Herder’s Cross, Wycoller, Lancashire

Cross:  OS Grid Reference – SD 94057 39369

Also Known as:

  1. Herders Common Cross

Getting Here

From Laneshaw Bridge, near Colne, take the long country road that goes up above Wycoller to Stanbury and Haworth over the Yorkshire-Lancashire border.  A couple of miles uphill, there’s a parking spot with views across the moors.  Stop here.  Cross the road and walk up for about 100 yards, going thru the rickety gate on the left, and up the field (past the small disused quarry) until you see the large rock looming ahead of you, perched on its own.  That’s it!

Archaeology & History

Herders Cross stone

This is a really curious spot to me.  A large singular boulder sat on the edge of an uninhabited moorland with no real history of heathenism, nor religious practices; yet someone at sometime in the not-too-distant past saw something here that made them cut a large square hollow into the top of this stone, in which they stuck an old cross.  We came across this site a few weeks ago quite by accident, but realised that the deep hollow in the rock was an old cross base; so when I got home I checked Taylor’s (1906) magnum opus, expecting to find some info therein.  But even Taylor seemed to know nothing of this place.

A week or two later, Paul Hornby pointed me in the direction of an unpublished essay by a local chap called Clifford Byrne (1974) who’d studied some of the early christian remains in the region and who wrote the following of what he named “Herders Cross”:

“This cross, or more properly its socket, is probably one of the least known in the area.  It was shown to the writer by Mr Stanley Cookson of Trawden, who discovered the socket in passing, so to speak.  On the road to Haworth from Laneshawbridge, opposite the site of Foster’s Leap rocks, on the east side of the road, is a really huge boulder on the moor top.  In the south side is the cross socket, whilst on the north side of the rock can be made out a right-angled mark which implies that either the socket was being placed on that side in the first instance, or that two sockets were once envisaged…

“Old maps show the rock in situ with a “shaft” protruding from the top.  Some yards west a shallow pony track  bypasses the site, whilst some four or five hundred yards east a very well worn and ancient road, long unused, passes in the direction of Emmot Holy Well.  The cross may thus have been a Wayside Cross showing the way to this Holy spring which is remembered as being propitious in the cure of rheumatism.”

Cross-base socket

This may be so; but I suspect earlier, heathen remains upon the moors here to explain the curious position of both this and another cross-base some 400 yards away.  Some dubious cup-marks can be seen by the side of the stone hollow; and other dubious ones have been found on the moors above here.  There is folklore of a lost stone circle on the hills above here, and a scattering of little-known faerie lore, indicating hidden sites and lost myths.  These ingredients are more likely the reasons that Herders Cross was erected here, overlooking the countryside south and west, with the holy hill of Pendle rising in the centre of the distant landscape…

References:

  1. Byrne, Clifford, A Survey of the Wayside Crosses in North East Lancashire, unpublished 1974.
  2. Taylor, Henry, The Ancient Crosses and Holy Wells of Lancashire, Sherratt & Hughes: Manchester 1906.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Herders cross

loading map - please wait...

Herders cross 53.850537, -2.091808 Herders cross

Great Moss Standing Stone, Emmott Moor, Lancashire

Standing Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SD 969 384

Getting Here

Great Moss Stone - looking north
Great Moss Stone – looking NE

Follow the directions to the Water Sheddles Cross Standing Stone on the Yorkshire-Lancashire border; and when you get to the reservoir, walk straight across the road and head almost straight up onto the moor as if you’re going to the rock outcrop ahead of you on the horizon, called the Wolf Stones.  After just a couple of hundred yards though, amble back and forth to find the stone.  It’s in the heather, close by.

Archaeology & History

Great Moss Stone - looking NW
Great Moss Stone – looking NW

I can find no history about this small stone, just over three feet high, which was almost lost in the boggy heather when I first came here.  Standing in a small pool in the peaty-ground, the stone is very worn, with one of Nature’s cup-markings on top.  There is the possibility that this stone may have been one of the old boundary markers pre-dating the 1614 case which questioned the exact boundary line marking the Yorkshire-Lancashire border — but this is purely hypothetical.  The Water Sheddles Cross is just a few hundred yards east of here.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Great Moss stone

loading map - please wait...

Great Moss stone 53.840778, -2.049268 Great Moss stone

Water Sheddles Cross, Oakworth Moor, West Yorkshire

Standing Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SD 9711 3826

Also known as:

  1. Hanging Stone
  2. Standing Stone
  3. Waterscheddles Cross

Getting Here

The old stone, lost amidst the colour of hills
The old stone, lost amidst the colour of hills

Pretty easy to find.  Go along the Oakworth-Wycoller road, between Keighley and Colne, high up on the moors.  When you get to the Water Sheddles Reservoir right by the roadside (y’ can’t miss it), stop!  On the other side of the road walk onto the moor, heading for the walling a coupla hundred yards to your east (right).  Where the corner edge of the walling ends, your standing stone is right in front of you!  If for some reason you can’t see it, wander about – though beware the very boggy ground all round here.

Archaeology & History

This seven-foot tall monolith, leaning to one side thanks to the regularly water-logged peat beneath its feet, stands on the Yorkshire-Lancashire.  It is locally known as the Hanging Stone and the Standing Stone, but the name ‘Water Sheddles’ is a bittova puzzle.  The place-names authority, A.H. Smith (1961) thinks it may derive from the middle-english word, shadel, being a ‘parting of the waters’ – which is pretty good in terms of its position in the landscape and the boggy situation around it.  But ‘sheddle’ was also a well-used local dialect word, though it had several meanings and it’s difficult to say whether any of them would apply to this old stone.  Invariably relating to pedlars, swindling or dodgy dealings, it was also used to mean a singer, or someone who rang bells, or a schedule, aswell as to shuffle when walking.  Perhaps one or more of these meanings tells of events that might have secretly have been done here by local people, but no records say as such — so for the time being I’ll stick with Mr Smith’s interpretation of the word!  Up until the year 1618 it was known simply as just a ‘standing stone’, when it seems that the words “Hanging Stone or Water Sheddles Cross” were thereafter carved on its west-face, as the photo below shows.

Cross carved on the head of the stone
Cross carved on top of the stone
The old stone, with its names carved for all to see

Whether or not this stone is prehistoric has been open to conjecture from various quarter over the years.  Is it not just an old boundary stone, erected in early medieval times?  Or perhaps a primitive christian relic?  Certainly the stone was referred to as “le Waterschedles crosse”, as well as “crucem”, in an early record describing the boundaries of the parish of Whalley, dating from around the 15th century.  This has led some historians to think that the monolith we see today is simply a primitive cross.  However, sticking crosses on moortops or along old boundaries tended to be a policy which the Church adopted as a means to ‘convert’ or christianize the more ancient heathen sites.  It seems probable in this case that an old wooden cross represented the ‘crucem‘ which the monks described in the early Whalley parish records.

Site marked on 1892 map

This monolith likely predates any christian relic that might once have stood nearby; although the carving of a ‘cross’ on the head of the stone may have supplemented the loss of the earlier wooden one.  But it seems likely that this carved ‘cross’ was done at a later date than the description of the ‘crucem‘ in the parish records — probably a couple of centuries later, when a boundary dispute was opened, in 1614, about a query on the precise whereabouts of the Yorkshire-Lancashire boundary.  After several years, as John Thornhill (1989) wrote,

“the matter was resolved on the grounds that the vast Lancastrian parish of Whalley had claimed territorial jurisdiction as far east as the Hanging Stone, thus the county boundary was fixed on the Watersheddles Cross.”

Water Sheddles stone looking SW
Water Sheddles stone looking SW

Certainly the stone hasn’t changed in the last hundred years, as we can tell from a description of it by Henry Taylor (1906), who said:

“The remains consist of a rough block of stone, leaning at an angle of about forty-five degrees against a projecting rock. The top end has been shaped into the form of an octagon, on the face of which a raised cross is to be seen. The stone is about six feet long and two feet wide, tapering to eleven inches square at the upper end, and appears once to have stood upright. Some local authorities have cut on it the words, ‘Hanging Stone or Waterscheddles Cross.'”

So is it an authentic prehistoric standing stone?  Tis hard to say for certain I’m afraid.  It seems probable – but perhaps no more probable than the smaller Great Moss Standing Stone found just a couple of hundred yards away in the heather to the west, on the Lancashire side of the boundary.  Tis a lovely bitta moorland though, with a host of lost folktales and forgotten archaeologies…

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  2. Brigg, J.J., ‘A Disputed County Boundary”, in Bradford Antiquary, 2nd Series, no.8, 1933.
  3. Smith, A.H., The Place-Names of the West Riding of Yorkshire – volume 6, Cambridge University Press 1961.
  4. Taylor, Henry,The Ancient Crosses and Holy Wells of Lancashire, Sherratt & Hughes: Manchester 1906.
  5. Thornhill, John, ‘On the Bradford District’s Western Boundary,’ in Bradford Antiquary, 3rd Series, vol.4, 1989.
  6. Wright, Joseph, English Dialect Dictionary – volume 5, Henry Frowde: Oxford 1905.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

loading map - please wait...

  53.840580, -2.045403 Water Sheddles Cross