Murder on the Moors

The Bradbury Grave in St Chads Churchyard

The Bradbury Grave in St Chads Churchyard

This is a story of murder most foul! It brought ghoulish sightseers flocking to Saddleworth long before Brady and Hindley set foot on the moor. Still unsolved after nearly 200 years, these were the original moors murders.

Here lie the dreadfully bruised and lacerated bodies
of William Bradbury and Thomas, his son, both of
Greenfield, who were together savagely murdered in an
Unusually horrid manner, on Monday night, April 2nd.
1832, William being 84 and Thomas 46 years old.

Throughout the land wherever news is read.
Intelligence of their sad end has spread.
Those now who talk of far-famed Greenfield hills.
Will think of Bill o’ Jack’s and Tom o’ Bills

Such interest did their tragic end excite.
That, ere they were removed from human sight.
Thousands on thousands came to see.
The bloody scene of catastrophe.

One house, one business, and one bed.
And one most shocking death they had.
One funeral came, one inquest past.
And now one grave they had a last.

Saddleworth is a beautiful place, of that there is little doubt. A place dripping in natural beauty, history and folklore, stories occupy almost every nook and corner of this wild corner of Britain. Sadly, the story that most people will associate with Saddleworth is that of the Moors Murders of the 1960’s. A desperately sad story of five murders that penetrated the national psyche and still hangs like a pall over the area today.

These were not the first murders to happen on the moor or to gain national notoriety. For that, we need to step back to 1832 and visit the Moor Cock Inn, that used to cling to the steep hillside on Greenfield Road. Like many buildings around Saddleworth, it was a solid, squat stone building, built to withstand the wild weather that these parts often receive.

Left: The Moor Cock Inn. Top Right: WIlliam Bradbury. Bottom Right: Thomas Bradbury

Left: The Moor Cock Inn. Top Right: William Bradbury. Bottom Right: Thomas Bradbury

The resident landlord in 1832 was 84 year old William Bradbury, or Bill O’ Jack as he was known, in the local manner of naming men after their fathers. In this case, the pub was known as Bill O’ Jack’s too. He lived at the pub with is son Thomas, a 46 year old gamekeeper. Thomas had a quick temper and was not a popular man, due to numerous run-ins on the moor with locals taking peat, cutting heather or poaching the local livestock.

On the evening of Monday 2 April 1832, Thomas Bradbury and Ruben Platt, a regular and friend of the Bradburys, watched a group of Irish men walking near the pub. They stood and watched until they had passed. It was not uncommon to find gangs of navvies in the area at this time, working on the turnpike road to Holmfirth.

By the next morning, both William and Thomas were discovered at the Moor Cock Inn, laying in pools of their own blood. Thomas had been severely beaten around the head and didn’t regain consciousness. A popular newspaper report at the time described the scene as, ‘the walls and flags streaming with gore.’

William was discovered upstairs in his bed, with the tools of the assault all around him, a poker, a spade, a broken pistol and a sword stick. All matted with blood and hair. The Manchester Courier called it the ‘one of the most diabolical murders ever committed.’

A view of the Moor Cock Inn, above Greenfield Brook.

A view of the Moor Cock Inn, above Greenfield Brook.

William regained consciousness for a short time, when asked who had attacked him, he blurted out the word, “pats” or “platts” before he died. This only seemed to serve to widen the mystery, as this single utterance could be taken in several different ways. Pats being a derogatory term for the Irish, Platt being a common local surname or Platters being a term for gypsies, who gathered broom from the moors to weave into baskets.

Another trail of investigation lead to a local poacher, against who Tom was due to give evidence the next day at Pontefract Magistrate’s Court. The poacher had boasted that Tom would never stand as witness against him and indeed, the case was dismissed when Bradbury was unable to testify.

The public inquest was held at the King William IV pub in Uppermill, although no evidence was discovered to tie any of the suspects to the murder. The verdict of “Wilful murder against some person, or persons at present unknown” was returned after the examination of several witnesses. A reward of £100 was offered for any information regarding the case. It was never claimed although it was a huge sum for the time.

The murders gained notoriety far and wide, beyond Saddleworth. The spread of national newspapers were a relatively new phenomena and then as now, they played the story for all it was worth. Coach parties set out for the moor, to visit the scene of the murders and commemorative plates were even produced on significant anniversaries.

Nearly 200 years on, the Moor Cock Inn is long gone (although the foundations can still be found at Bill O’Jack’s plantation) and all that remains is a weathering gravestone in the corner of a churchyard. It is a mystery that will now most probably never be solved, but the story still has the power to fascinate and has been absorbed into the rich tapestry of Saddleworth lore.


St Chads Churchyard, Saddleworth.

Ammon Wrigley

Ammon Wrigley

Ammon Wrigley

If you venture up on to Millstone Edge, at Standedge on Marsden Moor, you will be in good company. This little corner of the Pennines was so loved by local poet, writer and historian Ammon Wrigley, that his ashes were scattered near the Dinner Stone.

The views over Saddleworth overlook the places where he was born, raised and lived his whole, long life. Look closer and you will spot his memorial plaque. Now sat between those of his two daughters.

The Wrigley Plaques


— 1946 —




Ammon Wrigley’s writings display the heart and soul of the Pennines. His love of those rocky uplands and the people that inhabited them, shines through his work. This is his story.

Born on October 10th 1861, at Far Hey, near Oxhey in Denshaw, into a typical working class family of the time. His father Thomas worked in the local mills, as did his mother Mary (nee Waddington). They later moved to Millcroft in Castleshaws Valley, where Ammon attended school.

Young Ammon received only the most basic education and suffered at the hands of poverty:

One of the blackest memories of my early years is of a Christmas time. Work at the mill had been bad for over a month, and we were never more poverty stricken. We had no paraffin for our lamp and barely a barrowful of coal. If a neighbour woman had come into our house on the Christmas Eve, she would have seen a father, mother and two little lads sitting in silence and gloom as they watched a few red cinders die down in the grate.”

And one grey rock, like pagan god, Solemn as death, and lone, That oft, maybe, the hill tribes made Their ancient worship stone. On a Yorkshire Moor (except)

And one grey rock, like pagan god,
Solemn as death, and lone,
That oft, maybe, the hill tribes made
Their ancient worship stone.
On a Yorkshire Moor (excerpt)

In 1870 at the age of nine, Ammon began working half days at Johnny Mill, where his mother and father worked, later moving to Linfitts Mill. Ammon was quick to observe the irony that man had to toil away his days, while the cattle could laze away their days in the sunlight fields.

His love of writing began early. He was seven when his father awarded him three pence in appreciation of a poem that he had written about a wayside well. He would often recite Shakespeare for the amusement of his father’s friends.

Ammon was more than just a poet. His books gather up the soul of Saddleworth and describe a world now lost to us. He wrote of the local characters of the area, such as Joe of Ragstones:

The only scrap of homestead left in the neighbourhood is on the edge of the moors, a gable of Ragstones, famous as being once the home of an eccentric and somewhat scholarly recluse named Joseph Radcliffe, better known in the dales as “Joe o’th’ Ragstones.” The old-folk custom of calling men by the names of their farmsteads still prevails in Saddleworth.

Old Joe had a great deal of the hermit in his nature, and cared little for human company. He lived what is now called the simple life, just for the love of it, not as men do now, – merely to advertise themselves. The thing he set great store upon were his books, his dogs, and his lonely, battered old homestead. He had read much, and his knowledge of French history, particularly of the great Napoleonic period, was held to be fairly exhaustive. (1)

He had a keen interest in the history of Saddleworth and would often collect flints from March Hill. He rediscovered the Roman fort at Castleshaw. Originally rediscovered by Thomas Percival in 1752, but subsequently lost again under the plough.

One warm, dreamy morning in the August of 1897, I chanced to be idling away and hour in one of the high fields above Broadhead. As I looked lazily across the valley, I suddenly saw the complete outlines of the Roman Station at Castleshaw. Giving the field a careful survey I quickly realised that what I had just seen was no trick of the imagination, but, on the contrary, was a very tangible fact. Perhaps I was assisted to the identification by the fact that I was fresh from reading “Forty miles round Manchester,” an old 18th century work which contains a plan of the Castleshaw fort. It may seem a remarkable confession, yet it is none the less true that, although I was reared close to Castleshaw and had roamed over the camp field hundreds of times both before and after I knew something of its archaeological importance, I had seen nothing. I had entirely failed to observe the outlines which had been so clearly revealed to me that morning from the fields across the valley. What had remained, at close quarters, broken, detached, and unintelligible, when seen from a distance formed a compact whole, easily identified. (2)

Overlooking Castleshaws from Northern Rotcher on Millstone Edge

Overlooking Castleshaws from Northern Rotcher on Millstone Edge

He also carried out excavation work at the fort, although his methods would undoubtedly make modern archaeologist baulk!

Castleshaw (extract)
Where the lordly moors of Stanedge
Shake the meadows from their feet,
Where the wind-words heather-scented,
Shape themselves to language sweet :

There in the weeds of silent mourning,
Lines of pain about thy brow,
Grey, old-fashioned country hamlet,
Sad and ruined standest thou.

Widely published during his lifetime, the Ammon Wrigley Fellowship was formed in 1931, to meet annually and celebrate his work while he was still alive. The Fellowship, already numbering over 200 members, held its first annual dinner in 1933. Ammon, well known for disliking public functions, did not attend due to the sudden onset of a ‘cold’. He was persuaded to attend subsequent dinners however and the Fellowship also organised outings to many of the locations featured in Ammon’s poems. The Fellowship lasted up to 1983.

Ammon died on 31st August 1946. His ashes were scattered near the Dinner Stone, as per his instructions, on a stormy September 14th by members of the Ammon Wrigley Fellowship. It is said that when Harry Walne, President of the Fellowship, opened the casket, the wind seized the ashes and carried them up and away.

The Dinner Stone

The Dinner Stone

The Dinner Stone
Where the old rock stands weathered and lone
And black as night, turned into stone,
There’s a green church I call my own,
Take my ashes and scatter them there,
Roughly or kindly, just as you care.

Ammon loved Saddleworth and its people, but his main love was the Pennine Moorland around the area that he was born and raised. Most of his books are now long out of print and can be hard to find. However, it is still possible to piece together a collection by scouring second hand bookshops and keeping watch on various websites.

My response to Ammon’s work is very personal. I find it a source of wonder and inspiration that this man visited the exact same places that I now visit, one hundred years before me and felt much the same awe and attachment that I now feel. His words echo perfectly the sentiment of my photographs of this area, although separated by the passage of a century. When out on the moors around Saddleworth and Marsden, his words ring through my head and I am very conscious that I am following his footsteps.

Ammon's spot

Ammon’s spot

Ammon died twenty years before I was born. I would have loved to have met him and walked the moors with him, or conversed with him in the corner of an old stone Saddleworth pub. We are fortunate however that he left his knowledge behind in his numerous books and that his collections are preserved in the area where they were compiled, at Saddleworth Museum. I would urge anyone to visit that wonderful facility. The £2 admission fee is more than worthwhile and I would even suggest a small donation to help keep it open.

It seems fitting to leave the final words with Ammon:

I could wander through a hundred cathedrals, I could hear a hundred learned divines preach from carved oak pulpits, I could hear a hundred surpliced choirs sing the Nunc Dimittis and feel more impressed than if someone had whistled in my ear ; but I could not tramp across a solitary stretch of moor without being moved by some deep and incomprehensible influence ; the silence, the vastness, and the awesome mystery of the great waste lands awake a feeling which, if not exactly reverence, is closely akin to it. I sometimes wonder if this feeling is merely an impression produced by great contrasts, say, where one has been hemmed in all week by man, ­− his works and his artificialities, − and then comes to be set down among the calm sincerities of lonely moorlands, where mighty forces, obeying unwritten laws, work silently and unceasingly age after age. The moors take the pride out of a man, the humble him by making the span of his life seem even more trivial than it really is ; their vastness makes his smallness even smaller ; to be conscious of this feeling now and then does a man good, it sets him square with himself and prevents him from having a “ swellhead.” (3)

Saddleworth from Millstone Edge, Standedge

Saddleworth from Millstone Edge, Standedge

(1)  Lurden and Joe o’th’ Ragstones – Songs of a Moorland Parish 1912.

(2)  The First Excavations of the Roman Camp at Castleshaw – Songs of a Moorland Parish 1912.

(3)  Songs of a Moorland Parish 1912.

Many of the details of Ammon’s life were taken from Sam Seville’s book, With Ammon Wrigley in Saddleworth.

Marsden Moor & Upper Colne Valley Part Two

Millstone Edge, looking into Saddleworth.

Millstone Edge, looking into Saddleworth.

The moors of the Pennine hills have a fine tradition of playing host to sedition. From Brigantine rebellions against the rule of Rome, to the class struggles of the Industrial Revolution. It is as if the will to fight against oppression is a tangible element, embedded in these liminal places of rocky outcrops and quaking peat bogs. The Pennine winds sing songs of noble causes past, open spaces bring forth new ideas and the plentiful rain washes it down the hillside streams, into the numerous reservoirs that surround the watershed. The history of Marsden Moor and the Colne Valley is not just about geology and natural history, it is also about people.

Despite its comparatively remote location, Marsden found itself embroiled in the forge of the industrial revolution and the tumultuous politics of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, as transport routes improved along Colne Valley bringing both commerce and ideas.

A milestone below Pule Hill, on the old Wakefield to Austerlands turnpike.

A milestone below Pule Hill, on the old Wakefield to Austerlands turnpike.

The view from the Roman road and turnpike road, as it is just about to crest Standage into Saddleworth.

The view from the Roman road and turnpike road, as it is just about to crest Standage into Saddleworth.

The first Wakefield to Austerlands Turnpike road was constructed in 1758, following an old packhorse route running from Huddersfield, through Longroyd Bridge and Thornton Lodge before starting the long climb up Crosland Moor to Holt Head. Then close to Marsden, before passing the base of Pule Hill and following the route of the Roman Road along Thieves Clough. This was upgraded to the Coach Road by Blind Jack Metcalf in 1790, sections of which were floated over the peat bogs on rafts of heather. In 1839, the new coach road (now the A62 Manchester Road) was opened.

The famed Standedge Tunnel, part of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal, which enters the hillside at Diggle, runs under Standedge and Pule Hill, and exits at Marsden, was started in 1795 and finished in 1811. Progress was surprisingly slow, with work stalling for lengthy periods. These stoppages caused considerable hardship to the miners, tradesmen and labourers, who were not paid during lay-offs (1). Signs of the tunnel can still be found on the surface, with air vents on Pule Hill and Redbrook Engine House, opposite the Carriage House Inn. Built in 1803, this was used to bring spoil to the surface and still sits surrounded by huge heaps of rubble.

Snow clouds over Standedge from Pule Hill, overlooking the A62 Manchester Road. The route of the old turnpike road can also be seen crossing the moor from left to right, crossing the A62 and up Thieves Clough.

Snow clouds over Standedge from Pule Hill, overlooking the A62 Manchester Road. The route of the old turnpike road can also be seen crossing the moor from left to right, crossing the A62 and up Thieves Clough.

Redbrook Engine House (built 1803), sits on spoil heaps from the construction of Standedge Tunnel.

Redbrook Engine House (built 1803), sits on spoil heaps from the construction of Standedge Tunnel.

Colne Valley was flooded on 29th November 1810, when Swellands Dam (on Bobus) burst its banks at one o’clock in the morning. Factories and homes were destroyed from Marsden to Paddock. The event became known as the ‘Night of the Black Flood’ and took the lives of six victims (2).

Colne Valley has been at the heart of the textile industry for centuries. The steep hillsides of the valley, dotted with weaver’s cottages. Then variously water and steam powered mills. By virtue of this, Marsden played a unique role in the story of the Luddites.

The cropping frames, so hated by the Luddites, were made at the Marsden foundry of the Taylor brothers, James and Enoch. Ironically, the hammers used by the Luddites to destroy the frames were made by the same foundry and were known as ‘Enochs’, leading to the Luddite cry of, “Enoch makes them and Enoch shall break them.”

Another major player was William Horsfall, the outspoken, anti-Luddite owner of Ottiwells Mill in Marsden. He fortified his mill with gun loops and his quoted desire to, “ride up to his saddle girths in Luddite blood”, led to his assassination by four men, while riding back to Marsden from Huddersfield Cloth Hall, across Crosland Moor. He stopped briefly at the Warren House (which stood on the corner of what is now Charles Street and Blackmoorfoot Road) for a stirrup cup before continuing up the turnpike road. Four men were waiting for him in a walled plantation (on the corner of what is now Dryclough Road and Blackmoorfoot Road). They fired on him and fled, while he fell from his saddle. He was taken back to the Warren House, where he died the next day.

The view from Crosland Moor, overlooking Milnsbridge and Golcar, towards Scapegoat Hill and Slack.

The view from Crosland Moor, overlooking Milnsbridge and Golcar, towards Scapegoat Hill and Slack.

His assassins were pursued by the magistrate Joseph Radcliffe, of Milnsbridge House (3), where he would interview suspects in his ‘sweat room’. George Mellor, William Thorpe and Thomas Smith of John Wood’s Cropping Shop in Longroyd Bridge (Benjamin Walker’s life was spared for turning evidence), were hung at York in January 1813. The evidence for their guilt was never truly proven and their alibis ignored, but the appointment of a hanging judge sealed their fate before the trial had begun.

The Luddites were just one chapter in the long tale of the Labour Movement in this area, agitated by the poverty induced by the Napoleonic Wars, the outlawing of Trade Unions and the hugely undemocratic state of suffrage in nineteenth century Britain. The 1819 Peterloo Massacre in Manchester only served to antagonise the situation, as did the Corn Laws and the monstrous 1834 New Poor Law.

What followed was a ground swell amongst the working classes, demanding suffrage and representation via parliamentary reform, which became to be known under the umbrella term of Chartism.

The first People’s Charter was published in 1838, on the basis of the following main aims:

1. A vote for every man twenty one years of age, of sound mind, and not undergoing punishment for crime. 

2. The ballot – To protect the elector in the exercise of his vote. 

3. No property qualification for members of Parliament – thus enabling the constituencies to return the man of their choice, be he rich or poor. 

4. Payment of members, thus enabling an honest tradesman, working man, or other person, to serve a constituency, when taken from his business to attend to the interests of the country. 

5. Equal constituencies securing the same amount of representation for the same number of electors, instead of allowing small constituencies to swamp the votes of larger ones. 

6. Annual Parliaments, thus presenting the most effectual check to bribery and intimidation, since though a constituency might be bought once in seven years (even with the ballot), no purse could buy a constituency (under a system of universal suffrage) in each ensuing twelvemonth; and since members, when elected for a year only, would not be able to defy and betray their constituents as now.

The Lancashire/West Yorkshire Pennine Moors were often used as venues for mass political meetings that could be termed as seditious by the authorities. They were often accessible by foot and not easy places to be taken by surprise by troops on horseback. Something that would have been considered important after the Peterloo Massacre. Chartist meetings tended to take place out of the gaze of the authorities and mill owners and could attract surprisingly large numbers. A meeting on Blackstone Edge in 1846, attracted 30,000 people to hear Ernest Jones speak.

Millstone Edge on the boundary between Saddleworth and Marsden.

Millstone Edge on the boundary between Saddleworth and Marsden.

When the second Chartist petition, containing 3,250,000 signatures was handed to Parliament in 1842, a motion to hear the petitioners was defeated by 287 votes to 49. This sparked widespread unrest resulting in a general strike, that spread through a number of industrial towns in August 1842 and became known as the Plug Riots.

On 12th August, thousands of strikers streamed out of Lancashire, over Standedge, into the Colne and Holme Valleys. They stopped off at the mill of Sykes and Fisher in Marsden to demand that work stop immediately. Upon refusal, they drew the plugs of the mill’s boilers (which stopped the steam driven machinery). After visiting the Taylor’s foundry, they marched through Colne Valley, stopping off at Slaithwaite, Golcar and Longwood, drawing the plugs at every mill, until eventually, a mob of over 6000 were confronted by troops at Longroyd Bridge and read the riot act (4).

Overlooking Pule Hill and March Haigh Reservoir (which feeds the Huddersfield Narrow Canal), from Buckstones.

Overlooking Pule Hill and March Haigh Reservoir (which feeds the Huddersfield Narrow Canal), from Buckstones.

In 1848, as Europe quaked under revolution (in France, Germany, Italy and elsewhere), the Chartists held a huge outdoor meeting at Kennington Common, on 10th April, which processed to Parliament to present another Charter. In Manchester, Chartists stormed the hated workhouses.

Following the failure of this final Charter, the movement petered out and many moved towards the Trade Union movement. Although the Chartists didn’t achieve their aims during the lifetime of the movement, all but one of their demands (annual Parliaments) were eventually enacted.

It is not overly imaginative to say, that during those years during the first half of the nineteenth century, Britain came as close as it has probably ever come, to revolution and Marsden played a crucial role during those turbulent times.


(2)  Floods in these valleys were not uncommon. Another flood in Holme Valley, when Bilberry Reservoir burst its banks on 5th February 1852, caused 81 deaths.

(3)  Milnsbridge House still survives and can be found on the junction of George Street and Dowker Street, in much reduced circumstances to those that Joseph Radcliffe enjoyed. It once stood in beautifully landscaped grounds, with two ponds. The industrialisation of Milnsbridge hemmed the house in, although for a while, its gardens were maintained as a park. Now however, the once grand house is now used by a fabrication company and the exterior has suffered greatly.

(4)  The History of Huddersfield and its Vicinity – DFE Sykes 1898

Saddleworth Moor


Folklore is often relegated to the realms of fairytales. Bedtime stories or tales to be told around on open hearth on a cold winter’s night. Often however, it can direct us to places that can be a joy to capture images of throughout the seasons. Sometimes there is a grain of truth in these tales that, with a little research, can provide us with a window to peer back into a location’s history.

The Kinder Stones

The Kinder Stones

The Boarder Lands of Saddleworth Moor

Tucked away in the Pennine Hills at the northern tip of the Peak District National Park, the Saddleworth district is a string of villages following the ribbon of the River Tame, with a long and often tumultuous history. Historically a part of West Yorkshire (included in the De Laci’s ‘Honour of Pontefract’ following the Norman Conquest), Saddleworth has been administered by Oldham Metropolitan Council and a part of Greater Manchester since 1974. Even now it is often a matter of personal opinion as to whether Saddleworth is in Yorkshire or Lancashire.

This appears to be nothing new. It seems that Saddleworth has seen bitterly fought boarder disputes that go way back into the Dark Ages and possibly beyond, leaving behind place names and tales of bloodshed ingrained in the landscape.

Following the Roman withdrawal during the 5th century AD, it is thought that Britain subdivided into kingdoms along similar lines of the old pre-Roman tribal boundaries. The kingdom of Elmet covered approximately what is now West Yorkshire and was centered on Leodis (Leeds). It was an independent Brythonic kingdom that is likely to have been a part of the Brigantine confederacy, prior to the Roman occupation of the north. To the west, Rheged covered what is now Cumbria and Lancashire, later subdividing into North and South Rheged.

Around Saddleworth Moor are three rocky outcrops that bear the name ‘Raven’. Ravenstones Brow looms over Greenfield Brook and can be seen from the A635 Holmfirth to Greenfield Road. Ravenstone Rocks on Broadstone Hill above Diggle commands views over the Tame Valley and Raven Rocks near West Nab keep a watchful eye on Wessenden Head. Local poet and folklorist Steve Sneyd suggests that these could have been important boarder points during the Dark Ages, drawing similarities between a number of landscape features bearing the ‘Raven’ name that formed the boarders of North Rheged (1).

The raven is a powerful symbol in Celtic mythology and widely used on banners during the Dark Ages, seen as a messenger of the gods and often associated with protection. Reference the myth of how ravens are charged with guarding the Tower of London and should they leave, it is said that the kingdom will fall. This legend dates from a much older tale where the Celtic king Bran the Blessed (Bran being the Celtic word for raven), asked that his head be severed and buried on White Mount in London facing towards France. As long has his head remained there, it would protect the kingdom. When the Normans later built the Tower of London on the White Mount, the legend of protective ravens was transferred to the new building.

Ravenstones Brow - with a view over Greenfield Brook to Lamb Knoll and Holme Clough

Ravenstones Brow – with a view over Greenfield Brook to Lamb Knoll and Holme Clough

The Raven Stones - Overlooking Wessenden Valley

The Raven Stones – Overlooking Wessenden Valley

A Tale of Two Giants

Two great hills stand at the entrance to the Upper Tame Valley, Alphin Pike and Alderman’s Hill. These were said to be the homes of two giants, Alphin and Alder who initially were on good terms. However, both fell in love with Rimmon, a water nymph from the bubbling waters of Chew Brook in the valley below. Rimmon chose Alphin, which enraged Alder and the two giants fought by casting boulders at each other, until Alphin was struck and killed. Rimmon cast herself from an outcrop in grief and joined Alphin in death.

A view over Dovestones Reservoir, with Alphin Pike and Alderman at sunrise

A view over Dovestones Reservoir, with Alphin Pike and Alderman at sunrise

While this legend on the surface appears to be nothing more than a fairytale, it could well have its roots in the ancient boarder conflicts of the area between Celts and advancing Germanic invaders. Those who are familiar with the tale of the Battle of Win Hill may spot a similarity here. It doesn’t take a great leap of imagination to supplant the two giants for armies based on opposing hills, rolling rocks onto each other. Rimmon being the land that they fought over, or the name of a local Celtic deity. It certainly seems that place names such as Alderman (Elder Man) and Kinder (Children) have their roots in Germanic languages, while Alphin is possibly of Celtic origin (Al – cliff or rock).

It seems that the kingdom of The Peak was absorbed into Southern Rheged at the end of the 6th century. Elmet was over-run by the Angles around 616AD, when Ceredig was defeated at Bawtry. The Anglian king of Bernicia Aethelfrith was killed but Edwin of Deira seized power and absorbed Elmet into their expanding kingdom of Northumbria. Rheged would have come under increasing pressure from the east, as Celtic Britain was pushed further west. Southern Rheged fell in approximately 635AD, Northern Rheged reputedly falling some time before 730AD (2).

From the shoulder of Alderman, towards Pots & Pans and the Kinder Stones

From the shoulder of Alderman, towards Pots & Pans and the Kinder Stones

A Land of Legend

The hilltops of Saddleworth Moor are littered with strange rock formations. At Pots and Pans, near Alderman’s Hill is the distinctive Pots and Pans Stone. Seen from the right angle, the rock bears a simulacrum of a human face with protruding chin and hooked nose. Local lore attributes druidical connections and the water in the many weather worn indentations on the top of the stone is said to cure eye ailments. Although by the look of the water, I would be willing to take my chances with Optrex.

Standing Stones above Greenfield Brook is not in fact an ancient stone circle but a natural rock formation. Although nearby Adam’s Cross does appear to hint at a location of ancient worship. There is said to be a lost stone circle and cairn field in this area, although I have yet to find anything after numerous searches. I suspect that the odd naming of the natural outcrop may have aided confusion here.

Sugar Loaf rock on Dick Hill is a glacial erratic (and possible former rocking stone) that has toppled from it’s base. A short distance away are the Boggart Stones, sat just above Upperwood Farm House. In folklore Boggarts are supernatural, shape shifting entities, so it seems that yet more folklore could have faded from memory here, leaving behind only a hint in the place name.

Some photographers like to visit a location, shoot it and move on, which is fine. We all have our own individual working practices. However, I find it a great advantage to immerse myself in the landscapes that I work in. I find that knowledge of the area, its history, customs and stories really brings the landscape to life and strengthens an emotional connection to the subject. It informs and sometimes changes how I shoot the landscape before me.

(1) Three Ravens to the West, Northern Earth Magazine issue 76: Steve Sneyd

(2) Northumbria itself fell in when the Danish Viking Ivar the Boneless of Dublin took York in 865AD. Northumbria, distracted by civil war briefly re-united to attempt a recapture of York but failed and the Danes took Northumbria in 867AD.

The article originally appear on Peak District On-line.