The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland


Leave a comment

Sinners Well / Gratton Lane Well, Endon, North Staffordshire

Sinners Well or Gratton Lane Well at Endon, North Staffordshire.

Gratton Lane Well at Endon, in Staffordshire Moorlands. A close-up view of the well.

NGR:  SJ 9305 5407.  In Gratton Lane at Endon, in North Stafford-shire, is a former sacred, possibly holy well/fountain, which was originally known as ‘Signers Well’ or ‘Sinners Well’, and, before that possibly it was known as St Ann’s Well. Today it’s just called Gratton Lane Well. The large well-house structure that you see there today was built in 1845 by a local man, Thomas Heaton, whose name is inscribed above the well basin. Springwater issues through the mouth of an iron head and down into the basin. It is possible the head is that of Mr Heaton who was a local landowner and re-built the fountain. He died in 1875. But, going further back in time it may have been dedicated to St Ann, mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and, with that in mind, it was possibly a pre-Christian spring. In more recent times, however, it was called ‘Sinners Well’. Even more recently it has, and still is, the site of traditional annual well-dressing ceremonies which take place at the end of May and early June each year when the villagers decorate the well here at Endon; this being an ancient custom with pre-Christian, pagan origins. A well-dressing Queen (May Queen) ceremony is also held simultaneously. The well is to be found at the side of the lane at the north-side of Endon village (Endon Bank) in the very beautiful and picturesque Staffordshire Moorlands, some 5 miles to the east of Stoke-on-Trent (The Potteries).

Gratton Lane / Sinners Well, Endon, in North Staffordshire.

The Gratton Lane well-dressing ceremony on the 4th of June, 2022.

The old custom of well-dressing (well flowering) and the decoration of such wells, springs and fountains is now not just confined to the counties of Cheshire and Derbyshire, because in recent times it has started to be practised in the North Staffordshire Moorlands where a few villages have now adopted this idea, in particular, the wells at Endon and Rushton Spencer, near Leek. The well at Rushton Spen-cer is called Saint Helen’s Well and is a miraculous healing spring, according to F. W. Hackwood. And how very colourful and pleasing to the eyes are these well-dressing ceremonies, especially at this time of the year – late May Bank Holiday – to the beginning of June.  The decorative floral art-work which is laboured over as a ‘labour of love’ by the good folk of Endon is ‘truly wonderful to behold.’ These Spring-time floral designs, greenery and garlands covering the wells and fountains sometimes have a religious flavour to them. More often than not, though, local themes are now becoming more evident with depictions of war-time events that took place in the village of Endon.

Janet & Colin Bord (1986) say: “Apart from the well-known Derbyshire locations, well-dressing is still also practised at Endon and Newborough in Staffordshire.”

Doug Pickford (1994) tells us: “There used to be many well dressings in Staffordshire but now they are mainly confined to neighbouring Derbyshire. There was one at Rushton until the 1920s, as I have mentioned in a previous book. I had the pleasure of speaking to the last of the Well Dressing Queens, the former Miss Mary Eardley, who was crowned in 1924. There is a well-dressing ceremony still in existence at nearby Endon. I am pleased to say, and the thanksgiving to the water goddess has now been replaced  by a Christian ceremony.”

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

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

Hackwood, Frederick, W., Staffordshire Customs, Superstitions and Folklore, EP Publishing Limited, 1974.

Pickford, Doug, Staffordshire — Its Magic & Mystery, Sigma Leisure, Wilmslow, Cheshire, 1994.

http://www.feorag.com/wells/hope/staffordshire.html

https://www.enjoystaffordshire.com/whats-on/endon-well-dressing-p1679901

https://www.historic-uk.com/CultureUK/Well-Dressing/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endon

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2022.


2 Comments

Tunstall Park Glacial Boulder, Tunstall, Stoke on Trent, North Staffordshire

Tunstall Park Glacial Boulder, Tunstall, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire.

Tunstall Park Boulder, Tunstall, Stoke-on-Trent, North Staffordshire.

NGR: SJ 86410 51380. Near the main entrance to Tunstall Park (also known as Victoria Park) on Queens Avenue in the town of Tunstall, Stoke-on-Trent, in North Staffordshire, is a glacial erratic boulder, which is said to be many millions of years old, and, to weigh over six tonnes. The large 4½ foot high rock is to be found close to the Adams clock tower in what is a very well-kept suburban park in the Potteries. We know that the erratic boulder was dragged along by a retreating glacier some 13,000-15,000 years ago and then deposi-ted here; it was apparently dug out of the ground during some ex-cavations in the park. Did this huge rock come from the Lake District? or somewhere else? but there is a possibility that it could have come from the Pennines, or even Scotland, but that is much, much further north. There are other glacial erratic boulders scattered about the country, more especially in the north of England, and on exposed moorland in Yorkshire. The Tunstall park boulder is mostly made of granite but with a mixture of other types of rock too – all of which are not native to North Staffordshire, which is mostly Carboniferous – Limestone and Coal measures, and, also Devonian – Sandstone and Mudstones.

The Information Plaque

The Boulder and Plaque

The information plaque at the front of the boulder does give us a bit more to go on. It says: This rock originates from the Lake District where it was formed, around 450 million years ago, during an extensive period of volcanic activity. It was trans-ported by ice flows which covered the Potteries in the last Ice Age. The ice finally retreated about 15,000 years ago leaving boulders like this one which are known as “glacial erratics”.

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

https://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WMTWN4_Glacial_Erratic_Tunstall_Stoke_on_Trent_Staffordshire

http://www.thepotteries.org/another/004.htm

https://m.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?mapref=SJ890512

http://www.thepotteries.org/geography/geology.htm

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2022.


3 Comments

Brink Ends Cairn, Near Wycoller, Lancashire.

Brink Ends Cairn, near Wycoller, Lancashire.

NGR: SD 9403 3786. On Dovestones Moor to the southeast of Wycoller, Lancashire, are the remains of Brink Ends Cairn, a kerbed burial mound dating from the Middle Bronze Age (roughly 1,200-600 BC). The site takes its name from Brink Ends Farm, which is 200 metres to the east. However, today only a few piles of stones arranged in a roughly circular fashion are the only surviving remnant of this former burial cairn. Excavations on the ancient mound were carried out by Mr Stanley Cookson and Mr Herbert Hindle in 1971 and 1972 but no funerary artefacts were found, though some artefacts showing signs of burning were exca-vated from what might have been a hearth, and, also a few flints. There was thought to be an Iron Age hut circle just to the south of the cairn, and, a possible ancient settlement somewhere in this area too. The site can be reached from Wycoller village by walking along the track that runs southeast beside Wycoller beck for a mile, and, then out onto the rugged Dovestones Moor and Brink Ends Moor for another mile and onto the shoulder of a hill, keeping Brink Ends Farm in front of you. You can also reach it from a footpath running southeast from the Panoptican on the Haworth Road.

Brink Ends Cairn, near Wycoller, Lancashire.

Peter Wightman writing in 1978 says of the Brink Ends Cairn: “The most recent discovery in this area is probably that of the late Stanley Cookson who uncovered a bronze age burial (c. 1500 B.C.) below Boulsworth.  This single grave was built on the shoulder of a hill, the cairn being 34 ft. in diameter and about 2ft. 6in. high at the centre.  No daggers, tools, or pottery were found but there were a few flint artefacts and all the stones were arranged as if there had been an urn.  Around the centre circle was an outer circle of stones six feet further away.  On what is presumed to be the hearth were charcoal and calcined bones.  There was also a small circular burnt stone with four sugar-lump sized pieces of coal charred only on the underside, and surrounding the hearth were lumps of a soapy-like substance, something of the nature of fat.  The inner part of the grave was laid very symmetrically but towards the outside less care seems to have been taken with the stones.  From the evidence we can only surmise the original use.  Mr Cookson’s theory was that it could have been the proposed burial site of a headman that never took place, or some token form of burial.  It could also be that a different burial rite had become adopted from that known to have been the custom of the bronze age people.  The practice of identifiable burials, with grave goods and pottery seems to have been abandoned at the beginning of the middle bronze age (c.1250 B.C.)  Possibly this grave is such.  Around this grave are curious growths of heather which might indicate the presence of other overgrown edifices, and looking down the valley towards Wycoller are innumerable other curious arrangements of stones that might have had some connection with this bronze age grave that overlooks them all.”

John Bentley (1975 & 1993) adds that: “A suspected Bronze Age burial mound at Brink Ends in Wycoller was excavated by Stanley Cookson in 1971 and 1972. Although no interment was discovered the remains of a fire was found in the centre of the mound with half-burnt twigs and coal. Some small cubes of coal stood on a fire-burnt stone yet the coal had only just begun to ignite.

“Boulder stone walls on the south side of Wycoller Beck suggest an Iron Age settlement and the occurrence of a clam bridge, the earliest and most primitive bridge in Wycoller, supports the theory. Stanley Cookson has strong suspicions that an Iron Age settlement existed in this area but only time and further exploration will tell.”

Sources / References & Related Websites:-

Bentley, John, Portrait of Wycoller, first published by Nelson Local History Soc. in 1975. Later published by Wycoller Country Park Project, Townhouse School, Nelson, Lancs, 1993.

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

Wightman, Peter, Bonnie Colne, Hendon Publishing Co. Ltd., Nelson, Lancs, 1978.

Also check out TNA website: https://www.thenorthernantiquarian.org/2008/09/15/brink-ends-cairn/

More info here on Wycoller Country Park: https://www.visitnorthwest.com/sights/wycoller-country-park/

Copyright © Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2022.