I often pass these stones on my way from home over to The Roaches and was aware they were old stones of some significance. However I had no idea the site WAS the largest Neolithic burial chamber in the UK. Rather than speed past as usual I decided to grab a shot. Once home I googled them to discover a pretty awful history of how one of our greatest ancient monuments has been destroyed.
"The few remaining stones of this once great monument still stand along the line of the Cheshire / Staffordshire border between the hillside of Bosley Cloud and Wolfe Lowe at SJ906662. The site is in desperate need of attention and recognition.
Located at 820ft above sea level, the burial chamber lies on the western crest of a pass running in a north-south line at the foot of the Pennines and has spectacular views across the Cheshire Plain.
It is now a shadow of its former self with thousands of tons of stone having been taken from the cairn by the builders of the nearby turnpike road in 1764. Other stones were used to build the adjacent house and farm, while yet more were recycled into an ornamental garden in Tunstall Park.
However, before this large scale ransacking occurred, it appears that the Bridestones was an incredible monument, perhaps unique in England.
Evidence from a variety of sources indicates that it was a chambered tomb of massive proportions with a paved crescentic forecourt and a port-holed stone dividing the main chamber. The complex was supposedly 110 metres in length with the horned cairn being 11 metres wide. A report from the 18th Century notes that in addition to the main chamber which still stands today, a further two subsidiary ones were located at a distance of 55 yards. No traces of these have ever been found, but there is much debate as to whether they are located east of the surviving chamber, or west. The latter seems more likely as they were probably covered by the same cairn as the main chamber.
Chambered tombs with crescentic forecourts are normally found in the Clyde region of Scotland (Clyde Cairns) such as at Cairnholy and Carn Ban as well as in Ireland (Court Cairns). No other examples are known from the English mainland, the closest being Casthal yn Ard on the Isle of Man. In addition to the paved forecourt, the Bridestones also has another interesting feature in the port-holed stone, a characteristic usually associated with chambered tombs from the Cotswold Severn Region. In the case of the Bridestones it divided the two compartments of the main chamber – at 191/2 inches, the hole would have been large enough for a person to crawl through. A stone of identical proportions known as The Devil's Ring & Finger lies in Staffordshire.
So the question is why was such an unusual monument (one of such large proportions with such unusual features) built here? Cheshire is not a county known for its Neolithic architecture. In fact apart from a couple of suspect long barrows and a now destroyed mortuary enclosure, the Bridestones is the only authentic Neolithic monument. Sadly this has not aided its protection.
The site has suffered much in the last two centuries. As well as the thousands of tons of stone that have been taken from the cairn, a number of the standing stones from the ‘circle’ forming the forecourt have also been removed. During the 19th Century a picnicker’s bonfire led to the side slabs of the main chamber and the port-holed stone being seriously cracked. In fact the top half of the port-holed stone has long since disappeared. To add insult to injury a local newspaper article records that ‘many years ago, an engineer engaged in the cutting of the Manchester Ship Canal, visiting the spot actually used one of the biggest monoliths for the purpose of carrying out a demonstration with a detonator, as a result of which the great stone was broken off close to the ground’. Luckily the damage was not beyond repair as this portal stone was cemented back together during excavations in the 1930s.
The stones that have survived are now fenced off in the corner of a field, surrounded by yews, rhododendrons and conifers and overgrown with bracken in the summer. The site is in desperate need of attention and recognition."