Delf Hill, Extwistle, Burnley, Lancashire

Ring Cairn:  OS Grid Reference – SD 9006 3373

Also Known as:

  1. Delph Hill Pasture

Archaeology & History

Rare 1842 photo of urn from Delf Hill
Rare 1842 photo of urn from Delf Hill

Described in Walter Bennett’s (1946) magnum opus as a “stone circle” and repeated in Aubrey Burl’s (2000) magnum opus under the same category, the site here seems more likely to have been an old cairn circle, or perhaps even a simple tumulus — and a small one at that!  It was first noted in June of 1842 when the antiquarian, Mr F.C. Spencer of Halifax, “had his attention called to a circle of stones in a field called Delph Hill Pasture by Jonas Lee, a Thursden farmer, and a somewhat noted character in his day” who knew the location very well. It didn’t take long for Mr Spencer to realise that this was “an ancient British barrow,” as he called it, and made plans to excavate the site soon after seeing it.

Following Spencer’s dig, a short account of the finds was made in the Gentleman’s Magazine, telling of the remains of this “small circle of stones” and the burials therein.  The account said:

“The circle originally consisted of rock pillars (five of which remain) , standing about 18 inches above the surface, and being about 2 feet square.  The diameter of the circle is about 5 yards.  Mr Spencer directed an excavation to be made without delay, the result of which was the discovery of two very antique earthen urns, curiously marked, containing fragments of human bones, of small dimensions, mixed with charcoal and black mould.  The tops of the vessels were covered with small flat slate-stones, but little larger than the urns, over which larger heavy stones were placed for their protection.   The urns were found about 2 feet beneath the surface of the field, in the centre of the circle, embedded in soft clay, with many pieces of charcoal interspersed.  About 300 yards from the barrow are the bold remains of a British circular camp…”

A few years later, Tattersall Wilkinson (1893) told that “three unglazed urns, with human remains and flint arrowheads” (my italics) were found at the locale.  Curiously there has been some confusion as to the number of urns that were actually found at Delf Hill by different authors over the last 175 years (numbering between 1 and 3, depending on whose account you read!), but it would seem this has occurred due to the proximity of other tombs close by.

An excursion to Delf Hill a few years after Spencer’s first dig is described in an article by L. Clement (1874), where several members of a local history society reported that the mound here consisted of a “small circle of stones, seven in number, fourteen feet in diameter”, that probably surrounded the hillock.  One of the stones had been knocked over and moved, so the group took it upon themselves to place the monolith back into what they thought was its original setting within the monument.


  1. Abraham, John Harris, Hidden Prehistory around the North West, Kindle 2012.
  2. Barnes, Bernard, Man and the Changing Landscape, Merseyside County Council 1982.
  3. Bennett, Walter, History of Burnley – volume 1, Burnley Corporation 1946.
  4. Booth, Thomas, Ancient Grave Mounds on the Slopes of the Pennine Range, R. Chambers: Todmorden 1899.
  5. Burl, Aubrey, The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Britanny, Yale University Press 2000.
  6. Clement, L., “Roman Remains in Marsden, Briercliffe and Extwistle,” in Transactions of the Burnley Literary & Scientific Club, volume 1, 1874.
  7. Gomme, George Laurence, The Gentleman’s Magazine Library: Archaeology – Part 1, Houghton, Mifflin & Co.: Boston 1886.
  8. Watson, Geoffrey G., Early Man in the Halifax District, HSS: Halifax 1952.
  9. Wilkinson, Tattersall, “Extwistle Moor, Burnley,” in Transactions of the Lancashire & Cheshire Antiquarian Society, volume 11, 1893.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Annot Cross, Brierfield, Lancashire

Cross (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – c. SD 881 353

Archaeology & History

Not included in the magnum opus of Henry Taylor (1906), the exact position of this long lost site remains unknown, as even the investigative abilities of Clifford Byrne couldn’t track it down!  It was erected in a region full of pre-christian remains and (at the time) living remnants of heathen folklore and practices between Worsthorne and Nelson.  Mr Byrne (1974) described his search for the place, saying:

“This cross is of ancient origin and no part of it now remains as far as can be ascertained by investigation, although the memory of it certainly remains, for an elderly gentleman living in the cottages of Holt Hill, Briercliffe, said instantly on being asked about he cross that he had often heard it referred to by older people when he was a boy, although he could not say exactly where in the hamlet the monolith had stood.  We are told that the cross is mentioned in a document in the year 1313 when Robert Briercliffe granted away the Sene intacks in the Holt Hill as it lay by Annot Cross on the south side.  This implies that it stood on the south side of the road (between) Thursden and Haggate, which is an old road from Burnley to Halifax…”

This would give a rough grid reference for its position around SD 881 353, but nothing appears to be there.  However, Byrne told of another intriguing bitta folklore a short distance away which may have had some relevance to the positioning of the cross.

“Down the road to Lane Bottoms, behind some bungalows, is a stone shaft in a depression in a meadow which we are told is an ancient standing stone.  Whether this is so is not easy to ascertain for the stone has apparently been used as a gatepost at some time, and further gives indication of having been utilised as a cattle rubbing post.”

Below here we find the old place-name ‘Burwains,’ which clearly indicate a site of a prehistoric burial, though nothing remains of such a place — officially at least.  Perhaps a couple of ventures in and around this area need to be done!  One final note that Byrne made related to the title of this lost cross, saying:

“The name “Annot” may be of Saxon origin, for the Saxon word annet means solitude, and this would have certainly fitted the area in ages past.”


  1. Byrne, Clifford, A Survey of the Ancient Wayside Crosses in North-East Lancashire, unpublished report 1974.
  2. Taylor, Henry, The Ancient Crosses and Holy Wells of Lancashire, Sherratt & Hughes: Manchester 1906.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian