Travel at a Natural Pace; Enjoy the Journey

Hemlock Stone, Bramcote, Nottinghamshire

Dramatic Stone Pillar in Suburban Nottingham

Dramatic and mystical stones are usually associated with wild places so the fascinating Hemlock Stone goes almost unnoticed now it is surrounded by suburban Nottingham.

Hemlock Stone in the SnowIn less sophisticated times, all sorts of legends and myths have grown up around the stone, many based on various interpretations of Celtic mythology and Druidic ritual. There are also suggestions that people once thought the nearby stream had healing properties. More fanciful folk lore explanations include the Devil throwing a stone at nearby Lenton Priory. It was once suggested that the name comes from “Cromlech”, ancient stone circles and monoliths, but that idea seems to have fallen out of favour by 1928 (Welcome to Stapleford, Nottinghamshire ) as does any association with local witches and their use of the hemlock plant.

There have been archaeological excavations and analysis of the stone and no evidence has been found of quarrying or of the pillar being man made. However, the belief is that the Stone was a mystical object in the past and would have formed a focus for ritual. The ground around the pillar has eroded over the centuries and the flat top would have been much more accessible a thousand or more years ago. In several of the references, there are vague suggestions of evidence that the Hemlock Stone formed a natural altar or table for Druidic or other rituals. However the writers do not provide specific details.

It is now known and accepted that the Hemlock Stone is a purely natural phenomenon caused by the erosion of the soft sandstone being slowed by the harder cap of the Hemlock Stone. The pillar itself has apparently resisted erosion because of barytes (barium sulphate) cementing the usually soft Nottingham Castle or Bunter Sandstone – the same stone that forms the cliffs on which Nottingham Castle sits. The cementation provides a tougher cap that has protected the pillar from weathering. The Hemlock Stone still fascinates visitors and it would have a much higher profile if it was in a more prominent position rather than its suburban setting on the edge of the Nottingham conurbation.

The Hemlock Stone Today

There appears to have been little recent interest in the Hemlock Stone and the origins of its name or its place in local history. Indeed, in 1991 Frank Earp suggested that there had been renewed argument (possibly by property developers) that the Hemlock Stone was merely a remnant of earlier quarrying.

Sledging, Hemlock Stone in the SnowEven today, “ritual” events of one sort or another take place at the Hemlock Stone. On the rare days that snow falls and settles in Nottingham the slopes below the Hemlock Stone become a focus of celebration as many people take, sledges, toboggans, skis or snowboards and sometimes just plastic sacks to enjoy the snow while it lasts. Might this be perceived by future archaeologists as a form of ritual celebration, like many that have gone before associated with the seasons and the weather?

In 2002 a bonfire was lit on the top of the Hemlock Stone as part of a national chain of beacons celebrating the Queen Elizabeth’s Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. Since 2006 in June each year (usually the second Saturday) the Hemlock Stone becomes a focus for a firework display that closes the Hemlock Happening in the restored walled garden across the road. Along with the icehouse in the woods, they are all that remain of the former Bramcote Hills House. The Hemlock Happening is a community festival where community groups have stalls and there is a day of music, drama and other performances from groups from Stapleford and Bramcote.

So even in these more scientifically aware times the Hemlock Stone still exerts a pull on the imagination.

The location of the Hemlock Stone is on Stapleford Hill, just off the A6002, Coventry Lane, with free car parking on the opposite side of the road in Bramcote Hills Park. The precise location is 52° 56’ 34.93” N, 1° 15’ 29.14” W and its National Grid reference is SK 4995 3866


Hemlock Stone Bramcote NottinghamMost of the readily available references are all rather old, 1928 and earlier, and most rely on even earlier 19th century work. Further research is required to bring new archaeology and geological techniques to bear on the origins of the Hemlock Stone.


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Frank Edmund Earp (not verified) on 26 March, 2015 - 18:09

Yes, I agree, there should be new investigation into the Hemlock Stone. I provided much of the information for the first Hemlock Stone Happening and for the display board by the site. I have a lot of unpublished research material on the stone and it's place in the landscape. However, whilst the Hemlock Stone needs further examination, there is a second site, - around 1.25 miles north at Strelley, - which certainly needs archaeological excavation. (See my book, The Cat Stones of Catstone Hill)

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MW Admin (not verified) on 26 March, 2015 - 18:10

Dear Frank Thanks for that comment and the steer about the Cat Stones, I was not aware of them, and will see if there is a short article for The Winding Way there. Perhaps a review of your book, a piece on the stones and/ or an interview with yourself? I was planning to do something about the Druid Stone at Blidworth but it is not as dramatic as the Hemlock Stone.

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MW Admin (not verified) on 26 March, 2015 - 18:11

Where is the druid stone at Blidworth please?

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Helen Bates (not verified) on 26 March, 2015 - 18:12

Where is the druid stone at Blidworth please?

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Thurgood Moira (not verified) on 26 March, 2015 - 18:13

Hello, I joined Ancestry in January and came across an old photograph of my father with a group of either ramblers or cycle bike riders. He was born 1916 & could still be a teenager so the photo may be around the 1930's. I have tried to discover where the photo was taken as he lived in Nottingham so I feel it was around this area. If I might send you a scanned copy would you please view it and offer your candid assessment. Thank you Moira

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