Reasons for Designation
Standing stones are prehistoric ritual or ceremonial monuments with dates
ranging from the Late Neolithic to the end of the Bronze Age for the few
excavated examples. They comprise single or paired upright orthostatic slabs,
ranging from under lm to over 6m high where still erect. They are often
conspicuously sited and close to other contemporary monument classes. They can
be accompanied by various features: many occur in or on the edge of round
barrows, and where excavated, associated subsurface features have included
stone cists, stone settings, and various pits and hollows filled in with earth
containing human bone, cremations, charcoal, flints, pots and pot sherds.
Similar deposits have been found in excavated sockets for standing stones,
which range considerably in depth. Several standing stones also bear cup and
ring marks. Standing stones may have functioned as markers for routeways,
territories, graves, or meeting points, but their accompanying features show
they also bore a ritual function and that they form one of several ritual
monument classes of their period that often contain a deposit of cremation and
domestic debris as an integral component. No national survey of standing
stones has been undertaken, and estimates range from 50 to 250 extant
examples, widely distributed throughout England but with concentrations in
Cornwall, the North Yorkshire Moors, Cumbria, Derbyshire and the Cotswolds.
Standing stones are important as nationally rare monuments, with a high
longevity and demonstrating the diversity of ritual practices in the Late
Neolithic and Bronze Age. Consequently all undisturbed standing stones and
those which represent the main range of types and locations would normally be
considered to be of national importance.
The Rudston Monolith is the largest single standing stone in England and is
unique. Despite its age, it survives in very good condition and is still in
its original setting, and will therefore preserve archaeological information
dating to its period of erection. It lies at the focus of a major group of
cursus monuments and will contribute to the study of their function and date.
The monument includes a tall standing monolith of gritstone, measuring nearly
8m in height and 5m in circumference, situated in the churchyard to the north
side of the chancel of the Rudston parish church. The stone is widest at its
base, where it measures 1.75m (east side) by 1.6m (west side) by 0.9m (north
side) by 0.63m (south side). It tapers towards a point at the top, which has
since been broken and is now protected by a lead `hood'.
Excavations conducted by Sir William Strickland in the 18th century suggested
that the monument may extend as deep below ground as its height above. As the
nearest sources of gritstone occur as outcrops at Cayton and Cornelian Bays, a
distance of 15km away, it is believed that the stone was dragged here, a feat
requiring considerable effort and engineering skill. However, it might also
have been carried to Rudston by the same glacier flow which cut the Forge
Valley near Scarborough.
The monument dates to the Late Neolithic or Early Bronze Age period and stands
at the centre of a number of important archaeological sites in the Yorkshire
Wolds around the Rudston area. These include henges, prehistoric settlement
complexes, rectilinear enclosures, round and square barrow cemeteries. In
particular the monument appears to mark the convergence of three cursus
monuments. These are major Neolithic monuments which appear to have had some
form of ritual or ceremonial function. The association between the stone and
the cursus monuments is not yet fully understood, but the site has been an
important one for many centuries, a factor recognised by the siting of the
parish church here soon after the Norman Conquest in around AD 1100, by
William Peverel, who was then lord of the manor.
The modern wooden fencing surrounding the monument is excluded from the
scheduling, as are all the headstones, mortuary monuments and burials which
fall within the area of the scheduling. The ground beneath the present
level of the modern burials and beneath the wooden fence are included in the
The monument is also Listed Grade I.
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 5 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.