Gog and Magog, Loch Ard, Aberfoyle, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone (lost):  OS Grid Reference – NN 4808 0140

Archaeology & History

On the south-side of Loch Ard, just a few yards from the entrance to Rob Roy’s Cave (one of several), right by the water’s edge are the natural upstanding pillars known locally as Gog and Magog.  In Peter Joynson’s (1996) work on Aberfoyle, this site is listed as one in a number of unrecorded cup-and-ring stones in the area.  Discovered by a local lady—”the late Mrs Maitland”—here we have,

“two huge stones about 30ft high known as Gog and Magog situated at the mouth of Blan Ross Bay.  They have numerous cup marks, but sadly have disappeared from view as they have been covered by forestry planting.”

An increasingly annoying problem that many rock art students are having to contend with!  When we visited the site, the tops of these huge stones were, indeed, covered in depths of mosses and pine needles and the carving is hidden from sight. When the trees are felled, let’s hope someone can find it!

Folklore

These natural rocks were said to have been two giants that were turned to stone, the story of which seems to have been forgotten…

References:

  1. Joynson, Peter, Local Past, privately printed: Aberfoyle 1996.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Almscliffe Crag carving, North Rigton, North Yorkshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 26777 48952

Also Known as:

  1. Ormscliffe Crags

Getting Here

Almscliffe’s cup-&-ring

This is an outstanding site visible for miles around in just about every direction – so getting here is easy! If you’re coming from Harrogate, south down the A658, turn right and go thru North Rigton.  Ask a local.  If you’re coming north up the A658 from the Leeds or Bradford area, do exactly the same! (either way, you’ll see the crags rising up from some distance away)  As you walk to the main crags, instead of going to the huge central mass, you need to follow the line of walling down (south) to the extended cluster of much lower sloping rocks.  Look around and you’ll find it!

Archaeology & History

On the evening of May 27, 2024, I received a phone call from a Mr James Elkington of Otley.  He was up Almscliffe Crags and the wind was howling away in the background, taking his words away half the time, breaking the sentences into piecemeal fragments.  But through it all came a simple clarity: as the sun was setting and the low light cut across the rocky surface, a previously unrecorded cup-and-ring design emerged from the stone and was brought to the attention of he and his compatriot Mackenzie Erichs.  All previous explorations for rock art here over the last 150 years had proved fruitless—until now!

Looking northwest
Central cup-&-ring

On the east-facing slope of the stone, just below the curvaceous wind-and-rain hewn shapes at the very top of the boulder, is a singular archetypal cup-and-ring.  It’s faint, as the photos show, but it’s definitely there.  What might be another cup-and-ring is visible slightly higher up the sloping face, but the site needs looking at again when lighting conditions are just right! (you can just about make it out in one of the photos)  But, at long last, this giant legend-infested mass of Almscliffe has its prehistoric animistic fingerprint, bearing fruit and giving watch to the countless heathen activities going back centuries.  Rombald’s wife Herself might have been the mythic artist of this very carving! (if you want to read about the many legends attached to the major Almscliffe rock outcrop, check out the main entry for Almscliffe Crags)

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, “Almscliffe Crags, North Rigton,” Northern Antiquarian 2010.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Holy Well, Allerton, Bradford, West Yorkshire

Holy Well (lost):  OS Grid Reference – SE 134 331 (approximation)

Archaeology & History

This site is both interesting and frustrating at the same time.  Interesting inasmuch that as early as 1258 CE, “the Knights Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem in England, had in Allerton a manor called the manor of Crosley.”  The Hospitallers, as some will know, were the immediate successors of the more famous Knights Templars.  As their name suggests, their patron saint was St John, whose festival date was summer solstice and had his name given to many holy wells.  But this one has left us with no name and its location has long since been lost.  In J.H. Bell’s (1888) essay on the early medical history of the area he told that local people with certain afflictions, “were wont to resort to them to drink their waters for their supposed medicinal virtues: there was one between Cemetery Bridge and Crossley Hall”.  But he doesn’t give its exact position.  In John James’ (1841) classic History of Bradford he thinks that near the place where the local stream known as the Hebble, “there was undoubtedly in former times a Holy well,” but is unable to cite a location.  No well is shown on the early maps between the old Hall and the cemetery and the only definitive reference to wells close by are in the early boundary perambulation record, which describe a Brock Well and a Cold Well.  Perhaps the the most probable contender and location is cited in Harry Speight’s (aka Johnnie Gray) Pleasant Walks (1890) where, taking a route between Great Horton and Allerton, he told us to,

“go through fields on to Necropolis Road, opposite Scholemoor cemetery, turn down lane left outside cemetery, ½ mile, descending steps, cross beck (here used to be the Spa Beck public gardens, now removed higher up) and ascend, at second field, leaving the forward path and turn left, following beck with Crosley Hall and trees to right.”

The location of the said Spa Beck gardens is very close to where Mr Bell described the medicinal spring and is/was the most likely position of what James (1841) thought to be a long lost holy well.  If we could get more information about the history of the Spa Well, we may be able to make more definitive statements about the place.

References:

  1. Bell, J.H., “Some Fragments of Local Medical History,” in Bradford Antiquary, volume 1, 1888.
  2. Gray, Johnnie, Where to Spend a Half-Holiday: One Hundred and Eighty Pleasant Walks around Bradford, Thomas Brear: Bradford 1890.
  3. James, John, History and Topography of Bradford, Charles Stanfield: Bradford 1841.
  4. Shepherd, Val, Historic Wells in and Around Bradford, HOAP: Wymeswold 1994.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Wellford, Fern , Angus

Standing Stone (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NO 483 603 (approximation)

Archaeology & History

In an area once teeming with megaliths, this is but one that lost its life in the 19th century.  It would seem that the only reference of its existence—and demise—comes from the pen of the great regional historian Andrew Jervise (1853) who, in a description of the nearby holy well of St Ninian, in a field near Wellford,

“within the last half century there were two or three large rude boulders nearby, which were called Druidical stones.”

References:

  1. Jervise, Andrew, The History and Traditions of the Land of the Lindsays in Angus and Mearns, Sutherland & Knox: Edinburgh 1853.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

St. Helen’s Well, Barmby-on-the-Marsh, East Yorkshire

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 6900 2841

Archaeology & History

Site shown on 1853 map

One of two holy wells in Barmby village which, like its compatriot St Peter’s Well, was destroyed sometime in the 19th century.  Not good!  It was located in the southwest section of the graveyard of St Helen’s Church and was apparently alive and running when the Ordnance Survey lads visited here in 1851 (as shown on their 1853 map).  But when the site was revisited by them in 1905, it seems to have gone.  However, as with the neighbouring St Peter’s Well, there are conflicting reports as to when it was destroyed, for although the Ordnance Survey lads spoke of it in the present tense when they went there, Thomas Allen (1831) told that “within the last six years (it has) been wantonly filled up.”  Despite this, less than ten years later William White mentioned it in the present tense, also saying how it was “said to possess medicinal properties.”  These healing qualities were, according to Allen, due to its iron-bearing or chalybeate nature, meaning that it would revive a weak and feeble constitution.  Iron-bearing wells are damn good for such things!

As the years passed, St. Helen’s Well fell into folk memory.  When William Smith (1923) surveyed the many holy wells in this part of the world he found how “old parishioners have said that as school-children they both drank of and washed in its water”, but little else.

References:

  1. Allen, Thomas, A New and Complete History of the County of York – volume 2, I.T. Hinton: London 1831.
  2. Gutch, E., Examples of Printed Folk-lore Concerning the East Riding of Yorkshire, Folk-Lore Society: London 1912.
  3. Harte, Jeremy, English Holy Wells – volume 2, Heart of Albion press: Wymeswold 2008.
  4. Smith, William, Ancient Springs and Streams of the East Riding of Yorkshire, A. Brown: Hull 1923.
  5. White, William, History, Gazetteer and Directory of the East and North Ridings of Yorkshire, R. Leader: Sheffield 1840.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

St Peter’s Well, Barmby-on-the-Marsh, East Yorkshire

Holy Well (destroyed?):  OS Grid Reference – SE 6910 2833 or SE 6885 2848

Archaeology & History

This holy well was one of two in the village of Barmby, neither of which seems to exist anymore — although, it has to be said, there are conflicting reports as to its demise from the word go.  When it was first mentioned in Thomas Allen’s (1831) huge work on the history of Yorkshire he told us that,

“In this village are two extraordinary springs of sulphuric and chalybeate water, denominated St Peter’s and St Helen’s; the former possesses the rare virtue of curing scorbutic eruptions by external application. Both of these wells, within the last six years, have been wantonly filled up, and the site is only known to a few of the villagers.”

Their “extraordinary” waters however, were apparently found to be still flowing when the Ordnance Survey lads surveyed here in 1849, as they published it a few years later on the 1853 OS-map of the region, along with its nearby compatriot of St Helen.

Wet patch on 1907 map
St Peters Well, Barmby 1853

Less than ten years earlier, Will White (1840) also spoke of St Peter’s Well, albeit briefly, telling that it “was said to possess medicinal properties”—but it seems that he never visited the site and was merely going on Mr Allen’s earlier description.  Its exact whereabouts however, is somewhat of a curiosity.  Although the Ordnance Survey lads mapped it as being SE 6885 2848 on the southwest side of the village, in William Smith’s (1923) survey of holy wells he gave us a very different location.  “St Peter’s Well,” he wrote,

“is situated in an orchard about a hundred yards to the south-east of the church, and is reached by going through three fields.  It is a pool about eight feet deep and fifteen in diameter, the spring now rising several yards from its original site.  It flows clear and strong, and though attempts have been made to block it up, it always reappears.  The water is soft and has never been known to freeze.  It contains sulphur, as I can testify, having tasted the water.  It is noted for curing scurvy and sore eyes, if applied externally, and half-a-century ago, people suffering from these ailments came long distances to apply the water as a remedy, and went away benefited.  An eye-witness has said a man living far from Barmby, advised by his medical man, as a last resort visited the well and applied the water externally for the cure of scurvy, and so quickly did he lose the scales that fresh sheets for his bed were required each night…

“About a century ago, the owner of the orchard in which the well is situated had a son, a doctor, who commenced to practice in the district.  The owner’s wife looked upon the spring as detrimental to the prospects of the son. So she said to her husband, “Tummus, we’ll hev that well filled oop.  Foaks can cure thersens, an’ ther’ll be nowt fur poor Tummy ti dea.”  Tummus was so convinced by his wife’s foresight that he did as she wished, and filled up the well.”

Naathen, on the very first OS-map of the village, the lads marked it at SE 6885 2848, as well as on subsequent surveys.  This spot is 170 yards west of the village church wall.  The location described by Smith has no “well” or spring marked on any maps, but, on the 25-inch scale map, 100 yards southeast of the the church walling we see marshland on the other side of a copse of trees in the very spot he told us about.  Whether or not this was the actual spot, or whether the OS-lads had it right, we might never know.  Field-name surveys may help; the existence  and location of the orchard may help; other literary accounts might also be useful.  But, one final query that may be important relates to Tom Allen’s (1831) words when he told us that “the site is only known to a few of the villagers.”  By that, did he mean that the local folk kept its position quiet from outsiders?  Even today, in our numerous inquiries with local people in the glens and mountains when seeking out lost or forgotten places, we still come across some olde local folk who are still quite hesitant, with that serious quizzical look in their eyes…

Folklore

St Peter’s day was celebrated on June 29.  He was one of the so-called “major saints” due to him being one JC’s Apostles.  His symbol was a key.

References:

  1. Allen, Thomas, A New and Complete History of the County of York – volume 2, I.T. Hinton: London 1831.
  2. Gutch, E., Examples of Printed Folk-lore Concerning the East Riding of Yorkshire, Folk-Lore Society: London 1912.
  3. Harte, Jeremy, English Holy Wells – volume 2, Heart of Albion press: Wymeswold 2008.
  4. Smith, William, Ancient Springs and Streams of the East Riding of Yorkshire, A. Brown: Hull 1923.
  5. White, William, History, Gazetteer and Directory of the East and North Ridings of Yorkshire, R. Leader: Sheffield 1840.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Ballengeich, Uphall, West Lothian

Standing Stone (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NT 074 698

Archaeology & History

A few hundred yards west of the commemorative Wallace Stone monolith could once be seen a standing stone of considerable size.  It was described by James Primrose in his description of the standing stones of the Strathbrock region; but even in his day, remains of it were fragmentary.  He wrote:

“On Drumshoreland Moor, within the grounds of Pumpherston Oil Company, there is a stone, popularly styled Bucksides — its correct designation being Backsides — from its position at the backside of Pumpherston.  This stone, a huge whinstone boulder about 12 feet long and 8 feet broad, was blasted in 1888, to make room for the site of a bench of retorts; a few fragments of the stone, however, yet remain by the roadside.  The ancient name of this stone was Ballengeich — apparently the Gaelic for “the township towards the wind”, — as if a croft once stood here, near Pumpherston Mains, in an exposed and windy situation.”

A visit to the local history department of the local library might prove fruitful in giving us more information about this place—that’s assuming the filthy tory central government’s theft of taxpayer’s money doesn’t close it! (does that sound a bit harsh? 😁 )

Folklore

The same historian told of a “tradition…that round this stone in days gone by the Broxburn folks, along with their neighbours, used to assemble at Fair time, in the month of August, in order to witness their favourite sport of horse-racing; but whether there was any more ancient custom associated with it, we have never learned.”

References:

  1. Primrose, James, Strathbrock; or, the History and Antiquities of the Parish of Uphall, Andrew Elliot: Edinburgh 1898.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

St. Sennen’s Well, Sennen Cove, Cornwall

Holy Well (lost):  OS Grid reference – SW 3550 2626

Archaeology & History

The springs of Chapel Idne

Highlighted on the 1888 Ordnance Survey map of Sennen Cove are the remains of Chapel Idne, just above the coast.  Across the road from the chapel on its south-side, and also next to an old inn to its immediate west, springs of water are shown and it would seem more than likely that one of these two would have been the forgotten holy well of Sennen that was described, albeit briefly, in the great Mr Blight’s (1861) literary tour of the area.  He told us that:

“At Sennen Cove was an ancient chapel, called by the people Chapel Idne, the “narrow chapel” being forty-five feet long and fifteen feet wide.  It is now converted into a dwelling. Tradition says it was founded by one Lord of Goonhilly, who possessed dome portion of the land of Lyonesse.  There was a holy well of some repute here also.”

The waters of St. Sennen’s Well were used in an act of ceremonial magick in the Arthurian tale known as the Battle of Vellan-druchar, as told in Robert Hunt’s (1865) great Romances.  An attempted invasion by the Danes was met with by Arthur and nine other kings and the foreigners were slaughtered.

“A few had been left in charge of the ships, and as soon as they learned the fate of their brethren, they hastened to escape, hoping to return to their own northern land. A holy woman, whose name has not been preserved to us, “brought home a west wind” by emptying the Holy Well against the hill, and sweeping the church from the door to the altar.  Thus they were prevented from escaping, and were all thrown by the force of a storm and the currents either on the rocky shore, or on the sands, where they were left high and dry.  It happened on the occasion of an extraordinary spring-tide, which was yet increased by the wind, so that the ships lay high up on the rocks, or on the sands; and for years the birds built their nests in the masts and rigging.

Thus perished the last army of Danes who dared to land upon our western shores.

King Arthur and the nine kings pledged each other in the holy water from St Sennen’s Well, they returned thanks for their victory in St Sennen’s Chapel, and dined that day on the Table-men.

Merlin, the prophet, was amongst the host, and the feast being ended, he was seized with the prophetic afflatus, and in the hearing of all the host proclaimed–

“The northmen wild once more shall land,
And leave their bones on Escol’s sand.
The soil of Vellan-Druchar’s plain
Again shall take a sanguine stain;
And o’er the mill-wheel roll a flood
Of Danish mix’d with Cornish blood.
When thus the vanquish’d find no tomb,
Expect the dreadful day of doom.”

References:

  1. Blight, J.T., A Week at the Land’s End, Longmans Green: London 1861.
  2. Hunt, Robert, Popular Romances of the West of England, 1865.
  3. Straffon, Cheryl, “Chapel Idne and the Holy Well,” in Meym Mamvro no.34, 1997.
  4. Weatherhill, Craig, “A Guide to Holy Wells and Celebrated Springs in West Penwith,” in Meym Mamvro no.4, 1997.

Acknowledgements:  Big thanks for use of the early edition OS-map in this site profile, Reproduced with the kind permission of the National Library of Scotland

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Hawksworth Spring (02), Hawksworth, West Yorkshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 15774 41191

Getting Here

Here’s the one yer after!

You can take the same directions to get here is you follow the route for the Hawksworth Spring (01) carving, or take this alternative route. Take the standard road from Guiseley along Hawksworth Road.  When you reach the first row of old houses in the village, a couple of hundred yards on you reach the village school and, shortly after the footpath is sign-posted.  Walk left (downhill) through the field for half-a-mile until you reach the woods.  100 yards into the into the trees, walk to your right and follow the line of walling straight for 400 yards, then veering right up the slope and it then slowly bends round, keeping to the wallside all along. It then starts heading back downhill.  As it does so, 10 yards from the wall into the woods you’ll see the broken triangular rock of the Hawksworth Spring (01) carving.  Walk another 10 yards where the large holly bushes are and you’ll see the large sloping stone in front of you.

Archaeology & History

This carving is similar in nature to its companion 10 yards away, inasmuch as each of them possess two small arcs of cup-marks almost in the same format, very close together, one above the other near the top of the stone.  It’s possible that the mythic nature/function of this particular element of arcs is the same on each stone—although fuck knows what it might be!

Clear line & faint line of arcs
Clear arc of cups

Below this double arc (only one of which is clearly visible in the photos) we see a scatter of other cup-marks—perhaps six, perhaps seven—one of which appears to have a very faint incomplete ring round it.  When Liz Sykes and I visited the place, the light of day and the shadows across the rock didn’t help to convince us one way or the other, so we await news from other visitors who get better light conditions to tell us whether our hopeful eyes were deceiving us or not.  There are a number of other marks on its surface, but these are much more recent and very obviously cut, or rather scratched, by metal artifacts with no bearing on the prehistoric design.

References:

  1. Boughey, K.J.S. and Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock of the West Riding (Supplement), Shipley 2018.

Acknowledgements:  Huge thanks to Liz Sykes for her renowned cleaning skills!

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Maiden’s Well, Launceston, Cornwall

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid reference – SX 3285 8477

Archaeology & History

Site of well on 1884 map

Very little is known about this holy well on the north-western side of town that was apparently destroyed sometime in the 19th century; for when the Ordnance Survey lads visited here in 1882, they found no running water but only the location of where it had been and they indicated this on their 1884 map of the area, marked as “Site of.”

It was first mentioned in a short topographical notice in 1582, which told that the “Magden Well in the Quarrie Haye”—along with another well—was “found to be in decay.” (Peter 1885)  Then, when the Ordnance Survey lads resurveyed the area again in 1951, once more they could find no trace of it.

References:

  1. Peter, Richard, The Histories of Launceston and Dunheved, W. Brendon: Plymouth 1885.

Acknowledgements:  Big thanks for use of the early edition OS-map in this site profile, Reproduced with the kind permission of the National Library of Scotland

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian