Elm Crag Well, Bingley, West Yorkshire

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – SE 1028 3907

Getting Here

From Bingley, take the B6429 road up to Harden.  After going up the wooded winding road for a few hundred yards, stop where it levels out.  Cross onto the right-hand side of the road and walk up the slope a little, veering to your right.  You’ll notice a small disused building just off the roadside, in overgrowth, with a pool of water.  You need to be about 100 yards up the slope above it!

Archaeology & History

Elm Crag Well, Bell Bank Wood, Bingley

Elm Crag Well, Bell Bank Wood, Bingley

This is a beautiful old place.  If you walk straight up to it from the roadside, past the derelict building, you have to struggle through the brambles and prickly slope like we did – but it’s worth it if you like your wells!  However, if you try getting here in the summertime, expect to be attacked on all sides by the indigenous flora!  The waters here emerge from a low dark cave, in which, a century of three ago, someone placed a large stone trough.  When I first came here about 25 years ago, some halfwits had built an ugly red-brick wall into the cave which, thankfully, someone has had the sense to destroy and rip-out.

Shown on the 1852 Ordnance Survey map and highlighted as a ‘spring,’ Harry Speight (1898) gives a brief mention to this site, though refers us to an even earlier literary source when it was first mentioned. In John Richardson’s 18th century survey of the Craven area, he makes reference to an exceedingly rare fern, Trichomanes radicans, which was later included in Bolton’s classic monograph on British ferns of 1785.  In it, Bolton wrote that the very first specimen of this plant was “first discovered by Dr. Richardson in a little dark cavern, under a dripping rock, below the spring of Elm Crag Well, in Bell Bank.”

Elm Crag Well

Elm Crag Well

The waters from here come from two sides inside the small cave and no longer run into the lichen-encrusted trough, seemingly just dropping down to Earth and re-emerging halfway down the hillside.  But the waters here taste absolutely gorgeous and are very refreshing indeed!  And the old elms which gave this old well its name can still be seen, only just hanging on to the rocks above and to the side, with not much time left for the dear things.

References:

  1. Bolton, James, Filices Britannicae: An History of the British Proper Ferns, Thomas Wright 1785.
  2. Speight, Harry, Chronicles and Stories of Old Bingley, Elliott Stock: London 1898.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Ardtalla, Islay, Argyll

Standing Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NR 465 545

Getting Here

Takes a bitta getting to this one, right at the far end of the road, leading to nowhere – so those of us who like Scotland for its vast expanses of ‘middle o’ nowhere’ should like it! From Port Ellen, travel along the A846 eastwards, all the way to the where it ends in Ardbeg. But the smaller track road continues up the coast. Keep going – and keep going all the way up; past the ‘stone circle’ of Ardilistry, past the standing stone of Trudernish, right to the very end where the track leads you to the farmhouse of Ardtalla. Once here, you’ll see the stone about 20 yards west of the farm.

Archaeology & History

This old stone is only 4-foot-tall, leaning slightly, but — as I recall many years back — “it’s cute!” (sad aren’t I?!)  All the way up here to see a small monolith!  Even the Royal Commission (1984) lads didn’t have much to say about it, merely:

“This standing stone is situated 18m NW of the SW gable of Ardtalla farmhouse.  Leaning slightly to the SSE, it measures 0.48m by 0.48m at the base and 1.25m in height.”

But if you like walking, the rest of the route up the coast is excellent. Stick yer tent in the small woodland by the fort a mile or two further north, then bring your attention to the legendary Beinn na Cailleach, if the heathen within you stirs…

References:

Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Argyll – volume 5: Islay, Jura, Colonsay and Oronsay, HMSO: Edinburgh 1984.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Little Skirtful of Stones, Burley Moor, West Yorkshire

Cairn:  OS Grid Reference – SE 1383 4520

Also Known as:

  1. Little Apronful of Stones

Getting Here

Little Skirtful of Stones, looking north

Little Skirtful of Stones, looking north

Probably the easiest way to get here is by starting on the Moor Road above Burley Woodhead, where the road crosses the Rushy Beck stream.  Looking upstream, follow the footpath up the right-hand side of the waters, nearly all the way to the top.  Where it crosses a footpath near where the moor begins to level out, look up to your right and you’ll see the raised crown of stones a coupla hundred yards off path, NNW.  That’s it!

Archaeology & History

This very large Bronze Age cairn was reported by Faull & Moorhouse (1981) to have been surrounded by a multiple stone circle, citing it to have been shown as such on an estate map of Hawksworth Common in 1734. When I contacted the Yorkshire Archaeology Society to enquire about this map, it could not be located. (This needs to be found!) No evidence of such a stone circle presently remains, though there were at least two standing stones once to be seen at the edge of this tomb, though only one of them — now laid more than five-feet long in the heather — is still evident on the western side of this giant tomb.  But anyone who might know anything about the 1734 Estate Map – pleeeeez gerrit copied or take a photo of it! Then stick it on TNA so everyone can see whether the circle surrounded this, or the Great Skirtful of Stones, 500 yards to the south.

Single cup-marked stone on outer edge of Little Skirtful

The Little Skirtful is in better condition than its big brother on the hill to the south and — unlike the Great Skirtful — there are said to be at least five cup-marked stones amidst the great mass or rocks constituting this site.  There could be more.  The carvings are just single cup-markings etched onto small portable stones, typical of sites like this.  They are found near the centre above a small cist and outwardly towards the northern edges of the cairn (for more info about them, see the main entry for the Little Skirtful Carvings).

It’s been said by Stan Beckensall (1999, 2002) that no cup-marked rocks “are known near…the really large cairns” on the moor—meaning the Little Skirtful and her allies—but this isn’t true as there are at least 4 definite carvings (a possible fifth seems likely) on the moorland immediately around the Little Skirtful.  Though to give Beckensall his due, if he got his data from the Ilkley archaeologists, his information isn’t gonna be too accurate, as they’re quite unaware of many sites on these moors!  A good number of local people have a much greater knowledge-base on such matters than those in paid offices, as this and other websites clearly shows.  The times they are a-changin’, as one dood said, not so long ago…!

Folklore

Paul Bowers & Mikki on top for scale!

The creation myth of this place tells that the giant Rombald (who gives his name to the moor) was in trouble with his wife and when he stepped over to Almscliffe Crags from here, his giant wife – who is never named – dropped a small bundle of stones she was carrying in her apron. (In traditional societies elsewhere in the world where this motif is also found, it tends to relate to the site being created by women.) Harry Speight (1900) tells us of a variation of the tale,

“which tradition says was let fall by the aforementioned giant Rumbalds, while hastening to build a bridge over the Wharfe.”

Variations on this story have said it was the devil who made the site, but this is a denigrated christian variant on the earlier, and probably healthier, creation tale. Similar tales are told of the Great Skirtful of Stones, 500 yards south.

References:

Beckensall, Stan, British Prehistoric Rock Art, Tempus: Stroud 1999.
Beckensall, Stan, “British Prehistoric Rock Art in the Landscape,” in G. Nash & C. Chippindale’s European Landscapes of Rock Art, Routledge: London 2002.
Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Chieveley 2001.
Boughey, Keith & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, WYAA 2003.
Collyer, Robert & Turner, J. Horsfall, Ilkley: Ancient and Modern, William Walker: Otley 1885.
Colls, J.N.M., ‘Letter upon some Early Remains Discovered in Yorkshire,’ in Archaeologia 31, 1846.
Cowling, E.T., Rombald’s Way, William Walker: Otley 1946.
Faull & Moorhouse, West Yorkshire: An Archaeological Survey – volume 3, WYMCC: Wakefield 1981.
Hedges, John (ed.), The Carved Rocks on Rombalds Moor, WYMCC: Wakefield 1986.
Speight, Harry, Upper Wharfedale, Elliott Stock: London 1900.
Wood, Butler, ‘Prehistoric Antiquities of the Bradford District,’ in Bradford Antiquary, volume 2, 1901.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Posted in Cairns, Tombs, Tumuli, Cup-and-Ring Stones, Yorkshire, West | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Fairy Loch, Arrochar, Argyll

Sacred Loch:  OS Grid Reference – NS 338 993

Also Known as:

    Lochan Uiane

Getting Here

To get here, go down the A82 about four-and-a-half miles south of Tarbet (along the Loch Lomond road). Near a burn coming down the hill is an old house, long in ruin, and near the side of this is an old path – more for deer than city-folk. Go up through the wooded hillside for about a half-mile (amble the trek and make it a nice hour’s walk to get into the place). I’d take the stream itself, as you get more into the nature of the place once you get up the slope: there’s more to see, feel and a healthy water supply en route.

Folklore

This is more a ‘holy loch’ than a holy well — for obvious reasons. Although not much more than a large pond, it is little known, but has long had the tradition of being a place of the sith, or faerie-folk. There is, of course, a tendency to find prehistoric remains where the sith have their repute, but there seems little on official records nearby.

Tradition tells that the loch was actually formed in ancient times by locals damming the burn for water supply. Another tells the same in order that a mill could be fed with constant water – though no mill can be found. If this latter tradition is true however, the fairy creature here could have been a brownie – though they are generally more a lowland elemental. One of the reasons the place has been named after the little people is that when certain light falls on it, at the right time of day and year, green triangular shapes emerge from the water formed by deposits hidden beneath the surface (hence the original Gaelic name, Lochan Uaine, or the Green Loch).

Local historian Norman Douglas echoed the folktale described many years earlier by the great John Gregorson Campbell (1900), telling that,

“another story is that the local people would deposit their sheeps’ fleeces in the Fairy Loch overnight, wish for them to be dyed a certain colour, and overnight the fairies would carry out their wish.”

References:

Campbell, John G., Superstitions of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, James MacLehose: Glasgow 1900.
Douglas, Norman, Arrochar, Reiver Press: Galashiels n.d. (c.1971)

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Cock Hill, Wadsworth Moor, West Yorkshire

Cist:  OS Grid Reference – SE 009 275

Also Known as:

  1. Mount Skip tomb

Getting Here

OK – OK – stop laughing at the title!  If you wanna check the hill out for yourselves, get to Hebden Bridge, then go up the long and very steep Birchcliffe Road.  Keep going all the way to the very top (a couple of miles uphill).  When you reach here, the building in front of you was the Mount Skip pub.  From here, walk up over the golf course and you’ll hit the disused quarries on the moor edge.

Archaeology & History

The grid reference given above is an approximation.  The tomb (long gone) was within 100 yards of the coordinate.  But don’t let that put you off having a good bimble around the moors here, cos there are several sites to see.

This long-lost burial was located in May, 1897, when quarrying operations were being undertaken behind the Mount Skip Inn, on the edge of Wadsworth Moor.  Ling Roth (1906) told that

“the first indications were the rolling down of pieces of urns which the delvers called flower pots.  Then in digging a hole to fix the leg of a crane, human bones were discovered.”

Geoffrey Watson (1952) later echoing Mr Roth’s comments wrote that,

“a grave containing a skeleton was discovered at a quarry about Mount Skip Inn.  The grave was about 6ft long, 14-18 in wide, and about 2ft deep.  The bones, which were exceedingly brittle, crumbled on handling.  Within the grave, and mainly at the ends, there appeared to be about 6 in of mixed charred wood and bones.  The larger portion of a small earthenware vessel was picked up and retained by one of the quarrymen.”

According to Mr Roth, the “earthware vessel picked up…by one of the quarrymen” was “picked up by a man named Thomas Greenwood, of Shawcroft Hill.”   What became of it, I do not know! If anyone knows, please let us know!

The description telling that “the grave was about 6ft long, 14-18 in wide, and about 2ft deep,” implies it to have been a stone cist – although this is quite long.  The nearest of any similar form would be the giant cairns at Low Bradley, 12½ miles (20km) to the north  This may have been the last remnants of a giant cairn (its landscape position would allow for this).

References:

  1. Roth, H. Ling, The Yorkshire Coiners…and Notes on Old and Prehistoric Haifax, F. King: Halifax 1906.
  2. Watson, Geoffrey G., Early Man in the Halifax District, Halifax Scientific Society 1952.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Gariob Cottage, Achnamara, Knapdale, Argyll

Cairn:  OS Grid References – NR 7801 8910

Getting Here

From Lochgilphead go north up the A816 for just over a mile, turning left going through Cairnbaan to Bellanoch, where the road bends left up the B8025 into the trees. Keep along here for a mile and when the small road appears on your left, follow it for just over a mile till you see the cottage on the roadside with the loch at tha far end of the garden. There’s a small path besides the cottage. Walk along here for 100 yards until you see the small cairn on your left.

Archaeology & History

This is a beautiful quite place with only a small pile of stones here, about 100 yards west of Gariob Cottage on the ridge overlooking Loch Sween.  The remains of the cairn here are about 20 feet across (or were when I last came here nearly 20 years ago!).   Excavations here in 1977 and 1978 found a small cist split into 2 sections, just off-centre, aligned northwest.  The lower part of the cist was filled with small stones and charcoal; whlst the larger section had the same with additional quartz stones in it.

References:

  1. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historic Monuments of Scotland, Argyll – volume 6, HMSO: Edinburgh 1988.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Castle Hill, Upper Cumberworth, West Yorkshire

Settlement:  OS Grid Reference – SE 2042 0697

Getting Here

Morehouse’s 1861 plan

Taking the A629 road between Shepley and Ingbirchworth, as you hit the staggered crossroads at High Flatts, take the west turn up the slightly sloping straight road of Windmill Lane.  Just where the road ‘kinks’ at a small bend, stop and look into the field on your left.

Archaeology & History

Deemed by some as a hillfort, and others as settlement remains, what little are left of the remaining earthworks here were first described by local historian Henry Morehouse in 1861.  Found about a mile west of Upper Denby, the site was described in the Victoria County History as being “on a commanding though not exactly a defensive situation on the slope of a hill.” This remark coming from the belief (and that’s all it is) that this was an Iron Age castle site.  In 1924 James Petch said of it,

“The earthwork seems originally to have been almost square, and two sides and an angle remain. The external ditch is from ten to twelve feet broad in its present state.”

While Faull & Moorhouse (1981) tell of there being “evidence for Neolithic activity” here, modern surveyors reckon it as an old prehistoric settlement — which makes sense; though little of the site remains to be seen today.

References:

  1. Faull, M.L. & Moorhouse, S.A., West Yorkshire: An Archaeological Survey, I, WYMCC: Wakefield 1981.
  2. Morehouse, Henry James, History and Antiquities of the Parish of Kirkburton and the Graveship of Holme, Roebuck: Huddersfield 1861.
  3. Petch, James A., Early Man in the District of Huddersfield, Huddersfield 1924.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Newchurch-in-Pendle, Lancashire

Stone Circle (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SD 822 387

Also Known as:

  1. Pendle Stone Circle

Archaeology & History

A destroyed site mentioned by several local historians. It was positioned at the valley bottom just below Faughs, a hundred yards west of Lower Moss End, where today it is simply overgrown meadows with the typical excess of Juncus reeds.  As local investigator John Dixon said, there are “five stones shown on (the 1848) map just west of Spen Brook Mill.”

In the 1970s, one writer described there being several uprights still in place, but a visit here a few weeks back (though I – unusually! – didn’t walk all through the boggy grounds and explore as extensively as I normally would) found nothing.

Its geomancy, however, was striking. The unnamed hill immediately to the north of its position (at the southern end of the legendary Pendle Hill, a coupla hundred yards west of St. Mary’s church) rises up like a great singular ‘pap’ which, to our old ancestors, was animated with female spirit. I sat here in the pouring rain looking up at this hill and its presence in front of the circle was striking.

…And so I walked onto the top of the said hill. Thereupon I found a small gathering of rocks, not unlike a cairn-spoil. When I enquired with a few local people about the age or nature of this rock-pile, I found no-one seemed aware of its existence. Weird. But from the hill itself, the view is excellent – and the small valley amidst which the old circle once stood teems with legends and myth: of cailleachs, ghosts, wells, witches and more. An excellent spot!

The local writer, historian and walker, John Dixon, sent us the following notes of his exploration here:

“Clifford Byrne, the late Nelson antiquarian, mentions in his book ‘Newchurch in Pendle’ the site of a former stone circle that stood just below Faughs, a hundred yards west of Lower Moss End. Today no large stones of any kind can be located anywhere near this spot, the stones having been removed or broken up some time in the past. However, the 1848 6” OS map records the number and position of these stones as being in two parallel lines about a hundred yards apart lined up west to east. The northerly line (SD 823 389) consists of 3 stones, the southerly (SD 823 387) of 4 stones, all being some 3 yards apart.

“It appears that we have an avenue of stones, not a circle. But why their position in the landscape at the headwaters of two valley streams? The Sabden Brook starts its journey westward to meet with the Calder from the stones, while Dimpenley Clough rises from the stones running east to join Pendle Water – could this be of any significance?”

References:

Byrne, Clifford, Newchurch-in-Pendle: Folklore, Fact, Fancy, Legends and Traditions, Marsden Antiquarians: Nelson 1982.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Robin Hood’s Bay, Whitby, North Yorkshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NZ 94 06?

Also Known as:

  1. Kendall Stone

Archaeology & History

In James Simpson’s precursory essay (1866) to his monumental Archaic Sculpturings (1867), he details the former existence of a decent piece of prehistoric rock art, lost to us until very recently by the intrusive diggings of one Thomas Kendall of Pickering.  Simpson wrote:

“A large mass of sandstone in the moor above Robin Hood’s Bay, near Whitby, had some sculpturings upon it, part of which were split off by Mr Kendall of Pickering, in whose garden I have seen the slab of carvings which he thus procured.  Mr Kendall’s slab is about five feet long and two and a-half broad. Upon its surface are three or four isolated cups about an inch and a-half in breadth, and five or six others surrounded by ring-cuttings… Two or three of the ring-cuttings consist of single circles.  One consists of a triple circle and straight radial groove. The ends of the circles, as they reach the traversing groove, turn round and unite together, as in the horse-shoe pattern… The two remaining circles, which are respectively five inches and eight inches in breadth, and consist of cups surrounded by two and by three circles, are conjoined together by a long gutter.  The upper circle shows a single-and the lower a double horse-shoe pattern. In the uppermost or double circle the rounded ends of the rings are united and bestridden by a shallow right-angled line; and the ends of the lowest or triple circle are in part also conjoined by the gutter which runs from the double circle above, and by a cross straight line which runs off from it.  The circles are more imperfectly finished than usual, and at some parts present almost an appearance of being punched out rather than cut out.”

Cup-and-Ring Stone, once near Robin Hood's Bay

Cup-and-Ring Stone, once near Robin Hood’s Bay

In recent years, thanks to the cup-and-ring huntings of Chris Evans and  Graeme Chappell, the carving has re-emerged from its lost position and, it would seem, is located in someone’s garden in Pickering.  The carving is catalogued as Stone REM 1/P1 in Brown & Chappell’s (2005: 257) work on North Yorkshire rock art.  Hopefully, in the months to come, we’ll have a decent photograph and description of its present condition.  Fingers crossed!

References:

  1. Brown, P.M. & Chappell, Graeme, Prehistoric Rock Art in the North York Moors, Tempus: Stroud 2005.
  2. Simpson, J.Y., ‘On Ancient Sculpturings of Cups and Concentric Rings’, in PSAS volume 6, 1866.
  3. Simpson, James Y., Archaic Sculpturings of Cups, Circles, etc., upon Stones and Rocks in Scotland, England and Other Countries, Edmonston and Douglas: Oxford 1867.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Balloch, Alyth, Perthshire

Cairn (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NO 2738 4885

Archaeology & History

Unfortunately we can no longer see the large prehistoric tomb that was once visible in the fields here, close to the bottom corner of the field below the old Bridge of Ruim, a couple of hundred yards north of the A926 road to Ruthven. The site was destroyed around 1863, but records show that there were several burials found here containing human bones, along with an urn.  Described in an early PSAS article, the Scottish Royal Commission chaps seemed to think that “its position may be indicated by a low swelling in the field”, about 30 yards southeast of the position shown on the first OS-map.  Anyone know owt more about this place?

References:

Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, North-East Perth: An Archaeological Landscape, HMSO: Edinburgh 1990.

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