Guide Stones

Guide-stones are known as guide-stoops in Yorkshire, from an old Norse word for post. They are first referred to in an act of Parliament of 1697/8, instructing the county justices to erect them at crossroads.Following this, the West Riding justices issued an instruction in 1700 to local parish and township surveyors for “stoops to be sett up in crosse highways” inscribed with “the name of the next market town to which each of the joining highways leede”.

In 1733 this instruction (presumably having been largely ignored) was repeated, and guide stoops were particularly to be set up at cross-roads “upon large moors and commons where intelligence is difficult to be had” – a reference to the small population rather than their IQ!

Another instruction of 1738 requested that distances be stated, and in 1754 the constables were called to account for their actions.

Large numbers of these stones survive, many still in lonely spots on the moors, though often encroached on by later development; sometimes they have been re-used as gate-posts. See gallery pictures (to follow).

RWH / Dec 2011