Nanny’s Grave, Steeton, West Yorkshire

Tomb:  OS Grid Reference – SE 022 448

Archaeology & History

Until we’ve isolated this site, it’s difficult to suggest an age for it.  It’s an all-but forgotten grave of some sort, last mentioned by John Clough (1886) in his rare work on Steeton township.  Although the folklore indicates some medieval date here, the site may have been a prehistoric tomb, as it was located in the same valley a mile east of another little-known prehistoric burial at Crosshills.  Mr Clough wrote the following of the site:

“Until AD 1790 the road to Kildwick would be down Pot Lane and past ‘The Lion’.  Near a field, now called Nanny Grave Hill; there were four land ends; there are three lane ends yet; there was what i’s called Devil’s Lane, the lanes towards Eastburn and Steeton, and Wood Street… The junction of these four lane ends is the scene of one of Steeton’s tragedies.  At this place is buried a suicide called Nanny, with “a stake in her inside.”  Some people point out the mound under which she’s buried.  When the suicide took place isn’t known, but it would certainly not occur later than the 17th century.”

But there are no records telling of the said ‘nanny’ and her death, nor archaeological accounts of any excavations hereby.  The epithet nanny is sometimes used in northern counties to mean a witch, and although we have no remaining lore telling of such a character, the old name Devil’s Lane certainly infers some pre-christian or supernatural history hereby, common to many ancient burial mounds throughout Britain and across the world.  Also a burial at an old crossroads is another heathen indicator; and the legend of the body having “a stake in her inside” is highly suggestive of further archaic death rituals, fixing the spirit of the dead at the site to prevent transmigration of any form, effectively ending the lineage of shaman or other heathen priestess.  Any further information about this site would be most welcome.

…to be continued…


  1. Clough, John, History of Steeton, S. Billows: Keighley 1886.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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