Antony Morris – March 2021
What does a giant have in common with the Devil? Well, they both found trouble in the peaceful village of Netherton. The tales attached to Netherton, by way of one jagged gritstone outcrop amongst several, are, to the town of Huddersfield, uniquely brilliant. I’m not aware if the other rocks that dwell on the edge overlooking the little settlement have names or not, but this one has enough for them all. Scar Top, Lover’s Leap, and its most common name, Devil’s Rock. So, what makes this gritstone unique amongst the others? A footprint! Yes, a footprint.
Devil’s Rock is accessible from Scar Top Lane, Netherton, via a road that rises from the village until it becomes a narrow path that follows Netherton Edge. If you glance to the south before you reach the trees of Springwood that have, in only the last hundred years, covered the land below the edge and swallowed the outcrops, you will catch a wondrous view of the valleys below. As you make your way along the path and look to the north, you may see an expanse of open fields and farmland that steadily rise up to the heart of our town’s family of valleys, Castle Hill.
Upon reaching Devil’s Rock, the third outcrop if you are approaching from the village, you may find yourself impressed with its ripple laden gritstone surface. If you are lucky enough to visit during a bit of sunshine on a rainy day, these ripples can have a gorgeous shimmering effect that deserves a tale of its own. If it is an average day, you may be drawn directly toward the edge of the rock, whereupon you would likely stop as you notice the strange impressions in the rock. Just your average petrosomatoglyph: a mysterious shape that typically resembles a human or animal body part (Mizin, 2014). While these are often natural formations, Devil’s Rock also contains a curious looking bore hole next to the footprint. Not content with natural explanations, let us have a look at how this footprint really appeared.
One explanation tells of a day way back, when the Devil himself came to visit Netherton. He had apparently attempted to trick the locals, but the stout village folk had seen him off to Netherton Edge. Whereupon he leapt from Scar Top, taking either one or several leaps depending who is telling, leaving behind what could only be his hoof-print (Hemingway, 2013).
Speaking to an elderly couple in Netherton one day, they assured me that the dentation on Scar Top was in fact a giant’s shoeprint and that the bore hole was made by his walking stick. Further research tell us of a local giant whose daughter had gone missing in the area. He jumped from Scar Top, three miles to Wolfstone Height near Netherthong, leaving behind his shoeprint. There found his daughter on the cusp of turning to stone (Roberts, 2013). This may be the origin of the name Lover’s Leap.
Both these tales have additional and changing details depending on who is doing the telling. Yet one thing that changes very little, is the stone itself. A place that has been historically fit for both skulduggery and church outings, Devil’s Rock is a smashing spot for a picnic (Pattern, 2020). So, if you find yourself out for a stroll in this stout, Devil-repelling village be sure to head up to Netherton Edge. Absorb the views as you make your way along the edge, explore Springwood, all the while considering the deeds and misdeeds that have occurred on Scar Top.
Hemingway, A. (2013, February 3). Castle Hill: History & Folklore Pt2. Andy Hemingway. https://andyhemingway.wordpress.com/2013/02/03/castle-hill-history-folklore-pt2/
Mizin, V. (2014). Footprint Stones: Summarizing a Century of Petrosomatoglyphic Study. Time and Mind, 7(3), 297–307. https://doi.org/10.1080/1751696x.2014.950503
Pattern, D. (2020). Scar Top, Netherton – Huddersfield Exposed: Exploring the History of the Huddersfield Area. Huddersfield.exposed. https://huddersfield.exposed/wiki/Scar_Top,_Netherton#cite_note-3
Roberts, K. (2013). Folklore of Yorkshire. The History Press.