Gomersal Maypole, West Yorkshire

Maypole:  OS Grid Reference – SE 2068 2672

Archaeology & History

As in countless villages and towns across the British Isles, Gomersal also once had its maypole near or at the village centre.  We don’t know when the first maypole was erected in the village and many local sites were openly destroyed by rampant christian puritans and similar idiots.  It stood not far from the Moor Lane Well and was described by the regional historian H.A. Cadman (1930), who told:

“The Maypole was at the top of Moor Lane and one can imagine the welkin echoing to the very old song:

‘Come lasses and lads take leave of your dads
And away to the maypole hie.
For every fair has a sweetheart there
And the fiddlers standing by.
For Willy shall dance with Jane
And Johnny has got his Joan.
To trip it, trip it, trip it, trip it,
Trip it up and down.’

Yet as with maypoles up and down the land, testosterone-fuelled Springtime fall-outs happened.  Mr Cadman told:

“Very often May Day gatherings ended up with fights.  Great jealousy always existed between the inhabitants of Great Gomersal, Little Gomersal and Spen.  There is a tradition which has been handed down that the last Maypole in this district stood on Liversedge Green.  This Maypole was demolished in a fight by the Gomersalians and there is a similar tradition about the Maypole on Cleckheaton Green, so as Mr Frank Peel says, “It is evident that ancient inhabitants of Gomersal were more pugnacious than their neighbours.”  I have no evidence when the Gomersal Maypole ceased to exist, but there is abundant evidence to prove that there was one in Gomersal, the proof being that the vane is now in Batley Museum.  It is in the form of a fish.”

If anyone has any further information on this important relic, or its history, please let us know.

References:

  1. Cadman, H. Ashwell, Gomersal, Past and Present, Hunters Armley: Leeds 1930.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Posted in Maypoles, Yorkshire, West | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Giant’s Stone, Tweedsmuir, Peeblesshire

Standing Stones:  OS Grid Reference – NT 0953 2398

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 48527
  2. Menzion Farm

Getting Here

The small Giant's Stone

The small Giant’s Stone

Take the long long A701 road betwixt Moffat and Penicuik, and in the middle, somewhere, keeps your eyes attentive to the Tweedsmuir hamlet, across the small bridge almost lost in the expanse of old hills.  Once over the bridge, park up by the edge of the forest.  Walk along the small road that follows the riverside – and after a few hundred yards you’ll see, either side of the small road, three stones. Our “giant” is the tallest of the smallests here, right by forestside.

Archaeology & History

Giant's Stone & Grave on 1865 OS-map

Giant’s Stone & Grave on 1865 OS-map

Hiding away in the Back-of-Beyond, amidst a small cluster of other small megalithic remains, sleeps this quiet standing stone and its companions – three of them altogether, almost lost to anyone but old locals, whose tongues have sadly all but died.  Very little has been written about the place in any archaeology tomes and the earliest mention of the site seems to have been in the Second Statistical Account of 1845, when the surveyors told:

“Close by the road leading from the church to Menzion House, there are the remains of a Druidical temple or Pictish court of justice. Only one stone is left of a number similar in appearance and size which stood together, and which have been removed for the purpose of dike-building, &c. It is called the Standing Stone, and is five feet above the surface of the earth.”

Stone 2, across the road

Stone 2, across the road

More than a century later, the Royal Commission (1967) lads got round to checking the place out, but there seems to be some slight confusion as to what they recorded and the situation as it stands today.  The present Royal Commission lads reports the existence of what they call the Menzion Stones: quite separate standing stones—although ‘fallen’—just a short distance from the Giant’s Stone (Canmore ID 48561), citing them as described in the Peeblesshire (1967) survey which, oddly, neither includes nor names the Giant’s Stone which is only yards away.  It seems safe to assume that the respective Royal Commission inspectors have made erroneous judgements here, brought about due to the repositioning of the original Giant’s Stone when the Forestry Commission afflicted the place and, it seems, damaged the site.  It’s difficult to say with any certainty—but there are definitely some official errors in the description of this site.  Anyway, if we assume that the ‘Menzion’ standing stones in the Peeblesshire Inventory were actually the Giant’s Stone and its companions, this is how they reported it following a visit here in 1956:

“A quarter of a mile NE of Menzion farmhouse, the road to Tweedsmuir passes between two standing stones. The more northerly stone, situated 10 yds W of the roadway measures about 2 ft. 3 in square at ground level and stands to a height of 2 ft 6 in. The other stone is 25 yds SE of the first and 12 yds E of the roadway. It, too, is almost square on plan, measuring about 2 ft 2 in along each side at ground level, and stands to a height of 2 ft.”

Even more peculiar is that today we have three standing stones at this spot!  Like those at Perthshire’s Tigh nam Bodach, perhaps the metamorphosized spirit of the site is reproducing!

Folklore

In the very same Second Statistical Account (1845) was recounted the folklore of the largest stone, which had obviously been told them by local folk.  Twas said that,

“From behind it, a person of diminutive stature, known by the name of Little John, discharged an arrow at the head of a freebooter of formidable dimension who greatly annoyed the peaceful inhabitants, and who, though on the opposite side of the Tweed, was unable to elude the deadly stroke.”

Folklorists Janet & Colin Bord narrated a variation on the above story, telling that,

“This stone and the two nearby mark the place where Jack the Giant Killer despatched his last victim. Jack hid behind the Giant’s Stone to shoot, but unfortunately the mortally wounded giant managed to get a punch in and Jack was himself killed. The stone now acts as his gravestone.”

All three stones together

All three stones together

Invariably, references to “giants” in folklore—be it in mountains or standing stones—indicates early Creation Myth stories that tell about the origin of the given site.  In the case of this standing stone and its companions, and the related Giant’s Grave tomb 320 yards WNW across the River Tweed, it would seem to indicate a folk memory of the hero-figure or giant who was buried here thousands of years ago, and whose spirit inhabits the stone.  This motif is widespread and very archaic.

References:

  1. Bord, Janet & Colin, Atlas of Magical Britain, Sidgwick & Jackson: London 1990.
  2. Eliade, Mircea, A History of Religious Ideas – volume 1, University of Chicago Press 1978.
  3. Johnson, Walter, Folk Memory, Oxford University Press 1908.
  4. Maclagan, David, Creation Myths, Thames & Hudson: London 1977.
  5. Roberts, Anthony, Sowers of Thunder, Rider: London 1978.
  6. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, Peeblesshire – volume 1, Aberdeen University Press 1967.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Posted in Peebleshire, Standing Stones | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pickel Well, Birstall, West Yorkshire

Sacred Well:  OS Grid Reference – SE 2180 2633

Archaeology & History

The Pickel Well at Monk Ings, 1847

The Pickel Well at Monk Ings, 1847

Seemingly built over in recent years, the Pickel Well was one of the main water supplies to the people of Gomersal and Birstall in earlier times.  Getting its name, probably, from the northern dialect word pikel or pickel, meaning “very heavy rain” (Joseph Wright [1903] associates it with the expression “raining cats and dogs”), this may be a description of the heavy flow of water which helped feed the large man-made ponds either side of the road.

The Monk Ings Field in which it was found, derives its name from the monks from Nostell Priory who lived here, centuries ago.  They would, no doubt, have drunk the water from this well.

Folklore

A very curious legend relates to this place. H.A.  Cadman (1930) told,

“that whenever a birth was expected in Great Gomersal, a pad-foot came out at night from the Monk Ing fields and shouted out, ‘Thee first or me first!’  This was said to be a warning to people not to go out.”

Padfoots were phantom black dogs, stories of which occur all over northern England and beyond.  They were ostensibly interpreted as omens of doom and bringers of Death.  This example at Gomersal is peculiar in that it is equated with birth, as well as giving warnings for local people to stay indoors, as is more usual.

Incidences of black dogs at wells are not uncommon. In West Yorkshire alone we find them haunting the waters at Low Moor, Idle, Thorp Arch, Eccleshill, Heaton and others.  Their nature is quite complex, but ostensibly derives from animistic cyclical notions of death and rebirth—hence their emergence sometimes from wells; and in this instance, presaging a local birth.

References:

  1. Cadman, H. Ashwell, Gomersal, Past and Present, Hunters Armley: Leeds 1930.
  2. Eliade, Mircea, Zalmoxis – The Vanishing God, University of Chicago Press 1972.
  3. Wright, Joseph (ed.), English Dialect Dictionary – volume 4, Henry Frowde: London 1903.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Posted in Holy Wells, Yorkshire, West | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Doidy Poidy Well, Gomersal, West Yorkshire

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – unknown

Archaeology & History

This bizarre-sounding well owed its name—if we are to accept H.A. Cadman’s (1930) version of history—to the local land-owner,

“Joseph Mortimer and it was so-called because Mortimer’s christian name was Doidy Poidy.”

But this seems unlikely.  The term ‘doidy’ is a local dialect word, seemingly found only in West Yorkshire, meaning ‘an overdressed person, especially female,’ (Haigh 1928), with doidy-poidy being rhyming slang for the same thing.  The english dialect magus, Joseph Wright (1900), proclaimed the same derivative, “a badly dressed woman, a dowdy.”  So it may have been that this title was endowed upon Mortimer’s wife.

Cadman told that the Doidy Poidy Well was one of the “chief wells” of Gomersal, implying that its waters were good and strong.  Its existence on what was known as “the old feasting grounds” may have played a part in the “public rejoicings which last for days… The feast was on the Monday on or before Lady Day.” (March 25th, around spring equinox)  However, Cadman assures us that the celebrations were started “when the Gomersal Cloth Hall was opened,” telling us that “this feast or fair is not therefore an ecclesiastical one.”

The exact whereabouts of the Doidy Poidy Well remains a mystery.

References:

  1. Cadman, H. Ashwell, Gomersal, Past and Present, Hunters Armley: Leeds 1930.
  2. Haigh, W.E., A New Glossary on the Dialect of the Huddersfield District, Oxford University Press 1928.
  3. Wright, Joseph (ed.), English Dialect Dictionary – volume 2, Henry Frowde: London 1900.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Posted in Holy Wells, West, Yorkshire | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Moor Lane Well, Gomersal, West Yorkshire

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – SE 2071 2677

Archaeology & History

Moor Lane Well on 1847 OS-map

Moor Lane Well on 1847 OS-map

Not far from the old maypole, the Moor Lane Well was the innocuous-sounding site where legend told that a phantom horse was once seen running up and down the lane—said by old locals to be a “very ancient highway”.  It was also a place where we find an intriguing tale of local disrepute, that brought humiliation to the culprit from the entire village.

There used to be a custom called ‘Riding the Stang’ which persisted in Yorkshire until the end of the 19th century. Thought to be of Scandinavian origin, it involved the culprit being hoisted onto a platform, held up by poles, then carried around the village where the person lived in a most ignominious procession. It was invariably described as being a public punishment and humiliation for faults made by one’s wife. Anyway, in the early 1840s, said H.A. Cadman (1930),

“there were two families who lived at Brecks Farm.  I will not of course divulge their true names, so will describe one of them as the Jones family and the other as the Smith family.  Jones’ wife accused Smith’s wife of having polluted the drinking water and the Smith family left the farm and removed to the top of Moor Lane.  The Jones family wishing to make the most of the affair resolved that Mrs Smith’s effigy should ride the stang.  A long pole was obtained and the effigy was affixed to the centre.  Two men then took hold, one at each end, and walked up Moor Lane, folowed by a huge concourse of people.  The procession stopped opposite Mrs Smith’s house and repeated the nominee.  My informant, a dear old lady, would not tell me the whole of the verse, but it commenced thus:

“It’s neither your fault nor my fault that I ride this stang.”

“After all the verses had been repeated, the stang was taken round Gomersal, when ultimately the effigy was burned with the usual solemnities.

“The other instance of riding the stang occurred also in thge early ‘forties and I believe this was the last occasion of the stang being ridden.  On this occasion a man…was in the habit of beating his wife harder than his neighbours thoughts proper with the result that he had to be punished. Now Jim was a most religious man, but the same rites had to be observed as in the other instance,

“It was for Jim Vasey that religious man
He paid her, he paid her indeed and
If Jim doesn’t alter his manners
We will take his skin “…….” to the tanners.
And if the tanner doesn’t tan it well,
We’ll send it to…”

“One must regret that the old custom of riding the stang has died out, as it must have had its good points.”

Local people could, of course, simply bring it back again!  The Moor Lane Well was one of the main water supplies for the old villagers in bygone times, but seems to have disappeared under the modern houses.  There is, however, a small narrow band of trees where the old waters once ran, amidst which it might still be found—if luck is on our side…

References:

  1. Cadman, H. Ashwell, Gomersal, Past and Present, Hunters Armley: Leeds 1930.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Posted in Holy Wells, Yorkshire, West | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Mannerly Well, Gomersal, West Yorkshire

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – SE 2107 2515

Also Known as:

  1. Manor Lea Well

Archaeology & History

The site is one of the 2 wells on the 1847 OS-map

The site is one of the 2 wells on the 1847 OS-map

Originally called the ‘Manor Lea Well’ because it could be found on the far west of the land belonging to the Manor House, the name later became corrupted to ‘Mannerly’ by local folk. It was one of the four prime water supplies for this part of the old village, but it had other important social and festive rites attached that undoubtedly went back centuries.  H.A. Cadman (1930) told that:

“On Palm Sundays it was the custom for boys to take bottles containing Spanish juice, treacle, and any other sweet thing they could, for the purpose of having them filled with the water from the well. The boys then exchanged bottles with each other and each sampled the others. It was said that no better water existed for this purpose.”

This particular ritual was integral to virtually every Spa Well from Wakefield through to the source of the River Calder.

A Mr G.W. Parker said that the well was to be found at the “extreme Western side” of Manor Lea and was “still in existence” when Cadman wrote about it in 1930, “behind Company Mill” not far from the Moravian Burial Ground.  Do any local historians know if the well is still there, or has it since been destroyed?

References:

  1. Cadman, H. Ashwell, Gomersal, Past and Present, Hunters Armley: Leeds 1930.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Posted in Holy Wells, Yorkshire, West | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kilry, Glen Isla, Angus

Standing Stone: OS Reference – NO 2432 5449

The stone in the wooded glade

The stone in the wooded glade

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 31093

Getting Here

Take the B954 north from Alyth, and turn left onto the unclassified road at Craigisla House, turning right at Dykehead, then take the right fork at Faulds. Park up by the school about ¼ mile further on, and the stone is in a wooded glade on the opposite side of the road along a track to the left of ‘Standing Stone’ cottage.

Archeology and History

Quoted in the Canmore database, A.J. Warden, writing in 1882, described the stone:

Kilry 04Kilry 03The standing stone on Broomhall estate is a large amorphous whinstone, standing in a small field near the confluence of the Kilry Burn and the River Isla.  It is c.7′ high and c. 10′ in circumference at the base. Tradition states that it commemorates a battle fought between the laird of Kilry and the Durwards of Peel.’

On the OS map the stone is aligned with the Pitmudie Stones and the Knowehead of Auldallan Stones to the north east.

References:

  1. Warden, A.J.,  Angus or Forfarshire: The Land and People, Descriptive and Historical – volume 3, Dundee 1880-5.

© Paul Hornby, The Northern Antiquarian

Posted in Angus, Scotland, Standing Stones | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment