Robin Hood’s Well, Higham, Lancashire

Sacred Well: OS Grid Reference – SD 81755 35151

Archaeology & History

Robin Hoods Well on 1848 map

On the north-side of the River Calder, a short distance above the riverbank below Pendle Hall—as shown on the earliest OS-map of the area, but without a name—the local history writer, Joe Bates (1926), told us about this “spring of icy cold water”, which, in bygone years, “used to be called Robin Hood’s Well.”  (Having moved out of the area, I’m not able to say whether this site is still visible.  Can any local folk illuminate us on the matter?)


Like many other sacred and healing wells across Britain, Bates (1926) said that the waters from Robin Hood’s Well,

“was at one time considered a specific for certain ailments of the eyes.”


  1. Bates, Joe, Rambles twixt Pendle and Holme, Nelson 1926.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Spurn Clough, Fence, Higham, Lancashire

Standing Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SD 8249 3685

Archaeology & History

First noted on 1848 OS-map

Following a request to see if anyone could locate a lost standing stone in Fence (in the Forest of Pendle) not far from my home, I took up the challenge to locate this relic.  One evening in July 2017, I decided to go take a look and having studied all maps I was fairly sure of its old position.  Upon finding the deep ravine and the old field boundaries, I followed the line of old mature beech trees (perhaps 250-300 years old) that shroud the deep clough.  Behind the biggest beech tree, but now some 10 feet down the slope, there I found the said standing stone, now recumbent and partly stuck into the earth due to its weight (approx 1.5 tonne). 

Spurn Clough Stone, laid halfway down the slope

It appears to have either fallen on its own accord as the steep sides of clough are soft clays, unstable and eroding, or it has been pushed out of the way by a previous landowner. It is made of millstone grit and is likely a glacial erratic from off the top of the local fells; it is not of the same type of fine gain flaggy bedrock that exists in the river below.  There are no more similar boulders within the clough other than a few small boulders in the bed of the stream.  This stone is big: being about 4ft by 3ft and 5ft long that is visible, with considerably more into the banking.

Exact position of the stone on the 1893 OS-map

I think it is worth approaching the local landowner to seek his approval to try and re-erect this standing stone in a position away from the crest of the ravine. It obviously was locally important and worthy of noting on the OS Map of 1848 and was not cut up and used as local walling stone, so it either was a boundary marker or held other folklore significance.

Research so far indicates no name is attached to the standing stone, but nearby is a ‘Hoarstones Lodge’ mentioned as a place for the Pendle witches to meet and the ravine and stream is called Spurn Clough, so I feel it apt to name it the Spurn Clough Standing Stone—unless I uncover another name used for the stone.  It’s nice to locate a lost standing stone!

Now I throw open the question: should it be restored to its upright position and made safe from falling down the clough?

© Nick Livsey, The Northern Antiquarian

Calf Hey Well, Briercliffe, Lancashire

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – SD 87943 34622

Getting Here

The holy well/spring can be reached by following the Worsthorne road south from Haggate to Cockden Bridge over the River Don, then following the footpath due east beside the river for about a quarter of a mile. At the Ormroyd footbridge where the River Don becomes Thursden brook head in a north-easterly direction up the hillside. The well, or what’s left of it, can be found beside a trackway.

Archaeology & History

Around twenty-five years ago Calf Hey Well was described as being a square-shaped structure made of five stone slabs, one of which makes the roof. The water, which most probably had some form of mineral content, bubbles up into the large square basin which is a little lower than ground level.  Today, the well is still there but I don’t know in what condition it is.


According to Clifford Byrne in his book The Holy Wells and Mineral Springs of N.E.Lancashire,

“Calf Hey Well is a strong spring which rises out of the hillside, but in medieval times it was believed that the waters here had special qualities. Some people thought it was a holy well and reputedly many people visited Calf Hey on holy days when jugs of water were sold. A few accounts state that stalls were set up on a flat piece of land to the west of the well, Here vendors not only sold water but other things (food, religious objects and trinkets) and a market atmosphere must have pervaded the site”.

In 1819 the local water company took over the well and began to use its supply of water for the ever growing population of Burnley a few miles west of here. After this the fairie people were never seen again at the well – they were probably feeling very indignant at what had transpired.

Folklore has played its part here too. Fairies are said to have inhabited the well in days gone by – indeed they were often seen dancing around the well in the moonlight. These fairies or “little people” were not just creatures of the night which our ancestors delighted in when they could catch a rare glimpse of them. In fact these little people were quite normally formed although small in stature. Though not human they had the capacity to intervene in our human affairs – usually but not always for the good of it. They were known to steal little children and babies, supplanting them with their own offspring. So the parents of newly born babies had to be very vigilant and get their babies baptised as quickly as possible.

There are a few lesser-known wells in the same area as Calf Hey. These include The Jam Well at Worsthorne, Sweet Well at Holden Clough and Robin Hood’s Well at Black Clough, Thursden.


  1. Byrne, Clifford, The Holy Wells and Mineral Springs of Northeast Lancashire, MS copy in Nelson Public Library (Reference).
  2. Frost, Roger., A Lancashire Township – The History of Briercliffe-with-Extwistle, Rieve Edge Press: Briercliffe 1982.


  1. Additional info on the TNA Forum

Copyright © Ray Spencer 2011

Beadle Hill, Extwistle, Lancashire

Earthworks:  OS Grid Reference – SD 8895 3420

Archaeology & History

The low hill called Beadle Hill is located about half a mile north of Swinden Reservoir between Worsthorne and Haggate in the area called Extwistle. It is just a short distance south of Monk Hall and a little east of Monk Hall farm. The earthworks are a long rectangular feature on a low hill (more of a mound really).

The earthworks are more noticeable on the south and west sides but less so at the eastern and northern edges of the mound. They can’t be said to be in any way defensive. The thinking is that this was a Romano-British farmstead or settlement from the late 4th century AD and, not as often thought a Roman camp. The name Beadle is apparently from the Anglo-Saxon/Old English word ‘Beado‘ or ‘Beadlo‘, meaning ‘battle.’  So could the hill be the site of some long forgotten skirmish from the time when the Romans were leaving the north of England? Or could it refer to the legendary ‘Battle of Brunanburh’ which was fought close by in 937 AD?  In that battle King Athelstan fought against, and defeated, the Danes and Scots who were moving south from Northumbria.

At the south side of Beadle Hill there is an ancient spring, and to the east is Twist Castle—a circular earthwork that could date from the same period as Beadle Hill.  Also, there are a number of tumuli and cairns in this area though these are prehistoric in date, probably Neolithic or Bronze-Age. I do not know whether the site has been excavated.  If it has, please let us know!


  1. Cockburn, John Henry, The Battle of Brunanburh and its Period, Elucidated by Place-Names, Sir W.C. Leng: Sheffield 1931.
  2. Frost, Roger, A Lancashire Township – The History of Briercliffe-with-Extwistle, Rieve Edge Press: Briercliffe 1982.

© Ray Spencer

Thieveley, Holme Chapel, Lancashire

Tumulus (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SD 873 277

Archaeology & History

A prehistoric cairn or tumulus could once be found close to the grid-reference cited here, but all trace of it has long since been destroyed.  The site was mentioned briefly in Thomas Booth’s (1899) short survey on the prehistoric tombs of the area, telling:

“I have omitted to mention in its proper place a find which took place at Holmes Chapel about the year 1826.  The particulars are very meagre but, according to a local journal published some fifty years ago, called The Comet (edited by the late Abraham Stansfield), some workmen who were engaged in pulling down a barn at Thieveley discovered an ancient urn, whose contents were of a similar kind to those of other urns of this class.”

The “other urns” he mentions are those that have been found in prehistoric tombs on the north side of the same valley, including those at Cliviger Laithe, at Catlow, at Delf Hill and other sites close by.  Remains of another prehistoric cairn can be found close by on top of the hill at Thieveley Pike to the south, where a beacon was built, damaging the original tomb.


  1. Booth, Thomas, Ancient Grave Mounds on the Slopes of the Pennine Range, R. Chambers: Todmorden 1899.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Broadbank Earth Circle, Thursden, Burnley, Lancashire.

Enclosure: OS Grid Reference — SD 9024 3522

Also Known as:

  1. Burwains Enclosure
  2. Burwains Camp

Getting There

From Nelson town centre go north east towards Catlow, turning left near the Shooters Arms public house, then turn right again to the Coldwell Activity Centre.  Carry on towards Thursden Valley till you see the World War 2 pillbox on the right.  Here turn right and after 300 yards a picnic site and carparking area is reached along the Briercliffe road. On the opposite side of the road over a wall and barbed wire is Broadbank Earth Circle, though unfortunately there is not much to see there today. 


First excavated in 1950 by the Archaeology Department of Liverpool University and again in the 1960s, the earthworks here stand at 1,147 feet above sea-level (350m). The site comprises of an earth circle 150 feet (46m) in diameter which encloses an inner ditch 1 foot (30.5cm) deep and 10 inches (25.4cm) across. The bank was composed of boulder clay thrown out from the ditch. A hearth was found below the bank at the eastern end.  Some rough flint and chert flakes were also found together with a stone axe of Langdale origin. This is four-and-half inches or 11.4cm wide.  It has a curved cutting edge and a thin rounded head. Its surface is ground smooth but there is no evidence of polishing.

The earthworks at Broadbank have suffered through farming activity over many centuries and the earthen circle is now difficult to see at ground level, though the inner ditch is still visible. The low hillside or, what look like ramparts, at the northern end by the pillbox are probably not in any way connected, though this low bank may have added to the building of the bank. Archaeologists consider the site to be of Iron Age origin.


  1. Liverpool University Archeology Department, Report and pamphlet, 1950.
  2. Powell, J.G.E., “Excavations of a Circular Enclosure at Broadbank, Briercliffe, Lancs,” in Transactions of the Historical Society of Lancashire & Cheshire, 104, 145-151.

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Northern Antiquarian 2011

Foldys Cross, Towneley, Burnley, Lancashire

Cross:  OS Grid Reference – SD 8523 3066

Also Known as:

  1. Foldy’s Cross

Getting Here

To get to Towneley Park head to the south side of the town close to a junction of two roads heading towards Todmorden and Bacup, from here the park and hall are signposted. The old cross stands 300 metres south-west of Townley Hall in the centre of some pathways leading in the direction of Todmorden road (the A671).

Archaeology & History

Foldys Cross, Burnley (Taylor, 1906)

Foldy’s Cross is a tall slender monument on a carved circular pedestal which sits upon a set of seven square-shaped steps. It dates from 1520 when it stood at the south side of St Peter’s parish church, Burnley. It was set up to commemorate a chaplain of St Peter’s church by the name of John Foldy or Foldys, and was then the town’s market cross or St Peter’s churchyard cross. In 1780 it was badly damaged by a Puritan mob, but the Towneley family rescued it and had it brought to their estate where it was repaired in a haphazard way and placed at the north-eastern side of the hall on the Avenue. In 1911 Burnley Borough Council had the cross completely restored for its Jubilee Year celebrations with various sandstone pieces added to replace sections of the cross including the plinth and set of seven steps – which are thought to be an exact copy of the original ones. The cross was then placed in its current position 300 metres to the south-east of Towneley Hall at an intersection of footpaths leading towards Todmorden road.

The original design of Foldy’s Cross was of the Gothic style which can be seen in the cross-head. It is made of sandstone and has an octagonal shaft with a moulded plinth with sunken panels. These panels contain lettering in the Gothic script. The cross-head is very nice with its decorated four arms, one of which is sunk into the shaft to support the head itself; this appears to be the original moulded head or cap with nicely carved emblems and fleurons on the collar – all typically Gothic in style. In the middle of the cross-head is a rather crude crucifix scene and on the other side the letters “IHS”. On the plinth the inscription reads in Latin:

‘Orate pro anima Johannes Foldys, capellani qui istam crucem fieri fecit Anno Domini MCCCCCXX’

— which when translated reads as, “Pray for the soul of John Foldys, chaplain who caused this cross to be made in the year of Our Lord 1520”.

The cross is now grade II listed and the English Heritage Building identity number is 467232.


  1. Peace, Richard, The Curiosities of England – Lancashire Curiosities, The Dovecot Press Ltd 1997.
  2. Taylor, Henry, The Ancient Crosses and Holy Wells of Lancashire, Sherratt & Hughes: Manchester 1906.

© Ray Spencer, 2011

Delf Hill, Extwistle, Burnley, Lancashire

Ring Cairn:  OS Grid Reference – SD 9006 3373

Also Known as:

  1. Delph Hill Pasture

Archaeology & History

Rare 1842 photo of urn from Delf Hill
Rare 1842 photo of urn from Delf Hill

Described in Walter Bennett’s (1946) magnum opus as a “stone circle” and repeated in Aubrey Burl’s (2000) magnum opus under the same category, the site here seems more likely to have been an old cairn circle, or perhaps even a simple tumulus — and a small one at that!  It was first noted in June of 1842 when the antiquarian, Mr F.C. Spencer of Halifax, “had his attention called to a circle of stones in a field called Delph Hill Pasture by Jonas Lee, a Thursden farmer, and a somewhat noted character in his day” who knew the location very well. It didn’t take long for Mr Spencer to realise that this was “an ancient British barrow,” as he called it, and made plans to excavate the site soon after seeing it.

Following Spencer’s dig, a short account of the finds was made in the Gentleman’s Magazine, telling of the remains of this “small circle of stones” and the burials therein.  The account said:

“The circle originally consisted of rock pillars (five of which remain) , standing about 18 inches above the surface, and being about 2 feet square.  The diameter of the circle is about 5 yards.  Mr Spencer directed an excavation to be made without delay, the result of which was the discovery of two very antique earthen urns, curiously marked, containing fragments of human bones, of small dimensions, mixed with charcoal and black mould.  The tops of the vessels were covered with small flat slate-stones, but little larger than the urns, over which larger heavy stones were placed for their protection.   The urns were found about 2 feet beneath the surface of the field, in the centre of the circle, embedded in soft clay, with many pieces of charcoal interspersed.  About 300 yards from the barrow are the bold remains of a British circular camp…”

A few years later, Tattersall Wilkinson (1893) told that “three unglazed urns, with human remains and flint arrowheads” (my italics) were found at the locale.  Curiously there has been some confusion as to the number of urns that were actually found at Delf Hill by different authors over the last 175 years (numbering between 1 and 3, depending on whose account you read!), but it would seem this has occurred due to the proximity of other tombs close by.

An excursion to Delf Hill a few years after Spencer’s first dig is described in an article by L. Clement (1874), where several members of a local history society reported that the mound here consisted of a “small circle of stones, seven in number, fourteen feet in diameter”, that probably surrounded the hillock.  One of the stones had been knocked over and moved, so the group took it upon themselves to place the monolith back into what they thought was its original setting within the monument.


  1. Abraham, John Harris, Hidden Prehistory around the North West, Kindle 2012.
  2. Barnes, Bernard, Man and the Changing Landscape, Merseyside County Council 1982.
  3. Bennett, Walter, History of Burnley – volume 1, Burnley Corporation 1946.
  4. Booth, Thomas, Ancient Grave Mounds on the Slopes of the Pennine Range, R. Chambers: Todmorden 1899.
  5. Burl, Aubrey, The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Britanny, Yale University Press 2000.
  6. Clement, L., “Roman Remains in Marsden, Briercliffe and Extwistle,” in Transactions of the Burnley Literary & Scientific Club, volume 1, 1874.
  7. Gomme, George Laurence, The Gentleman’s Magazine Library: Archaeology – Part 1, Houghton, Mifflin & Co.: Boston 1886.
  8. Watson, Geoffrey G., Early Man in the Halifax District, HSS: Halifax 1952.
  9. Wilkinson, Tattersall, “Extwistle Moor, Burnley,” in Transactions of the Lancashire & Cheshire Antiquarian Society, volume 11, 1893.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Cliviger Laithe, Worsthorne, Lancashire

Tumulus (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SD 866 309

Archaeology & History

Cliviger Laithe urn

The grid reference given here is an approximation as we don’t have the exact position of the tomb that could once be seen in the fields immediately south of Cliviger Laithe farm — but it’s a pretty good approximation!  Overlooking the once proud cairn of Cliviger Law some 800 yards below to the southeast, Geoffrey Watson (1952) told us the site was “on the summit of the hill…which tailed off near Barcroft Hall,” but this area of the fields have been dug and quarried away in recent years, leaving no trace of the original tumulus that stood here.  It also appears that the discovery of the site was quite an accident, Mr Booth (1899) telling us how the urns that were unearthed here were located “while some men were engaged in digging there.”  As a result of this, we have little by way of description of the burial mound itself, but thankfully the prehistoric vase which they unearthed was kept intact.  Of this artifact Mr Booth told:

“The vase came into the possession of a Mr Roberts…who lived at the old hall near the church at Worsthorne… By the kind permission of Mr Roberts I had an opportunity of making an examination of the interesting object.  The urn itself was of a similar character to those already found in our locality* and measured 14 inches in depth, about 8 inches across the mouth, and 36 inches in circumference at its widest part… The vase “bulged” out in the middle, as these cinerary urns invariably do, and from thence it tapered down to a base of about 3 or 4 inches in diameter.  It was ornamented at the top by the usual deep collar of about 5 inches in depth, the upper and lower edges of which were ornamented (with) encircling lines… The vase contained a large quantity of calcined human bones.  Dr Dean gave as his opinion that there were the remains of two if not three human bodies, one of which was the body of a child… Besides the bones, the vases contained a quantity of charcoal and ashes, and also a very friable bone pin.”

The tomb evidently made a good enough impression on the Lancashire historian J.F. Tattersall as he took to writing a poem about the place!  It went:

In this lone cairn upon the mountain head,
On one far morning of the misty past,
The earliest wanderers o’er these moorlands cast
A kinsman’s ashes to their narrow bed.
Now we, by Nature’s kindly guidance led
By marvellous ways, through revolutions vast
Of Time, her latest children, not the last,
Gather again around the ancient dead.


  1. Bennett, Walter, The History of Burnley – volume 1, Burnley County Council 1946.
  2. Booth, Thomas, Ancient Grave Mounds on the Slopes of the Pennine Range, R. Chambers: Todmorden 1899.
  3. Watson, Geoffrey G., Early Man in the Halifax District, Halifax Scientific Society 1952.

* see the Catlow urn for example

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Shorey Well, Burnley, Lancashire

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – SD 844 330

Also Known as:

  1. St. Audry’s Well
  2. Whitaker’s Well
  3. Whittaker’s Well

Archaeology & History

Shorey Well, Burnley (T.Ormerod, 1906)

Recently a good turn of fortune has brought about the discovery of a number of previously unpublished manuscripts detailing a number of prehistoric remains, holy wells and old stone crosses that existed in and around east Lancashire, Burnley, Cliviger and Todmorden.  Many of these papers are the all-but-lost writings of historian and antiquarian Clifford Byrne of Nelson.  Having never previously been published, I think his works deserve greater attention and so I’ll be slowly, gradually, sticking them on the internet and give them the wider audience they deserve.  Not all of his notions are necessarily accurate, but the extent of this mans local history knowledge on the sites he describes in his essays is considerable.  The following is his short essay—with minimal editing—on this all-but-forgotten site:

“Shorey Well, or rather its stone housing, was originally situated in the bank of the River Brun slightly upstream of the parish church at Burnley, at a spot now within the grounds of the Burnley Technical College.  From within the stone housing issued the spring proper, which then ran down the brookside into the river.

“From time immemorial until the late 19th century, Shorey Well supplied part of the town of Burnley with its drinking water, then the water was impounded into a pipe and the stone housing removed to a place of safety.  This housing was thought by our Victorian forebears to have sufficient merit to save it for posterity, and this act I feel implies more than a certain interest in the old stones which I suggest the movers of the Well probably did not themselves fully understand, and it is with this concept that I hope now to deal.

“The present location of the stones of Shorey Well is in the little triangle of greenery outside Prestige Ltd at Burnley.  This spot is bounded on Colne Road and Bank Parade.  Behind it squats the base of Burnley Market Cross and the remains of the stocks with — a little to one side — the shaft of the Godley Lane Cross standing out of a huge square pedestal.

“An old map in Burnley Library shows Shorey Well in situ with a well-defined row of stepping stones crossing the river directly in front.  This line of stones went to the site of a still existing property called Shorey Fold — a spot that was probably once called St. Audry’s Fold, as we shall see.

“Godly Lane Cross is an Anglo-Saxon monolith with a somewhat damaged head.  This damage was probably done around the time of the Reformation in the 16th century, when the anti-Catholic movement was at its height.  The name Godly implies a god-like, or god-inspired or religious tone to the area, and Godly Lane — now Ormerod Road — certainly lived up to its name for there stood the parish church, the Cross itself, the Market Cross, another cross dedicated to a priest in the 16th century and now standing in the rear of Townley Hall, “Foldy’s Cross”, with nearby Shorey Well.

“There is a strong possibility that the Godly Lane Cross — sometimes called the Paulinus Cross — was a preaching cross and that it also marked the way to Shorey Well which issued close by.

“No one to the knowledge of the writer has attempted to explain the name Shorey Well.  I therefore suggest that the Well was used for baptism and that it was dedicated to St. Audry.  The parish church was erected prior to the Reformation and thus certainly had its Holy Well close by, from which the priests obtained water for baptism and blessings, etc.  Because of its propitious nature and close proximity to the church, such a Well would almost certainly have been the Shorey Spring.

“A study of the name may be fruitful.  Holy wells are almost always dedicated to some christian saint.  However, many of them have undergone a slight change in name over the centuries, so that it is not always easy to recognise the dedication.  For instance, the Ransible Well near Colne was dedicated to Our Lady of Ransome, or the Virgin Mary; Stellern Well was dedicated to St. Helen; Maudlin Well near Lathom House was dedicated to St. Mary Magdalen; Pewter Well at Sabden  would be St. Peter’s Well; Mattus Well at Sawley Abbey is St. Matthew’s Well; whilst Cooks Well at Colne was surely dedicated to St. Luke the physician.  Thus Shorey Well in the same context is almost certainly dedicated to St. Audry, and this saint we find was one of the most revered saints in Anglo-Saxon times, from which date the Godly Lane Cross stems.

“The close proximity of church, well and cross surely imply that one showed the way to the other, and that all three were at one period of time one unit: the Cross being a preaching place prior to the Church, and the holy well being a place of baptism and healing.”

Mr Byrne’s etymological reasoning may or may not be right here (Mr Ekwall says nothing in his place-name survey and I’m unaware of local dialect analysis that may account for the word), but the description of this and numerous other lost and forgotten sites in his various papers is hugely worthwhile and is a source of considerable study for us over the coming months.

Ormerod (1906) described the site in his tome, but even in his day this once great well with its “abundance of sparkling water” was “disused and neglected.” (the image above is taken from his work) However, as if to dispel any notions of an earlier saintly dedication, we find that in Walter Bennett’s (1948) magnum opus, the site had a more prosaic title in bygone years:

“Whittaker’s Well, or Shorey Well as it was later known, was situated on the riverbank opposite Dawson Square, and was apparently the only public source of drinking water for the inhabitants of tge Top o’ th’ Town.”


  1. Bennett, Walter, The History of Burnley – volume 3, Burnley Corporation 1948.
  2. Byrne, Clifford H., “A Short Study of Shorey Well, Burnley,” unpublished manuscript 1976.
  3. Ormerod, T., Calderdale, Lupton Bros: Burnley 1906.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian