The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland


Lowlands Well, Wycoller, Lancashire

Lowlands Well at Wycoller. Only these stones now remain.

NGR: SD 9317 3944. The location of Lowlands Well was at the side of Wycoller Beck, 25 metres to the northwest along the farm track from Lowlands Bridge, on the grassy verge opposite Lowlands Farm. However not much remains of the well today, apart from two large recumb-ant stones, or is it just one complete stone, on the grassy area beside the beck – one stone having a deep groove through it and the other stone a shorter niche carved into it. At the front of these stones stood a large stone water-trough. You can still make out the depression in the grass where the trough used to be. A pipe that came across the beck from a well at the bottom of Lower Pepper Ing Field on the other side of the beck was very precariously sup-ported in the middle of the flowing water; the spring water then flowed through the pipe which went through a round hole in a long flat stone slab standing upon the two recumbant stones. The trough was originally covered over with a wooden lid in order to stop anything from dropping into the water. The well water was then collected by the family at the farm and by other residents in the village of Wycoller, near Trawden in Lancashire. However in more recent times when the trough and its piped-water supply was not needed it was taken away, but when did it go? and where did it go to? Maybe another local farm took the water trough?

Lowlands Well, Wycoller from E. W. Folley’s Romantic Wycoller 1949

There were a few other water troughs in Wycoller village; indeed one other trough had three stone steps inside and was 7 ft 6” long x 4 ft 6” wide and was made from a solid piece of gritstone; it was dragged on rollers by seventeen pones, from Wycoller Hall to a farm at Nelson, so the legend goes, according to Cookson & Hindle in their 1973 book Wycoller, though Lowlands Well was always the main source of drinking water there. Looking at the two remaining recumbant stones, opposite Lowlands Farm, it would seem the water pipe was originally positioned lower down and coming through the middle of these stones where the groove is, but the black and white photo from Ebenezer W. Folley’s Romantic Wycoller in 1949 shows a lady collecting water at the well, and in this old photo we clearly see the pipe higher up and coming through the long slab, so there must have been a problem with the beck flooding, and the water-pipe having to be raised to a much higher, safer position; and there have been some very bad floods in Wycoller Dene back in the past. Lowlands Farm, opposite the well, dates from between the 17th and 19th centuries, and was the home of the Wilkinson family in the 1900s. It was Alfred Wilkinson who wanted to purchase the Wycoller Estate in 1972 but nothing came of it and soon afterwards Lancashire County Council came in with the Wycoller Country Park scheme which took off the following year, says John Bentley in his 1993 book Portrait of Wycoller. 

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Bentley, John,  Portrait of Wycoller, Wycoller Country Park Project Townhouse School, Nelson, Lancs., 1993.

Cookson, Stanley & Hindle, Herbert, Wycoller, Hendon Publishing Co. Ltd., Hendon Mill, Nelson, Lancs, 1973.

Lowlands Farmhouse, Trawden Forest, Lancashire (

Lowlands Well, Wycoller, Lancashire | The Northern Antiquarian (

The Three Ancient Bridges, Wycoller, Lancashire | The Journal Of Antiquities

Wycoller – Wikipedia

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2021.

St John The Evangelist, Escombe, County Durham.

Escombe Church near Bishop Auckland. Photo is courtesy of Anne T.

NGR: NZ 18929 30139. The well-preserved little church of St John the Evangelist, Escombe, stands on Saxon Green in the middle of the village of Escombe, in Co Durham, and is 2 miles to the west of Bishop Auckland. There has been a church on this site since 670-75 AD and there is still much early Saxon work to be seen inside and outside the present church, in-cluding some Anglo-Saxon crosses, which date from the 7th-10th centuries AD, but St Bede does not mention it. Some Roman inscribed stones built into the outer walls obviously date from several centuries before the actual church. The churchyard is roughly circular so this little church must stand on a sacred site. Much of the stonework of this 7th-century building came from the nearby Roman Fort of Binchester (VINOVIUM), which stood on the bank of the River Wear. St John’s has seen various periods of restoration, particularly in 1875-80, when the roof had to be restored. At the SW side of Bishop Auckland take the B6282 for a couple of miles. Stay on this road S and then W, then take the country road heading N to the village of Escombe – St John’s Church is near the centre of the village on Saxon Green.

Nigel & Mary Kerr (1982) tell us that: “The little church of St John is an excellent example of early Anglo-Saxon work. Standing tall and austere in an almost circular churchyard, its majestic antiquity is unmarred by the tasteless modern houses which sur-round it. This is one of the best-preserved Anglo-Saxon churches in England and, apart from a short break during the last century, worship has probably continued here for 1,300 years.  Nothing is known of the foundation of the church, and the dedi-cation is unhelpful. The main fabric is of 7th-century date, and some have claimed that its simplicity shows continuity from Celtic timber buildings. The Venerable Bede makes no mention of the church in his History of the English Church and People which was finished in 731. This has led some to question the early dating, but Bede only mentioned churches germane to his narrative, so the omission is not critical.

“The gables of the nave have been restored; the ‘crow step’ pattern may therefore be later. The walls are over two feet (61 cm) thick and 23 feet (1 metre) high. Huge quoin-stones, some  nearly two feet (61 cm) high and three or four feet (1 metre) long, are set on edge and extend along each wall alternately; hence the name ‘side alternate’ quoins. Many of  the stones show character-istic Roman diamond tooling and were doubtless taken from the nearby fort at Binchester. A steeply pitched roof line, perhaps of a porch, can be seen on the west wall. The blocked doorway in the north wall of the chancel led into a small chapel, called a porticus, which was excavated in 1968. The present south porch is later. Just to the east of it, high up in the wall, an original sundial may be seen, decorated with a carving of a serpent.

“Internally, the lofty nave is complimented by a tall chancel arch, a further example of re-used Roman work. The small chancel has a simple Saxon carving behind the altar. The four Saxon nave windows, round-headed on the south side and square on the north, are strongly splayed internally to admit more light. They are now glazed, but vertical grooves for wooden shutters show the original arrangement; some window glass was found during the excavation of the north porticus, however. A small section of early cobbled flooring is preserved at the west end of the nave.  As Escombe is older than St Lawrence’s at Bradford-on-Avon and Odda’s Chapel at Deerhurst, it is the earliest largely complete Anglo-Saxon church in England, and well worth a visit.”  

Arthur Raistrick (1972) says that: “Escomb church stands one and a half miles to the west of Bishop Auckland, on the south bank of the Wear. It is the only parish church of the seventh or eighth century, in this country, still surviving in its entirety. It is small but very high and plain, and achieves a great dignity. The nave is long and high, with a nearly square chancel beyond it, separated by a chancel arch of carefully fitted well-cut long and short work. These very large blocks are probably taken from the Roman fort of Vinovia, Binchester, not far away. The windows are very small and very deeply splayed on the inside, two on the north side with straight heads, and two on the south with round  heads. A few later windows have been inserted to light the building. 

Escombe Cross. Photo: Anne T.

In the church porch there’s a beautifully carved section of a cross-shaft which is said to date from the late 7th to early 8th century AD, and might have been part of a taller preaching cross that once stood outside the church, while located behind the altar is an incised cross-slab, or was this a grave cover, from the 9th century AD; this may have originally stood outside the church and to have been part of a preaching cross, or the preaching cross itself? There is also a stone with an eagle carved onto it that is dated to the 9th century AD and is also to be found inside the porch. There are other fragments of Celtic and Anglo-Saxon carvings in St John’s. On the gable end of the south porch can be seen a very interesting sundial from the 7th or 8th century AD.

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Many thanks to Anne T for letting me use her two photos which are copyright © Anne T.

Kerr, Nigel & Mary, A Guide to Anglo-Saxon Sites, Paladin Granada Publishing Limited, St Albans, Herts & London, 1982.

Raistrick, Arthur, The Pennine Dales, Arrow Books Ltd., London, 1972.

Escomb Cross Ancient Cross : The Megalithic Portal and Megalith Map:

Escomb Saxon Church | Official Website for one of the most complete Saxon Churches in Europe

THE SAXON CHURCH, Non Civil Parish – 1292122 | Historic England

Escomb Church – Wikipedia

Anglo-Saxon Sites in County Durham and Northumberland – Keys To The Past

Some Surviving Churches – Wilcuma

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2021.