Druid's Altar four poster stone circle


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1008773

Date first listed: 24-Nov-1964

Date of most recent amendment: 23-Aug-1994


Ordnance survey map of Druid's Altar four poster stone circle
© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2018. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1008773 .pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 10-Dec-2018 at 17:46:23.


The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: North Yorkshire

District: Craven (District Authority)

Parish: Threshfield


National Grid Reference: SD 94947 65271


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

Stone circles are prehistoric monuments comprising one or more circles of upright or recumbent stones. The circle of stones may be surrounded by earthwork features such as enclosing banks and ditches. Single upright stones may be found within the circle or outside it and avenues of stones radiating out from the circle occur at some sites. Burial cairns may also be found close to and on occasion within the circle. Stone circles are found throughout England although they are concentrated in western areas, with particular clusters in upland areas such as Bodmin and Dartmoor in the south-west and the Lake District and the rest of Cumbria in the north-west. This distribution may be more a reflection of present survival rather than an original pattern. Where excavated they have been found to date from the Late Neolithic to the Middle Bronze Age (c.2400-1000 BC). It is clear that they were designed and laid out carefully, frequently exhibiting very regularly spaced stones, the heights of which also appear to have been of some importance. We do not fully understand the uses for which these monuments were originally constructed but it is clear that they had considerable ritual importance for the societies that used them. In many instances excavation has indicated that they provided a focus for burials and the rituals that accompanied interment of the dead. Some circles appear to have had a calendrical function, helping mark the passage of time and seasons, this being indicated by the careful alignment of stones to mark important solar or lunar events such as sunrise or sunset at midsummer or midwinter. At other sites the spacing of individual circles throughout the landscape has led to a suggestion that each one provided some form of tribal gathering point for a specific social group. A four-poster stone circle is a rectangular or sub-rectangular setting of four or five stones, which are, or were once, upright. The corner stones of the rectangle usually lie on the perimeter of a circle. They are confined to high ground, clustered on Exmoor, the North Yorkshire Moors, Northumberland, Cumbria and West Yorkshire with outliers in Shropshire and Derbyshire. Of the 250 or so stone circles identified in England only 22 are examples of four-posters. As a rare monument type which provides an important insight into prehistoric ritual activity all surviving examples are worthy of preservation.

Although the monument has been disturbed at some time it remains in reasonably good condition, preserving three limestone uprights and two recumbent stones.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument known as the Druid's Altar lies south of the Lantern Holes on Malham Moor and includes a turf covered earth and stone mound approximately 1m high which measures 13.5m by 10m. The long axis lies NNE/SSW. The mound has been mutilated by robbing, especially on the south. There are three standing stones situated centrally which protrude through the remains of the mound and reach a height of 1m-1.3m. A fourth stone lies prostrate in the centre of these and another measuring 1.5m by 0.9m on the south west margin. The monument was described by the antiquarian Speight in 1892 as a `round stone and earth mound about 150ft in circumference and 3ft high, and was formally surrounded by a circle of upright stones, only three of which are now left standing'. The name Druid's Altar derives from the inclusion at one time of a flat stone resting across the top of two standing stones. This is said to have been destroyed many years ago and no reliable record of it remains.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 24468

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Burl, A, 'Stone Circles of the British Isles.' in Stone Circles of the British Isles, (1977), 327/349
Feather, S W, Manby, T G, 'Yorkshire Archaeological Journal.' in Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, , Vol. 42, (1970), 397
Raistrick, A , 'Yorkshire Archaeological Journal' in The Bronze Age in West Yorkshire, , Vol. 29, (1929), 356
Speight, H, 'Craven and the North-West Highlands.' in Craven And The North-West Highlands, (1892), 323

End of official listing