Cowling’s Enclosure, Askwith Moor, North Yorkshire

Enclosure:  OS Grid Reference – SE 1793 5127

Getting Here

Danny, James & Paul on the NE corner, for scale

Coming up from Otley, make your way up to the Askwith Moor road (the only one that goes across the moors) and park up on the rough parking spot on the right-side (east) of the road.  You can’t really miss it.  From here walk up the road for less than 500 yards until your reach the rickety gate and the path onto the moors.  From here I walked 600 yards east, thru the heather until I reached the wall (close to the Tree of Life Stone) and then followed the wall up for 150 yards, then back up (west) onto the moor again and, about 50 yards along at the foot of the slope, keep your eyes peeled for the earthworky undulations beneath your tiny feet!

Archaeology & History

Just below the scattered Snowden Moor settlement we find this curious large structure, first described 75 years ago by the northern antiquarian Eric T. Cowling (1946). Since then, apart from a cursory overview, archaeologists haven’t really paid it much attention.

Eastern ditch, looking N
Eastern ditch, looking S

It’s a large site – and one which Cowling thought was constructed in the Iron Age.  He may have been right, but there’s such a profusion of ancient sites on this small moorland area—dating from Neolithic times onwards—that it could be earlier than he thought.  It’s an odd site too!  Unlike the prehistoric D-shaped enclosure and settlement on the top of the slope less than 100 yards away, and an equivalent D-shaped enclosure to the south, the area inside Cowling’s enclosure ostensibly is on quite sloping ground, with barely a flat level area anywhere inside it.  As a result of this, we can safely conclude that it wasn’t where people lived; and the complete lack of any inner hut circles (which you’d expect in a standard enclosure of this size) encourages this view.  It’s a bit of a puzzle!  Cowling opted for the idea that it was built to enclose cattle – which may be right; but again, even this must be questioned, as there is ample space on more level ground where this could have been done.  His description of the site is as follows:

“The most prominent feature (on these moors) is a D-shaped enclosure which covers the nose of the spur; the area is eighty feet from north to south and seventy feet from east to west. The enclosing bank is of piled boulders, three feet high and eight feet wide.   Cuttings across the north side revealed no evidence of dry walling, but rather a bank to carry a heavy stockade.  A shallow trench runs inside the bank, which is doubled where it is overlooked by higher ground at the northeast corner.  A second outer bank at the eastern side has an outer trench. Along the ridge to the east are circles of varying size, probably a hut group.  A larger circle (?) of heavy material, some thirty feet in diameter, is isolated on the shelf above Snowden Crags to the west.  Strips of wall and remains of enclosures of circular shape abound.”

Cowling’s plan of the site
Northern bank, looking E

Cowling’s initial measurements of the site underestimated its real size, as the bank and ditch that runs roughly north-south is close to 52 yards—nearly twice as long!  The same was found along its east-west size: being 56 yards, which is more than twice what Cowling measured.  Altogether, the enclosure measures approximately 225 yards around its outer edges.  In fairness, Cowling’s error was probably due to it being covered in vegetation when he came to do his measurements here.  …So, if you’re gonna check this place out, make sure you do it in the winter or early spring months, before the bracken encroaches.

There’s a real abundance of prehistoric sites all over this part of the moor, from more settlement remains, cairns, ring cairns and petroglyphs.  Make a day out of it.

References:

  1. Cowling, Eric T., Rombald’s Way, William Walker: Otley 1946.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Beamsley Beacon, Beamsley, North Yorkshire

Cairn:  OS Grid Reference – SE 09891 52435

Also Known as:

  1. Howber Hill

Getting Here

Beamsley Beacon, looking NW

If you’re coming via Ilkley, cross the bridge to Middleton and turn left, following the long winding road for several miles until you hit Langbar village.  If you’re coming via Bolton Bridge, go to Beamsley village and turn left up Lanshaw Bank until you hit Langbar village.  Whichever of the two routes you use: on the north side of Langabr village is a distinct small rough car park.  From here, cross the road where the footpath sign is and walk straight up the steep hill to Beamsley Beacon at the top.  You can’t miss it!

Archaeology & History

At the highest point on these hills, 1300 feet up, we come across this ancient prehistoric cairn.  Its position in the landscape is impressive to say the least, being visible from nearly every direction on the moorland heights for many miles around, as well as being conspicuous from the riverlands below.  A visit to the site nowadays shows it surmounted by a more recent mass of small stones turning it into a large walker’s cairn with only its compact base showing any real sign of antiquity.

Site shown on 1853 map
Western side of the cairn

Mentioned briefly in parish records from 1658 onwards, it was highlighted on the earliest OS-map as simply a Beacon hill, due to it being used for beacon fires.  We’re not certain when its beaconesque function first came about; and, it’s possible, that its beacon element could have replaced a much earlier heathen fiery function, typical of many hilltop sites up and down this and other countries.  But we do know that such fires were lit here at the beginning of the 19th century.  The great Harry Speight (1900) told that of its

“use as a prospecting-point and beacon there is no doubt.  In the Bolton Abbey registers, under date 1803, is this entry:

“Apprehensive of a French invasion, Beamsley Beacon was put in a state of repair, and four people appointed to watch it.  About — of the inhabitants of this chapelry inrolled themselves as Volunteers, the whole number of whom in Craven amounted to 1,200 Infantry and 200 Cavalry.  A Sergeant was appointed to drill the volunteers of this chapelry at Bolton.”

The beacon at this time received light from Pinhaw on Carlton Moor and sent it forward to Otley Chevin, as appears by an old chart at Wakefield, dated 1803.”

Photo by James Elkington

The beacon’s ancient name of Howber Hill is literally the Hill of Tombs, as derived from the Teutonic haugr, and Anglian how, being a burial mound; and berg is a hill, sometimes fortified.  Whilst there seems to be no evidence of ancient fortification, compacted cairn material at the base seems to confirms the -how element.  Yet despite Speight citing this etymology, he was was somewhat sceptical wondering, instead, if the site was merely a giant boundary marker—which it has been for centuries.

A short distance along the footpath to the east is the denuded old cairn known as The Old Pike.  Further east still, along the same boundary line, there was once another old tomb, long since gone…

Folklore

I’m not sure whether this should gone in the folklore section or not.  But, well, it’s here nonetheless!  In Guy Phillips’s (1976) book on the mythic history of ancient Brigantia, he describes a number of alignments, or leys (not one of those stupid energy lines, which has nowt to do with leys)—one of which crosses Beamsley Beacon.  It’s an west-east line that begins at Cockerham and from there goes,

“through Top of Blaze Moss SD 619525, Slaidburn (it is very clear here), Flambers Hill SD 877523, southern edge of Copy Hill 952523, Draughton (extremely clear), Beamsley Gibbeter and Beamsley Beacon, Heligar Pike, Scow Hall 203523, Little Almscliffe Crag, Tockwith church and on to the coast.”

I have to say that I’m sceptical of the veracity of this alignment.

References:

  1. Bogg, Edmund, Higher Wharfeland, James Miles: Leeds 1904.
  2. Cobley, Fred, On Foot through Wharfedale, William Walker: Otley 1880.
  3. Phillips, Guy Ragland, Brigantia – A Mysteriography, RKP: London 1976.
  4. Smith, A.H., English Place-Name Elements – volume 1, Cambridge University Press 1956.
  5. Smith, A.H., The Place-Names of the West Riding of Yorkshire – volume 5, Cambridge University Press 1963.
  6. Speight, Harry, Upper Wharfedale, Elliott Stock: London 1900.

Acknowledgements:  Huge thanks to James Elkington for use of his photo on this site profile.  Cheers mate. 😉

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Holy Priests’ Well, York, North Yorkshire

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 6071 5187

Archaeology & History

At the beginning of the 19th century, William Hargrove (1818) described the scant remains of some old walling along old Haver Lane (renamed as Green Lane and now known as The Stonebow) which were the remains of a building, long gone, and which,

“tradition informs us (was) a religious house, which formerly stood here, called Holy-Priests; and though the site of it is not known, the report is greatly strengthened by the appearance of the walls just mentioned, and by the circumstance of a deep draw-well which now remains, being still called Holy-Priests Well.”

Some suggest that this water source may still exist beneath one of the buildings hereby, but the landscape here has been so badly mutilated over the last two hundred years that it’s very unlikely.

References:

  1. Hargrove, Willliam, History and Description of the Ancient City of York – volume 2, part 2, W. Alexander: York 1818.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Sulphur Well, Wigglesworth, North Yorkshire

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – SD 8055 5677

Also Known as:

  1. Spa Well
  2. Wigglesworth Spa

Archaeology & History

Spa Well on the 1852 map

In William Addison’s (1951) standard work on the history and development of Spa Wells, he told us that “the spas began as holy wells”; yet in spite of him listing the Wigglesworth Spa in his work, such “holiness” wasn’t a feature found here and, sadly, we have no written records that tell of any.  But that doesn’t mean to say it had no sense of importance or animistic sacrality to local people.  The earliest written record we have of this Sulphur Well is to be seen on the stone-work at the top of the small well-house, where the year “1666” was carved, marking the year when the structure was built under the directions of a local rich dood.  But earlier knowledge of these healing waters would have been passed to the land-owner by local people, as indicated in Thomas Short’s (1765) words where he told that “it has been used time out of mind.”

Mr Short (1724) makes mention of this Sulphur Well in his gigantic early work, but only in its similarity in both taste and smell to the Sulphur Well at Harrogate and letting us know that, “I have tried carefully” the waters of the two sites.  We had to wait another forty years before he gave us a more detailed account of the medicinal properties here.  He wrote,

“Now come we to a sulphur water of a very peculiar nature, such as I never met with or heard of in England besides, and deserves to be much more strictly examined and enquired into, viz. Wigglefworth Spaw, near Settle, in the parish of Long-Preston.  It has been used time out of mind, and more formerly than at present, because it is little known; rains and drought affect it not.  Country people drink four or five pints of it in a morning to vomit them, and six or seven pints to purge them.  The water is very black, smells strong of sulphur, has a very small stream, but stagnates not, bubbles not, but springs up; it is always covered with a white scum, (and) dies all in its course white.  It rises out of a great stone soil, near much lime-stone, at the foot of a hill.  It tastes salt, yet curdles not soap, and boils with milk.  A phial glass, one third part full of it, well corked, and tied down with a bladder, and set in the cold water to be evaporated; when the water began to boil, it was taken out and poured a little of it on solution of silver, which turned black and curdled.  The phial was corked again, and set half an hour longer in the boiling water, it still turned solution of silver black.  It was corked a third time, and set half an hour longer in the boiling water, then tried, but was not so black as before, and caused little curdling.  This last stood all night, next day its precipitation was blackish; the water was clear above.  This is the only blackish sulphur water I have met with (as Rippon is a greenish yellow) and retains its sulphur the longest, from its contained oil.”

Consistent with other writers of his time, Mr Short then wrote at length on how the Wigglesworth waters reacted to various chemical tests, many of which were done in order to indicate the veracity, or otherwise, of any medical qualities.  He also made comparative studies between this and the sulphur wells at Harrogate and elsewhere, and concluded that the Wigglesworth Spa would successfully deal with the following ailments or conditions:

“Sloth, idleness, too violent slavish exercise or labour, too great affluence, or plenty of nourishing rich high foods, spices, forced meats, acrid, stimulant and aromatic viands; the earthy viscid dregs of fermented liquors, or the parching, drying, shriveling spirits of wine, sugar, fruits, grain, or fermented liquors, as well as poverty and unwholesome diet, irregular hours, etc, are the parents of many diseases, whose cure lies in relieving oppressed nature from the unwieldy load (brought upon her by indolence, gratifying the vitiated taste, intemperance and debaucheries) by cleansing and rousing the vessels, restoring the juices to a healthy state; rectifying and establishing the secretions and excretions of the body, and restoring vigour and activity to the fibres, vessels and solids.  To the above causes of diseases, we may add pride, luxury, sensuality, inverting the natural course of time, turning day to night, and night to day.  These give birth to many chronic diseases, as well as acute, from acidities, crudities, viscidities in the stomach, communicated thence to the bowels, and so to the whole habit; hence are vitiated juices, great obstructions, and a long train of diseases affecting sundry parts of the body, and therein the whole nervous system, with hypo, hysterics, melancholy, costiveness, or looseness, suppression of natural necessary discharges, etc., which require thinning, relaxing, resolving, opening, or invigorating remedies.”

Photo of the well, c.2008
Howson’s 1850 sketch

For about two centuries this well had a very favourable reputation.  It’s therefore slightly curious as to why the great spa-writer, A.B. Granville, in his visit to this part of Ribblesdale to seek out some of the medicinal springs in the 1830s (including a petrifying well), made no mention of our Sulphur Well.  Whether this down to his patronizing attitude towards local people isn’t known, but it certainly wouldn’t have helped him in Yorkshire!  One might suggest it was due to the fact that the spa had fallen into disuse, but this wasn’t the case as, subsequent to Granville’s visit, the local writer William Howson (1850) later told that,

“In the woody dingle to the north of the village is a sulphurous spring, protected by a neat and antique stone canopy bearing the date 1666, and the initials of Sir Richard Sherburne and Isabella his wife, a daughter of John Ingleby of Lawkland Hall.  Of this well, Dr (John) Murray the well-known analytical chemist says, ” It is a most valuable and unusually strong sulphuretted water, and as far as I have examined mineral waters, second to none.”  From his analysis and that of Dr. Garnett it appears that a gallon of the water contains seventeen cubic inches of sulphuretted hydrogen, four of azote, and a small portion of carbonic acid, sulphate of magnesia in the proportion of seventy five grains to a gallon, a considerable quantity of muriate of soda, and a minute proportion of carbonate of lime.”

(The aforementioned Dr Garnett was a renowned 18th century authority on medicinal wells in Yorkshire, best known for his works on the spa wells of Halifax (1791) and Harrogate (1791, 1792), along with some in Scotland.)

Messrs Short (1765) and Howson (1850) mentioned other medicinal springs very close by, including the Chalybeate Well in the field immediately north on the other side of the stream.

References:

  1. Addison, William, English Spas, Batsford: London 1951.
  2. Brown, G.H., Walks, Drives and Excursions around Settle, Craven Printing: Settle 1880.
  3. Howson, William, An Illustrated Guide to the Curiosities of Craven, Whittaker: London 1850.
  4. Short, Thomas, The Natural, Experimental and Medicinal History of the Mineral Waters of Derbyshire, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, privately printed: London 1724.
  5. Short, Thomas, A General Treatise on Various Cold Mineral Waters in England, privately printed: London 1765.
  6. Anonymous, Water for Life, North Craven Building Preservation Trust 2010.

AcknowledgementsMany thanks to the North Craven Building Preservation Trust for use of their photo.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Chalybeate Well, Wigglesworth, North Yorkshire

Healing Well (destroyed?):  OS Grid Reference – SD 8047 5700

Archaeology & History

In Thomas Short’s (1765) description of the once-renowned Wigglesworth Sulphur Well, he mentioned briefly that there were “some (other) chalybeates near it.”  Thankfully 85 years later, with the aid of William Howson (1850) who gave us a marginally better description, we were able to locate the whereabouts of one of them!  From the Sulphur Well, this one could be found,

“two hundred yards above, on the other side of the rivulet there is a chalybeate spring, but (it was) of no unusual strength.”

In fact it’s a little closer to being 300 yards than 200—but that’s a minor issue in the grand scheme of things!  The place in question was marked on the 1852 OS-map, marked simply as a “Well.”  …This iron-bearing spring would have been a good pick-me-up and, as with all such wells of this nature, fortifies the blood and the immune system.  Mr Howson also told us that “ferrugineous springs, stronger than this, are of frequent occurrence in the neighbourhood,” echoing Short’s earlier remark.  Sadly, it seems that all trace of this Well has disappeared.

References:

  1. Howson, William, An Illustrated Guide to the Curiosities of Craven, Whittaker: London 1850.
  2. Short, Thomas, A General Treatise on Various Cold Mineral Waters in England, privately printed: London 1765.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Mackenzie’s Stone, Fountains Earth, North Yorkshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 145 739

Also Known as: 

  1. Fountains Earth (6)

Getting Here

The stone in situ (photo by James Elkington)

This one really takes some finding.  Take the high moorland road running between Lofthouse and Healey villages, and at the very top by the cattle-grid, park up.  Walk across the road and walk east. A mile or so on you’ll pass the Shooting Lodge house: keep walking for nearly another mile where another track goes left.  Walk down here about ½-mile and you’ll see a crag down the the slope on your right.  From here, walk uphill to your left; over the wall, and keep going about 500 yards until the moorland levels out.  Hereby is a small outcrop of rocks.  Look around!

Archaeology & History

Recently rediscovered by young antiquarian Mackenzie Erichs in May 2021, this flat rock—roughly 5 feet by 3 feet— is one of many amidst the heather which, when fully grown, is gonna be hard to see.  This is one of the many petroglyphs possessed with both natural and artificial elements roughly of the same number here.

Looking across the stone (photo – James Elkington)

Upon the mainly southern-side of the stone is a cluster of cup-marks with several on the edges of the rock, most of which are probably natural, or naturally affected.  The main cluster of cups—about eight in all—have differing levels of erosion, suggesting differing periods of execution.  The most obvious cup is the deep one near the middle of the stone; a group of 3-4 very eroded ones are closer to the edge; and 2-3 three others of varying shallow depths can be seen.  One of the cups at the edge of the rock also seems to have been partly worked.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

AcknowledgementsBig thanks as always to James Elkington for use of his photos.

St. Hilda’s Well, Whitby, North Yorkshire

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NZ 9006 1102

Archaeology & History

Virgin’s Pump, c.1890

This is one of at least five wells dedicated to St. Hilda in North Yorkshire that my old colleague Graeme Chappell has uncovered over his many years of research.  It’s sadly been destroyed, and accounts of it seem to be few and far between; but from the short description of it by Mr J.C. Atkinson (1894)—and helped out by its later title—we at least know where it once was.

In his account of the old roads in the village, Grape Lane was mentioned as far back as 1396, and close by, he wrote,

“is a spring called Seynt-Hild-keld, possibly where the so-called “Virgin pump” stands, or stood, not so very long since.”

This ‘ere “virgin pump” is shown in an old photo taken about 1890, just round the corner from Grape Lane where, today, is the car park on Church Street, opposite The Endeavour.

Folklore

St Hilda was a 7th century saint who was reputed to have founded Whitby Abbey.  Her festival date was November 17.

References:

  1. Atkinson, J.C., Memorials of Old Whitby, MacMillan: London 1894.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Rocking Stone carving, Rocking Moor, North Yorkshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 11050 57852

Getting Here

Site shown on 1854 map

Visiting this site is a bittova walk across the moors, with probably the best route being along one of two footpaths from near the Outdoor Centre following (whichever is your preference) the moorland track or path westward onto the open landscape.  Tis a 2½ mile walk before you reach two large buildings stuck high up in the middle of nowhere.  Y’ can’t miss them.  Equally unmissable is the large blatant rocking stone between the buildings.  Gerron top of it!

Archaeology & History

Rocking Stone, in situ

This impressive-looking rock that sits between the two buildings has a number of cup-markings of varying sizes across its topmost surface: some deep and some not-so-deep.  There are perhaps as many as 20 of them on different parts of the stone, but some have been intruded on by more recent graffiti.  On a recent visit to the site, photographer James Elkington and his young assistant MacKenzie, saw what looked like “a very faint ring around one of the cups” – which doesn’t surprise me.  On one section of the stone we see a fascinating series of natural curves and geological undulations, some of which may have been modified a long time ago when the cupmarks were etched.  But whether they were added to or not, it’s more than likely they’d have had some significance in the mythic nature of the rock.

The earliest description telling us that this possessed any prehistoric attributes seems to have been written by William Grainge (1871), in his huge work on the history of this region. He told that,

Faint ring highlighted
Some of the many cups

“This rock…is eleven feet in length, seven feet six inches in breadth, and two feet six inches in thickness.  The whole of the upper surface is thickly indented and grooved with cups and channels; the artificial character of which can be easily seen by anyone.  This logan rests upon a lower rock, the upper surface of which is about three feet above the ground, fourteen feet in length, and nearly the same in breadth.”

Folklore

Curvaceous nature & cups

Although this yummy-looking geological sight no longer rocks, it wasn’t always that way.  Indeed, according once more to the pen of Mr Grainge, although “it does not rock now, it has done so within living memory” – meaning that it would have been swaying at the beginning of the 19th century.  We can only take his word for it.  Also, as with many rocking stones the length and breadth of the land this, unsurprisingly it was adjudged to have been a place used by the druids.

References:

  1. Grainge, William, The History and Topography of Harrogate and the Forest of Knaresborough, John Russell Smith: London 1871.
  2. Tiernan, D., “King George V Visited in 1911,” on Teddy Tour Teas, 5 May, 2012.

Links:  

  1. Teddy Tour Teas

AcknowledgementsHuge thanks as always to James Elkington for use of his photos – as well as his partner in crime, Mackenzie Erichs.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian


St. Dunstan’s Well, York, North Yorkshire

Holy Well (lost):  OS Grid Reference – SE 607 511

Archaeology & History

An entry in George Benson’s huge work on the history (mainly) of York, describes the holy well of St Dunstan “near the Glass Works”, which used to be at the south-side of the city on Fishergate.  I can find no other reference to this site and it’s not on the early OS-maps, so we must presume it is long gone.

Other wells in his name can be found in Kent, Somerset, Sussex and Tottenham.

Folklore

The fable relating Dunstan to wells was his ability to make springs miraculously appear.  Tradition relates him to have been born in Wessex in the 10th century.  His festival date is May 19.

References:

  1. Benson, George, An Account of the City and County of York – volume 3, Cooper & Swans: Micklegate 1925.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Byrnand Hall Cross, Knaresborough, North Yorkshire

Wayside Cross (Destroyed): OS Grid Reference – SE 3519 5694

Also Known as:

  1. Pastscape ID 53278
Hargrove’s sketch

Archaeology & History

The Cross was close to the Tudor era Byrnand Hall which stood on the north side of the High Street. The Hall was demolished around 1780, and replaced by the present building, now a political club. The Cross was taken down around the same time, so we’re fortunate to have a contemporary sketch.

Harry Speight (1906), the Great Yorkshire antiquarian, described the Cross when he was writing of the ‘big houses’ of Knaresborough, saying:

“Another notable old mansion was Byrnand Hall, which stood at the top of the High Street facing Gracious Street, and was rebuilt about a century ago. It was the property and seat for many generations of one of the leading families of Knaresborough, named Byrnand, one of its members being recorder of York in 1573. Opposite the house stood a very ancient stone cross, consisting of a plain upright column, without date or inscription, supported by several rudely-formed stones placed on three tiers or steps. It appears that one Richard Byrnand paid a fine and was permitted to enclose a cross standing on a piece of waste land then lately belonging to Robert Nessfield. The cross may be conjectured to have been either a memorial or boundary-stone. In those days ” it was not enough,” says the old antiquary, Hearne, ” to have the figure of the cross both on and in churches, chapels, and oratories, but it was put also in church-yards, and in every house, nay, many towns and villages were built in shape of it, and it was very common to fix it in the very streets and highways.

“This ancient relic, the site of which is now marked by a brass cross sunk in the causeway, was in after times called the Byrnand Hall Cross, from its proximity to the house of the same name.  It stands on the road equidistant between York and Leeds, being eighteen miles from either place.”

At the end of the eighteenth century, E. Hargrove wrote:

“The (Byrnand) family mansion was situated at the end of the High-street, leading towards York.  Near it formerly stood an ancient Cross, which being placed on the outside of the Rampart, and opposite to the entrance into the borough, seems to have been similar in situation, and probably may have been used for the same purpose, as that mentioned by Mr. Pennant, in his History of London, which stood without the city, opposite to Chester Inn; and here, according to the simplicity of the age, in the year 1294, and at other times, the magistrates sat to administer justice.  Byrnand-Hall hath been lately rebuilt, by Mr. William Manby, who took down the remains of the old Cross, and left a cruciform stone in the pavement, which will mark the place to future times.”

Abbot J.I. Cummins, writing in the 1920s about the Catholic history of Knaresborough, told:

“Of the Byrnand Cross beyond the old town ditch the site is now marked in York Place by a brass cross let into the pavement for Christians to trample on.”

The Cross occupied an important position in the Knaresborough of old, at one of the highest points of the town by the junction of the modern High Street and Gracious Street, this latter being the road down the hill to the riverside and the troglodytic shrines of St Robert of Knaresborough and Our Lady.

Assuming the eighteenth century drawing is an accurate representation of the Cross, it does give the impression of considerable antiquity, and looks to have been 15-16 feet (4.75m.) high.  From its appearance it looks like either a prehistoric monolith or an Anglo-Saxon ‘stapol‘ or column, and if it was the latter, it may have been erected to replace an earlier heathen wooden column or sacred tree following the replacement of the old beliefs by Christianity.  If so, there may be no reason to deny Hargrove’s speculation that Byrnand Hall Cross once had a similar juridical function to the Chester Inn Cross in London.

References:

  1. Bintley, Michael D.J., Trees in the Religions of Early Medieval England, Woodbridge, Suffolk, Boydell Press 2015.
  2. Cummins, J.I., “Knaresborough,” in The Ampleforth Journal, Vol XXIV, No II, Spring 1929.
  3. Hargrove, E., The History of the Castle, Town and Forest of Knaresborough, 5th Edition, Knaresborough 1790.
  4. Speight, H., Nidderdale, from Nun Monkton to Whernside, London, Elliot Stock, 1906.

© Paul T. Hornby, 2020

(Note – Knaresborough was at the time in the historic County of the West Riding of Yorkshire)