Jeppe Knave Grave, Wiswell, Lancashire

Cairn:  OS Grid Reference – SD 7599 3782

Getting Here

Jeppe Knave Grave on 1848 map
Jeppe Knave Grave on 1848 map

From Sabden, head up the steep Clitheroe Road towards the Nick o’ Pendle, turning left 100 yards before the hilltop and along the dirt-track for a few yards, before veering up the winding footpath to the hilltop.  When you’re at the peak of this little bit o’ moorland, go to your left (west), following the small path into the grasses and heather all the way on for a few hundred yards till you hit the triangulation pillar.  Go past this, over one stile (north) and then immediately at right-angles (west) over another stile and downhill for about 100 yards until you’re on the rough grassland level.  Keep your eyes peeled as you’re walking until you see what looks like a denuded stone-lined pit, much overgrown — with the main feature (showing that you’ve hit the target) being the engraving on one of the larger rocks: “Jeppe Knave Grave”.

Archaeology & History

The Jeppe Knave Grave

First described in early perambulation records of 1326 CE, this is a small but intriguing site found on the far southwestern slopes of Pendle Hill, on the ridge beneath the triangulation pillar of Wiswell Moor.  It’s a small and overgrown cairn with a general archaeological association of prehistory attached—though no detailed excavation has ever been done here, despite local archaeologists having access to a large grant to explore this region a short while ago.¹  But up North, as many of us know, archaeology is given little priority and those who do decent exploratory work under the umbrella of such academic quarters tend to be few and far between.  Thankfully we had the northern antiquarian and local writer John Dixon (1993) nearby who gave us the best overview of the site.  He wrote:

“This landscape feature, known as Jeppe Knave Grave, stands at a place called The Lows high on Wiswell Moor and takes the form of a low grass-covered mound 16M in diameter with a stone filled depression in the centre 5 x 3 M.  This feature appears to be a mutilated cairn and has been tentatively ascribed to the Bronze Age.  The outer ring of stones can be discerned in the rough pasture at the perimeter – yellow in dry conditions, showing the circular shape. Given the large size of the stones here, the cairn may have been of a chambered type/passage tomb of the Neolithic period, and if this was the case the burial (or burials?) was one of great importance.

“Upon the largest stone are inscribed the words ‘JEPPE KNAVE GRAVE and a cross (inscribed by the Scouting Association in the 1960’s). The stone marks the final resting place of Jeppe Curteys (Geoffrey Curtis), a local robber who was decapitated for his crimes in the first year of Edward III, 1327.  The name first occurs in a record of the boundaries between Wiswall and Pendleton dated 1342.

“…In those times the punishment of decapitation was unusual, being reserved for those of noble birth.  So who was this Jeppe Curteys, punished by decapitation and later buried on the high ridge of Wiswell Moor in a pre-Christian burial mound on the then boundary of parishes?  That intriguing story we may never know.  But to be buried in such a manner and place was indeed a great indignity – interment in what might be considered in those times to be a ‘pagan’ or ‘devilish’ spot.  It may be that to bury a man in such a place was to literally ‘send him to the devil’. Alternatively one could ask: ‘Was the site thought then to be the burial spot of some noble ancestor, and Jeppe being of possible noble birth interred with great dignity?  Again we may never know, yet it is significant that this lonely spot is still identified with a man who was executed 700 years ago.

In 1608 it was stated that one Robert Lowe had taken a stone from the grave and used it as a cover of his lime kiln.”

Old codgers from the local Senile Society, inspecting York Minster!
Agatha Lyons’ 1871 sketch

The design of the cairn here is unlike the ones you usually come across on the Lancashire and Yorkshire moorlands.  The edges of the Jeppe Knave Grave are walled and much more well-defined than the large rock piles that we find scattering our uplands.  A similar though larger cairn with features similar to these can be seen in the large Low Hill tumulus on Elslack Moor near Earby, about ten miles northeast of here…

Other prehistoric remains scatter the many rolling hills that you can see from here: mainly prehistoric tombs sat upon hilltops as far as the eye can see.  John pointed out what may be the remains of another tumulus that can be seen on the nearby horizon a few hundred yards NNW from here, overlooking the gorgeous village of Pendleton and the landscape beyond…

References:

  1. Dixon, John, Journeys through Brigantia – volume 9: The Ribble Valley, Aussteiger Publications: Barnoldswick 1993.
  2. Dixon, John, Pendle – A Mythic Landscape, Aussteiger Publications: Barnoldswick 2010.
  3. Whitaker, Thomas Dunham, An History of the Original Parish of Whalley – volume 2, George Routledge: London 1876.

¹ John Dixon informed us how the people in question spent the grant — somewhere in the region of £50,000 — on exploring some modern architectural features, instead of exploring some of the little-known sites and seeking out others on these hills.

* John is the author of many fine historical travel guides, including the Journeys through Brigantia series. See the titles in the Lancashire Bibliography and Yorkshire Bibliography for a more complete listing of all his books to date.  If you wanna buy any of his works, or make enquiries regarding them, email John at: lancashirebooks@fsmail.net – or write to him direct, at: John Dixon, Aussteiger Publications, 21 Lowergate, Clitheroe, Lancashire BB7 1AD.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian 

Jeppe Knave Grave

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Jeppe Knave Grave 53.836074, -2.366329 Jeppe Knave Grave

Coffin Stone, Sabden, Lancashire

Standing Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SD 7717 3830

Getting Here

From Sabden village, walk up the Clitheroe Road towards the hairpin Nick o’ Pendle, but take the turning left 100 yards before the Nick.  Walk along the dirt-track for less than 100 yards, watching for the small upright on the right-hand side of the track. You can’t really miss it!

Archaeology & History

The Coffin Stone

To be found on the far southern flanks of Pendle Hill, the Lancashire writer and historian, John Dixon,* brought us to this little-known stone a few days back — and gave us the history of the place. (Dixon 1993)  He pointed out how it’s situated right alongside the legendary cross-Pennine prehistoric route that was labelled ‘Rombald’s Way’ by Eric Cowling. (1946): an important trackway which ran from coast to coast, allowing for the passage and transmission of flints, salt and early metals carried for barter and other uses.  What may be another standing stone is on the nearby skyline a couple of hundred yards east; and on the slopes either side of here are the prehistoric tombs of Jeppe Knave Grave and the Devil’s Apronful (amongst others).  A fine little standing stone!

Folklore

The name derives from it being a place where, in bygone days, when coffins were carried along the ancient routeway hereby, it was rested by this stone.  As John Dixon (1993) told:

“It was used to mark a resting point for coffins en route from Pendle Forest to Whalley, allowing the mourners to refresh and pray by the curative Marion well, in a time before the ‘Newchurch’ of St. Mary was established at Goldshaw Booth in 1544.”

…and from another angle

The Marion Well he mentions is more popularly known as Our Lady’s Well and can be found a hundred yards up the hillside above our Coffin Stone.  If you walk up the slope you’ll see the site emerging where a small boggy pool appears on the hillside, and the course of the small stream marked by the reeds growing down the grassy slopes.  Although it became very much a Roman Catholic practice to venerate the Virgin Mary by this old well, the ritual was of course a much older heathen one.

John has also reminded me to mention “the fossil markings on the side of the stone – some plant from a former age” which you can see curving up from the bottom of the upright.

References:

  1. Cowling, Eric T., Rombald’s Way: A Prehistory of Mid-Wharfedale, William Walker: Otley 1946.
  2. Dixon, John, Journeys through Brigantia – volume 9: The Ribble Valley, Aussteiger Publications: Barnoldswick 1993.
  3. Dixon, John, Pendle – A Mythic Landscape, Aussteiger Publications: Barnoldswick 2010.

* John is the author of many fine historical travel guides, including the Journeys through Brigantia series. See the titles in the Lancashire Bibliography and Yorkshire Bibliography for a more complete listing of all his books to date.  If you wanna buy any of his works, or make enquiries regarding them, email John at: lancashirebooks@fsmail.net – or write to him direct, at: John Dixon, Aussteiger Publications, 21 Lowergate, Clitheroe, Lancashire BB7 1AD.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Coffin Stone

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Coffin Stone 53.840454, -2.348316 Coffin Stone

Lower Apronful of Stones, Pendle Hill, Lancashire

‘Cairn’:  OS Grid Reference – SD 778 390

Getting Here

Park up at the Nick of Pendle and follow directions to the Devil’s Apronful of Stones, but about halfway along the path, bear to the right along a swerving footpath which eventually takes you to another guiding cairn. On the OS-maps there’s the Chartist’s Well 100 yards due west of this old overgrown tomb.

Archaeology & History

The much-overgrown Lower Apronful, with modern cairn on top
The much-overgrown Lower Apronful cairn

Seemingly excluded from all previous archaeological surveys, this is a very large structure indeed.  Crowned with a small modern cairn on its top marking a small footpath crossing the site, this very large cairn-like structure is about four feet tall at the highest.  I first came across it at the end of August, 2006, after going through some folklore records which then led to exploring the area in the hope that there might be some archaeological ruins in the region — and we weren’t to be disappointed!

Outline of extended monument
Outline of extended monument

This giant cairn structure is larger than the denuded remains of the Devil’s Apronful cairn that can be seen a few hundred yards further uphill, but is almost entirely overgrown with grasses.  It measures at least 31 yards (east-west) by 29 yards (north-south) and is just like an overgrown Little Skirtful of Stones on Burley Moor. Parts of its eastern side have been dislodged and the main rock structure is plainly visible where the vegetation has come away.  A ringed embankment is also very clear, mainly on the north and eastern sides of this large structure (as one of the photos here shows), but on the whole it is overgrown and ruinous.  It’s a brilliant spot though and sorely needs some proper archaeological attention.  In the event that this site aint a prehistoric cairn, please lemme know so I can delete it from TNA.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Lower Apronful

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Lower Apronful 53.847437, -2.336840 Lower Apronful

Badger Wells Cairn, Pendle Hill, Lancashire

Cairn:  OS Grid Reference – SD 783 396

Getting Here

Start at the Nick of Pendle and walk up the footpath towards the denuded Apronful of Stones’ cairn.  Keep going up the hill for another 300 yards or so, just past where there’s a path that turns-off towards the ritual Deer Stones. As you walk upwards, in front of you you’ll see the tell-tale sign of many small stones scattered in their tell-tale manner, rising up at the edge of the footpath. This is it!

Archaeology & History

This was the third in a group of previously unrecognized giant cairns that I found in August 2006 (it certainly wasn’t in the archaeology records anyway), all on the south side of our legendary Pendle Hill — and it’s bloody huge!  However, unlike the other two (the Devil’s Apronful and the Lower Apronful of Stones, further down the slopes), this one doesn’t seem as certain as the other two, but it’s still worth including here and cannot be discounted until a decent archaeological assessment has been made.

Looking up to the height of the Badger Wells Cairn
Looking up to the height of the Badger Wells Cairn
Section of the surface remains, showing thousands of stones
Section of the surface remains, showing thousands of stones

Just like its companion cairns, although it’s covered over with much soil and grasses, all round the edges are hundreds of small stones and rocks, of the same type and size as the other two a bit further down the hill, and similar to the Skirtful of Stones on Ilkley and elsewhere.  The overgrown heap of stones here stands about ten-feet tall from the lower western edge and measures approximately 28 yards (north-south) by 20 yards (east-west).

Although this cairn is named after the nearby Badger Wells — which gets its name either from the local badger population, or else the old ‘badger-men’ who used to trade hereby — another fresh water source also emerges near the bottom of its western side.

Upon asking a couple of passers-by (they were local regular walkers up this great hill) about this and the other giant overgrown cairns upon this hill, they didn’t have a clue they existed — although they did suggest we contact the Lord of Downham on the north side of the hill. And so there we ventured, in search of the Great Stone – and guess who we bumped into…?

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Badger Wells cairn

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Badger Wells cairn 53.852593, -2.330508 Badger Wells cairn

Devil’s Apronful, Pendle Hill, Lancashire

Cairn:  OS Grid Reference – SD 77907 39357

Also known as:

  1. Apronful of Stones

Getting Here

The much-denuded Devil's Apronful giant cairn
The much-denuded Devil’s Apronful giant cairn

Many ways to get here, but the easiest for those with cars to is park up on the southeast edge of the hill, at the various scruffy parking bits beside the road at the Nick of Pendle. The view from here is enough to get you going! Walk onto the great hill up to the rounded pap of Apronfull Hill (rather gives it away really!). It’s only a few hundred yards up – about 10 mins up the slope from the road, with awesome views all round once you get there. Tis the small guidance cairn you’re looking at just on the level. You’re there!

Archaeology & History

This would once have been a rather huge cairn/tomb — though when I first found the remains of this place in August 2006, there were no archaeological records describing it that I could find.  But there’s very little left of it.  The lads who did the quarrying further downhill (where you’ve probably parked your car) are likely to have been the culprits who nicked most of the rocks that once made this huge forgotten tomb. But as you potter about here, it becomes obvious that you’re standing on the much-denuded remains of just such a monument (very similar in size and structure to the more famous Little Skirtful and Great Skirtful of Stones on Burley Moor, or Black Hill round cairn near Skipton).  But the remains you can see beneath your feet still give a good idea as to how large it was.

Remnants of the cairn-spoil cover the ground where the monument once stood proud!
Remnants of the cairn-spoil cover the ground where the monument once stood proud!

You’ll see once you’re stood here that there are hundreds, maybe even several thousands of stones just on and below the ground, scattering a very well-defined roughly circular area measuring at least 21 yards (east-west) by 22 yards (north-south), right by the side of the path. The edges of this ransacked cairn are pretty well defined around the north and eastern sides. Near the centre of the old structure is a very notable ‘dip’ in the ground where it looks as if something has been dug away — though this could just as well be due to the presence of underground water, as indicated by the growth of Juncus grasses.  Without an excavation it’s obviously difficult to tell.

Folklore

Twas the following tale which first led my nose to explore this part of Pendle hill. It’s a tale we find at many of our upland tombs, though the record books said there was nowt here! (any myopic archaeologists out there who reckon that folklore has no relevance to their subject, educate one’s self!)

Looking from the Devil's Apronful towards Jeppe Knave's Grave
Looking from the Devil’s Apronful towards Jeppe Knave’s Grave

The Devil was having trouble with the folk at Clitheroe Castle (a few miles west) and wanted rid of it. So he picked up various large stones and put them in his apron then threw them towards the castle. Most of them missed, which made him angry and in a rage he accidentally dropped a great pile of rocks on the south side of Pendle Hill, creating the Devil’s Apronful on Apronfull Hill.

In another tale he was said to have stood at the Deer Stones a few hundred yards east of here and threw rocks from there. Perhaps a folk-remnant of where the Apronful stones once came from…? Perhaps not.

Jessica Lofthouse (1976) notes how this old spot was long known by local people as the Devil’s Apronful.

References:

  1. Lofthouse, Jessica, North-Country Folklore, Hale: London 1976.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Devils Apronful

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Devils Apronful 53.849954, -2.337337 Devils Apronful