NGR: SD 9082 2010. Hades Hill is 3 miles to the east of Shawforth, near Whitworth, in Rossen-dale. Roughly about halfway between Hades Hill and Rough Hill and close to the footpath running northeast there is a Bronze Age barrow or cairn, though it is not easy to make out today as nearby there are a number of bell pits and mounds caused by past mining and quarrying operations. The barrow is today marked by a stone cairn – these stones most likely coming from the burial cist at the centre of the low mound. In 1982 the barrow was excavated by (GMAU) Manchester University, but they didn’t say what they found and they left the barrow in a pretty bad state. However, it was excavated further back in 1898 and their findings were published, thankfully. Hades was the Greek god of the Underworld, so this place is known as “The Hill of the Underworld”, a very apt name indeed. There are also a group of barrows on the western slope of the hill and a large cairn, or cairn circle, on the summit that was described by the 19th century antiquarian, T. D. Whitaker, as a beacon. From Facit take the footpath for 3 miles heading E, then NE, to reach a track also going NE halfway between Hades Hill and Rough Hill – the barrow is at the N side of the track, next to some bell-pits.
The Hades Hill barrow is 15 metres long and 134 wide, with evidence of the excavations back in 1898 and 1982, and it overlooks an ancient settlement. It is situated on the west side of the depression between Hades Hill and Rough Hill, above Whitworth, and close to the road to Crook Hill Wind Farm. Excavated in 1898 by Mr J.T. Hill of Shawforth, in appalling weather conditions, it contained an inverted urn over the cremated remains of a female, with a barbed arrow head, a flint scraper, a finely pointed borer, animal bones and charcoal. The urn and its contents are now in the archives of the Touchstones museum, Rochdale. Hades Hill literally means ‘hill of the dead’ and there are depressions nearby which were thought to be late medieval coal mining, but may actually be Bronze Age ‘pit’ dwellings. A fascinating area with incredible views and not a soul in sight, says my friend Stephen Oldfield, who has researched this area.
“All online resources give a slightly different grid reference for Hades Hill Barrow. Having studied the maps and the accounts – and been up there – this is the barrow – with evidence of a quarter of it being dug out. It looks like stone dug at the recent 1982 excavation has been used to build a cairn nearby. It’s a great site – lined up with Knowl Hill, Hamer Hill SW, Blackstone Edge SE and Broadclough Dykes/Hogshead Law NW with the basin stone at Todmorden at NE. Cleverly situated”, says Stephen.
“This small, low barrow or cairn — a couple of miles north of the little-known Man Stone — measures 15 metres north to south, 13 metres east to west and is 0.9 metres high (about 3 feet in height)” – The Northern Antiquarian.
There is a site page in “Lancashire Archaeological Bulletin”, Vol. 10, No. 2/3, May and July, 1984. This says: “PARISH: Wardle. SITE NAME: Hades Hill. N.G.R. SD 908 202. PRIMARY REFERENCE: *Sutcliffe 1900. DISPOSITION OF FINDS: Barrow, excavated December 1898. Contained urn with cord decoration in chevrons, burnt human bones, burnt flint implements, burnt flint flakes and “a broken nodule of jasper flint” (?) Central cairn and peristalith. Further excav. 1982 by GMAU.” *On page 29 of the Bibliography it adds: “Sutcliffe W.H. (1900) Hades Hill Barrow. Trans. Rochdale Lit. & Sci. Soc. 6 (1900) 56-63).”
There is also a circular feature on the summit of Hades Hill, which looks like a round barrow or cairn circle. Described as a circle within a circle by Stephen Oldfield. However, the noted Antiquarian Thomas Dunham Whitaker (1759–1821) described this as a beacon. On the western slope of the hill there’s a group of round barrows that can be seen on aerial views and as circular, grassy mounds at ground level. This is probably a Bronze Age cemetery.
Sources & References & Related Websites:-
Many thanks to Stephen Oldfield for the use of his photos and for the information he has provided. These photos are Copyright © Stephen Oldfield 2021.
Edwards, Margaret & Ben, Lancashire Archaeological Bulletin, Vol. 10, Nos. 2/3, May & July, 1984.
Hades Hill, Whitworth, Lancashire – (thenorthernantiquarian.org)
Prehistoric – Archaeological Discoveries in South-East Lancashire (wordpress.com)
Whitworth – Archaeological Discoveries in South-East Lancashire (wordpress.com)
Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2021.