Table Rock, Rivock, Silsden, West Yorkshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid reference – SE 07326 44696

Also Known as:

  1. Carving no.43 (Boughey & Vickerman)

Getting Here

Table Rock cupmarked stone

If you’re coming via the Keighley-Bingley (Airedale) road, go up to Riddlesden and then up the winding Banks Lane until it meets the edge of the moors.  At the T-junction, turn left and about 330 yards along on your right there’s a dirt-track.  Walk up here, sticking to the track (not the footpath) towards the cliffs of Rivock ahead of you, going through the gate and into the Rivock woods area.  About 450 yards on from the gate on your right-hand side you’ll see the long straight length of walling that runs uphill—and about 60 yards up here, on the left-hand side of the wall you’ll see a very large boulder.  Y’ can’t really miss it!

Archaeology & History

2 of the several cups here

This large natural block, embedded into the hillside about 80 yards below the Wondjina Stone and its companions, is nothing much in the petroglyphic visual scale of things, but is worth checking out for a break if you’re checking out the other good designs in the Rivock cluster.  Upon its sloping flat two-tiered surface there are just a small number of randomly spaced cup-marks of varying sizes: six at least, but perhaps as many as nine altogether.  In times gone by (many years ago) we thought one of them might have had a very faint ring around it, but on my last couple of visits here I couldn’t see anything.

References:

  1. Boughey, Keith & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, WYAS: Wakefield 2003.
  2. Hedges, John (ed.), The Carved Rocks on Rombalds Moor, WYMCC: Wakefield 1986.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

Rivock Top, Silsden, West Yorkshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 0745 4470

Getting Here

Rivock Top stone

Best approached via the Wondjina Stone, then over the wall and follow the geological ridge that bends into the trees.  It’s difficult to find amidst the dense forest and is another one of those carvings that’s probably only for the purists amongst you.

Archaeology & History

If you’re doing the Rivock rock art tour, you might as well give this a go once you’ve checked ou the decent ones nearby.   Here, on a rather large stone we find, on its uppermost ridge, three faint cup-marks next to each other in a very slight curve.  The cup-mark in the middle is slightly larger than its two compatriots and might be natural.  If you were to wet the rock when the sunlight is just right, you’ll probably get a better idea of its real appearance—otherwise we’ll have to let the computer-gadget lads suss it out!

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Mixing Stone, Low Snowden, Askwith, North Yorkshire

Cup-and-Bowl Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 18074 51241

Getting Here

Follow the directions to reach the Ancestors’ Stone and the Sunrise Stone; and there, roughly halfway between them, right by the edge of the old collapsed walling, you’ll see this rise of a stone with a large ‘bowl’ on top.  That’s it!

Archaeology & History

Mixing Stone, looking E

Laid upon the same geological ridge as our Ancestors’ and Sunrise carvings, there are one, possibly two faint cup-marks visible on the low flat surface near the edge of this rock, barely visible unless the light’s right.  But the important element here, perhaps regardless of the cup-marks, is the ‘bowl’ or rock basin on top of the stone.  Internally, it’s smoothed equally on all sides and, due to being in-between the two impressive petroglyphs, may well have had a practical function to it.  Bear with me on this one…

The Mixing Stone’s bowl

Stone ‘bowls’ or cavities—natural and otherwise—have been made use of in many cultures for simple functional purposes, such as grinding flour, herbal mixes, etc.  We find such traditions in some of the bullauns of Ireland and Scotland; whereas in similar stone bowls known as cat troughs in nearby Haworth, milk was poured to appease the spirits of the land (this tradition was still being maintained in 2001!).  Folklore and traditions of such rock basins spread far and wide beyond the UK: one of the German terms for rock basins is Opferkessel, meaning ‘sacrificial basin’ and suggests ritualistic usage by early societies.  Elsewhere on Earth there are numerous accounts of the ritual use of petroglyphs in which indigenous peoples tell of their use of plant- or rock-based paints (in many cases red ochre) to decorate the carvings.  And it’s this element that I’m interested in here.

Water-painted cupmarks

The Sunrise and Ancestors’ Stones 10-15 yards either side of this Mixing Stone are ideal candidates for such petroglyphic paintings using early ochre and other stone or plant-based agents.  Such activities would always have been ritualised, either in honour of ancestors, genius loci, calendrical rites, or whatever the pertinent ingredient was at that place and time.  I’m suggesting simply that the rock basin on the Mixing Stone was used for just such purposes.  This is no spurious suggestion, but at the same time it’s important to recognise that my thoughts here represent merely an idea, nothing more—not a fact.  Whilst we know full well that these carvings were imbued fundamentally with animistic properties—a simple ‘fact’—this functional idea is just that—an idea.  Students and petroglyph-nuts need to understand this.  And the faded cup-marks at its edge are perhaps merely incidental…. though I don’t buy that misself!

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian 

Small Wells, Louth, Lincolnshire

Sacred Wells (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – TF 32603 87555

Also Known as:

  1. Little Wells

Archaeology & History

Small Well on 1834 map

Of the three wells in old Louth around which local ceremonies occurred, the Small Wells were apparently the least impressive.  Its ritualised compatriots south of the River Lud in St. Helen’s Well and the Ash Well (the Aswell in modern Louth place-names) were reportedly the much better water supplies in bygone times.  The site was highlighted on a map of the town in Robert Bayley’s (1834) history of the area, showing it as a small pool just below the Cistern Gate road; but when the Ordnance Survey lads came here later in the 19th century it had already gone.

It’s category here as a “sacred” well is due to it being annually decorated with garlands of flowers, commonly known today as well-dressing.  Such wells tend to be places of pre-christian rites, attended by local people at dawn usually at Beltane or at Midsummer (St John’s Eve); but I’ve been unable to find out which was the sacred day when the waters here were honoured.  All that we have left to tell us of the rites is from old township notes that said how,

““The small wells,” a cluster of little springs on the north of the town, shared in the honours of green boughs and popular huzzahs” the traditions held at the wells of St. Helen and Aswell a half-mile to the south.

A brief 16th century account told of a local man being paid for the adornment of the Small Wells: one “Henery Forman received for dressing small wells for a yeare – xiid” – or 12 pennies in old money.  Not bad at all in them days!

References:

  1. Bayley, Robert S., Notitiae Ludae; or Notices of Louth, W. Edwards 1834.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian 

Ancestors’ Stone, Low Snowden, Askwith, North Yorkshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid-Reference – SE 18083 51229

Also Known as:

  1. Carving no.606 (Boughey & Vickerman)

Getting Here

The Ancestors Stone

If you’re coming up from Otley or Askwith, take the same directions as if you’re going to visit the impressive Naked Jogger Carving (stone 612), not far from the well-known Tree of Life Stone.  From the Naked Jogger carving, walk up to the small outcrop of rocks that bends above you.  There’s a small collapsed line of walling just behind the outcrop.  Walk along this up the slope as if you’re heading for the Sunrise Stone carving, but only 30 yards along, low down and right into the edge of the wall itself, you’ll see this elongated piece of stone.  That’s the spot!

Archaeology & History

If you’ve caught the petroglyph-bug, you’ll like this one!  It received its name from the curious fusion of natural cracks with the man-made pecked lines that shows, quite distinctly when the light is right and the stone is wet, the outline of two humanesque forms joined to each other.  Figurative rock engravings of ancestors in the UK are extremely rare and when we came across this example, we noticed how the design could be interpreted as two Askwith Moor ancestor figures. Figurative rock art images elsewhere in the world such as the magnificent Wandjina paintings and the extensive galleries of figures engraved at Murujuga (Burrup Peninsula) in Western Australia, might provide an initial comparison, though more specific work needs to be done to better understand this unique petroglyph.

Sketch of the carving

You can almost make out the figures in the above photo: the upper torsos of two beings on the right-hand side of the rock, almost fused together.  And the carved shapes of these “ancestral beings” are morphically similar to some elements in the Sunrise Stone just 50 yards away – which themselves remind me of a Northumbrian carving near Doddington known as West Horton 1a. (Beckensall 1991)  But we should’t get too carried away by the idea because—as we can see here in the sketch of the carving—when looked at from a different angle above, we could infer the right-hand carved elements to be representative of an animal: a deer, perhaps.  Rorscharch’s once more tickle the exploring mind….

The rock has been quarried into at same time in the past (just like the nearby Sunrise Stone), leaving us to wonder what the complete carving might have looked like.  No doubt some pieces of it will be in the collapsed walling either side of the stone.  All we have left to see are the two unfinished cup-and-rings above the natural cracks that give rise to the “ancestral being” appearance.  The faint double cup-and-ring has curious linear arcs to its side, with two well-defined cups enclosed by two of them.  It’s a nice-looking carving when the light is good.  The petroglyph was carved over a long period of time, as evidenced by the differing levels of erosion in different sections of the design.  It’s a common attribute.  The oldest section is the faint double cup-and-ring, whose mythic nature was added to / developed at a much later date, perhaps even centuries later.

In the always-expressive archaeocentric description of Boughey & Vickerman’s (2003) otherwise valuable tome, they told this carving to be,

“Long, narrow, thick rock of medium grit. Six cups, one with a double ring with a tab out and two with at least partial single rings, grooves.”

Evocative stuff!

It’s very likely that this carving had some mythic relationship with its close neighbours either side of it, probably over a very long time period and I’m inclined to think it somehow related to the rising of the sun, just like its solar companion further up the slope.  Please note how I emphasize this ingredient in the site profile of its neighbour, the Mixing Stone 10-15 yards away—roughly halfway between this and the Sunrise Stone.   A distinct place of ritual was happening in this close-knit cluster of carvings…

References:

  1. Beckensall, Stan, Prehistoric Rock Motifs of Northumberland – volume 1, 1991.
  2. Boughey, Keith & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, WYAS: Leeds 2003.
  3. Reeder, Phil, “Snowden Carr Rock Carvings,” in Northern Earth Mysteries, no.40, 1990.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Dud Well, Skircoat Green, Halifax, West Yorkshire

Sacred Well: OS Grid Reference – SE 0957 2281

Archaeology & History

This curiously-named old water source may have an equally curious history behind it – albeit forgotten.  Shown on the 1854 OS-map of the area and giving its s name to Dudwell Lane, we can see how an old path led from the road to the well and nowhere else.

It’s the word “dud” that holds our attention here; for if we hasten to the immensely erudite Joseph Wright (1900) in his gigantic survey of northern dialect, we find that the word relates to “a rag, piece of cloth; pl. clothes, esp. shabby, ragged, or dirty clothing.”  This is echoed in another Yorkshire dialect work by Morris (1892) who told that the word meant “clothes (or) rags.”  Several other Victorian writers tell us variations on this meaning (one adds old shoes to the list!), but in all instances it relates to dud being a rag, whereas the plural duds are rags or scruffy clothes.  Naathen (to use another old dialect word), those of us who know a thing or two abaat olde wells are very very familiar with their association to old rags that were hanged on the surrounding trees as offerings to the spirits of the water—the genius loci—to aid in the hope or desire of something, or merely as respect to the waters for their beneficient properties. (this sometimes occurred ritually at set times in the calendar)

Dud Well on 1854 OS-map

The Dud Well was obviously of considerable local repute, for just a couple of years after it was shown on the earliest OS-map, a local bailiff called Samuel Rhodes built The Dudwell house close to the waters, which he named “in honour of the magnificent and never-failing spring of pure, bright, sparkling water in the wells close by.”

There is a possible alternative meaning to the word dud, which is that some dood called ‘Duda’ left his name here!  This seems much more speculative and unlikely than the use of a local dialect term.  Hopefully a local historian amongst you might perhaps be able to find out more.

References:

  1. Morris, M.C.F., Yorkshire Folk-Talk, Henry Frowde: London 1892.
  2. Wright, Joseph, English Dialect Dictionary – volume 2, Henry Frowde: London 1900.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Old Wives’ Well, Stape, Pickering, North Yorkshire

Sacred Well:  OS Grid-Reference – SE 7944 9406

Also Known as:

  1. Nattie Fontein

Archaeology & History

Old Wives Well, 1848 OS-map

The history of the site is scanty to say the least.  It first seems to have been recorded when the Ordnance Survey lads came here in the 1840s, although they left no record as to why the site was given such a dedication.  It’s a decidedly pre-christian title as the name “old Wife” is usually indicative in northern counties as being related to the primal Earth deity of northern England and lowland Scotland (when we reach the Highlands and Ireland, She becomes known—amongst other names—as the cailleach).  However, apart from its name we have no additional information.  Neither the holy wells writer Edna Whelan (1989; 2001), nor hydrolatry researcher Graeme Chappell were been able to find anything about the place in their own researches.  And so we must go on name alone…

The waters bubble up into a small stone-lined chamber with the words Nattie Fontein carved into the lintel.  This is something of a mystery in itself, for, as Edna Whelan (1989) told,

“it would be most unusual for the word fonten to be used for a spring in North Yorkshire: ‘keld’ is the local word.  The rather roughly inscribed word may be a corruption of Fons Natalis, the name of a Celtic water nymph.”

Graeme Chappell (2000) meanwhile, noticed in a visit to the site in June 1999,

“that the N and A in “NATTIE” are carved in such a way that the word could be read as “MATTIE FONTEIN” perhaps meaning “Mother Fountain”. This might then be another reference to the Old Wife?”

He then goes on to note how,

“the latin word ‘natalis‘ meaning ‘birth’ and its link with the roman Festival ‘Dies Natalis Sol Invictus‘ (day of the birth of the unconquered sun) which took place on the 25th December. Natalis also gave rise to the welsh word ‘Nadolig‘ – meaning Christmas.”

This Yuletide element has an intriguing relationship with the name of the well; for to the west of Yorkshire’s borders into Cumbria there was annual gathering known as Old Wives’ Saturday that took place on the first Saturday after Christmas, or first Saturday of the New Year in a person’s house or inn, where a feast was had to bring in the New Year; but there is no known written lore of such a tradition here.

Nowadays the old tradition of hanging rags on the trees surrounding the well as offerings to the spirit of the place (known as memaws in parts of Yorkshire, and clooties in Scotland) has become a regular practice of those who hold such sites as sacred in their own way.  Whelan mentioned seeing memaws here in the 1908s, but the Northern Antiquarian contributor Jon Barker told that, “The rags are a comparatively recent addition to the well, it is not a tradition there. When I used to go in the ’60s therewere no rags.”

On an even more curious note: very recently (from when this profile was written), the Northern Antiquarian contributor and photographer James Elkington visited Old Wives’ Well for the first time.  It was a grey overcast day and when he arrived here, there was a woman ahead of him at the head of the well.  I’ll let him tell the rest of it in his own words:

The Old Wives Well, Stape  (James Elkington)

Old Wives Well at Stape (James Elkington)

“In front of the well was a lady dressed in what looked like a white nighty, she had her back to me.  There was a candle lit nearby, and her hands were in the water moving slowly about like she was washing something.  She had long dark shoulder length hair.  As I was about 25 feet away I was sure she wasn’t aware of me, and I thought it would make a good photograph.  I quietly put my bag on the ground and got my camera out, and looked up and…she was gone!  I couldn’t have taken my eye off her for more than 5 or 6 seconds.  I looked all around and there was no sign of her.  Even if she had legged it through the woods I would have seen her.  I think it was then that I realized that I may have had ‘an encounter’.  I quickly took three pics of the Well and got the hell out of there!”

He rang me once he had regained his senses in a somewhat emotional state and recounted over and over what had just happened.  Whether this was a visual manifestation of the genius loci of the we can’t say.  But such encounters are not unknown at numerous sacred water sites all over the world.  We can only hazard a guess that this is what he was fortunate to encounter.

Just a few hundred yards north is the old Mauley or Malo Cross, which may or may not have had some mythic relationship with our Old Wives…

References:

  1. Chappell, Graeme, “Old Wives’ Well, Stape,” YHW 2000.
  2. Elgee, F., Early Man in Northeast Yorkshire, Frank Bellows: Gloucester 1930.
  3. Whelan, Edna, The Magic and Mystery of Holy Wells, Capall Bann: Chieveley 2001.
  4. Whelan, Edna & Taylor, Ian, Yorkshire Holy Wells and Sacred Springs, Northern Lights: Dunnington 1989.

Links:

  1. Yorkshire Holy Wells

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Pit Marshes, Kilnsea, East Yorkshire

Tumulus (destroyed):  OS Grid-Reference – TA 420 150

Archaeology & History

This long lost site is one of probably many such sites on the east coast of Yorkshire and Lincolnshire that used to exist, before the great North Sea took them away.  The only account I’ve found of this one is from a short article in an early copy of the Lincolnshire Notes & Queries magazine by John Cordeaux (1891), who wrote:

“The Spurn, or Spurn Point, as it is now usually called, at the mouth of the Humber, is so closely connected with Lincolnshire history that it is unnecessary to apologize for recording in Lincs. N. & Q. an interesting sepulchral relic found there.  This is a rude chest or coffin, roughly hewn and squarely hollowed, probably with stone implements, from the trunk of an oak, recently exposed by the action of the sea on the beach at Kilnsea.  The total length overall of the chest is 51 feet, the interior (it was much decayed and fallen when I saw it) little, if anything, over four feet.  In this space the skeleton, presumably of an adult male was found doubled up.  Most unfortunately the original finders (labourers) scattered the bones, which subsequently were washed away. A thigh bone alone being recovered, and this is suggestive of a man probably a little below the average height.

“From oral evidence collected in the neighbourhood, I came to the conclusion that the body must originally have been buried with the head bent forward on the chest, and the legs tucked up like a trussed fowl, the knees near the chin. No corresponding lid or covering was found on the coffin, it had been placed in an excavation in the red or chalky boulder clay, and tenacious blue clay placed on it. The locality on the coast where it was found represents the Pit Marshes — that is before “the sea gat ’em ” — their position was about one-hundred and fifty yards south of the first sea-groin on Kilnsea beach. It is not improbable that a barrow or tumulus, either of earth or piled stones, at one time covered the interment, until levelled and dispersed by the sea’s encroachments on the land. Not far from this place on the beach, a small, simple, flat-sided celt, about four inches long, was picked up. It may or may not have borne some relation to the occupant of the oak coffin. When the foundations of the enlarged Chancel of St. James’ Church, Grimsby, were dug, a similar coffin or chest was exposed, partly within and partly without the line of the north chancel wall. I remember it was conjectured at the time, from the comparatively small interior, that it had been used for the interment of a child.  It is more probable, however, that it had once contained an adult packed away in the manner indicated at Kilnsea.”

A very short distance north we find the place-name of “How Hill”, which may be a record its existence, as the word how in many places round here can mean a tumulus.  Seems to make sense.

References:

  1. Cordeaux, John, “Ancient British Interment,” in Lincolnshire Notes & Queries, volume 2, 1891.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Shooting House East, Askwith Moor, North Yorkshire

Hut Circles:  OS Grid Reference – SE 17401 50967

Getting Here

Askwith Moor hut circle (1)

Along the only road that crosses Askwith Moor, park up at the single carpark on the east-side of the road.  Walk up the road for 350 yards and through the gate on the left-hand (west) side of the road onto the moorland.  Once through the gate, walk directly west into the heather immediately below the path for some 25-30 yards.  Look around!

Archaeology & History

Rediscovered by Helen Summerton in May 2022 are at least two simple hut circles on this level piece of land close to the roadside, amidst this much wider and impressive prehistoric landscape.

The small ring of stones (SE 17430 50978) closest to the road is slightly more troublesome to make out due to it being more deeply embedded in the peat than its companion about 30 yards away.  Comprising of typically small rubble walling, this first circle is only 4 yards across and would certainly have been fine for one person or, at a push, perhaps a small family.

Askwith Moor hut circle (2)

Askwith Moor hut circle (2)

Its companion immediately west (SE 17401 50953) is somewhat larger and slightly more elongated in shape, being 10 yards along and 5-6 yards across, as well as being in a better state of preservation.  This larger hut circle has been raised on a notable artificial earth-and-rubble plinth, being one or two feet higher than the surrounding peatland.  A notable internal stretch of walling only a yard or two in length exists within the southeastern side of the construction, whose nature can only be discerned upon excavation: an issue we can say applies to the many prehistoric settlements and tombs across this small moorland.  It’s very likely that other settlement remains will be found close to these two hut circles.

The remains of another hut circle can be found closer to Shooting House Hill, several hundred yards away; whilst five hundred yards southwest we find a small but impressive cairnfield.  There are also a good number of petroglyphs close by and on much of the surrounding landscape.

Acknowledgments:  Huge thanks to Helen Summerton (not Winterton) for finding these ‘ere remains – and for the photos accompanying this site profile.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Market Cross, Baildon, Shipley, West Yorkshire

Cross:  OS Grid reference – SE 15475 39743

Archaeology & History

Located next to the old stocks by the main roundabout right in the middle of the town is this tall market cross, nearly ten feet high and well known to the local people.  It has been described by several local historians, although its recognition as a “market cross” is slightly contentious as it seems there are no written records to indicate that a market ever existed here.  The great Baildon historian, W. Paley Baildon (1912) was unable to find any info about such a market, commenting simply that “most villages…had crosses in medieval times, many of which still exist; so that the presence of a cross at Baildon is (not necessarily) evidence of a market.”

His description of its form is as valid then as it is to this day:

Old sketch, c.1900

Old photo of the cross c.1900

“The cross, as we see it to-day, is not an interesting object. The square platform of two stages, with its well worn stones, looks as though it might be medieval, and part of the original work.  In the centre of this is a large square block of stone, from which rises a tall cylindrical shaft.

The base is square, with chamfered corners, and a plain roll moulding at the upper edge; the cap is a plain square block, without any attempt at ornament.”

One of Bradford’s industrial historians, William Cudworth (1876) thought that the present cross replaced an earlier one, and that this one was erected by a member of the wealthy Butler family a few centuries ago.  Mr Baildon wasn’t quite as sure as Mr Cudworth.  Nevertheless they both agreed that this edifice replaced an earlier one.  Baildon said:

“My own view is that there was probably a cross here in medieval times; that it was destroyed, either after the Reformation (as so many were), or by the Puritan soldiery during the Civil War; that the steps and perhaps the base remained; and that in the eighteenth century, when the Butlers were one of the leading families in the place, one of them may have erected a new shaft on the old site.”

In much earlier days it was said to have been surrounded by a grove of trees and a brook ran by its side.  Villagers would gather here as it was “a favourite gossiping resort.”  At the beginning of the 20th century, an old gas light surmounted this old relic.

References:

  1. Baildon, W. Paley, Baildon and the Baildons – volume 1, St. Catherine’s Press: Adelphi 1912.
  2. Cudworth, William, Round about Bradford, Thomas Brear: Bradford 1876.
  3. la Page, John, The Story of Baildon, William Byles: Bradford 1951.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian