The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland

The Burton Stone, Clifton, York

The Burton Stone on Burton Stone Lane, Clifton, York

The Burton Stone on Burton Stone Lane, Clifton, York

    OS grid reference: SE 5960 5271. At the corner of Burton Stone Lane and in front of the Burton Stone Inn at Clifton, York, is the Medieval plague stone known as ‘The Burton Stone’. According to local legend, it was long ago a cross-base for perhaps three Medieval crosses, but in more recent centuries it had become a ‘plague stone’ and its three hollows (sockets) perhaps used as recepticals for vinegar! But whether the stone is in its original position is open to question. The stone now lies in a brick niche behind iron railings at the front of the Burton Stone Inn at the corner of Burton Stone Lane and the A19 Clifton Road, where prior to the pub there was an ancient chapel dedicated to St Mary. Clifton is a suburb of York. The city centre lies about 1 mile to the south down the A19 road.

    The Burton Stone is a large lump of stone that is roundish in shape and at one side is shaped like a cross. It has three basin-like hollows that were originally socket holes for crosses, but over time these have been worn smooth by human hands. What happened to the crosses that stood in the socket holes is not known but they were probably associated with the Medieval chapel that stood on this site, and which was dedicated to St Mary Magdalene. The Burton Stone may have marked a city boundary or a line of jurisdiction.

    The ancient chapel was perhaps a pilgrims’ chapel or a chapel-of-ease as York Minister is only a short walk down the road. But after the chapel’s demise the cross-base was put into use as a ‘plague stone’ and the three holes became recepticals for vinegar. Coins were also placed in the vinegar solution as a way of sterilization and then handed out to families affected by the plague, or cholera epidemics, which struck the city of York from 1604 onwards. Local legend says that Mother Shipton (1488-1561) the Yorkshire prophetess rested beside the Burton Stone in 1512 – at which time she also married Toby Shipton of York.


There is a photo of the stone on this website:

The Automobile Association, The Illustrated Road Book Of England & Wales, London WC2, 1961.

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Fossil Valley, Twiston Near Downham, Lancashire

Limestone Rock with Crinoid Fossils From Twiston, Lancashire.

Rock with Crinoid Fossils From Twiston, Lancashire.

OS grid reference: SD 80919 44434. Something of a curiosity this one, maybe. In the wall along a stretch of the lane that runs through the long, narrow valley between Twiston and Downham, at the north-western side of Pendle Hill, in Lancashire, are lumps of locally quarried ‘Fossiliferous Limestone’ made up of crinoid and coral fossils, which date back some 500-300 million years to the Carboniferous period in Geological history. But what a delight it is to just wander along the lane looking at the fossil-covered stones that make up the walls, and there are literally thousands and thousands of them to be seen here.

Rock with fossils at Twiston Nr Downham

Rock with fossils at Twiston Nr Downham

These crinoid fossils are very varied in shape and form, but they are in essence tiny marine creatures which originated from the sea – so we know without doubt that this area was under water millions of years ago, with perhaps only the top of Pendle Hill visible at that time. The stones that make up the walls in Twiston may have been quarried from the Limestone ‘reef knolls’ – of which there are several in the Twiston and Downham area, or perhaps from Peach Quarry at Clitheroe (Os grid ref: SD 7569 4263). This quarry has now been filled in and grassed over. These ‘reef knolls’, as the name suggests, were also under-water millions of years ago.

There are ‘still’ three 19th century lime kilns in the Downham area; one of these stands beside the lane at Twiston, all of which points to the fact that Lime, in the form of a powder or “cornbrash”, was a much used local neccessity on farmers’ fields in the Pendle area, and is still used by local farmers today.

Rock with Crinoid Fossils at Twiston near Downham.

Rock with Crinoid Fossils, Twiston.

A significant feature of the valley landscape between Twiston and Clitheroe is the abundance of Crinoid Fossils in the stones making up the walls of field boundaries. This type of stone is called ‘Reef Limestone’. Crinoids are sometimes referred to as ‘sea lilies’ because of their resemblance to a plant or flower. In parts of England, the columns forming the stem were called ‘fairy money’, and their star-shaped cross sections was associated with the sun by ancient peoples, and given religious significance; indeed ancient people were said to be frightened by these strange fossil forms, as they did not know or realize what they were, and where they had originated.

Crinoids are in fact marine animals belonging to the phylum Ecinodermata and the class Crinoidea. An array of branch-ing arms (brachials) is arranged around the top of a globe-shaped, cup-like structure (calyx) containing the mouth and main body of the animal. In many fossil forms the calyx was attached to a flexible stem that was anchored to the seabed.

The phylum Echinodermata includes the starfish, sea urchins and sand dollars. The crinoids are a breed apart however, as they resemble an underwater flower. Some even have parts that look and act like roots anchoring them to the ocean floor. They are commonly called ‘sea lilies’. Their graceful stalks can be meters long. Other varieties have no stalks or root- like parts. They are commonly known as feather stars. Unlike the sea lilies the feather stars can move about on tiny hook- like structures called cirri.

Rocks with fossils at Twiston, Lancashire.

Rocks with fossils at Twiston, Lancashire.

Crinoids are still with us, but they are also some of the oldest fossils on the planet. They flourished in the Palaeozoic Era 541-254 million years ago. Although sometimes different in appearance from their fossil ancestors, living forms provide information about how fossil crinoids must have lived. The earliest come from the Ordovician the second period in the Palaeozoic. At least the earliest that everyone agrees on. There is a class called Echmatocrinus that date back to the middle of the Cambrian Period the first period in the Palaeozoic, but most palaeontologists don’t count them to be true Crinoids. Most of the Palaeozoic forms died out in the Permian the final period in the Palaeozoic Era. The few species that survived into the Mesozoic Era thrived. Many new species evolved during this time including the ancestors of the present-day class Articulata.

Rock with Crinoid fossils at Twiston, Lancashire.

Rock with Crinoid fossils at Twiston.

These echinoderms created ‘forests’ on the floor of the shallow seas of the Palaeozoic and Mesozoic Era’s. There were so many in places, that thick limestone beds (reefs) were formed almost entirely from their body parts piled on top of each other. Crinoids fossilized readily and so there is an abundance of them to be found, mostly stalk fragments as in the photos. There are two reasons for this – the ocean floor is a good environment for fossilization to occur and Crinoid skeletons are made of calcareous plates.

Crinoids of today tend toward deeper waters. The stalked varieties are usually found in water over 200 meters deep, though some can be found 100 meters deep. The unstalked varieties, comatulids also live in deeper waters though generally not as deep as the sea lilies.

A reef knoll of which there are seven examples between Twiston and Clitheroe is a large pile of calcareous material on land that accumulated on the ancient sea floor, and was subse-quently uplifted due to the movement of the earth’s techtonic plates. At the time of this accumulation it may have had enough structure from organisms such as sponges to have been free-standing and to withstand the sea currents as material accumalted, and was probably an atoll. Another possibility is they are the remains of deep water coral. Such structures are thus often fossil rich.

These structures are often most clearly seen where the surrounding rocks are much softer and so can be eroded leaving the charcteristic knoll shaped hill features; Examples in the Yorkshire Dales lie on the north-side of the Mid Craven Fault. There is one set located around Thorpe (Skelterton, Butter Haw, Stebden, Elbolton, Thorpe Kail, Myra Bank and Hartlington Kail); another set is located around Malham (Burns Hill, Cawden, and Wedber); and also a set around Settle (High Hill and Scaleber).

Limestone Reef Knoll near Downham in Lancashire.

Limestone Reef Knoll near Downham in Lancashire.

The ‘Reef Knolls’ between Twiston and Clitheroe date from the Lower Carboniferous Period (358-323 Million Years ago) and have been subjected to numerous studies (the Carboniferous was the fifth period of the Palaeozoic Era). They were first described by Tiddeman (1889) who applied the term “reefs”. Subsequent workers (Parkinson 1926; Black 1952-54; Bathhurst 1959) all subscribed to the same name. They all believed that the knolls were composed of bio-organic material formed on a sinking sea floor with beds on all sides of the knolls showing an original dip away from the central core. In 1961 during the re-survey Earp raised objections to this hypothesis because of the apparent lack of reef-building faunas such as corals etc. to form the required wave-resistant structures and conglomerates, which should be present around such large knolls.

Rock with Crinoid Fossils at Twiston, Lancashire.

Rock with Crinoid Fossils at Twiston, Lancashire.

Then in 1972 the story of the Clitheroe Reefs would take a step forward with the work of Miller & Grayson following another re-survey of the linear knolls, which run from Twiston to Clitheroe (including Sykes, Gerna, Worsaw Hill the highest at 300 feet, Crow Hill at 100 feet high, Bellman/Salt Hill the longest at about 1 mile, and Castle Hill). They proposed that the knolls were formed as water lime-banks essentially mud banks upon which crinoids would have thrived their dead deposits accumulating over time, and then as the deposits were uplifted the surrounding shale (solidified mud) eroding to leave the ‘Reef’ Knolls as low hills in the landscape. Over the years they have been called many things: Reef Knolls, Bioherms, Knoll Reefs and Coral Reef Knolls. Following the re-survey however, the Clitheroe reefs are now termed ‘Waulsortian Mudmounds’ – as they were first described in a Belgian Geological Survey.

The Worsaw Hill reef knoll at Downham (OS grid ref: SD 7792 4322) has a Bronze-Age burial mound on its south-side and a cave near its base at the north-west side. And Worsaw End Farm was the setting for the 1961 film ‘Whistle Down The Wind’.

Clitheroe Castle.

Clitheroe Castle.

The focal point of Castle Hill, Clitheroe, is now the ancient Norman Keep. It is one of the smallest in England and one of the first stone buildings in Lancashire following the end of Roman Occupation. It was built by Roger de Poitou, who was the first Norman Lord of Clitheroe. The mound is comprised of light grey, unbedded micritic limestone, heavily jointed and calcite veined. Crinoid fossils together with gastropods and brachiopods can be seen. In the castle grounds is the Clitheroe Castle Museum and café. Over time the ‘Reefs’ and surrounding deposits have been quarried for stone – as at Salt Hill and Lane End. Such stone was then used for the walls which surround the fields in the area ‘in question’ between Twiston and Clitheroe.


British Geological Survey HYPERLINK “” (Crinoids)

Chinery, Michael., A Pictorial Dictionary Of The Animal World, Sampson Low, Marston & Co. Ltd., London, 1966.

Roberts, John L., A Photographic Guide to Minerals, Rocks And Fossils, New Holland (Publishers) Ltd., London, 1998. (Crinoids)

‘The Clitheroe Reef Belt’, Craven and Pendle Geological Society, 2006.

© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2016 (up-dated 2020).

The Headless Cross, Anderton, Lancashire

The Headless Cross, Anderton, Lancashire.

The Headless Cross, Anderton, Lancashire.

    OS grid reference: SD 6189 1301. The Headless Cross, also called the Grimeford Cross, stands near the old village stocks at Anderton in Lancashire, to the east of the M61 motorway, and is ‘said’ to date from the late Anglo-Saxon period – the 11th century. Anderton is a suburb of Adlington. It is located beneath trees on a grassy area at the junction of Grimeford Lane, Rivington Lane and Roscoe Lower Brow, opposite the Millstone public house. Over time it has been used as a sundial and a guidepost for directions to nearby towns – its cross-head having being taken to nearby Rivington church. The remaining shaft is decorated on all its four sides with carvings which are rather strange, if not curious, and most unlike other Saxon wayside crosses of a similar date. It may originally have marked the “true” centre of Grimeford village though this does not now exist According to local legend, there used to be a medieval chapel with an underground tunnel close to where the cross now stands, and also there have been a number of reports of ghostly happenings in this area – locally these ghostly, poltergeist-like characters, being referred to as boggarts!

    The pre-Conquest cross was apparently discovered during the construction of the Lower Rivington Reservoir (1852) – the bottom section was brought to its present position, while the top section showing a helmeted Viking figure was sent to the Harris Museum at Preston, and the cross-head displayed in Rivington church, a few miles away. It has taken on the look of a stone bird-table! But it used to have a sun-dial on top of its flat plinth and it has been in use as a guide-post, giving directions to the towns of Blagburn, Boulton, Preston and Wiggin. Today the cross-shaft is around 3 feet high but originally it would have been double that. On the front there is the lower part of a human fugure (two legs) which is presumably the same figure as that on the shaft in Preston museum! On its other three faces there are geometric ‘wavy lines’ in the form of Greek frets (T-frets) within a trellis, and also vinescrolls. The flat stone on top of the shaft is post Medieval and the base-stone is much more recent.


Anderton, the Headless Cross

The AA, The Illustrated Road Book Of England & Wales, The Automobile Association, London WC2, 1961.


The Three Ancient Bridges, Wycoller, Lancashire

Pack-horse bridge at Wycoller, Lancashire.

Pack-horse bridge at Wycoller, Lancashire.

    OS grid reference: SD 932383 39247. The secluded little village of Wycoller nestles in a narrow valley 1½ miles to the east of Trawden, Lancashire, but it is well-known for its three ancient bridges which have stood over the beck for hundreds, if not thousands of years. They have even outlived Wycoller Hall which stands ruined and desolate. But each of the bridges has its very own tale to tell. There are actually seven bridges in the village but the pack-horse, clapper and clam bridges are of historic interest because of “their” great ages. Wycoller is easily reached on country lanes from Trawden. Park up at the large carpark ½ a mile to the west and walk into the village along the footpath at the side of the lane. There is a small carpark for disabled people close to the café.

The pack-horse bridge, Wycoller, Lancashire.

The pack-horse bridge, Wycoller, Lancashire.

    The famous pack-horse bridge is a two-arched structure spanning Wycoller beck. It is sometimes called Sally’s Bridge after one of the Cunliffe family who lived in the hall opposite the bridge in the 18th century. Historians have argued about its age, but none of them are certain, but it is thought to either date from the 13th century or the 15th. Its construction is a bit of an oddity, in that the arches are not equal to each other and the structure’s base-stone boulders are not level, giving the bridge a somewhat precarious appearance because of that – author John Bentley in his fascinating book ‘Portrait of Wycoller’, alludes to this. The coping stones along the sides of the bridge are significant in that some of them have faint cup-marks in them, indicating that they were brought down from a prehistoric site on the moors above Wycoller and used in the bridge’s construction. When walking over the bridge ‘you need’ to take care owing to the smoothness of the paving slabs which have endured hundreds of years of use.

The Clapper Bridge at Wycoller, Lancashire.

The Clapper Bridge at Wycoller, Lancashire.

    Clapper bridge, sometimes called the Druids’ Bridge, Weavers’ Bridge or the Hall Bridge, is just a short distance along the beck. This is a primitive structure but of massive proportions consisting of three flat gritstone slabs resting on two stone piers, one being a round-shaped boulder, the other a thinner pillar-shaped stone that looks quite fragile, but it is in fact very strong. It was originally a two-slab bridge sup-ported on one central pier. However the bridge has succumbed to floods over the years and has had to be reconstructed a few times. Its three slabs are heavily worn by hundreds of years of use. There is a legend that says this bridge led to a grove where druids practiced their strange rituals; there is no sign of this mystical grove or amphitheatre today, and the handloom weavers of Wycoller have long-since hung up their clogs! The clapper bridge is thought to date from the 16th-17th century, though a few historians ‘think’ it might date from before the Norman conquest (Bentley, John, 1993).

The Clam bridge, Wycoller, Lancashire.

The Clam bridge, Wycoller, Lancashire.

    And the third bridge, the clam bridge, is located ¼ of a mile along the track that runs beside the beck in Wycoller Dene. This ancient bridge is formed by one single gritstone slab which is some 12 feet long. It rests at one end on the bank, while on the other side it is propped up on some large stones, but it is very secure even though it might look like it is about to fall into the beck. At one time there was a wooden safety rail at one side and the holes for this can still be seen. The clam bridge is ‘often’ said to date from the Bronze or Iron Age and to have originally stoop up-right on the moors to the north east (as a standing stone – menhir), but there again it probably only dates from the 15th or 16th century. The long slender slab is well-worn and great care should be taken when crossing it. In the floods of 1989-90 the clam bridge was brought crashing down. It has sometimes been mistaken for a tree trunk lying across the beck and at a distance it does indeed look like that.

    The author John Dixon in his work ‘Historic Walks Around The Pendle Way’, came to the conclusion that the three Wycoller bridges were of ‘a mid-16th century’ date. He adds that: “The majority of bridge building was undertaken after the Dissolution of the monasteries when a moderate number of masons became unemployed and were wandering the countryside finding work on many of the new bridges which were required as roads became busier and wooden bridges and fords became inadequate.”


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

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

Church Of St John The Divine, Holme-In-Cliviger, Lancashire

Church of St John The Divine, Holme-in-Cliviger.

Church of St John the Divine, Holme-in-Cliviger.

    OS Grid Reference: SD 8763 2852. On Burnley road (the A646) at Holme Chapel, Cliviger, also called Holme-in-Cliviger, is the late 18th century church of St John the Divine, or sometimes St John the Evangelist. The building houses two sections of a late medieval cross-head, which may have come from the ruins of Whalley abbey in Lancashire. The present church stands close to the site of a 16th century chantry chapel that had fallen into disrepair and had to be demolished (1788) – the present church being built upon the hill through the benefices of the Whitaker family of Holme, Cliviger, between 1888-1894, in particular Dr T. D. Whitaker, the eminent historian and antiquarian. Also of interest in the church are the beautifully carved 15th century misericord stalls, 19th century font, pulpit and wall tablets. St John’s is located opposite The Ram Inn, Holme Chapel, 2 miles south-east of Burnley and 5 miles north-west of Todmorden

Top Section of Gothic Cross-Head at St John The Divine Church, Holme-in-Cliviger.

Top Section of Gothic Cross-Head at St John’s.

    On display in the chancel of St John’s, at either side of the altar, are two sections of sculptured stonework – two parts that make up an ornate late Medieval cross-head of the 15th century. Originally the two sections were fixed together and stood on the top of a stone gateway at the south side of the church. In recent years the cross-head had become unsafe and so it was brought into the church. It has been described as ‘being in the style of Gothic’ from the late Medieval period. On the front the Sacred Heart with the five wounds of Our Lord’s passion affixed to a cross are depicted; the three cross-arms are intricately carved with crockets – while the lower stem goes down through a narrow arched shape with short, stepped crocketing to the sides of that.

Bottom Section of Cross-Head at St John's, Holme-in-Cliviger.

Bottom Section of Cross-Head at St John’s, Holme-in-Cliviger.

    It would seem that the cross-head was brought to St John’s from the ruins of Whalley Abbey, Lancashire, in the late 18th century by Reverend Dr Thomas Dunham Whitaker (1759-1821), an eminent historian, writer and antiquarian, whose family had lived for hundreds of years at ‘The Holme’ in Cliviger, and who was responsible for building St John’s in c 1790, at a cost of £870, which was “defrayed by the Whitaker family.” It is believed that two members of the Whitaker family had ‘actually’ resided at Whalley Abbey in the 15th century, but whether they were in hiding because of ‘their Roman Catholic faith’, we do not know. The church of St John is a beautiful sandstone building (in the Doric/Classical style) with parapet and a nice little cupola, or bell-turret, on its roof, according to the delightful work ‘All O’er t’Parish, by Peter Pomeroy & The Urban Studies Group of The Burnley Teachers’ Centre, 1983. St John’s was enlarged in 1897. It is a Grade II listed building.

    Also in this church there are two very beautifully carved 15th century oak misericord stalls, which again are thought to have been brought here from Whalley Abbey by Dr T. D. Whitaker. We also learn of Dr Whitaker’s great interest in what turned out to be a Roman ceremonial helmet and mask at Ribchester. This came to light when a child was seen kicking around a strange-shaped object. Whitaker arranged for the object to be taken for examination, and later it was found to be a highly decorated Roman artefact. A replica is on display in Ribchester Roman Museum, while the original is in the British Museum, again according to Peter Pomeroy & The Urban Studies Group, 1983.

    A fine bust of Dr T. D. Whitaker can be seen in St John’s church along with some wall tablets of the Ormerod and Whitaker families, a 19th century alabaster font and a painting of General Scarlett (1799-1871), the heavy brigade hero of Balaclava in the Crimean War, whose grave is in the churchyard. The present pulpet replaces an earlier three-decker pulpet and sound-board, which was apparently purchased in Leeds and was “perhaps” originally brought from the ruins of Kirkstall Abbey; the old pulpet having become dilapidated and unusable due to its age.


Pomeroy, Peter I. & The Urban Studies Group of The Burnley Teachers’ Centre., All O’er t’Parish – A Second Stroll Around Cliviger, Lancashire County Council Library and Leisure Committee, 1983.

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.”


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

Bord, Janet & Colin, Sacred Waters, Paladin Books, London W1X, 1986.   © Copyright Humphrey Bolton and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

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.


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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.


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.

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