St Faith’s Well, Leven, East Yorkshire

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – TA 09126 45628

Also Known as: 

  1. Humber Historic Environment Record HER 3714

Archaeology & History

The site of the well is on the Carrs to the west of Leven village, immediately north of the old cemetery adjoining Hall Garth house.  Reverend William Smith, writing in 1923, told us:

St Faiths Well on 1855 map

“St Faith’s Well lay on the left of the road known as St Faith’s Lane, which leads to the old churchyard to which the spring was near.  St Faith belonged to France, and when quite a young maiden, was martyred because of her christianity.  She lived and died in the third century….

“St Faith’s Well was filled in about a hundred years ago and the site lost.  This, however, has lately been approximately fixed by the aid of water divining.  A Leven man, who can wield the hazel wand, went over the ground near to which the well was thought to have been, and the wand indicated a spot under which, on digging to the depth of about three feet, “the water fairly bubbled up”, and it was judged this was the place where the well lay.  St Faith’s Well is said to have given water both pure and abundant, and to have been in the old days the only supply of drinking water to the people of the Carrs.”

St Faith’s Saint’s day is the 6th October and she was a saint whose patronage was invoked by pilgrims, prisoners and soldiers.  From this, is it perhaps reasonable to infer that St Faith’s Well may have been a station for pilgrims to the local shrines of St John of Beverley and St Philip Ingleberd at Keyingham?  Also a stopping point for fugitives seeking sanctuary at Beverley?

There was another holy well dedicated to St Faith at Hexton in north Hertfordshire.

References:

  1. Cox, J.Charles, The Sanctuaries & Sanctuary Seekers of Mediæval England, George Allen: London 1911.
  2. Farmer, David H., Oxford Dictionary of Saints, Oxford University Press: Oxford 1987.
  3. Smith, Rev. William, Ancient Springs & Streams of the East Riding of Yorkshire, A. Brown: Hull 1923.

© Paul T Hornby 2021

St. Philip’s Well, Keyingham, East Yorkshire

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – TA 23584 25549

Archaeology & History

The Well shown on the 1855 6″ OS map

This holy well was formerly on the northern boundary of a field adjoining the north side of the A1033 west of Keyingham.

In view of the surviving folklore relating to the well it seems that its dedication to St. Philip may have been an effort by the Church to ‘Christianise’ it; and the St Philip here is not the Biblical Apostle, but a local saint – Philip Ingleberd (died c.1325 and also known as Philip Inglebred), whose memory was celebrated by a nearby Cross and a shrine at St Nicholas Church in the village.  The well and the cross may have been dedicated some time after 1392 following a ‘miracle’ relating to Philip’s tomb.  These were destroyed by the mob in the Reformation, although the cross-base survives.  It seems the well may have been restored in the late seventeenth century.  By the early twentieth century the well was described as laying on the Common to the west of the village, by then filled in, only showing signs it ever existed by making the ground near its site wet and boggy in a rainy season.

Folklore

George Poulson writing in 1841 told that,

“…a few fields more to the west is a well, called St. Philip’s Well; on a small stone are inscribed W. H. W. D. IG67. W. K.  It is called the wishing well; and the country lasses were in the habit of dropping pins, or even a sixpence into it, for the purpose of ensuring to themselves either particular or general good luck.”

William Smith (1923) described the well as one of six wishing wells or pin wells in Yorkshire and, moreover, the only ‘Cross Well’ in the East Riding.  At none of these wells was evil allowed to be foreshadowed, and the wells were only to show to a girl the portrait of her future husband.  He told us that,

“In every case the wish had to be with truthful devotion, and not divulged to any living person, or the desired consummation would not be gained…. Tradition adds that the well was much visited by maidens, who, on dropping their pins or coins, expressed the wish to see their lovers mirrored on its waters. Thus they kept a custom, dating to the time when the well was counted to be under the control of the fairies.”

And as Keyingham Common was once the abode of the fairies, it is worth noting that some 700 yards west of the site of the well a ‘Pans Hill’ is shown on the old maps, although whether this rural spirit of classical myth ever made it up to the East Riding is altogether another matter….

References:

  1. Arrowsmith, Nancy & Moorse, George, A Field Guide to the Little People, Macmillan: London 1977.
  2. Hope, Robert, Legendary Lore of the Holy Wells of England, Elliot Stock: London 1893.
  3. Poulson, George, History and Antiquities of the Seigniory of Holderness, Thomas Topping: Hull 1841.
  4. Smith, Rev. William, Ancient Springs & Streams of the East Riding of Yorkshire, A.Brown: Hull 1923.

© Paul T Hornby 2021

Blind Well, Sutton-in-Holderness, East Yorkshire

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – TA 1204 3306

Archaeology & History

Site of well on 1855 map

We don’t know for certain the precise whereabouts of this long lost healing well, but it would seem to be the one highlighted here (right) on the 1855 OS-map.  However, I think it equally possible that the small unnamed building, roughly halfway between the highlighted ‘Well’ and Spring Cottage, where the walling meets, could be the site in question.  It’s one or the other!

Folklore

When Thomas Blashill (1896) wrote of the Blind Well in his standard history work of the area, memory of it was already falling away.  In discussing where local people could wash and look after their health, he told that

“There was one place in the parish where washing seems to have been practised as a curative measure.  Down in the East Field, near to Spring Cottage Farm, was the Blindwell, to which the people had access. If they used its waters freely when suffering from sore eyes, their faith would probably be rewarded.”

References:

  1. Blashill, Thomas, Sutton-in-Holderness, William Andrews: Hull 1896.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

St Everilda’s Well, Everingham, East Yorkshire

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 80528 42531

Also Known as:

  1. St Everildis Well

Archaeology & History

Shown on the 1855 Ordnance Survey map as a ‘pump’, in the grounds of Everingham Priory, the ‘seat’ of the lord of the manor, it was in an enclosure formerly open to the people of the village. It was filled in prior to 1923. The water was described as ‘abundant and excellent.’ Graeme Chapman, in his Yorkshire Holy Wells website states:

‘A few metres to the south of the site of the well the modern OS map marks the start of a stream (SE 8055 4250) which could be the original source of the Holy well’s water.’ 

The well shown on the 1855 6″ OS Map.

The present writer has not been able to verify this from the materials available to him.

Everilda, also known as Everild and Averil, is recorded in the York Breviary, printed in 1493. She was a mid Yorkshire Saint who died around 700 CE.  According to this source she was of a noble Wessex family who went to Yorkshire with companions Bega and Wulfreda, settling on land called Bishop’s Farm, an estate of the Bishop of York, St Wilfrid , which he gave to them, the place being then called Everildisham. There they established a nunnery, of which all trace is now lost. Her Saint’s day is July 9th. The name of St Everilda has been changed to ‘Emeldis’ in the dedication of the church at Everingham. Some historians claim the village is not named after her, but as a derivation of ‘ham of Eofor’s people’. The only other church known to be dedicated to her is at Nether Poppleton, some 17 miles north west of Everingham.

Folklore

The water of the village and the mothers of Everingham are said to have been blessed by St Everilda, and the Reverend Smith wrote that over a fifty year period, no mother had died in childbirth.

References:

  1. Farmer, David, The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1987
  2. Raine, James, The Dedications of the Yorkshire Churches, The Yorkshire Archaeological and Topographical Journal, Vol II, 1873
  3. Salisbury, Matthew Cheung, The Use of York: Characteristics of the Medieval Liturgical Office in York, Borthwick Institute, York, 2008
  4. Smith, Rev William, Ancient Springs & Streams of the East Riding of Yorkshire, A.Brown & Sons, London, Hull & York, 1923
  5. Stanton, Richard, A Menology of England & Wales.., Burns and Oates, London, 1887

Link:

  1. St Everilda’s Well on Yorkshire’s Holy Wells

© Paul T Hornby 2021

Ruston Beacon, Ruston Parva, East Yorkshire

Tumulus (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – TA 0584 6128

Archaeology & History

Ruston Beacon tumulus on 1854 map

Ruston Beacon tumulus on 1854 map

A fallen tumulus that once marked the southwestern side of the village boundary line, and was once adjacent to the prehistoric Green Dikes earthworks that once passed here.  Sadly however, sometime early in the 20th century, this ancient burial mound fell victim to usual ignorance of arrogant land-owners who place money ahead of history and local tradition and it was ploughed-up and destroyed.  Thankfully we have an account of the site in J.R. Mortimer’s (1905) incredible magnum opus.  Listing it as ‘Barrow no.272’ in the number of tombs excavated, he told us that:

“It is situated on elevated ground about half-a-mile (south)west of Ruston Parva.  On September 20th and 21st, 1886, it measured about 70 feet in diameter and 2 feet in elevation; and had originally been several feet higher, as an old inhabitant remembered assisted in removing its upper portion, which was carried away and spread on the surrounding land many years previously.  At the base of the barrow, near the centre, was a long heap of cremated bones which had been interred in a hollow log of wood with rounded ends, about 3 feet in length and 14 inches in width, well shown by impressions in the plastic soil, and by the remains of the decayed wood.  The heap of bones was rather large and probably consisted of the remains of more than one body.  No relic accompanied them.  Several splinters and flakes of flint were picked from the mound.”

The tumulus (as its name implies) became a spot besides which one of East Yorkshire’s many ancient beacons were built.  In Nicholson’s (1887) survey of such monuments, he told that

“the modern beacon, apparently, stood on the site of the old one, on the high ground in the angle of the road from Driffield to Kilham.  It was a prominent object and would be well-known to the coachmen and guards…for it stood on the side of the road from Driffield to Bridlington.  Mr John Browne, of Bridlington, remembers it; and says, ‘It would be the last of the beacons that remained in this district and was removed between fifty and sixty years ago.  My recollection of it is that it was a tall pole, with a tar barrel at the top, and had projected steppings to reach the barrel.”

One of the earliest accounts of the beacon from the late-1500s told that it took signal for its light from the beacon at Rudston, which stood upon one of the Rudston cursus monuments, a short distance from the massive Rudston monolith.

References:

  1. Mortimer, J.R., Forty Years Researches in British and Saxon Burial Mounds of East Yorkshire, Brown & Sons: Hull 1905.
  2. Nicholson, John, Beacons of East Yorkshire, A. Brown & Sons: Hull 1887.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian


Firtholme, Easington, East Yorkshire

Tumulus (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – TA 4160 1748

Archaeology & History

In and around East Yorkshire, the fabled Yorkshire antiquarians William Greenwell and J.R. Mortimer uncovered and excavated many now-lost prehistoric tombs—some of which, beneath the rounded tumulus of earth, were constructed out of wood instead of stone.  A little-known site, now long gone, once existed in what is now the North Sea, just a few hundred yards off the Easington coast.  Other sites close by are soon to be completely swallowed back into Earth’s body, right on the water-line, but the site described here has long gone.  What little was known of it was described in Mortimer’s (1905) magnum opus, where he told:

“On the beach at Easington, in Holderness, under a tide-demolished barrow, Dr Hewetson and the writer on April 21st, 1894, discovered a double cist made of broad slabs split from the outer shell of the decayed trunk of a willow tree.  This barrow had been swept away by the waves, and its site was at about half-tide-line, and a considerable way from the very low cliffs.  Lining the grave with wood (the branches of trees) would not be difficult to accomplish and would be practised as a protection to the body.”

A henge monument and several other prehistoric barrows have been located in and around Easington, but they’re fading fast!

References:

  1. Mortimer, J.R., Forty Years Researches in British and Saxon Burial Mounds of East Yorkshire, A. Brown: London n.d. (1905).

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian


Rudston ‘D’ Cursus, East Yorkshire

Cursus: OS Grid Reference – TA 099 717 to TA 096 679

Archaeology & History

Plan of Rudston D Cursus & associated monuments (after I.M. Stead 1976)
Plan of Rudston D Cursus & associated monuments (after I.M. Stead 1976)

To the north of Rudston village and its giant standing stone, running roughly parallel with the divinatory waters of the Gypsey Race river and passing a mass of prehistoric remains en route, we find one the biggest prehistoric cursus monuments in the British Isles: the Rudston D cursus.  More than twice as long as any of the three other cursus monuments nearby, its northern end or ‘terminal’ is flattened in nature (others are rounded) and is due east of the village of Burton Fleming starting at the intriguingly-named Maidens Grave field, just as the land begins to rise at TA 099 717.  From here it begins its almost southern trajectory and runs almost dead straight for several hundred yards until edging, ever so slightly in direction, to a slightly more secure southern alignment.  Past the site of the Rudston henge, the cursus broadens out slightly and, as it reaches the farmlands of Littlethorpe, edges slightly further to a more decisive direct southern route.  The cursus then maintains a dead straight course for another mile, heading straight for, and stopping just short of the Rudston monolith in its modern churchyard.  A short distance before we reach its southern end, archaeologists found that a section of the Cursus C monument cut right across it.  Altogether, the Rudston D Cursus is more than 4km (2.3 miles) long!  At its narrowest width, this monument is a mere 160 feet (50m) across, and at its widest is 280 feet (90m).  A giant by anyone’s standard!

Along the entire length of this continuous ditch and inner bank there were just 3 small cuttings on the western side and three on the east, but two of the eastern openings were quite large.  Some of these openings were affected by natural elements and others by modern agriculture. Today, much of this gigantic ritual monument (as the archaeologists call them) is not visible at ground level.

In visiting this area, make yourself aware of the other monuments in this class: the Rudston A cursus and Rudston B cursus, southeast and southwest of here respectively. A full multidisciplinary analysis of the antiquities in this region is long overdue.  To our ancestors, the mythic terrain and emergent monuments hereby related to each other symbiotically, as both primary aspects (natural) and epiphenomena (man-made) of terra mater: a phenomenon long known to comparative religious students and anthropologists exploring the animistic natural relationship of landscape, tribal groups and monuments.

References:

  1. Burl, Aubrey, Rites of the Gods, J.M. Dent: London 1981.
  2. Harding, Jan, ‘Pathways to New Realms: Cursus Monuments and Symbolic Territories,’ in Barclay & Harding, Pathways and Ceremonies: The Cursus Monuments of Britain and Ireland, Oxbow: Oxford 1999.
  3. Loveday, Roy, Inscribed Across the Landscape: The Cursus Enigma, Tempus: Stroud 2006.
  4. Pennick, Nigel & Devereux, Paul, Lines on the Landscape, Hale: London 1989.
  5. Stead, I.M., ‘La Tene Burials between Burton Fleming and Rudston,’ in Antiquaries Journal, volume LVI Part II, 1976.

Links:

  1. ADS: Archaeology of Rudston D – Brief archaeological notes on the longest of the four known cursuses in the region.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian


Rudston ‘C’ Cursus, East Yorkshire

Cursus:  OS Grid Reference – TA 0914 6809 – TA 1014 6803

Archaeology & History

D.P. Dymond's 1966 sketch of Rudston 'C' cursus
D.P. Dymond’s 1966 sketch of Rudston ‘C’ cursus

Of the four giant linear cursus monuments that were laid out around the landscape that holds Britain’s largest standing stone—the Rudston monolith—this one, the Rudston ‘C’ cursus, is the one we know the least about. This is mainly due to it receiving the minimum of archaeological attention, which can be forgiven round here as there is so much material to explore!  Traces of the cursus at ground level are also quite negligible.  Thankfully however, like the other cursus monuments nearby, some of the site can be made out on GoogleEarth.  

The alignment of this cursus runs east-to-west, cutting across the Cursus D monument and then running above the northern course of Nature’s curious river known as the Gypsey Race, which local folklore ascribes as being used in animistic divinatory practices.  Cursus C was first noticed in aerial photographs taken by Prof. J.K. St. Joseph in 1961 and first described by D.P. Dymond (1966) a few years later, who told us:

“Immediately north of the village (Rudston), two parallel ditches, about 60 yards apart, are visible as crop-marks running east-west for 1000 yards… As they are too far apart to be considered as road-ditches and are similar to the linear ditches (of Rudston A and B), they are best interpreted as a fragment of a third cursus, C. The western end fades out near the York road as it climbs onto high ground, while at the east the ditches disappear into Bridlington Gate Plantation.  Like Cursus A, this also crossed the Gypsey Race. Approximately 1½ miles northwest of the last westward point of these ditches is the presumed site of two lost long barrows, joined together at one end. There may, therefore, have been an original connection between Cursus C and these long barrows.”

First faint photo of Cursus C
First faint photo of Cursus C

His final remark is quite a good one! And since Dymond’s initial description (according to the PastScape lads anyhow), Cursus C has been found to be much longer than the initial 1000 yards, growing another 500 yards at least!  The final point or ‘terminal’ on the eastern end still remains hidden, as it was intruded upon by the later Argham Dyke and the trees.  The start or western terminal also remains unfound, so we don’t know for sure the exact length of this giant neolithic ‘line on the landscape’, as Pennick and Devereux (1989) call them.

References:

  1. Dymond, D.P., “Ritual Monuments at Rudston, E. Yorkshire, England,” in Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society, volume 32, 1966.
  2. Harding, Jan, ‘Pathways to New Realms: Cursus Monuments and Symbolic Territories,’ in Barclay & Harding, Pathways and Ceremonies: The Cursus Monuments of Britain and Ireland, Oxbow: Oxford 1999.
  3. Loveday, Roy, Inscribed Across the Landscape: The Cursus Enigma, Tempus: Stroud 2006.
  4. Manby, T.G., “The Neolithic in Eastern Yorkshire,” in Archaeology in Eastern Yorkshire, University of Sheffield 1988.
  5. Pennick, Nigel & Devereux, Paul, Lines on the Landscape, Hale: London 1989.
  6. Stead, I.M., ‘La Tene Burials between Burton Fleming and Rudston,’ in Antiquaries Journal, volume LVI Part II, 1976.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian


St Austin’s Stone, High Hunsley, East Yorkshire

Legendary Rock:  OS Grid Reference – SE 93360 34443

Also known as:

  1. St. Augustine’s Stone
  2. St Austin’s Rock

Folklore

St Austins Stone on 1855 map

The folklorist John Nicholson (1890) wrote about this “block of natural concrete standing at the head of Drewton Dale, near South Cave” — which modern OS-maps call Austin Dale.  Legend told how it “derived its name from St. Augustine, who used to preach from this stone to the heathen, before Britain became christian.”  This obviously supplanted an earlier heathen site, but it’s difficult to work out what that may have been.  It could have been the lost ‘Rud Stone’ immediately west; or perhaps had some traditional relationship with the healing well which emerges a short distance away further down the valley.  Just above here as well, we find an ancient dragon’s lair at Drakes Hole, which could also hold a clue to this place.

A couple of years after Nicholson mentioned the site, John Hall (1892) published his excellent history of the township, in which he described St. Austin’s Stone thus:

“It’s a mass of rock projecting from the side of a hill and in its longest part, extending  from the hillside to the face of the stone, measures about 60 feet.  By some it is supposed to have formed a centre for druidical worship, and that the adjoining township took its name of Drewton (or Druid’s Town) from this fact.  When St. Augustine came to England…he is said to have visited this part of the East Riding; and that this stone took its name from his visit.”

St Austins Stone 1890 map

The site was also surmounted by a cross at some time in its recent history, but this has gone.  The earth mystery writer Philip Heselton (1986) told that the nearby Well was indeed a place connected to St. Austin’s Stone, in an early article in Northern Earth Mysteries, saying:

“St. Austins Stone near South Cave is a rock outcrop where Saint Augustine is said to have made converts, baptizing them in a nearby well. The site is used for church services.  Every seven years, part of the stone falls away, but it always grows again.”

The site should be examined for potential cup-and-ring markings; as well as reports on the status of the Well.  Any photos of the present situation of the site would be most welcome.

References:

  1. Gutch, Mrs E., County Folk-Lore volume VI: Examples of Printed Folk-lore Concerning the East Riding of Yorkshire, David Nutt: London 1912.
  2. Hall, John George, A History of South Cave and other Parishes in the East Riding of Yorkshire, Edwin Ombler: Hull 1892.
  3. Nicholson, John, Folk Lore of East Yorkshire, Simpkin Marshall: London 1890.
  4. Thompson, Thomas, Researches into the History of Welton and its Neighbourhood, privately printed: Kingston-upon-Hull 1869.

Links:

  1. St. Austin’s Stone (and Well) on “Yorkshire’s Holy Wells” website

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian


Rudston Monolith, East Yorkshire

Standing Stone:  OS Grid Reference – TA 09803 67740

Getting Here

Rudston’s monolith (photo by ‘QDanT’)

To get to the monolith travel along the B1253 road to the west of Bridlington for about 5 miles or from York take the A166 in an easterly direction then onto the B1251 and at Fridaythorpe take the B1253 east again toward Bridlington. The huge stone cannot be missed from the road and from the surrounding area. It stands within the graveyard of All Saints’ church at the north-eastern side of Rudston village.

Archaeology & History

Located in the graveyard of All Saints’ church, this huge and mighty monolith or menhir stands at 25 foot 9 inches high (7.7 metres), and is the tallest prehistoric standing stone in Britain. It is estimated to weigh 40 tons, and it is thought to be the same in height below ground as what it is above the ground, though I don’t know whether anyone has ever checked that theory out. It probably dates from the Bronze-Age about 1,600 BC. Because of vandalism and erosion the top of the stone now has a lead cap, so it is said the stone could have originally been 28 feet high. So where has the top part gone to, I wonder. We are told that the stone was dragged, or rolled on logs, all the way from an outcrop at Cayton Bay some 10 miles as the crow flies to the north.

Royston’s 1873 drawing
Rudson Monolith (Louise Hutchinson 1988)

Rudston monolith stands at the end of at least one cursus monument on an old prehistoric alignment (see the Rudston B Cursus entry).  It would appear to have played an important ingredient in a huge ceremonial landscape on the Gypsey Race.  Also in the churchyard (north-east corner) there is a large slab-stone cist which was removed from a nearby round barrow and also a gritstone. At Breeze Farm about one mile to the south-west of the village is the site of a Roman villa.

Folklore

The folklore elements tell us that this is, in fact, a phallic stone and in pagan times some form of ritual was held around the monolith, but then the Christian church was built around it in the Dark Ages – it was a case of Christianity adopting the pagan religion and allowing the stone to stay where it was, but what else could they do because the stone was to big to move, so a lot of tolerance was in order here. The present church of All Saints’ dates from the Norman period. In any case the stone had stood here for a good 2,000 years or more before any church was established in the village. According to the legend, the devil hurled the huge stone at the first Christian church on the site, but as usual he just missed – doesn’t he always!

References:

  1. Bord, Janet & Colin, Ancient Mysteries of Britain, Diamond Books: London 1991.
  2. Anderton, Bill, Guide To Ancient Britain, Foulsham: London 1991.
  3. Darvill, Timothy, AA Glovebox Guide – Ancient Britain, AA Publishing Division: Basingstoke 1988.
  4. Royston, Peter, Rudston: A Sketch of its History and Antiquities, George Furby: Bridlington 1873.

© Ray Spencer, The Northern Antiquarian 2011