Legend Of Hoston-stone
( Originally Published Late 1800's )
Some years ago I communicated some remarks, which were inserted in the History of Leicestershire, concerning the stone called by the inhabitants of Humberston " Hoston-stone," or " Hoston ;" meaning, perhaps, High-stone. I have always regarded this stone, though now little noticed, as a very curious object; and having made myself of late years better acquainted than when I wrote before with the subjects with which I imagine this stone to be connected, I offer the following remarks, as correcting, in some measure, my former communications.
This stone is one of those blocks of granite found very frequently in the neighbourhood, and supposed by the celebrated De Luc to be fragments cast up by some convulsion of the earth from the primary and deepest strata. The Hoston-stone lies on the ridge of an eminence, which, though not the highest of the neighbouring hills, is yet very conspicuous for a vast distance from the West. Some old persons in the neighbourhood, still living, remember when it stood a very considerable height, perhaps eight or ten feet, in an artificial fosse or hollow. About fifty or sixty years ago the upper parts of the stone were broken off, and the fosse levelled, that a plough might pass over it ; but, according to the then frequent remark of the villagers, the owner of the land who did this deed never prospered afterwards. He certainly was reduced from being the owner of five " yard-land," to use the then common phrase, or about one hundred and twenty acres, to absolute poverty, and died about six years ago in the parish workhouse. This superstitious opinion attached to the stone, together with the following circumstances, persuade me to think that the stone was what is usually called "Druidical." It possibly may have been a Logan, or rocking-stone ; but of this there certainly is no evidence.
There are, or rather were, about fifty years ago, traditionary tales in the village that a nunnery once stood on Hoston ; and that steps had been found communicating subterraneously with the monks of Leicester Abbey, about two miles distant. But no religious house of this kind is to be traced here. The tale must have owed its origin to circumstances connected with the religion of earlier times ; probably anterior to the introduction of Christianity into Britain ; and therefore during the prevalence of the idolatry of the Britons.
Some years ago it was believed that fairies inhabited, or at least frequented, this stone ; and various stories were told concerning those pigmy beings. Such, according to the testimony of Borlase, in his " History of Cornwall," is the common opinion respecting the many druidical stones in that county. This belief was so strongly attached to the Hoston-stone, that some years ago a person visiting it alone, fancied he heard it utter a deep groan; and he immediately ran away to some labourers, about two hundred yards distant, terrified with the apprehension of seeing one of the wonderful fairy inhabitants.
In the adjoining vale, at the distance of about one hundred yards from the stone, on the north-east, is a plot of ground known, before the inclosure of the lordship, by the name of "Hell-hole Furlong." No circumstance belonging at present to the spot seems likely to have given rise to this strange name : it leaves room therefore for the conjecture that in this quarter the sacrifices, too often human, were wont to be performed; and that from this circumstance it obtained the Saxon name of " Hela," or " Death."
From these circumstances, and also from the situation of the stone on an eminence, such as were usually chosen for the celebration of the religious rites of the ancient British, there seems to be little room for doubt that Hoston was once sacred to the purposes of druidical, or rather of the more ancient bardic worship. These spots are in some places still termed " Homberds," or " Humberds," probably from the Erse word (according to Vallancey) uam, or owim, signifying fear or terror, and bardh, the name of a well-known order of priests. The word humberd, thus compounded, is but too justly applicable to the scenes of Bardic worship, which were terrible, both from the character of Dis, or Pluto, whom they especially worshipped, and from the rites by which he was propitiated.
These conjectures and opinions derive further support from the name of the village within whose liberties this stone is situate. Humberston is very plainly the ton, or town, of the Humberd, or sacred place of bardic worship ; for the village stands on the south side of the ridge, of which Hoston-height is part ; and about half a mile from the stone, which is as near as habitations seem to have been allowed to approach those dreadfully sacred places. The name of Humberston belongs to a village on the coast of Lincolnshire, near Grimsby. Should there be any Humberd near it, the conclusion must be, not only that the Lincolnshire village, but the river Humber itself, derived their names from a place of bardic worship.