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.
Shepherd, V., Historic Wells in and Around Bradford, Heart of Albion: Wymeswold 1994.
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!).
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.
Jackson, Sidney, “Stone Cist at Bingley,” in Cartwright Hall Archaeology Group Bulletin, 3:6, 1958.
Best reached by going up Shipley Glen, to the Brackenhall Circle enclosure; keep going for a couple of hundred yards and then drop down into the trees, taking the directions directly to the Cloven Hoof Well. Just past the well, a small footpath leads you downhill towards the large stream at the bottom, where there’s a rocky crossing (an old ford). Go over here and, barely 50 yards upstream to your right, a large singular moss-covered boulder is set back, just a few yards above the stream with a small pool in front of it. That’s it!
Archaeology & History
The ‘directions’ to find this might seem a little confusing to locals at first. This is because the whereabouts of the Wood Well is on the eastern boundary edge of Gilstead – which is down at the bottom of Shipley Glen. The steep muddy hill above it is almost always slippy and wet through, so it’s easiest to approach from the Baildon side.
The site is shown on the 1852 map of the area, but I can find written material telling of its qualities. If it ever had any medicinal virtues, they have long since been forgotten. Whilst the water here is fresh and drinkable, in times of drought and low rainfall the water subsides and leaves only a muddy pool – just as it was when I last visited, making it quite undrinkable. But to me, the main aspect of this site is its natural spirit, its locale, as it’s surrounded by unerring hues of rich greens, cast out by the landscape of mosses prevalent in a region almost bereft of such voices. If you like y’ wells – check it out!
Once found in a cluster of three little wells all very close to each other near the top of the field where the Crossflatts roundabout joins up with the Aire-Valley trunk road, this is an intriguing site if you happen to be a pagan, or have an interest in druidism — and for one main reason: its name. When I first came across a reference to the place about 25 years ago, the only piece of information I could find about it came from the arduous detailed researches of the Victorian industrial historian J. Horsfall Turner who, unfortunately, neglected to record much of the fading folklore in the region at his time. Marked on the 1852 6-inch Ordnance Survey map, ‘Lund’ was a bit of an etymological curiosity, and Mr Turner (1897) thought the well’s name was little other than that of a local mill owner, whose nickname was ‘Lund’ Thompson. He was guessing of course…and I thought little more about it…
Years later when looking through A.H. Smith’s (1961-63) magnum opus on the place-names of West Yorkshire, I found that he didn’t include the Lund Well in his survey. However, an eventual perusal of Kenneth Cameron’s (1996) work told that in Old Norse place-names (and there is a preponderance of such places scattering Yorkshire and Lancashire), lund or lundr was a “‘small wood, grove,’ also had a meaning, ‘sacred grove’.” The word is echoed in old French, launde, meaning ‘forest glade’. In A.H. Smith’s (1954) earlier etymological magnum opus he said that the word derives from a “small wood, grove, also a sacred grove, one offering sanctuary.” However, Margaret Gelling (2000) urged caution on the origin of lund as a sacred grove and erred more to the usual English tendency of depersonalizing everything, taking any animistic attribution away from its root meaning; but we must urge caution upon her caution here! Neither Joseph Wright (English Dialect Dictionary vol.3 1905) nor William Grant (Scottish National Dictionaryvol.6, 1963) have entries for this word, so we must assume the Scandinavian root word origin to be correct.
One vitally important ingredient with the Lund Well is its geographical position. For across the adjacent River Aire the land climbs uphill—and a few hundred yards above we reach the well-known and legendary Druid’s Altar, with its Druid’s Well just below. This association is what suggests our Lund Well may have had a real association with a “sacred grove of trees”, as—despite us knowing very little about them—we do at least know that druids performed rites in sacred groves. In Greenbank’s (1929) historical analysis of the Druid’s Altar, he was left perplexed as to the origin of its name as all early accounts and popular culture assigned it this title, and so he opted for the probability that the druids did indeed once perform rites here. If this was true, then our seemingly innocuous Lund Well once had a much more sacred history than anyone might have thought. Sadly, those self-righteous industrialists destroyed it….
Cameron, Kenneth, English Place-Names, Batsford: London 1996.
Gelling, Margaret, Place-Names in the Landscape, Phoenix: London 2000.
Greenbank, Sydney, The Druid’s Altar, Bingley, R.G. Preston: Bingley 1929.
Smith, A.H., English Place-Name Elements – volume 2, Cambridge University Press 1954.
Smith, A.H., The Place-Names of the West Riding of Yorkshire – 8 volumes, Cambridge University Press 1961-63.
Legendary Rocks (destroyed): OS Grid Reference – SE 0886 4479
Archaeology & History
Kirk Stones on 1851 map
A place-name that is still recognised on modern Ordnance Survey maps, even though the original site giving rise to it was all but destroyed some one hundred-and-fifty years ago. Derived from the old word kirk, meaning a church or sacred site, no christian remains of any kind have ever existed here and so we must presume an earlier, more heathen site of sanctity (an abundance of prehistoric petroglyphs exist very close by). The singular reference detailing the nature of these Kirk Stones is in J.A. Busfield’s (1875) rare tract on the history of Upwood, in the parish of Bingley. Upwood Hall was built by the Busfield family and, as the author tells,
“one of the most striking features in the vicinity at this age [c.1800, PB] was the fine range of magnificent rocks called Kirkstones, which had existed for countless ages. These grand rocks, towering one above another, extended along the whole southern boundary of the [Whetstone] Allotment on the left of the road to Ilkley, and were really a fine object, but alas!, through the ignorance or stupidity of the agent Colonel Bence, the “Crags of Kirkstone” were broken up and disposed of in the construction of the Bradford Water Works about the year 1854.”
Sadly we have neither illustrations nor other references to these fine sounding sentinels.
Undoubtedly the Kirkstones were a natural feature, despite their venerated title. It would have been their very appearance that gave rise to their revered title, as in the great and contorted rock masses seen at Brimham Rocks which, from Bensons’s description, these Kirk Stones seem reminiscent. The only piece of extant lore to these stones is that the uprights that went into making the recently destroyed Bradup stone circle a short distance south of here, came from this sacred outcrop. It seems reasonable to assume that they played an important role in the magickal history of these hills when they were scattered with forest.
The Kirk Stones aligned along the equinox axis to the Black Knoll standing stone less than a mile [1.4km] due east.
Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
Busfield, Johnson Atkinson, Fragments Relating to a History of Bingley Parish, Bradford 1875.
Smith, A.H., English Place-Name Elements – Part 2, Cambridge University Press 1956.
A little-known early christian relic found in the driveway to East Riddlesden Hall was saved and propped up in the stable floor at the back. In 1984 however, the National Trust got round to moving it and bringing the relic to greater public attention by putting it on display in the great hall of the building. (I think you’ve gotta pay to go in and see the stone these days – which is a bittova pain if you just want to examine the carving)
Measuring just 1 foot across and 2 feet high and carved on all sides, the design is all too familiar to those of you exploring early christian or late-Celtic art forms. Executed sometime between the 5th-10th century, on the main face of the cross we have the traditional ‘Celtic’ interlacing, with a bird-figure emerging on or around an early ‘cross’ symbol. There are a variety of interpretations of this, but none relate to any modern christian mythic structures. Indeed, we should cautiously reflect on the more pre-christian nature of this design: carved as it was at a time when the spirit of the natural world (animism) was endemic amongst all people. This carving would in some way reflect such implicit subjectivity, though perhaps have had emergent ideals relevant to the christian cult within it. However, we should be cautious about this christian idea, despite it being much in vogue by prevailing groups of consensus trance historians.
Faull, Margaret L., “The Display of the Anglo-Saxon Crosses of the Keighley Area,” in Transactions of the Ancient Monuments Society, New Series no.30, 1986.
There are two large boulders here, one of which was deemed the Ashlar many moons back. You can approach it from the lazy way: park y’ car at the top of the road by the Whetstone Gate TV masts and walk east right along the boundary path till you get here. The better way is from Twelve Apostles: from there walk a coupla hundred yards north to the Lanshaw Lad boundary stone, where a small path heads west. Along here for another coupla hundred yards, then hit the footpath south for the roughly the same distance again. You’ve arrived!
Archaeology & History
The Ashlar Chair is ascribed in folklore, said Harry Speight (1892), “to be a relic of druidism,” as one of its titles in ages past was the Druid’s Chair. In the nineteenth century it also became known as the Etching Stone, (Smith 1961-63) but it has retained its present title for more than two hundred years. Shaped more like a couch than a chair, its present title—the Ashlar—is important in ritual Freemasonry, which has two aspects to it: the ‘rough’ and the ‘perfect’. The first represents the neophyte; the latter, the illumined one. Oaths are sworn on the ashlar, and laws are spoken from it. In its higher aspect it is representative of the spiritual maturity of evolved man.
Although there are no public records as to who gave the site its present name, the land which lays before it, The Square, is an even greater indicator that this rock was was considerably more than just a curious place-name, for the open moorland that is overseen from Ashlar Chair—The Square — is 396,000 square yards of flat open heathlands that have never been archaeologically explored. The Square is also one of the most important elements of Freemasonry: representing the manifest universe, its laws are spoken from the Ashlar. (Jones 1950)
Between the two of them, represented here in the landscape near the very tops of these moors, we have a form of late geomancy, although the names of our geomancers are nowhere to be found. It is obvious though, simply from the name of the land, that dramatic ritual of some form was enacted here. In recent times, ritual magickians from differing Orders have found the place most effective, as have wiccan folk and other pagans who have frequented it at the summer solstice. The possibility that some members of the Grand Lodge of ALL England (a legendary Masonic Order, said by the modern London masons not to have existed until the eighteenth century) gave this place its name is not unreasonable. Records show that in the fourteenth century at least one member of the Order, Sir Walter Hawksworth, frequented ritual circles on these moors; and another member of the same Lodge from the nearby Washburn valley was an ally to the Pendle and Washburn witches who, we know, met on these moors at Twelve Apostles stone circle and probably the Ashlar. But it proves nothing I suppose. (I tend to believe (not a necessarily healthy viewpoint) that the Grand Lodge did use the Ashlar as one of their moot points, along with the Pendle and Washburn witches.)
Its primary geomantic attribute is as an omphalos. Geographically the Ashlar Chair is the meeting-point of Bingley, Burley, Morton and Ilkley moors and, metaphorically speaking, when you stand here you are outside the confines of the four worlds yet still a purveyor of them.
Upon the large rock itself it are carved the faint initials, “MM, BTP, ISP and IG, 1826.” Several early records described cup-and-ring designs on the Ashlar: firstly in Forrest & Grainge’s (1868) archaeological tour; then in Collyer & Turner’s Ilkley (1885); and lastly by the great Yorkshire historian and topographer Harry Speight (1892, 1900), who said “it bears numerous cups and channels.” Although we can see some of these on top of the Ashlar, they are mainly Nature’s handiwork. It is possible that some man-made cup-and-rings once existed on the rock, but if so they have eroded over time.
Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
Collyer, Robert & Turner, J.H., Ilkley Ancient & Modern, William Walker: Leeds 1885.
Forrest, C. & Grainge, William, A Ramble on Rumbald’s Moor, among the Dwellings, Cairns and Circles of the Ancient Britons in the Summer of 1867 – Part 1, W.T. Lamb: Wakefield 1868.
Jones, Bernard E., Freemason’s Guide and Compendium, Harrap: London 1950.
Speight, Harry, Chronicles & Stories of Old Bingley and District, Elliott Stock: London 1892.
Speight, Harry, Upper Wharfedale, Elliott Stock: London 1900.
From the famous Dick Hudson’s pub on the south side of Ilkley Moor, take the road right (east) for a half-mile until you reach the large Weecher Reservoir just off the roadside on your right. Less than 300 yards past the reservoir, a footpath takes you onto the moor itself. Walk up the path for about ⅔-mile — crossing one wall, then walking roughly parallel with another on your right — until you reach a crossing of paths where there are 2 gates or stiles. Take the lower of the two stiles, through the wall, but below the fence. You’ll see an awful Yorkshire Water cover, which has just about destroyed the once-fine well that had always flowed here. Below this, by the wallside, are the trickling remains of our old healing spring.
Archaeology & History
When I was a young boy, Horncliffe Well was the site we would visit every weekend as our first stopping-spot on our regular ventures exploring these moorlands — “from Wrose to Rombalds,” as we use to call it! The old well was always very plentiful, strong-flowing, cold and truly refreshing. It was undoubtedly the best water source on the entire Rombalds Moor region, never drying up. Even in the great droughts of 1976 and 1995, after all others had just about failed, the waters at Horncliffe were still flowing as strong as ever, as they had always done. But not anymore…
First described in land records of 1273 CE, this has always been a well of great repute and oral tradition told that this great old well never ran dry. It marked the ancient boundary point where the moorlands of Hawksworth, Burley and Bingley all meet. By name alone it is associated with the nearby and curious Horncliffe Circle, whose status itself is unclear (the circle seems more a place of refuge or living than a true ritual site).
The remains of old buildings on the flat just above where the waters once flowed were built in much more recent centuries. The building appears to have been started around 1799, for E.E. Dodds (1985) told that in 1800 it was used as a school for several years by local teacher Joshua Briggs. J. Horsfall Turner (1907) published a copy of an old drawing of the school, as it was soon after construction.
Horncliffe Well was dug into by the privatized water company known as Yorkshire Water (owned by rich greedy fuckers) in the 1990s, who channelled most of its endless supply away for commercial benefit. When their company was stealing the water from the moors, the workmen snapped an old markstone at its base next to the adjacent Horncliffe House (in ruins). The waters had always flowed fast and freely, but after Yorkshire Water had finished their ‘work’ here, the great majority of Horncliffe’s water supply subsided considerably, leaving walkers, birds and animals to suffer from its demise. In all sincerity, it’s to be hoped that good people someday will visit this once-fine site and return it to its previous healthy status.
When we were kids we came here every weekend and got to know the old ranger who we’d meet either here or at the adjacent Horncliffe Circle, 250 yards NNE, where we’d sit and eat. In the mid-1970s, he told us that the old well was once a site where the fairy-folk would play, around Mayday (beltane). And though in later years I’ve sought for any information about this in all early antiquarian books that cover this area, I’ve never found any mention of this tale in print. The old ranger knew the moors and its history better than anyone I’ve ever known and many old stories died with him after his death.
Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Chieveley 2003.
Dodd, E.E., Bingley: A Yorkshire Town through Nine Centuries, M.T.D. Rigg: Guiseley 1985.
Laurence, Alastair, A History of Menston and Hawksworth, Smith Settle: Otley 1991.
Turner, J. Horsfall, Idle Upper Chapel Burial Registers and Graveyard Inscriptions, Harrison & Son: Bingley 1907.
Whelan, Edna, The Magic and Mystery of Holy Wells, Capall Bann: Chieveley 2001.
Whelan, Edna & Taylor, Ian, Yorkshire Holy Wells and Sacred Springs, Northern Lights: Dunnington 1989.
Follow the same directions to reach the Harden Moor circle. From here, walk down the footpath at its side down the slope for 100 yards and take the first little footpath on your left for 25 yards, then left again for 25 yards, watching for a small footpath on your right. Walk on here for another 100 yards or so, keeping your eyes peeled for the image in the photo just off-path on your left, almost overgrown with heather.
Archaeology & History
This is just one of several cairns in and around this area (I’ll probably add more and give ’em their own titles and profiles as time goes by), but it’s in a pretty good state of preservation. Nothing specific has previously been written about it, though it seems to have been recorded and given the National Monument number of 31489, with the comment “Cairn 330m north of Woodhead, Harden Moor.” (anyone able to confirm or correct this for me?)
It’s a good, seemingly undisturbed tomb, very overgrown on its north and eastern sides. Three pretty large upright stones, a couple of feet high, remain in position with an infill of smaller stones and overgrowth (apart from removing a little vegetation from the edges to see it clearer, we didn’t try disturbing it when we found it). It gives the impression of being a tomb for just one, perhaps two people and is more structured than the simple pile-of-stone cairns on the moors north of here above Ilkley and Bingley. Indeed, the upright stones initially gave the impression of it once being a small cromlech of sorts! Other cairns exist close by, but until we get heather-burning done up here, they’re difficult to find – or at least get any decent images of them!