Lady Well, Hartshead, West Yorkshire

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – SE 17884 23487

Also Known as:

  1. Ladies Well

Getting Here

Ladies Well on the 1852 map
Ladies Well on the 1852 map

This can take a little bitta finding if you don’t know the area. So it’s best starting from Hartshead church, right on top of the hill here.  From whichever direction you’re taking to reach Hartshead, ask a local when you get close and they’ll direct you there. From here, walk out of the churchyard and turn left. Walk barely 50 yards and turn left again along Lady Well Lane. Past the old houses and bear right where it becomes a dirt-track. This then turns left, then again right and – with the fields on either side of you – note the single hawthorn tree ahead of you by the walling. Go into the field at the back of the hawthorn and look under its shady bough. Tis there, I assure you!

Archaeology & History

The holy well is beneath this hawthorn tree
The holy well is beneath this hawthorn tree

Emerging at the edge of the field beneath an old hawthorn tree at the side of the track running to the adjacent church, the waters from here are clean and fresh—though the stone trough into which it flows is constantly clogged up and the ground around it very boggy.  The well has given its name to Lady Well Lane, which leads to the 12th century St. Peter’s Church, with its own ancient and legendary history.  The well is thought to derive its name from ‘Our Lady’, the Virgin Mary, indicating it would have had considerable importance in the religious traditions of the christians who named it, but moreso the original animistic traditions of normal local people who would have used it for much longer…

Close by this old stone trough appears to be another one, covered by moss and the encroaching field.  Whatever medicinal properties the waters may once have had, have long since been forgotten.  Around Lady Well is a healthy abundance of flora: elder, chickweed, nettle, clover, bramble, dandelion, sow thistle, dock and shamanic species.

Folklore

The overgrown Lady Well
The overgrown Lady Well

Marion Pobjoy (1972), like her predecessors, suggested that this was one of many sites in Calderdale used by St. Paulinus to perform baptisms.  Local folklore tells that Robin Hood stopped here to drink the waters—but then we find an abundance of the pagan outlaw’s activities all round here.  The nearby church of St.Peter is aligned to the equinoxes and may well be an indication of when pre-christian celebrations occurred here.  The yew tree in churchyard was where Robin Hood was supposed to have taken wood to fashion one of his bows.  Modern folklore also ascribes the well to be along a ley line.

References:

  1. Heginbottom, J.A., ‘Early Christian Sites in Calderdale,’ in Proc. Halifax Ant. Soc., 1988.
  2. Pobjoy, Harold N. & Marion, The Story of the Ancient Parish of Hartshead-cum-Clifton, Riding 1972.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Lady Well

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Lady Well 53.707506, -1.730549 Lady Well

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.

References:

  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

Castle Hill

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Castle Hill 53.690566, -1.739501 Castle Hill