Friday, April 18, 2014

The Humber Stone, Leicester

This is the Humber Stone, which stands beside a roundabout on Leicester's ring road.

Some say the village of Humberstone got its name from the stone, but it may be that the stone's modern name comes from the village as it has had other names - Hell Stone, Holy Stone, Hoston and Holston.

This Was Leicestershire will give you the Humber Stone's geology and history:
So what is the Humber Stone, speaking geologically? It is probably an “erratic”; a large block of rock transported by the action of glaciers and plonked down, now out of place, when the ice retreated. This would have happened about 440,000 years ago, during the Anglian Ice Age, when Leicester was traversed by swathes of thick ice. The rock is syenite granite, the nearest source of which is Mountsorrel, five-and-a-half miles away.
A modern visitor to the Humber Stone will only see the top of the nine feet-high stone. The Humber Stone was fully exposed in 1881, for a geologist’s report, and the findings were documented by the British Association for the Advancement of Science. The Stone was described as being pentagonal in shape, with a heavily grooved top and vertical sides. The report states that the grooves were created after the block was deposited – by artificial as well as natural causes.
With names like the Hell Stone and the Holy Stone in the air, we could be in one of those 1970s supernatural children' TV series. So it is not a surprise that the website goes on to say:
“Boy drew creature that stood beside his bed” was a Leicester Mercury headline as recently as 1980, when a 10-year-old boy, living close to the Humber Stone, had constant “visits” from a devilish entity. It was, apparently, a creature with a goat’s head and long curving horns, a man’s body and cloven hoofs. After drawing it at school, the boy’s teacher asked what it was. “I don’t know, miss”, he said. “It’s the thing I sometimes see at the end of my bed”.
Getting from Humberstone to the Humber Stone proved harder than I had expected. There was no safe path beside the ring road and a couple of attempts to get there across the fields had to be aborted.

So I took a slight detour through the suburb of new Hamilton, which is named after a lost medieval village but was built over the last 20 years. It was pleasant enough, but there was no one about and, in particular, no children playing out. That was spooky too.

Incidentally, the construction of the ring road may have revealed and destroyed something significant. A comment on This Was Leicestershire recalls:
My late uncle who lived in the village told me that during the work for the new road and roundabout quite a few other large stones were simply tossed aside by the JCBs so we will never know if the Humber stone was actually part of a stone circle.

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