Antony Morris – February 2021
Nestled away, in a pretty little corner of Huddersfield, in the ‘lost valley village’ of old Berry Brow rests Deadmanstone (Hirst, 2014). On a road that bears the same name, on the site of what was once the estate of a mansion that also held the same name, Deadmanstone is a gritstone boulder that is steeped in history and legend.
During the summer months the trees that line the opposite side of the road will be thick with leaves. When approaching this natural landmark at this time of year, you will find the sunlight gradually disappearing until you reach a little pocket of darkness at the bend in the road as you draw level with the mouth of Deadmanstone. The scene is ripe for a myth or two.
One legend tells of a solider, some say Roman, some say Scottish, who had been captured and sealed up in a wall on the site of Deadmanstone (Hemingway, 2014). It is within this little pocket of darkness on the bend that you may find the ghost of this prowling Roman occupier, or Scottish invader, or so they say.
The earliest historical sources from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries refer to the estate and stone as Dudmanstone (Goodall, 2011). Who Dudman was is anybody’s guess, but given this stone’s enduring connection with the dead it is an intriguing mystery. Regardless of its names, it has almost certainly been associated with passing away for much longer than our records record.
The stone rests near the edge of what were once the boundaries of the ancient Township of Almondbury. Locals still tell of a time when folk travelling across the Holme Valley for funerals at one of two ancient parishes in Almondbury and Kirkburton would stop at Deadmanstone, resting their dead on top (Hirst, 2014). This is perhaps cause enough for the stone’s name. Further enquiry and you may hear how these folk supposedly passed their dead up to the mouth of the stone and into the natural tunnel that runs through the huge landmark.
If you were to approach Deadmanstone on a winter’s day, when the leaves line the floor, you may get a glimpse of the fabulous view out toward Netherton and down over Armitage Bridge. Given the relative youth of the trees, this is the closest you’ll get to seeing the open view that would have greeted the congregations of the 19th century who were treated to an open-air service from the preachers of the local Wesleyan ‘Rock’ Chapel (West Yorkshire Archive Service, 2009). What better place to preach the good news from than Deadmanstone?
So, without delving into tunnels that may or may not lead from the rock or the former Deadmanstone House, let us conclude (Ahier, 1946). If you decide to visit this most wonderous of natural landmarks, be sure to consider the historical significance of this unassuming rock, in a quiet corner of the world. From wary travellers and preaching priests to gruesome murders and transcending souls, Deadmanstone is a local treasure.
Ahier, P. (1946) Story of Castle Hill Huddersfield throughout the centuries : Bc 200-ad 1945 The Advertiser Press Limited
Goodall, A. (2011) Place-names of south-west Yorkshire Cambridge University Press
Hemingway, A. (2014, November 2) Deadmanstone. Andy Hemingway andyhemingway.wordpress.com/2014/11/02/deadmanstone/
Hirst, A. (2014, April 23) Poignant memories over “lost” valley village of Berry Brow. YorkshireLive https://www.examinerlive.co.uk/lifestyle/nostalgia/poignant-memories-over-lost-valley-7013649
West Yorkshire Archive Service. (2009) Newsome South Methodist Church – Off the Record. Huddersfield.click. https://huddersfield.click/offtherecord/index.php/Newsome_South_Methodist_Church