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?”


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

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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8 thoughts on “Newchurch-in-Pendle, Lancashire”

    (SD 818 394)
    A ring-banked denuded cairn, 11m in diameter, with large stones in the centre, possibly the remains of a stone cist. Bears a strong resemblance to the ring-banked cairn known as ‘Jeppe Knave Grave (SD 760 378).


    Once stood at SD 823 396, now cast down over a fence nearby. Stone 4ft. x 1ft. 6ins.

  3. The moors around Pendle have many hidden stones that only the solitary walker, and the sheep farmer, know exist. In an article written in 1992 a local field archaeologist, John H Hope, made some interesting observations regarding Neolithic stones. Mr. Hope studied the area around his native Newchurch-in-Pendle (SD 823 394) and found a number of standing stones. In the field behind the Witches Galore shop are a couple of large standing stones, one taking the form of a stellae, (an upright stone bearing ancient inscriptions or figures). If this is a genuine example then it is a very rare find within this area.


    On the left at this point once stood the ancient boundary marker stone between Goldshaw Booth and Barley with Wheatly Booth. Today, April 2009, we find this venerable old marker ignominiously discarded and cast down in the enclosed garden area on our right, having been the sad state of affairs for some years now. This is a totally irresponsible act of vandalism and those responsible gain our scorn – may the sky fall in on them for such a violation. I shall do all I can to get the stone restored to its original position and status.


    The most notable Witch Stone that I know of is that built into the fabric of the church tower at Newchurch, known locally as ‘The Eye of God’.

    Throughout History, many cultures have believed that stones that have holes carved completely through them by the power of nature held healing and mystical properties. They are considered to carry the wisdom of ages, and are thought to offer protection if worn or carried.

    Large holey stones, called men-an-tols, were used in ancient ceremonies. Representing the doorway between the physical and spiritual world, they were often placed at the entrance to tombs and cairns. In some cultures, the belief was held that they also represented rebirth and transition.

    Ancient Celtic peoples would hold marriage ceremonies where the new couple would join hands through the stone to symbolize and bless the union. Another example claimed that if after a year of marriage no child had been gotten, the couple could choose to return to the stone and renounce their union.

    Healing was another power attributed to holes in large stones and rocks, and sick children would be passed through the stone three times to cure the illness. Adults could crawl through the stone nine times as a curative. In the absence of large stones, small holed stones would be rubbed on the afflicted body area.

    The most powerful attribute of a holey stone is its protective power. Worn or carried, it would ward off evil spirits and protect the wearer from harm. Dobbie stones were hung from bedposts to prevent nightmares. If a stone was broke, it was thought to have used its power to protect a life.

    These powerful stones are also reputed to bestow the gift of psychic sight upon anyone looking through the stone. It is held that if one looks through the stone during the light of the full moon, the realm of faerie can be seen, along with ghosts, visions, and the “other world”.

  6. The stones from the circle have now been located and are gathered near a gateway in a field to the south of the original site. I have seen the stones but have not made an investigation of them. The can be found at SD 826 387 – walk up the road from Spen Brook Mill a short way and look over the wall on your left.

  7. The field the stones where located are those of Tyndale

    Tynedale Farm, formerly ‘Tindle Farm’ on tithe maps, recalls the ancient fire festival of Beltaine, thus the area here could indicate a spot where our pagan forebears drove the cattle between two fires to purify them. The tradition of a stone circle on the flat land west of Spen Brook Mill may be linked to this ancient festival

  8. Great care must be taken when attempting to interpret some of the large stones in the Sabden/Dimpenley valley. The southern ridge of the valley between Barrowford and Read is made up of rocks and clay dropped onto the area at the conclusion of the last Ice Age by glaciers which travelled from Ingleton, the Lake District, and even as far north as Scotland. Scraping off fragments of the rocks over which the glaciers traveled, they ground it up and dropped it of as clays on the Pendle district upon melting. We still find boulders of these ‘foreign’ rocks embedded in the clay.


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