The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland


Rieve Edge Cross, Thursden Valley, Lancashire

Rieve Edge Cross above Thursden Valley.

NGR: SD 9076 3457. Rieve Edge is a steep hill overlooking Thursden Valley at the north side of Extwistle Moor, in Lancashire. At its summit is an outcrop of Gritstone rocks with more rock debris on its lower flank, down as far as the Pennine Bridleway, which skirts the lower side of this hill. On one of the large flat rocks on the lower slope of Rieve Edge there is a large carved cross which is “possibly” Medieval, or could it be more recent? And on another rock a bit further up the hill there is a carving of a head with a helmet and some letters; this particular carving being more recent though. There don’t appear to be any prehistoric carvings on the rock outcrop though there are erosion-related holes in some of the rocks. There is a stone with a single cup-mark beside the bridleway. No designated footpath goes up to Rieve Edge from Ridehalgh Lane, in Thursden Valley, so it’s just a case of climbing up the steep hillside with the rock outcrop up ahead of you, but it’s worth the climb just for the views!

Carved head on stone at Rieve Edge, above Thursden Valley.

The crude cross that is carved onto a large flat stone about a quarter of the way up Rieve Edge is what’s referred to as a “Potent” style cross and is similar to the St Chad’s Cross, although their designs¬†are slightly different. Could this cross have been carved by monks from either Whalley abbey or Sawley abbey and, could it mark the extent of their lands, the boundaries of their monastic estates? However, we don’t know when the cross was carved though it could be late Medieval, or maybe more recent? And was it carved by a Whalley monk, or a pilgrim making his way to the abbey? There is another similar cross carved on a rock further up Ridehalgh Lane, although it’s very faint. Going further up the slope of Rieve Edge there is another curious carving on a rock of a helmeted, mustachioed head (probably a knight) with the letters ‘BR’ above. This carving is obviously quite recent in date, but why it was carved, and what it signifies is anyone’s guess. The name “Rieve” as in the context of ‘Rieve Edge’ is taken to mean “a bank of snow”, which sounds about right, but it can mean a few other things too.

Sources / References:-

Post, W. Ellwood, Saints Signs And Symbols, (Second Edition), SPCK, London & Morehouse-Barlow Co, 1974.

https://www.dsl.ac.uk/entry/snd/rieve

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2019.