The Calderstones, currently to be found at Calderstones Park in the suburbs of Liverpool, are displayed like a stone circle; a collection of six sandstone Neolithic stones, marked with modern graffiti and much older carvings. They do indeed offer a mystery, as they were not part of a circle at all, and were most probably part of a Dolmen – a burial chamber. They have been moved a number of times which also presents problems for archaeologists and pre-historic scholars. The stones still however never fail to impress. They are housed – for now – in a glass house, and are due to be moved once again, but for now, they still offer a rare glimpse of a surviving example of stones that made-up a Neolithic burial chamber, and also present stones that can be examined close up.
The Calderstones come to prominence in the eighteenth century when they are thought to have been first disturbed, and in 1825 it was reported that ‘…in digging about them, urns made of the coarsest clay, containing human dust and bones were found.’ It was during the nineteenth century that they were said to have been part of a Druidic circle, but as the century came to a close, Professor William Abbott Herdman (1858-1924) concluded that they were part of a ruined Dolmen:
‘The six surviving stones are of local sandstone and their sizes range approximately eight by three feet to three and a half by two and a half feet. The markings which had been studied the previous century by Simpson were again analysed and latex moulds were made of the stones and carvings, which both enabled a precise record to be made and also highlight other worn carvings which were not previously visible. The carvings were placed into six categories; spirals, concentric circles, arcs, cup marks, cup and ring marks and footprints. There is also evidence of post-medieval and modern graffiti. Several of the carvings are similar to examples found in Anglesey and the late-Neolithic burial site of Newgrange in the Boyne Valley.’
For further details on this modern discussion of the stones, see Herdman’s ‘A Contribution to the History of the Calderstones, near Liverpool’ (1896).
When industrialist Joseph Need Walker acquired the estate in 1825, the stones became a gateway feature for his new grandiose estate. They were moved from the outside the park gates in 1954. The estate itself was sold to shipping magnate Charles MacIver in 1875, his sons selling it to the Liverpool Corporation in 1902. The stones will be re-examined during their next move and perhaps the mystery of the Calderstones will be solved.