Nottinghamshire has three large natural geological features. In order of size they are: The Hemlock Stone at Bramcote, The Altar or Druid Stone at Blidworth and Bob’s Rock located in Stapleford.
Below is a brief description and a bit of information about each of the three stones.
The Hemlock Stone
This is by far the largest of the three stones and perhaps most known within the public. Located on a enigmatic sandstone outcrop at Bramcote near Nottingham, the Hemlock Stone certainly cannot be missed.
Briscoe in his book ‘Old Nottinghamshire’ (1881) describes the stone thus:
“Upon the brow of an abrupt rising ground, a little beyond Bramcote Hills stands a very curious and conspicuous object, familiarly known as the Hemlock Stone.
This is a huge, crumbling, isolated, mass of rock, or red sandstone. cropping up perpendicularly from the slightly depressed ridge on which stands and it being surmounted by two broad and distinct masses of a tough green ragstone, called in the vernacular of the district ‘Hemlcock Stone’, which project very considerably over the shaft, giving a most remarkable appearance to the object. The whole mass, on the southern side, is between forty to and fifty feet in height and at the northern thirty, and at the base it measures altogether fifty feet in girth”.
Legend has it that the Hemlock Stone was hurled at Lenton Priory, some four miles west of the stone, by the Devil. Frank Earp (1991) explains:
“This tale of the Devil or some mischievous force hurling a stone and missing its mark occurs throughout the folk-literature of Europe. It is generally accepted that such legends reflect conflict between the early christian Church and their pagan contemporaries. The tale is more often than not associated with prehistoric sites like the large monoliths or standing stones erected by neolithic and bronze age man. Such stones were the centre of pagan worship well into the christian era”.
Around 550 metres to the west of the start of Ewe Lamb Lane, is the prominent natural feature known as Bob’s Rock. It is roughly located between the cemetery, to the south, and Wesley Place, to the north. This large sandstone outcrop, which commands wide views to the north over the Erewash valley, is according to Earp (1990) ‘the third largest stone in Nottinghamshire’.
In Mellor’s book ‘An address to the young folks of Stapleford, (1906), he interestingly mentions the geology of the area and of Bob’s Rock:
“In “The Geology of Stapleford and Sandiacre” Mr. J. Shipman says:—” I know of no similar area where so much work for the field geologist is crowded into such a small space.” He shows how the rocks have been shattered and displaced by faults, and pushed up or let down, “as to remind one of a patchwork quilt or Mosaic pavement.” He then refers to the millstone grit on Stony Clouds, to the Bunter pebble beds, the Waterstones, the Coal measures, the glacial drift deposits, the alluvial deposits of the Erewash, etc., all of which I am not competent to discuss, but I suggest you should form classes for the study of them.
As evidence of the glacial period, he gives a picture of the boulder clay, much Contorted, resting on crumpled-up upper keuper shales, at Wilsthorpe Brickyard, Sandiacre, in 1883. He says that “both parishes are just on the southern edge of the great Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, and Yorkshire coalfields. North of a line drawn east and west through the north side of these villages stretch the coal measures and lower carboniferous rocks, which have been forced up into a great saddle-back, or anti-clinical ridge, now known as the Pennine Chain. South of this east and west line the new Red Sandstone strata have been faulted down two or three hundred feet.” He speaks of a deposit of drift close to Bob’s Rock resting “against an old cliff of Bunter Sandstone much fissured and weathered, which formed a sheltered nook in which the sand was deposited when the country was submerged during one of the stages of the glacial period.”
Another interesting story connected with the stone is that of John Wesley (1703-91). It is ‘supposed’ that Wesley preached at the stone in 1774.
John Wesley was an English theologian, evangelist, and founder of The Methodist religious movement. The established Anglican church was hostile to Methodism and most of the parish churches were closed to him. Wesley’s friend, the evangelist George Whitefield, was also excluded from churches and preached in the open air, in February, 1739, to a company of miners. Wesley hesitated to accept Whitefield’s earnest request to copy this bold step. Overcoming his scruples, he preached his first sermon in the open air, near Bristol, in April of that year. He was still unhappy about the idea of field preaching, and would have thought, ’till very lately,’ such a method of saving souls as ‘almost a sin.’
These open-air services were very successful; and he never again hesitated to preach in any place where an assembly could be got together, more than once using his father’s tombstone at Epworth as a pulpit. He continued for fifty years, entering churches when he was invited, taking his stand in the fields, in halls, cottages, and chapels, when the churches would not receive him.
The Wesley Place Chapel in Stapleford was built afterwards near this spot where John Wesley preached in 1774. He used the natural sandstone outcrop (Bob’s Rock) which stood next to a quarry.
The Druid Stone
Perhaps the less known of the three stones, is the Druid Stone at Blidworth in Nottinghamshire.
Frank Earp in his article ‘The Old Stones of Nottinghamshire’ (1991) explains:
“This stone is an eroded glacial deposit, a conglomerate of pebbles and sand, cemented together by stalagmatic limestone. It is over fourteen feet high and has a curious hole bored through it in its base. Through this it is possible to enter the stone looking to the east to see a hole or window cut in the far wall. It has long been claimed that this hole is aligned to the midsummer sunrise. However, a survey carried out by Barry Christian some ten or more years ago revealed that it is in fact aligned to Thom’s megalithic May Day sunrise (1800 to 1700 BC). Like the Hemlock Stone this stone may well have been associated with the Celtic Beltane”.
Briscoe, P., 1881. Old Nottinghamshire. London: Hamilton, Adams & Co.
Earp, F., 1999. The Catstones of Catstone Hill. 1st edn. Nottingham: Cuckoo’s Press.
Earp, F., 1991. The Old Stones of Nottinghamshire, in, At the Edge. No 6.
Mellors, R., 1906. An address to the young folks of Stapleford. Nottingham.