The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland


The Ebbing And Flowing Well, Giggleswick, North Yorkshire

Ebbing and Flowing Well, Giggleswick (photo credit: Humphrey Bolton for Geograph)

Ebbing and Flowing Well, Giggleswick (photo credit: Humphrey Bolton for Geograph)

   OS grid reference SD 8039 6538. The Ebbing and Flowing Well is, perhaps rather annoyingly, located at the side of the busy B6480 (old Clapham road) out of the village of Giggleswick, about two-thirds of the way up the steep and ‘often very busy’ Buck Haw Brow, opposite Settle Golf-course. It’s about 1 mile north-west of Giggleswick and one-and-three-quarter miles from the town of Settle. The rocky and tree-covered Giggleswick Scar, formed from the South Craven Fault, towers above the curious holy well, which has long been famous for its abilities to “ebb and flow” though this does not occur as much as it used to do – due probably to the mining that now takes place over and on top of the scar, or some other atrocity. I should point out here that ‘it is quite dangerous to stand and view the well’ as there is a constant flow of vehicles rushing past the site and, it is therefore very difficult, if not dangerous to attempt to take photographs – so please “be warned” and do please stay very safe.

   The well has been famous over the centuries for its strange and curious ability to ‘ebb and flow’, indeed so much so that in the past local people have tried to dig down below the well in order to find out ‘why it does this’, though probably without actually establishing what causes such a thing to take place, if it really does, and now on rare occasions. We take the word “ebb” to mean flow back, fall, drain and subside, and the word “flow” to mean issue forth, pour forth, pour outward, refill and well-up. So is that what the well does? When the well does flow it flows under the road to emerge in a wet, muddy mess, on the opposite side of the road and, sometimes flows over the road itself, but mostly it simply wells-up to fill its square-shaped stone chamber, and then without much warning drains-away and ‘goes back’ into the limestone scar – probably from one of the deep caves that is undoubtedly linked-up with the well somewhere along the way. Author Brian Spencer in his book ‘The Visitor’s Guide To The Yorkshire Dales, says of this strange phenomana:

“On the rare occasions that the well functions, it rapidly drains, and then after a pause refills itself. This is due to a unique double chambered cave somewhere behind the well which causes a sudden syphoning effect inside the hole and temporarily cuts off the flow of water.”

   In the much acclaimed tome ‘Folklore Myths and Legends of Britains’, by Reader’s Digest, we are given a more Folklore-ish angle to this:

“Near to Giggleswick Scar is an oddity of nature, the Ebbing and Flowing Well. An explanation for its behavior is that a nymph who was being chased by a satyr prayed to the gods for help. They turned her into a spring of water, which still ebbs and flows with her panting breaths. 

The 17th-century highwayman, John Nevison, is said to have evaded capture by letting his horse drink at the well. The water gave the horse strength and Nevison escaped by leaping from the top of a cliff, still known as Nevison’s Leap.”

   In the past a few historians have tried to associate the Ebbing and Flowing Well with a local north-country saint – in this case St Alkelda – who is still venerated at the church in Giggleswick and, also at the church in Middleham, north Yorkshire, where she is said, according to the legend, to have been murdered by two Danish women in c 800 AD, or maybe in the 10th century so say some. Alkelda was an Anglo-Saxon princess and also a ‘devout’ Christian. One day she was approached by two pagan women who murdered her with a ‘thick scarf’ which they pulled tightly around her neck; this terrible crime probably took place where the church of Sts Mary & Alkelda now stands, or ‘maybe’ beside the well that is also named for her; and the church houses some fragments of a 15th century stained-glass window which depicts the saint’s martyrdom.

   The church of St Alkelda at Giggleswick apparently still uses water from the Ebbing and Flowing Well in its baptism services and, “a 19th century stained-glass window depicts the spirit of the well in the form of an angel hovering above the waters. This is a Christianised version of the pagan water-spirits, called undines”, according to author Bill Anderton in his work ‘Guide To Ancient Britain’. But did St Alkelda even exist because her name could simply be a corruption of the Old English words ‘Hal Keld’ (Halig Keld) – meaning “holy well”. The renowned author Jessica Lofthouse explains this in her book ‘Lancashire Countrygoer’, she says:

“Ghikel was probably a Norseman whose “wick” or farm was here. Also the ebbing and flowing well, not so far away, was a “gugglian” or bubbling spring: the wick by the gurgling well could be a derivation. But who caresor whether or no there was a Saxon Princess martyred at the hand of pagan Danes to give St. Alkelda’s its name. Or was the well where the Celts worshipped a spirit of water, later sanctified as a holy well, and as the “helig keld” did it give the first church its unusual name?”

   Authors Janet & Colin Bord in their renowned work ‘Sacred Waters’, have little if anything to say about the well only that: “Sadly the well no longer ebbs and flows.”

Sources:

Anderton, Bill., Guide To Ancient Britain, Foulsham, Slough Berkshire, 1991.

Bord, Janet & Colin, Sacred Waters, Paladin Books, London W1X, 1986.

http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/925879   © Copyright Humphrey Bolton and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

https://megalithix.wordpress.com/2008/09/12/ebbing-flowing-well-giggleswick-north-yorkshire-holy-well/

Lofthouse, Jessica., Lancashire Countrygoer, (second edition), Robert Hale, London SW2, 1974.

Reader’s Digest, Folklore Myths And Legends Of Britain, (Second Edition), The Reader’s Digest Association Limited, London, 1977.

Spencer, Brian., The Visitor’s Guide To The Yorkshire Dales, Hunter Publishing Inc., Edison, NJ, USA, 1986.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        


Robin Hood’s Stone, Allerton, Liverpool, Merseyside

Robin Hood's Stone, Liverpool (photo by Rept0n1x for Wikimedia Commons)

Robin Hood’s Stone, Liverpool (photo by Rept0n1x for Wikimedia Commons)

   OS grid reference: SJ 3998 8638. A prehistoric standing stone, now heavily worn by thousands of years erosion, stands behind railings on Brooker Avenue at the junction of Archerfield Road in Allerton, Liverpool, Merseyside, near to West Allerton Railway Station. The heavily grooved monolith is thought to be one of the famous Calder Stones, which now reside in the Palm House in Calderstones Park, a quarter of a mile or so to the north-east, but ‘a few’ historians have considered the stone to date from the early part of the 16th century, and in particular the reign of King Henry VIII, when arrows were sharpened upon it. Archerfield Road is a giveaway here, I think. But just where Robin Hood the famed outlaw of Sherwood Forest features in the long history of this monument am at something of a loss like everyone else before me, but mythical and legendary heroes from our history ‘very often’ have their names attributed to stones that are: in no way “whatsoever” connected’, though it does give the ancient monument ‘in question’ a more interesting name.

   The red sandstone monolith is 2.4 metres high (7 foot 9 inches) and 0.9 metres (2 foot 11 inches) in width. It was apparently dug-up in 1928 in a field in the Forty Pits area – where it then stood for some considerable time until a new housing estate was built, and, then it was moved (once gain) to its present position on Brooker Avenue, just opposite Archerfield Road, at the beginning of the 1970s. There are ‘said’ to be several prehistoric cup-marks at the base of the stone, but sadly these are now beneath the soil. The author Derek M. Whale in his book ‘Lost Villages Of Liverpool – Part One’, says of Robin Hood’s Stone:-

    “Josias Booker’s field, called Stone Hey, in which the stone originally stood, is said to have accommodated butts for arches – probably about the time of Henry VIII. The King ordered most of his male subjects under 60 to practice archery and butts – mounds of sods to which targets were attached – were built in fields in almost every township. Most of the grooves were found on the side of the stone facing the sun – suggesting that most of the shooting took place from that side of the field, with archers firing with the light at their backs.”

   In 1970 a similar stone was ploughed up in a farmer’s field at Haskayne, north of the city, and this also had grooves made by thousands of years of weathering. And so it is presumed this, and the so-called Robin Hood’s Stone, were probably part of the Calder Stones which date back 4,000 years to the Bronze-Age. The Calder Stones had once formed part of a megalithic burial tomb in the Allerton area of Liverpool, but they were eventually brought to Calderstones Park and re-housed in the Palm House. But I can see ‘why’ some have considered the so-called Robin Hood’s Stone to be a relic of the early 16th century – as the deep scoring marks made by arrow-sharpening are still very visible on the stone. 

Sources: 

https://thejournalofantiquities.com/2014/07/19/the-calderstones-allerton-merseyside/

http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=8435

http://www.roydenhistory.co.uk/mrlhp/local/calders/calders.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Robin_Hood%27s_Stone,_Liverpool_(1).JPG  – This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Whale, Derek M., Lost Villages Of Liverpool – Part One, (second edition), T. Stephenson & Sons Ltd., Prescott, Merseyside, 1985. 


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St Chad’s Well, Tinedale Farm, Spen Brook, Lancashire

St Chad's Well, Near Tinedale Farm, Spen Brook, Lancashire.

St Chad’s Well, Near Tinedale Farm, Spen Brook, Lancashire.

   St Chad’s Well is located in a boggy field with reed beds, just east of Tinedale Farm, 1 mile south of Newchurch-in-Pendle. From above Hoarstones, Fence, go north along the country lane, then at the very top walk along the straight farmtrack with a sign for Rigg of England and Tinedale Farm. After a while take the second wall-style leading into the field. At the centre of this, often boggy field where the power cables intersect, look for a large area of reeds, here hidden away is the largerly forgotten holy well. It is covered by two flat stones, together measuring 3 feet across, while the well-basin is roughly 1 foot in depth, and is lined at one side by brickwork (which looks recent). There is a layer of mud at the bottom, but the water is quite clear ‘upon cupping’ one’s hands in the water, though probably ‘not drinkable’ today!

St Chad's Well near Tinedale Farm, Spen Brook.

St Chad’s Well

   According to local legend St Chad, a 7th century Anglo Saxon saint, who became Archbishop of York, came to this area during his travels in the north of England. However it is more likely one of his many disciples came here and dedicated the well to his master. It is though, as we already know, a pre-Christian well/spring. I am not aware of any cures happening at this well, though I’m not saying they didn’t happen here long ago. I am told that the water was used by local farms in the area of Tinedale, according to a gentleman who is a member of ‘The Pendle Forest Historical Society’. The well is “now” only marked on old maps of the area. Regarding St Chad, who died in 672 AD, one or two historians have ‘suggested’ albeit tenuously, that the village of Chatburn, near Dowham, is named after the well-known northern saint, though there does not appear to be any credible link with the saint to the actual place.  However, the name is usually taken to mean Ceatta’s Stream in the ‘Old English’ form – meaning Ceatta/Ceada (a personal name) and burn (a stream); the two other forms of Chad’s name are, of course, Ceadda and Ceatta! 

   The local author/historian John A. Clayton informs us in his excellent book ‘Burnley And Pendle Archaeology – Part 1 – Ice Age to Early Bronze Age’, that: “in 1978 a small stone bust, possibly of the Romano-British goddess Sulis/Minerva, was discovered near to the well.” And he says: ‘This, along with Roman pottery recently found by [himself] in nearby Sabden Fold, strongly suggests that the ridge-top site [above the holy well,] sitting as it does on a major ancient trade route, was of importance in the Roman Iron Age.” The ridge-top site which Clayton alludes to is called ‘Standing Stone Height’.

    The well stands close to an ancient trackway, which apparently pilgrims used in order to get to Whalley Abbey, 4 miles to the north-west. Tinedale (Tynedale) farm is “said” to be haunted, and it was associated at the beginning of the 17th century with the Pendle Witches, who met at Malkin Tower, a scant ruin to the north of the farm – between the farms of Bull Hole and Moss End, according to the late John Dixon in his work ‘Historic Walks Around The Pendle Way’. Tinedale farm dates from 1750 but the original building was of 1600. In this area, too, we are told ‘the ancient fire festival of Beltaine’ used to take place – long ago back in the mists of time.

Sources:

Clayton, John A., Burnley And Pendle Archaeology – Part 1 – Ice Age to Early Bronze Age, Barrowford Press, 2014.

Dixon, John & Mann, Bob., Historic Walks Around The Pendle Way, Aussteiger Publications, Barnoldswick, 1990.

Farmer, David., Oxford Dictionary of Saints, Oxford University Press, 2004.

http://kepn.nottingham.ac.uk/map/place/Lancashire/Chatburn


Haken’s Mound, Preesall, Lancashire

Preesall War Memorial on the B5270 Lancaster Road.

Preesall War Memorial on the B5270 Lancaster Road.

   OS grid reference SD 3601 4822. This is one of those strange curiosities that do seem to crop up every so often. Haken’s Mound, also known as ‘Haakon’s Mound’ and ‘The Mount’ is, in fact, the Preesall war memorial near St Oswald’s church on the B5270 Lancaster road. The large, grassy mound always has well-tendered flowers at its entrance and up to the monument, and on top of the large mound there is a substantial memorial cross which commemorates the fallen of the two World Wars. According to ‘the’ local legend and, to some extent “myth” Haken or Haakon, an early 10th century Viking chieftain, who settled half a mile or so up the road at Hakensall in Knott-End-On-Sea, was buried inside the mound that is today known as ‘The Mount”. Whether there is any real truth in this I do not know – we will probably never know. The war memorial is located halfway between St Oswald’s church and the B5377 Stalmine turning, while the very pretty sea-side village of Knott End is half a mile in the opposite direction along Lancaster road.

   The story goes that: At some point in the early 10th century AD Haken, an invading Viking chieftain, sailed up the Wyre estuary (maybe in a longboat) and, just inland between Fleetwood and Knott End, founded a settlement at a place now called Hackensall – today the medieval Hackensall Hall on Whinny Lane (OS grid ref: SD 2874 5394) stands more or less on that site. The original hall (a defensive moated building) was built in 1190 – the building there today is of 1656; it was built by the Fleetwood family. In the 19th century the hall was greatly renovated by Sir James Bourne. According to “the” Legend, it is said from his settlement Haken laid siege to the area, pillaging and murdering, but I feel that here we have much embellishment added to the actual legend itself – and one “must” be very wary of this fact. Conversely, it may be that Haken was simply a seafaring Norseman who had come to the area and wanted to lead a quiet, unassuming life there.

The Mount at Preesall, Lancashire.

The Mount at Preesall, Lancashire.

    As to whether Haken or Haakon was still a pagan I don’t know, but I suppose it’s possible that he was a Christian, or had recently become one? After his death this Viking chieftain was buried nearby and a large mound built over his grave. Today this burial mound near St Oswald’s church, Preesall, is locally called ‘The Mount’ or ‘Haakon’s Mound’ and it still looks very impressive, made more so ‘perhaps’ by the war memorial cross standing on top. Alas, today, there are no visible signs (earthworks) of Haken’s settlement at Hackensall, only Hackensall road and Hackensall Hall are reminders. But we will never know archaeologically whether the Viking chieftain lies buried within the mound, due to the fact that it is protected as a war memorial.

    There are a few historians that have tried to link King Cnut, himself a Norseman, with Knott End with regards to the meaning of the place, but it seems that that is ‘not’ the case as most tend to agree “now” that it takes its name from a “knot”- a hillock that is located above the estuary. This knot or hillock probably refers to the golfcourse above the shoreline at Knott End, just to the north-west of Hackensall Hall. A ghostly horse (boggart) is ‘said’ to haunt the hall.

   In the delightful little book ‘The Lancashire Coastal Way And The Wyre Way’, by Ian & Krysia Brodie, we are enlightened about the possible meaning of Knott End: “The large sandbank off Knott End is called Bernard’s Wharf – reputedly after St Bernard. Many small birds, including knot and dunlin, feed here in the nutrient-rich mud. One story says Knott End derives from these birds, another that the Norse marked the channel of the Wyre with a chain of knots or cairns, the final one being the Knott End!” There is a church named for St Bernard on Hackensall Road.

   In 1926 a hoard of Roman coins was dug-up in the vicinity of Hackensall Hall, 500 to be precise, which later came to be known as the Hackensall Hoard. The coins were found beneath a stone and had been placed inside a leather bag. “Whilst the bag was originally found to contain around 500 coins, only 339 now have their whereabouts known” (Ian & Krysia Brodie, 1993). Some of the coin hoard was eventually given to The Revoe Museum in Blackpool, while more coins went to museums and galleries across the north-west of England.

   In the work ‘Romans in Lancashire’ by D. C. A. Shotter, we are told of the possibility that the mouth of the Wyre estuary, a safe and sheltered anchorage between Fleetwood and Knott End, was in use as a port in Roman times and that the great Ptolemy, who lived in the 2nd century AD, referred to it as such: “More important, however, for the present purpose is the reference in Ptolemy to the site which he names as PORTUS SETANTIORUM……this could have been the Roman name for Lancaster; alternatively, many have felt that the site has at some time been overwhelmed by the sea, and lies off the coast at the mouth of the Wyre.”

Sources:

Brodie, Ian & Krysia., The Lancashire Coastal Way And The Wyre Way, Lancashire County Books, Preston, 1993.

http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=39399&sort=2&type=&rational=a&class1=None&period=None&county=1306799&district=None&parish=None&place=&recordsperpage=10&source=text&rtype=&rnumber=&p=465&move=n&nor=6188&recfc=4000

http://www.preesalltowncouncil.org/about-preesall.pl

Shotter, D. C. A., Romans in Lancashire, Dalesman Publishing Company Ltd., Clapham, Yorkshire, 1973.


The Wirksworth Stone, St Mary’s Church, Wirksworth, Derbyshire

The Wirksworth Stone, Derbyshire (Drawing by J. Romilly Allen, c 1889).

The Wirksworth Stone, Derbyshire (Drawing by J. Romilly Allen, c 1889).

   OS grid reference: SK 2874 5394. Near to the centre of the town of Wirksworth, Derbyshire, along St Mary’s Gate stands the ancient parish church of St Mary the Virgin, and housed within is the Anglo-Saxon ‘Wirksworth Stone’, a richly carved sculptured stone with biblical scenes and figures, which is said to date from the 7th-9th century AD; and there is also a stone with a ‘rare’ example of an Anglo-Saxon lead-miner carved onto it, dating from the 8th century? The ancient parish church of St Mary, dating largerly from the 13-14th centuries, is located some 25 metres  south of the B5035 (Wirksworth Moor road) on St Mary’s Gate, close to the centre of the town. The villages of Cromford and Bonsall lie a couple of miles to the north on the B5036 road.

   The Wirksworth Stone is built into the north wall of the nave and is oblong-shaped and chunky; it measures 5 feet x 3 feet but is probably not as long as it originally was (as can be seen at the western edge) – due to damage over the centuries. This richly sculptured stone-slab, which is in fact a coffin lid [from a sarcophagus], is adorned with scenes and figures from the Bible, most of which depict the ‘Life of Christ’. There are numerous angels, apostles, disciples and members of the holy family. Yet these figures look ‘almost’ as if they had been carved yesterday! They were probably carved in 800 AD. The stone was discovered lying upside-down beneath the chancel floor, quite close to the altar, in 1820. The first church on this site was apparently founded by the Northumbrian monk and missionary, St Betti, in c 653 AD. So, could the sculptured stone be from his tomb?

   In Simon Jenkins great tome ‘England’s Thousand Best Churches’ we are ‘enthusiastically’ informed about the contents of St Mary’s church: “The contents of Wirksworth include one of the finest Saxon coffin lids extant…..its relief carving portraying eight scenes from the life of Christ. We can discern Christ washing the disciples’ feet, the Entombment and, on the lower tier, the Ascension. This lid is among the most evocative images of Dark Ages art. Its inspiration is similar to the ‘Byzantine’ carvings at Breedon (Leics) to the south. The figures could hardly be more primitive, moor aloof from the Saxon tradition, yet they radiate life.”

   The author Derek Bryce in his antiquarian book ‘Symbolism of the Celtic Cross’ says that: “In Britain there is a unique instance of the Lamb of God on a cross, on a sculptured slab in Wirksworth Church, Derbyshire.” The said ‘Lamb of God’ is depicted on a rather thick cross on the top tier of the slab – with three creatures and a human figure surrounding it.

Carving of lead miner, St Mary's, Wirksworth, Derbys.

Carving of lead miner, St Mary’s, Wirksworth, Derbys.

   Also inside St Mary’s, in the wall of the south transept, is a fragment of stone from maybe the 8th century AD, which has a carving of a lead-miner upon it. This little figure is locally called T’owd Man of Bonsall or just ‘Owd Man’ and is thought to have come from Bonsall church near Cromford in 1876 – the two Derbyshire villages lie a few miles north of Wirksworth. The area around here has always been known for its lead mines, indeed the Romans are ‘said’ to have mined the stuff. In the early 19th century lead had then become such a sellable commodity that a “moot” hall was established in Wirksworth.

   The author Frank Rodgers in his very interesting book ‘Curiosities of Derbyshire And The Peak District’ says of the ancient stones inside St Mary’s: “………other fragments of ancient carving are built into the walls, one in the south transept depicting a lead miner with his tools, a reminder that not far from the north gate of the churchyard is the Moot Hall in Chapel Lane.”

Sources:-

Bryce, Derek., Symbolism Of The Celtic Cross, Llanerch Enterprises, Felinfach, Lampeter, Dyfed, Wales, 1989.

http://www.wirksworth.org.uk/x559.htm

Jenkins, Simon., England’s Thousand Best Churches, Penguin Books Ltd., London, 2000.

Rodgers, Frank., Curiosities of Derbyshire And The Peak District, Derbyshire Countryside Ltd., Derby, 2000. 

Romilly Allen J., Christian Symbolism in Great Britain and Ireland before the 13th Century, 1889.