From Great Mitton village centre, take the B6246 road NW turning right up the B6243 road a quarter-mile past Great Mitton Hall. Same distance again, and just after where the road bends left, on the same side of the road you’ll see a wooden bus-stop. The site is just on the grass next to it.
Archaeology & History
In a region with many old crosses hiding away in the landscape, we have very little history about this particular wayside cross and its stony base, found below the western edge of Toot Hill. It will no doubt have had something to do with the monks of the once-prestigious Whalley Abbey a few miles away, but we know not what! The great Lancastrian historian John Dixon would, no doubt, have known something of this place, but he is sadly no longer with us… The only thing I can presently find is a passing mention in Fred Ackerley’s (1947) local history work, who told:
“Continuing along the high road past Mitton Green one sees the base of a roadside cross and directly opposite this cross-base is Toot Hill, where in ancient times it is probable that village meetings were held.”
Toot not being a just “a look-out hill” (Smith 1954), but in some cases places where ancient temples were built, “upon high totes” — though we have no record of such a temple, christian or heathen, upon this hill. So the reason for the stone cross at the bottom remains a mystery. Although, atop of the hill, we see marks very reminiscent of something much more archaic and heathen in nature, still visible in the crop-marks…
Ackerley, Frederick George, A History of the Parish of Mitton in the West Riding of Yorkshire, Aberdeen University Press 1947.
Smith, A.H., English Place-Name Elements – volume 2, Cambridge University Press 1956.
Take the B6478 road between Clitheroe and Newton, heading up north out of Clitheroe until you’re on the very top of the hill with fine views, mainly north and west. There’s a car-park about here, on the right-hand side of the road. From here, walk further along the road for about 200 yards, keeping your eyes peeled for the large stone trough at the left-hand side of the road. That’s it!
Archaeology & History
When we met up with John Dixon in the summer of this year, to wander on the nearby hills in search of old monuments, this was the first spot he showed us — and the waters were flowing nicely and tasted alright aswell! But its history is not widely know. Jessica Lofthouse (1976) described the place, saying:
“In the days of horse and pedestrian traffic none passed Walloper Well without stopping to ‘quaff the clear crystal.’ Long ago, hill men, hunters, forest wardens and farmers off to Clitheroe markets and fairs, pedlars, lead miners from the nearby workings, all met here. The name is thought-provoking. Why Walloper? From a word meaning a ‘fresh bubbling spring’, which this is, fresh from the moorside into stone troughs. Age, wartime army practice and vandalism of 1974 made renewal of the trough necessary, but the flow has been constant. One must drink, just as one throws pennies into the Roman fountain, to ensure one comes back again.
“The true derivation does not satisfy everyone. One can choose. A man and his wife climbed towards Walloper with raised voices, she nagging, he protesting. A pedlar watched them. “I’ll tell thee what I’d do if she were my wife. I’d wallop her, wallop her, wallop her well.” A song which every local singer was once compelled to have in his repertoire told the same story. The chorus sums up the reason for the name:
“…lovers of tell, each beau to his belle
The olden time story of Walloper Well.
The mason who built it in love with a maid
Who brought him his dinner one day, so tis said,
Was struggling to kiss her when over the Fell
A pedlar then passing cried, ‘Wallop her well’.”
Byrne, Clifford H., Mineral Springs and Holy Wells of North-East Lancashire, unpublished manuscript, 1972.
Lofthouse, North Country Folklore, Robert Hale: London 1976.
The well is located in the grounds of Waddow Hall close by Brungerley Bridge, near Waddington, in the Ribble Valley. The hall is just off the B 6478 road about three-quarters of a mile south-east of Waddington village. It is on private land, but you can see the well by walking along a footpath at the western side of the hall running along the banks of the River Ribble at the southern side of the hall grounds.
The legend originates from the 18th century although the well is a pre-Christian spring. According to this most often told ‘legend’ Peg O’ Nell was a servant girl at Waddow Hall. However, she often fell out with her masters, the Starkie family, often quarreling with and being disobedient to them. One night, in particular, Peg had a blazing row with Mistress Starkie after saying she didn’t want to fetch water from the well; the mistress was so enraged that she shouted at the servant saying “I hope you fall and break your neck”. At a later date this came true when on a particularly icy night Peg went to fetch water from the well, but on her way there she slipped on some ice and fell into the River Ribble, at a treacherous spot, and did indeed break her neck. From that time on there seems to have been a curse on the Starkie family – anything and everything that happened at the hall was blamed on Peg, or her ghost, which was now haunting the house and grounds. Mistress Starkie became so fed up with the curse that she took an axe and chopped off the head of a statue that had earlier been placed beside the well in memory of poor Peg. Thinking that by doing this the curse would come to an end, and it seems to have done just that, because afterwards peace and quiet seems to have come upon the hall.
Another legend or tale says that Peg dwelt by the well, perhaps as a kind of sprite, but that she caused a local Puritan preacher to fall into the River Ribble. As a punishment for this dastardly trick the head of the statue was chopped off. Folklore says that a water spirit or “sprite” lived in the well which was connected underground to the nearby River Ribble.
But the truth about this seems to be that the headless statue is that of St Margaret of Antioch who was beheaded for her faith in the early centuries of Roman rule. St Margaret’s feast day was on 20th July. Apparently, her statue was brought to Waddow Hall from either Sawley Abbey or Whalley Abbey where it had stood in its own niche, or possibly it came from a local Catholic church. The headless statue appears to be holding a bible in one hand; so it was probably placed at the side of the well in order to make the well holy and sacred to pilgrims who used to visit the site for healing purposes on the saint’s day. The head of the statue used to reside in an upstairs room at the hall, but it was lost for a time, only to be re-discovered and embedded into a wall at Brungerley farm not far from the bridge.
But we may never know what really did happen here because legend and folklore have become mixed in with other tales that may, or may not, be true. The holy well stands in a meadow in the hall grounds and is a square-shaped hollow in the ground where water still flows, possibly fed by the river close by. The statue still stands at the side; and fencing now surrounds this sacred site. The hall and grounds are still said to be haunted by a ghost, but whether it is Peg’s ghost we do not know, because this particular ghost is said to be hooded ? The curse itself used to claim a victim once every seven years; the screaming spirit of Peg would rise up from the murky waters of the river on stormy nights – an animal could apparently suffice as a victim, rather than a human. This story was almost certainly made-up probably to frighten the Starkie family who it was originally aimed at.
Waddow Hall is now a Training and Activity Centre, but it used to be a Centre for girl guides and during the second world war it was an isolation hospital.
From Sabden, head up the steep Clitheroe Road towards the Nick o’ Pendle, turning left 100 yards before the hilltop and along the dirt-track for a few yards, before veering up the winding footpath to the hilltop. When you’re at the peak of this little bit o’ moorland, go to your left (west), following the small path into the grasses and heather all the way on for a few hundred yards till you hit the triangulation pillar. Go past this, over one stile (north) and then immediately at right-angles (west) over another stile and downhill for about 100 yards until you’re on the rough grassland level. Keep your eyes peeled as you’re walking until you see what looks like a denuded stone-lined pit, much overgrown — with the main feature (showing that you’ve hit the target) being the engraving on one of the larger rocks: “Jeppe Knave Grave”.
Archaeology & History
First described in early perambulation records of 1326 CE, this is a small but intriguing site found on the far southwestern slopes of Pendle Hill, on the ridge beneath the triangulation pillar of Wiswell Moor. It’s a small and overgrown cairn with a general archaeological association of prehistory attached—though no detailed excavation has ever been done here, despite local archaeologists having access to a large grant to explore this region a short while ago.¹ But up North, as many of us know, archaeology is given little priority and those who do decent exploratory work under the umbrella of such academic quarters tend to be few and far between. Thankfully we had the northern antiquarian and local writer John Dixon (1993) nearby who gave us the best overview of the site. He wrote:
“This landscape feature, known as Jeppe Knave Grave, stands at a place called The Lows high on Wiswell Moor and takes the form of a low grass-covered mound 16M in diameter with a stone filled depression in the centre 5 x 3 M. This feature appears to be a mutilated cairn and has been tentatively ascribed to the Bronze Age. The outer ring of stones can be discerned in the rough pasture at the perimeter – yellow in dry conditions, showing the circular shape. Given the large size of the stones here, the cairn may have been of a chambered type/passage tomb of the Neolithic period, and if this was the case the burial (or burials?) was one of great importance.
“Upon the largest stone are inscribed the words ‘JEPPE KNAVE GRAVE and a cross (inscribed by the Scouting Association in the 1960’s). The stone marks the final resting place of Jeppe Curteys (Geoffrey Curtis), a local robber who was decapitated for his crimes in the first year of Edward III, 1327. The name first occurs in a record of the boundaries between Wiswall and Pendleton dated 1342.
“…In those times the punishment of decapitation was unusual, being reserved for those of noble birth. So who was this Jeppe Curteys, punished by decapitation and later buried on the high ridge of Wiswell Moor in a pre-Christian burial mound on the then boundary of parishes? That intriguing story we may never know. But to be buried in such a manner and place was indeed a great indignity – interment in what might be considered in those times to be a ‘pagan’ or ‘devilish’ spot. It may be that to bury a man in such a place was to literally ‘send him to the devil’. Alternatively one could ask: ‘Was the site thought then to be the burial spot of some noble ancestor, and Jeppe being of possible noble birth interred with great dignity? Again we may never know, yet it is significant that this lonely spot is still identified with a man who was executed 700 years ago.
In 1608 it was stated that one Robert Lowe had taken a stone from the grave and used it as a cover of his lime kiln.”
The design of the cairn here is unlike the ones you usually come across on the Lancashire and Yorkshire moorlands. The edges of the Jeppe Knave Grave are walled and much more well-defined than the large rock piles that we find scattering our uplands. A similar though larger cairn with features similar to these can be seen in the large Low Hill tumulus on Elslack Moor near Earby, about ten miles northeast of here…
Other prehistoric remains scatter the many rolling hills that you can see from here: mainly prehistoric tombs sat upon hilltops as far as the eye can see. John pointed out what may be the remains of another tumulus that can be seen on the nearby horizon a few hundred yards NNW from here, overlooking the gorgeous village of Pendleton and the landscape beyond…
Dixon, John, Journeys through Brigantia – volume 9: The Ribble Valley, Aussteiger Publications: Barnoldswick 1993.
Whitaker, Thomas Dunham, An History of the Original Parish of Whalley – volume 2, George Routledge: London 1876.
¹ John Dixon informed us how the people in question spent the grant — somewhere in the region of £50,000 — on exploring some modern architectural features, instead of exploring some of the little-known sites and seeking out others on these hills.
* John is the author of many fine historical travel guides, including the Journeys through Brigantia series. See the titles in the Lancashire Bibliography and Yorkshire Bibliography for a more complete listing of all his books to date. If you wanna buy any of his works, or make enquiries regarding them, email John at: firstname.lastname@example.org – or write to him direct, at: John Dixon, Aussteiger Publications, 21 Lowergate, Clitheroe, Lancashire BB7 1AD.
Many ways to get here, but the easiest for those with cars to is park up on the southeast edge of the hill, at the various scruffy parking bits beside the road at the Nick of Pendle. The view from here is enough to get you going! Walk onto the great hill up to the rounded pap of Apronfull Hill (rather gives it away really!). It’s only a few hundred yards up – about 10 mins up the slope from the road, with awesome views all round once you get there. Tis the small guidance cairn you’re looking at just on the level. You’re there!
Archaeology & History
This would once have been a rather huge cairn/tomb — though when I first found the remains of this place in August 2006, there were no archaeological records describing it that I could find. But there’s very little left of it. The lads who did the quarrying further downhill (where you’ve probably parked your car) are likely to have been the culprits who nicked most of the rocks that once made this huge forgotten tomb. But as you potter about here, it becomes obvious that you’re standing on the much-denuded remains of just such a monument (very similar in size and structure to the more famous Little Skirtful and Great Skirtful of Stones on Burley Moor, or Black Hill round cairn near Skipton). But the remains you can see beneath your feet still give a good idea as to how large it was.
You’ll see once you’re stood here that there are hundreds, maybe even several thousands of stones just on and below the ground, scattering a very well-defined roughly circular area measuring at least 21 yards (east-west) by 22 yards (north-south), right by the side of the path. The edges of this ransacked cairn are pretty well defined around the north and eastern sides. Near the centre of the old structure is a very notable ‘dip’ in the ground where it looks as if something has been dug away — though this could just as well be due to the presence of underground water, as indicated by the growth of Juncus grasses. Without an excavation it’s obviously difficult to tell.
Twas the following tale which first led my nose to explore this part of Pendle hill. It’s a tale we find at many of our upland tombs, though the record books said there was nowt here! (any myopic archaeologists out there who reckon that folklore has no relevance to their subject, educate one’s self!)
The Devil was having trouble with the folk at Clitheroe Castle (a few miles west) and wanted rid of it. So he picked up various large stones and put them in his apron then threw them towards the castle. Most of them missed, which made him angry and in a rage he accidentally dropped a great pile of rocks on the south side of Pendle Hill, creating the Devil’s Apronful on Apronfull Hill.
In another tale he was said to have stood at the Deer Stones a few hundred yards east of here and threw rocks from there. Perhaps a folk-remnant of where the Apronful stones once came from…? Perhaps not.
Jessica Lofthouse (1976) notes how this old spot was long known by local people as the Devil’s Apronful.
Lofthouse, Jessica, North-Country Folklore, Hale: London 1976.