Baildon Moor carving 152, West Yorkshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 13743 40161

Also Known as:

  • Carving no.24 (Hedges)

Getting Here

If you wanna find this, get onto the Low Plain north of the Dobrudden caravan park and its about 10 yards off the path running north from there, not too far from the other Baildon Hill carvings.  Scramble about a bit & you’ll find it.

Archaeology & History

W. Paley Baildon's early drawing

Don’t ask me why, but I really like this carving. It’s one of the many I first saw on these moors when wandering about up here when I was 10-12 years old — and they had an effect on me.  I call this one of the “primary design” stones, i.e., a number of CRs on this moor (and everywhere else for that matter) appears to have a central design feature. (I’ll point out the others as I post ’em) Some folk think it’s just the slant of the local rock-artist…I think it’s summat a bit different…  Local astronomer Gordon Holmes (1997) found a similar pattern here and thought they may have represented star formations, but this is unlikely.

It was first described and illustrated by W. Paley Baildon (1913), way before Mr Jackson (1955) resurrected its attention for archaeologists.

References:

Baildon, W. Paley, Baildon and the Baildons (parts 1-15), St. Catherines: Adelphi 1913-26.
Boughey, K.J.S. & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, WYAS: Leeds 2003.
Hedges, John (ed.), The Carved Rocks of Rombald’s Moor, WYMCC: Wakefield 1986.
Holmes, Gordon, 2000 BC – A Neolithic Solstice Odyssey, SASRG 1997.
Jackson, Sidney, ‘Cup-and-Ring Boulders of Baildon Moor,’ in Cartwright Hall Archaeology Group Bulletin, 1:7, 1955.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Baildon Moor Cup-Marking 146, West Yorkshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 13666 39756

Also Known as:

  • Carving no.19 (Hedges)
  • Carving no.146 (Boughey & Vickerman)

Getting Here

South of Dobrudden caravan park, heading towards the wall, you’ll stumble across this old carving in the tribbly grass. Zigzag about and keep your eyes peeled!

First known drawing (W.P. Baildon 1913)

First known drawing (W.P. Baildon 1913)

Archaeology & History

First described by W. Paley Baildon in his monumental 15-part study (1913) of the region, this carving was then later included in John Hedges (1986) survey as ‘Baildon stone 19.’  It was then catalogued as stone 146 in Boughey & Vickerman’s (2003) updated and expanded survey.

Modern drawing (after Hedges 1986)

This carving was one of several in the Baildon Moor complex that was thought by local astronomer Gordon Holmes (1997) to possibly represent heavenly constellations, with Pleiades and Cassiopeia being primary contenders amidst the scattering of carved cups on this stone.  This was something I explored in my own research on the possible nature of these carvings in the 1980s, but found that although it seemed a good idea, it was pretty unlikely (unfortunately!).  The nature of this and other stones related to the other prehistoric remains where, in bygone days, many prehistoric cairns scattered this grassy moorland plain.  The carving was more related to the cosmology of death and the psychogeography of spirit worlds: a factor understood at many other cup-and-rings across the country.

References:

Baildon, W. Paley, Baildon and the Baildons – parts 1-15, Adelphi: London 1913-1926.
Boughey, Keith & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, WYAS: Leeds 2003.
Cowling, Eric T., Rombald’s Way, William Walker: Otley 1946.
Hedges, John, The Carved Rocks on Rombald’s Moor, WYMCC: Wakefield 1986.
Holmes, Gordon, 2000 BC – A Neolithic Odyssey, SASRG: Baildon 1997.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Mitton Springs Carving, Baildon Moor, West Yorkshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 12897 39490

Also Known as:

  • Carving no.4 (Hedges)
  • Carving no.121 (Boughey & Vickerman)

Glossop's 1882 drawing

Glossop's 1882 drawing

Getting Here

This lovely little stone is found on Shipley Glen.  Walk a few hundred yards up past Brackenhall until your reach the track which leads up the slope to Mitton Springs farmhouse up the slope.  Across the road from here, about 20 yards from the rown tree, you’ll find this glyph on one of the stones.  Be patient and look around.  You’re damn close!

Archaeology & History

(after Hedges, 1968)

(after Hedges, 1968)

The carving first appears to have been described by the Bradford historian, William Glossop (1888), in his local survey of prehistoric remains here (see his drawing).  It’s a cute little thing (sad aren’t I!?) on a small stone, consisting of a simple large ‘enclosure’ ring with three archetypal cup-markings etched inside.  Described by several other local writers since, no other archaeological remains have been found in relation to this carving, making any realistic academic assessment on its nature almost wholly impossible.

References:

Baildon, W. Paley, Baildon and the Baildons (parts 1-15), St. Catherines: Adelphi 1913-26.
Boughey, K.J.S. & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, WYAS: Leeds 2003.
Glossop, William, “Ancient British Remains on Baildon Moor,” in Bradford Antiquary No.1, 1888.
Hedges, John (ed.), The Carved Rocks of Rombald’s Moor, WYMCC: Wakefield 1986.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Badger Wells Cairn, Pendle Hill, Lancashire

Cairn:  OS Grid Reference – SD 783 396

Getting Here

Start at the Nick of Pendle and walk up the footpath towards the denuded Apronful of Stones’ cairn.  Keep going up the hill for another 300 yards or so, just past where there’s a path that turns-off towards the ritual Deer Stones. As you walk upwards, in front of you you’ll see the tell-tale sign of many small stones scattered in their tell-tale manner, rising up at the edge of the footpath. This is it!

Archaeology & History

This was the third in a group of previously unrecognized giant cairns that I found in August 2006 (it certainly wasn’t in the archaeology records anyway), all on the south side of our legendary Pendle Hill — and it’s bloody huge!  However, unlike the other two (the Devil’s Apronful and the Lower Apronful of Stones, further down the slopes), this one doesn’t seem as certain as the other two, but it’s still worth including here and cannot be discounted until a decent archaeological assessment has been made.

Looking up to the height of the Badger Wells Cairn

Looking up to the height of the Badger Wells Cairn

Section of the surface remains, showing thousands of stones

Section of the surface remains, showing thousands of stones

Just like its companion cairns, although it’s covered over with much soil and grasses, all round the edges are hundreds of small stones and rocks, of the same type and size as the other two a bit further down the hill, and similar to the Skirtful of Stones on Ilkley and elsewhere.  The overgrown heap of stones here stands about ten-feet tall from the lower western edge and measures approximately 28 yards (north-south) by 20 yards (east-west).

Although this cairn is named after the nearby Badger Wells — which gets its name either from the local badger population, or else the old ‘badger-men’ who used to trade hereby — another fresh water source also emerges near the bottom of its western side.

Upon asking a couple of passers-by (they were local regular walkers up this great hill) about this and the other giant overgrown cairns upon this hill, they didn’t have a clue they existed — although they did suggest we contact the Lord of Downham on the north side of the hill. And so there we ventured, in search of the Great Stone – and guess who we bumped into…?

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Devil’s Arrows, Boroughbridge, North Yorkshire

Standing Stones:  OS Grid References – SE 391 665

Also known as:

  1. The Devil’s Bolts
  2. The Three Greyhounds
  3. The Three Sisters

Getting Here

Dead easy to find!  Turn off the A1(M) at the A6055 Boroughbridge road and head into town. Turn left after the Three Arrows Hotel, down Roecliffe Lane and the stones are a few hundred yards down, close to the motorway. The tallest is just off the road to the left, behind a gate, whilst the other two are across the road in the fields.

Devil’s Arrows (Percy Robinson, c.1895)

Archaeology & History

To many archaeo-megalithic and folklore fans, these huge standing stones need no introduction.  These great heathen Arrows of the devil, today at least, are three gigantic standing stones, each one weighing several tons at least, standing in a rough straight line, nearly north-south.  This is the greatest single stone-row anywhere in the British Isles.

Just how many standing stones originally stood here is difficult to say.  We know from the records of early antiquarians and travellers that we had at least five Arrows here in centuries gone by; but one curious account, mentioned by the Yorkshire antiquarian Edmund Bogg (1895) more than a hundred years ago told:

“Peter Franck, a fisherman who travelled much about the world to enjoy his sport, came to Boroughbridge in 1694 and says he saw seven of these standing stones, Dr Stukeley mentions five, and John Leyland, in his travels, saw ‘four great stones wrought by man’s hands,’ but no inscription upon them. Camden, in 1592, saw four, but one of them at the time was thrown down, ‘for,’ says he, ‘the accursed love of gain.’ Part of this one is still to be seen, built into the Peggy Bridge which crosses the Tut on the entrance to the town, the top portion being preserved in the grounds of Aldborough Manor and this goes far to prove — and I have very carefully considered the question and examined the ground — that the original number of stones was far greater, and reached from the Yore, in equal distances to the Tudland of Leyland’s time, or the Staveley Beck of today. If this argument is correct, 2000 years ago there would be a line of at least 12 standing monoliths guarding the western approach to Isur Brigantium.”

John Aubrey's 1687 plan Devil Arrows Stone Circle

John Aubrey’s 1687 plan Devil Arrows Stone Circle

Will Stukeley’s 1776 image

Well y’ never know! But who was this Peter Franck chap from the 17th century? It would be good to find out more of what he said.

But this notion of there being a great many more stones here than the four or five that are accepted as standard, isn’t just to be found in the annals of some lost fisherman. The great Royalist antiquarian John Aubrey came here in September 1687 and, as illustrated here, saw the remaining three upright stones as remnants of a concentric ring of stones of obviously gigantic proportions. Following from a rough survey of the site and descriptions from local people, Aubrey placed the standing stones in their old line, of

“A. B. C. D., and I have drawn two imaginary circles in which it may be supposed that stones were placed, as at Avebury, Stonehenge, etc.  Perhaps they might be more stones in each circle than I have fancied.”

Nearly two hundred years later, archaeologist John Ackerman (1847) echoed John Aubrey’s notion (or perhaps simply copied them) in his notion of the Devil’s Arrows once being part of a greater megalithic complex, saying,

“At Rudston and Boroughbridge, in Yorkshire, are supposed examples of maenhirs. Near the latter place there are four standing in a row, which are called by the country people the Devil’s Bolts; but, from their relative position, it is not unlikely that they are the remains of a large circle.”

Devil’s Arrows (from Smith’s ‘Reliquiae’)

The top 2 Arrows

As if to tempt further enquiry, or at least require suitable explanation, is the nearby field-name of ‘Kringelker,’ or Cringles Carr — last described in 1316 — and which means very simply a circle by the marsh, or circular marsh, or variants thereof.  (Source: Yorkshire Deeds, volume 4,YAS: Leeds 1904)

But prior to John Aubrey’s speculations on the Arrows being part of a giant ring of stones, he related the earliest survey done here, by  a local (unnamed) man on April 17, 1669, telling that:

John Aubrey's 1687 sketch of the Arrows

John Aubrey’s 1687 sketch of the Arrows

“In Yorkshire near Burrough-brig on the west side of the Fosse-way, about a quarter of a mile, (in the Lordship of Alburgh) stand three pyramidish stones called the Devills Arrowes.  The Arrow standing towards the south is seven yards and a half in height: the compasse of it five yards and a half.  The middle Arrow seven yards and a half, in compass six yards.  The Arrow towards the north in height five yards and a half, in compass seven yards.  Here was another stone that stood in a straight line, at D, that was taken down and a bridge made of it.”

Other regal antiquarians and learned writers of the period came soon after. When William Camden (1695) visited the place at the end of the 16th century, he was equally impressed and described the place as follows:

“Not farre beneath there standeth by Ure a little towne called Burrowbridge, of the bridge that is made over the river: which is now built very high and faire of stone worke, but in King Edward the Second his time it seemeth to have beene of wood. For wee read that when the Nobles of England disquieted this king and troubled the state, Humfrey Bohun Earle of Hereford in his going over it was at a chinke thereof thrust through the body about his groine by a souldiour lying close under the bridge. Neere unto this bridge Westward wee saw in three divers little fields foure huge stones of pyramidall forme, but very rudely wrought, set as it were in a streight and direct line. The two Pyramides in the middest, whereof the one was lately pulled downe by some that hoped, though in vaine, to finde treasure, did almost touch one another. The uttermore stand not far off, yet almost in equall distance from these on both sides. Of these I have nothing else to say but that I am of opinion with some that they were monuments of victorie erected by the Romans hard by the high street that went this way. For I willingly overpasse the fables of the common people, who call them the Devills Bolts, which they shot at ancient cities and therewith overthrew them. Yet will not I passe over this, that very many, and those learned men, thinke they are not made of naturall stone in deed, but compounded of pure sand, lime, vitriol (whereof also they say there bee certaine small graines within), and some unctuous matter. Of such a kinde there were Rome cisterns, so firmely compact of very strong lime and sand, as Pliny writeth, that they seemed to be naturall stones.”

Another early antiquary, John Leland, also passed by here a few hundred years back and wrote the following after his visit:

“A little without this Towne on the west part of Watiling-Streate stadith 4 great maine stones wrought above in conum by Mannes hand.  They be set in 3 several Feldes at this Tyme.  The first is a 20 foote by estimation in higeth and an 18 foote in cumpace. The stone towards the ground is sumwhat square, and so up to the midle, and then wrought with certen rude boltells in conum. But the very toppe thereof is broken of a 3 or 4 footes. Other 2 of like shap stand in another feld a good But shot of: and the one of them is bigger then the other; and they stand within a 6 or 8 fote one of the other.  The fourth standith in a several feld a good stone cast from the other, and is bigger and higher than any of the other 3. I esteme it to the waite of a 5 Waine Lodes or more.

Inscription could I none find yn these stones; and if there were it might be woren out; for they be sore woren and scalid with wether.

I take to be a trophaea a Romanis posita in the side of Watheling Streat, as yn a place most occupied in Yorneying ad so most yn sighte.”

Possible cup-marks on northernmost Arrow

Rock Art on the Devil’s Arrows

Although Leland told us he could find no inscriptions on the stones, he missed some which may be much older than the purely Roman marks his nose was seeking.  Cup-and-ring stones — much in vogue nowadays thanks to the new, shamanically-inspired archaeo’s — aren’t etched here in anything like the styles expected of our Swastika Stone, or the Achnabreck carvings, but cup-markings seem to occur on the northernmost stone.  Although a rather myopic bunch of earth-mystery people thought they were the first to discovered the cup-markings here in 2005, they were in fact first described way back in 1866, in Sir James Simpson’s precursory essay to his Archaic Sculpturings (1867), where he told:

“In England the most striking and magnificent group of monoliths that I have seen are the so called Devil’s Arrows at Borough-Bridge, in Yorkshire. Three only of these tall and enormous monoliths are now left, and stand in a line about a stone’s throw from each other. They are all pillars of a squarish shape, and said to bo formed of millstone grit. Two of them are above twenty-two feet in height, and the third measures eighteen feet. Each at its upper part is deeply and vertically guttered, apparently by long weathering and exposure ; and their lower portions show round, smooth, cup-like excavations upon some of their surfaces. The most northerly of these imposing monoliths is especially marked in this last way. Many, if not all, of these excavations, have probably been effected by the elements and weather; while some of them, which look more artificial, are of the same shape and form as those on the Kilmartin stones, etc.  But unfortunately we have not here the presence of rings or circles around the cups to determine conclusively their artificial character.”

The central Arrow

Some of the cup-markings here are distinctly artificial; but as with these ancient non-linear designs in general, we are unable to ascertain any specific ‘meaning’ to them at this site, even in any mythic sense — as yet! (I’ll get some images of cup-markings next time I visit the Arrows, unless someone has some going spare!)

Folklore

Described by Bob Mortimer (1860) as a gathering place of the druids, who “met here to celebrate their great quarternal sacrifice”; not unsurprisingly there are a variety of other fascinating creation myths and folklore motifs raising their usual heads by these great stones.  Mortimer told of more tales following his local society’s visit here at the end of the 1850s, saying:

“There lived a very pious old man (a Druid should we imagine) who was reckoned an excellent cultivator of the soil. However, during each season at the time his crops had come to maturity they were woefully pillaged by his surrounding neighbours; so that at this, he being provokingly grieved, the Devil appeared, telling the old man if he would only recant and throw away his holiness he should never more be disturbed in his mind, or have whatever he grew stolen or demolished. The old man, like Eve in the garden, yielded to temptation, and at once obeyed the impulse of Satan for the benefit of worldly gain. So when the old man’s crops were again being pillaged, the Devil threw from the infernal regions some ponderous arrows, which so frightened the plunderers by shaking the earth that never more was he harrassed in that way. Hence the name of the ‘Devil’s Arrows.'”

Another individual told me that it was believed by some that the stones sprung up one night in the very places they now occupy.”

Very close to the Arrows I’ve found records of other sites which someone can hopefully throw more light on, as I’m sure they will have had some relationship with the stones.  Immediately west were (are?) the Penny Stones; plus a place called Bell’s Wife’s Field (Bel as a sun-god – though his wife may imply the moon). And just a few hundred yards east is the old Lady Well, mentioned elsewhere.

…to be continued…

References:

  1. Ackerman, John Yonge, An Archaeological Index to the Remains of Antiquity of the Celtic, Romano-British and Anglo-Saxon Periods, J.R. Smith: London 1847.
  2. The Stranger’s Guide; Being a Concise History & Description of Boroughbridge, John Mitchell: Boroughbridge 1846.
  3. Anonymous, Yorkshire Legends, Dalesman: Clapham 1969.
  4. Aubrey, John, Monumenta Britannica, Little Brown & Co: Boston 1982.
  5. Beck, Howard, Yorkshire’s Roots, Sigma: Wilmslow 1996.
  6. Bennett, Paul, The Devils Arrows, Heathen Earth: Keighley 2009.
  7. Bogg, Edmund, From Eden Vale to the Plains of York, Goodall & Suddick: Leeds n.d. (c.1895)
  8. Bogg, E., Richmondshire and the Vale of Mowbray (volume 1), Elliott Stock: London 1906.
  9. Brayshaw,Thomas, ‘The Yorkshire Portions of Leland’s Itinerary,’ in YAJ 10, 1889.
  10. Burl, Aubrey, ‘The Devil’s Arrows,’ in YAJ 63, 1991.
  11. Burl, Aubrey, From Carnac to Callanish, Yale: New Haven & London 1993.
  12. Camden, William, Britannia, or a Chorographical Description of Great Britain and Ireland, Edmund Gibson: London 1695.
  13. Devereux, Paul & Thomson, Ian, The Ley Hunter’s Companion, Thames & Hudson: London 1979.
  14. Elgee, F. & H.W., The Archaeology of Yorkshire, Methuen: London 1933.
  15. Forrest, Bob & Behrend, Michael, ‘The Devil’s Arrows on Target,’ in The Ley Hunter,no.107, 1989.
  16. Lawson-Tancred, Lady, A Guide Book to the Antiquities of Aldborough and Boroughbridge, J. Topham: Boroughbridge 1948.
  17. Leadman, A.D.H., ‘The Devil’s Arrows,’ in The Antiquary, 1903.
  18. Leland, J.J., The Itinerary of John Leland the Antiquary, Fletcher & Pote: Oxford 1770.
  19. Lewis, A.L., ‘The Devil’s Arrows, Yorkshire,’ in Journal. Anthr. Institute, 8, 1878.
  20. Longworth, Ian H., Regional Archaeologies: Yorkshire, Cory, Adams & Mackay: London 1965.
  21. Lukis, W.C., ‘The Devil’s Arrows,’ in Proc. Soc. Antiquaries London, volume 7, 1877.
  22. Lukis, W.C. (ed.), The Family Memoirs of the Rev. William Stukeley – volume 3, Surtees Society: Durham 1887.
  23. Mee, Arthur, Yorkshire, West Riding, Hodder & Stoughton: London 1941.
  24. Mortimer, Robert, ‘The Great Monoliths at Boroughbridge,’ in The Geologist journal, London 1860.
  25. Phillips, Guy Ragland, Brigantia, RKP: London 1976.
  26. Radley, J., ‘Prehistory of the Vale of York,’ in YAJ 1974.
  27. Ross, Frederick, Legendary Yorkshire, William Andrews: Hull 1892.
  28. Simpson, James Y., Archaic Sculpturings of Cups, Circles, etc., upon Stones and Rocks in Scotland, England and Other Countries, Edmonston and Douglas: Oxford 1867.
  29. Smith, A.H., Place-Names of the West Riding of Yorkshire (volume 5), EPNS: Cambridge 1963.
  30. Smith, Henry E., Reliquiae Isurianae, J.R. Smith: London 1852.
  31. Somerville, Boyle, The Devil’s Arrows: Prehistoric Stone Monuments and their Orientation, B.A. Handbook, 1927.
  32. Stukeley, William, Itinerarium Curiosum (volume 2), London 1776.
  33. Thom, A.S. & Burl, Aubrey, Stone Rows and Standing Stones, BAR: Oxford 1990.
  34. Turner, T.S., History of Aldborough and Boroughbridge, Arthur Hall: London 1853.
  35. Tutin, John, ‘Theory about the Three Arrows,’ Yorkshire Life 3, 1954.
  36. Walford, John. ‘An early description of the Devil’s Arrows, Boroughbridge, North Yorkshire,’ in Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, 79, 2007.
  37. Wood, E.S., ‘The Grooves on the Devil’s Arrows, Boroughbridge,’ PPS 13, 1947.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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White Wells, Ilkley, West Yorkshire

Sacred Well:  OS Grid Reference – SE 1181 4677

Also Known as:

  • Ilkley Spaw
  • Mountain Spa

Getting Here

This place is one of the first things you see when roving the northern edge of Ilkley Moor.  Tis the small white house, perched on the hillside, which you can reach via the old track bending round to it on the west side, or the steep footpath which goes roughly straight uphill from the road, just above Ilkley Town centre, up (both) Wells Walk or Wells Road.  If you go just a few hundred yards up these roads, as the road bends and the moor opens up ahead, you’ll see the white building above you.  But if you’re truly useless at finding your way about, ask anyone of them there locals…

Archaeology & History

The White Wells, Ilkley Moor

The White Wells, Ilkley Moor

The White Wells have been described by countless writers over the centuries and attested as one of the great healing wells of the region. It was, without doubt, one of the most important water supplies to the indigenous Britons living on the moors here. One of their settlement sites is above the cliffs behind the modern position of the wells — though archaeological work has yet to be undertaken been.  Cup-and-ring marked stones scatter the edge of the ridge right above where the waters originally appeared (a few hundred yards further up the slope on the hillside, just below the trees); and the folk-memory of our ancestors living here is found in several adjacent sites known by ‘fairy’ place-names.

But today it looks nothing like it would have done when the ancient people of the moors drank these waters, nor even when the Romans came here.  For the white building which today houses the well was built around 1760 by the local Squire Middleton and originally contained three plunge baths in which folk would take the ‘cold water cure.’ (These were looked after by William Butler and his wife and were typically used by the gentry of the period, who it seems didn’t mind too much having to walk up the hillside to bathe in the “mellifluent, diaphanous, luminous waters.”)

Carved 'celtic' head, from which the water now emerges

Carved 'celtic' head, from which the water now emerges

The water in the house (you can go in and have a look), which now empties into a plunge pool, pours gently from the open mouth of a ‘celtic head’ – thought by some modern pagans to be ancient, but in fact is barely 200 years old.  The water at White Wells originally emerged from the Earth several hundred yards further up the slope, above the present position of the house, much closer to the moor edge near the bottom of the steep slope where the pine trees cling, amidst rocks, moss and lichen. Here is where the original waters were first borne.

Long held as being curative, the first detailed description of the place was in Thomas Short’s (1734) magnum opus, where he said:

“Ichley-spaw springs out of the middle of a mountain, a mile high, and consists chiefly of lime stone and freestone. The water is very clear, brisk and sparkling; has no taste, colour nor smell different from the common water, is of the same weight. Its bason and course are of no other dye than that of a common spring. About thirty-five years ago, there were a house and a bath built, about a furlong below the original spring, which spring was brought down in stone-pipes. The first spring, near the top of the hill was very weak and small; this, very large and strong; whereby there appears to be a large mixture of other springs with this; since which time, it has fallen much sort of its former great success. Twenty yard above the drinking well (over which is built a small house of a yard square on the inside) they have cut thro’ an original spring of common water. There are several old lime-kilns a little above this. The water is first whitish, then blackish purple with solution of silver; it’s very clear, and has a purplish pellicle, with solution of sublimate; it was first white, then clear in the middle, and a white mucus at the sides and bottom of the glass, with solution of Sugar of Lead; very clear, with Oil of Tartar; whitish, with Spirit of Hartshorn; and the same as common water, with all the other trials. Five pints of this liquor exhaled left seven grains of sediment, the salt whereof dissolved in distilled water, tunred solution of silver pruple; was white with Spirit of Hartshorn: therefore tho’ this water is of the greatest esteem and repute of any in the north of England, in the King’s Evil and other old ulcers; yet it derives these effects neither from its fixt nor volatile parts; but wholly from the coldness and purity of the element, its drying nature from the lime-stone it washes, tho’ a great part of it comes from blue clay.”

In 1830, one Thomas Shaw said of the place,

“The water is, perhaps, for its purity, tenuity and coldness, the best qualified to be of utility for relaxed and sedantry habits of any water in this part of the country. It has frequently been analysed, but the decomposition always proved that it contains no medicinal quality. In my opinion, it is its purity and softness only, which makes if more efficacious, by passing sooner and to the utmost and finest limits of the circulation than any water known.”

But although many cures were claimed of the waters here, as Kathleen Denbigh (1981) wrote:

“According to a 1977 analysis, it is simply a clear, colourless spring water of moderate hardness, organically pure and free from metallic contamination and coliform organisms.” — i.e., it’s good clean water!

When the place gained a reputation as a spa, it was frequented by such notaries as Charles Darwin, Frederick Delius and Prof. David Baldwin. But even before this, in 1709, Dr Richard Richardson of Bradford—a reputable naturalist but also with considerable interest in ancient and occult matters—wrote that the site “has done very remarkable cures in scrofulous cases by bathing and drinking of it.”

Folklore

Popularly believed in local lore to have been a place held as sacred to the Romans, I’m of the opinion that the local ‘goddess’ Verbeia was resident here. A thought also mentioned by G.T. Oakley (1999) in his book on the subject.

Legend tells that the medicinal properties of the waters were first discovered hundreds of years ago when an old shepherd, walking over the moors, damaged his leg. Upon bathing it in the waters here, it soon healed.

Rare photo of William Butterfield (the old keeper of White Wells), who reported seeing 'little-people' here

Rare photo of William Butterfield (the old keeper of White Wells), who reported seeing 'little-people' here

In the Folklore Record of 1878 we find a fascinating tale about these waters, alleged to have happened to the old keeper of the place, told by a local man John Dobson, and which cannot go untold:

“William Butterfield…always opened the door first thing in the morning, and he did this without ever noticing anything out of the common until one beautiful, quiet, midsummer morning. As he ascended the brow of the hill he noticed rather particularly how the birds sang so sweetly, and cheerily, and vociferously, making the valley echo with the music of their voices. And in thinking it over afterwards he remembered noticing them, and considered this sign attributable to the after incident. As he drew near the wells he took out of his pocket the massive iron key, and placed it in the lock; but there was something “canny’ about it, and instead of the key lifting the lever it only turned round and round in the lock. He drew the key back to see that it was alright.and declared, “It was the same that he had on the previous night hung up behind his own door down at home.” Then he endeavored to push the door open, and no sooner did he push it slightly ajar than it was as quickly pushed back again. At last, with one supreme effort, he forced it perfectly open, and back it flew with a great bang! Then ‘whirr, whirr, whirr’, such a noise and sight! All over the water and dipping into it was a lot of little creatures, all dressed in green from head to foot, none of them more than eighteen inches high, and making a chatter and jabber thoroughly unintelligible. They seemed to be taking a bath, only they bathed with all their clothes on. Soon, however, one or two of them began to make off, bounding over the walls like squirrels. Finding they were all making ready for decamping, and wanting to have a word with them, he shouted at the top of his voice—indeed, he declared afterwards, he couldn’t find anything else to say or do—”Hallo there!” Then away the whole tribe went, helter skelter, toppling and tumbling, heads over heels, heels over heads, and all the while making a noise not unlike a disturbed nest of young partridges. The sight was so unusual that he declared he either couldn’t or daren’t attempt to rush after them. He stood as still and confounded, he said, as old Jeremiah Lister down there at Wheatley did, half a century previous, when a witch from Ilkley put an ash riddle upon the side of the River Wharfe, and sailed across in it to where he was standing.1 When the well had got quite clear of these strange beings he ran to the door and looked to see where they had fled, but nothing was to be seen. He ran back into the bath to see if they had left anything behind; but there was nothing; the water lay still and clear as he had left it on the previous night. He thought they might perhaps have left some of their clothing behind in their haste, but he could find none, and so he gave up looking, and commenced his usual routine of preparing the baths; not, however, without trotting to the door once or twice to see if they might be coming back; but he saw them no more.”

Along with sightings of ‘little people’, ghosts have been seen at the White Wells.  It is thought that the strange apparition which presented itself to a householder here in 1982—the ghostly figure of a young girl, weeping at the water’s edge—was that of little Ann Harper who, in August 1793, at the age of nine, drowned in the well when bathing.

Earthlight (UFO) phenomena have also been reported here over the years—the most dramatic of which was alleged to have taken place at the top of the slope above the original source of the wells in 1989, when a police officer reported and photographed a “little green man” on the geological prominence just behind the wells. He went on to narrate a typical UFO ‘abduction’ event, but much of this was psychogenic and the mythic undertones echo precisely the medieval lore of abduction by faerie.

The Fortean researcher David Barclay found in his dowsing investigations here that there were spiral patterns all round the place. “At first these were in no order,” he wrote, “but through a period of over twenty visits to the place, I established markers which indicated the spiralling patterns of the energy” within the Earth immediately adjacent to the White Wells. These spirals were nearly always in a clockwise direction. In further studies here, he and I came to know a Mrs Elsie Hill, who had done some quite striking automatic drawings of the place. “In her pictures,” he wrote, “appear a prominence of spiral-forms and faerie creatures which, she believes, inhabit White Wells.”

Hmmmm…..

…to be continued…

References:

Bennett, Paul, The White Wells, Ilkley Moor, Heathen Earth: Keighley 2009.
Bogg, Edmund, Upper Wharfeland, James Miles: Leeds 1904.
Collyer, Robert & Turner, J. Horsfall, Ilkley, Ancient and Modern, William Walker: Otley 1885.
Denbigh, Kathleen, A Hundred British Spas, Spa Publications: London 1981.
Granville, A.B., Spas of England, Henry Colburn: London 1841.
Oakley, G.T., Verbeia: The Goddess ofWharfedale, Rooted Media: Leeds 1999.
Shaw, Thomas, The History of Wharfedale, Otley 1830.
Short, Thomas, The Natural, Experimental and Medicinal History of the Mineral Waters of Derbyshire, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, privately printed: London 1724.
Speight, Harry, Upper Wharfedale, Elliott Stock: London 1900.
Whelan, Edna and Taylor, Ian, Yorkshire Holy Wells and Sacred Springs, Northern Lights: York 1989.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Tobar nam Buadh, St. Kilda, Outer Hebrides

Holy Well: OS Grid Reference – NA 086 002

Also known as:

  • The Well of Virtues

Archaeology & History

This legendary healing well (the Well of Virtues) is on the north side of the island, a few hundred yards northwest of the legendary Amazon’s House. Martin Martin (1703) told that this well,

“near the female warrior’s house is reputed to be the best, the name Toubir-nim-buey, importing no less than the well of qualities or virtues; it runneth from east to west, being sixty paces ascent above sea; I drank of it twice, and English quart at each time; it is very clear, exceeding cold, light and diuretick; I was not able to hold my hands in it above a few minutes, in regard of its coldness; the inhabitants of Harries find it effectual against windy-chollicks, gravel, head-aches; this well hath a cover of stone.”

The reverend Kenneth Macaulay (1764) also wrote of this place, giving additional details:

“Near the fountain stood an altar on which the distressed votaries laid down their oblations. Before they could touch the sacred water with any prospect of success, it was their constant practice to address the genius of the place with supplication and prayer. No one approached him with empty hands. But the devotees were abundantly frugal. The offerings presented by them were the poorest acknowledgements that could be made to a superior being, from whom they had either hopes or fears. Shells and pebbles, rags of linen, or stuffs worn out, pins, needles or rusty nails, were generally all the tribute that was paid; and sometimes, though rarely enough, copper coins of the smallest value.”

There was a very small, square well-house with a low roof built over the top of the spring, in which a small pool formed.

In James MacKinlay’s (1893) magnum opus he reported that its waters could cure deafness.

References:

Macaulay, Kenneth, The History of St. Kilda, James Thin: Edinburgh 1974 (original edition 1764).
MacKinlay, James, Folklore of Scottish Lochs and Springs, William Hodge: Glasgow 1893.
Martin, M., Description of the Western Isles of Scotland, Andrew Bell: London 1703.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Tobar na Gaoithe Tuath, Iona, Argyll

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – NM 275 252

Also Known as:

  • Well of the North Wind

Folklore

A sacred well site that appears to have gone missing sometime in the 20th century — as has its compatriot, the Well of the South Wind. F.M. McNeill (1954) wrote that,

“this is one of the magic wells of antiquity. It lies north of Cnoc nam Bradhan, not far from the Hermit’s Cell. Here, in olden times, sailors and others brought offerings to charm up a wind from the north.”

No doubt this heathen water source is known to a few old locals.  The magickal act of invoking the wind both here and at its compatriot seems to hint at ancient pre-christian rites that have thankfully been recorded before they were finally vanquished.

References:

McNeill, F.M., Iona: A History of the Island, Blackie & Sons: Glasgow 1954.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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St. Osyth’s Well, St. Osyth, Essex

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – TM 116 166

Archaeology & History

This spring of water is in the edge of Nun’s Wood on the north side of the Dolphin Pond pool and is covered by a small stone building, from which issues a small stream into the lake.  Remains of an old nunnery in the woods are said to be the oldest such monastic remains in England.

Folklore

This holy well, the woods in which it’s found, and the old straight road leading to the chapel,* are all said to be haunted by the headless ghost of old St. Osyth, beheaded — in one legend — by the Danes who came here in the 7th century.  At the spot where she’s said to have received her final fatal blow, the waters from this now bricked-up old well gushed forth from the Earth. (Prior to this, folklore tells how St. Osyth was ‘killed’ several times, and each time came back to life – just as in shamanic lore, from which such early christian tales were glossed onto.)

Of it medicinal virtues, Robert Charles Hope (1893) told us that St. Osyth’s Well had been blessed by many a sufferer who found there a medicine for his ills, and at that time, “continues to this day as a sovereign remedy for many diseases.”

References:

Hope, R.C., Legendary Lore of the Holy Wells of England, Elliott Stock: London 1893.

* I’m presuming that the old road to the chapel here is the long straight grove of trees which ran from St. Osyth’s Chapel and up towards the well. Anyone know for sure?

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Serpent’s Well, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire

Sacred Well:  OS Grid Reference – unknown

Archaeology & History

This legendary-sounding spring of water was described in field-name listings from the 1770 Enclosure Acts, but nothing seems to have been written about it since.  To me at least, there seems little doubt that this site would have been a sacred or legendary water-site. Curiously it is in William Henderson’s collection of northern folk-tales where we find a mention of further dragon lore from the township, albeit briefly, where he wrote:

“Near Chipping Norton, in Oxfordshire, A.D. 1349, was a serpent with two heads, faces like women, and great wings after the manner of a bat.”

In Nigel Pennick’s (1997) overview of dragon legends he copied Henderson’s earlier note, but neither of them gave specific indications relating the legend with our Serpent’s Well.  So, to those of you who live in and around Chipping Norton (where I spent two very good years living with Tom at the Rollright Stones) – what has become of it?  Where exactly is it?  And does anyone know anything more behind this tale and any further history behind the ‘Serpent’s Well’?

References:

Gelling, Margaret, The Place-Names of Oxfordshire, Cambridge University Press 1953-54.
Henderson, William, Notes on the Folk-lore of the Northern Counties of England and the Borders, Folklore Society: London 1879.
Pennick, Nigel, Dragons of the West, Capall Bann: Chieveley 1997.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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