The Badger Stones

A vernal fresh feel to the moors today with celestine skies. An overnight frost but the day is warming nicely.

The Badger Stones are a collection of huge sandstone boulders in the upper catchment of Hodge Beck in Bransdale. A highly visible landmark surrounded by a sea of heather moorland. They must always have had some significance since pre-history, the site is listed as an Early Mesolithic: blades, microliths, and micro-burins have been found here1“Prehistoric and Roman Archaeology of North-East Yorkshire” Edited by D. A. Spratt. The Council for British Archaeology/North York Moors National Park. 1993. ISBN 1 872414 28 1.

At first glance, the name might suggest this is a obvious example of pareidolia, but no matter how I tried, no badger’s face appeared to me.  Not surprising, the opinion is that the name is derived from ‘bacheler2“Badger Stone (Todd Intake Moor).” The Megalithic Portal, 2019, www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=47736. Accessed 22 Mar. 2021., perhaps the Old French word for a young squire in training for knighthood, from which we get our modern word ‘bachelor’3“Bachelor | Origin and Meaning of Bachelor by Online Etymology Dictionary.” Etymonline.com, 2021, www.etymonline.com/word/bachelor?utm_source=extension_searchhint. Accessed 22 Mar. 2021..

The natural stone(s) were mentioned as a significant landmark on the boundary of the land granted to Rievaulx Abbey in 1145 AD by Walter Espec4“Parishes: Helmsley | British History Online.” British-History.ac.uk, 2021, www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/yorks/north/vol1/pp485-505. Accessed 22 Mar. 2021.5‌“Full Text of ‘Cartularium Abbathiae de Rievalle.’” Archive.org, 2021, archive.org/stream/cartulariumabbath83surtuoft/cartulariumabbath83surtuoft_djvu.txt. Accessed 22 Mar. 2021.. A significance which has continued to this day in the form of the boundary between the parishes of Bransdale West and Bilsdale-Midcable.

The etymology of the name is somewhat disappointing. I would have preferred an animal meaning. ‘Pate’6Halliwell-Phillipps, James Orchard. “A Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words, Obsolete Phrases, Proverbs, and Ancient Customs, from the Fourteenth Century”. United Kingdom, C. & J. Adlard, Bartholomew Close, 1852., ‘sweet-mart’7Halliwell-Phillipps, James Orchard. “A Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words, Obsolete Phrases, Proverbs, and Ancient Customs, from the Fourteenth Century”. United Kingdom, C. & J. Adlard, Bartholomew Close, 1852., ‘gray’8“Gray – Yorkshire Historical Dictionary.” York.ac.uk, 2021, yorkshiredictionary.york.ac.uk/words/gray. Accessed 22 Mar. 2021., ‘bawson’9“Bawson – Yorkshire Historical Dictionary.” York.ac.uk, 2021, yorkshiredictionary.york.ac.uk/words/bawson. Accessed 22 Mar. 2021., and ‘brock10“Brock – Yorkshire Historical Dictionary.” York.ac.uk, 2021, yorkshiredictionary.york.ac.uk/words/brock. Accessed 22 Mar. 2021.’ are all Northern names for the badger. As badgers are essentially creatures of the woodland, it is unlikely they lived up here in recorded history.

As well as dialect names for badgers, ‘badger’ itself is a Yorkshire name for an itinerant who traded in corn and other commodities11“Badger – Yorkshire Historical Dictionary.” York.ac.uk, 2021, yorkshiredictionary.york.ac.uk/words/badger. Accessed 22 Mar. 2021..

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