Acrehowe Cross, Baildon Moor, West Yorkshire

Cross (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 14390 40601

Also Known as:

  1. Rerehowe Cross

Archaeology & History

‘Rerehowe’ cross on 1852 map

Once found on the other side of the road from the prehistoric circle of Acrehowe Hill, this old cross was destroyed sometime in the first half of the 19th century by one of the stewards to the Lady of the Manor of Baildon, a Mr Walker.  It’s unlikely that Mr Walker would have performed this act without direct orders from the Lady of the Manor, so the destruction should really be laid at the feet of the land-owner, who’ve got a habit of destroying archaeological sites up and down the land, even today.

Found near the crown of a small hill on the horizon whether you’re coming from Eldwick- or Baildon-side, the cross was erected (probably between the 12th and 14th centuries) amidst a cluster of heathen burials and cup-and-rings, many of which would have been known by local peasants as having old lore or superstitions about them.  So the church commandeered this spot, desacralized it and no doubt enacted profane rites around it under the auspice of some spurious christian law.  They did that sorta thing with every non-christian site they ever came across—or simply vandalised it, much as many of them still do today.  Sadly we know not the exact history of the old cross: whether it was an old standing stone on the crown of this hill which they defaced and made into a cross, or whether they erected their own monument, we’ll never know.  But the idea of a once-proud monolith standing here is a strong possibility, considering its position in the landscape and the stone rings of Pennythorn and Acrehowe close by (cup-and-ring stones such as carving no.184 are also close by).

The cross itself once gained an additional incorrect title by the cartographers of the period, who named it Rerehowe Cross—but this was simply a spelling mistake and its newly-found title didn’t last long. The local industrial historian William Cudworth (1876) described the lost cross in his large work, where he told that,

“many of the inhabitants can remember and point out the exact spot where it stood, and no doubt could find some of the stones of which it was composed. It was destroyed by one of the overseers and a large portion of it used for fence stones.”

Harry Speight (a.k.a. ‘Johnnie Gray’) and others also mentioned the passing of this old stone, but give no additional information.


In William Cudworth’s description of this site he told how “the village tradition is that it was put up in commemoration of a great battle that was fought on the Moor” at Baildon; but W.P. Baildon (1913) thought this was unlikely.  Instead, he cited an 1848 Name Book reference dug out by W.E. Preston, which told that on the summit of Acrehowe Hill,

“Here stood a cross which, according to traditional evidence was erected at the period that markets were held at Baildon, in consequence of a plague which prevented the country people from visiting the village with provisions, etc.  The site of its base is very apparent, being circular, about 8 feet in diameter.  A large flag stone  with the stump of the cross remaining in its centre, was pulled up and destroyed by Mr Walker (Baildon Hall) a few years since.”


  1. Baildon, W. Paley, Baildon and the Baildons (parts 1-15), St. Catherines: Adelphi 1913-26.
  2. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  3. Colls, J.M.N., ‘Letter upon some Early Remains Discovered in Yorkshire,’ in Archaeologia, volume 31, 1846.
  4. Cudworth, William, Round about Bradford, Thomas Brear: Bradford 1876.
  5. Gray, Johnnie, Through Airedale from Goole to Malham, Walker & Laycock: Leeds 1891.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

St. Helen’s Well, Eshton, North Yorkshire

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – SD 93096 56992

Also Known as:

  1. Helen’s Well

Getting Here

St. Helen’s Pool, Eshton

On the A65 road from Skipton to Gargrave, just at the eastern end of Gargrave, take the small Eshton Road running north over the canal. Go through Eshton itself, making sure you bear right at the small road a few hundred yards past the old village.  Keep your eyes peeled a few hundred yards down as you hit the river bridge and stop here.  Just 50 yards before this is a parking spot where some Water Board building stands.  Walk back up the road barely 20 yards and you’ll see, right by the roadside, a small clear pool on your left, encircled by trees.  Go through the little stile here and you’re right by the water’s side!

Archaeology & History

This is actually a listed monument (unusual for wells up North!), just off the roadside between Nappa Bridge and Eshton Hall. Two or three old stone heads (deemed to be ‘Celtic’ in age and origin, though I had my doubts) have recently been stolen from this holy pool close to where the water emerges from the ground, just beneath the surface. You can see where the water bubbles up strongly from the Earth when you visit here, forming the small pool in front of it, around which at certain times of year people still attach ‘memaws’ (an old word for ritual ‘offerings’) on the small shrubs.  If you drink from here, just where the water bubbles up (careful not to fall in!), it’s freezing — but tastes absolutely gorgeous!  And better than any tap-water you’ll ever drink!

Mentioned briefly in Mr Hope’s (1893) fine early survey; the earliest description of this site in relation to the mythic ‘Helen’ dates from 1429, where T.D. Whitaker (1878) described the dedication to an adjacent chapel, long gone.  Whitaker’s wrote:

“…One of the most copious springs in the kingdom, St. Helen’s Well fills at its source a circular basin twenty feet in circumference, from the whole bottom of which it boils up without any visible augmentation in the wettest seasons, or diminution in the driest.  In hot weather the exhalations from its surface are very conspicuous.  But the most remarkable circumstance about this spring is that, with no petrifying quality in its own basin, after a course of about two hundred yards over a common pebbly channel, during which it receives no visible accession from any other source, it petrifies strongly where it is precipitated down a steep descent into the brook.  To this well anciently belonged a chapel, with the same dedication; for in the year 1429, a commission relating to the manor of Flasby sat “in capella beate Elene de Essheton; and on the opposite side of the road to the spring is a close called the Chapel Field.  This was probably not unendowed, for I met with certain lands in Areton, anciently called Seynt Helen Lands.”

When the old countryman Halliwell Sutcliffe (1939) talked of this healing spring, his tone was more in keeping with the ways of local folk.  Sutcliffe loved the hills and dales and old places to such an extent that they were a part of his very bones.  And this comes through when he mentions this site. Telling where to find the waters, he continued:

“Its sanctuary is guarded by a  low mossy wall.  Neglected for years out of mind, it retains still clear traces of what it was in older times.  An unfailing spring comes softly up among stones carved with heart-whole joy in chiselling.  Scattered now, these stones were once in orderly array about what is not a well, in the usual sense, but rather a wide rock-pool, deep here and shallow there, with little trees that murmur in the breeze above.  Give yourself to this place, frankly and with the simplicity is asks.  It does not preach or scold, or rustle with the threat of unguessed ambushes among the grassy margin.  Out of its inmost heart it gives you all it knows of life.”

Old well in the field

In the field across the road where the chapel was said to have been, we find another stone-lined fresh-water well bubbling from the ground into a stone trough (at grid-ref SD 93118 56958).  The waters here are also good and refreshing.  But whether this fine water source had any tales told of it, or curative properties (it will have done), history has sadly betrayed its voice.


The waters here have long been reputed as medicinal.  R.C. Hope (1893) said “this well was a certain cure for sore and weak eyes.”  Whitaker and others told there to be hangings of rags and other offerings (known in Yorkshire as ‘memaws’).  Sutcliffe described,

“The pilgrims coming with their sores, of body and soul… The Well heard tales that were foul with infamies of the world beyond its sanctuary.  Men came with blood-guilt on their hands, and in their souls a blackness and a terror.  Women knelt here in bleak extremity of shame.  The Well heard all, and from its own unsullied depths sent up the waters of great healing.  And the little chant of victory began to stir about the pilgrims’ hearts…and afterwards the chant gained in volume.  It seemed to them that they were marching side by side with countless, lusty warriors who aforetime had battled for the foothold up the hills.  And, after that, a peace unbelievable, and the quiet music of Helen’s Well, as her waters ran to bless the farmward lands below.  All this is there for you to understand today, if you will let the Well explain the richness of her heritage, the abiding mystery of her power to solace and to heal.”

And so it is with many old springs… The rite of memaws enacted at St. Helen’s Well is a truly archaic one: whereby a person bringing a cloth or stone or coin — using basic principles of sympathetic magick — asks the spirit of the waters to cleanse them of their illness and pass it to the rags that are tied to the adjacent tree; or perhaps some wish, or desire, or fortune, be given in exchange for a coin or something if personal value.  The waters must then be drunk, or immerse yourself into the freezing pool; and if the person leaving such offerings is truly sincere in their requests, the spirit of the water may indeed act for the benefit of those concerned.

Such memaws at St. Helen’s Well are still left by local people and, unfortunately, some of those idiotic plastic pagans, who actually visit here and tie pieces of artificial material to the hawthorn and other trees, which actually pollutes the Earth and kills the spirit  here.  Whilst the intent may be good, please, if you’re gonna leave offerings here, make sure that the rags you leave are totally biodegradable.  The magical effectiveness of your intent is almost worthless if the material left is toxic to the environment and will certainly have a wholly negative effect on the spirit of the place here.  Please consider this to ensure the sacred nature of this site.

…to be continued…


  1. Hope, Robert Charles, Legendary Lore of the Holy Wells of England, Elliott Stock: London 1893.
  2. Smith, A.H., The Place-Names of the West Riding of Yorkshire – volume 6, Cambridge University Press 1961.
  3. Sutcliffe, Halliwell, The Striding Dales, Frederick Warne: London 1939.
  4. Whelan, Edna, The Magic and Mystery of Holy Wells, Capall Bann: Chieveley 2001.
  5. Whelan, Edna & Taylor, Ian, Yorkshire Holy Wells and Sacred Springs, Northern Lights: Dunnington 1989.
  6. Whitaker, T.D., The History and Antiquities of the Deanery of Craven, Joseph Dodgson: Leeds 1878.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Market Cross, Thornton-le-Dale, North Yorkshire

Cross:  OS Grid Reference – SE 8340 8304

Getting Here

Dead easy.  Take the A170 road from Pickering to Thornton-le-Dale and as you go into the large village, you’ll hit the old crossroads with the village green.  Here be your cross!

Archaeology & History

Shown on the 1854 OS-map, I first came across a description of this old site in Creaser & Rushton’s (1972) scarce but lovely little work on the history of the old village here, where they told that,

“A cross has stood here since John de Eston in 1281 had the grant of a Tuesday market and two yearly fairs.  It was repaired in 1820.  Every year, the Abbot of Whitby unloaded 1500 red and 1500 white herrings here from his packhorse ponies for transhipment to the Master of St. Leonard’s Hospital at York.”

Or at least, that’s what he got folk to write down in the record-books!  Close by were the old village stocks of the village (whose usage should be resurrected in many parts of this country nowadays).


  1. Creaser, A. & Rushton, J.H., A Guide and History of Thornton-le-Dale, Pickering, Yorkshire, E. Dewing: Pickering 1972.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian