark orange colour, somehow reflecting the colours of the sun. In early morning the colour is paler and during an overcast day (when these photos were taken) the rock looks a drab grey. I know of no other rock on these moors that displays this quality.
When I last came here, after many years away, someone had erected a bench near the stone so the weary could rest awhile and admire the views over the moors. Surely our ancestors must have admired the same views thousands and thousands of years ago when they first carved those amazing symbols onto this rock.
The Badger Stone and Cowpers Cross are just two of many mysteries on these incredible and ancient moors.
If you would like to read more about the Badger Stone, you can do so here.