Nanny’s Grave, Steeton, West Yorkshire

Tomb:  OS Grid Reference – SE 022 448

Archaeology & History

Until we’ve isolated this site, it’s difficult to suggest an age for it.  It’s an all-but forgotten grave of some sort, last mentioned by John Clough (1886) in his rare work on Steeton township.  Although the folklore indicates some medieval date here, the site may have been a prehistoric tomb, as it was located in the same valley a mile east of another little-known prehistoric burial at Crosshills.  Mr Clough wrote the following of the site:

“Until AD 1790 the road to Kildwick would be down Pot Lane and past ‘The Lion’.  Near a field, now called Nanny Grave Hill; there were four land ends; there are three lane ends yet; there was what i’s called Devil’s Lane, the lanes towards Eastburn and Steeton, and Wood Street… The junction of these four lane ends is the scene of one of Steeton’s tragedies.  At this place is buried a suicide called Nanny, with “a stake in her inside.”  Some people point out the mound under which she’s buried.  When the suicide took place isn’t known, but it would certainly not occur later than the 17th century.”

But there are no records telling of the said ‘nanny’ and her death, nor archaeological accounts of any excavations hereby.  The epithet nanny is sometimes used in northern counties to mean a witch, and although we have no remaining lore telling of such a character, the old name Devil’s Lane certainly infers some pre-christian or supernatural history hereby, common to many ancient burial mounds throughout Britain and across the world.  Also a burial at an old crossroads is another heathen indicator; and the legend of the body having “a stake in her inside” is highly suggestive of further archaic death rituals, fixing the spirit of the dead at the site to prevent transmigration of any form, effectively ending the lineage of shaman or other heathen priestess.  Any further information about this site would be most welcome.

…to be continued…

References:

  1. Clough, John, History of Steeton, S. Billows: Keighley 1886.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  53.899365, -1.968005 Nanny\'s Grave

Horse Close Hill, Skipton, North Yorkshire

Enclosure / Settlement:  OS Grid Reference – SD 9966 5046

Also Known as:

  1. Cawder Hall Enclosure
  2. MNY21002
  3. Scheduled Monument 29151

Getting Here

From Skipton town centre follow the A6131 road south, out of town, for less than a mile, and turn left up Cawder Lane. Avoid following the road into the housing, instead bearing up the country lane to your left.  Just before reaching the farmhouses 200 yards up, note the stony hilltop above you on your left (up behind Horse Close Farm).  Walk up there for 250 yards NE and you’ll find it!

Archaeology & History

Horse Hill enclosure, looking west

This is an impressive site.  I’d say very impressive! (but I’m easily pleased)  Oddly however, I can’t find a damn thing about this place in any of my archaeo-records and it appears (as far as I’m aware) that no survey has ever been made of it.  Which is bloody incredible!  Indeed, the only archaeological notes that appear to exist about this very impressive and well-preserved Iron Age enclosure, states, “Subcircular enclosed settlement on Horse Close Hill 250m north of Horse Close Farm.”  That’s it!  Nothing else!  So I’m afraid you’ve only got my crappy description of it to go on for the time being…

As the aerial image below shows, this is a large oval-shaped enclosure, defined primarily by an almost complete ring of double walling arranged around this hilltop site.  Measuring approximately 78 yards (71m) north-south, and nearly 75 yards (70m) along its longer east-west axis, with a circumference of about 235 yards (215m), many of the upright stones which define its edges stand between 1-3 feet in height.  Some of these stones have obviously been moved into position by the lads who built the structure, but the site has also taken advantage of a number of large earthfast boulders in its construction.

If you walk around the edges of the walled enclosure, almost every bit of it is clearly visible.  Between the defining inner and outer walling of the structure we find sections of the site packed with smaller stones, giving the impression that it may once have been filled all round, making the walls thick strong defensive ones.  But without a more detailed investigation, we’ll never really know…

Horse Close settlement, looking NE
Aerial view of enclosure

It is clearly very similar in structure, and probably date, to the well-known Brackenhall circle on Shipley Glen, near Baildon (though the nature of the Brackenhall site has long been a topic of controversy).  And, as with the Brackenhall site, a number of cup-and-ring stones are found close by — including the Great Wood Laithe carving in the field immediately below on the west side.  I’ve also found a similar structure to this on the hills above Steeton, a few miles to the south (though it’s not as well-defined as this one).

Although the site is mainly defined by its oval walling, we also find other stretches of walling that run outwards from the central site: one in particular running northeast for 35 yards out towards a small standing-stone further up the field.  Other curious earthworks and remains scatter the fields on the eastern sides of this main feature, which the helpful farmer here pointed out to us.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Horse Close Hill settlement

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Horse Close Hill settlement 53.950239, -2.006668 Horse Close Hill settlement

Black Hill Long Cairn, Low Bradley, Skipton, North Yorkshire

Cairn:  OS Grid Reference – SE 0092 4756

Also Known as:

  1. Black Hill Long Barrow
  2. Bradley Moor Long Barrow
  3. Bradley Moor Long Cairn
  4. King’s Cairn

Getting Here

Follow the same directions for getting to the Black Hill Round Cairn.  It’s less than 100 yards away – you can’t miss it!

Archaeology & History

This is a superb archaeological site — and it’s bloody huge! It’s big and it’s long and it sticks out a bit – which is pretty unique in this part of the Pennines, as most other giant cairns tend to be of the large round variety.  Although the site was originally defined by Arthur Raistrick (1931) as a long barrow, J.J. Keighley (1981) told how, “it was found to be a round cairn imposed on a long cairn.”  And it’s an old one aswell…

Near the SE end of the giant cairn
Close-up of the main cist

More than 220 feet long and 80 feet in diameter at its widest southeastern end, as we walk along the length of the cairn to its northwestern edge, its main body averages (only!) 45 feet in diameter.  Made up of tens of thousands of rocks and reported by Butterfield (1939) to have had an upright stone along its major axis, the “height varies from 4-8ft, but the cairn has been much despoiled and disturbed,” said Cowling in 1946. He also told how,

“Excavation revealed that almost in the centre of the mound were the remains of a cist made of roughly dressed stone flags and dry walling, covered by a large stone. Under a stone slab, laid on the floor of the cist, were fragments of (burnt and unburnt) bone and a small flint chipping.”

This is a very impressive site and deserving of more modern analysis. The alignment of the tomb, SE-NW, was of obvious importance to the builders, believed to be late-neolithic in character.  The tomb aligns to two large hills in the far distance in the Forest of Bowland which we were unable to identity for certain.  If anyone knows their names, please let us know!

Folklore

The older folk of Bradley village below here, tell of the danger of disturbing this old tomb. In a tale well-known to folklorists, it was said that when the first people went up to open this tomb for the very first time, it was a lovely day. But despite being warned, as the archaeologists began their dig, a great storm of thunder, lightning and hailstones erupted from a previously peaceful sky and disturbed them that much that they took off and left the old tomb alone. (I must check this up in the archaeo-records to see if owt’s mentioned about it.)

References:

  1. Ashbee, Paul, The Earthen Long Barrow in Britain, Geo Books: Norwick 1984.
  2. Butterfield, A., ‘Structural Details of a Long Barrow on Black Hill, Bradley Moor,’ in YAJ 34, 1939.
  3. Cowling, E.T., Rombald’s Way, William Walker: Otley 1946.
  4. Keighley, J.J., ‘The Prehistoric Period,’ in Faull & Moorhouse’s West Yorkshire: An Archaeological Survey, I, WYMCC: Wakefield 1981.
  5. Raistrick, Arthur, ‘Prehistoric Burials at Waddington and Bradley,’ in YAJ 30, 1931.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

King's Cairn

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King\'s Cairn 53.924175, -1.987477 King\'s Cairn

Black Hill Round Cairn, Low Bradley Moor, Skipton, North Yorkshire

Cairn:  OS Grid Reference – SE 0087 4753

Also Known as:

  1. Black Hill Cairn
  2. Bradley Moor Round Cairn
  3. Queen’s Cairn
The Black Hill Round Cairn, Bradley Moor - looking north
The Black Hill Round Cairn, Bradley Moor – looking north

Getting Here

Various ways here.  Best is probably taking the footpath onto Farnhill Moor a few hundred yards east of Kildwick Hall.  Head for the cross-bearing Jubilee Tower (supposedly built upon an ancient cairn), NW, keep going past it uphill until you reach the walling 350 yards north, where a seat let’s you have a rest.  Climb over the wall! Alternatively, walk eastwards and up through the steep but gorgeous birch-wooded slopes of Farnhill Wood; and as the moortop opens up before you, the great pile of rocks surmounts the skyline ahead. You can’t miss it! (NB: the spot cited on the OS-map as the cairn is in fact another site, 100 yards NW)

Archaeology & History

Its an awesome place in an awesome setting. You can see 360-degrees all round from this giant mass of rocks — something which was of obvious importance to the people who built it. If it had been placed 20-30 yards either side of here, that characteristic would not occur. Indeed, this is the only place anywhere on these moors where such a great view was possible. Important geomancy, as they say (or whatever modern term they give it these days).

Bradley Moor Cairn - looking down to the Long Cairn
Bradley Moor Cairn – looking down to the Long Cairn
Small section of the old cairn

Although the tomb is still of considerable size (at least 100 feet across) and made up of thousands of stones, it has been severely robbed of stone in years passed, for walling and other building materials.  A number of other small cairns scatter the heathlands a few hundred yards roundabout this central giant (though are hard to find in the deep heather); and there is a distinct cairn circle about 100 yards to the northwest, which has yet to be excavated.  This cairn circle can be made out quite easily if you stand on the ridge about 30 yards west of here, looking down the slope.  An then of course we have the equally huge  Black Hill Long Cairn, less than 100 away, aligned northwest-southeast, which obviously had an important archaeological relationship with this giant round cairn.  Also around this and the adjacent long cairn, numerous flints and scrapers have been found, showing humans have been here since at least the early neolithic period.

This site in particular gives me the distinct impression that it was the most important of the various sites upon these moors. It’s got a distinctly female flavour to it – and it’s old name of the Queen’s Cairn seems just right.  Maybe it’s the fact that when I first visited the place, a great thunderstorm broke through the previously perfect skies, scattering lightning bolts all round for perhaps thirty minutes — so I stripped down and held my arms outwards, screaming to the skies in the pouring rain!  Thereafter, no clouds appeared in the skies for the rest of the day.  It was a brilliant welcome to the place!

References:

  1. Cowling, E.T., Rombald’s Way, William Walker: Otley 1946.
  2. Keighley, J.J., ‘The Prehistoric Period,’ in Faull & Moorhouse’s West Yorkshire: An Archaeological Survey, I, WYMCC: Wakefield 1981.
  3. Raistrick, Arthur, ‘Prehistoric Burials at Waddington and Bradley,’ in YAJ 119, 1936.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Queen's cairn

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Queen\'s cairn 53.923905, -1.988239 Queen\'s cairn

Hitching Stone, Keighley Moor, West Yorkshire

Legendary Rock:  OS Grid Reference – SD 98665 41698

Getting Here

Hitching Stone through fog and snow
Hitching Stone through fog & snow

The easiest way to get here is via Cowling – though you can approach the place via moorland roads from Sutton-in-Craven, Oakworth and Keighley, but Cowling’s the closest place (so we’ll take it from there).  Turn east off the A6068 up Old Lane at the Ickornshaw side of town and go up the steep and winding road until you hit the moors.  Just as the road levels out with walling on either side of the road, there’s some rough ground to your left.  You can park here.  You’ll blatantly see our Hitching Stone on the moorland a few hundred yards above you on the other side of the road.  Walk up the usually boggy footpath straight to it!

Archaeology & History

For me, this is a superb place! Each time I come here the place becomes even more and more attractive — it’s like it’s calling me with greater strength with each visit.  But that aside…

Supposedly the largest single boulder in Yorkshire, it possesses several legends, aligns with the sacred Pendle Hill in Lancashire, is an omphalos (centre of the universe spot) and has other good points too! My first visit here was near the end of the Great Drought of 1995.  All of the streams and springs had dried up on the moors but, on the very top of this huge rock, measuring at least 8 feet by 4 feet across (and 3 feet deep) was a large pool of water, not unlike a bath, in which a couple of you could easily bathe (and do more besides, if the fancy takes you!).  It was surreal!  Water-boatmen and other insects were living in this curious pool on top of the rock.  Yet all other water supplies for miles around had long since dried-up.  It didn’t really seem to make sense.

Crystalline tunnel in the Hitching Stone
Crystalline tunnel in the Hitching Stone

On the west-facing side of the boulder, about 8 feet up, is a curious deep recess known as the Druid’s or Priest’s Chair, into which initiates were sat (facing Pendle Hill, down which it seems the equinox sun “rolls”) and is believed, said Harry Speight, “to have some connection with Druidical worship, to which tradition assigns a place on these moors.” If you climb up and inside the Priest’s Chair section you’ll notice a curious “tunnel” that runs down through the boulder, about 12 feet long, emerging near the northern base of the rock and out onto the moor itself.  This curious tunnel through the rock is due to the softer rock of a fossilised tree (Lepidodendron) crumbling away — and not, as Will Keighley (1858) believed, “the mould or matrix of a great fish.” When we visited the stone the other day in the snow, we noticed how the inner surface of this tunnel was shimmering throughout its length as if coated in a beautiful crystalline lattice (you can sort-of make this out in the image here, where the numerous bright spots on the photo are where the rock was lit up). Twas gorgeous!

The Hitching Stone, looking north
The Hitching Stone, looking north

The boulder lies at the meeting of five boundaries, and was the starting point for horse-racing event until the end of the 19th century.  A short distance away “are two smaller stones, the one on the east called ‘Kidstone’, the other ‘Navaxstone’, which stands at the terminus of the race-course.” (Keighley 1858)  Lammas fairs were also held here, though were stopped in 1870.

The cup-marked Winter Hill Stone a few hundred yards to the northeast, which I previously thought aligned with this site around winter solstice, but which happens to be a few degrees of arc off-line, would have indicated a very early mythic relationship, but this thought may now have to be put to bed.  I’ve not checked whether the winter solstice alignment shown in the photo below (with the Hitching Stone being shown on the near-horizon as the sun rose on winter solstice, 2010, from Winter Hill Stone) would have been closer in neolithic times or not.  Summat to check out sometime in the future maybe…

This aside, there is little doubt that this was an important sacred site to our ancestors.

Folklore

Winter Solstice sunrise, 2010 (from Winter Hill Stone)

Legend has it that the Hitching Stone used to sit on Ilkley Moor. But it was outside the rocky house of a great witch who, fed up by the constant intrusion the boulder made to her life, tried all sorts of ways to move it, but without success. So one day, using magick, she stuck her wand (or broomstick) into the very rock itself and threw it several miles from one side of the valley to the other until it landed where it still sits, on Keighley Moor.

A variation on the same tale tells that she pushed it up the hill from the Aire valley bottom. The “hole” running through the stone is supposed to be where our old witch shoved her broomstick!

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  2. Gray, Johnnie, Through Airedale form Goole to Malham, G.F. Sewell: Bradford 1891.
  3. Keighley, William, Keighley, Past and Present, R. Aked: Keighley 1858.
  4. Wood, Eric, Cowling: A Moorland Parish, Cowling Local History Society 1980.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Hitching Stone

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Hitching Stone 53.871487, -2.021788 Hitching Stone

Hamblethorpe, Low Bradley, Skipton, North Yorkshire

Standing Stones:  OS Grid Reference – SE 00303 47622

Getting Here

Hamblethorpe Stones, Low Bradley
Hamblethorpe Stones, Low Bradley

Take the single-track country lane between Farnhill and Low Bradley until you reach Hamblethorpe farmhouse.  Where the birch woodland is on the slope going uphill, the field on the other side of the road, protected by walling, is where the stones are, just south of the farmhouse.  There’s nowhere to park any car hereabouts, so it’s best walking here.

Archaeology & History

It seems that nothing has previously been written of this place.  Hidden away at the top of the field we find two curious-looking standing stones: one nearly six-feet tall, and its companion about four-feet.  They’re near the bottom of the slope from the giant Round Cairn and Long Cairn tombs of Low Bradley Moor, several hundred yards to the east— and were it not for the fact that they have a distinctive Castlerigg-like appearance about them, perhaps I wouldn’t have given them a second chance.  Curious earthworks are in the same field, to which written records also appear silent.  Tis a lovely little spot…

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Hamblethorpe stones

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Hamblethorpe stones 53.924732, -1.996873 Hamblethorpe stones