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The Panorama Stones in Ilkley are an oddity.

Situated next to a church just outside the town centre, and surrounded by a 5 ft high steel fence with a locked gate designed to protect them against vandals, they are 3 large stones covered in feint Bronze Age carvings.

The stones were originally situated on the moors above the town, but in 1890 the stones were moved from their rural home to their new location, as the part of the moor on which they were situated on was due to be quarried. Dr. Little, who bought the stones in order to save them for posterity, was obviously a man possessing great foresight and vision, as normally the stones, like so many others before, would just be destroyed.

The stones now sit next to a small park near St. Margaret’s church with a wooden information board stating their age and origin. Unfortunately little can be seen of the carvings – years of neglect, debris and moss has completely covered up any carvings and nothing can be seen now of the beautiful, ancient designs.

I was recently approached by a professional archaeologist, and friend, Stefan Maedar, who had permission from Bradford Council to clean the stones, and I was asked if I would like to take some photos. Unfortunately, after many phone calls, the keys could not be located and eventually the council sent someone with bolt cutters to cut the lock.

As I didn’t have authority to clean the rocks, I set up camera and tripod and watched as Stefan got to work with a soft brush. As the debris was removed, the carvings started to be exposed – wonderful dinner plate sized circles with 3 or 4 rings, ladder shaped carvings, other ‘squiggles’ and strange markings, and dozens of simple ‘cups’ – deep depressions in the rocks.

Unfortunately by the time Stefan had finished it was almost dark and the flash gun I used didn’t really bring out the best of the carvings. Stefan then produced two lights and by shining these across the stones it really brought out the texture of the rock and the carvings.

Finally, to highlight each circle, Stefan put battery operated tea lights in each cup mark and using long exposures I took some photographs. Just to see these lights shining in the dark really brought out how special these amazing rock carvings are – maybe our ancestors did something similar with animal fat candles 5 or 6 thousand years ago. Maybe they sat around telling tales, or praying to old Gods all those years ago.

Stefan did a superb job. The stones are now cleaned and the carvings, although still feint are now visible again to the residents of Ilkley, and anyone who wishes to see prehistoric carvings without trekking high onto the moors. And thank you to Bradford Council for allowing Stefan in to clean the stones.

These carvings are unique and very special. It is not recommended that anyone attempt to clean off rock art – it is a job for experts only – which I why I was happy to sit and watch Stefan do it all.

There are lots of similar stones that would benefit from a good clean, maybe this could become a trend.

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