Bogle Bush, Collace, Perthshire

Legendary Tree:  OS Grid Reference – NO 19 32

Also Known as :

  1. Bogle Busk
  2. Bogle Buss

Archaeology & History

1867 Map Bogle Bush

The site on the 1867 OS Map

Perusal of a 25″ OS map of  1867 shows, in almost microscopic lettering, a feature marked ‘Bogle Bush’.  I transferred the approximate location onto a modern map and set off to make a field visit, honestly not expecting to find anything almost a century and a half later.

Bogle bush 1

The Bogle Bush

As I walked down the designated road I was drawn to an ancient multi branched or trunked tree, the trunks held together by a hefty iron band. The band had been placed there many years ago as it was being absorbed by the growth of the tree. Unlike the other trees in the road the foot of this tree had crocus and grape hyacinth in flower, as if deliberately planted.

The band was forged and fitted by Kinrossie Blacksmith and Kirk Elder David Gray at the end of the nineteenth century, following the collapse of one of the three trunks then standing.

Bogle Bush 2

The band holding the tree together

The online Ordnance Survey Name Books for Perthshire, compiled prior to the survey of the 1867 map, list Robert Millar of Flowerdale, Mr James Stewart of Kinrossie and Mr Fraser of St Euchans as the informants that ‘This name is applied to a Birch Tree situated on the north side of the road leading from Saucher to Kinrossie. Mr Millar says that there is a superstitious tradition existing in the locality that Bogles have been seen &c at this tree’.

Whether Mr Millar and his co-informants were trying to mischievously mislead the (probably) English Ordnance Survey officials, we will never know, but the tree is in fact a Sycamore! And the 1901 25″ OS map shows the tree as the ‘Bogle Busk’.


There has been speculation that the Bogle Bush may have long forgotten links with Macbeth whose fortess at nearby Dunsinnan Hill overlooks it, adding the rider that Sycamores only live 200 years or so before falling and then regenerating on the same spot, implying that a mother tree could have been on the same spot in Macbeth’s time.

David Gray, Blacksmith and Kirk Elder of Kinrossie.

David Gray, Blacksmith and Kirk Elder of Kinrossie.

Local folklore states that ‘a great calamity will befall Kinrossie’ should the Bush collapse. The tree is a local icon that’s ‘aye been there’ according to a local resident and it seems to be a local geo-caching site, judging by the small container of ‘stuff’ hidden in a plastic container underneath a couple of pieces of bark at the base of the trunk on my visits.

Please note that if you decide to visit, this is not a wishing tree, so do not hammer coins into the bark or suspend rags from the branches. Respect the Bush and the local people to whom this is an iconic tree.

My thanks to local resident Morag Hislop for leading me to further information on this site.


  1. Scotland’s Place Names
  2. Collace Parish Millenium Committee, Off The Main Road, 2nd edition: Kinrossie District Recreation Club, 2010

 © Paul T. Hornby, The Northern Antiquarian

Cruckles Well, Manningham, Bradford, West Yorkshire

Sacred Well (lost):  OS Grid Reference – SE 160 339

Archaeology & History

Which one is the Cruckleswell?
Which one is the Cruckleswell?

In an essay by great regional historian Harry Speight (1912) on the ancient tracks of Bradford and district, he mentions this “Cruckleswell” which was first described in 1602.  Mentioned again in 1612 land deeds and several times thereafter, the site has long gone (been built over), but may have been a place where local people ascribed there being water spirits, or naiads.

Although the local historian W.E. Preston (1932) described the place as being in fields between Manningham Stoop (an old boundary stone, now lost) and Hallfield Cross (perhaps an old stone cross site, also lost), a more detailed article appeared a few years later by Wilfrid Robertshaw (1935), telling of its approximate location.  He wrote:

“The interesting field-name of Cruckleswell occurs in 1664.  Cruckleswell was situated between Manningham Stoope and Hallfield Cross.  The latter name is here applied to some closes of land near the Bradford-Manningham boundary and not to a monument; but from this qualifying statement must not be inferred the opinion that a stone or wooden cross of the name never existed.  From Manningham Stoope, whose location I have not traced, a lane led to Fair Gapp, which was just within the town of Bradford; but in 1686 there was a close called the Stoope, which adjoined Manningham Lower Lane on the left-hand side from Bradford to Manningham.  The occupiers of Cruckleswells were ordered by the jurors of the Bradford Manor Court to take in the water which ran by their premises.  The occurrence of a water-course thereabouts, together with the name, Cruckleswell, suggests that here, as in the Panewell Feilde, was a holy well of a kind.  Perhaps the derivation of the name may be found in the Yorkshire dialect word ‘crukle,’ meaning to make crooked, or to bend or twist.  In a sense, therefore, Cruckleswell was another pin well, into which bent of ‘cruckled’ pins were cast.  Cruckleswells, or Crookewells, as the three closes of land were called in a deed of 1658, were then granted by Tempest Brighouse, of Bilbie in the county of Nottingham, to James Mitchell of Bradford, yeoman.  But…I have found a deed of sale by Christopher Pighells of Bradford, yeoman, to John Nicholls of Horton, clerk, of the close of land called Cruckleswell… Nicholls purchased Cruckleswell in 1612, the year before Saxton produced his plan, on which the small field is shown adjoining others belonging to Pighells.  Thus the plan fixes the location of Cruckleswell; it adjoined the east side of the highway leading from Bradford to Frizinghall and was just within the Manningham township.”

This would put it close to the Holy Well Ash well and its long-lost standing stone.  The 1852 OS-map of this area shows an unnamed well between the Holy Well Ash and the boundary line, as highlighted above; but another unnamed well is to the north of the holy well.  If we cross over the boundary line south and out of Manningham, three other wells existed less than 200 yards away.  Anyone of these may have been the Cruckleswell.

Mr Robertson’s idea on the word ‘cruckle’ is echoed in A.H. Smith’s (1961) place-name analysis of the site, where he relates how the word is “possibly connected with the obsolete crookle, ‘to crook, bed.'”  This is shown to be the case in Thomas Wright’s (1898) gigantic tome. And as “cruckling” pins was a common animistic practice in earlier centuries, this derivation of it—as being a well where offerings were given to the spirit of the waters—is not unlikely.


  1. Preston, W.E., ‘Some Local Holy Wells,’ in Bradford Antiquary, June 1932.
  2. Robertshaw, Wilfrid (ed.), West Yorkshire Deeds (2 volumes), Bradford Historical & Antiquarian Society 1936.
  3. Shepherd, Val, Historic Wells of Bradford, Heart of Albion: Wymeswold 1995.
  4. Smith, A.H., The Place-Names of the West Riding of Yorkshire – volume 3, Cambridge University Press 1961.
  5. Speight, Harry, ‘Ancient Streets and Lanes of Bradford as Portrayed in the Manor Court Rolls,’ in Bradford Antiquary, New Series 3, 1912.
  6. Wright, Thomas, English Dialect Dictionary – volume 1, Henry Frowde: Oxford 1898.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

St. Palladius’ Footprint, Camusvrachan, Glen Lyon, Perthshire

Legendary Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 62626 47685

Also Known as:

  1. Craig Dianaidh
  2. Rock of Safety

Getting Here

The rocky cairn of St. Palladius
The rocky cairn of St. Palladius

From Fortingall, get to the standing stone of Adamnan’s Cross a few miles down the stunning Glen Lyon.  Barely 100 yards before you reach the stone, notice the overgrown gorse-covered rocky rise across the road, just past Craigianie Farm.  As you climb to the top of this small rocky rise, you’ll see a cairn of stones on its top.  Just below it, into the solid rock, you’ll see a footprint-shaped hollow etched into the stone.  If it seems hidden, just keep looking – you’ll find it…

Archaeology & History

St. Palladius Stone, Glen Lyon

When Ratcliffe Barnatt (1944) visited Glen Lyon in the 1940s, this legendary rock was one of his stopping points.  “When we have passed by Ruskich and Slatich,” he wrote, “we come to that sacred spot, Craig Dianaidh, the Rock of Safety, where, until about 1480, solemn and judicial meetings were held.”  The old rock was known through recent ages, “as a preaching hill, a motehill and a justiciary court,” said Hilary Wheater (1981), and upon its top is the curious ‘footprint’ which Nature’s blood would fill on all but the hottest of summers.  It is this geological feature that gave the stone is name, long ago.

Of known historical events here, Wheater further told:

“It was on this rock…that the Baron Courts of Glenlyon were held.  Law and order was kept by regular courts held by the Chief or Landowner. The Baron-Bailiary of each area was appointed by Royal Charter.  Fifteen men were chosen as a jury and the laird or his baile presided.  To this court were brought all the problems and grievances of the people.  Here the miller accused several men of refusing to take part in the compulsory ‘hamganging’ of a new millstone; here a man was fined for brewing ale without a license; here a neighbour was accused of putting the ‘evil eye’ on the cow of the croft next door so it produced no milk; and here a man was prosecuted for ‘taking of ane sore horse of his to Rannoch in the summer of 1629 and putting on him ane great burder of timber, and letting him go through the wood where he stuck between two trees all night and the timber on his back.’  However, he was acquitted when he was able to prove that the horse was fit enough after this for another man to be able to take it to Edinburgh soon after.”

St Palladius Footprint
St Palladius Footprint

As well as being a moot site, it is more than probable that this footprint, like the one near the top of Dunadd in Argyll—and others scattering the Highlands and beyond—was an initiation stone, perhaps for local tribal elders or ancient kings.  Janet Bord (2004) writes about them as places of ritual inauguration in her survey of such places.


The legendary site, looking south
The legendary site, looking south

This legendary rock would probably have had earlier mythic association than the one ascribing it to St. Palladius—but as yet I have found no written lore telling the nature of such a spirit, so would only perhaps discern the original genius loci by lengthy encounters with the rock in question, through mist and storm and wintry months, alone.  It is known in local folklore that Palladius was in fact an urisk: a solitary spirit of steep streams that few humans encounter due to their lonely habits amidst hidden abodes in dark and ancient gorges.  Such urisks dwelt in numbers amongst many of the steep falls in this landscape — and still do, if the words of old locals are to be believed. Here,

“St Palladius was a goblin saint, an urisk that dwelt in a mountain burn and was sanctified by the people.”

…and some rocks by the stream up the mountain immediately above this “footprint” was one of the places the urisk was known to dwell.

…to be continued…


  1. Barnatt, T. Ratcliffe, The Road to Rannoch and the Summer Isles, John Grant: Edinburgh 1944.
  2. Bord, Janet, Footprints in Stone, Heart of Albion Press 2004.
  3. Fraser, Duncan, Highland Perthshire, Standard Press: Montrose 1969.
  4. Wheater, Hilary, Aberfeldy to Glenlyon, Appin Publications: Aberfeldy 1981.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Whooping Cough Stone, Struan, Perthshire

Legendary Rock: OS Grid Reference – NN 816 653

Getting Here

Old photo of the stone (after Duncan Fraser)

Up the A9 past Blair Atholl, a few miles later there’s the turning for Struan.  Scarcely a mile east of old Struan Church, head past the old farmhouse of Old Kindrochat and keep going eastwards along the edge of the trees for about 200 yards until you reach the sheepfold. There you’ll see a singular rock sitting alone by the fence. That’s it!

Archaeology & History

This little known healing stone was, at one time last century, of great repute in the Highlands. Today, very few people even know it exists. One of many rocks that were said to possess healing abilities, this one (obviously) was of great repute in the curing of whooping cough. But it wasn’t the rock alone that did the work here, for upon its edge was a small basin into which rainwater collected and this, when used correctly and in due accord with ancient ritual tradition, could enact the cure.  Mr Duncan Fraser said of this fascinating healing stone:

“The grey water-worn stone is about 4ft 6in long, 2ft 6in broad and 2ft high, with a deep gash on top, where the water lingers even in long dry spells. When full it holds about half-a-gallon. People were still coming here with their sick children as late as 1860 — and bringing a spoon made from the horn of a living cow. There was no cure without that.”

The ritual “spoon made from the horn of a living cow” was an important ingredient at another site with the reputation for curing whooping cough about 50 miles south of here, near Balquhidder. (see Whooping Cough Well, Killin)  What truly fascinates me is the origin of this stone and its medicinal virtues.  When  did the healing rites first start here – how long ago…?


  1. Fraser, Duncan, Highland Perthshire, Standard Press: Montrose 1969.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Barmishaw Stone, Ilkley Moor, West Yorkshire

Cup-and-Ring Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 11193 46417

Also Known as:

  1. Barnishaw Stone
  2. Carving I/4 (Davies)
  3. Carving no.92 (Hedges)
  4. Carving no.253 (Boughey & Vickerman)

Getting Here

The Barmishaw Stone

Follow the same directions to reach the superb Badger Stone carving, and from here take the footpath that runs downhill.  You’ll cross another footpath about 100 yards down the moor, but just keep walking down the path and you’ll notice the small copse of woods ahead of you.  As the footpath begins to swerve roughly away, northeast, heading away from the said woodland, keep your eyes peeled on your left for a reasonably large but flattish rock close to the ground (in summer it’s surrounded by bracken) about 75 yards away.  That’s your target!

Archaeology & History

Of the hundreds of cup-and-ring stones on Ilkley Moor and district, this is one of my personal favourites!  I first visited the stone in 1977 as a young teenager and was mightily impressed by the unusual nature of the design here — and that impression still remains.  Aswell as possessing the usual cups and rings, the Barmishaw Stone is one of just a few rocks also possessing a sort of ‘ladder’ design or linear pattern within the overall carving: an insignia echoed on the nearby Willie Hall Wood carving, the Piper Stone, and also on the Panorama Stones.  As with the ‘ladders’ on the Panorama carving, those found here at Barmishaw are very eroded and are increasingly difficult to see during the daytime (the best time to notice them is usually around sunrise or sunset, and particularly when the rock itself is wet).

The carving has been described many times, albeit briefly, by a number of writers.  In John Hedges (1986) fine survey he said the following:

Barmishaw Stone, looking northwest
Barmishaw Stone, looking southeast

“Medium sized flat-topped rock…fairly smooth grit, sloping slightly east to west, covered with carvings, some of which are very worn.  Slanting sunshine needed to detect them.  About twenty-four cups, at least nine with rings or incomplete rings, two with multiple grooves half round and continuing straight down, one of them incorporating ‘ladder.’  Five other ‘ladders’ – in a good light.  Cups mostly deep and clear.”  A few years later, Boughey & Vickerman (2003) echoed much of Mr Hedges description, though noted that of the 24 cups with their rings, one possessed a triple ring.

Alan Davies’ illustration

Like so many cup-and-ring stones, they have given rise to hosts of fascinating theories and ideas — one of which is based on mathematics and metrology.  In the 1980s, Alan Davies (1983, 1988) surveyed the Barmishaw Stone — and other carvings on Ilkley Moor — to explore the possibility that the cups and rings were laid out according to a basic unit of measure, the Megalithic Inch (MI), as proposed by Alexander Thom some years earlier.  Although Davies’ work showed that such a primary unit of measure wasn’t to be found universally, his research at the Barmishaw Stone indicated “significant evidence for quanta of…3 MI,” although this occurred “when the analysis is restricted to only ringed cups.”  Despite this, Davies thought that the existence of the Megalithic Inch was evident in this and other carvings on the moors, stating that:

“The repeated emergence of the significance of ringed cups, and the fact that all putative quanta seem to bear a simple numeric relation to each other do not seem to be coincidental.”

However, the selectivity of data in Davies’ research would indicate more that any Megalithic Inches isolated in the metrology of the carvings was due, not simply to chance, but more that the implements used to carve the rocks and the size of the hands of the people doing the carvings was pretty uniform.  These simplistic factors need assessing.  In modern trials carving cup-markings, we find them to be of similar size to those carved in prehistoric times, as would be expected.

Barmishaw Stone (after Hedges, 1986)
Barmishaw stone (after Cowling 1946)

The ladder motif central to this carving may have related to early religious and ritual events here.  Across the world, indigenous cultures commonly relate the ‘ladder’ to be a symbol of ascension, both by shamans, mystics and during rites of passage.  The symbol represents the journey of the soul to and from supernatural realms.  To discount this possibility at the Barmishaw Stone would be shortsighted.

The carving was very probably painted when our neolithic ancestors gathered here, much as Australian aborigines still do to their carvings using lichens and other plant dyes, with the respective ladders and lines changing colour where movements between worlds or shifts of attendant spirit occurred.  By virtue of the its very name, I consider this rock to have been considerably important; the “ghost” aspect to barmishaw being a typically misconstrued aspect of ‘spirit’.


This excellent cup-and-ring marked stone probably derives its name from the old dialect words “barm i’ t’ shaw”, meaning “ghost in the wood” stone.  Whatever guise the attendant spirit of this rock may have had has long since been forgotten; though spectral accounts from the beginning of the nineteenth century until modern times may give us clues.  There have been several reports of green-coloured elemental creatures around the area between here and the White Wells sacred spring a short distance to the east.  The most recent account, from 1987, took on the modern mythic form of a little green man from space, with attendant UFO to boot!  The Barmishaw Hole nearby was a place where faerie-folk used to live.  Excesses of geological faulting and water makes the magickal nature of this place particularly potent.

…to be continued…


  1. Allen, J. Romilly, “The Prehistoric Rock Sculptures of Ilkley,” in Journal of the British Archaeological Association, volume 35, 1879.
  2. Allen, J. Romilly, “Notice of Sculptured Rocks near Ilkley,” in Journal of the British Archaeological Association, volume 38, 1882.
  3. Bennett, Paul, “Cup-and-Ring Art”, in Towards 2012, volume 4, pp.83-92, 1998.
  4. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  5. Boughey, Keith & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, WYAS: Wakefield 2003.
  6. Cowling, E.T., ‘A Classification of West Yorkshire Cup and Ring Stones,’ in Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 1940.
  7. Cowling, E.T., Rombald’s Way: A Prehistory of Mid-Wharfedale, William Walker: Otley 1946.
  8. Davis, Alan, ‘The Metrology of Cup & Ring Carvings near Ilkley in Yorkshire,’ Science Journal 25, 1983.
  9. Davies, Alan, ‘The Metrology of Cup and Ring Carvings,’ in Ruggles, C., Records in Stone, Cambridge University Press 1988.
  10. Eliade, Mircea, Patterns in Comparative Religion, Sheed & Ward: London 1958.
  11. Hedges, John (ed.), The Carved Rocks on Rombalds Moor, WYMCC: Wakefield 1986.
  12. Wright, Joseph, The English Dialect Dictionary – volume 1, Henry Frowde: Oxford 1905.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 

St. Helen’s Well, Thorp Arch, West Yorkshire

Holy Well:  OS Grid Reference – SE 45166 45800

Well on the 1849 OS-map

Getting Here

The well is all dried up today, but its remains are about 200 yards north of the river Wharfe. Sam Brewster (1980) told the easiest way to find it: “To get there from Thorp Arch you take the trackway that goes to the south of the church and follow this until you are walking alongside the river; eventually you will come to a barrier of barbed wire near some old disused water-works; get under or over this barrier and turn 90 degrees to your left, following the barbed wire until you come to a wood, the other side of the barbed wire; go into the wood and turn right; keep exploring near the edge of the wood until you find a tree under which is a hollow which used to be St. Helen’s Well.”  Once here you can see where the water used to flow down a narrow channel and under a little bridge.

Archaeology & History

Carved cross remains found near St Helen’s Well

This ancient and well-known healing spring is shown on early OS-maps emerging a short distance north of the River Wharfe besides St. Helen’s Beck in Chapel Wood, adjacent to the Kirkstall Ing or field.  In the western fields close by was once an ancient chapel and, closer to the holy well, once “stood St. Helen’s (or St. Helena’s) Cross, which is somewhat crudely represented in Dr. Whitaker’s History of Craven“, (Speight 1902), illustrated here.

This well possesses a prodigious occult history yet is curiously absent from most studies on the subject.  The place is said to have been a respected holy site that was venerated long before the Romans arrived here. Found at a place called the Rudgate — but known locally as St. Helen’s Ford — it is also said to be haunted.  Angela Smith (n.d.) considers the traditions surrounding the well to be pre-Roman, and the curative waters would certainly have been known of at the time of their occupation here,

“because it lies at the side of Roman road No.280, just north of where it crosses the River Wharfe at St. Helen’s Ford, leading to the Roman fort at Newton Kyme.”

St Helens Well in 1900

Several species of psychoactive plants grow adjacent to the well, which are thought by Phillips, (1976) Devereux (1992) and I as serving ritual shamanic purposes. The likelihood is more so than not.  The oracular nature of the site which R.C. Hope (1893) and others have described here is particularly interesting: in traditions the world over, oracles were often consulted after the ingestion or use of sacred plants, such as are found here.

Due to the sacred nature of this spring and its importance in local folklore and history, it should be recovered from its present state.  The fact that this place was highly important as a ritual and sacred site to christians, pagans, Romans and peasants alike, and now hides all-but-lost and forgotten is a disgrace.


A fascinating tale hangs over this still-revered holy well which legend tells had a chapel standing adjacent, dedicated to Helen in the 7th century – although no trace of it is visible today. Local historian Edmund Bogg (1904) recounted how a local sexton told of “padfoots and barguests and ‘that grim foul beast with clanking chain’ which on dark nights kept its vigil” near St.Helen’s Well. Padfoots and barguests are Yorkshire names for spectral black dogs, said to be bringers of death and misfortune (they are one of several remaining folk-ingredients from the Underworld myths in British shamanism).

St Helen’s Well, c.1935
St Helens Well in 1934

Folklorist Guy Ragland Phillips (1976), referring to an article in The Dalesman in 1971, told how a Mrs Dorothy Tate as a young girl used to visit the site and would tie pieces of rag on the bushes aside the place as grateful offerings to the spirit of the well. She said however, that she had gone about doing this in the wrong way, as according to tradition such offerings are to be done secretly. The article showed a photograph of Mrs Tate (from 1908) tying one of the memaws to the wych-elm tree overhanging the old spring.

People visited the well – probably on August 18 – to divine the future with the oracle which Hope (1893) described as being here, always in the dead of night without being seen, leaving before sunrise. It has been visited by thousands of people over the centuries, with gifts of rag-hangings, pins and other memaws. Such offerings continue even to this day. When Harry Speight (1902) visited St. Helen’s Well at the turn of the century, he related how as many as forty or fifty hangings would be left at any one time on the branches of the trees.  He wrote:

“The water is beautifully soft and clear, and in former times was much resorted to as a specific for sore or weak eyes. There are two other springs close by, which were also held to be sacred, but they do not bear any particular dedications. An old plantation a little north of the well is known as Chapel Wood, which commemorates St. Helen’s chapel and the ancient church at Bilton, three miles further north, and about a mile to the east of the Roman Rudgate, is also dedicated to St. Helen.”

A few years before Speight’s visit here, Dr Fred Lees and the botanist, Robert Baines, visited St. Helen’s Well, and wrote similarly of the lore and memaws they found there:

“There are veritably hundreds of these bedizenings affixed and removed surreptitiously (probably before sunrise), according to an unwritten law, for none are ever caught in the act. And yet during the summer months a careful observer may detect almost weekly evidence of a shy communicant with the ghostly genius of someone¾country maid or her dumb shy swain. What murmured litany (if any) had to be said is lost; most likely nothing more was necessary than the unspoken wish…Pieced together and codified, fact and heresay testify as follows: ‘The visitor to the grove, before rise of sun, has to face the tree [a wych-elm overhanging the well] to detach from his or her own person some garment, to dip it in the well, and having knotted or whilst hanging the fragment to any convenient twig…is to breathe a ‘wish’ telling no-one what that wish may be; these conditions strictly observed, what is desired shall come to pass.'” (in Phillips, 1976)

When the archaeologist C.N. Bromehead (1935) and geologist J.V. Stephens came to the site in the 1930s, despite the fall of the well, he was surprised to find local peasants still respecting the spirits of the site, reporting:

“There is now no well or visible spring, but from the position at the lower margin of a gravel terrace it is obvious that water would be obtained by digging a few feet; a small stream flows just east of the site… It is curious that the hanging of rags should survive when the actual well has vanished, but the writer has visited the spot many times in the last seven years and there are always plenty of obviously recent additions.  The custom is to stand facing the well (i.e., due west), preferably after sunset, wish, and then attach something torn from one’s clothing either to the big tree — wych elm — or to any of the bushes.  Probably the custom is largely maintained by vagrants who frequently camp in the wood, but it also has its attraction for courting couples from the neighbouring villages!”

Such offerings at the site of St. Helen’s Well are still left by locals and some of the plastic pagans, who tie pieces of artificial material to the remnants of the wych-elm and other trees, which actually pollutes the Earth and kills the spirit  here.  Whilst the intent may be good, please, if you’re gonna leave offerings here, make sure that the rags you leave are totally biodegradable.  The magical effectiveness of your intent is almost worthless if the material left is toxic to the environment and will certainly have a wholly negative effect on the spirit of the place here.  Please consider this to ensure the sacred nature of the site.

…to be continued…


  1. Bogg, Edmund, Lower Wharfeland, the Old City of York and the Ainsty, James Miles: Leeds 1904.
  2. Brewster, Sam, ‘St. Helen’s Well,’ in Wind & Water 1:4, 1980.
  3. Bromehead, C.N., ‘Rag Wells,’ in Antiquity IX, March 1935.
  4. Devereux, Paul, Symbolic Landscapes, Gothic Image: Glastonbury 1992.
  5. Hope, R.C., Legendary Lore of the Holy Wells of England, London 1893.
  6. Ni’Bride, Feorag, The Wells and Springs of Leeds, PPP: Preston 1984.
  7. Phillips, Guy Ragland, Brigantia, RKP: London 1976.
  8. Smith, Andrea, ‘Holy Wells Around Leeds, Bradford & Pontefract,’ in WakefieldHistorical Journal 9, 1982.
  9. Speight, Harry, Lower Wharfedale, Elliott Stock: London 1902.
  10. Whelan, Edna, The Magic and Mystery of Holy Wells, Capall Bann 2001.
  11. Whelan, Edna & Taylor, Ian, Yorkshire’s Holy Wells & Sacred Springs, Northern Lights: York 1989.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Fairy Holes, Whitewell, Lancashire

Legendary Cave:  OS Grid Reference – SD 6553 4677

Getting Here

Fairy Holes site

John Dixon took a bunch of us on a pleasant amble here via the Fair Oak Circle site.  From Fair Oak, go round the back of the farm and past the small cluster of hidden cottages, then bear right down the dirt-track and up the slope, then cross the field in front of you, going over the stile, following the footpath round the eastern edge of the slightly limestone New Laund Hill, and down again, thru the gate.  From here, head diagonally across the field 150 yards towards the fencing at the woodland edge.  Over the fence, into the trees, head halfway down the steep-ish slope and keep your eyes peeled for the rocky outcrop nearly halfway down.  Alternatively, an easier way here is apparently from the Inn at Whitewell.  Go across the river via the stepping stones (or wade!) and follow the footpath uphill towards a farm, where you’ll find a large steel gate on the left that leads into the woods.  Here there are 2 paths: follow the higher of the two until it starts bearing to the right.  Once here, look up the hill to the right you’ll see the rock outcrop.  The caves are there!

Archaeology & History

Smaller Fairy Hole

There are at least 3 caves here, close to each other along the edge of the small footpath a few yards apart.  The small rounded entrance of the northernmost one (photo, right) is reported by English Heritage to have had no human remains found therein, but further investigation is required here.  The main cave however is where intriguing prehistoric finds were located.  It appears that the entrance was deliberately built-up and blocked by stone walling a few yards inwards, giving the remains found therein a state of protection and sanctity.  Writer and historian John Dixon (2004) tells what was in the cave:

“In 1946, an excavation was carried out on the site by the archaeologist Reginald C. Musson.  In front of the larger cave is a flat platform on which evidence of Bronze Age daily life was found.  This included animal bones, a pebble pounder (used to extract marrow from bones) and shards of a food vessel.

“All that survived of this tripartite collared urn was a large rim-collar shard, two fragments displaying neck/shoulder/body elements and five smaller pieces, probably from the base of the body.  This is the only collared urn to have been found in a cave in Lancashire.  Its tripartite Pennine form assigns it to an early Bronze Age date.”

The main Fairy Hole
Plan of cave chamber (after J.Dixon 2004)

The artificial walled entrance may not merely have been an ingredient giving sanctity to the place, but this could well have been a site for ritual shamanic practices, including prolonged rites of passage and death rituals (authentic ones, not the modern pagan nonsense).  The ‘ritual death’ elements are highly probable here for, as John Michell (1975) told, caverns and crevasses are “most responsive to the necromancer’s invocation”.  It’s geomancy, spirit association and the archaeological finds therein are strongly suggestive of this usage. (Eliade 1989, 1995; Maringer 1960, etc)  Bearing this in mind, it is of some concern regarding the individual who thought it wise to spray-paint his name against the wall of the cave entrance (see photo); for many are those even in these days of shallow minds who fall prey to the car-crashes and creeping madness brought upon themselves by desecrating ancestral sites of ritual magick.  It would be intriguing to keep a prolonged eye on the ‘Forsh’ who painted his ego in this cave of dead spirits…


Not surprisingly, the little people hold legend here.  Jessica Lofthouse (1946) found tales of these ancient peoples in several places close by, but at the Fairy Caves specifically,

“everyone knew that these little caves in the limestone at Whitewell were the homes of the little folk.”

…And in relation to the ingredient mentioned above, about ritual use of the cave in ancient times: are there any serious ritual magickians who’ve spent time working in this cave, overnight or longer, and who can let us know of their encounters here? (long shot, I know – but it’s worth asking, considering the probable use of the place)  Or perhaps spontaneous encounters of other people here…


  1. Dixon, John, The Forest of Bowland, Aussteiger Publications: Clitheroe 2004.
  2. Eliade, Mircea, Shamanism, Arkana: London 1989.
  3. Eliade, Mircea, Rites and Symbols of Initiation, Spring Publications: Woodstock 1995.
  4. Lofthouse, Jessica, Three Rivers, Robert Hale: London 1946.
  5. Maringer, Johannes, The Gods of Prehistoric Man, Weidenfeld & Nicolson: London 1960.
  6. Michell, John, The Earth Spirit: Its Ways, Shrines and Mysteries, Thames & Hudson: London 1975.

© Paul Bennett & John Dixon, The Northern Antiquarian

Robin Hood’s Penny Stone, Midgley Moor, West Yorkshire

Legendary Rock:  OS Grid References – SE 01831 28436

Also Known as:

  1. Robin Hood’s Pennystone
  2. Robin Hood’s Rock

Getting Here

If you follow the directions to reach the Churn Milk Joan stone, then continue onto the moor following the same directions to find the Miller’s Grave, once you’ve reach this you’ll see a large rounded boulder a couple of hundred yards away on your left, to the northwest.  That’s Robin Hood’s Penny Stone!

Archaeology & History

Robin Hood’s Pennystone, Midgley Moor

In terms of this site’s archaeology, it has none to write home about in official records (other than a few flints found nearby), but there’s more to this place than meets the eye.  A large rounded boulder sat upon the moorland plain with a large Nature-worn bowl on its top, the site is some 112 yards (102m) northwest of the little-known, but impressive Miller’s Grave prehistoric cairn (close to being a midsummer/midwinter line).  North and south of the rock are small lines of prehistoric walling — though their context is difficult to assess.  The Greenwood Stone and Greenwood B stone can be found about 200 yards west.


A singular footpath once led up to this old boulder, atop of which – in its large ‘bowl’ – vinegar used to be poured. In this, coins were left by local people who suffered the plague and in return food was left for them.  And of course it is said that Robin Hood frequented the place in bygone times.


  1. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  2. Robert, Andy, “Our Last Meeting,” in NEM 37, 1989.
  3. Robert, Andy, Ghosts and Legends of Yorkshire, Jarrold: Sheffield 1992.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Loch Derculich, Dull, Perthshire

Sacred Loch:  OS Grid Reference – NN 864 549


Although this upland loch is today renowned as little more than a decent fishing spot, the waters here were long known to be haunted and the abode of a legendary water spirit.  In local tradition, the loch is said to be named after “an ancient Chief of Pictish origin” — whose burial mound is nearby — and in James Kennedy’s (1928) fascinating folklore work he also told that,

“Loch Dereculich was the habitation of a ‘Tarbh Uisge’ (water bull), the dangerous water demon… This dreaded monster, as the Norwegian peasant will gravely assure a traveller, demands every year a human victim, and carries off children who stray too near its abode… Less than one hundred and twenty years ago, the Loch Derculich Water Bull was seen sauntering along its shores.  At peat-making times it was observed very frequently.”


  1. Kennedy, James, Folklore and Reminiscences of Strathtay and Grandtully, Munro Press: Perth 1928.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Churn Milk Joan, Midgley Moor, West Yorkshire

Standing Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 01974 27684

Also Known as:

  1. Saville’s Low

Getting Here

Churn Milk Joan, Midgley

From the village of Midgley, high above the A646 Halifax-to-Todmorden road, travel west along the moorland road until you reach the sharp-ish bend in the road, with steep wooded waterfall to your left and the track up to the disused quarry of Foster Clough.  Go up the Foster Clough track for 100 yards and, when you reach the gate in front of you, go over it but follow the line of the straight walling uphill by the stream-side (instead of following the path up the quarries) all the way to the top. Here you’ll see the boundary stone of  Churn Milk Joan.

Archaeology & History

The present large standing stone you see before you isn’t prehistoric.  However, the small broken piece on the ground by its side may have been its prehistoric predecessor; and there is certainly something of an archaic nature here — albeit a contentious one — as we find old cup-markings cut into its eastern face.

Two ‘cup-marks’ on eastern face

The upright is roughly squared and faces the cardinal points.  It was described in Mr Heginbottom’s  (1977) unpublished survey on Calderdale rock art, where he described there being a few cup-markings inscribed on its east- and south-facing edges, some of which may be prehistoric — though they would obviously have had to have been carved upon the upright stone when it still lay earth-fast.  However, we must posit the the notion (unless some of you have better ideas) that the tradition of etching cup-marks onto rocks was still occurring in this part of Yorkshire until the late Middle Ages, as this stone was, as we know from boundary records, only placed upright to mark the meeting of the three boundaries of Wadsworth, Hebden Royd and Sowerby.

Churn Milk Joan’s other name, Saville’s Low, originates from the great Saville family who owned great tracts of land across the region in the fourteenth century, possibly when the Churn Milk Joan we see today was created.  The word “lowe” may derive from the old word meaning, “moot or gathering place,” which this great stone probably served as due to its siting at the junction of the three townships.*


In modern times the stone has become a focus for a number of local pagans and New Agers who visit and ‘use’ the site in their respective ways at certain times of the day, albeit estranged (ego-bound) from the original mythic nature of the site.

The name of the stone comes from an old legend about a milk-maid named Joan who, whilst carrying milk across the moors between Luddenden and Pecket Well, got caught in a blizzard and froze to death.  When her body was found many days later, the stone we see here today was erected to commemorate the spot where she died.  Although such a scenario is quite likely on these hills, as Andy Roberts (1992) said,

“Considering the sheer amount of sites with similar legends this explanation is unlikely to be true and we should looker deeper for the meaning behind Churn Milk Joan, to be found in its positioning in the landscape and ourindividual feelings about it.”  [see profiles for the Two Lads and the Lad o’ Crow Hill sites)

The monolith’s other title, Churnmilk Peg, is the name given to an old hag who is said to be the guardian of nut thickets.  How this female sprite came to find her abode upon these high hills is somewhat of an enigma, but it was first stated as such in an article by Andy Roberts (1989) in “Northern Earth Mysteries” magazine.  E.M. Wright (1913) noted this supernatural creature in her work on folk dialect, describing it as a West Yorkshire elemental who, along with another one known as Melsh Dick:

“are wood-demons supposed to protect soft, unripe nuts from being gathered by naughty children, the former being wont to beguile her leisure by smoking a pipe.”

Another legend of the stone tells how it is said to spin round three times on New Year’s Eve when it hears the sound of the midnight bells at St. Michael’s church (St. Michael was a dragon-slayer) at Mytholmroyd in the valley below.  Another piece of folklore tells that coins used to be left in a small hollow at the very top of the stone which, according to Haslem (1981), was “a gift to the spirit world, to bring luck” – a common folk motif.  It may equally originate from the custom of it as a plague stone.  This tradition of leaving coins atop of the stone is still perpetuated by some local folk.

Mr Haslem also made some interesting remarks about the nature of Churn Milk Joan standing as a boundary stone, representing something which stands not just as a physical boundary, but as a boundary point between this and the Other- or spirit world.  In folklore, streams and rivers commonly carry this theme.  But here on Midgley Moor, as a standing stone at the junction of three boundaries, we may be looking at the place as an omphalos: a centre point from which the manifold worlds unfold. (see Almscliffe Crags, the Ashlar Chair and the Hitching Stone)

The other motif here, of milk and snow [both white], have been speculated to represent power of the sun at midwinter, and geomantically we find the position of the stone in the landscape exemplifying this: it stands midway in the moorland scenery facing south, the direction of solar power, yet is bounded as an equinox marker from east and west.  The winter tales it has nestled around it are merely complementary occult augurs of its more wholesome elements at this point in the hills.

There is however, another much more potent element that has not been conveyed about the site and its folklore—and one which has more authenticity and primary animistic quality.  Regardless of ‘Joan’ or ‘Peg’ being the elemental preserved in the landscape title, the ‘churning’ in its name and the ‘spinning’ of the stone in myth at the end of one year and the start of the next at New Year, are folk memories of traditional creation myths that speak of the cyclical seasons endlessly perpetuated year after year after year, in what Mircea Eliade (1954) called the ‘myth of the eternal return.’  As season follows season in the folk myths of our ancestors, everything related to the natural world: a world inhabited (as it still is) by feelings and intuitions learned from an endless daily encounter, outdoors, with the streams, hills, gales, snow and fires.  Their entire cosmology, as with aboriginal people the world over, saw the cycles of the year as integral parts of their daily lives.  Here, at Churn Milk Joan with its central landscape position along an ancient boundary, the churning and turning of the year was commemorated and mythologized year after year after year; with maybe even the Milky Way being part of the ‘milk’ in its title, from which, in the shamanistic worlds that were integral to earlier society, the gods themselves emerged and came down to Earth.


  1. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  2. Eliade, Mircea, The Myth of the Eternal Return, Bollingen 1954.
  3. Haslem, Michael, “Churn Milk Joan: A Boundary Stone on Midgley Moor,” in Wood and Water, 1:8, 1980.
  4. Heginbottom, J.A., “The Prehistoric Rock Art of Upper Calderdale and the Surrounding Area,” Yorkshire Archaeology Society 1977.
  5. Ogden, J.H., “A Moorland Township: Wadsworth in Ancient Times,” Proceedings of the Halifax Antiquarian Society, 1904.
  6. Robert, Andy, “Our Last Meeting,” in NEM 37, 1989.
  7. Robert, Andy, Ghosts and Legends of Yorkshire, Jarrold: Sheffield 1992.
  8. Wright, Elizabeth Mary, Rustic Speech and Folk-Lore, Oxford University Press 1913.

* The great stone at the cente of the Great Skirtful of Stones, Burley Moor, which previously stood at the centre of the Grubstones Circle, was just such a moot stone.  Upon it is carved the words “This is Rumble’s Lawe”.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian