This curiously-named old water source may have an equally curious history behind it – albeit forgotten. Shown on the 1854 OS-map of the area and giving its s name to Dudwell Lane, we can see how an old path led from the road to the well and nowhere else.
It’s the word “dud” that holds our attention here; for if we hasten to the immensely erudite Joseph Wright (1900) in his gigantic survey of northern dialect, we find that the word relates to “a rag, piece of cloth; pl. clothes, esp. shabby, ragged, or dirty clothing.” This is echoed in another Yorkshire dialect work by Morris (1892) who told that the word meant “clothes (or) rags.” Several other Victorian writers tell us variations on this meaning (one adds old shoes to the list!), but in all instances it relates to dud being a rag, whereas the plural duds are rags or scruffy clothes. Naathen (to use another old dialect word), those of us who know a thing or two abaat olde wells are very very familiar with their association to old rags that were hanged on the surrounding trees as offerings to the spirits of the water—the genius loci—to aid in the hope or desire of something, or merely as respect to the waters for their beneficient properties. (this sometimes occurred ritually at set times in the calendar)
The Dud Well was obviously of considerable local repute, for just a couple of years after it was shown on the earliest OS-map, a local bailiff called Samuel Rhodes built The Dudwell house close to the waters, which he named “in honour of the magnificent and never-failing spring of pure, bright, sparkling water in the wells close by.”
There is a possible alternative meaning to the word dud, which is that some dood called ‘Duda’ left his name here! This seems much more speculative and unlikely than the use of a local dialect term. Hopefully a local historian amongst you might perhaps be able to find out more.
Morris, M.C.F., Yorkshire Folk-Talk, Henry Frowde: London 1892.
Wright, Joseph, English Dialect Dictionary – volume 2, Henry Frowde: London 1900.
There are various ways to find this. When we came here, we started from the Barton and Crosland Moor side, parking up on Ivy Street and walking to the fields at the end of the road. From here, walk along the track to your left and just over 100 yards on there’s a small footpath on your right that veers down the slope. Walk on here for another 100 yards, keeping your eyes peeled for another path on your right that almost doubles-back on you, heading into the trees. Another fifty yards along and you’ll see some tell-tale stonework!
Archaeology & History
Highlighted on the 1854 OS-map, the site has seen better days. Although the waters today emerge from a blasted rock face and collect into a relatively modern round stone trough, there is a larger square stone structure just a few yards away that seems to have been where water was previously collected. According to local antiquarian Andy H, this was known to be a local Wishing Well in bygone times, but apart from this there are no literary accounts about the place. The area was decimated by 19th century Industrialists who, as is well known, destroyed much of our indigenous histories and sites—and the Huddersfield district was particularly hard hit by them.
On a recent visit to the site—in superb pouring rain!—the waters were choked with modern trash and bottles, making it unsafe to drink. This is surely a good case for renovation, then stuck on some local tourist route to ensure better, more appreciative attention.
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…
Binns, Isaac, From Village to Town: Random Reminiscences of Batley, F.H. Purchas: Batley 1882.
Holy Well (destroyed): OS Grid-Reference – SE 100 254
Archaeology & History
This sacred site seems to have been destroyed sometime at the end of the 19th century. It was located on the great slopes heading up to Beacon Hill. In 1787, a property survey showed six houses here called Holy Well Cottages and on the 1852 OS-map a “Well” is highlighted at the bend in the pathway of the Old Bank as you’re going uphill, which is the place in question. On my last visit here about thirty years ago, its position was preserved under a large manhole.
Heginbottom, J.A., “Early Christian Sites in Calderdale”, in Proceedings Halifax Antiquarian Society 1988.
The historian William Addison (1951), in his history on the subject, told how “the spas began as holy wells”; and although no direct accounts are left of early dedications here, the remnants of Mayday traditions tell us there were more archaic goings-on before the waters were taken by the aristocrats. Once it had been designated as a spa, the waters were covered and a typical Spa House constructed over them. From hereon, for more than a century, the waters were accessible only to those with money who wished their ailments to be treated.
Between the end of the 18th to the end of the 19th century, the Horley Green Spa was a very prominent ingredient in the history of Calderdale. A chalybeate or iron-bearing spring, its waters were directed into a large underground cistern covered by metal. Thomas Garnett (1790) was the first to write about it, telling us:
“The Horley Green water is quite pellucid—sparkles when poured out of one glass into another—and has a sharp, aluminous, styptic taste, not unlike ink. The taste is not unpleasant when the water is taken from the springhead and drank immediately.”
He went on to espouse the waters to be good in healing bone and rheumatic diseases, giving many first-hand accounts from people in Yorkshire and beyond who used the waters here with apparent success, including one case of curing diabetes! Its reputation was later reinforced in a book by William Alexander (1840), who told us how,
“I unhesitatingly affirm that the Horley Green Spa possesses a very strong claim to be regarded as a powerful tonic and chalybeate.”
By the time those words were written, it had already gained a considerable reputation and many were those who’d received treatment.
A years after Alexander, the roving doctor A.B. Granville (1841) visited Horley Green—who described it as “a renowned steel-water Spa”. But at the same time he reported how its popularity had started to decline. But, via one Mr West, he did leave us with a greater chemical analysis of the Horley Green waters in an attempt, once more, to certify and prove its curative properties. Their results found the waters to possess, in varying quantities, lime, magnesia, silica, iron oxide, sulphur and silica—all of which further attributed the science of its medicinal actions. A number of case histories of the people cured here can be found in the works of Granville, Garnett and Alexander.
The well-house that stood here eventually fell into disuse. When it was eventually restored as someone’s home in the the late 20th century, the disused spring was found beneath the foundations, filled with stones.
Horley Green’s spa well came about as a result of local people visiting the site around Beltane, probably for centuries before the aristocrats and early pharmacists took their hand to the place. But once the spa became renowned, people could only gather here “on the first Sundays in the month of May,” with Sunday being that legendary ‘day of the lord’ crap, to which the people would abide to save them from prosecution. It is obvious though that it had been used as a place of magick thanks to the snippets of lore which have found their way into local history books. We read how, at 6am, people gathered here, to such an extent that the roads were completely crowded. Those who arrived first were given bags of nuts: an archaic traditional motif found at many pre-christian wells in Britain. Occultists and ritual magickians amongst you will note the time when folk frequented the well, at 6am: the time when many nature-spirits are invoked for full effects. We find this time echoed in the ritual gatherings at Lady or St. Anne’s Well in Morley, just a few miles to the east.
Addison, William, English Spas, Batsford: London 1951.
Alderson, Frederick, The Inland Resorts and Spas of Britain, David & Charles: Newton Abbot 1973.
The only thing we know of this long lost site comes from a tradition narrated by the Canon Hulbert (1882) in his definitive history of Almondbury parish. High up the hill near the very top of the village where All Saints Church was built, he told how tradition said,
“that a tumulus or mound existed at the west end where now the Clerk’s house stands; which may have been an ancient British site and led to the erection of the church.”
Sadly, there seems to be no further information about the site.
Hulbert, Charles A., Annals of the Church and Parish of Almondbury, Longmans: London 1882.
Go all the way up and through Heptonstall village until you reach the hamlet of Slack, by the road junction. From here walk down the road as if you’re going back into Hebden for less than 200 yards, then take the footpath on the left downhill and walk along. After a couple of stiles, keep a keen eye on the walling where the holly trees are, above the tree-line of Hardcastle Crags. You’ll see it soon enough!
Archaeology & History
Slack Bottom stone
Arguably the best-named standing stone in Britain, it was first discovered by Absalom Voist in the late 1990s (and first described in my Old Stones of Elmet), hiding away in the more modern walling, beneath a holly tree. But the stone itself is very nicely eroded and seems of good age, aswell as being a good near-six-foot tall specimen of a standing stone, just above the tree-line south of Hebden Dale. The stone gets its name from the fact that it’s at the bottom end of Slack village (which is actually called ‘Slack Bottom’ – with a house-sign there above the door to prove it!). It may be part of what was originally some original Iron Age walling instead of an authentic standing stone — tis hard to say really — but it’s a nice stone nonetheless. David Shepherd (2003) named this stone as ‘Dawson City Field’ in his later survey of megaliths in upper Calderdale.
Not far from here, along the edge of the woodland, is the little-known remains of an old cross-base which I think has eluded all previous surveys. Next time I’m up here, I’ll try remember to get some photos of the place!
Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
Shepherd, David, ‘Prehistoric Activity in the Central South Pennines,’ in Proc. Halifax Ant. Soc., 2003.
Standing Stone? (destroyed): OS Grid Reference – SE 2428 2329
Archaeology & History
My first hint at the existence of this once valuable archaeological relic came as a result of me seeking out the history and folklore of some hitherto unknown, forgotten holy wells in the Batley and Dewsbury area. I located the material I was looking for on the old wells, but my fortuitous discovery of this site, the Old Wife’s Stone, blew me away!
It was the place-name of ‘Carlinghow’ about one mile northwest of the grid-reference above that initially caught my attention. From an antiquarian or occultist’s viewpoint, it’s intriguing on two counts: the first is the element ‘how‘ in Carlinghow, which can mean a variety of things, but across the Pennines tends to relate to either an ancient tribal or council meeting place, or a prehistoric burial cairn: an element that wasn’t lost in the giant archaeology survey of West Yorkshire by Faull & Moorhouse (1981). But the first part of this place-name, ‘carling‘, was the exciting element to me; for it means ‘old woman,’ ‘old hag,’ ‘witch’ or cailleach! The cailleach (to those who don’t know) was the prima mater: the Great Mother deity of our pre-christian British ancestors. Meaning that Carlinghow hill was a hugely important sacred site no less—right in the heart of industrial West Yorkshire! What is even more intriguing—or perhaps surprising—is that we have no record of such a powerful mythic creature anywhere in local folklore… Or so it first seemed…
Memory told me that no such prehistoric remains were recorded anywhere in that area—and certainly no prehistoric tombs. I scoured through my library just to triple-check, and found the archaeological records as silent as I first thought. Just to make sure I spent a day at the Central Library, where again I found nothing… So then I explored the region on the modern OS-maps, only to find that much of the area where the Carlinghow place-name existed was, surprisingly, still untouched by housing and similar modern pollutants. This was a great surprise to say the least. And so to check for any potential archaeological sites which might once have been in the Carlinghow area, I turned to the large-scale 1850 OS-maps (6-inch to the mile).
This is when I came across the Old Wife’s Stone, marked in the middle of fields on the outskirts of old Batley. There was no notice of it being a standing stone, or a simple boulder, or archaeological relic—nothing. But its place-name compatriot of ‘Carlinghow’ was the rising hill about a mile to the northwest. In days of olde, if Carlinghow was indeed the ‘burial tomb of the Old Woman’ or ‘meeting place of the cailleach’ (or whatever variants on the theme it may have been), it may have marked the setting sun on the longest day of the year if you had been standing at the Old Wife’s Stone – a midsummer sunset marker no less. (There are other ancient and legendary sites scattering northern England and beyond that are dedicated to the Cailleach, like the Old Woman Stone in Derbyshire, the Old Wife’s Neck in North Yorkshire, the Carlin Stone in Stirlingshire, the Old Woman Stone at Todmorden, Carlin Stone of Loch Elrig and many more.)
As if these curious ingredients weren’t enough to imply something existed in the heathen pantheon of Batley before the Industrialists swept away our indigenous history, we find echoes of the ‘Old Woman’ yet again, immediately east; this time where the animism of water and trees enfolded Her mythos in local rites and traditions, thankfully captured by the pens of several writers, and transmuted into another guise—but undeniably Her! But that, as they say, is for another day and another site profile…
So is our Old Wife’s Stone (or for that matter, Carlinghow’s old tomb) still in evidence? A school has been built where it was highlighted on the 1854 OS-map and, from the accounts of local people, seems to have long since disappeared. The stone looks to have been incorporated into a length of walling, sometime between 1854 and 1888, and a bench-mark of “BM 318.2” carved onto it. But when the Ordnance Survey lads re-surveyed the area in 1905, this had gone. I have been unable to find any more information about this site and hope that, one day, a fellow antiquarian or occult historian might be able to unravel more of its forgotten mythic history.
Faull, M.L. & Moorhouse, S.A. (eds), West Yorkshire: An Archaeological Survey to 1500 AD – volume 1, WYMCC: Wakefield 1981.
Goodall, Armitage, Place-Names of South-west Yorkshire, Cambridge University Press 1914.
Keighley, J.J., ‘The Prehistoric Period’, in Faull & Moorhouse, 1981.
o’ Crualaoich, Gearoid, The Book of the Cailleach, Cork University Press 2004.
Smith, A.H., English Place-Name Elements – volume 2, Cambridge University Press 1956.
Smith, A.H., The Place-Names of the West Riding of Yorkshire – volume 2, Cambridge University Press 1961.
Wright, Joseph, English Dialect Dictionary – volume 1, Henry Frowde: London 1898.
Acknowledgements: Many thanks for the assistance of Simon Roadnight and Julia King in the Batley History Group.
From Midgley go west along Height Road and take the track up on your right, at the tree-lined bend, up Foster Clough and onto the moor as if you’re gonna go to Churn Milk Joan. As you reach the footpath at the quarries up the hill, go to the top of them and take the small footpath where the land levels-out and head east towards the walling. Just a hundred yards or so before the walling, keep your eyes peeled, cos you’re damn close!
Archaeology & History
Best seen when looking down from the slopes above, this is a fascinating site that is lucky to still be here! For just a few yards to the west are extensive quarry works that could easily have destroyed the place had they continued. But thankfully we have here a near-perfect circular enclosure: measuring roughly 27 yards in diameter east-west, and about 25 yards north-south, the circumference around the outer-edge is approximately 82 yards (75m). It has all the appearance of an overgrown henge monument, with an outer bank and inner ditch, then a central flat arena—and it may indeed be such a monument—but until we have a decent excavation of the site, we’ll stick to calling it a simple enclosure—which it is!
The outer bank is very much overgrown, but as it runs round and defines this site, it measures 1-2 feet high most of the way, except on the westernmost spot, where it seems there may be an ‘entrance’. The inner ditch is only a couple of feet deep, again all the way round the monument. The internal level of the site is pretty flat, like most henges; but there seems to be a small central ‘cairn’ of some sort in the middle. Again, this is very overgrown by our traditional moorland vegetation.
So what is it exactly? An enclosure, a settlement, or even (as local research student John Billingsley once suggested) a henge? Tis difficult to say for sure without further and more detailed archaeological excavation. My estimate is that the site is either Bronze- or Iron-Age in nature, and is definitely an ‘enclosure’ of some sort. We have located other prehistoric sites on the slopes just above here to the north, like the Crow Hill cairn circle and accompanying tumulus, remains of a neolithic settlement and a number of other small single cairns that are only visible when the heather has been burnt back. If you intend to explore any of the ancient sites sites on this moor, check this one out!
Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
This can take a little bitta finding if you don’t know the area. So it’s best starting from Hartshead church, right on top of the hill here. From whichever direction you’re taking to reach Hartshead, ask a local when you get close and they’ll direct you there. From here, walk out of the churchyard and turn left. Walk barely 50 yards and turn left again along Lady Well Lane. Past the old houses and bear right where it becomes a dirt-track. This then turns left, then again right and – with the fields on either side of you – note the single hawthorn tree ahead of you by the walling. Go into the field at the back of the hawthorn and look under its shady bough. Tis there, I assure you!
Archaeology & History
Emerging at the edge of the field beneath an old hawthorn tree at the side of the track running to the adjacent church, the waters from here are clean and fresh—though the stone trough into which it flows is constantly clogged up and the ground around it very boggy. The well has given its name to Lady Well Lane, which leads to the 12th century St. Peter’s Church, with its own ancient and legendary history. The well is thought to derive its name from ‘Our Lady’, the Virgin Mary, indicating it would have had considerable importance in the religious traditions of the christians who named it, but moreso the original animistic traditions of normal local people who would have used it for much longer…
Close by this old stone trough appears to be another one, covered by moss and the encroaching field. Whatever medicinal properties the waters may once have had, have long since been forgotten. Around Lady Well is a healthy abundance of flora: elder, chickweed, nettle, clover, bramble, dandelion, sow thistle, dock and shamanic species.
Marion Pobjoy (1972), like her predecessors, suggested that this was one of many sites in Calderdale used by St. Paulinus to perform baptisms. Local folklore tells that Robin Hood stopped here to drink the waters—but then we find an abundance of the pagan outlaw’s activities all round here. The nearby church of St.Peter is aligned to the equinoxes and may well be an indication of when pre-christian celebrations occurred here. The yew tree in churchyard was where Robin Hood was supposed to have taken wood to fashion one of his bows. Modern folklore also ascribes the well to be along a ley line.
Heginbottom, J.A., ‘Early Christian Sites in Calderdale,’ in Proc. Halifax Ant. Soc., 1988.
Pobjoy, Harold N. & Marion, The Story of the Ancient Parish of Hartshead-cum-Clifton, Riding 1972.