Hawksworth Shaw, Hawksworth Moor, West Yorkshire

Cairnfield:  OS Grid Reference – SE 143 439

Also Known as:

  1. Hawksworth Moor cairnfield (2)

Getting Here

Curious small ‘long cairn’ (photo © James Elkington)

It’s a bittova pain-in-the-arse locating this site unless you’re into walking off-path, through excessive dense heather  or burnt coarse ground.  You can either follow the directions to the Black Beck tomb, or set off from Horncliffe Circle and walk up parallel to the fencing for nearly 300 yards (275m).  From here, walk due east for nearly half a mile through the deep heather until you reach an overgrown track that keeps you eastwards towards a line of grouse butts abaat 275 yards (250m) on.   Naathen, walk on the north-side of this path-track and for a few yards and you’ll begin to see either small piles of stones, or heather-covered mounds.  Zig-zag about.  You’re in the middle of the cemetery!

Archaeology & History

This cairnfield, or burial ground, or necropolis (choose whichever term you prefer) is a bittova beauty!  Although some of the tombs here had been ‘officially’ noticed a few years back, the magnitude of it was understated to say the least.  On a visit to the place a few months ago in the middle of one fuckova downpour, James Elkington and I found not only the large Black Beck tomb, but scattered clusters of many more cairns.  But it wasn’t until a few weeks after that we got a longer time to check it over and, even then, I think the job was only half-done.  So this site profile is merely an overview of some of what we found there.  Along with the Black Beck tomb, we found more than thirty examples of prehistoric cairns—probably Bronze Age in nature—around the Hawksworth Shaw area near the middle of Hawksworth Moor, scattered around (seemingly) in no particular order.

…and another one…
Round cairn in foreground

Three types of cairns were identified in this large cairnfield.  The majority of them are of the standard circular form, averaging 3-4 yards across and rising to about two feet high.  They are of the same architectural form as those found in the Hawksworth Moor cairnfield 4-500 yards northwest of here (there is the possibility that the two of them are part of the same necropolis, but unless we can locate an unbroken continuity between the two groups, it’s best to present them as separate clusters).  When we looked at them a couple of weeks ago, most cairns of the ’round’ type were overgrown, albeit in low growth, as a couple of the photos here show.  The main cluster of the round cairns are just a few yards off the aforementioned track, but there are others scattered here and there at other points on this part of the moorland.  A number of these cairns seem to have have been damaged and robbed of stones to build a line of grouse butts close by.

One of the ‘long cairns’
Another ‘long cairn’ during an utter downpour!

The second type of cairn in the necropolis—close to the main cluster of round cairns—are curious small, long cairns.  Each one of them measures between 8-10 yards in length, are up to three yards across, and rise to a height of about one yard.  They are built of the usual mass of small stones typical of the huge number of other cairns on Rombalds Moor, but have been constructed in an elongated form, in contrast to the more usual circular ones.  Four of them are very close to each other with a fifth further away from this main group.  A sixth one appears to be under the heather 50-60 yards away to the northeast.  Unlike some of the nearby round cairns, this group looks as if it’s barely been touched by the hand of man, with only fallen scatters of stones around the outer edges of them.  Tis an interesting group…

Small cairn, 50 yards N of Black Beck cairn
Small cairn 100 yard SE of Black Beck tomb (photo © James Elkington)

The third architectural cairn-types are scattered unevenly across the necropolis and are characterized as smaller, mini-versions of the round cairns, i.e, small piles of stones between 1-2 yards across and and just one or two feet high.  Each of this type of cairn are more deeply embedded in the peat with more vegetational growth covering them due to their small size.  This makes them much more difficult to see in comparison to their larger  compatriots.  One example (at SE 1423 4404) can be seen in the photo, above left, some 50-60 yards north of the Black Beck tomb; with another, above right, some 100 yards away to the southeast.  There is the possibility they may be so-called ‘clearance cairns’, although I have some doubts about this and believe they are more likely to be individual graves…. but I could be wrong…

There’s little doubt that other tombs are hiding away in this area, waiting for fellow antiquarians to uncover them.  Equally probable is the existence of hut circles or similar living-quarters lost beneath the heather.  Two such sites have been found on recent ventures here: one a short distance west of the Black Beck tomb and another hiding away nearly 300 yards southwest, right beside the Black Beck.  The main thing lacking up here are cup-and-ring stones.  Apart from several uninspiring cup-marked rocks it seems few exist hereby; but there are, no doubt, some hiding away that have been hidden for millenia…

One final thing: the grid-reference given for this necropolis is based loosely on where some of the cairns can be found, but there are others whose position lies slightly beyond that grid-ref, as you’ll find it you potter about.

Acknowledgements:  With huge thanks, as always, for James Elkington for use of his photos.  Also to the evolving megalith and landscape explorer Mackenzie Erichs; and to Linzi Mitchell, for additional input…

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Black Beck Tomb, Hawksworth Moor, West Yorkshire

Cairn:  OS Grid Reference – SE 14233 43987

Also Known as:

  1. Small Skirtful of Stones

Getting Here

Old tomb looking east (photo © James Elkington)

Probably the easiest way to find this is to use other sites as guides.  From the Great Skirtful of Stones tomb, get over the fencing and follow it eastwards for exactly 500m (238 yards) where you’ll meet a small footpath on your right that goes southeast up the small slope of Craven Hall Hill and onto the moorland.  Go along here for literally 0.2km (223 yards) and, just where the path bends slightly to the left, drop diagonally down the slope to where the moorland levels out close to the Craven Hall Hill (2) tumulus.  From here walk WSW onto the flat moorland for literally ⅓-km (0.21 miles; 365 yards) where you’ll find either a large rounded mass of stones, or a large heather-covered mound—depending on whether there’s been a burning.  Best o’ luck!

Archaeology & History

…and looking NE (photo © James Elkington)

Very troublesome to locate when the heather’s fully grown, this large prehistoric tomb was uncovered very recently as a result of extensive moorland fires.  It’s the largest such structure in a cluster of more than thirty cairns near the middle of Hawksworth Moor, many of which were rediscovered at the end of May, 2021.  Due south of the Great Skirtful of Stones, this smaller skirtful of stones measures some 45 feet across and is more than three feet high in parts.  Probably built in the Bronze Age, the tomb looks as if it’s been deliberately robbed at some time in the past, probably before the Victorians by the look of things—although only an excavation would tell us for sure.  Primarily, the cairn has been robbed from its centre outwards mainly on its western side, where you’ll also see a small and rather dodgy cup-marked stone.  Scattered into the surrounding peat are visible remains of where some of the loose stones have been cast.

Small hole in the middle
Northern edge of cairn

A possible alternative to this being simply a large cairn, is that it’s a much-disturbed ring cairn.  Some sections on the north and western edges give the impression that the mass of stones may be collapsed rubble walling.  There are also a couple of internal features that beneath the overgrowth of peat and compressed vegetation: one being a small circular piece of stonework that has either fallen in on itself, been dug into, or is the home of an animal; and a yard or two from this is what looks like another internal U-shaped stone structure – again, deeply encased by centuries of encroaching peat.  But I must emphasize that these features are far from certain and can only be proven one way or the other by an excavation.

Small Skirtful, looking S (photo © James Elkington)
Ring-cairn or just a cairn? (photo © James Elkington)

The site is well worth seeing, not only for its own merit, but also because of its place in a much wider prehistoric cemetery in the middle of Hawksworth Moor.  There are at least six small single cairns (which may be clearance cairns) scattering this area—the closest of which from here is some 20 yards to the north.  A more curious group of at least five small long cairns exist about 100 yards to the south; and below these is the largest cluster of standard tombs in the form of small round cairns.  A curious D-shaped hut circle structure can be found less than 100 yards to the northwest, and what seems to be remains of a larger deeply embedded enclosure exists beyond the long cairns.  Check ’em out!

AcknowledgementsWith huge thanks, as always, for James Elkington for use of his photos.  Also to the evolving megalith and landscape explorer Mackenzie Erichs; and to Linzi Mitchell, for additional stimuli…

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Black Beck, Hawksworth Moor, West Yorkshire

Hut Circle:  OS Grid Reference – SE 1415 4401

Getting Here

Hut circle, looking NW

Take the same directions as if you’re going to visit the Black Beck cairn.  From here, walk through the heather northwest for about 60 yards.  If the heather’s been cleared, you’ll see it low down, otherwise you’re pretty much screwed when it comes to finding this one!

Archaeology & History

Seemingly in isolation, this low-walled, D-shaped hut circle is presently the only the structure of its kind known to exist on this part of Hawksworth Moor; although to be honest we should expect there to be such structures in the area when we consider the size and proximity of the associated cairnfields immediately north and southeast of here.

Southern arc of walling
NW section of walling; Black Beck tomb to rear

As with most hut circles, it’s nowt special to look at in all honesty.  The south side of the structure is rubble walling typical of these structures, curving round as usual; but its more northern section straightens out, creating a D-shaped structure.  This  line of straight walling seems attached to another, outer parallel wall 3 feet away, creating its very outer edge.  The rubble walls themselves average three  feet across; whilst the hut circle measures 6-7 yards across.  We assume that it was constructed during the same period as the adjacent prehistoric necropolis.

Acknowledgements:  With huge thanks, as always, for James Elkington for use of his photos.  Also to the evolving megalith and landscape explorer Mackenzie Erichs; and to Linzi Mitchell, for additional input…

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Dragon Well, Eccleshill, Bradford, West Yorkshire

Sacred Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 17567 35473

Also Known as:

  1. Pendragon Well

Archaeology & History

Site on the 1893 map

A most curious place:  this ‘Well of the Dragon’ as it was first called (on the 1852 OS-map) and subsequently the ‘Pendragon Well’ (on the 1922 map) just off Pendragon Lane, seems to have been forgotten in both folklore and history.  I grew up round here and no legends of dragons were known, either in my life, nor that of the old folks I knew; nor any pub of that name that might account for it.

Equally unexplained is the name of the adjacent ‘Pendragon Lane’, which has been known as that for some 175 years.  We have no Arthurian myths anywhere in West Yorkshire that remains in folk memory—and certainly nothing hereby that accounts for it.

As for possible landscape associations (i.e., serpentine geological features), nothing in the vicinity has any bearing on the name.  Indeed, the only thing of any potential relevance was the former existence of a healing rock known as the Wart Stone, some 100 yards to the east at Bolton Junction.  Such stones are usually possessed of naturally-worn ‘bowls’ of some sort on top of the rock—akin to large cup-markings—into which water collected that was used to rid the sufferer of warts or similar skin afflictions.  But such an association seems very unlikely.

The only thing we can say of this Dragon Well is that probably, in times gone by, a folktale or legend existed of a dragon in the neighbourhood that had some association with the waters here.  Dragons are invariably related to early animistic creation myths, and this site may have been all that remained of such a forgotten tale.  The nearest other place in West Yorkshire with dragon associations is six miles northwest of here on the south-side of Ilkley Moor.  In Britain there are a number of other Dragon Wells, the closest of which is in South Yorkshire.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

St Peter’s Well (1), Leeds, West Yorkshire

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 2894 3382

Archaeology & History

St Peters Well on 1852 map

Not to be confused with the other St. Peter’s Well that once existed in the city centre, this site was shown on an 1815 map of Leeds (which I’ve not been able to get mi hands on!), known as the Waterloo Map.  But when the Ordnance Survey lads visited the place in 1846, it had been covered over.  Immediately west of here, the saint’s name was also given to a nearby hill, whose folklore seems has been forgotten.

Although Ralph Thoresby mentioned it in passing, Edward Parsons (1834) gave us a brief description of its qualities, telling us that,

“Near North Hall is the celebrated spring called St. Peter’s Well ; the waters are so intensely cold that they have long been considered very efficacious in rheumatic disorders.”

Bonser (1979) reiterated this in his survey, also telling that, like its nearby namesake, its waters were “intensely cold and beneficial for rheumatism, rickets, etc.”  An old bathing-house that was “annexed to the Well” may have been used specifically to treat such ailments, but we cannot say for sure.

Interestingly, Andrea Smith (1982) told that 400 metres away a well was sunk in 1838 and a quantity of petrified hazelnuts were recovered from a broken red jar which had a female head painted on it.  Such a deposit is not too unusual, as a number of sacred wells in bygone days were blessed with nuts and signified the deity Callirius, known by the Romans as Silvanus, the God of the Hazel Wood – though we have no direct tradition here linking St. Peter’s Well with this ritual deposit.

St. Peter’s festival date was June 29.

References:

  1. Bonser, K.J., “Spas, Wells and Springs of Leeds,” in The Thoresby Miscellany – volume 54, Leeds 1979.
  2. Hope, Robert Charles, Legendary Lore of the Holy Wells of England, Elliott Stock: London 1893.
  3. Parsons, Edward, The Civil, Ecclesiastical, Literary, Commercial and Miscellaneous History of Leeds, Halifax, Huddersfield, Bradford, Wakefield, Dewsbury, Otley – volume 1, Frederick Hobson: Leeds 1834.
  4. Smith, Andrea, ‘Holy Wells Around Leeds, Bradford & Pontefract,’ in Wakefield Historical Journal 9, 1982.
  5. Thoresby, Ralph, Ducatus Leodiensis, Maurice Atkins: London 1715.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Craven Hall Hill (2), Hawksworth Moor, West Yorkshire

Ring Cairn:  OS Grid Reference – SE 14574 44098

Getting Here

Site shown on 1851 map

Unless the heather’s been burnt back, this takes a bitta finding.  Direction-wise, the easiest is from the moorland road above Menston.  Go up Moor Lane and then turn right along Hillings Lane. 350 yards on is a dirt-track on your right marked as Public Footpath.  Walk up here for two-thirds of a mile—going past where the track goes left to the Shooting Range—to where the track splits.  Bear left and after 250 yards you reach a fence on your left where the moorland proper begins.  Follow this fence SW for 300 yards until it does a right angle turn.  Just before this, you’ll see a large worn overgrown trackway or path running north into the moorland.  Walk up here for nearly 100 yards and look around.  Best o’ luck!

Archaeology & History

Western arc of earth & stone

Shown on the 1851 OS-map adjacent to the long prehistoric trackway that runs past Roms Law, the Great Skirtful and other prehistoric sites, the antiquarian wanderings of Forrest & Grainge (1868) came past here and, although didn’t mention the Craven Hall cairns directly, they did write of “a group of barrows” hereabouts, and this may have been one of them.  James Wardell (1869)  gave an even more fleeting skip, only mentioning “pit dwellings” hereby.  A little closer to certainty was the literary attention Collyer & Turner’s (1885) pen gave, where they described, “near the adjoining old trackway, which runs from East to West, will be seen a small barrow”—but this could be either of the Craven Hill sites.  And the usually brilliant Harry Speight (1900) gave the place only more brevity….

Structurally similar to Roms Law nearly ¾-mile northwest of here, this little-known and much denuded prehistoric tomb has seen better days.  It is barely visible even when the heather’s low—and when we visited recently, the heather was indeed low but, as the photos here indicate, it’s troublesome to see.  It’s better, of course, with the naked eye.

Highlighted ring cairn, looking NE
Highlighted ring cairn, looking SE

It’s the most easterly cairn in the large Bronze Age necropolis (burial ground) on Hawksworth Moor.  Measuring some 12 yards across and roughly circular in form, the ring is comprised mainly of many small stones compacted with peat, creating a raised embankment barely two feet high above the heath and about a yard across on average.  A number of larger stones can be seen when you walk around the ring, but they don’t appear to have any uniformity in layout such as found at the more traditional stone circles.  However, only an excavation will tell us if there was ever any deliberate positioning of these larger stones.  It would also tell us if there was ever a burial or cremation here, but the interior of the ring has been dug out, seemingly a century or two ago…

References:

  1. Collyer, Robert & Turner, J.H., Ilkley: Ancient and Modern, William Walker: Otley 1885.
  2. Faull, M.L. & Moorhouse, S.A. (eds.), West Yorkshire: An Archaeological Guide to AD 1500 – volume 1, WYMCC: Wakefield 1981.
  3. Forrest, C. & Grainge, William, A Ramble on Rumbald’s Moor, among the Rocks, Idols and Altars of the Ancient Druids in the Spring of 1869, H. Kelly: Wakefield 1868.
  4. Speight, Harry, Upper Wharfedale, Elliott Stock: London 1900.
  5. Wardell, James, Historical Notes of Ilkley, Rombald’s Moor, Baildon Common, and other Matters of the British and Roman Periods, Joseph Dodgson: Leeds 1869.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Hough Hill, Bramley, Leeds, West Yorkshire

Tumulus (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 234 336

Archaeology & History

Today, Hough Hill has almost completely given way to modern housing; but in bygone centuries, this hilltop once housed a prehistoric burial mound—albeit an inconspicuous one.  It was mentioned briefly in Faull & Morehouse’s (1981) magnum opus, but we know very little of its overall appearance and stature.  Its existence was recorded posthumously thanks to the antiquarian John Holmes, without whose notes it would have been lost to history.

During quarrying operations at Hough Hill in December 1879, an ornamental urn was found,

“filled with calcined bones (that) was placed on a dish shaped hollow, some two or three feet deep, with charcoal and burnt earth.”

Holmes compared some markings that were upon this urn to one that was uncovered in Acrehowe Hill above Baildon by J.N.M. Coll in 1845.  Unfortunately the Hough Hill urn was broken into fragments shortly after being uncovered.  All remains of the burial mound have been completely destroyed.

References:

  1. Faull, M.L. & Moorhouse, S.A. (eds.), West Yorkshire: An Archaeological Guide to AD 1500 – volume 1, WYMCC: Wakefield 1981.
  2. Holmes. John, “A Sketch of the Pre-Historic Remains of Rombalds Moor,” in Proceedings of the Yorkshire Geological & Polytechnic Society, volume 9, 1886.
  3. Wardell, James, Historical Notes of Ilkley, Rombald’s Moor, Baildon Common, and other Matters of the British and Roman Periods, Joseph Dodgson: Leeds 1869. (2nd edition 1881).

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Wood Well, Batley, West Yorkshire

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – SE 2369 2422

Archaeology & History

Wood Well on 1854 map

In days of olde, before folk had taps to turn to get water, they’d have to go to the nearby wells and streams.  Many of these places were never written about, even to the point where no place-names were recorded, simply because the writers and surveyors either didn’t talk to the right people, or the right people didn’t talk to the surveyors!  In many cases, the latter is all too true.  Such is the case with this long forgotten healing well, whose memory is only preserved through the pen of a local man who, in the 19th century, was fortunate to have been able to write…

We know that old wells were mainly the province of women in most cultures through history; and Isaac Binns (1882) intimated this in his brief notes about the Wood Well.  There’s nowt much to tell to be honest, but its location and lore need to be preserved.

Lamenting the loss of trees, Mr Binns told of the Wood Well’s proximity to Carper Wood: shown on the first OS-maps, but long since destroyed by the ignorance of modernity.  In his day, the water from here was fresh “clear water.”  This alone was good, but something extra in the water gave it that added healing ingredient.  It was used medicinally,

“good yet, the old women say, for sore eyes.”

But not long after he wrote those very words, the Wood Well was destroyed…

References:

  1. Binns, Isaac, From Village to Town: Random Reminiscences of Batley, F.H. Purchas: Batley 1882.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Sore Eye Well, Eldwick, West Yorkshire

Healing Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 1286 4007

Also Known as:

  1. Loadpit Well

Archaeology & History

Sore Eye Well on 1852 map

Descriptions of this site are few and far between, despite it having a meaningful name.  First recorded on the 1852 OS-map, in the folklore of our ancestors this was a well that local people frequented to wash their face and it was said that the waters would take away the ills of those suffering poor eyesight or other ocular problems.  Rags were left hanging over an old rowan tree as offerings to the spirit of the water, in return for curing the afflicted eyes.

When I first came looking for this as a boy, I was frustrated to encounter the water authority’s metal cover ruining the site completely, leaving nothing of the old well as it once was.  Around the metal-cover was evidence of a small rock enclave that would have defined the spring as it emerged from the earth—although it was barely noticeable.  The remnants of a small path just to the right of the main footpath that reaches up the hillside is apparent, leading to the well.  Below it were the remains of a large, water-worn flat rock, with other stones set to its sides, where the water used to flow and be collected, but today everything’s dried up and there’s little evidence of it ever being here.

References:

  1. Shepherd, V., Historic Wells in and Around Bradford, Heart of Albion: Wymeswold 1994.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Eyebright Well, Leeds, West Yorkshire

Healing Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 2986 3331

Archaeology & History

First mentioned in the 1715 magnum opus of Ralph Thoresby, this old healing well has long since fallen victim to the careless Industrialists.  In his day, the well was there for all to use, saying:

“Eye-bright Well on a declining Ground, near the Monk-Pits, discovers its Virtues in the Name, being, long-ago, esteemed a Sovereign Remedy against Sore-Eyes.”

This note was subsequently copied in in Hope’s (1893) classic survey, with no additional comment.  In all probability, the name of the well derived from the presence of the herb Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis) which, as is well known, is the best herb for ailments of the eye.  The water from the well, in combination with the herb that grew around it, no doubt increased its ocular healing abilities.

By the middle of the 19th century, the rise of Leeds city brought an end to its ancient flow and its location was eventually forgotten.  In Bonser’s (1979) survey of Leeds’ wells, he told how,

“the position of this well can be accurately determined: it was situated on sloping ground between Wellington Street and Aire Street, as clearly indicated on the 1847 (1850) OS 5ft to 1 mile (map).”

Location of Eyebright Well on 1852 map

However, in the much earlier survey of Leeds, Edward Parsons (1834) told us that this well was a hundred yards to the south, “near the line of the new road to the iron bridge across the Aire at the Monk Pits.”  And although it isn’t named, it should be noted that immediately across the River Aire, where Parsons stated, the 1852 OS-maps showed the “Site of an Ancient Well.”  This is very likely to be where it was.  Parson’s also echoed the local lore of the time, telling us that the Well was “a sovereign remedy for soreness of the eyes.”

References:

  1. Bonser, K.J., “Spas, Wells and Springs of Leeds,” in The Thoresby Miscellany – volume 16, Leeds 1979.
  2. Hope, Robert Charles, Legendary Lore of the Holy Wells of England, Elliott Stock: London 1893.
  3. Parsons, Edward, The Civil, Ecclesiastical, Literary, Commercial and Miscellaneous History of Leeds, Halifax, Huddersfield, Bradford, Wakefield, Dewsbury, Otley – volume 1, Frederick Hobson: Leeds 1834.
  4. Thoresby, Ralph, Ducatus Leodiensis, Maurice Atkins: London 1715.
  5. Whelan, Edna & Taylor, Ian, Yorkshire Holy Wells and Sacred Springs, Northern Lights: Dunnington 1989.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian