Brooding over the landscape of East Lancashire is the great gritstone whaleback of Pendle Hill. Local tradition says that if you can see Pendle then it is going to rain, and if you can’t see it, then it is already raining.
When Pendle wears its woolly capThe farmers all may take a nap
Annals and Stories of Colne and Neighbourhood – James Carr 1878 p.202
Another tradition is that the mists over Pendle are the tears of the hill, grieving that it is not quite a mountain (Pendle is 1,827 feet high; the Ordnance Survey use 2,000 feet as their rough definition of a mountain). The name ‘Pendle Hill’ is a triple tautology. ‘Pen’ (- penno) is the Cumbric word for a hill – further to the north, the word becomes ‘Ben’, as with Ben Nevis. ‘Pen’ also appears in the name of the neighbouring hill Pen-y-Ghent.
When the Anglo Saxons arrived, the name seemed meaningless, so they added their descriptive ‘hyll’ to the name. As time went on, another adjectival ‘Hill’ was tacked on, giving the present name – Pendle Hill (literally ‘hill-hill Hill’) - although, locally, it is known simply as ‘Pendle’. Other examples of such redundancies are Bredon Hill (hill-hill Hill), Worcestershire, Artfield Fell (hill-hill-hill), Scotland, and even a quadruple one, Torpenhow Hill (hill-hill-hill Hill), Cumbria (although the authenticity of this is disputed).
An old rhyme says,
“Ingleborough, Pendle Hill, and Penygent,Are the highest hills between Scotland and Trent,”
which, of course, is untrue, as many hills are higher than Pendle – Whernside, Grey Friar, and many more in the Lakes; although another rhyme,
“Pendle Hill, Penygent, and little Ingleborough,Are three such hills as you’ll not find by seeking England thorough,”
is arguably true.
|Pendle from Downham|
George Fox, founder of the Religious Society of Friends (popularly known as the Quakers), at the beginning of Chapter 6 of his autobiography mentions climbing Pendle: -
As we travelled we came near a very great hill, called Pendle Hill, and I was moved of the Lord to go up to the top of it; which I did with difficulty, it was so very steep and high. When I was come to the top, I saw the sea bordering upon Lancashire. From the top of this hill the Lord let me see in what places he had a great people to be gathered. As I went down, I found a spring of water in the side of the hill, with which I refreshed myself, having eaten or drunk but little for several days before.
The spring that runs down Pendle’s north slope is known as George Fox’s Well, although some still call it Robin Hood’s Well, with a nod to the Man in the Green.
Elizabeth Southern (Owd Mother Demdike) and her family lived at Goldshaw Booth, now called Newchurch in Pendle. This tiny hamlet takes its name from the ‘New’ church of St Mary’s, built in the seventeenth century and completed in 1740. A chapel of ease had existed on the site from the early 1200s, and a stone church was built in 1544, of which only the west tower now remains.
|St Mary's Church tower - Newchurch in Pendle|
In the west face of this tower was a small window, from which the churchwarden could see wedding or funeral parties approaching the church, (prior to the pathway being moved over to the north-west, and newer houses being built in the line of sight). This window was filled in at a later date, and from its appearance is now known as ‘The Eye of God’.
|The Eye of God|
In the graveyard, many of the stones bear the name Nutter (and, by the way, Hartley), and one grave to the right of the porch was said to be that of Alice Nutter, hanged at Lancaster as a witch, although this is not the case – a witch would not have been buried in consecrated ground, and executed ‘criminals’ would have been disposed of close to the place of execution.
|Witches Galore - Newchurch in Pendle|
The only shop in Newchurch village is Witches Galore, which sells all the expected tourist trophies but also carries most of the published works currently in print. Worth a visit if you’re in the area (disclaimer: - I have no connection with the shop, I just like to promote local shops).
|Pendle from Downham - St Leonard's Church porch|
On the other side of Pendle is another tiny village – Downham. The Queen Mother is reputed to have said the view from the porch of St Leonard's Church, Downham is the finest in England (some say this was Queen Mary's opinion – I'll stick with the version I heard).
|Blacko Tower seen from Pendle|
Downham is stunningly beautiful. The post office sells delicious ice cream (but for truly wonderful ice cream, carry on a mile down the road to Chatburn, and the tiny shop, Hudsons, where I enjoyed a gooseberry cone, sitting in the sun on a bench outside the shop. Gooseberry ice cream - hand made and only available seasonally, it truly does not get any better. Hudson’s ice cream does not contain any preservatives – it is made on a daily basis and the shop is what used to be the old tollhouse.
|Hudson's - Chatburn|
Downham, if it is known at all, is known for one of four things; that it was the place of many early Mormon baptisms, that the 2nd Lord Clitheroe does not allow overhead electricity cables, satellite dishes or television aerials, that the Lancashire witches lived in these parts, and that the 1961 film Whistle Down the Wind was shot around there.
At the top of the village are the remains of the stocks – where miscreants would have been placed in the past. You can’t help but wonder how many wrong-doers lived around tiny Downham that they needed their own stocks.
This post is dedicated to Mrs Susan McManus, my sister, who drove me round while I took the photos. Thanks Our Susan.