Nanny’s Grave, Steeton, West Yorkshire

Tomb:  OS Grid Reference – SE 022 448

Archaeology & History

Until we’ve isolated this site, it’s difficult to suggest an age for it.  It’s an all-but forgotten grave of some sort, last mentioned by John Clough (1886) in his rare work on Steeton township.  Although the folklore indicates some medieval date here, the site may have been a prehistoric tomb, as it was located in the same valley a mile east of another little-known prehistoric burial at Crosshills.  Mr Clough wrote the following of the site:

“Until AD 1790 the road to Kildwick would be down Pot Lane and past ‘The Lion’.  Near a field, now called Nanny Grave Hill; there were four land ends; there are three lane ends yet; there was what i’s called Devil’s Lane, the lanes towards Eastburn and Steeton, and Wood Street… The junction of these four lane ends is the scene of one of Steeton’s tragedies.  At this place is buried a suicide called Nanny, with “a stake in her inside.”  Some people point out the mound under which she’s buried.  When the suicide took place isn’t known, but it would certainly not occur later than the 17th century.”

But there are no records telling of the said ‘nanny’ and her death, nor archaeological accounts of any excavations hereby.  The epithet nanny is sometimes used in northern counties to mean a witch, and although we have no remaining lore telling of such a character, the old name Devil’s Lane certainly infers some pre-christian or supernatural history hereby, common to many ancient burial mounds throughout Britain and across the world.  Also a burial at an old crossroads is another heathen indicator; and the legend of the body having “a stake in her inside” is highly suggestive of further archaic death rituals, fixing the spirit of the dead at the site to prevent transmigration of any form, effectively ending the lineage of shaman or other heathen priestess.  Any further information about this site would be most welcome.

…to be continued…

References:

  1. Clough, John, History of Steeton, S. Billows: Keighley 1886.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  53.899365, -1.968005 Nanny\'s Grave

Mill Hill, Eastburn, Driffield, East Yorkshire

Tumulus:  OS Grid Reference – SE 986 553

Also Known as:

  1. Barrow no.268 (Mortimer)

Archaeology & History

Once located on the south side of the stream between the ‘lost’ village of Eastburn and the cottages at Battleburn, this burial mound was one of many explored by the great J.R. Mortimer (1905), who told that:

“On June 24th, 1884, it measured about 40 feet in diameter and 4½ in elevation, and had a depression in the centre, which might have been caused by a former opening.  By the old inhabitants of the neighbourhood it is known — like several other similar mounds near settlements — by the name of Mill Hill.  A 15-feet square was cut from the centre and the natural ground beneath was found to consist of 3 feet of clay, resting upon chalk gravel.  Through this clay and into the chalk gravel beneath was a roughly-cut trench, 3½ feet deep by about 3 feet wide, running north and south the whole width of our excavation and beyond, and from about the centre of the mound a similarly roughly-formed trench was observed to run east and west…”

In the sections that Mortimer and his fellows excavated, they uncovered various intriguing deposits, including the remains of ox, goats and horses.  Later deposits were also located in and around the mound, showing it had been used in more recent centuries.

Folklore

Mortimer suggested this site was once an old moot site; comparing it to a place of the same name a short distance west at Kirkburn.

References:

  1. Mortimer, J.R., Forty Years Researches in British and Saxon Burial Mounds of East Yorkshire, A. Brown & Sons: London 1905.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Mill Hill barrow

loading map - please wait...

Mill Hill barrow 53.984347, -0.497061 Mill Hill barrow

Currer Woods Stone, Steeton, West Yorkshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 0251 4384

Getting Here

On the opposite side of the road (B6265) from Airedale General Hospital, Steeton, you’ll notice a footpath going up the field into some woods.  Go up here.  Once you come out the top of the woods, follow the dodgy path on your right (west) along the rocky edges for 250 yards, following the edges of the field walling.  You’ll eventually reach the field with lots of rocks in it.  It’s the field before this one, close to the walling.  Look around!

Archaeology & History

I’ve been a little cautious about putting this carving on TNA simply because it seems to be an isolated example and was a little unsure about its veracity.  If I’d have found the stone on the edges of Ilkley Moor, Rivock Edge, or the heights above Askwith, I wouldn’t have hesitated.  The fact that no other carvings occur nearby has been my main trouble.  But I suppose if the carving turns out to be nowt of the sort, I can discard it at a future date and, of course, make sure that a lot of other cup-and-ring stones are disregarded at the same time (there are a number of other designs much less defined than this one which have been okayed by archaeo’s who’ve been into this subject for much shorter periods of time than myself).  But less of the waffle!

Currer Wood Carving, Steeton
Currer Wood Carving, Steeton

When we first found this, in April 2009, I was out looking for the remains of an old well (called Jane Well, a few hundred yards west of here).  The heaven’s opened and I ended up in the woodland and then found the field full of large rocks, some seemingly used by man in more recent centuries, atop of the woods, and so had to check them out!  But this was one of the first stones we found.

Currer Woods Stone
Currer Woods Stone

The rock itself, as the photo shows, appears to have had one end of it split or broken off (not unlike one edge of the Hanging Stones, Ilkley Moor) at some time in the past, intruding on the arc, or line, beneath which are two distinct ‘cups’.  A possible third cup-marking and other linear aspects seem apparent, with the design giving the distinct impression of a face.  I keep meaning to go back and get a rubbing of the carving, but aint got round to it yet.  When (if!) I gerrit done, I’ll add it onto this profile.

And although there are said to be no other prehistoric remains close to this old carving, the fields a coupla hundred yards west used to be called the Barrow Fields, where tombs were once found; and a little further along the same geological ridge atop of the excellent Kirk rocks, possible cup-markings scatter the edges of two sections — but they’re a little dubious; then there’s the Dragon Stone and associated cup-marked stone not far away.  In the adjacent woods are the remains of old walling, but I’ve not found other carvings hereabouts.  However, the rule tends to be: “where there’s one, there are more!”

Watch this space!

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Currer Woods CR

loading map - please wait...

Currer Woods CR 53.890735, -1.963295 Currer Woods CR

The Kirk, Steeton, West Yorkshire

Legendary Rocks:  OS Grid Reference – SE 0418 4391

Also known as:

  1. Garlic Kirk
The Kirk, Hawkcliffe Woods, Steeton
The Kirk, Hawkcliffe Woods, Steeton

This is a stupendous site!  It looks like some of this may have been quarried, a long time ago, but it also seems that nothing at all has been written about it – even in the simple travelogues beloved by our Victorian historians.  To come across it quite by accident, as I did (only yesterday), was excellent!  When I first got here, by following the wooded ridge betwixt Hollins Lane and the main Keighley-to-Steeton road (A629), the place seemed brilliant; but as time went on and my amblings through the sometimes dense and also very old woodland were overcome by the dream of the place, I couldn’t believe how this place had become forgotten.  Adrenalin rushed through me for a while, but then it was the dream of the place again.  The memories here were ancient – and you could feel them.  In places there was the solace of darkness, beloved of those who know old trees and dangerous places.  For here, walk the wrong place too quickly and Death comes.  Broken limbs await in the curious gorges which just appear in the woods, only a yard wide, but 50-60 foot deep, only to vanish again away from sight a few yards later.  Caves and dark recesses, seemingly unknown, reach out to climb down.  And all round is the aged covering of lichens and mosses that know centuries.

Shown as 'Garlic Kirk' on 1853 map
Shown as ‘Garlic Kirk’ on 1853 map

The Kirk itself – meaning simply, ‘place of worship’, in the old sense – is like something from Lord of the Rings!  If you walk along its top, as I did, the great cliffs below come late to the senses.  A curious ridge of cup-markings, seemingly natural ones, stretch along the very edges of the drop – which stretches on for some distance.  And then as you walk along its edge, you find this great drop which looks north, is now on both sides of your feet!  It’s quite breathtaking!

Cup-markings on the edge (probably natural)
Cup-markings on the edge (probably natural)

Trying to get down into the gorge below can be done, but it’s a bit dodgy!  If you aint agile and crazy, stick to doing it by walking round – a long way round…  Someone a few centuries back either cut into the rock, or laid steps, reaching into the mossy gorge, which runs to nowhere.

You can appreciate how this place would have been a sacred site:  it’s big, it’s old, it takes your breath away, and it looks across to the great Rivock Edge where many fine cup-and-ring stones were cut.  I’ll try and get some images of the place when I call here again in the very near future, but they’ll never capture the experience of being here.

Folklore

The only thing I have come across which seemingly relates to this great edifice, tells of a great cave in the woodland, which legend tells stretches many miles to the north and emerges at Bolton Abbey. (Clough 1886)  I wondered about the potential visibility factor in this legend and found it obviously didn’t work.  However, if you stand on a certain part of The Kirk and look north, a dip in the horizon enables us to see, far away, hills which rise up directly above the swastika-clad Bolton Abbey.  Twouldst be good to work out exactly which hill above the Abbey we can see from here.

On another issue, John Clough (1886) told that “on top of the rock there is a footprint and the initials of one of the Waites, who is said to have leaped over the chasm.”

References:

  1. Clough, John, History of Steeton, S. Billows: Keighley 1886.
  2. Gray, Johnnie, Through Airedale from Goole to Malham, Walker & Laycock: Leeds 1891.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

The Kirk

loading map - please wait...

The Kirk 53.891309, -1.937837 The Kirk