Castlestead Ring, Cullingworth, West Yorkshire

Earthworks:  OS Grid References – SE 0514 3627

Also Known as:

  1. Blood Dykes

Getting Here

The complete Castlestead Ring on 1852 map
The complete Castlestead Ring on 1852 map

Dead easy this one!  On the Keighley-Halifax A629 road, about 500 yards south past Flappit Spring (public house), there’s a small road to your right.  Walk on here for 200 yards and look in the field to your right.  If the grass is long you might struggle to see it, but gerrin the field and it runs right up against the wall.  Y’ can’t miss it really!  You can park up a coupla hundred yards down the A629 main road, by the old quarry, and walk back to get here.

Archaeology & History

Although I’ve earlier described this as “nowt much to look at,” the more I come here, the more I like the place (sad aren’t !!?).  The hard-core  archaeology folks amidst you should like it aswell.  Not to be confused with the site of the same name a mile to the south of here, this large earthwork was shown on the 1852 OS-map as a complete ring, which is also confirmed in old folklore; and a survey done by Bradford University in the late 1970s indicated a complete circle was once in evidence.  To view this for yourself: if you type the OS grid-reference into Google maps, you’ll see from the aerial image that a complete ring was indeed here at sometime in the not-too-distant past.

Bend in the ditch on northern side of the ring
Harry Speight’s 1898 drawing

Today however – indeed, since William Keighley described it 1858 – there’s only a shallow, semi-circular ditch to be seen in the fields.  But despite this, its remains have brought it to the literary attention of about a dozen writers – though we still don’t know exactly what it was!  The best conjecture is by the archaeologist Bernard Barnes (1982), who thinks it best to describe as a enclosure or earthwork dating from the Bronze Age.  Eighty feet across and covering more than 1.5 acres, an excavation of the site in 1911 found nothing to explain its status.

One of the first descriptions of this site comes from the pen of the industrial Bradford historian, John James in 1876 (though Hearne, Leland and Richardson describe it in brief much earlier). Talking of the sparsity of prehistoric remains in the region (ancient history wasn’t his forte!), he said, “I know of no British remains in the parish that are not equivocal, unless a small earth-work lying to the westward of Cullingworth may be considered of that class.”

Indeed it is! He continued:

“It is situated on a gentle slope, about two hundred yards from a place called Flappit Springs, on the right-hand side of the road leading thence to Halifax. The form has been circular. (my italics) The greater part of it to the south has been destroyed by the plough. I took several measurements of that part which remains, but have mislaid the memoranda I then made; I however estimate the diameter to have been about 50 yards. The ditch to the westward is very perfect. It is about two yards deep and three wide; with the earth thrown up in the form of a rampart on the inner side. The remain is less perfect to the eastward.”

James then speculates on the nature of the site, thinking it to be “one of a line of forts erected by the Brigantes…to prevent the inroads of the Sistuntii.” Intriguing idea!

A few years later when William Cudworth (1876) visited the site, he described:

“At present there only remains about one-fourth part of a circle representing the appearance of a considerable earthwork or rampart. The remainder has been cut away by the construction of the road leading to the allotments.”

Echoing Mr James’ sentiments, Cudworth also suggested “it may have been an enclosure to guard their cattle, while in summer they grazed on the vast slope on which it stands.”  Y’ never know…

NW section showing bank and ditch
Exposed stonework of inner embankment

A visit to the place on October 21 2007, found not only a profusion of mushrooms scattering the field (varying species of Amanita, Lycoperdon, Panaeolina, Psilocybes, etc), and the remnants of two old stone buildings 20 yards of the NE side, but a distinctive ‘entrance’ on the northern side of the ring, which gave the slight impression of it being a possible henge monument. It’s certainly big enough! All traces of the southern-side of the ring however, have been ploughed out.

The views from here are quite excellent, nearly all the way round. You’re knocking-on a 1000 feet above sea level and the high hills of Baildon, Ilkley, Ogden Moor and the Oxenhope windmills are your mark-points. There’s one odd thing to think about aswell: if this is a prehistoric site, it’s pretty much an isolated one according to the archaeo-catalogue – and as we know only too well, that aint the rule of things. We’ve got adjacent moorlands south and west of here, very close by. Likelihood is, there’s undiscovered stuff to be foraged for hereabouts…

Folklore

An old folk-name given to this ring is the Blood Dykes, which is supposed to relate to the place being the site of a great battle.

References:

  1. Barnes, Bernard, Man and the Changing Landscape, Eaton: Merseyside 1982.
  2. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  3. Cudworth, William, Round about Bradford, Thomas Brear: Bradford 1876.
  4. Elgee, Frank & Harriett, The Archaeology of Yorkshire, Methuen: London 1933.
  5. Forshaw, C.F., ‘Castlestead, near Cullingworth,’ in Yorkshire Notes and Queries – volume 4, H.C. Derwent: Bradford 1908.
  6. James, John, The History and Topography of Bradford, Longmans: London 1876.
  7. Keighley, J.J., ‘The Prehistoric Period,’ in Faull & Moorhouse’s, West Yorkshire: An Archaeological Survey to AD 1500 – volume 1, WYMCC: Wakefield 1981.
  8. Keighley, William, Keighley, Past and Present, Arthur Hall: Keighley 1858.
  9. Speight, Harry, Chronicles and Stories of Bingley and District, Elliott Stock: London 1898.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Castlestead Ring

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Castlestead Ring 53.822678, -1.923402 Castlestead Ring

Haworth Moor Spa Wells, West Yorkshire

Healing Wells:  OS Grid Reference – SE 0041 3513

Getting Here

Spa Wells on 1852 map

Go through Haworth and head for the well-known Penistone Hill country park.  On the far western side of the hill up near the top of Moorside Lane, there’s a car-park.  Right across the road from this there are two footpaths: one heads you into the moor, whilst the other (going the same direction) follows the edge of walling onto the moors.  Take this path. Walk on and downhill, past the end of the reservoir, then the path continues uphill. You’ll hit a nice cheery tree beside the path a few hundred yards up.  Stop here, look into the boggy region with bits of walling on the moor in front of you.  That’s where you’re heading!

Archaeology & History

The first, weaker of the Spa Wells
The first, weaker of the Spa Wells

This was a really curious spot to me, as I found absolutely nothing about the damn place!  But thanks to the assistance of local historian and writer Steven Wood (2009), that’s changed.  Shown on the 1852 OS-map, at least two springs of clear water trickle slowly from the wet slope above you into the boggy reeds.  Close by there are overgrown remains of old buildings, covered with the time of moorland vegetation, seemingly telling that the waters were collected for bathing rooms.  But who the hell even started the notion that they’d be able to get Victorian rich-folk up here at the crack-of-dawn to drink or bathe in the waters is seemingly forgotten.  And, as is evident from the lack of local history, the project was a failed one which seemed not to have lasted too long. 

Folklore

The stronger of the Spa Wells
The stronger Spa Well

It was quite obvious that of all the springs around here and despite the strong-flowing streams either side of these spa well, that the local animals drink here more than the other nearby springs of water, as there were literally hundreds of animal tracks all across the boggy ground of the spas.*  The waters also seem to have the usual ‘spa’ qualities of stinking, but once we’d cleaned out the overgrown springs — which looked as if they hadn’t been touched for 100 years or more the waters were clear and tasted good, and were curiously slightly warm!

Although my initial search for information on this site drew a blank, Steve Wood pointed us in the right direction for info on the place.  As with many other holy wells and spas in Yorkshire, it turned out that this was another spot much revered around Beltane, indicating strongly there would have been  earlier pre-christian rites practiced at this site.   Steve pointed me to Martha Heaton’s (2006) local history work, which told:

“For many years the first Sunday in May was a special day. It was known as Spa Sunday, for on this day people gathered up in the hills overlooking what is now Leeshaw Reservoir, here was a well, known as Spa Well, and the stream which now feeds the reservoir is known as Spa Beck. People came from Haworth, Oxenhope, Stanbury, and other villages sitting round the well, they sang songs, some bringing their musical instruments to accompany the singing. Children brought bottles with hard spanish in the bottom filling the bottle with water from the well, shaking it until all the spanish or liquorice had been dissolved. This mixture was known as ‘Poppa Lol’ and would be kept for weeks after a little sugar had been added, then it was used sparingly as medicine.  The custom seems to have died out when Bradford Corporation took over the water and made Leeshaw Compensation Reservoir in 1875, though up to about 1930 two men from Haworth would wend their way to the spot on the moor, the first Sunday in May. The men were John Mitchell and Riley Sunderland, better known, in those days as ‘Johnny o’Paul’s’ and ‘Rile Sun’.

It was a great day for many people, the Keighley News of May 1867 mentioned it, the report of local news reads thus: ‘A large assembly met on Spa Sunday on the moors about two miles from Haworth, and a party of musicians from Denholme performed sacred music’.

This locality was often visited during the summer months by the Bronte family.”

References:

  1. Heaton, Martha, Recollections and History of Oxenhope, privately printed 2006.
  2. Wood, Steven & Palmer, Ian, Oxenhope and Stanbury through Time, Amberley Publishing 2009.

Acknowledgements: – Huge thanks to Steven Wood for his help; and to Hazel Holmes for permission to quote from Martha Heaton’s work.

* A common creation myth behind many healing wells is that animals with breaks or illness drag themselves to drink from otherwise small or insignificant springs and wells, despite of the copious streams or rivers which may be nearer.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Haworth Moor Spa

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Haworth Moor Spa 53.812456, -1.995255 Haworth Moor Spa

Roms Hill, Wadsworth, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire

Standing Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 0080 3261

Getting Here

Roms Hill Stone

Whether coming from Hebden Bridge or Oxenhope: at the very top of the long uphill road, at the very top where a small radio station sits by the roadside (the views from here are effing superb!) – stop! On the opposite side of the road from the radio station, get over the fence (I think there’s a gate nearby) and walk roughly westwards down the gently inclining grassland slope.  Keep westward-ish for about 200 yards (if that) and you’re damn close!

Archaeology & History

Rediscovered in January 2002, this is a very curious stone, over a metre in height, isolated on the southern edge of Roms Hill, close to the folklore-sounding Halfpenny Hole Clough, near the very top of the hill between Hebden Bridge and Oxenhope. The base of the stone is almost wedged into a space between two rocks and its positioning here seems quite deliberate.  It stands upon a small geological ridge in the ground that stretches for some distance, east and west, either side of here.

Roms Hill Stone in good fog!

Despite this, it seems unlikely to have an authentic prehistoric pedigree, but as there’s little else been said of the stone (apart from Dave Shepherd’s (2003) article on local megalithic remains, many of which are highly dubious as archaeological remains), it deserves a mention here.  It’s not recorded in any of the old boundary records — unlike the upright boundary stone that can be found a few hundred yards northwest of here on the same moorland plain.

The land here has an etymological relationship with the Roms Law (or Grubstones) Circle on Rombald’s Moor, but as yet we can ascertain little more about this site.  Well worth a visit — if only for the superb views it affords!

References:

  1. Shepherd, David, “Prehistoric Activity in the Central Pennines,” in Transactions of the Halifax Antiquarian Society, volume 11 New Series, 2003.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  53.789806, -1.989338 Roms Hill Stone

Armshaw Lowe, Oxenhope, West Yorkshire

Tumulus?:  OS Grid Reference – SE 04422 35130

Getting Here

Armshaw Lowe on 1852 map

Go along the B6141 from Denholme to Oxenhope, turning right just by the bend which drops into Oxenhope, and head along the small road to Upwood Park camping site. Just before here is the Grange Park Animal sanctuary.  Ask there to walk onto the field behind, where you’ll see a rise in the land, as you can see on the rather poor photo I took from the east-side.

Archaeology & History

Although ascribed on early OS-maps as a tumulus (and still shown as an antiquity on the modern ones), this site appears to be simply the end-point along a geological ridge, starting a few hundred yards east of here, consisting of an upsurge of rocks covered in earth and nothing more. A survey of the place done by Bellamy in 1970 (Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, 42:6, 1970) seems to indicate the same. To those who want to test the theory, start by exploring it from Cullingworth Moor and walk along the ridge itself. It seems pretty clear.

Armshaw Lowe - looking west
Armshaw Lowe – the small mound in centre of photo

The “antiquarian” element to the site seems to originate in its positioning in the landscape. Armshaw Lowe is on the topmost point of the hills hereabouts, with 360-degree views all round, commanding excellent sights all round. But it’s perhaps the word ‘lowe’ that might be the important bit here, as in old english it can mean an old moot or meeting spot — which it may well have been for local tribes.  It is may be this element that gives Armshaw Lowe its lingering antiquarian status.

Check it out for yourselves and see what y’ think. I went up here to see an old burial mound, but found only a decent geological feature atop of local hills. But me ‘n’ the archaeologists might be wrong…

References:

  1. Gomme, G.L., Primitive Folk-Moots; or Open-Air Assemblies in Britain, Sampson Low: London 1880.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Armshaw Lowe

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Armshaw Lowe 53.812435, -1.934318 Armshaw Lowe