HAROLD STONE STANDING STONE, SKOMER ISLAND
Map Reference SM70NW
Grid Reference SM7336009520
Unitary (Local) Authority Pembrokeshire
Old County Pembrokeshire
Community Marloes and St Brides
Type of Site STANDING STONE
Broad Class Religious, Ritual and Funerary
Site Description 1. The Harold Stone is an erect monolith, 1.7m high by 0.8m by 0.5m. It tapers from a broad base to a point, with its edges aligned nearly north-south; its wide face is orientated to face the sea to the east and the island to the west. It is one of several stones in south-west Wales bearing the same name. Gerald of Wales asserted that the stones were erected by Earl Harold to commemorate his victories over the Welsh in 1063. Although the Harold Stone on Skomer is currently undated, excavations at other similar stones in Pembrokeshire have always yielded a prehistoric, or Bronze Age, date. It is therefore safe to assume that this stone is also a Bronze Age monument, marking a burial (in a cremation urn) or an area of now concealed ritual and funerary activity. Sian Rees (Cadw) has noted that the Harold Stone stands as a prominent marker on the skyline as one approaches by sea and may have been used as a transit marker to clear submerged dangers. This is also a useful hypothesis. The stone does not have an obvious relationship to the adjacent prehistoric field boundaries (see NPRN 24369) that pass close to it on the west side. However, it does stand towards the eastern end of a distinct block of fields, not far to the south of a prominent outcrop that no doubt provided a convenient slab. Therefore the stone may have stood at the edge of a contemporary plot of fields. Other cairns and mounds are known from Skomer, at least some of which may be burial cairns contemporary with this standing stone.
Field visit by TGD and LB (RCAHMW), 3rd June 2009 and 18th August 2010.
2. In 2012, Richard Kipling (PhD, Aberystwyth University) informed the Skomer Island Project team of an apparent midsummer solstice solar alignment marked by the Harold Stone. Dr Kipling discovered the alignment by chance when observing sunrise on 21st June 2012 from the stone. It is apparent that a viewer looking generally north-east from the stone towards the outcrops of North Castle some 117m away, at sunrise on 21st June, will observe the rising sun framed neatly and perfectly by a discrete notch in the outcrop (the notch being of natural origin). At head-height the top of the Harold Stone will also appear to fall level with the summit of the outcrop 117m distant. The coincidence of the notch in the outcrop with the rising sun on this particular date, as seen from a fixed point marked by an Early Bronze Age standing stone, would strongly suggest that the alignment is a genuine phenomenon. To date it has not been possible to research the position of the rising sun as it would have been in the Early Bronze Age, or to calculate to what extent this would alter the position of the rising sun in relation to the outcrop notch. However, such an alignment would not be unusual in the context of other known sites in prehistoric Britain, and the photographic evidence is compelling. It may suggest a distinct purpose behind the erection of The Harold Stone in this particular position.
T. Driver, Oct 2014, with information from Richard Kipling.
Barker, L., Davis, O., Driver, T. and Johnston, R. 2012. Puffins amidst prehistory: re-interpreting the complex landscape of Skomer Island, In: Britnell, W.J. and Silvester, R. J. (eds.), Reflections on the Past, Essays in Honour of Frances Lynch. Cambrian Archaeological Association. Pp. 280-302.