The Bridestones are known locally as a mythical and spiritual place, sitting high on the moor above the Staffordshire Moorland Town of Biddulph, a few miles east of Congleton. The views from the place stretch out spectacularly over the vast Cheshire Plain. It is a place of great curiosity to those who happen to chance upon it as well as those who are familiar with it’s history and legends.
It is referred to as a burial chamber, chambered tomb and long cairn (a man-made structure) that dates back to the middle Neolithic period 2,500 – 3,000 BC. The site is of huge importance both historically and archaeologically.
There is a legend that says the name ‘Bridestones’ came about because a Viking chieftain and his bride to be were buried here, however the name probably comes from ‘Briddes Stones’ or even ‘Brigante Stones’ from the ancient British tribe who inhabited the area in the 1st century AD. They could possibly have been named for the Celtic fertility goddess Brigantia (otherwise known as Brighid or Bridie). Alternatively, the Old English word for “birds” was “briddes”, the stones when in their original form could have resembled birds, giving rise to “Briddes stones”.
There are further suggestions that the name is slightly more recent as wedding ceremonies took place at the site and the original name has been lost through time. The reason being for this suggestion is that when the individual made their vows, it is thought that the indwelling spirit contained in the different monoliths would impart different qualities, a massive stone imparted greatness, an upright stone uprightness and so on. People who were being married at the Bridestones were known to make their vows by putting their hands through the circular opening in the burial chamber which divided the two halves, but sadly this no longer exists, locally this became known as” Bridies Wedding Ring”.
There were originally four large ‘portal stones’, two which stood to the north of the entrance and two to the south. Of the portal stones, only two remain, one of which was broken in two and subsequently concreted back together.
Hundreds of tons of stone have been taken from the site 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 which remain there. The site is now protected as a Scheduled Ancient Monument.
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 suggest this was a chambered tomb of massive proportions, with a paved crescentic forecourt. This area would have been used for performing ritual fire ceremonies which were supposed to sever the spirit of the deceased from the earthly realm.
The whole burial chamber was supposedly an impressive 110 metres in length and 11 metres wide.
Originally an earthen mound up to 300 feet (90m) in length running north to east covered the tomb making for a very grand burial mound. Today only one main chamber 6 metres in length remains – originally there would have been three chambers or compartments.
Previously there would have been a rectangular chamber approximately 18ft by 7ft which would have been divided in two by a slab of rock with a circular hole cut into it. In one side of the chamber it is thought that a ruling chief or another high status individual would have been buried, and in the other half of the chamber his or her personal possessions and food would have been stored in the belief that they would be needed in the next life. The chamber would have been capped by a massive stone slab which no longer exists at the site.
It was constructed with its apex pointing to the East to catch the first rays of the rising sun, and as the sun would set, so the Western extremity would be bathed in golden sunlight from the disappearing sun.
An interesting, in depth study by the Stoke Archaeology Society can be found here –https://www.stokearchaeologysociety.org.uk/Bridestones/The%20Bridestones%20final%20pro.pdf
The stones are potentially over 5,000 years old and have a special existential energy to them. It is fascinating to think that people were here that long ago using this space as an important spiritual place and as a sacred portal to another realm. There is a feeling of transcendent calm which comes when I visit places which have existed for quite so long as this one. It is almost as if the quandaries and tribulations of day to day existence fade away spectacularly in the midst of such an ancient presence.
There are numerous reports of ghostly sightings and otherworldly apparitions connected to the stones. A dark, shadowy figure has been witnessed in and around the stones and a report in the Congleton Chronicle a few years back stated that a woman with her partner had witnessed a druidic figure in white near to the site. Rowland in 1766 suggests the stones were a place of Druid ritual. Druids were priests who carried out religious rituals in the Iron Age Britain and France of whom relatively little is known.
A story in the Phenomena Magazine in 2011 reports that on 16th June 1991, “Bill”, a local businessman was travelling back home to Leek from Chester in the small hours and on the way, having drunk several coffees in Chester, stopped to relieve himself at 1.30 in the morning. He noticed he was by the Bridestones and could quite clearly make them out in the midsummer’s night. Above the stones he was astonished to see a shining light, like a golden torch, which was illuminating the whole area and shooting out a shower or bright sparks. Uninterested in either archaeology or paranormal phenomena he ran back to his car and tried to start it, but this was in vain. The light was moving directly and quickly towards him from the direction of the stones. Either from fright or some unknown force he slipped into unconsciousness. When he finally came around, he found himself outstretched under a group of trees some 600 yards from where his car was left on the road. He found he was stripped to the waist and without his shoes. As he brushed himself down and got his bearings, he noticed his hands were emitting showers of sparks as through charged with electricity. As he staggered back to his car, he found the key still in the ignition and his clothes in a bundle on the passenger seat. He noticed that these were quite warm. As he started the car up and drove off at speed, he noticed the time on the dashboard – 3.05am. It was several days before he was able to tell his wife the true story and he finally contacted a well-known acquaintance who he could trust to investigate the goings on of that evening. Many subsequent investigations have been held and the stones have captured the imagination of all those curious about such things.