Coffin Stone, Sabden, Lancashire

Standing Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SD 7717 3830

Getting Here

From Sabden village, walk up the Clitheroe Road towards the hairpin Nick o’ Pendle, but take the turning left 100 yards before the Nick.  Walk along the dirt-track for less than 100 yards, watching for the small upright on the right-hand side of the track. You can’t really miss it!

Archaeology & History

The Coffin Stone

To be found on the far southern flanks of Pendle Hill, the Lancashire writer and historian, John Dixon,* brought us to this little-known stone a few days back — and gave us the history of the place. (Dixon 1993)  He pointed out how it’s situated right alongside the legendary cross-Pennine prehistoric route that was labelled ‘Rombald’s Way’ by Eric Cowling. (1946): an important trackway which ran from coast to coast, allowing for the passage and transmission of flints, salt and early metals carried for barter and other uses.  What may be another standing stone is on the nearby skyline a couple of hundred yards east; and on the slopes either side of here are the prehistoric tombs of Jeppe Knave Grave and the Devil’s Apronful (amongst others).  A fine little standing stone!

Folklore

The name derives from it being a place where, in bygone days, when coffins were carried along the ancient routeway hereby, it was rested by this stone.  As John Dixon (1993) told:

“It was used to mark a resting point for coffins en route from Pendle Forest to Whalley, allowing the mourners to refresh and pray by the curative Marion well, in a time before the ‘Newchurch’ of St. Mary was established at Goldshaw Booth in 1544.”

…and from another angle

The Marion Well he mentions is more popularly known as Our Lady’s Well and can be found a hundred yards up the hillside above our Coffin Stone.  If you walk up the slope you’ll see the site emerging where a small boggy pool appears on the hillside, and the course of the small stream marked by the reeds growing down the grassy slopes.  Although it became very much a Roman Catholic practice to venerate the Virgin Mary by this old well, the ritual was of course a much older heathen one.

John has also reminded me to mention “the fossil markings on the side of the stone – some plant from a former age” which you can see curving up from the bottom of the upright.

References:

  1. Cowling, Eric T., Rombald’s Way: A Prehistory of Mid-Wharfedale, William Walker: Otley 1946.
  2. Dixon, John, Journeys through Brigantia – volume 9: The Ribble Valley, Aussteiger Publications: Barnoldswick 1993.
  3. Dixon, John, Pendle – A Mythic Landscape, Aussteiger Publications: Barnoldswick 2010.

* John is the author of many fine historical travel guides, including the Journeys through Brigantia series. See the titles in the Lancashire Bibliography and Yorkshire Bibliography for a more complete listing of all his books to date.  If you wanna buy any of his works, or make enquiries regarding them, email John at: lancashirebooks@fsmail.net – or write to him direct, at: John Dixon, Aussteiger Publications, 21 Lowergate, Clitheroe, Lancashire BB7 1AD.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

The Northern Antiquarian – Charity Number SCO-46359

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About megalithix

Prehistorian and independent archaeological researcher, specializing in prehistoric rock art, Neolithic, Bronze Age & Iron Age sites, and the animistic cosmologies of pre-Christian & traditional cultures.
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