Beware of disturbing the Bridestones!

The following account was recorded in the Congleton Chronicle on the 21st of July 1995 and is as follows: Thirty years ago, the “Chronicle” published a story recalling the ghostly goings-on at the Bridestones, the ancient burial chamber at Timbersbrook which is said to rival Stonehenge in importance. The story, which dates back more than 160 years is reproduced below.

Everyone knows of Congleton’s Bridestones, but how many people know that, reputedly, they are guarded by a ghost which will drive away anyone who attempts to “meddle” with the prehistoric relics? The stones were regarded with great respect by the local “peasants” a century and a half ago – so much so that one of them didn’t even want to own them!

Through the kindness of Miss M. Gollanc, M.A librarian at the William Salt Library, Stafford, the “Chronicle” has been able to glean some interesting facts relating to the Bridestones.

These, besides affording a valuable clue in respect of two matters which have so far remained in doubt, further illustrate the feeling of awe and reverence with which this prehistoric monument was regarded by our forefathers, and also, it may be said, furnish entertaining reading.

The following letters appeared in the “Staffordshire Advertiser” dated 12th of July 1828:-

“Having some business professionally with H. Williamson Esq., of Greenway Bank, that gentleman, John Bateman Esq., of Knypersley Hall, Capt. Ferneyhough and myself rode over to visit the Bride Stones, in the parish of Biddulph in this county.

Why they are called the Bride Stones and also their origin and use is not known; antiquaries differ upon the subject, some asserting them to be Druidical, while others assure us that they are British, which latter is my opinion.260

They are situated close to the road from Congleton to Buxton about five miles from the former. The number of the stones is eight, six of which form an enclosure of 19ft by 3ft 6ins., pointing east and west. The North and South sides are composed of one stone, each of the above length, the east side of one stone and the west side of two smaller ones. One is in the centre of the enclosure, the whole rising to a height of three feet or thereabouts.

A little to the east south east is one placed in the ground and rising to the height of 9ft 4 ins., above the surface; the other to the east north east is small. They are of free stone, which is found in great abundance in this neighbourhood.

On enquiry among the peasants, we found them willing to give all the information they possessed. The man occupying the small farm adjoining said that he had only been there two years and that his predecessor, under the impression that a treasure was hidden there, began to dig within the enclosure. He had not been long employed when he saw something that so frightened him as to disable him, and prevent him from moving from the spot. All the following night a female figure, attired in white apparel, visited his house and remained until morning, turning everything over and over; which circumstances had such an effect upon the whole family that they left the farm.

On asking the man why he dared to live there he replied; “I never meddle with the stones sir.” This communication was confirmed by others of the neighbours.

However, we were following up other enquiries when one of the Biddulph Moorlanders made his appearance and informed us that he had lately bought the land upon which the Bride Stones stand, and requested that we would point out to him if there was any passage in the Bible that made it inconsistent for him to remove these stones. We failed to satisfy him upon the subject.

He stated that it was the opinion of the people in that quarter that the enclosure contained the remains of a King and Queen and whoever disturbed their ashes would lie under divine displeasure, and that all his cattle would die. He therefore wished one of us gentlemen to buy them, as he did not like to hold them.

Mr. Williamson, (whose public utility and private worth are well known), anxious to preserve these remains of antiquity, purchased this part of the estate, including the Bride Stones, about six acres of land. Being witness to this remarkable purchase, with the above gentlemen, I cannot conclude without informing you, that it is the intention of the purchaser to enclose this ancient monument, build a cottage, and plant the land with shrubs. Thus will this venerable pile be preserved for the gratification of lovers of antiquarian researches. Your obliged, – J. F. Williams, Newcastle-under-Lyme, 6th July 1828.”

Two important clues are contained in the above letter; one to the day of erection of the cottage which stood close by where the present Bridestones house stands; the other, to the time when the two sides of the main cistaven or burial chamber consisted of single great stones, each 18ft or so in length.

Regarding the former, this structure, it is clear from the letter, must have been built shortly after 1828. On its demolition, the stones of which it was composed were stated to have been dumped among those of the monument, thus adding to the confusion as to the original formation. They were removed in 1936 by Professor Fleure’s party.

The letter refers to the north and south sides of the cistaven as being composed of “one stone each.” In a sketch dated 1836 found in the library, the stones are shown as broken; therefore it is clear the fracture took place in between 1828 and the date of the sketch, 1836.

The fracture has been ascribed to lighting of a bonfire inside the cistaven, though how this could break into two and three pieces, respectively great stones, two feet thick by eighteen feet long is hard to imagine

A Rev. Tos. Malbon wrote this account:- “There are many places of Druidical worship, but none are half so remarkable as what are called the Bride Stones. Here is one upright stone, or pillar, called the Bride, whose perpendicular height is about five yards, its diameter at the thickest part about three, and the pedestal about half a yard; near this stood another large stone called the Groom, which is thrown down, as the Bride has also attempted to be, and at small distances are several others of different magnitude, and a vast variety of rocks and stones so scattered about the common, that I doubt not but some curious discoveries might here be made, if a proper survey was taken of the whole.”

The above account is interesting chiefly for its reference to “the vast variety of rocks and stones scattered about the common.” This, bear in mind came after Malbon, five years earlier, had stated that vast quantities had been taken away for various purposes including several hundred loads for making a turnpike road, the removal of which “laid it (the cistaven and circle of stones) open for examination.”

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