The ancient ruins and monuments which reveal Yorkshire's Pagan past

Paganism is a wide and varied religion, which covers a great number of spiritual and religious beliefs. It has seen a peak in interest over the past few years and there are many Pagan groups all over the Yorkshire region.

The All Saints Church and Monolith in Rudston
The All Saints Church and Monolith in Rudston

However, although Paganism has picked up traction over the past decade, a fair few of Yorkshire’s ancient realms and ruins indicate a past steeped rich in Paganism, dating back to thousands of years ago.

All Hallows Church and the ancient Pagan temple which lies beneath

Located in the East Riding of Yorkshire, the village of Goodmanham has a rich historical past, especially in regards to Paganism. The All Hallows Church located in this village dates back to 1130 AD, when it replaced an earlier wooden construction from the Saxon period. This church is believed to stand on the site of an ancient temple, which was originally a Pagan shrine.

The Monolith located in Rudston

The village of Goodmanham was part of a pivotal point in England’s history when in the year 627 AD King Edwin of Northumbria converted to Christianity. This resulted in his high priest, named Coifi, ordering the ransacking and burning of Goodmanham’s ancient pagan temple, this being later relayed by St Bede in his ‘History of the English Church and People’.

Legend also has it that Coifi himself took up a battle axe and rode on a war horse up to the temple where he flung his axe inside.

The All Hallows Church and the site of the ancient temple, located in the Yorkshire Wolds just 20 miles from the city of York, can still be visited today.

Blakey Topping

The Blakey Topping standing stones are located close to the Hole of Horcum in the North York Moors (Photo Richard Poskitt)

The North York Moors, a location where ancient Britons made home in the deep valleys, points to a rich Pagan past. The site of Blakey Topping has an ancient myth involving giants, where a giant threw a lump of earth at another giant after a dispute occurred. However, in doing so, he missed the giant and the force of his actions created the Blakey Topping hill.

Fee-fi-fo-fum: Yorkshire is the land where giants roamThis hill is believed to have been a sacred place where rituals used to occur and there are four standing stones which are located south west of the hills, which may be the remains of a stone circle. There are also several round barrows in the same vicinity, which date back to the Bronze Age.

Lilla Cross

There are also a variety of stone crosses related to Paganism, which are located throughout North Yorkshire, including the North York Moors. This includes Malo Cross, which is located at the foot of Whinny Nab, but one of the most well known is that of Lilla Cross.

The Monolith located in Rudston

The site of Lilla Cross is said to have once formed the boundaries of four Medieval parishes and also bordered an estate belonging to Whitby Abbey in the 11th century.

Similarly to the All Hallows Church in Goodmanham, this cross has ties to King Edwin of Northumbria. Its location marks the exact spot where a man attempted to assassinate the King with a poisoned sword in 626 AD.

It is said that a priest name Lilla threw himself in front of the King, hence saving Edwin, but sacrificing himself. In an act of appreciation, King Edwin then erected this cross in Lilla's memory.

At the time of this incident, Edwin was still a Pagan, before he converted to Christianity at Easter 627 AD, just a few months later. The wooden church in which Edwin converted, located in York, subsequently became York Minster.

The Blakey Topping standing stones are located close to the Hole of Horcum in the North York Moors (Photo Richard Poskitt)

Rudston Monolith

Rudston Monolith, located in the churchyard of Rudston village, East Yorkshire, is the tallest prehistoric standing stone, or megalith, in the whole of the UK. It stands tall at almost 26 feet high and 5 feet 9 inch wide.

It is believed that this stone represented a prehistoric Pagan place of worship or holiness, before the country became Christian, hence the All Saints Church being built right next door.

Similarly to the All Hallows church being built on the site of a Pagan temple, the Church of All Saints was built next to the Monolith in order to represent the site’s progression to Christianity.

This church dates back to the Norman period, being built around 1100 AD, shortly after the Norman conquest, by the then Lord of the Manor, William Peverel. The church is situated about 12 feet from the north-east corner of the Monolith, but all that now remains of the original church is the lower part of the Tower and the Font.

Yorkshire’s history is deep and varied and hundreds of historic ruins, monuments and sites are littered around the county. The multiple ruins around Yorkshire which relate to its Pagan past, give just a glimpse into one part of Yorkshire’s deep and varied history, which continues to be discovered.