Jennet’s Well, Keighley, West Yorkshire

Holy Well: OS Grid Reference – SE 0461 4180

Also known as:

  • St. Jennet’s Well
  • Jennet Well

Getting Here

Pretty easy really. From the town centre, head up the B6143 Oakworth Road for barely 100 yards then turn right up the long steep West Lane. Just keep going. Near the very top turn sharp right onto Shann Lane. And there, on the left-hand side of the road, right next to the solitary old-looking house just 100 yards along, is our little well! (if you end up with fields either side of you, breaking into hills, you’ve gone too far)

Archaeology & History

Jennet's Well, Black Hill, Keighley (in the middle of the picture, next to house)

Jennet’s Well, Black Hill, Keighley (middle of the picture, next to house)

The history of this site is very scant. It was written about by local historian William Keighley (1858) as a holy well dedicated to an obscure saint, St. Jennet, although early place-name evidences don’t tell as much. Some have even suggested that the same ‘Jennet’ was the tutelary saint of Keighley and district itself. Local historian Ian Dewhirst (1974), writing about the town’s local water supply, thought that “water from a spring ‘a mile to the west’ above the town…was conveyed by stone troughs through the chief street for the convenience of house-holders,” was probably Jennet’s Well.

Folklore

Described by Will Keighley (1858) as having “great healing abilities,” its specifics were undefined. And when the great Yorkshire writer Harry Speight (1898) came here forty years later, he told of the site “having a great repute, though no one seems to know why.”  Mr Keighley was of the opinion that Jennet’s Well may have been the christianized site which overcame the local people’s earlier preference of dedication at the True Well, more than a mile west of here, between the gorgeous hamlets of Newsholme and Goose Eye; but this would seem unlikely, if only by distance alone.

The name ‘Jennet’ itself initially seemed somewhat obscure.  It is not recognised by the Catholic Church as a patron saint.  The word could be a corruption of the personal name Jenny, perhaps being the name of a lady who once lived hereby. There’s also the possibility that the title may infer the well’s dedication to the bird – a not uncommon practice. And we also have the modern folklorists who could ascribe it to the fairy-folk, as Jennet and Jenny are common fairy names, and old wells have much lore linking the two. But as Michala Potts pointed out, bringing us back to Earth once again, a ‘jennet’ is an old dialect word for a mule. I rushed for my Yorkshire dialect works and, just as Mikki said, the old writer John Wilkinson (1924) told simply, ‘Jennet a mule.’

References:

Dewhirst, Ian, A History of Keighley, Keighley Corporation 1974.
Keighley, William, Keighley, Past and Present, Arthur Hall: Keighley 1858.
Speight, Harry, Chronicles and Stories of Bingley and District, Elliott Stock: London 1898.
Wilkinson, John H., Leeds Dialect Glossary and Lore, James Miles: Leeds 1924.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Cow & Calf (& Bull) Rocks, Ilkley Moor, West Yorkshire

Legendary Rocks:  OS Grid Reference – SE 130 468

Getting Here

Dead easy!  Get to Ilkley train station and look across the road to your left, cross it and walk along.  100 yards on is Cowpasture Road.  Walk up it!  You’ll be at the rocks in 10-15 minutes.

Archaeology & History

Cow & Calf Rocks from above - thanks to Jason Hawke's superb 'Yorkshire from the Air'

Cow & Calf Rocks from above – thanks to Ian Hay’s superb ‘Yorkshire from the Air’

There’s nowt specifically archaeocentric directly relating to these great rocks — well, nowt that’s been found out about anyway! — though all around here over the last coupla centuries people have found numerous flints, and we have various examples of rock-art (cup-and-rings) carved on rocks close by.  There have been attempts to verify what may be cup-marks on both the Cow and the Calf — with the old master, Harry Speight (1900) telling how there used to be remains of cups and lines on the rocks, but apart from some well-worn ‘cups’ on some of the edges, these seem hard to find.  For worrits worth: if Speight said there were some carvings here, its more than likely true.

I think the main relationship ancient man would have had with this great rock outcrop would have been a ritual one: the rocks themselves had no need of human imprints: their size and nature would deem them of great spirit indeed, to anyone with an ounce of feeling.  Not sure that’s the way most modern folk would see things – but that’s to be expected I s’ppose!

Folklore

These grand rocks once had the even greater Bull Rock as a close companion. It was on top of this, wrote Eric Lodge (1939:40), that,

“the only point in the immediate vicinity of Ilkley from which a view of York Minster was obtainable. ‘Tis some sixty years ago, however, that a local tradesman recognised its value in building stone, and despite strong protests, quarried it for the construction of the Crescent Hotel, situated at the corner of Brook Street and Leeds Road in Ilkley.”

The matter was described in the Leeds Mercury in 1899, thus:

“About the year 1850 an act of vandalism was perpetrated at Ilkley, which would have been impossible in these days, when the Ilkley Local Board watches with such a keen eye anything that may enhance the historical interest of this rapidly increasing watering-place.

“Below the two huge rocks known as ‘The Cow and Calf,’ which have attracted thousands of visitors and invalids on to the breezy heights whereon they stand, stood a rock larger than the Calf, which was known as the ‘Bull.’  It was much nearer the highway than the Calf…

“The ‘Bull’ rock had its name cut in large letters on the side that lay nearest the road, and it is much to be regretted that an unfortunate dispute between the owners of the free-hold and the lord of the manor, in which the former won the day, gave them the right to break up this noble rock and cart it away for building purposes. It is said that the Crescent Hotel was mainly built from this stone, so some idea may be formed of its vast size and proportions.”

Incredible – they’ve turned a gigantic sacred rock into a large hotel! (and I’ve never been in it) Let’s hope it’s haunted to buggery!  Does anyone know any Fortean history about the place?

Another legend tells that one day the local giant, Rombald (who gave his name to these moors and lived up here, somewhere, with his even greater but unnamed wife), decided to meet a friend a few miles away to the east, at Almscliffe Crags.  So in just one step he strode over the Wharfe valley right across to the legendary crags, but he slightly stumbled and in doing so, left he footprint embedded on the face of the Cow Rock, which can still be seen today.

In modern times, the Cow & Calf have been the centre for occasional UFO, or earthlight sightings.  But this appears to go back a bit earlier than when such curious light-forms were thought of as visiting ETs; for good old Nicholas Size (1936) reported seeing burning lights and curious figures up here — but when he saw these lights they took the form of druids and pagan spirits.  One wonders what they’ll morph into next!

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  2. Collyer, Robert & Turner, J. Horsfall, Ilkley Ancient and Modern,William Walker: Otley 1885.
  3. Cowling, E.T., Rombald’s Way, William Walker: Otley 1946.
  4. Hay, Ian & Pritchard, Lisa, Yorkshire from the Air, Myriad: London 2005.
  5. Lodge, Eric, Yorkshire Walks, Arthur Wigley: Leeds 1939.
  6. Size, Nicholas, The Haunted Moor, William Walker: Otley 1936.
  7. Speight, Harry, Upper Wharfedale, Elliott Stock: London 1900.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Cnoc Mor, Garbhallt, Argyll

Standing Stone (destroyed?): OS Grid Reference – NS 005 945

Getting Here

Somewhat out of the way with seemingly nothing left of the site, from Clachan Strachur, take the A886 road southwest along Loch Fyne for a few miles until you turn right (make sure you don’t drive past it!) towards Garbhallt. Go through here and on for another mile until you see a rounded knoll in the forest to your left (if you hit Barnacarry house, you’ve gone too far). Tis upon this hill where our old stone once stood.

Archaeology & History

Nowt much to write really. A description many moons back told there was an old stone standing ‘pon this hill. It was only a small creature compared to many of Argyll’s monoliths, only three-and-half feet tall, all alone, looking across the loch and speaking with the hills a gentle voice. I found it a little odd (though aint been here for many years) and seemed to tell that a tomb was in attendance, but this too seemed long gone. The Royal Commission chaps thought that some of the other slabs of stone lying about here may have been relevant, but we may never know. I reckon a few good days ambling hereabouts would produce some new finds. And the fact that only a half-mile away we find an old cross and holy well seems to indicate a christian rendering of something heathen close by…..

References:

Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Argyll – volume 6: Mid-Argyll and Cowal, HMSO: Edinburgh 1988.

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Todholes, Weston, Lanarkshire

Standing Stone (destroyed): OS Grid Reference – NT 038 456

Getting Here

Close to the Weston Henge at Newbigging, this old stone has long gone – but for those who might wanna look around for any other remains: go along the dismantled railway until you reach Todholes, then scatter yourself here and there, back and forth, between here and the quarry to your south.

Archaeology & History

This standing stone used to be positioned on the old boundary line between the Carnwatch and Dunsyre parishes.  Might be a good idea to check out the perambulation records to see if owt went off here, before its destruction.  About five-feet tall, it was positioned on a small rise in the ground, 500 yards south of Todholes.

References:

Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Lanarkshire: Prehistoric and Roman Monuments, HMSO: Edinburgh 1978.

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Standingstone Hill, Lesmahagow, Lanarkshire

Standing Stone (destroyed): OS Grid Reference – NS 759 351

Getting Here

As there’s actually nowt to see anymore, it seems silly telling ‘how to get here’, but some of you are like me and would check the siting out to get an idea of some meaning. From Lesmahagow, take the road (south-ish) to Auchlochan. Bear to your right and keep going; another mile on and straight across at the crossroads. Go all the way to the end of this dead-end track and park up. You’ll see the great forested hills north and west of you, which is where you’d be going. Follow the track past Cumberhead and nearly all the way to the very end at Eaglinside where, before which, to your left, is the nice stream running up into the forest. Head up here and follow the waters all the way to near its source. This is Standingstone Hill.

Archaeology & History

Sadly we’ve got nowt to see anymore as the forest has covered it. The Royal Commission lads came here in 1971 and couldn’t find it, but later told that it “formerly stood on the summit” of the said hill. An important geomantic spot without any shadow of a doubt, probably having some relationship with an old tomb, either here or around the tree-covered summit of Tod Law, due east of here.

There’s a great deal more that’s been forgotten about up and about this region which will come to light as visits unfold.

References:

Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Lanarkshire, HMSO: Edinburgh 1978.

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Shawton, Chapeltown, Lanarkshire

Standing Stone (destroyed): OS Grid Reference – NS 681 490

Archaeology & History

This is another Lanarkshire monolith that’s gone, but which was described first of all in the 19th century in the Ordnance Survey place-name book for the county.  The Scottish Royal Commission – who tried locating the site in September, 1973 – told that “no trace now survives of the stone, 1.4m in height (i.e., about four-and-half feet tall – Ed.), that once stood in a field beside the public road about 120m northeast of Shawton Farmhouse.”

References:

Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, Lanarkshire: Prehistoric and Roman Monuments, HMSO: Edinburgh 1978.

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Clarkston Farm, Dillarburn, Lesmahagow, Lanarkshire

Standing Stone (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NS 832 426

Archaeology & History

The first reference I found of this once-proud standing stone was in the early pages of the Glasgow Archaeological Society’s Transactions, from 1897; but when the Royal Commission lads came to look for the site in 1971, it had long-since been destroyed.  Thankfully we have various folklore relics to tell us more!

Folklore

In Robert Chambers’ Popular Rhymes (1826), he told us several intriguing pieces of folklore about this once great monolith, writing:

“On the farm of Clerkston, in the parish of Lesmahagow, there had existed since creation an immense stone, or saxum, which, being deeply bedded in the middle of a good field, at a great distance from any other rocks, was productive of infinite inconvenience to the husbandman, and defrauded the proprietor of a considerable portion of territory.

“Beneath this stone, it was believed by the country people of the last generation, that there was secreted a vast treasure, in the shape of “a kettle-full, a boot-full, and a bull-hide-full,” of gold; all which got the ordinary name, reason unknown, of “katie Neevie’s hoord.” The credibility of this popular tradition was attested by a rhyme to the following effect:

Between Dillerhill and Crossfoord,
Here Lies Katie Neevie’s Hoord.

“Many efforts had been made, according to the gossips, to remove the stone, and get at the treasure; but all were baffled by the bodily appearance of the enemy of mankind, who, by breathing intolerable flame in the faces of those making the attempt, obliged them to desisted. Thus well guarded, the legacy of Mrs. Katherine Niven lay for centuries as snug as if it had been deposited in Chancery; and it was not till at least an hundred years after the last despairing effort had been made that the charm was at length broke.

“Mr James Prentice, the present farmer of Clerkston, had the address to convince several Irishmen, who had served him during the harvest, of the truth of the said rhyme; and, by expatiating upon the supposed immensity of the treasure, wrought up their curiosity and their cupidity to such a pitch, that they resolved, with his permission, to break the stone in pieces, and make themselves master of whatever might be found below. On the day after the kirn, therefore, the poor fellows provided themselves with a well-loaded gun, for the protection of their persons from the Devil, and fell to work, with punches and mallets, to blow up and utterly destroy the huge stone which alone intervened between them and everlasting affluence.

“They laboured the whole day, without provoking any visit from Satan, and at last succeeded in fairly eradicating the stone from the field which it had so long encumbered; when they became at once convinced of the fallacy of the rhyme, of the craft of Mr. Prentice, and of their own deluded credulity.”

References:

  1. Chambers, Robert, The Popular Rhymes of Scotland, William Hunter: Edinburgh 1826.
  2. Royal Commission for the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Lanarkshire: Prehistoric and Roman Monuments, HMSO: Edinburgh 1978.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Old Woman’s Well, Guisborough, North Yorkshire

Holy Well: OS Grid Reference – NZ 610 180

Getting Here

The grid reference here is an approximation, but the old well was definitely somewhere very close by, as evidenced by the place-name of the farmhouse. But if you wanna get here and wander about in the hope that you can re-locate this once sacred water source, go up the B1269 road north of Guisborough for about a mile. Carling Howe farmhouse is on the left-hand side of the road. Obviously the old well is somewhere close by…

Archaeology & History

The information I have of this site comes from old place-name listings. I found the reference in the directory for North Yorkshire by A.H. Smith (1928), in his entry for the etymology of ‘Carling Howe’ at Guisborough.  Smith ascribes the references of ‘Kerlinghou’ (which itself appears to have been lost) to mean the ‘Old woman’s mound’ and variants thereof, also saying, “There is an unidentified place in this township called Kerlingkelde,” (12th century ref. Guisborough Cartulary)—the Old Woman’s Well.  But very commonly in this part of Yorkshire, as at many other locations in northern England, a hou relates to a prehistoric tomb – which is probably what we had here: the Old Woman’s Grave/tumulus, and variants thereof.

The ‘old woman’ element in this name very probably relates to that primal mythic deity, the cailleach, the great prima mater of indigenous heathen folk, beloved mainly in Scottish and Irish lore, where her copious name and tales resonate to this day. This “well of the Old Woman, or cailleach“, would have been a place of particular importance in the mythic cosmology of our ancestors, but its precise whereabouts seems forgotten. There is a plentiful supply of water around Carling Howe Farm, one or more of which may once have been the site of this well. However, a lot of quarrying operations occurred here in the not-too-distant past, and this may have irreparably damaged our ability to accurately find the site – though perhaps a perusal of old field-maps could be productive.

It would also be good if we could locate the original whereabouts of the old tomb here which gave the place its name – the ‘Carling Howe’ itself. Although Mr Smith (1928) tells us that this was the “mound of the old woman”, it’s likely that this was in fact a prehistoric tomb. Other ‘howe’ sites in East and North Yorkshire turn out to be prehistoric burials and I have little doubt that the same occurred here.

References:

  1. o’ Crualaoich, Gearoid, The Book of the Cailleach, Cork University Press 2003.
  2. Smith, A.H., The Place-Names of the North Riding of Yorkshire, Cambridge University Press 1928.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Tirai, Glen Lochay, Perthshire

Standing Stones:  OS Grid Reference – NN 5308 3670

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 24172

Getting Here

Standing stones of Tirai

Standing stones of Tirai

From Killin, travel down Glen Lochay, past Stag Cottage or Duncroisk and over the shallow river of Allt Dhun Croisg.  If you’re in a car you can park up a 100 yards past the river bridge and walk up the track from here.  After a 10 minute walk, above the trees you come to the derelict village of Tirai* where, until recently, you were greeted by a tall totem-pole of a gnarled tree (it was superb!) which is now Earth-lain, and a fine view of the evolving hills.  Here amidst the ruins we also find a standing stone or two.

Archaeology & History

The village of Tirai was deserted sometime in the 19th century (due to the disgusting clearances of the English), but at least two standing stones still live amidst its ruins.  The tallest is nearly four-feet tall in the middle of the grassy patch and is much used by grateful cattle to rub themselves against when midges and horseflies drive them mad!  The Scottish Royal Commission lads reckon the megaliths here are,

“possibly a survivor of a stone circle as a similar stone is used nearby as a gate-post to an enclosure and several other large stones have been incorporated in the walls of the surrounding buildings.”

This may well be so – but it is equally possible that these are merely the remains of standing stones which once stood along this ridge and which were taken for use in the village.

One of the Tirai standing stones

One of the Tirai standing stones

Of the remaining standing stones in this idyllic setting – the Royal Commission fellas counted possibly four of ’em – all are roughly the same size, between 3 and 4 feet high.  Johnstone & Wood (1996) also think the stones here may once have related to a prehistoric cairn in the village.

This is an utterly beautiful arena, even in the heights of winter.  The village sits on the rear slopes behind the old cailleach, and there are plenty of cup-and-ring carvings, both known and unknown scattering the rocks and nearby hills.  The curious Duncroisk Crosses carving is just visible from here, on the other side of the rocky gorge.  Lost tales and lost sites abound here also.  I did sit and wonder though… Considering that the villagers here left the old standing stones in place until very recent centuries at the heart of their hamlet, what uses did they make of it, or what tales did it speak?  Or had the purge of the Church already taken its toll…?

References:

  1. Gillies, William A., In Famed Breadalbane, Munro Press: Perth 1938.
  2. Johnstone, A.S.K. & Wood, J.S., ‘An Archaeological Field Survey of Deserted Townships at Tirai, Glen Lochay, Killin,’ Association of Certificated Field Archaeologists (Glasgow University) Occasional Paper no 9 (1996).

* The place-name Tirai means ‘land of good luck or joy,’ which truly speaks well of its spirit and setting to me.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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Creag na Cailleach, Killin, Perthshire

Sacred Mountain:  OS Grid Reference – NN 562 368

Also known as:

  1. Creag na Caillich

Getting Here

Another silly-sounding directional pointer!  Get to the now tourist-infested town of Killin (best in Winter, when the town is quiet and you get to know the locals a lot better) and travel through it as if you’re going to follow Loch Tay up its western side.  As you’re going out of the village towards the Bridge of Lochay Hotel (an excellent place), you’ll see an amphitheatre of mountains in the background.  The tallest of the hills on the left is where you’re heading.  Go straight up the hillside and follow your nose!

Creag na Cailleach, Perthshire

Creag na Cailleach, Killin

The hill guards the entrance to the legendary Glen Lochay (Valley of the Black Goddess).  There are many ways to climb her, but my first venture here took me up the waterfalls and steepish burn of Allt na Ceardaich.  Once on the level, I found myself surrounded by that amphitheatre I mentioned, from which – on my first visit – I took up the sheer face of this great mountain. (to be honest it’s nowt special if you’re into mountaineering and stuff) From the tops you’ve got a damn good view all round.  But respect this old hill, as danger awakens to idiots who would think themselves champions.

Folklore

Here, where axes were quarried by ancient man from beneath Her rocky slopes, this ‘Hill of the Old Woman’, or ‘Hag’, was one of the abodes of the primal Mother Goddess in olden times, so says her name.  Her ‘dark’ aspect seemed manifest one time when I climbed her with a rather stupid man in tow.  Following one of the streams back into the valley below, he thought it wise to copy my gazelle-nature as I sprang without thought, quickly, from rock to rock, bouncing at speed down the fast-flowing stream  (which takes a lotta weird practice and very strong ankles!), in spite of the advice to do otherwise – and in doing so he broke his leg in three places and, to make it worse, had to spend the night there in complete agony!

Don’t tell me there’s no ‘dark’ goddess to some of these great places!

Axe production has been found to have occurred as early as 2500 BC.  There have been numerous flint finds hereabouts aswell – but considering this is a mountain, you’d expect to find something on or about Her slopes!

I’ve just been back up here as the first good snow fell upon the hills and the white cover brought the elements out of her form in a way I’d not seen before.  Tis a wonderful place the Creag na Cailleach; and, it seems, a site that played a now forgotten part in the ancient name of the glen, Lochay, which was the living abode of the Black Goddess in more archaic days.  Twouldst be good to hear some of the old stories once told of this ancient deity down the old valley, and the great hill where her name still echoes…

If anyone knows of such tales, let us know before they are lost forever…

(with huge thanks to Lindsey Campbell of Stag Cottage for letting us stay)

References:

Ritchie, P.R., ‘The Stone Implement Trade in Third Millenium Scotland,’ in Coles & Simpson’s, Studies in Ancient Europe, Leicester University Press 1968.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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