The large Criffel Stone sits just across the road from Crossens Pumping Station. It is a glacial erratic, meaning that it was carried by a glacier and left in place when the ice melted.
In 1959, the Crossens Pumping Station was built to pump water from the Crossens and Alt area into the sea and so prevent flooding of the locality. During construction, the Criffel Stone was discovered five metres below ground level. Geologists recognised it as being made from granite of a kind only found in Dumfriesshire. This type of stone is still currently quarried in the Dalbeattie area.
The Criffel stone had been carried by glacier from Dumfriesshire during the last ice age 18,000 years ago. The route it had taken was via the present day Irish Sea, which mostly would have been frozen at the time. When the ice age ended 12,000 years ago, the glacier melted and the stone was deposited at Crossens. Over the ensuing millenia it was covered by sand and soil, only to be discovered during the excavations to prepare the ground for the pumping station.
Study of the deposition of glacial erratics around the country has allowed geologists to build up a picture of where the glaciers that covered North West England once were. It is thought that the stone could not come overland via Cumbria and Lancashire as this area was blocked by ice. Ice flowed from these areas into the frozen Irish Sea.
When the early Victorian geologists started to realise that only long vanished glaciers from a remote ice age could account for much of the upland landscape of Britain, they searched out clues for the existence of glaciers. They faced much resistance, as the common belief was that the Earth was not very old and glaciers had never existed in Britain. By accumulating records of glacial erratics they showed that these stones could not have come from the local underlying rocks, and so must have been transported many miles from their original source.
Glacial erratics were also prized specimens, being interesting conversation pieces for owners of large country estates. At Towneley Hall there is an erratic at the back of the house at the end of the Lime Walk. At Worden Park there is one just by the ice house (see our page that gives more details on it here).
Criffel Stone and the Snotter Stone Confusion
There is some confusion on the internet with some website authors stating that this is the Snotter Stone. It is not, as the Snotter Stone was discovered at Hundred End near Hesketh by Reverend William Bulpit in the 1800s. It is marked on an old map near the present day Ribble Hall Farm. The updated Henry Taylor : The Ancient Crosses and Wells of Lancashire gives it a grid reference of 414 230, which places it close to Ribble Hall. The Lancashire Archaeological Society website has a brief discussion piece about the search for it here (it’s the second article on the page). Historic England’s website Pastscape states that the Snotter Stone was a medieval boundary stone in the form of a six foot tall limestone boulder. The stone stood on the boundary of the Leyland and West Derby Hundreds. (Hundreds were the original Saxon administration areas, that lasted well into modern times as recognisable districts). The Snotter Stone may well still be in its original position, but has been submerged in silt and is no longer visible. The fact that it was discovered by William Bulpit when he was digging in the area and that it has once more vanished under the shifting landscape suggests that this is still a rapidly changing coastal area.
Site visited by A. and S. Bowden 2018
There is a small parking place next to the Criffel Stone. The pumping station is on Banks Road, Crossens, Sat Nav Postcode PR98JQ.
Nearby, just a short drive away Southport’s Early Transatlantic Flights Sculpture
On Site Interpretation – small information plaque on the Criffel Stone put in place by Lancashire RIGS Group- now called GeoLancashire. See their website here. They publish a range of walking, landscape and history guides, available from their website to buy or download for free.
http://www.pastscape.org.uk Snotter Stone page
Henry Taylor : The Ancient Crosses and Holy Wells of Lancashire : A Revised Version : Volume VI : Leyland Hundred, Volume Editors: J.A. Hilton, A.J. Noble, M. Pannikar, W.A. Varney North West Catholic History Society, Wigan 2007