Penwith

A recent visit to family in Cornwall gave me the opportunity to have a look around this beautiful far corner of England.

Sluttish Whitby, the Devil & the Old Witch

John Ray (1627-1705) was one of the pioneers of modern botany. A parson naturalist, he was the first to classify plants by species. He undertook a number of tours of Britain and Europe where he collected and described the local flora and topography.

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The following passage, describing his visit to North East Yorkshire, is taken from Selected Remains of the Learned John Ray with his life. By William Derham published 1760.

We ascended the top of that noted hill, called Roseberry or Ounsberry Topping, the top whereof is like a sugar loaf and serves for a sea-mark. It may be seen at a great distance, viz. from Stanmore, which is in a right line above 20 Miles off. From hence we had a prospect of that pleasant and fruitful vale, part whereof is called Cleveland a country noted for a good breed of horses.

The ways here in winter time are very bad, and almost impassable, according to that proverbial Rhyme,

Cleveland in the Clay

Bring in two Soles, carry one away.

Near this hill we went to see a well celebrated for the cure of sore or dim eyes, and other diseases. Every one that washes in it, or receives benefit by it, ties a rag of linen or woollen on a shrub or bush near it, as an offering or acknowledgement.

The People of Gisburgh are civil, cleanly, and well-bred, contrary to the temper of the inhabitants of Whitby who, to us, seemed rude in behavior and sluttish.

In the way from Whitby to Gisburgh we passed by Freeburgh Hill which they told us was cast up by the Devil, at the entreaty of an old Witch, who desired it, that from thence she might espy her cow in the moor.

Image – National Portrait Gallery / Public domain

 

Saint Hilda’s Well

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Saint Hilda’s Well can be found in the churchyard in Hinderwell.

The legend is, that there was once a drought in the area and Saint Hilda was asked to intercede. Her prayers were answered and a spring appeared on the hillside. The well is said to have healing properties for eye diseases and became a place of pilgrimage during the Middle Ages.

On Assumption Day, a ceremony called Shaking Bottle Sunday was held at the well. Local children would collect the well water in bottles and add a stick of liquorice to make a pleasant drink.

Green-eyed greedy,

Brown-eyes needy,

Black-eyed never blin’

Till it shames o’ its kin.

Trad Scottish

Hawsker

The Boiling well stands on the side of the road from Whitby to Hawsker. The well originally fed Whitby Abbey hence it’s other name T’awd Abba Well. A plaque on the well wall used to read

T’awd Abba Well
Also Known as The Old boiling Well

Lang centuries aback
This wor’t awd Abba Well
Saint Hilda veiled i’ black
Lang centuries aback
Supped frey it an no lack
All ‘r sisterhood as well
Lang centuries aback
This wor’t awd Abba Well

This very worn 10C Anglo Saxon cross sits beside a minor road at Low Hawsker. Much of the detail is lost. The drawing below was published by W G Collinwood in 1911.

Hawsker YAJ21WG Collingwood

Sources

Graham Chappell’s wonderful Yorkshire Holy Wells

Anglian & Anglo-Danish Sculpture in the East Riding with addenda to the North Riding. W.G. Collingwood. Yorkshire Archaeological Journal Vol. 21 1911. Yorkshire Archaeological Society. Leeds