OS grid reference SD 7599 3782. On Wiswell moor above Sabden, in Lancashire, stands the prehistoric site known as Jeppe Knaves Grave, said to be named after a 14th century robber who was buried here, but it is in fact a Bronze-Age cairn that is now much mutilated and in a bit of a ‘sorry state’, although its rounded-shape can still be seen with a hollow at the centre. There are a number of footpaths heading to the site: it can be reached from Wiswell and Spring Woods (Clerk Hill road) on the A671, near Whalley, or from the Nick of Pendle along the road that runs between Sabden and Clitheroe over Pendleton Moor, where there are a number of car parking areas. From here there are at least three footpaths that reach the site – the lower one (an ancient trade route) taking you through Wilkin Heys farm where you will need to ask for permission; the other two paths will get you there but one or two ladder stiles will have to be negotiated! The moor can also be ‘quite boggy’ in times of inclement weather. In his book Pendle Hill and Its Surroundings, by Dr Spencer T. Hall, the author says “From Whalley it will be tolerably easy to find a route up by Wiswell to Pendle Hill”. He also mentions coming up via Padiham, Higham, Sabden, Clitheroe, Chatburn, Downham and Worston.
In any case, best to head for the concrete trig point/pillar known as ‘The Rough’ no s4675 (at 315 feet) on Wiswell Moor, and then walk along the path (430 metres) to the south-west over the ladder stile, past the shepherd’s rock shelter, and there ahead down in the turf and heather is the prehistoric round cairn with it’s stones scattered about both on the inside and around the edge. In the book ‘Journeys Through Brigantia (Volume Nine) The Ribble Valley’ by John & Phillip Dixon, the authors say: “To the west of Wilkin Heys, just below the triangulation point, is a small depression in the moorland turf containing rocks and stones of various sizes. Upon the largest stone are inscribed the words ‘JEPPE KNAVE GRAVE’ and a cross. The stone is said to mark the final resting place of Jeppe Curteys, a local robber who was decapitated for his crimes in the first year of Edward III, 1327”.
The circular-shaped cairn is about 15 or 16 metres in diameter (22 feet) and it’s stone filled hollow in the middle is 5 metres by 3 metres. An outer ring of stones, which vary in size can be made out amongst the grass, but it is not particularly circular. Some larger stones make up the cairn (tumulus) itself but are in a somewhat tumbled, mutilated state. Some historians believe this was originally a chambered tomb of the Neolithic Age, though in fact it probably dates from the Bronze-Age. At the side there is a large stone with a worn inscription that says: JEPPE KNAVE GRAVE as well as a small incised florrated cross, thought to have been carved in the 1960s by boy scouts. According to the legend, Jeppe Curteys (Geoffrey Curtis), a highwayman was hanged for his crimes of robbery in 1327, and was subsequently buried here at this solitary spot (in a pre-Christian grave) on Wiswell Moor. The word “knave” is usually taken to mean ‘a wrong doer’, but it could also be the Norse word for a boy, youth or servant. The suggestion is that is much more likely to be an earlier prehistoric or Dark-Age burial site for some noble chieftain, and so pre-dating the highwayman by a few thousand years. But, we may never really know the true answer with regard to this ancient site.
About 1 mile to the north-west of Jeppe Knaves Grave at Carriers Croft near Pendleton is another (possible) Bronze-Age site. Here in 1968 a circular earthwork was discovered and, during excavations there in 1968-75 three collared urns and other antiquities were found. These finds were put on display in Clitheroe Castle Museum. There are two other Bronze-Age sites in this area too. Just 215 metres to the north of Jeppe Knaves grave at Harlow (SD759 380) in the direction of Parker Place and, on the opposite side of the road from the Well Springs inn at Nick of Pendle, along a footpath (SD776 390), there is another earthwork that may be prehistoric in date? (See John & Philip Dixon’s book – Journeys Through Brigantia (Vol 9) The Ribble Valley). Also, there are a number of glacial erratic boulders in the area, some having been used to prop up farmers’ walls! or put into use as marker stones.
Dixon, John & Phillip, Journeys Through Brigantia (Volume 9) The Ribble Valley, Aussteiger Publications, Barnoldswick, 1993.
Hall T, Spencer Dr., Pendle Hill and Its Surroundings, (orig. published 1877) re-published by Landy Publishing, Staining, Blackpool, 1995.