Saturday, 20 June 2015

An ancient Carved Cross, Robin Hood's Yew & a hidden Holy Well



St Peter's Church and Robin Hood Yew, Hartshead, West Yorkshire

Most people who have ever heard of Hartshead may well associate the memory with the Hartshead Moor Service Station on the M62, purveyors of refreshment and recuperation on-the-go. However, drive a short distance from that busy highway, leave the car and, in the space a 20 minute walk, you can visit 'the most richly carved outdoor stone cross in West Yorkshire,' a knobbly old dead Yew tree with Robin Hood legends attached, a fascinating church connected to the Brontes, and an almst forgotten Holy Well!



Walton Cross

Located in a commanding position on a hillside above Calderdale, to the west, and the Spen Valley to the east, stands the base of Walton Cross - the most richly carved outdoor stone cross in West Yorkshire. Still an impressive height at just below 5 feet, it is thought to have once supported a large cross which was recorded as being 15-16 feet high in the 18th century. As the shaft was also decorated and brightly painted, it would have been visible for miles around. I haven't been able to find any mention of the subsequent fate of the shaft and cross, however. (If you have any info, please do get in touch.)

Walton Cross, Hartshead, West Yorkshire
Walton Cross, Hartshead, West Yorkshire

Walton Cross, Hartshead, West Yorkshire
Walton Cross, Hartshead, West Yorkshire

Other early documentation also referred to it as a 'wagestan' - a way stone or way marker. It has also been suggested that it may have been a preaching cross, but the nearest church is some way away.

Walton Cross, Hartshead, West Yorkshire
Walton Cross, Hartshead, West Yorkshire

Although at one time it was thought to date from the 8th century, West Yorkshire Archaelogical Service has dated the style of decoration to the 10th or 11th century. This decoration is very impressive with Saxon and Viking elements of interlacing and knotwork. There is also a circle with rosette knot that the West Yorkshire Archaelogical Service has adopted as its logo.

Walton Cross, Hartshead, West Yorkshire
The 'notch' that previously housed the cross shaft.

The notch on the top surface is always full of water, and is used by some of the locals to drop coins in and make a wish.
Very easy to visit, as it stands at the side of a footpath, very close to the aptly named Windy Bank Lane.
Worth visiting, but take a warm hat!



Robin Hood's Yew Tree, St Peter's Church, Hartshead

 

St Peter's Church and Robin Hood Yew, Hartshead, West Yorkshire
St Peter's Church and Robin Hood Yew, Hartshead

This old, dead and gnarled yew tree standing in the churchyard at St Peters was here in medieval times, and local legend has it that this was the tree that Robin Hood either cut wood to fashion one of his bows, or cut wood for his final arrow that he let fly to mark the place where he should be buried!

Robin Hood Yew, Hartshead, West Yorkshire
Robin Hood Yew, Hartshead, West Yorkshire
Robin Hood Yew, Hartshead, West Yorkshire
The wonderfully knobbly and knarled surface of the old Yew

There are more local connections to Robin Hood with Kirklees Priory, and his reputed grave nearby....but that is another story.... (you can read about it in this BBC article.)

St Peter's Church is also very interesting, but was sadly locked when we visited. Patrick Bronte served here between 1810 and 1815, and also met his wife Maria here. It was during this time that the local area was gripped with the Luddite uprisings (another story!)


St Peter's Church, Hartshead, West Yorkshire
St Peter's Church, Hartshead, West Yorkshire

Charlotte Bronte based her book 'Shirley' on the area and 'Nunnerley' in the book was based on St Peter's Church.
Worth a visit in conjunction with the other two sites - I'll keep my fingers crossed that the church is open when you go....

 

The Lady Well, Hartshead

 

The Ladywell, Hartshead, West Yorkshire
The Ladywell, Hartshead, West Yorkshire

A hundred metres, or so, North of St Peter's Church in Hartshead, at the end of Lady Well Lane, and completely hidden now under a hawthorn tree, lies the Lady Well.

It is likely that the name originates from 'Our Lady,' referring to the Virgin Mary, and an indication that the well was important to Christian worshippers, and used for baptisms in early Christian England, although it is fairly certain that its status as a sacred site far predates this.


The Ladywell, Hartshead, West Yorkshire

Local historian Marion Pobjoy believes that it is possible that the 7th century missionary and first Archbishop of York, Paulinus, may have performed baptisms here.

A perfect example of a slightly forlorn and mostly forgotten sacred site that has held great importance for many years, but now lies sadly neglected. (A total contrast to St Helen's Well at Goodmanham, which we visited earlier in the year.)

Beware, if you do visit, it is easy to walk straight past the well. A previous visitor asked several locals, who had no idea where it was. You could always print the picture off below, which may help when you go. 


The Ladywell, Hartshead, West Yorkshire
Looking up Lady Well Lane towards Church. Well is just under the hawthorn on the left
The Ladywell, Hartshead, West Yorkshire
The well is under this tree, on the field side.

So all in all, an excellent place to visit, if you enjoy seeing lesser known places of interest. All three can be seen easily in an hour, with a link to a wee walk encompassing all three here.


Thanks for reading!

Anne & Toni

 Justbod Team



Visit our main website:

www.justbod.co.uk 

Artwork, carvings & sculptures 
~inspired by a love of history & nature~

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Sources and further information: 

Hartshead:
Walton Cross:
St Peter's Church and Robin Hood's Yew:
Lady Well:

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2 comments:

  1. You have some amazing places to visit there, I must try and get there sometime

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    Replies
    1. Hope you do get chance Bill - we are both so lucky to live in a country with such beautiful countryside and rich historical heritage ☺

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