St Peter’s Well (1), Leeds, West Yorkshire

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 2894 3382

Archaeology & History

St Peters Well on 1852 map

Not to be confused with the other St. Peter’s Well that once existed in the city centre, this site was shown on an 1815 map of Leeds (which I’ve not been able to get mi hands on!), known as the Waterloo Map.  But when the Ordnance Survey lads visited the place in 1846, it had been covered over.  Immediately west of here, the saint’s name was also given to a nearby hill, whose folklore seems has been forgotten.

Although Ralph Thoresby mentioned it in passing, Edward Parsons (1834) gave us a brief description of its qualities, telling us that,

“Near North Hall is the celebrated spring called St. Peter’s Well ; the waters are so intensely cold that they have long been considered very efficacious in rheumatic disorders.”

Bonser (1979) reiterated this in his survey, also telling that, like its nearby namesake, its waters were “intensely cold and beneficial for rheumatism, rickets, etc.”  An old bathing-house that was “annexed to the Well” may have been used specifically to treat such ailments, but we cannot say for sure.

Interestingly, Andrea Smith (1982) told that 400 metres away a well was sunk in 1838 and a quantity of petrified hazelnuts were recovered from a broken red jar which had a female head painted on it.  Such a deposit is not too unusual, as a number of sacred wells in bygone days were blessed with nuts and signified the deity Callirius, known by the Romans as Silvanus, the God of the Hazel Wood – though we have no direct tradition here linking St. Peter’s Well with this ritual deposit.

St. Peter’s festival date was June 29.

References:

  1. Bonser, K.J., “Spas, Wells and Springs of Leeds,” in The Thoresby Miscellany – volume 54, Leeds 1979.
  2. Hope, Robert Charles, Legendary Lore of the Holy Wells of England, Elliott Stock: London 1893.
  3. Parsons, Edward, The Civil, Ecclesiastical, Literary, Commercial and Miscellaneous History of Leeds, Halifax, Huddersfield, Bradford, Wakefield, Dewsbury, Otley – volume 1, Frederick Hobson: Leeds 1834.
  4. Smith, Andrea, ‘Holy Wells Around Leeds, Bradford & Pontefract,’ in Wakefield Historical Journal 9, 1982.
  5. Thoresby, Ralph, Ducatus Leodiensis, Maurice Atkins: London 1715.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Hough Hill, Bramley, Leeds, West Yorkshire

Tumulus (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 234 336

Archaeology & History

Today, Hough Hill has almost completely given way to modern housing; but in bygone centuries, this hilltop once housed a prehistoric burial mound—albeit an inconspicuous one.  It was mentioned briefly in Faull & Morehouse’s (1981) magnum opus, but we know very little of its overall appearance and stature.  Its existence was recorded posthumously thanks to the antiquarian John Holmes, without whose notes it would have been lost to history.

During quarrying operations at Hough Hill in December 1879, an ornamental urn was found,

“filled with calcined bones (that) was placed on a dish shaped hollow, some two or three feet deep, with charcoal and burnt earth.”

Holmes compared some markings that were upon this urn to one that was uncovered in Acrehowe Hill above Baildon by J.N.M. Coll in 1845.  Unfortunately the Hough Hill urn was broken into fragments shortly after being uncovered.  All remains of the burial mound have been completely destroyed.

References:

  1. Faull, M.L. & Moorhouse, S.A. (eds.), West Yorkshire: An Archaeological Guide to AD 1500 – volume 1, WYMCC: Wakefield 1981.
  2. Holmes. John, “A Sketch of the Pre-Historic Remains of Rombalds Moor,” in Proceedings of the Yorkshire Geological & Polytechnic Society, volume 9, 1886.
  3. Wardell, James, Historical Notes of Ilkley, Rombald’s Moor, Baildon Common, and other Matters of the British and Roman Periods, Joseph Dodgson: Leeds 1869. (2nd edition 1881).

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Eyebright Well, Leeds, West Yorkshire

Healing Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 2986 3331

Archaeology & History

First mentioned in the 1715 magnum opus of Ralph Thoresby, this old healing well has long since fallen victim to the careless Industrialists.  In his day, the well was there for all to use, saying:

“Eye-bright Well on a declining Ground, near the Monk-Pits, discovers its Virtues in the Name, being, long-ago, esteemed a Sovereign Remedy against Sore-Eyes.”

This note was subsequently copied in in Hope’s (1893) classic survey, with no additional comment.  In all probability, the name of the well derived from the presence of the herb Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis) which, as is well known, is the best herb for ailments of the eye.  The water from the well, in combination with the herb that grew around it, no doubt increased its ocular healing abilities.

By the middle of the 19th century, the rise of Leeds city brought an end to its ancient flow and its location was eventually forgotten.  In Bonser’s (1979) survey of Leeds’ wells, he told how,

“the position of this well can be accurately determined: it was situated on sloping ground between Wellington Street and Aire Street, as clearly indicated on the 1847 (1850) OS 5ft to 1 mile (map).”

Location of Eyebright Well on 1852 map

However, in the much earlier survey of Leeds, Edward Parsons (1834) told us that this well was a hundred yards to the south, “near the line of the new road to the iron bridge across the Aire at the Monk Pits.”  And although it isn’t named, it should be noted that immediately across the River Aire, where Parsons stated, the 1852 OS-maps showed the “Site of an Ancient Well.”  This is very likely to be where it was.  Parson’s also echoed the local lore of the time, telling us that the Well was “a sovereign remedy for soreness of the eyes.”

References:

  1. Bonser, K.J., “Spas, Wells and Springs of Leeds,” in The Thoresby Miscellany – volume 16, Leeds 1979.
  2. Hope, Robert Charles, Legendary Lore of the Holy Wells of England, Elliott Stock: London 1893.
  3. Parsons, Edward, The Civil, Ecclesiastical, Literary, Commercial and Miscellaneous History of Leeds, Halifax, Huddersfield, Bradford, Wakefield, Dewsbury, Otley – volume 1, Frederick Hobson: Leeds 1834.
  4. Thoresby, Ralph, Ducatus Leodiensis, Maurice Atkins: London 1715.
  5. Whelan, Edna & Taylor, Ian, Yorkshire Holy Wells and Sacred Springs, Northern Lights: Dunnington 1989.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Fuke Well, Pudsey, West Yorkshire

Healing Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 22 33

Archaeology & History

Ths curiously-named site is described just once in very early field-name records as the ‘Fukewell’.  Included in A.H. Smith’s (1961) magnum opus, he passes over the place-name without comment.  But in finding his 12th century literary source, we read that it was located on some land given to the monks of Kirkstall Abbey, Leeds.  Written in early disjointed Latin, we find that the Fukewell was mentioned on a grant that described five acres of land given by one Adam Samson to the monks of the Abbey.  On one of the acres was a site known as the Cold Well, whilst the Fuke Well was found on a piece of land adjacent to a house, but its precise location seems to have been lost.  Nothing is mentioned about it by great Pudsey historan Simeon Raynor, despite him naming a number of other wells in the area – so we must presume that the site had already gone when he came to write his work.

But what does the word fuke actually mean?  There is nothing to explain it in Wright’s Dialect Dictionary, nor other regional dialect or place-name works.  I was wondering if it derived from the old english word ‘fuck’, which was common parlance in earlier centuries.  ‘Fucking’ was a word that didn’t have the debased christian ideology attached to it: of something not to be talked about, or be hidden.  To have a fuck, or go fucking, was always quite normal; and to most people in the real world we use the same term with absolute ease – because we all do it!  But this etymological idea is pure speculation on my part.  Can anyone give clear light to fuke’s real meaning?

References:

  1. Fryer, Peter, Mrs Grundy, Dennis Dobson: London 1963.
  2. Lancaster, W.T. & Baildon, W. Paley (eds.), The Coucher Book of the Cistercian Abbey of Kirkstall, Thoresby Society: Leeds 1904.
  3. Smith, A.H., The Place-Names of the West Riding of Yorkshire – volume 3, Cambridge University Press 1961.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian 


St. Peter’s Well (2), Leeds, West Yorkshire

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 308 336

Archaeology & History

St Peters Well locale in 1852

This is one of three wells that were dedicated to St Peter in the Leeds district.  The first of them, near the city centre, was described by the northern antiquarian Ralph Thoresby (1715) as being in St. Peter’s Square—which has now been completely built over, but was situated “at the bottom or west end of High Street,” (Bonser 1974) about 50 yards west of the modern Quarry Hill buildings.  It was well known in the area in early times with a good curative reputation due seemingly to its sulphur content.  Mr Thoresby told that us, it

“is intensely cold and very beneficial for such as are afflicted with rheumatic pains, or weakness, rickets, etc, for which reason it is much frequented by such, who might otherwise have recourse to St. Mungus or Mongah, as it is more truly writ. This Spring, according to St Anselms Canon, which forbad a credulous attributing any reverence, or opinion of holiness to fountains…must either have been of great antiquity, or have had the bishop’s authority.”

Local folk of course, would have long known the goodness of this water supply long before any crude bishop.  The well either possessed a very large stone trough or it had been fashioned and added to by locals, as Thoresby reported “trying the cold bathing of St Peter’s.”  He took his youngest child there, Richard, to help him overcome an osteopathic ailment.  In his diary entry for April 8, 1709, he wrote:

“Was late at church, and fetched out by a messuage from the bone-setter (Smith, of Ardsley), who positively affirms that one part of the kneebone of my dear child Richard, has slipped out of its proper place; he set it right and bound it up; the Lord give a blessing to all endeavours!  We had made use of several before, who all affirmed that no bone was wrong, but that his limp proceeded rather from some weakness, which we were the rather induced to believe, because warm weather, and bathing in St. Peter’s Well, had set him perfectly on his feet without the least halting, only this severe Winter has made him worse than ever.”

It later became at least one of the water supplies for Maude’s Spa close by.  As usual with health-giving waters at this period in the evolving cities, money was to be made from them and local folk had to find their supplies from other sources.  St Peter’s Sulphur Baths (as it was called) were built on top of it in the 19th century and, said Bonser “flourished until the early years of the (20th) century.”

Although I can find no notices of annual celebrations or folklore here, St. Peter’s Day is June 29 — perhaps a late summer solstice site, though perhaps not.

It would be good if Leeds city council would at least put historical plaques in and around the city to inform people of the location of the many healing and holy wells that were once an integral part of the regions early history.  Tourists of various interest groups (from christian to pagan and beyond) would love to know more about their old sacred sites and spend their money in the city.

References:

  1. Atkinson, D.H., Ralph Thoresby, the Topographer – volume 1, Walker & Laycock: Leeds 1885.
  2. Baines, Edward, The Leeds Guide, E.Baines: Leeds 1806.
  3. Bonser, K.J., “Spas, Wells and Springs of Leeds,” in Publications Thoresby Society, 54:1, 1974.
  4. Harte, Jeremy, English Holy Wells – volume 2, Heart of Albion: Wymeswold 2008.
  5. NiBride, Feorag, The Wells and Springs of Leeds, Pagan Pratlle: Leeds 1994.
  6. Robinson, Percy, Relics of Old Leeds, P.Robinson: Leeds 1896.
  7. Smith, Andrea, ‘Holy Wells Around Leeds, Bradford & Pontefract,’ in Wakefield Historical Journal 9, 1982.
  8. Thoresby, Ralph, Ducatus Leodiensis, Maurice Atkins: London 1715.
  9. Whelan, Edna & Taylor, Ian, Yorkshire Holy Wells and Sacred Springs, Northern Lights 1989.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Lady Well, Leeds, West Yorkshire

Holy Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SE 3060 3373

Archaeology & History

Lady Lane, where the well was

Lady Lane, where the well was

Deep in the industrial centre of Leeds, not far from the main bus station, could once be found one of Yorkshire’s many ‘Lady Wells’.  The great historian and antiquarian Ralph Thoresby (1715) was the first to write of this great spring, which is now lost beneath the concrete buildings near Quarry Hill.  He described it as,

“a noted spring…to this day called Lady Well and the adjoining way, Lady Lane.”

In 1806 Edward Baines of Leeds described this spring of “soft, pure water,” also telling it to be on Lady Lane, saying that

“At the bottom of this street is a spring of excellent water, called Lady-Well, which affords a copious supply of that necessary article to this populous part of town.”

This Lady Well was also included in Andrea Smith’s (1982) survey, who noted that less than two hundred yards northwest of was The Chantry of Our Lady. This church has medieval foundations and its dedication would be derived from the healing waters here; plus, Smith notes, in West Yorkshire, “the number of churches dedicated to Our Lady is only two and these are both classed as ancient.”

References:

  1. Baines, Edward, The Leeds Guide, E. Baines: Leeds 1806.
  2. Smith, Andrea N., “Holy Wells in and around Bradford, Leeds and Pontefract,” in Wakefield Historical Society Journal, volume 9, 1982.
  3. Thoresby, Ralph, Ducatus Leodiensis, London 1715.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian


Gray Stone, Burley, Leeds, West Yorkshire

Legendary Rock:  OS Grid Reference – SE 28659 34229

Also Known as:

  1. Giant’s Stone

Getting Here

Originally located at SE 28449 34364, the site is now to be found halfway along Westfield Road, where it meets up with Hollis Place, along the footpath at the back of the school, set back against the walling.  A plaque by the rock kinda gives the game away!

Archaeology & History

Gray Stone on 1852 map

Gray Stone on 1852 map

The large vandalised stone you see here—sprayed-painted quite eloquently it has to be said!—is apparently a replica of the old stone which could once be found about 300 yards northwest of here.  Typifying stones of this name—graygrey and variants thereof—the original Gray Stone was an old boundary marker (Smith 1956), and the last reference to it as an archaeological site was by James Wardell (1853), who even in his day said that it was “almost buried in the ground, on the Burley Road.” It is shown on the first OS-map by the roadside, close to the junction of Woodside View and Burley Road, but was said to have been removed at the beginning of the 20th century and moved to its new and present position.  However, somewhere along the line, the original stone has been destroyed and the thing that we see today has taken its place.

The original Gray Stone may have been a standing stone, but we cannot be certain about this.  The present boulder stands about four feet tall and is a rather fat-looking standing stone. You can just about squeeze round the back of it, around which is an incised line which cuts around the stone – but this obviously quite modern. A plaque stands in front of the stone, telling its brief history.  (if anyone can send us some photos of the site that would be great – I’ve gone and lost mine, somehow!)

Folklore

A creation myth of this site tells it to have been made by a giant, who threw the Gray Stone from the appropriately named Giant’s Hill (a supposed old camp, now destroyed), less than a mile southeast of here: an alignment which corresponds closely to the midsummer sunrise. In throwing it, he was said to have left the indentations of his finger-marks in the rock – thought to have been cup-markings.  Examples of other cup-and-ring stones occur a short distance west, at Kirkstall.

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  2. Smith, A.H., English Place-Name Elements – 2 volumes, Cambridge University Press 1956.
  3. Wardell, James, The Antiquities of the Borough of Leeds, John Russell Smith: London 1853.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian


Calverley Woods Stone Circle, Leeds, West Yorkshire

Stone Circle:  OS Grid Reference — SE 20 37

Archaeology & History

Having lived close to these woods in the past, I have searched extensively for any remains of the stone circle described by a Miss Alice Wells in the very first issue of the Cartwright Hall Archaeology Group Bulletin, but to no avail.  A meeting to examine this site was supposed to have taken place in September 1953, “but as Miss Wells was unavoidably absent this was not seen.”  And still to this day it remains hidden [or non-existent, whatever the case may be].  There is ample evidence that prehistoric man roamed this region, as finds of cup-and-ring stones and iron age walling indicate.  A possible contender for this stone circle could be the small ring of rocks seen near the bottom of the wooded hill beneath the giant Hanging Stone, close to grid reference SE 2003 3748.  About 10 yards across, this looked like a smaller version of the Roms Law circle several miles west, but is much overgrown and not visible beneath the undergrowth of summer vegetation.

The presence of prehistoric cup-marked stones in this woodland clearly indicates Bronze Age activity here and—as such petroglyphs have a tendency in West Yorkshire to be associated with tombs and death in many cases—may indicate the lost site was indeed a cairn circle and not a true stone circle. Seems likely to me. If anyone has any photos of this site, or can ascertain its exact whereabouts, please let us know and all credits will be given for its rediscovery.

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  2. Jackson, Sidney (ed.), “Calverley Wood,”in Cartwright Hall Archaeology Group Bulletin, 1:1, July 1954.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian


Calverley Woods 03, Leeds, West Yorkshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 20370 37925

Getting Here

Cup-Marked Stone near centre (courtesy Mike Short)
Cup-Marked Stone near centre
(courtesy Mike Short)

Mike Short tells: Walk ENE along Thornhill Drive (no vehicular access) to gate across road at the last house on the Drive and continue on for approx 475m where road starts to narrow slightly, becomes a little steeper and gently turns to E.  Thornhill Drive is now cut into the hillside at this point with an upwards sloping bank on the S side of the path. After approx 25m further on at approx SE 20375 37950 look out on the S side of the path for a pile of boulders sitting on bedrock on top of the bank and a large rectangular tabular rock on the side of the bank.  Ascend the bank and from the boulder pile the panel is approx 22m 200º(T) in the middle of an ephemeral E-W path more defined to W.

Archaeology & History

The profile (and ‘How to Get There’) for this recently discovered cup-marked stone was forwarded to me by fellow rock art explorer, Mike Short.  The carving is another basic design found in Calverley Woods, between Leeds and Bradford, nearly halfway between the missing petroglyphs of West Woods 2 and Sidney Jackson’s Calverley Woods Stone.  Rediscovered by Lisa Volichenko some time ago, Mike described the new carving here as follows:

Looking down on the 3-4 cups (courtesy Mike Short)
Looking down on the 3-4 cups
(courtesy Mike Short)
Sketch of the carving (courtesy Mike Short)
Sketch of the carving
(courtesy Mike Short)

“Panel is carved on W sloping face of a sub-triangular earthfast coarse-grained sandstone boulder 0.81m X 0.50m X 0.38m, the longest axis lying almost exactly N-S. Carving consists of 3 cups, the most N of which is elliptical approx 65mm X 55mm; the central cup is elliptical approx 50mm X 40mm and the most S is circular diameter approx 40mm. On the N edge of the W face is a shallow elliptical depression thought to be of natural origin. There is an area of damage along the ‘crest’ of the boulder close to its S end.

“Carved rock is the most E of five rocks, measuring between 0.70m and 1.15m in length, in very close proximity forming an arc, 3 of which are in the footpath and one of which is resting on a large slab of rock almost completely covered by soil and vegetation.”

And so the small number of cup-marked stones in this woodland slowly grows.  One wonders how many more are hidden beneath the roots of the trees—and are all of the lines and cups atop of the great Hanging Stone, a short distant away, all Nature’s handiwork…?

Acknowledgements:  Huge thanks for Mike Short for the data, photos and sketch of this carving.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian


West Woods 02, Calverley, Leeds, West Yorkshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone (lost):  OS Grid Reference –SE 1956 3734

Getting Here

Old photo of lost carving
Old photo of lost carving

Although now seemingly lost, it’s location is damn close to this: Along the A657 between Greengates and Bradford, where the New Line meets Carr Road, the dirt-track takes you into Calverley Woods, down Eleanor Drive. About 250 yards along (just before you get to the field on the left), take the footpath down the embankment towards the stream where it bends to the left and where the land levels out (don’t cross the stream). It’s somewhere round there!

Archaeology & History

This was one of two previously unrecognised carvings we came across sometime in 1985 (see West Woods 1 stone), when we were seeking out another missing carving in the same woods.  It was clear and well-defined as the faded photo here shows; but having been back to try find it twice in the last two years in the hope of getting better photos, I’ve been unable to locate it.  The carving was described in an article I did in an old earth mysteries magazine.  It comprises simply of a large ring surrounding and enclosing two deep cups, which were linked to each other by a connecting carved line.  Parts of the stone had been chipped in parts—including a section of the large ring— due to some industrial workings that had happened here in the past. Thankfully I managed to find the old photo and hopefully, perhaps, some local explorer could try and seek out where it’s hiding beneath the trees and other vegetation.

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, “The Undiscovered Old Stones of Calverley Woods,” in Earth no.2, 1986.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian