Your Day Out: Village lies on old Roman way

Rudston Monolith  said to be the tallest standing stone in Britain.
Rudston Monolith  said to be the tallest standing stone in Britain.

About six miles west of Bridlington in a cleft of the Yorkshire Wolds lies the village of Rudston, on an old Roman way from Bridlington to York.

Many tourists pass by on their way to the coast, but those who appreciate the village for its interesting features are wise to spend some time here. Wander the streets at leisure, for Rudston is famed for the discovery of remains of a Roman house; a Norman church, and a giant monolith said to be the tallest standing stone in England.

Visit the countryside where the successful novelist Winifred Holtby – lecturer, journalist and author was born. Discover her childhood home, and burial place in the churchyard.

All Saints’ Church stands on a mound above the village. What a prominent site, with views of the rolling Wolds, and a patchwork of fields broken here and there by woodland. The church has a sturdy Norman tower with walls more than a metre in thickness. There’s a blocked Norman doorway, and a Norman arch to the nave. The tall arcades are 13th century, but the aisles were rebuilt in 1861. Windows in the 600 years old chancel have a beautiful tracery. Look at the font carved by Normans, with a lattice pattern enriched with circles and crosses.

Godfrey Bosville is one of many Bosvilles remembered here. He lived at Thorpe Hall – a beautiful house about half a mile nearer Bridlington, in a park where the Gypsey Race flows and forms two lakes. Here lived Sir Alexander Macdonald of the Isles until his death in 1933. Admire the fine organ given to this church. He was organist and choirmaster here for 50 years.

Inside the church there’s also a memorial tablet placed by some friends and admirers of Winifred Holtby. It’s near the font.

Walk to the lower end of the churchyard, to the left of a path. Near the wall is the burial place of the Macdonalds of the Isles. Close by you’ll find the grave of Winifred Holtby.

She is perhaps best known for her novel, ‘South Riding’. It describes life in a small Yorkshire town during the 1920s and 1930s. However, she wrote five other novels, and a great number of essays and articles.

Her gravestone-shaped like an open book, bears the words: “Give me work till my life shall end, And life till my work is done.”

Rising beyond the miniaturised gravestones is Rudston Monolith. It’s said to be the tallest standing stone in Britain – taller than the tallest of the Devil’s Arrows seen at Boroughbridge. Some call it Cleopatra’s Needle of the Wolds. Standing 25ft above ground, and possibly 25ft below, it’s believed to have been brought here by a glacier. The nearest outcrop of similar stone is near Cayton Bay, about 10 miles away. It may have been set up by the Celts as a tribute to the Sun God, or in thanks for the spring flowing from the little hill nearby. It was surmounted with a cross or ‘rood’ – hence the name Rudston (Roodstone). It’s now capped with a protective lead covering.

You’ll notice that around the foot of the mound on which the church and monolith stand, runs the course of the Gypsey Race. It flows intermittently from springs near Duggleby to Bridlington’s harbour – about 25 miles in all. It may be flowing strongly at times, but there are some believe it is only when some disaster is imminent!

Now you must make a point of wandering along the street where Winifred Holtby was born in Rudston House, Long Street, on June 23, 1898. Anyone will direct you to it, set back from the road amongst trees. A plaque reads: “Winifred Holtby - Novelist and Social Reformer 1898-1935. Author of South Riding. The original home of the Holtby family and birthplace of the Author.”

Of great interest locally, is that in 1933 a plough unearthed the ruins of a Roman house beside the road to Kilham. It had central heating, beautiful rooms, a wide gateway, tessellated floors with designs of dolphin and oyster, and a portrait of Venus with leopards, hunters and birds. There was a portrait of Mercury, a man slaying a bull, and a lion with a spear thought its body. Other relics included cubes, pottery, a bronze ring, brooch, roof tiles with nails, imprints of a man’s nailed boots, and the bones of two children. On that happy note, return to Rudston’s crossroads, and nearby visit the Bosville Arms for refreshment.