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

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

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

Thimble Stones, Morton Moor, West Yorkshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 1088 4515

Also Known as:

  1. Carving no.77 (Hedges)
  2. Carving no.246 (Boughey & Vickerman)

Getting Here

Thimble Stones, 1851 map

You can either head up to the Twelve Apostles stone circle, then a short distance west to the Ashlar Chair and head just head west along the moorland footpath that runs parallel with the old walling for ¾-mile (1.2km).  This is the boggier route, beloved of real walkers!  The other route is from the top of the Roman Road that bisects the moor at Whetstone Gate.  From here, where the normal ‘road’ meets up with the dirt-track at the very top of the moors, take the footpath east for ½-mile (0.75km) until you reach the large cluster of rocks, just over the wall on your right-hand side.  The carving is on top of one of them there stones.

Archaeology & History

Without doubt there’s one helluva spirit to this cluster of large weather-worn rocks whose bodies gaze in every cardinal direction—and it’s a place where me and a number of earlier historians thought cup-and-rings could be found.  The first petroglyphic context of the rocks was made in the 1860s by the grand 19th century historians Forrest & Grainge (2012) where they gave it the usual druidic associations, so beloved of academics and antiquarians alike at the time.  They wrote:

Very faint cup-and-3-rings
Thimble Stones gazing south

“The Thimble Stones are a ½-mile north of the Two Eggs, with which they are nearly in line.  They are of the same outcrop of stratification and appear as though they had been pushed upwards by some force acting from beneath, breaking them up with a vertical fracture, and separating them so as to leave wide spaces between the blocks.  They are about a furlong in length and in front about 10ft in height, diminishing eastward to the level of the ground.  Two of them a few feet apart are 7ft high, and bear on their eastern angles the cups and channels which we designate the marks of Druidic consecration.”

Subsequently, in Collyer & Turner’s (1885) work they told that the rocks “bear cups on two margins”; and when the great Harry Speight (1900) came here, he found they were “bearing cups and grooves.”  Yet no-one reported any rings.  And in the countless visits I’ve made here—thinking that there must have been cup-and-rings!—no such symbols have ever cried out.  The various large ‘bowls’ and lines that Nature has carved here—some of which may have been important in ancient days—are all that the casual eyes can see.  Until now…

The local rambler and photographer James Elkington and James Turner were up here a couple of years ago.  The light was falling through a clear bright sky and so, as James likes to do at such times, he clicked his camera a few times to catch the landscape.  Clambering onto the rocks, Mr Turner unknowingly stood upon the carved rings, and when he moved his foot Mr Elkington spotted them!  And as we can see on the image above, only just, there’s a single cup-mark surrounded by a concentric triple ring.  Incredibly faint, it is without doubt the real McCoy—and the highest of all petroglyphs on these moors.  In the photo it seems that there may be other elements to the carving, but until conditions allow for a further examination, we won’t know for sure.

James is hoping to get back up there when conditions are just right so he can get clearer photos.  But if you hardcore antiquarians and petroglyph seekers wanna get up there y’selves to get some photos of your own, please send us whatever you might find.

Folklore

On the esoteric side, the Thimble Stones were a favoured spot for a ritual magickal Order in years gone by.

References:

  1. Allen, J. Romilly, ‘Cup and Ring Sculptures on Ilkley Moor,’ in Reliquary & Illustrated Archaeology, volume 2, 1896.
  2. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  3. Boughey, Keith & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, WYAS: Wakefield 2003.
  4. Collyer, Robert & Turner, J. Horsfall, Ilkley, Ancient and Modern, William Walker: Otley 1885.
  5. Feather, Stuart, “Mid-Wharfedale Cup-and-Ring Markings,” in Bradford Cartwright Hall Archaeology Group Bulletin, 6:3, 1961.
  6. Forrest, Charles & Grainge, William, A Ramble on Rombald’s Moor, Northern Antiquarian: Bradford 2012 (1st published 1867-69).
  7. Hedges, John (ed.), The Carved Rocks on Rombalds Moor, WYMCC: Wakefield 1986.
  8. Speight, Harry, Upper Wharfedale, Elliott Stock: London 1900.

Acknowledgements: Huge thanks as always to James Elkington for use of his photos.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Redman’s Spa, Bingley Moor, West Yorkshire

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – SE 1159 4343

Also Known as:

  1. Redmire Spa
  2. Redmond’s Spa
  3. Richmond’s Spa

Getting Here

Redman’s Spa on 1851 map

From East Morton village, take the moorland road, east, and up the steep hill.  Where the road just about levels out there’s a right turn, plus (more importantly!) a trackway on your left which leads onto the moor.  Walk up this track for ⅔-mile until you get to the point where the moorland footpath splits, with one bending downhill to an old building, whilst the other smaller footpath continues on the flat to the north.  Go up here for 400 yards then walk off-path, right, for about about 150 yards.  But beware – it’s boggy as fuck!

Archaeology & History

On this featureless southern-side of Rombalds Moor, all but lost and hidden in the scraggle of rashies, a very boggy spring emerges somewhere hereabouts.  I say hereabouts, as the ground beneath you (if you can call it that!) is but a shallow swamp and its actual source is almost impossible to locate.  If you want to find the exact spot yourself, be prepared to put up with that familiar stench of bog-water that assaults our senses when we walk through this sort of terrain.  Few are those who do, I have found… But somewhere here, amidst this bog—and still shown on the OS-maps—is the opening of what is alternatively called Redman’s or Richmond’s Spa.  We don’t know exactly when it acquired its status as a spa-well, but the 18th century Halifax doctor, Thomas Garnett—who wrote the early work on the Horley Green Spa—appears to be the first person to describe it.  Garnett (1790) said how the place:

“was first mentioned to me by Mr W. Maud, surgeon, in Bradford, who went with me to see it.  It is situated on Romalds-moor, about two or three miles from Bingley, and goes by the name of Redmire-spaw.  The access to it is by no means good; the ground about it being very spongy and soft.  On the bottom and sides of the channel is deposited an ochrey matter, of a very fine, bright, yellow colour; and which I believe is used, by the country people in the neighbourhood, to paint their houses.  It sparkles when poured into a glass and has a taste very like the Tewit-well at High-Harrogate; which water it very much resembles in all its properties, and seems to be about the same strength… This water seems to hold a quantity of iron dissolved by means of fixed air.  Its taste is very pleasant; it is said to act very powerfully as a diuretic, when drank in considerable quantity, and may prove a useful remedy, in cases where good effects may be expected from chalybeates in very small doses; the fixed air, and even the pure water itself may be useful in some cases.  It is, however, necessary to drink it at the well, for it seems to lose its iron and fixed air very soon.”

I’ve drank this water, and believe me!—it doesn’t quite taste as pleasant as Mr Garnett espouses!  Its alright I s’ppose—but drinking water from a bog isn’t necessarily a good idea.  That aside, I find it intriguing to hear so much lore about such a little-known spring; and it is obvious that the reputation Garnett describes about this spa came almost entirely from the local people, who would have been visiting this site for countless centuries and who would know well its repute. Below the source of the well the land is known as Spa Flat, and slightly further away Spa Foot, where annual gatherings were once held at certain times of the year to celebrate the flowing of the waters.  Such social annual gatherings suggests that the waters here were known about before it acquired its status as a spa—which would make sense.  The remoteness of this water source to attract wealthy visitors (a prime function of Spa Wells) wouldn’t succeed and even when Garnett visited the place, he said how he had to travel a long distance to get here.

The origin of its name was pondered by the great Harry Speight (1898) who wondered if it derived from the ancient and knightly Redman family of Harewood, whose lands reached over here.  But he was unsure and it was merely a thought.  As an iron-bearing spring (a chalybeate) you’d think it might derive from being simply a red mire or bog (much like the Red Mire Well at Hebden Bridge), but its variant titles of apparent surnames casts doubt on this simple solution.

No one visits the place anymore.  Of the countless times I’ve wandered the moors, rare have been the times when I’ve seen folk anywhere near this old spring.  It is still coloured with the same virtues that Garnett described in the 18th century: the yellowish deposits, the boggy ground, much of which reaches to the truly dodgy Yellow Bog a short distance north and which should be completed avoided by ramblers after heavy rains (try it if y’ don’t believe me—but you’ve been warned!).

References:

  1. Garnett, Thomas, Experiments and Observations on the Horley-Green Spaw, near Halifax, George Nicholson: Bradford 1790.
  2. Short, Thomas, The Natural, Experimental and Medicinal History of the Mineral Waters of Derbyshire, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, privately printed: London 1724.
  3. Speight, Harry, Chronicles and Stories of Old Bingley, Elliott Stock: London 1898.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian


Chellow Heights, Heaton, Bradford, West Yorkshire

Cist (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 117 353

Archaeology & History

High up in the landscape on the northwestern edges of Bradford, where we now find the Chellow Heights reservoirs, ancient man saw fit to place the remains of their dead.  It’s in a damn good location too, typical of burial sites.  The views to the immediate north are directly at Rombalds Moor where, as we all know, Bronze Age and other prehistoric remains are found in huge numbers.

It was during the construction of the Chellow Heights reservoirs when the site was uncovered.  Twas here, in June 1921, where segments of three urns and,

“an incomplete incense cup, 2 inches high and 3 inches diameter at its base, were found together with partly burnt bones”,

of what were thought to be a young female adult. There are few other details.  The fact that there was no mention of any covering mound, nor mass or stones, strongly implies that neither a tumulus or cairn covered these urns—and neither place-name evidences nor early maps indicate anything to suggest such a monument—so it would be fair to surmise they had been deposited in a stone cist.

References:

  1. Barnes, Bernard, Man and the Changing Landscape, Merseyside County Council 1982.
  2. Longworth, Ian, Collared Urns of the Bronze Age in Great Britain and Ireland, Cambridge University Press 1984.
  3. Rowe, J.H., “An Ancient Burial at Chellow, near Heaton,” in Heaton Review, volume 2, 1928.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Dowley Gap, Bingley, West Yorkshire

Cist (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 1196 3824

Archaeology & History

The remains of a prehistoric tomb existed near the foot-bridge on the south-side of the canal at Dowley Gap, but was destroyed during the building of the sewage works there in 1951.  It was reported by a Mr Duncanson to Bradford’s Cartwright Hall archaeology group, who told how they accidentally uncovered it during construction work.  He told that “stone cist (was) about 3½ feet long and 1½ feet deep and was found on rising ground at the western end of the works where the storm water tanks are now situated.”

We obviously don’t know the age of the cist, but such grave monuments are most commonly Bronze Age.  The existence of the Crosley Wood Iron Age enclosure 4-500 yards NNW and the prehistoric circle 800 yards east are the nearest other known early period monuments.

References:

  1. Jackson, Sidney, “Stone Cist at Bingley,” in Cartwright Hall Archaeology Group Bulletin, 3:6, 1958.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Two Eggs, Morton Moor, West Yorkshire

Legendary Rocks:  OS Grid Reference – SE 1058 4490

Getting Here

Two Eggs on 1851 map

By whichever route you wanna take, get y’self to the prominent cup-and-ring marked rocks known as the Thimble Stones near the very top of these moors. From here, walk roughly 400 yards southwest onto the bare open moors (there are no footpaths here) and you’ll see these two isolated prominent boulders living quietly on their own.  You can’t really miss ’em!  You’re there.

Archaeology & History

Of the two giant boulders here, both are included in the petroglyph surveys of Hedges (1986) and Boughey & Vickerman’s (2003) as possessing “all natural” cup-marks on their top and vertical surfaces.  Those on top of the rocks certainly seem to be Nature’s handiwork, whilst many of the seeming ‘cups’ on the vertical face of one (not the one pictured here) are due to gunshots.  I’m not quite sure when they were done, but they certainly didn’t exist during the many visits I made here in the in the 1970s and ’80s.

They stones included in most of the standard antiquarian surveys of the 19th century, with the earliest being Forrest & Grainge (1869) who described them as,

“two detached masses of rock, standing alone upon the moor.  The first is 14ft in length by 8ft in height, tapering to the ground; a set of cups and channels occupy the highest point.  The other, distant 13 yards, is of an irregular square form, 45 yards in circumference and 7ft high.  This stone appears to be tilted on its edge, presenting its cleavage upwards, and has hollows containing water, but is so much wasted above that if it has ever borne the cups and channels, they are now obliterated.”

On top of an Egg, c.1986

Collyer & Turner (1885) described “a number of cups” on the edge of the northern rock; and Romilly Allen (1896) likewise.  Even that historical literary giant, Harry Speight (1900), added his own tuppence here, telling folks how both Eggs “are channelled and bear cups.”

It’s very possible that these isolated stones did have some sort of significance to our prehistoric ancestors.  There are innumerable examples worldwide of rocks like this possessing ritual and mythic lore—and many in the British Isles too.  And the cupmarks on the stones may have been enhanced by those same prehistoric ancestors.  But we’ll never know for sure…

Folklore

The creation myth behind the Two Eggs is one echoed in traditions across the world.  Folklore tells that the Eggs were said to have been laid here by a great dragon who lived within a hill some distance to the south.  All other aspects of the tale have sadly long since been forgotten…

References:

  1. Allen, J. Romilly, “Cup and Ring Sculptures on Ilkley Moor,” in The Reliquary, volume 2, 1896.
  2. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  3. Boughey, Keith & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, WYAS: Wakefield 2003.
  4. Collyer, Robert & Turner, J.H., Ilkley: Ancient and Modern, William Walker: Otley 1885.
  5. Forrest, Charles & Grainge, William, A Ramble on Rombald’s Moor, Northern Antiquarian: Bradford 2012 (1st published 1867-69).
  6. Hedges, John (ed.), The Carved Rocks on Rombalds Moor, WYMCC: Wakefield 1986.
  7. Speight, Harry, Upper Wharfedale, Elliott Stock: London 1900.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian


Sharp Haw, Flasby, North Yorkshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SD 9594 5532

Getting Here

Sharp Haw cups

The quickest way to get here is to head out of Skipton towards the B6265 Grassington Road. Once on the B6265 you will go past the Craven Heifer Pub on your left hand side. About ¾-mile past the pub you will see a small turning on your left called Bog Lane. Turn on to Bog Lane and travel ¼-mile till you come to a sharp left bend; and on the right you will see a gateway with room to park. Once you have parked, you will notice a sharp-pointed hill—and that’s Sharp Haw!  You’ll need to go through the gate, up the gravel track to another gate; go through that, and continue on the track for 100 yards where you will notice a footpath going off to your right, get on it. Keep on this path heading to Sharp Haw to the stile in the wall; once there go over it and up to the trig point.  From the trig point you need to keep going and about 10 yards after you will notice a footpath starting to go down to the right. Head down and the stone is on your left. You can’t miss it!

Archaeology & History

Sharp Haw hill

Not previously recorded, this carved stone near the top of Sharp Haw is intriguing in shape.  It is found on the vertical face of the rock.  The petroglyph has one large cup with three smaller faint ones above it.

There are many more distinct cup-markings found on the flat rocks on top of Rough Haw close by.

© Chris Swales, The Northern Antiquarian