Fairy BeadsFairy beads
Source: C. Ruskin
Copyright: C. Ruskin

Holey StonesHoley Stones <empty>
Source: C. Ruskin
C. Ruskin

Reconstruction of Holey Stone in a byreReconstruction of a holey stone<empty>
hanging in a byre in Weardale
C. Ruskin
C. Ruskin

Eastgate Roman Altar
Original Location: Ireshopeburn
Current Location: Private
Theme: Social
Period: Post-medieval

What is it?
A collection of stones with natural holes in, found at Clint’s Crags, Ireshopeburn.

What is its relevance to the North Pennines?
Holey stones like these were used as charms in many byres in Weardale. They are an example of continuing superstition still practiced in recent times, in an era of strong religious revival.

Why is it important?
Holey stones or Hag Stones and Fairy Beads have been found by archaeologists in both Britain and Egypt and are commonly found in Northern Germany around the Baltic Sea. They were used as charms to ward off witches or to safeguard their livestock from disease. There are many instances of these stones being used in this manner in Weardale, Teesdale and Allendale. They vary in size from being very small to fist size. It’s not the size or type of stone that gives it magical properties but the naturally occurring hole. Their occurrence in the Northern Pennines demonstrates how widespread this superstition was believed at one time. There are instances of hag stones being found at Jollybody Farm, Cleughhead, Huntshieldford and Brotherlee in Weardale. The stones would be hung above the cows’ stalls to ward off illness or they were sometimes hung behind byre doors to stop witches from entering. The smaller stones were sometimes threaded and hung up on bedposts to prevent nightmares.

Further Information

    Text References:
  • W.M. Egglestone 1874 Egglestone’s Weardale or the Weardale Nick Stick.  Darlington

  • External Links:
  • Wikipedia Commons – Adder Stones

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