Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Out Standing In Its Field

Driving from Bridlington along the gentle B1252, you’ll pass through the hamlet of Rudstone with its handsome Norman church, All Saints. But - hang on – what’s that in the churchyard?

“That” is Rudstone Monolith – reputedly the tallest standing stone in the British Isles. It really is massive. 26ft high, with another 20-odd feet of it buried in the ground. When it was the tallest object in the landscape and visible for miles, it would have been literally awesome.

The name of the village is a derivative of Roodstan – “rood” being the old English word for “cross” and “stan” meaning “stone”. It seems likely that the early Anglo-Saxon missionaries Christianised this already sacred object by fixing a cross head to it, perhaps as a temporary measure until they built their first wooden church.

One of the remarkable things about the stone is that it has survived more or less untouched. Those missionaries didn’t carve the stone into a cross, as happened elsewhere. Was it just too big, or was the monolith held in such affection locally that they didn’t dare? Later in its history, an All Saints incumbent didn’t feel the need destroy this blatantly un-Christian (and phallic) symbol right outside his front door. Is it luck or an ancestral duty that the locals never decided to smash it up to build a barn or repair a wall? For 2,000 years it seems the worst that’s happened to it was a lightning strike that removed 4 or so feet from the top, and some fellow carving his now weathered name at eye level.

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