Dud Well, Skircoat Green, Halifax, West Yorkshire

Sacred Well: OS Grid Reference – SE 0957 2281

Archaeology & History

This curiously-named old water source may have an equally curious history behind it – albeit forgotten.  Shown on the 1854 OS-map of the area and giving its s name to Dudwell Lane, we can see how an old path led from the road to the well and nowhere else.

It’s the word “dud” that holds our attention here; for if we hasten to the immensely erudite Joseph Wright (1900) in his gigantic survey of northern dialect, we find that the word relates to “a rag, piece of cloth; pl. clothes, esp. shabby, ragged, or dirty clothing.”  This is echoed in another Yorkshire dialect work by Morris (1892) who told that the word meant “clothes (or) rags.”  Several other Victorian writers tell us variations on this meaning (one adds old shoes to the list!), but in all instances it relates to dud being a rag, whereas the plural duds are rags or scruffy clothes.  Naathen (to use another old dialect word), those of us who know a thing or two abaat olde wells are very very familiar with their association to old rags that were hanged on the surrounding trees as offerings to the spirits of the water—the genius loci—to aid in the hope or desire of something, or merely as respect to the waters for their beneficient properties. (this sometimes occurred ritually at set times in the calendar)

Dud Well on 1854 OS-map

The Dud Well was obviously of considerable local repute, for just a couple of years after it was shown on the earliest OS-map, a local bailiff called Samuel Rhodes built The Dudwell house close to the waters, which he named “in honour of the magnificent and never-failing spring of pure, bright, sparkling water in the wells close by.”

There is a possible alternative meaning to the word dud, which is that some dood called ‘Duda’ left his name here!  This seems much more speculative and unlikely than the use of a local dialect term.  Hopefully a local historian amongst you might perhaps be able to find out more.


  1. Morris, M.C.F., Yorkshire Folk-Talk, Henry Frowde: London 1892.
  2. Wright, Joseph, English Dialect Dictionary – volume 2, Henry Frowde: London 1900.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Holy Well, Halifax, West Yorkshire

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid-Reference – SE 100 254

Archaeology & History

This sacred site seems to have been destroyed sometime at the end of the 19th century.  It was located on the great slopes heading up to Beacon Hill.  In 1787, a property survey showed six houses here called Holy Well Cottages and on the 1852 OS-map a “Well” is highlighted at the bend in the pathway of the Old Bank as you’re going uphill, which is the place in question.  On my last visit here about thirty years ago, its position was preserved under a large manhole. 


  1. Heginbottom, J.A., “Early Christian Sites in Calderdale”, in Proceedings Halifax Antiquarian Society 1988.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Horley Green Spa, Halifax, West Yorkshire

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference – SE 10263 26561

Also Known as:

  1. Horley Green Well
  2. Spa Well

Archaeology & History

William Alexander’s 1840 sketch of the Spa house

The historian William Addison (1951), in his history on the subject, told how “the spas began as holy wells”; and although no direct accounts are left of early dedications here, the remnants of Mayday traditions tell us there were more archaic goings-on before the waters were taken by the aristocrats.  Once it had been designated as a spa, the waters were covered and a typical Spa House constructed over them.  From hereon, for more than a century, the waters were accessible only to those with money who wished their ailments to be treated.

Between the end of the 18th to the end of the 19th century, the Horley Green Spa was a very prominent ingredient in the history of Calderdale.  A chalybeate or iron-bearing spring, its waters were directed into a large underground cistern covered by metal.  Thomas Garnett (1790) was the first to write about it, telling us:

“The Horley Green water is quite pellucid—sparkles when poured out of one glass into another—and has a sharp, aluminous, styptic taste, not unlike ink. The taste is not unpleasant when the water is taken from the springhead and drank immediately.”

He went on to espouse the waters to be good in healing bone and rheumatic diseases, giving many first-hand accounts from people in Yorkshire and beyond who used the waters here with apparent success, including one case of curing diabetes!  Its reputation was later reinforced in a book by William Alexander (1840), who told us how,

“I unhesitatingly affirm that the Horley Green Spa possesses a very strong claim to be regarded as a powerful tonic and chalybeate.”

By the time those words were written, it had already gained a considerable reputation and many were those who’d received treatment.

Spa House on 1894 map

A years after Alexander, the roving doctor A.B. Granville (1841) visited Horley Green—who described it as “a renowned steel-water Spa”.  But at the same time he reported how its popularity had started to decline.  But, via one Mr West, he did leave us with a greater chemical analysis of the Horley Green waters in an attempt, once more, to certify and prove its curative properties.  Their results found the waters to possess, in varying quantities, lime, magnesia, silica, iron oxide, sulphur and silica—all of which further attributed the science of its medicinal actions.   A number of case histories of the people cured here can be found in the works of Granville, Garnett and Alexander.

The well-house that stood here eventually fell into disuse.  When it was eventually restored as someone’s home in the the late 20th century, the disused spring was found beneath the foundations, filled with stones.


Horley Green’s spa well came about as a result of local people visiting the site around Beltane, probably for centuries before the aristocrats and early pharmacists took their hand to the place.  But once the spa became renowned, people could only gather here “on the first Sundays in the month of May,” with Sunday being that legendary ‘day of the lord’ crap, to which the people would abide to save them from prosecution.  It is obvious though that it had been used as a place of magick thanks to the snippets of lore which have found their way into local history books.  We read how, at 6am, people gathered here, to such an extent that the roads were completely crowded.  Those who arrived first were given bags of nuts: an archaic traditional motif found at many pre-christian wells in Britain.  Occultists and ritual magickians amongst you will note the time when folk frequented the well, at 6am: the time when many nature-spirits are invoked for full effects.  We find this time echoed in the ritual gatherings at Lady or St. Anne’s Well in Morley, just a few miles to the east.


  1. Addison, William, English Spas, Batsford: London 1951.
  2. Alderson, Frederick, The Inland Resorts and Spas of Britain, David & Charles: Newton Abbot 1973.
  3. Alexander, William, The Horley Green Mineral Water, Leyland & Son: Halifax 1840.
  4. Alexander, William, “On the Mineral Springs of the Parish of Halifax,” in Proceedings Geological & Polytechnic Society, West Riding, Yorkshire, volume 1, Edward Baines: Leeds 1849.
  5. Crabtree, John, Concise History of the Parish and Vicarage of Halifax, Hartley & Walker: Halifax 1836.
  6. Garnett, Thomas, Experiments and Observations on the Horley-Green Spaw, near Halifax, George Nicholson: Bradford 1790.
  7. Granville, A.B., Spas of England, Henry Colburn: London 1841.
  8. Hembry, Phyllis, The English Spa 1560-1815, Athlone Press: London 1990.
  9. Short, Thomas, The Natural, Experimental and Medicinal History of the Mineral Waters of Derbyshire, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, privately printed: London 1724.
  10. Short, Thomas, A General Treatise on Various Cold Mineral Waters in England, privately printed: London 1765.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Rocking Stone, Warley Moor, Halifax, West Yorkshire

Legendary Rock:  OS Grid Reference – SE 03399 30199

Also Known as:

  1. Sleepy Lowe

Getting Here

The old rocking stone, on the right
The old rocking stone, on the right (looking east)

From Denholme, take the A6033 Hebden Bridge road up, but shortly past the great bend turn off right up the steep road towards the moorland windmills until you reach the flat dirt-tracked road, past the reservoir below.  A coupla hundred yards past the track to the reservoir, take the footpath south into the tribbly grasslands and moor.  A few hundred yards down you’ll note the large rock outcrop ahead of you. The rocking stone is there!

Archaeology & History

The old rocking stone
The old rocking stone

A small moorland arena with a neglected history. Many lost memories surround this site, with barely legible ruins from medieval and Victorian periods prevailing against scanty snippets of neolithic and Bronze Age rumours and remains.  The rocking stone here—which moves slightly with a bit of effort—sits amidst a gathering of other large rocks, some of which have debatable cup-markings on their smoothly eroded surfaces.

Our rocking stone, resting 1350 feet above seal level, was first mentioned in John Watson’s (1775) magnum opus, who gave a quite lengthy description of the site:

“On a common called Saltonstall-moor, is what the country people call the Rocking-stone… The height of this on the west side (which is the highest) is, as I remember, about three yards and a half.  It is a large piece of rock, one end of which rests on several stones, between two of which is a pebble of a different grit, seemingly put there for a support, and so placed that it could not possibly be taken out without breaking, or removing the rocks, so that in all probability they have been laid together by art.  It ought to be observed, that the stone in question, from the form and position of it, could never be a rocking stone, though it is always distinguished by that name.  The true rocking stone appeared to me to lie a small distance from it, thrown off its centre.  The other part of this stone is laid upon a kind of pedestal, broad at the bottom, but narrow in the middle; and round this pedestal is a passage which, from every appearance, seems to have been formed by art, but for what purpose is the question.”

Dubious cup-markings
Dubious cup-markings
Watson's 1775 drawing of the Rocking Stone
Watson’s 1775 drawing of the Rocking Stone

Watson then goes onto remark about other rocking stones in Cornwall and further afield with attendant “druid basins” upon them, noting that there were also “rock basins” here on Warley Moor, a few of which had been “worked into this rocking stone,” which he thought “helps to prove that the Druids used it.”  And although these rock basins are large and numerous over several of these rocks, like the cup-markings that also scatter the surfaces, they would seem to be Nature’s handiwork.

Turner's 1913 drawing
Turner’s 1913 drawing

Some 60 years later when the literary thief John Crabtree (1836) plagiarized Watson’s words verbatim into his much lesser tome, it seemed obvious he’d never ventured to explore the site.  But in the much more valuable historical expansion written by John Leyland around 1867, he at least visited the site and found the old stone, “still resting on its shady pedestal.” Later still, when Whiteley Turner (1913) ventured this way on one of his moorland bimbles, he added nothing more to the mythic history of these west-facing megaliths…


Still reputed locally to have been a site used by the druids; a local newspaper account in the 1970s also told how local people thought this place to be “haunted by goblins.”


  1. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  2. Crabtree, John, Concise History of the Parish and Vicarage of Halifax, Hartley & Walker: Halifax 1836.
  3. Leyland, F.A., The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Halifax, by the Reverend John Watson, M.A., R.Leyland: Halifax n.d. (c.1867).
  4. Smith, A.H., The Place-Names of the West Riding of Yorkshire – volume 3, Cambridge University Press 1961.
  5. Turner, Whiteley, A Spring-Time Saunter round and about Bronte Lane, Halifax Courier 1913.
  6. Watson, John, The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Halifax, T. Lowndes: London 1775.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Mount Zion, Illingworth, Halifax, West Yorkshire

Cist (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 068 297

Archaeology & History

Mount Zion’s prehistoric urn

As with a number of prehistoric burials in the Halifax district, there is no longer any trace of the original site here.  It was a place that I wrongly attributed as being a dolmen in my early survey on West Yorkshire’s megalithic remains (Bennett 1994) — but at least I got the prehistoric tomb part of it right!  It was first found, quite accidentally, in February of 1877, when a grave-digger working in the grounds of the Mount Zion Chapel at Ovenden (as it was known in them days) hit upon a large stone beneath the earth he was digging.  Thankfully the grave-digger was a conscientious chap and, instead of just digging up the obstruction, decided to inform others of his discovery.  A temporary halt was made on his grave-digging and thereafter a careful dig was organized to explore what he’d found.  Some years later an account of the discovery was reported in H. Ling Roth’s (1906) work on the history of Halifax, where he told:

“On digging about 2ft (61cm) below the surface of the ground, a slab of stone impeded the work, and on its removal, a square cavity, formed of four upright stones, was discovered, in which the urn had been placed bottom upwards (see old photo, PB), and the mausoleum filled with gravel… The urn had not been disturbed since its removal from its present site, but still remains on its original base: a rude stone which formed the floor of its ancient sepulchre.  The urn measured when first discovered 19in (48cm) in height by 13in (32.5cm) in diameter at its orifice, but only 4in (10.2cm) at its base.  Below its rim it has the usual curved division which is here ornamented with dots made with a pointed instrument when the clay was in a soft state.”

Mr Roth went on to tell how a Dr Dolan of Halifax examined the broken bones and contents within the urn and found them to be human.  Intriguingly it seems there was some evidence of prehistoric dental practice from the remains!  Dr Dolan told:

“There is unmistakable evidence on this point from some of the bones of the skull, particularly from the preserved portions of the petrous part of the temporal bone showing meatus auditorius, from the right malar bone, and from fragments of the flat bones of the cranium.  The teeth offer confirmatory evidence.  I have found several which had evidently been subjected to great heat, as they were completely calcined.  But there was one which had been only partially burnt, the burnt part being quite black; and another, unburnt, which seems to have dropped from the jaw before the fire had reached it.  One of the teeth seems to me to have been ‘stopped’, and this opens out a question  whether the art of dentistry was known to the inhabitants before the Roman invasion.  From the size and structure of the bones, I believe the majority of them to have belonged to a female of adult age.  There are certain bones, particularly some phalanges, which seem to me to be those of a child.  As we do not however possess the whole of the original contents of the urn — much having been extracted from it on its discovery — there may probably have been, when first interred, the relics of others than those we at present possess.”

The remains of the urn were eventually presented to the care of the Bankfield Museum by the Halifax antiquary, F.A. Leyland.

A definitive account of this little-known site was recently published by Raymond Varley (2021), and all interested readers can refer to his work here.


  1. Bennett, Paul, Circles, Standing Stones and Legendary Rocks of West Yorkshire, Heart of Albion Press: Loughborough 1994.
  2. Leyland, F.A., The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Halifax, by the Reverend John Watson, M.A., R.Leyland: Halifax n.d. (c.1867)
  3. Roth, H. Ling, The Yorkshire Coiners, 1767-1783; and Notes on Old and Prehistoric Halifax, F.King: Halifax 1906.
  4. Varley, Raymond, “A Large Bronze Age Collared Urn found at Mount Zion Chapel, Ovenden, near Halifax, West Yorkshire,” Academia 2021.
  5. Watson, Geoffrey G., Early Man in the Halifax District, HSS: Halifax 1952.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

The Carrs, Ovenden, Halifax, West Yorkshire

Enclosure:  OS Grid Reference – SE 0555 2993

Also Known as:

  1. Rough Carrs

Getting Here

Aerial view of enclosure & outlying earthworks

Troublesome to get to if you don’t know the area. You can get here rom Halifax, up through Highroad Well towards Wainstalls, keeping to the road that leads to the Oxenhope windmills.  A short distance before the windmills, as the road levels out, keep your eye out on the right where the valley drops down (east) to the Halifax golf-course.  If you’re coming from Oxenhope, walk up past the windmills at Nab End until the road starts going back downhill.  As you look down and walk past the valley with the golf course in it, a footpath is on your left running diagonally over a field.  Cross the stile and walk alongside the wall for about 200 yards until you reach a gate on your left.  Go through this and walk along until you see the ditched earthworks that make up this little-known monument…

Archaeology & History

Not to be confused with the large circular enclosure that once crowned the nearby Hunter Hill, the nature and age of this large D-shaped earthwork has long been a source of speculation, with the majority of it centring around a Roman origin — and for good reason, it has to be said!

NW section of earthworks
Southern section of ditch

More than 280 yards (260m) in circumference, its north-south axis measures 82 yards (75m) at the greatest and 88 yards (81m) east-west.  Its main feature is a decent ditch that averages 8-10 feet across round most of the D-shaped feature, and between 2-3 feet deep.  It would obviously have been deeper than this when the ditches were first dug, but it’s now very overgrown across the entire site with Juncus grasses and tribbles (tussocks). A small internal ditch runs into the enclosure from the northern side.  Its function is unknown.  A small mound near the centre of the site has been posited by Calderdale archaeologists to be modern remains.

Carrs enclosure on 1852 map
Carrs enclosure on 1852 map

Although the main feature is the D-shaped earthwork, other features are apparent.  For example, what looks like another man-made dyke cutting into the site on the southwestern side is in fact a natural stream channel.  This natural feature may have been an integral part of the enclosure when it was first built.  Above the northwestern edge of the ditch (as can be seen on the aerial photo) are other earthworks that run around the western edge of the main feature.  This is probably what F.A. Leyland (1867) meant when he described there to be “the remains of several lines of intrenchments” here.  Also coming into the southwestern side are what are thought to be the remains of a Roman Road.  Early OS-maps (above) show the road running within yards of this enclosure — and it was this which, logically, led many earlier researchers to posit the notion that this site was in fact Roman.  However, a dig here in 1951 recovered prehistoric pottery, which knocked the date back to the Iron Age.

Northern line of ditch

On the south and east sides, parts of the ditch and embankment have been removed by quarrying and farm-workings, with the walling on the eastern side completely ruining that part of the monument.   A great number of flints have been found on the hills above here.  I’m unable to give a more detailed exposition on the archaeological finds at this site as I don’t have a copy of Mr Varley’s (1997) essay that he wrote for the Transactions of the Hunter Archaeological Society, which apparently gives more info.  When I manage to get a copy of the journal/essay, I’ll add the relevant data to this profile.

A note must also be made of another, previously unrecognized enclosure on the same hilltop a couple of hundred yards to the west from here.  Very little trace of it is still visible at ground level, but the outline of the curvaceous quadrilateral ditch form can be seen from the air.  It would appear from its form to be consistent with an Iron Age enclosure, though without further research this has to be proclaimed as hypothetical.  No excavations are planned here in the near future.


In F.A. Leyland’s (1867) superb commentary to Mr Watson’s History of Halifax, he told us:

“There is a well-preserved tradition amongst the inhabitants that a battle in which numbers fell was fought at a place called the Slaughters or Slaughter Gap, in the hollow between the Carrs and Hunter-hill.  Fragments of gun-barrels and locks, with human bones, have been found about the place…”

But Leyland deemed the armoury finds here — that appeared to substantiate the folklore — were from a much later period in history than the enclosure.  But I must draw attention to the remarkable Mixenden Finds, as they’ve become known: a collection of finely polished prehistoric axes and other stone remains a few hundred yards below The Carrs and which may relate to such folklore.


  1. Leyland, F.A., The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Halifax, by the Reverend John Watson, M.A., R.Leyland: Halifax n.d. (c.1867)
  2. Varley, Raymond, “The Excavation of Castle Stead at Manywells Height, near Cullingworth, West Yorkshire,” in Transactions of the Hunter Archaeological Society, volume 19, 1997.
  3. Varley, Raymond A., “Lost Neolithic and Bronze Age Finds from Mixenden, near Halifax, West Yorkshire,” in Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 70, 1998.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Shaw Hill, Skircoat, Halifax, West Yorkshire

Tumulus (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 094 242

Archaeology & History

Shaw Hill urn

The remains here have long since succumbed to that self-righteous advance of industrial civilization.  Even when the Halifax historian John Watson (1775) first described what had been here, the burial mound had gone; but thankfully he was fortunate in getting details regarding the whereabouts and contents of the remains. Three burial urns were found next to each other —  presumably in the same tumulus —  one of which was in a reasonably good state of preservation, as shown from the illustration which I reproduce here.  We have no description of the burial mound, only of the urns, of which Mr Watson told us:

“It was found, with two others, at the gates, at the bottom of the walk near Shaw Hill, leading to the house in Skircoat, called Heath.  They lay in a line, one yard deep and one yard asunder, with their mouths downwards.  This contained calcined bones, and dust; the two others were broken in pieces.  It is eight inches deep, stands upon a bottom of four inches diameter and, where there is no moulding, is from twenty-one inches, or thereabouts, to twenty-three inches in circumference.”

It was of similar size and design to burial urns found at Tower Hill a couple of miles west of Halifax.  In Prof Watson’s (1952) work on the prehistoric sites of Calderdale, he assigned this burial mound and pottery to have been from the Bronze Age.


  1. Leyland, F.A., The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Halifax, by the Reverend John Watson, M.A., R.Leyland: Halifax n.d. (c.1867)
  2. Roth, H. Ling, The Yorkshire Coiners, 1767-1783; and Notes on Old and Prehistoric Halifax, F.King: Halifax 1906.
  3. Watson, John, The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Halifax, T. Lowndes: London 1775.
  4. Watson, Geoffrey G., Early Man in the Halifax District, HSS: Halifax 1952.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Stannary, Halifax, West Yorkshire

Stone Circle (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 088 256

Archaeology & History

The place-name authority A.H. Smith (1961), in searching for the meaning behind the old region in Halifax known as “stannary”, just west of the town centre, was puzzled by its implications and found it wanting, so he took the most likely option as he saw it, writing,  “probably it is a stone circle,” from the archaic verbs stan (stone) and hring (ring).

First recorded in the Halifax Court Rolls of 1575 as “Stannerying”, this implied it to be a place where tin-ware was sold in a field, “though that word belongs rather to Cornwall,” he said, and it appeared out of place at the time it was written.  So he looked elsewhere.  The Halifax Parish Registers of 1578 didn’t help much, describing the place as “Stanerye.”  However, the Halifax Rent Records of 1588 named it as “Standeringe”, which is much closer to Smith’s idea.  With each written instance we certainly find the old English stan, but the suffix in two instances is difficult to assess with firm conviction.

If we could locate additional folklore or other historical data that might throw further light on this, it would be an important find.  The finding of prehistoric burial remains less than a mile south of Stannary on the other side of town shows that ancient man was in Halifax, but it would be good if we could find more…


  1. Smith, A.H., The Place-Names of the West Riding of Yorkshire, Cambridge University Press 1961-63.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Tower Hill, Warley, Halifax, West Yorkshire

Cairns (destroyed): OS Grid Reference – SE 053 261

Archaeology & History

F.A. Leyland’s drawing of the urns

There’s really nowt to see around here nowadays (apart from a lovely view of the hills and the Calder valley), but it seems that not-too-long ago there were several burials in evidence upon this hill.  F.A. Leyland (1867) gives a quite detailed account of the urns and their discovery, which have been variously thought of as Roman, then Saxon, then prehistoric — with them finally ascribed as Bronze Age in Watson’s (1952) survey of the region.  Not too far away could once be found the legendary Robin Hood’s stone circle, which might have had some relationship with the burials here — though we’ll probably never know for sure!  Leyland’s (1869) lengthy notes of this site told:

“An interesting discovery was made in…recent times, of a number of cinerary urns in the township of Warley.  The site of the interments was at Tower Hill, a position on a line of military defences which extended from the entrenchments of Hunter’s Hill to Camp End in this township.  The urns were found in the process of quarrying for stone; but, owing to the nature of the operations, and the unlooked for discovery of such relics as these or the total absence of all knowledge of their value, by the people employed, many similar remains are known to have been demolished as worthless objects.

“On one occasion, however, an urn, bleached by the tempests of an entire winter, was observed to protrude half its own bulk from the stratum of soil in which it had been originally buried.

“The curiosity of the labourers was excited, and the relic was removed.  It was found to contain bones and ashes which the people, ever prone to the marvellous, held to be the remains of a child which had been destroyed by foul means and there buried.  This opinion was noised abroad, and the true nature of the interment explained.  We examined a fragment of this relic: it was rudely constructed of sun-burnt clay, and was grimed in the inside as if by the smouldering embers of the funeral pyre, and the smoking ashes of the dead, on their introduction to their narrow urn.

“This had been filled with these human exuviæ; and appeared to have been lined with moss mixed with fibres of plants which, after the urn had fallen in pieces, adhered firmly to its contents.  It was thirteen or fourteen inches high, and was no doubt made by the hand alone.  Within a few yards of this, another urn was found, containing bones and ashes, but so far decomposed as to preclude the possibility of its preservation: near the same place the smaller urn in our illustration was discovered buried in the dark soil peculiar to the locality; it was filled with calcined bones and ashes and, like the one found at Upleton—and in the possession of Dr Young of Whitby—had a small clay vessel placed within it, which is represented in our engraving.  The urn was, moreover, protected by a lid, resembling the inverted stand of an ordinary flower-pot: the relic measured six inches high.

“During the winter of 1848, a date subsequent to the above discoveries, there was a fall of earth from the same spot, into the quarry at Tower Hill; the soil, thus precipitated from the moor, impeded the operations of the labourers; and, on its removal, the larger urn of our illustration was brought to light.  This relic measured nine inches high and was twenty-two in circumference; but, in the rubbish, there were observed numerous fragments of other cinerary urns, and equally numerous relics of cremation.

“These discoveries lead one to one of two conclusions: either that Tower Hill was the field of some formidable engagement, in which numbers fell; or, that it was used as a place of frequent sepulture by the primitive inhabitants of the locality.  It is not at all improbable that these urns were the produce of some local pottery, if not made by the same hand, as the one described by Watson (1775), the patterns indented on the two upper compartments of the smaller vessel being of the same kind, and occupying the same positions as the one referred to.

“The larger urn, as will be observed, is divided like the others into three compartments, the upper one standing out in relief, but having a different kind of decoration resembling herring-bone masonry; while the smaller one of our illustration, and that of Watson, are furnished with a zigzag design.  But, although there is this slight variation in the upper moulding of the larger vessel, they all possess the lozenge-shaped decoration in their central compartments.”

We haven’t yet explored this site diligently and also know that if we have to await the slow hand of archaeology here we’d be waiting an aeon, but Tower Hill’s position in the landscape would tend to indicate the latter of Leyland’s earlier suggestions regarding the nature of the finds, i.e., the hill was a prehistoric graveyard, though of unknown size.


  1. Leyland, F.A., The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Halifax, by the Reverend John Watson, M.A., R.Leyland: Halifax n.d. (c.1867)
  2. Roth, H. Ling, The Yorkshire Coiners, 1767-1783; and Notes on Old and Prehistoric Halifax, F.King: Halifax 1906.
  3. Watson, John, The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Halifax, T. Lowndes: London 1775.
  4. Watson, Geoffrey G., Early Man in the Halifax District, HSS: Halifax 1952.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Castle Hill, Kirklees, Brighouse, West Yorkshire

Enclosure:  OS Grid Reference – SE 173 216

Getting Here

Along the Brighouse to Mirfield A644 road, a half-mile east of M62’s junction 25 on Wakefield Road, note the woodland on your left-hand side, above the walling.  Although on allegedly private land, you can approach by hopping over the wall by the main road into the woods. Wander up the slope until it levels out and, just at the edge of the tree-line, past the brilliant overgrown folly amidst a mass of rhododendrons, you’ll see the denuded edges of this earthwork.  Though you might need a bitta patience seeking it out…

Archaeology & History

Very first sketch of this site (John Watson, 1775)

The remains of this low earthwork is found on the private land of Kirklees Hall and appointment is supposed to be made to explore, both this and the more famous Robin Hood’s Grave, a few hundred yards away. But if you can’t be bothered with that and find this little-known earthwork, you’ll see that it’s roughly squared in shape, though pretty overgrown.  In Bernard Barnes’ survey (1982) he described it as a “square or five sided enclosure, 2-3 acres in size, with bank and external ditch”, wondering whether it was used to enclosure cattle and stretching its possible origin between the Iron Age to the medieval.

Although the classical Roman archaeologist Ian Richmond (1925) believed the site to be from that period, the archaeologist J.J. Keighley thought that the site was “more likely to be Iron Age than Roman.”  He wrote:

“The earthwork in Kirklees Park is a square or five-sided enclosure with bank and external ditch… The site lies on Richmond’s trans-Pennine route.  According to Armitage and Montgomerie, the earthwork is 0.5 hectares in area, but it is actually nearer 0.8 to 1.2 hectares.  They compare its construction with the fort at Wincobank (South Yorkshire), stating that the bank on the counterscarp when excavated, revealed “a very rudely composed wall of undressed dry stone.”

Earlier local writers such as John Watson (1775) — whose early sketch of the site is reproduced above — and others also opted for the Roman date.  But, unless you’re a bit of an earthwork fanatic, this site may not be too much your cuppa tea. If you are gonna check this out though, make sure you check out Robin Hood’s old tomb in the trees not far away. Very odd.


  1. Barnes, Bernard, Man and the Changing Landscape, Merseyside County Council & University of Liverpool 1982.
  2. Keighley, J.J., “The Prehistoric Period,” in West Yorkshire: An Archaeological Survey to AD 1500 (WYMCC: Wakefield 1981).
  3. Richmond, I.A., Huddersfield in Roman Times, Tolson Memorial Museum: Huddersfield 1925.
  4. Watson, John, The History and Antiquities of Halifax, J. Lowndes: London 1775.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian