The mixed “VM” appears on lots of Peak District gritstone from the 17th and 18th century. Of the possible explanations three seem to be the most probable. The first is that it is a Catholic sign for the Virgin Mary in the era of the Reformation, when persecution of Catholics was rife following the Glorious Revolution of 1689 when James the second a Catholic sympathiser was overthrown.
Practicing Catholics marked boulders and buildings with the ‘VM” inverted or otherwise to signify places where people gathered for worship. Which may fit with the markings on the gate post that sits in a dry stone wall above Marsden near Standedge Tunnel. Close by is an old farm with mullioned windows from the same period.
It could also be used to signify supporters of the protestant William and Mary who became joint monarchs in 1689 following the Glorious Revolution. The use of the intertwined WM was seen as a denouncement of the Catholic VM. As may well be the case with the markings at Stanedge Pole near Stanage Edge in the Peak District. Or perhaps these signified Catholic markings and were connected to the Catholic Chapel at Padley where the priests were caught, hung drawn and quartered and became Martyrs in the process.
Of course it could just plainly be some ones initials and they liked chiseling it on to gritstone.
1697 and the Act of Banishment that banished all Roman Catholic priests from Ireland. The Roman Catholic church, persecuted went underground, held secret services, and communicated in secret code. Being found in possession of Catholic material could lead to death almost certain if you were of the church and holding communion. The Padley Chapel Martyrs, two Catholic Priests were hung drawn and quartered for holding a Catholic service.
Banishment in 1697 was a much a political as religious statement. Acts of defiance often took the form of secret codes and messages. The conjoined ‘V’ inverted often stood for the Virgin Mary and denoted Catholic presence. On Stanedge Pole this graffiti with the inverted ‘V’ making an ‘M’ underneath the date 1697 could possibly have been an act of defiance against the Church of England and the Crown.
Dangerous things to be doing and a painful death if found.
It pays to keep your eyes open on a walk in the Dark Peak. It is also an advantage to look around at the gritstone that forms this wonderful landscape, because you might just spot some graffiti from another age.
Centuries ago people signified their claim on the land by making marks in the rock. These would often be used to signify boundaries and ownership. Beating the bounds, an annual perambulation, a word that means to traverse to inspect, meant a walk across the moors to check the marks were still there. Parish boundaries were a favourite as were boundaries where two estates met.
Some marks were simple crosses, such as the one on Hathersage Moor, made in the 19th century and which lies between the Sheepfold and Higger Tor. Others combined initials or motifs, such as the ‘T’ and ‘E’ at Back Tor on Derwent Edge. This one also sits beside and early surveyors mark made by the Ordnance Survey.
The other day I came across a rock on Stanage Edge and carved into the rock were the letters CP and the numbers 96. It looked quite old and got me to thinking what it all meant. Bill from the Peak District National Park, who knows more about this area than anyone I guess, provided a map from 1723 showing the rock and carvings marked on it, suggesting it marked a Civil and Parish Boundary. So I did a little digging in the bowels of various archives and came up with a perambulation, which is a legal walk to maintain the boundary of land.
Extract from a perambulation made in 1574
A Boundarie, or brief notes, of all the Meares and Bounds of Hallamshire between Whytley Wood and a place called Waynstones, namely between the Lord’s lands pf Hallamshire and the Lords of Ecclesale and Hathersage, beeinge overviewed and seene the sixt day of August Anno Dei one thousand fyve hundreth and seaventy and fower, by these men whose names are here underwritten:
“Viz. Anthony BLYTHE of Birchett, gent., James TURNER, Bealife of Sheffeld, William DICKINSON, William UPTON, Thurstone KIRKE, William HARRISE, George SKARGELL, Adam GILL, Ralphe MORTON, Gregorie REVELL …
On the 6th August 1574 9 men walked along the boundary of the Lordships of Hallamshire and that of Ecclesale and Hathersedge to check the boundary markers and defining the dividing line of their masters lands.
Meares (meares, old English earlier than 900AD, possibly from the Norse mæri, which would fit with the area being a Wapentac, meaning boundary between two lands).
A perambulation was a requirement in traditional English Law and means Walking Around. Specifically, walking around the boundaries of a parish or legal area, to maintain its legal status and ownership.
The walk started at Whitely Woods and worked its way across Ringinglow before starting its traverse of Stanage Edge from Burbage Head, which today could possibly be Upper Burbage Bridge.
[Burbage Head. Item, the said Sicke or Ditch leading or goeing from Ringinge Lawe to a place called Burbage Head which is a Meere between my Lord of Hallamshire and the heirs of Padley and the lord of Hathersage.]
Could the way today be from Ringinglow at the Toll House, joining Houndkirk and following that, to what is today the footpath that leads over to the Packhorse Bridge crossing Burbage Brook. The Brook being the “Sicke or Ditch” leading to Burbage Head. Certainly it would be a natural division of the land between two owners. But then why not just walk along the top of Burbage Rocks and not descend into the valley at all.
[Hurklinge Edge. Item, from the said Burbage Head to a certain place called Hurklinge Edge, being a mere between Hallamshire and the Lordship of Hathersage.]
There is no Hurklinge Edge in this area on any maps going back to 1852. This could be an erroneous naming of the place or it may well have changed. From the description it would seem a possible route would be from Upper Burbage Bridge up onto the moor and follow Friars Ridge across to what today is Stanedge Pole. Friars Ridge today is a Metropolitan Boundary between Yorkshire and Derbyshire, it is also a natural watershed and leads from the east to Stanedge Pole and the Long Causeway.
[Stannedge. Item, from the said Hurklinge Edge as forwards after the Rocke to Stannage which is a mere between the said Lordshipps.]
From Friars Edge to the Rocke is this the present day Stanedge Pole. There are certainly large rocks there and it would have been a well-known marker. The rocks have many surveyor markings carved into their surface included one dated 1697 which may be useful in dating the next boundary rock. In the 1852 survey it was marked on the map as Rock. By 1880 the surveyors were calling it Stanage Pole.
The Parliamentary and Municipal Boundaries run right through it, and if they followed the boundary of Hallamshire and Ecclesale, then marking the boundaries would have necessitated visiting this spot. Their route then progressed on to Stannedge. Probably following the Long Causeway to where it starts its descent to Hathersage the route eventually meeting what we now know today as Stanage Edge.
[Broad Rake. Item, from Stannedge, after the said Rocke to a place called the Broad Rake, which is also a meere betweene the said Lordships of Hallamshire and Hathersedge.]
From where the Long Causeway descends they would have followed the edge along until they came to the second “Rock” which has a simple carving of “CP96”. A recent map sent to me dated 1723 shows the rock and the carving along with the name Broadrake, so it predates that. There is a date carved into the Stanedge Pole rock of 1697 so the second boundary rock predates that it may well be 1696 or even 1596 as this walk took place in 1574. The rock sits inland from the edge path but quite close to it so would have been a prominent marker. Is the “CP” Civil Parish or is it County Parliamentary?
[Seaven Stones. Item, from the Broad Rake streight downward to a place where certain stones are sett upon the ends haveinge marks in them called Seaven Stones, which old and ancient men said that the same is a meere betweene my Lord and the Lord of Hathersedge.]
Are the “Seaven Stones” the stone circle on Bamford Moor. There are seven standing stones, maybe more depending on how you define a standing stone. There is no mention of the Old Womans Stone so either I have the wrong route or the Menhir was not standing at that time. There is a Civil Parish boundary running close by on todays maps.
Or are the “Seaven Stones” the stone circle on Moscar Moor? But these have 9 stones or 10 depending on how you count.
[Waynstones. Item, from the said Seaven Stones streight over the Brooke or Sicke there to a place called the Waynstones, being distant by estimacion three quarters of a myle.]
The next and final legs of the route present a problem. What and where are “Waynstones”. The brook could be the one by the standing stone on Bamford Edge, Upper Hurst Brook, and it does follow a boundary line, but where is Waynstones . Is it where the quarry now exists on the end of Bamford Edge, the next leg also talks of going straight over the edge so perhaps this is the place.
The other option is Ladybower Brook from the Stone Circle on Moscar Moor and “Waynstones” is Whinstone Lee Tor. The only difficulty with this is the distance which is more than ¾ of a mile, but it does still follow the County and Parliamentary boundary on the 1891 map, which leads up from Cutthroat Bridge. Interestingly there is a Hurkling Stones near by, could this be the same as mentioned earlier in the route and they have just forgotten where it was.
[North Waynstones. Item, from the said Waynstones streight over the Edge to a place, or certain stone, called the North Waynstones.]
Finally where is North Waynstones which is reached by going straight over the edge to a place or certain stone called North Waynstones. Is this Wheel Stones and “streight over the edge” means straight along the edge. That would fit.
It would be interesting how the walk fits in todays landscape and mapping.
Yesterday I spent a few hours on Hathersage Moor and Higger Tor seeing if any benchmarks shown on old maps would still be evident today.
The image from the old map above is taken from a survey of the Moor carried out in 1852. Would the benchmarks shown still be there, did they actually exist or were they just markings on the map showing where a measurement had been taken from? What did they actually look like?
The one on Higger Tor, (Higher Tor), seemed to be the easiest to find. It’s the small arrow between the ‘r’ and ‘T’ of ‘Higger Tor’. The marking is not to scale obviously, nearby there is a triangle denting a triangulation point. It also has lots of features to aim from and sure enough that’s how it turned out. It took a while of rummaging around and at first I was looking for a benchmark on a vertical surface and chiselled in the style that is normally seen on buildings and gate posts. Then I found it, on a large flat stone, in the middle of the edge path. The marking was on a horizontal surface and pointed west, not north as in the map. It was a simple arrow with no levelling line at the tip of the arrow. The mark was still very clear, although if you weren’t looking for it you probably wouldn’t notice it. Did they take the measurement and then make the mark or vice versa? A Benchmark denoted a levelling point, hence the number, in feet, nearby, and the triangle marked the spot for triangulation. Are they one and the same place or was the triangulation in a different spot. Close by there was a spot that would have been perfect for a tripod and theodolite.
Dropping down from the Tor onto the Moor I set out to find the other two marks that are shown on the map as you head south-west towards the walled enclosure. Success was not to be mine. I needed to do a great deal more work on the position of the marks. The bracken hid many boulders and time had allowed moss and lichen to grow over a large number. I didn’t want to disturb too much so looked but could not find the two.
I did find other items of interest though. A possible burial cairn, complete with chamber. A partially finished grindstone, some way from the traditional grindstone fields and more markings that were different to the Ordnance Survey marks.
A few hours spent walking in the foot steps of surveyors and masons and perhaps Bronze Age man.
Its always nice to find some interesting graffiti when out on the Peak District. Gritstone retains the carved word really well.
Today I had a walk in the Woodlands Valley and paid a visit to the Alphabet Stone by Bellhagg Barn, below Bellhagg Tor. The stone has the alphabet carved in both upper and lower case. Legend has it that the carving was done by the local school teacher as a means of keeping the children occupied when he had to leave for brief periods to tend to sheep, he being a part time shepherd too. I can certainly picture children tracing out the words with their fingers.
Nearby is another stone with graffiti. This says Red Dragons and the initials WF. The words seem to have been scratched on to the stone, unlike the Alphabet Stone which has been carved, so may have been put there by someone not used to stone work. Who were the Red Dragons and who was or is WF I do not know.