Goff Well, Keighley, West Yorkshire

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – SE 06149 38822

Getting Here

Goff Well is by the Elder tree in the middle

Various ways here. From Keighley, go up the A629 Halifax Road, first left after the Ingrow West train station, uphill; then turn right, and up the long, cobbled, zizaggy road past the little hamlet of Hainworth and uphill till you reach the solitary farmhouse of Goff Well Farm (where its friendly owners can sell you organic fresh eggs!).  It’s the field just before here on your left (if you reach the Guide Inn pub further uphill by the crossroads, you’ve gone too far). Alternatively start at the Guide Inn pub and walk across the road and downhill till you reach the farm. It’s in the first field on the right just past it.

Archaeology & History

Little is known about the history of this water source.  The first description of it seems to be in 1852.  Harry Speight (1898) mentions it briefly when he talks about the holy wells of the locale, saying simply:

“Goff Well, close to the road on Harden Moor leading to Hainworth, has given name to a neighbouring farm, but the purpose or virtues of this water are not now known.”

Goff Well on 1852 OS-map

Today the well is much overgrown and in need of attention.  It’s near the bottom corner of the field where the larger of the elder tree grows (the witch’s tree par excellence) and could do with being cleaned out.  When the owner of Goff Well Farm, Barry, took us to see the site, the waters couldn’t be seen but we could hear the water running clearly just beneath the surface, so it just needs a few hours work to bring it back into life.  Twouldst do the land and the genius loci the world of good!

The very name of the well is something of an anomaly.  There are several possibilities and we (as yet) cannot say which is the more likely derivation.  We know in northern dialect that Goff is a simpleton or fool, and although we can apply that definition in some cases, it’s unlikely to apply here.  If we could ascertain there was ever an apple tree growing here, the mystery would be solved, as a goff was an old word used for the common apple.  In West Yorkshire dialect the word was also used to denote “a hammer worked by water-power”; aswell as it being a corrupted form of the word ‘God.’  Take your pick!

Folklore

The early Victorian historian William Keighley (1858) thought Goff Well was named after a long-forgotten hermit called Goff who, at some time in the past, gave his name to the old hamlet of Hermit Hole, a half-mile downhill from this water source.  Mr Keighley wrote:

“On the skirts of Harden Moor is a farmhouse known by the name of Goff Well; and as goff is said to be the Danish word for red, it would probably be no great stretch of the imagination to suppose that the hermit was so named on account of his red hair, and the spring or well designated after him from the frequency and sanctimonious nature of his visits.”

But this is pure supposition on Keighley’s part — nice idea though it is!  The only tangible piece of folklore we have is that the well “was a famous resort of gypsies before the moor was enclosed in 1861.” (Speight 1898)

References:

  1. Keighley, William, Keighley, Past and Present, Arthur Hall: London 1858.
  2. Speight, Harry, Chronicles and Stories of Old Bingley, Elliott Stock: London 1898.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Goff Well

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Goff Well 53.845603, -1.908030 Goff Well

Harden Moor Circle, Bingley, West Yorkshire

Ring Cairn:  OS Grid Reference – SE 07496 38675

Getting Here

Harden Moor circle01
Harden Moor Circle, looking SE

From Harden, go up Moor Edge High Side (terraced row) till you reach the top. Follow the path thru’ the woods on the left side of the stream till you bend back on yourself and go uphill till you reach the moor edge. Keep walking for about 500 yards and keep an eye out to your immediate left.  The other route is from the Guide Inn pub: cross the road and go up the dirt-track on the moor-edge till you reach a crossing of the tracks where a footpath takes you straight onto the moor (south). Walk on here, heading to the highest point where the path eventually drops down the slope, SE. As you drop down, watch out for the birch tree, cos the circle’s to be found shortly after that, on your right, hidden in the heather!

Archaeology & History

This aint a bad little site hidden away on the small remains of Harden Moor, but is more of a ‘ring cairn’ than an authentic stone circle (a designation given it by previous archaeologists).  An early description of it was by Bradford historian Butler Wood (1905), who also mentioned there being the remains of around 20 small burials nearby.  When the great Sidney Jackson (1956; 1959) and his team of devoted Bradford amateurs got round to excavating here, he found “four or five Bronze Age urns” associated with the circle.  His measurements of the site found it to be 24 feet across, and although the stones are buried into the peat with none of them reaching higher than 3 feet tall, it’s a quietly impressive little monument this one.  About 20 upright stones make up the main part of the ring.

I’ve visited the place often over the last year or so since a section of the heather has been burnt away on the southern edges of the circle.  This has made visible a very distinct surrounding raised embankment of packing stones about a yard wide and nearly two-feet high, particularly on the southern and eastern sides of the circle, giving the site a notable similarity in appearance and structure to the Roms Law circle (or Grubstones Ring) on Ilkley Moor a few miles to the north.

There is also the possibility that this ring of stones was the site described by local historian William Keighley (1858) in his brief outline of the antiquities of the region, where he wrote:

“On Harden Moor, about two miles south of Keighley, we meet with an interesting plot of ground where was to be seen in the early days of many aged persons yet living, a cairn or ‘skirt of stones,’* which appears to have given name to the place, now designated Cat or Scat-stones. This was no doubt the grave of some noted but long-forgotten warrior.

* The Cairn was called Skirtstones by the country people in allusion to the custom of carrying a stone in the skirt to add to the Cairn.”

However, a site called the ‘Cat stones’ is to be found on the nearby hill about 500 yards southeast – and this mention of a cairn could be the same one which a Mr Peter Craik (1907) of Keighley mentioned in his brief survey of the said Catstones Ring at the turn of the 20th century.  We just can’t be sure at the moment.  There are still a number of lost sites, inaccuracies and questions relating to the prehistoric archaeology of Harden Moor (as the case of the megalithic Harden Moor Stone Row illustrates).

Section of the inner ring
Section of the inner ring

The general lack of an accurate archaeological survey of this region is best exemplified by the archaeologist J.J. Keighley’s (1981) remark relating specifically to the Harden Moor Circle, when he erroneously told that, “there are now no remains of the stone circle on this site” — oh wot an indicator that he spent too much time with paperwork!  For, as we can see, albeit hidden somewhat by an excessive growth of heather, the ring is in quite good condition.

It would be good to have a more up-to-date set of excavations and investigations here.  In the event that much of the heather covering this small moorland is burnt back, more accurate evaluations could be forthcoming. But until then…..

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  2. Craik, Peter, “Catstones Ring,” in C.F. Forshaw’s Yorkshire Notes & Queries, volume 3 (H.C. Derwent: Bradford 1907).
  3. Faull, M.L & Moorhouse, S.A. (eds.), West Yorkshire: An Archaeological Survey to AD 1500 – volume 1, WYMCC: Wakefield 1981.
  4. Jackson, Sidney, “Harden Moor Circle,” in Cartwright Hall Archaeology Group Bulletin, 1:18, June 1956.
  5. Jackson, Sidney, “Harden Circle Found,” in Cartwright Hall Archaeology Group Bulletin, 2:1, July 1956.
  6. Jackson, Sidney, “Bronze Age Urn found on Harden Moor,” in Cartwright Hall Archaeology Group Bulletin, no.7, 1959.
  7. Keighley, J.J., “The Prehistoric Period,” in Faull & Moorhouse, WYMCC: Wakefield 1981.
  8. Keighley, William, Keighley Past and Present, Arthur Hall: London 1858.
  9. Wood, Butler, ‘Prehistoric Antiquities of the Bradford District,’ in Bradford Antiquary, volume 2, 1905.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Harden Moor circle

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Harden Moor circle 53.844266, -1.887555 Harden Moor circle