St. Helen’s Well, Thorpe Hesley, South Yorkshire

Holy Well (lost): OS Grid Reference – SD 370 960

Archaeology & History

In Rob Wilson’s (1991) study on the saints and wells of South Yorkshire, he mentions this site which, it would seem, may have been lost to history.  In Wilson’s site-entry for the St. Helen’s Well at nearby Barnburgh, he tells that,

“There may have been other wells in South Yorkshire dedicated to St. Helen… Two 18th century surveys by William Fairbank list St. Helen’s Fieldin Thorpe Hesley and St. Ellen’s Field in Wentworth.”

Around ten different wells are highlighted in the village itself on the first Ordnance Survey map of the area, with a number of others scattered in the surrounding fields.  Any one of these may be the well in question.  Much of the region was badly disfigured by the Industrialists in their usual desecration of the landscape, which may make any recovery of this site impossible.  However, a foray into the whereabouts of William Fairbank’s survey could be worthwhile — and if St. Helen’s Field is one that remained untouched by local mining, the site could be recovered from its present “lost” status.

(Please note: the grid-reference cited above is an approximation until further data allows us to correct it.)

References:

  1. Wilson, Rob, Holy Wells and Spas of South Yorkshire, Northern Arts: Sheffield 1991.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

St Helen's Well

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St Helen\'s Well 53.461983, -1.433086 St Helen\'s Well

Ball Cross Carving 02, Bakewell, Derbyshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SK 231 691

Archaeology & History

Ball Cross 2 Carving (after Beckensall)
Ball Cross 2 Carving (after Beckensall)

One of three carvings that were located inside the walling of the Ball Cross hillfort during excavations here in the early 1950s by J. Stanley. (1954)  Each carving is distinctly unlike the other in design (see Ball Cross 1 and Ball Cross 3) and it’s highly probable that they were incorporated into the Iron Age structure with their original mythic functions—of neolithic or Bronze Age origin—disused. It is not unlikely that this and its compatriots were originally found in association with the nearby prehistoric tombs.

Ball Cross 2 Carving (photo by Dean Thom)
Ball Cross 2 Carving (photo by Dean Thom)

The broken piece of rock consists of a broken section of an almost archetypal ‘cup-and-ring’—although with this design, no central ‘cup’ occurs: a pattern found at several other multiple-ring stones, like the Grey Stone near Leeds.  Although Stan Beckensall (1999) described this to have “8 concentric rings”, his drawing and the photo here by Dean Thom, clearly show only seven such ‘rings’.  The carving presently lives in a protective box in Sheffield Museum (though beware the listing they give of the designs, as some are incorrect).

References:

  1. Barnatt, John & Reeder, Phil, “Prehistoric Rock Art in the Peak District,” in Derbyshire Archaeological Journal, 102, 1982.
  2. Beckensall, Stan, British Prehistoric Rock Art, Tempus: Stroud 1999.
  3. Beckensall, Stan, Circles in Stone: A British Prehistoric Mystery, Tempus: Stroud 2006.
  4. Cooper, Ali, Archaeology Walks in the Peak District, Sigma: Wilmslow 2010.
  5. Morgan, Victorian & Paul, Rock Around the Peak, Sigma: Wilmslow 2001.
  6. Stanley, J., “An Iron Age fort at Ball Cross Farm, Bakewell,” in Derbyshire Archaeological Journal, volume 74, 1954.

Acknowledgements:  HUGE thanks to Dean Thom for the use of his photo, plus helpful references on this site.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Ball Cross (2) CR

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Ball Cross (2) CR 53.218625, -1.656877 Ball Cross (2) CR

Birley Spa, Birley, Sheffield, South Yorkshire

Healing Well:  OS Grid Reference SK 4090 8361

Getting Here

Birley Spa building
Birley Spa building

Birley Spa is now open for special events and the first Saturday in the summer months; however it is best to check that the site is open as it is open by volunteers. It can be viewed from the outside when closed and can be reached off the A1635 take Occupation Lane then Birley Spa Lane on the left and once passing a school on the left there is a lane going into the woods on the left by a side, down here is the Spa. There is some parking.

Archaeology and history 

The spa bath
The spa bath

Our first record is when it was established as seven baths by Earl Manners. A work by Platt (undated but around 1930s) contains much of the information and it is from this work I have taken most of the notes. The earliest establishment of the spa is thought to be in the early 1700s being built by a Quaker named Sutcliffe. The spa then consisted of a square stone building with a cold bath within with a bolt fixed on the inner side to ensure privacy. This structure appeared to exist until 1793 when the bath was ruined and filled with stones. In 1843, the Earl Manvers who owned the Manor developed this spa for a larger and more upmarket clientele.  An administrative committee was appointed and even a Bath Charity was started so that poor people could benefit and take the waters. Unfortunately the baths did not make profit and by 1895 only one plunge bath remained; the Hotel apparently ceased to function as such about 1878.  It is believed that Earl Manvers removed the marble from the warm bath for his own use. The site then went into a slow decline. In the 1920s and 30s a children’s pleasure ground was established but the grounds were closed in 1939, due to the prohibition of assemblies of crowds, introduced as a safety factor in case of air raids.  The buildings and grounds were allowed to decay and become very dilapidated. Since the building of the Hackenthorpe Housing Estate in the 1950s Sheffield Corporation have become owners of the property.

The spa stream
The spa stream

Fortunately unlike other sites, the bath house still exists, probably as a consequence of the first floor being used as community centre. The cold bath was derelict and rubbish strewn, but a splendid restoration has been undertaken. The bath house can be found in a small wooded dell in the housing estate. Despite predations by vandals on the house, the interior reveals an impressive oval stone lined cold bath with steps into the water either side. To the other side are a small collection of artifacts and the history of the site. There is also the store room where coal was stored for the warm bath which no longer exists.

Folklore

Very little folklore is recorded other than the belief that the site has an ancient origin, the spring being located along Neolithic trade routes and indeed implements have been found in the vicinity. Some authorities have noted that there was a Roman bath here supported by the proximity to the Rykneid way. There is however no direct archaeological evidence to support this theory and it may have been spread around by the proprietors to support the quality of the water;  and the Leeds chemist West analysed the waters stating that they were beneficial for those suffering from constipation.

References:

  1. Platts, T. L., The History of Birley Spa 
  2. Parish, R. B., (2010) Holy wells and healing springs of Derbyshire.
  3. www.insearchofholywellsandhealingsprings.wordpress.com

Copyright © Ross Parish

Birley Spa

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Birley Spa 53.347874, -1.387020 Birley Spa

Apronful of Stones, Bradfield, South Yorkshire

Cairn:  OS Grid Reference – SK 2448 9459

Archaeology & History

Apronful of Stones on 1855 map

This was another example of the many giant cairns that scatter the upland moors on the Pennines, but much of it has been destroyed, with some halfwits in recent years cutting a track right through whatever remains there might have been!  It was first described in John Watson’s (1776) essay on the local antiquities of Bradfield and district where, in relative conjunction with the curious Bar Dike, he told that “this is not the only curiosity on this common.”  He continued: “there is on one part of it a large carnedde, called by the country people the Apron-full of Stones”, where he conjectured there laid a British tribal chief after he’d been slaughtered by the Romans.  This might have been the folklore of the place, but we know such places were thousands of years earlier than the Romans.

It was later described in Joseph Hunter’s Hallamshire (1819) as a giant barrow, or ‘vast carnedde’, even then in the past tense; but some recent investigation here found “a few small stones and some lumpy turf which looked to be covering a few clumped stones.”  The site requires further investigation by local people to assess the state of damage inflicted on this once great tomb.

Folklore

Said to have been the site of a local battle in ancient times; this is also another site which, as A.H. Smith (1961) tells, “is explained in folklore by tales of the devil undertaking some major building project and tripping up, only to deposit his apronful of stones” here.  Does anyone out there have any more info on this place?

References:

  1. Hunter, Joseph, Hallamshire: The History and Topography of the Parish of Sheffield in the County of York, Lackington: London 1819.
  2. Smith, A.H., The Place-Names of the West Riding of Yorkshire, Cambridge University Press 1961-63.
  3. Watson, John, “An Account of some Hitherto Undescribed Remains of Antiquity”, in Archaeologia, volume 5, 1776.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Apronful of Stones

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Apronful of Stones 53.447510, -1.633040 Apronful of Stones

New Hagg Standing Stone, Hallam Moors, South Yorkshire

Standing Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SK 25815 87058

Getting Here

New Hagg Stone
New Hagg Stone

From Redmires Road, follow the path on the opposite side of the road from the reservoirs that follows the “conduit”: a man-made dyke marked on the map at SK 2601 8578.  You’ll need to follow this for about 1km till you come to a junction with a path crossing a small bridge on your left, and a path to your right onto the moor.  You need to take the latter for about 200 metres downhill.  The standing stone is roughly 100 metres onto the moor in a NNE direction.

Archaeology and History

New Hagg, with kids for scale
New Hagg, with kids for scale

None that I know of!  I didn’t know of its existence until I found it whilst wandering the moor one day.  Though I can find no record of it anywhere, the weathering on its top in comparison with other authentic standing stones suggest that it’s been stood for a very long time and probably since prehistory.

Four feet tall, the stone stands roughly half a kilometre SSE from the Headstone which can be seen from here – and roughly half a kilometre from the Reddicar Clough Long Cist, ESE of here.

© Geoff Watson, The Northern Antiquarian

New Hagg stone

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New Hagg stone 53.379768, -1.613394 New Hagg stone

Ciceley Low, Houndkirk Moor, South Yorkshire

Ring Cairn:  OS Grid Reference – SK 27535 80800

Getting Here

Located just off Hathersage Road, by Parsons House outdoor pursuits centre with parking in a roadside layby. Don’t Park at Parsons House – they won’t like it!  Head up the old road besides Parsons house and take the entrance onto the moor about 100 metres past the pursuits centre track.  If memory serves me correct, it’s by the second wall on the right. Follow the post-and-mesh fence to the end of the wall and turn right, following the wall for around 70 metres down hill and you’ll be able to see the cairn’s bank before you in the heather.  The stone pictured lays in the banking by the entrance which faces NNW.

History and Archaeology.

There’s no excavation taken place here that I know of, but the site is well known and mentioned in an old report I found Here.   The article also contains an old map of the area showing the site.

Also mention is made of a stone referred to as the Fingeram stone.  There is a stone laid flat in the position marked on the map,  but I’m unsure whether it’s the standing stone mentioned.  According to the old text the ring cairn has a diameter between 83ft and 95ft.  Directly to the north and roughly 50 metres onto the moor, in line with the wall, is an interesting egg-shaped  and weather-worn boulder that’s also worth a look at.  This whole area is a sea of sandstone.

© Geoff Watson, The Northern Antiquarian

Cicely Low

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Cicely Low 53.323409, -1.588099 Ciceley Low

Wyming Brook Shelter, Redmires, Sheffield, South Yorkshire

Rock Shelter / Cave:  OS Grid Reference – SK 2715 8630

Getting Here

Geoff at the entrance

Park at Wyming Brook nature reserve car park off Redmires road and head off up the steps to the right of the notice board. Turn immediately right through the trees and you’ll soon pick up the path running along the ridge above Wyming Brook drive. Stay on the obvious path for around ½-mile passing “Big rock” to your right and the views it offers over Rivelin Valley and the dams.  A short way further along the path steps down a couple of feet and turns to the right before straightening again, this is where you need to start looking down the edge to your right for a large rock that resembles a Chesterfield sofa which makes up part of the shelters roof.

Once you’ve located the site a short scramble will be needed to gain access to the entrance and this is where care is needed. It’s not difficult but has the potential to be deadly due to the steep nature of the edge so please take care and keep any kids on a very short rein.

Head down to the right of the “sofa” and jump down the 3ft drop holding onto the rather handy bracken and saplings if needed and the entrance is right there to your left.

Archaeology & History

Errr……..yeah, it’s history! — Well I’ve yet to find anyone else that actually knows about this cave, let alone it’s past!  There are obviously locals who know of it’s existence but after half a dozen visits there I’ve not seen anyone except a brave old lady, 70 if-a-day, who was there looking for the supposed wartime carvings and that was on my first visit.

I have tried every possible avenue i know to reveal the caves past but as yet nothing, I’d be grateful if you could enlighten me at all.

I did e-mail John Barnatt with hope he’d have some information but alas no, though it is admittedly just outside his patch being on the Sheffield side of the Derbyshire / Sheffield border.

The shelters entrance is around 3ft high but once inside the roof quickly gains height and tops out at around 7ft so standing is easy.  Beware half way along the interior by the small opening though — you’ll crack your head if  your attention is drawn to the light beaming in through the side! There’s quite a bit of occupation rubbish within the cave due to someone making their home there: a sleeping bag, old tin cans, bottles, etc, is evidence enough, but the stuff’s quite old and no one resides their now.

“X” marks the spot!

At the far end of the shelter is a small chimney like opening and it’s just possible to squeeze between the fallen rocks and make your way out, it would also make an excellent outlet for smoke if you chose to have a warming fire inside.

You probably won’t notice on your way in but coming out and on the rocks by the entrance to your left are carvings dated to 1944 said to have been inscribed by German prisoners of war held in the area but I’ve yet to substantiate that.

© Geoff Watson, The Northern Antiquarian

Wyming Brook cave

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Wyming Brook cave 53.372943, -1.593269 Wyming Brook cave

Reddicar Clough, Hallam Moor, South Yorkshire

Long Cist:  OS Grid Reference – SK 2624 8688

Also Known as:

  1. Ash Cabin Long Cist

Getting Here

Despite a footpath being marked on the OS map, there’s none I could find and the only way to get there is to make your way through the heather.  Park at the Wyming Brook nature reserve car park on Redmires road, take the signposted path besides the notice board and follow the line of the dry stone wall. Go through the gate and continue till you come to the end of the wall where a path leads off to your left through the broken wall, follow the path through the boggy bit and head uphill till you get to the highest point of the path by another wall with a path the other side.  From here it gets a little tricky! You’ll now need to go off path heading NNE and down hill till you come to the post-and-wire fencing where you should pick up a slight path heading WNW (your left) and head for the high point about half a mile in front of you. Just before you come to the high point you’ll have to cross the stream (easily done). The cist lays on the flat ground just beyond the brow of the rise.

Archaeology & History

A long cist around 3 feet wide and 6 feet long in a well preserved condition aligned almost — but not quite — East/West on a prominent position on Hallam Moor, commanding views over Ash Cabin flat, Rivelin Valley and the A57 road.  The only restricted view is to the northwest, where the moor rises then drops down again towards the Headstone.

There are 3 side-stones still in situ: the largest around 1 metre tall, the others still in place being about 70cm.  The stones that would have made up the rest of the walls lay close by.

When you’re at the site it’s obvious why it’s in this location: the views are spectacular and afford excellent views of the surrounding area.  A burial site with a vista truly fit for a king!

Archaeologically there’s not much info kicking around that I can find and I’m indebted to Stubob for alerting me to it’s presence.  It’s very unlikely you’d be walking this area for any reason other than to visit the site, as there are decent paths across the moor to the most popular site in this area, the Headstone off to the North West.  Remains of the Ash Cabin Flat stone circle are about 750 yards southeast of here.

A real gem of a site and a “must see” if your in the area.

© Geoff Watson, The Northern Antiquarian

Reddicar Clough cist

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Reddicar Clough cist 53.378205, -1.606983 Reddicar Clough cist

Ash Cabin Flat, Hallam Moor, South Yorkshire

Embanked Stone Circle:  OS Grid Reference – SK 26940 86268

Getting Here

Follow Redmires road till you come to Wyming brook nature reserve and use the free parking facilities there.  From the car park you need the signposted path to the right of the notice board, the first one not the one by the metal barrier; climb the rocky steps and follow the line of the dry stone wall to your left, and after around 50 metres you’ll pass through a wooden gate.  You then continue following the wall as it heads downhill and the wall becomes broken.  Here you should notice a path that goes through the broken wall off to your left: don’t take it but continue another 50 metres or so, then turn 90° to your right facing the moorland.  The circle is around 50 metres into the heather.

Ash Cabin Flat Stone Circle – as of 26/5/09

Archaeology & History

A fairly well preserved late neolithic or early Bronze age embanked stone circle located in a sea of heather on Ash Cabin Flat on the Western outskirts of Sheffield and rediscovered in 1981 due to the moor being burnt back.

The site is oval in shape and around 9m x 7m diameter to the outer edge of the bank.  The banking is well preserved and shows there was no entrance to the interior.

There are around a dozen stones within and on top of the bank but it’s uncertain whether they are circle stones or packing stones from the bank.  English Heritage have recorded 5 of the stones, 2 still standing, as stones that once stood making up the circle.

If you visit any time soon (23/11/09) you’ll find the moor has been burnt back again giving an excellent view of the site, when the heather is in full flow it’s as high as the highest stones making not only finding the circle nigh on impossible to find but also defining the site very difficult.

Additional Notes:

Editor – 1.12.9. – Following a visit to this site in the company of Megadread recently, we found what appears to be a number of other cairns on the flat moorland plain around this seeming cairn-circle site.  There also appeared to be distinct evidence of ancient walling. Further archaeological evaluations are required here.

References:

  1. Burl, Aubrey, The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, Yale University Press 2000.

© Geoff Watson, The Northern Antiquarian

Ash Cabin Flat

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Ash Cabin Flat 53.372604, -1.596553 Ash Cabin Flat

Dragon’s Well, Bolsterstone, South Yorkshire

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – SK 2827 9697

Also Known as:

  1. Allman Well

Archaeology & History

Allman or Dragon Well, 1855 map
Allman or Dragon Well on the 1855 map

Also known as the Allman’s Well, an inscription with an 1818 datestone was to be found here. But according to folklorists Dave Clarke & Phil Reeder, the site can no longer be found as its waters were “diverted for use at a nearby farm.” However, something that does need checking is their description of a cup-and-ring stone on one of the boulders close by – reckoned to be one of those dropped by the dragon which gives the well its name.

Folklore

Something strange was once going on in this locality if place-names and legends have owt to go by. The local Wharncliffe Dragon, as it was known, used to fly from its home at the Dragon’s Den (a mile-and-a-half east of here) and drink the waters from this well. On one of its flights from Wharncliffe Crags, it carried with it three huge boulders which it dropped in transit and which were said by the folklorists David Clarke and Phil Reeder “to stand in a line on the slope below the well at Townend Common.”

The water from here was said to be good for curing both asthma and bronchitis and was also said never to have dried up, even in the greatest of droughts.

References:

  1. Wilson, Rob, Holy Wells and Spas of South Yorkshire, Northern Arts: Sheffield 1991.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Dragon's Well

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Dragon\'s Well 53.468787, -1.575565 Dragon\'s Well