Minspit Well, Preston, Lancashire

Healing Well (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – SD 540 293

Archaeology & History

Here we have another example of one of the many healing wells destroyed thanks to those industrialists who tend to do that sort of thing.  Found in close proximity to several other water sources — including the Syke, Preston’s main watercourse in bygone times — very little has been written of the place. However, in Dave Hunt’s (2005) recent work on Preston, he told us the following:

“The Minspit Well in Mainsprit Weind at the foot of the Church Street ridge is close to the line of the Syke, has a good claim to be one of Preston’s earliest wells, and remained one of the principle water sources well into the 18th century.  The ‘spit’ or ‘sprit’ element in the name perhaps indicates the original strongly flowing spring or fountain. The site is now covered over, but Kuerden, writing in the 1680s, describes the picturesque early morning scene as the town’s housemaids collected water in what was accordingly referred to as Pettycoat Alley.”

References:

  1. Hunt, David, The Wharncliffe Companion to Preston: An A to Z of Local History, Wharncliffe: Barnsley 2005.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Minspit Well

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Minspit Well 53.758284, -2.698821 Minspit Well

Sheep Scar Circle, Giggleswick, North Yorkshire

Ring Cairn:  OS Grid Reference – SD 80519 66474

Also Known as:

  1. Borrins Top

Getting Here

Sheep Scar cairn circle, looking east

From Settle, take the same direction as if you’re visiting the giant Apronful of Stones cairn.  Walk past it, keeping to the walling for 350 yards (319m) until you reach the gate on your right.  Go through this and walk along the grassy footpath ahead of you for 75 yards (68.5m) and there, right by your left-hand side, you’ll see this low grassy circular embanked monument, or cairn circle.

Archaeology & History

This gorgeous, little-known cairn circle, hiding almost unseen beside the ancient grassy pathway that leads down to the haunted Borrins Wood, sits innocently, forgotten by those who would claim its importance.  When this overgrown ring of stones was first built, the trees of Borrins Wood grew around the sacred court of this monument, watching rites committed to the ancestors, annually no doubt at the very least, under guidance of the Moon.  But now such ways have been swept from the memory of those living, into worlds made-up of artifacts, linear time and dualist ideals, and our thoughts when brought here are encloaked by beliefs not worthy of such a place.  Like many other small rings of stone, this was important for the rites of the dead.  For here we can see a small stone-lined cist (grave) near the middle still growing from the Earth, with the small outer ring encircling the place of rites.  It was obviously of ‘religious’ importance to those who lived here, probably even centuries after initial construction.

Embankment and central ‘grave’
Central & southern section of the ring

Similar in size and structure to the Roms Law Circle on Burley Moor, this site on the hills above Giggleswick seems to be Bronze Age in nature.  From outer-edge to outer-edge the rough circular monument measures approximately 14½ yards (13m) north-south, by 15½ yards (14m) east-west, with an outer circumference of about 49 yards (43m).  The edges of the ring, as you can see in the photos, is made up of an embankment of thousands of small stones and rubble, measuring between 1-2 feet high and between 2-3 yards across.  The old cist in the middle of the ring—about 1 yard by 2 yards—has been dug into at some time in the past and a small mound of stones surround this central grave.  The entire monument is very much overgrown, but still appears to be in relatively good condition.  A new excavation of this and nearby prehistoric monuments would prove worthwhile.

The ruined circle has a tranquil spirit, enclosed within a rich green panoramic landscape, enhanced with the breaking of old limestone and gnarled hawthorns.  Other prehistoric cairns can be found nearby and the remains of a previously unrecorded prehistoric enclosure stands out on a small rise 164 yards (150m) southeast.  We’ve found other unrecorded prehistoric remains in this arena which will be added to TNA, as and when…

References:

  1. Speight, Harry, The Craven and Northwest Yorkshire Highlands, Elliott Stock: London 1892.

Links:

  1. Images & Walk to the Sheep Scar Circle and Nearby Sites

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Sheep Scar circle

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Sheep Scar circle 54.093794, -2.299350 Sheep Scar circle

Sheep Scar Cairn, Giggleswick, North Yorkshire

Cairn:  OS Grid Reference – SD 80678 66436

Getting Here

Paul Hornby on the old mound

Follow the same directions as if you’re visiting the Apronful of Stones giant cairn, above Giggleswick.  Walk past the giant cairn for a coupla hundred yards until you reach the large section of fallen walling, which you can clamber over and head towards the small rise of the Sheep Scar enclosure 100 yards in front of you.  Walk to the far end of this walled enclosure and look down the slope to your left, for 50-60 yards where you’ll see a small rocky mound rising above the edge of the hollow footpath.  That’s it!

Archaeology & History

This lovely old overgrown prehistoric cairn seems to one of what were once the remains of many other old tombs that scattered this grassy rocky plain, on the western ridge between Stainforth and Settle.  Although there are what seems to be the remnants of others nearby, this particular stone heap, its edges buried beneath centuries of earth, is a fine little-known specimen that deserves attention after so long a period in the sleep of ignorant moderns.  The cairn is found within an area that Harry Speight (1892) called the “Field of the Dead”, where he came across “traces and remains of human graves which carry us back to the far dim ages of unwritten history.”  Whether he saw this particular cairn rising up above the edge of the old track that winds up from Borrins in the valley below, he doesn’t say — but I’d be amazed if the diligent Speight missed it!

The overgrown cairn, looking NW
Cairn centre, with Sheep Scar enclosure above

Standing more than a yard high, when Paul Horby and I paced this old ruin, it measured 10 yards by 12 yards across — though so much loose and overgrown stone was beneath the surface that it could be much bigger.  The top of the cairn had come loose, perhaps explored by some antiquarian in times gone by, exposing a considerable mass of small rounded and misshapen rocks, typical of such constructions.  When Harry Speight found the place more than a hundred years earlier, he described the situation much as we’d found it, telling of,

“other mounds of similar and smaller dimensions within the same area, some of which have been examined, but others do not appear to have been disturbed.  Many of the barrows or ‘raises’ have at some time or other been carelessly dug into in the hope of finding valuables, and as doubtless in most cases nothing was found but rude chests or coffins, containing bones, these were tossed aside and no record of them deemed worthy of preservation.”

A situation we find still prevalent thanks to the ignorance of some archaeologists in some regions of Yorkshire to this day (despite what they tell folk).  We could see nothing of any note in our brief look at this old cairn, except that it had the usual hallmarks of prehistory in its form, probably Bronze Age.  Possible remains of other similar-sized cairns can be seen a little further up the slope on the northeastern edges of the enclosure.  The prehistoric Sheep Scar Cairn Circle and other ancient remains scatter the fields all round here; something indicated by the place-name Borrins found in the woods below the ridge, meaning simply, ‘burial place.’ (Smith 1956: 57-8)

References:

  1. Smith, A.H., English Place-Name Elements – volume 1, Cambridge University Press 1956.
  2. Speight, Harry, The Craven and Northwest Yorkshire Highlands, Elliott Stock: London 1892.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Sheep Scar cairn

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Sheep Scar cairn 54.093459, -2.296917 Sheep Scar cairn

Sheep Scar Enclosure, Giggleswick, North Yorkshire

Enclosure:  OS Grid Reference – SD 80648 66374

Getting Here

Aerial view of enclosure

To reach here, follow the same directions to get to the Apronful of Stones giant cairn.  Walk on the footpath past the cairn for about 200 yards until you reach a large gap where the old walling has collapsed.  Go through this and walk across the limestone rocks, towards the small rocky hillock rising up 100 hundred yards in front to your east (not the more rounded one to the north).  That’s it!

Archaeology & History

This is a most intriguing find, and one to which I can find no other literary reference (though I aint checked Brayshaw’s Giggleswick).  An undeniably large natural hillock has been modified and added to by people at some considerable time long ago and at some considerable effort!  Measuring more than 47 yards (43m) roughly east-west, and 21 yards (19m) north-south, the most definable man-made remains here is the length of elliptical walling on the southern and western edges.  The internal circumference of the enclosure measures roughly 113 yards (103m) all round the edges.  The northern and eastern sides of the hill would appear to be mainly natural, but seem to have been modified a little — not unlike the mass of settlements and enclosures a few miles to the east, like Torlery Edge, Lantern Holes and others around Malham Moor and district.

The site needs professional assessment: first to ascertain its period (which seems Iron Age on first impression, but could be much later), and second to ascertain its nature.  On the ridges close by we find a veritable mass of archaeological remains, ranging between Bronze Age to Medieval in nature.  The giant Apronful of Stones is only 172 yards (158m) south; the Sheep Scar cairn circle 156 yards (143m) northwest; and one of the remaining Sheep Scar cairns only 58 yards (53m) away.  And hopefully when we return to the place next week (fingers crossed!), we’ll be able to get some more photos of the walling you can see that define some edges of the site…

…to be continued…

References:

  1. Brayshaw, Thomas & Robinson, Ralph M., A History of the Ancient Parish of Giggleswick, Halton & Co.: London 1932.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Sheep Scar enclosure

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Sheep Scar enclosure 54.092901, -2.297372 Sheep Scar enclosure