It seems strange that the Rudston monolith isn’t more widely known, more of a draw. There are reasons for this; in contrast to other ancient sites it doesn’t have the constructed nature of a full stone circle, and all that they evoke. It’s not obviously aligned in any way to the landscape or the celestial. It’s position is unassuming; sandwiched between the church and Thwing Road, it could almost be just another headstone except of a size that not even the Victorians would have envisaged.
I’m not a fan of the term prehistoric, unless it relates to spear-wielding and bra-wearing tribes battling dinosaurs. It’s a vague catch-all that doesn’t acknowledge that this object, for example, is history, a primary text, a monument constructed by men (probably) who had something they wanted to say and to record. We can only speculate on their motives, but speculate we are compelled to do because this is not some accidental intervention in the landscape. It may be an accident that it has survived when it could have toppled naturally, been destroyed as a symbol of pagan times or broken up for building. Instead it stands proud, weathered but formidable.
The traditional view of teams of men drawing these huge stones to their location may not hold true here, it may have been found on site. Even so, just to consider the placement it is still some mammoth achievement. If it was drawn here it’s difficult to imagine how, how they tackled the terrain, what methods they could have used. It’s said the monolith stands as deep as it is tall, a dagger to the depths as well as to the sky. The obvious legend, that it’s a weapon of the devil launched at the church but deflected by a miracle, misses the fact that it’s far more ancient than the church. Whether the church was placed here because the monolith indicated a spirituality, or to work against the ancient beliefs, it creates a potent space, secluded from the modern world and the contemporary network of routes across the country.
There is, of course, a deeper network of which Rudston is a part, for it lies alongside an occasional watercourse, a stream that starts somewhere near Wharram Percy and falls into the North Sea at Bridlington, down the Great Wold Valley. This is the Gypsey Race, and along the route all manner of ancient interventions have been found. This doesn’t seem to be co-incidence, and the simple existence of a sequence of sites, whether or not it puts you in mind of Stonehenge or Avebury, at the very least evokes the existence of these scattered, isolated communities forging their links through the landscape and recorded by their interventions within it.