Between Sledmere and Bridlington lies the small hamlet of Rudston, an ancient hamlet with origins possibly dating back to Neolithic times.
In the surrounding vicinity there is evidence of pre-historic earth banks, square and round barrows with Neolithic and Bronze Age burials, Iron Age graves and chariot burials and it is even suggested that the main village street may once have been a Neolithic track.
Given a clearly ancient and historic past it is perhaps not surprising that, close to the village church of All Saints there is a more visible and enduring legacy of past times in the shape of the Rudston Monolith.
Standing at approximately 25’ above ground it is Britain’s tallest standing stone. It’s weight is estimated at 40 tons and its circumpherence is a whopping 5 metres.
In the late 18th century tests revealed that there is as much again of the stone buried in the ground.
As with all ancient memorials there is dispute, conjecture and legend as to its origins.
Was the stone deposited on the site of this tiny hamlet by glacial action as some suggest?
The nearest similar rock formations being approximately 10 miles to the North at Cayton Bay or Cornelian Bay in Scarborough was this massive 50’, 40 ton edifice dragged by superhuman physical effort to its final resting place to become an object of religious worship? Some believe it was a relic of the Druids and to date somewhere between 600 and 1,000 years B.C. Others believe it was erected by the Celts as late as 400 A.D. as a symbol of worship to the Sun Gods.
Was it a fertility symbol?
Fantastic as some of these theories may sound, there must be some explanation. After all, it is hard to believe that Stonehenge is a glacial deposit!
In 1773 the stone was capped with lead to protect it against erosion. The lead has now been replaced with a metal cap.
The name “Rudston” would appear to derive from the word “Rood” meaning “cross” and “ston” meaning stone and this would suggest that the stone at one time had a cross-head fixed to it, reinforcing the theories of religious origin. It is suggested that a cross must have existed or even been placed on the stone by Anglo-Saxon missionaries.
The very close proximity of the church may re-enforce this view.
In this day and age a 25’ stone pillar may not sound so impressive and be of little interest
but for those with a feeling for mystery and history or those wishing to stir the imagination of the eager minds of their children it is a lasting reminder of times so, so long ago and can awaken a rich and rewarding interest in the history of this sceptred isle.