This article is the second part of three on the Rudston monolith in the East Riding of Yorkshire. You can read Part I here…

I have transcribed the informative leaflet by W. W. Gatenby, which I acquired some years ago during a visit to the monolith and the Church of All Saints at Rudston in North Yorkshire. I’ll transcribe the leaflet exactly as is, which means that some of the phrasing and language reads quite dated, but I will look to re-paragraph some of it for ease of reading.

Rudston Monolith at night

Photo Credit: Chris Collyer at Used with permission.

Returning to our thoughts on the Rudston monolith, we can imagine this being loaded on some very well dried beech trees with maximum buoyancy, and taken down either by the River Derwent or the River Rye to the Vale of Pickering, much of which was still under a very considerable depth of water at some seasons of the year, and brought to the foot of the Woldsat some place like Muston. Then the hard work really began to get it as far as Rudston.

It is much less likely that they would attempt the sea journey from the River Esk down the coast. The tide rips at Flamborough Head would cause an extreme hazard to the people attempting to move by hand paddles a 50 feet raft of that weight.

Furthermore, any attempt to take it up the Gypsey Race, which could be dammed in sections, would be foiled because with the length of at least 50 feet, the torturous bends of some parts of the Race would present an impassable barrier.

The early evangelists who brought Christianity north from their first landing on the Kentish coast, invariably chose the site of the pagan temple on which to erect a Christian church. This completely prevented any of the older people who still retained some respect for the earlier pagan cult, from returning to the site of the previous pagan church when no one else was looking.

The Tusculum portrait, possibly the only surviving sculpture of Caesar made during his lifetime. Archaeological Museum, Turin, Italy. Photo Credit: Angel M Felicisimo

Julius Caesar invaded Britain from Gaul in the early years of the first century AD. Following the establishment of his footholds on British soil, he wrote a brief account of the nature of the inhabitants – the Iron Age Celts. But this early record was very brief in detail, and a much more informative account was written by Tacitus the historian, who gave much more information of the tribal structure, the farming abilities and social responsibilities between the members of each community, with an emphasis on the marriage code which was strictly adhered to.

In this respect it could be appropriate to mention the findings during the excavation of some 200 burials on these valley graves, undertaken by the British Museum archaeological staff during the 30 years in which they were working on the extensive burial sites, which from aerial photographs are known to extend to more than 1 000 graves. In two graves in question, each was occupied by a male skeleton some 30 odd years of age, and a woman some 8-10 years younger. In each grave the bodies were in a fully extended position, closely placed together instead of the more usual position of a crouch burial.

The cause of death of each man was clearly indicated by the presence of a spear point embedded in the rib cage in the region where the heart would have been. With regards to the woman’s death, there was nothing easily discernible. The help of a local doctor was enlisted to examine the skeletons, which were completely undamaged, and he could only suggest that it might have been a case of poisoning, suffocation or possibly even drowning. It would not be unreasonable to suggest that these deaths were the result of harsh punishment meted out to those who had violated a strict marriage code.

Part III follows  here