The modern urban sprawl isn't usually the place where you'd find an ancient megalithic monument, but off a roundabout between a branch of KFC and a housing estate something is lurking in the city of Leicester.
The Humber Stone is a gigantic rock that sits with most of its mass under the earth, like a stone iceberg. It is probably a glacial erratic – a boulder picked up by the passing of a glacier and deposited again far from its origin – but according to early antiquarians it was used by some of the ancient inhabitants of the area as an altar. The stone has gone by other names – Hell Stone, Holy Stone, all tenuously suggesting that some kind of ritual may have gone on here. The nearby area of Humberstone is definitely linked as it appears in the Domesday book as “Humerstan”, probably meaning “Humer's or Humma's Stone”.
The whole of the Humber Stone used to be on display but various attempts have been made through history to bury and even break it. During the mid 1700s it is said that a local landowner attempted to break parts of the stone off to flatten it so a plough could pass over. His fortunes went into an immediate downward spiral, his fortune lost, the land sold off and the bankrupt and now very sick man ended up dying in the workhouse.
In 1925 a man allegedly built a haystack over the now half-buried Humber Stone which spontaneously combusted, causing the fire brigade to come out twice to quell the flames. This continued, with all the stacks in the field bursting into flames of their own accord, forcing the man to leave them to burn out on their own.
In 1980 a family living in a street next to the Humber Stone were disturbed by their 10 year old son being menaced by a “horned figure”, which he drew for teachers at his school. He said he didn't know what it was but it appeared at the end of his bed regularly. So unsettling was this phenomena that the family moved out but a few years later their parents moved in to the council property, whereupon the boy's grandmother claimed she had been throttled “by a ghost”.
Whatever the truth of any of these tales, today the Humber Stone now lies half buried in a lonely little field next to the main road, hidden by hedges. The attempts made to break it up are still clearly visible but with its main mass underground it is difficult to get an impression of how great this monument once was. If you intend on seeing it for yourself by car then I would recommend parking at the KFC and crossing the road by foot into its little field. An ignominious fate for such a grand old stone but while developments and buildings rise and fall...its still here.
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The Humber Stone
A rural looking backdrop belies the stone's urban setting
The Humber Stone was excavated during the Victorian era, showing its true size
The many attempts made to break the stone up are still evident today