Jeppe Knave Grave, Wiswell Moor
Mystery surrounds this marker stone on Wiswell Moor near Pendle. It is said to be the burial site of Jeppe
Curteys (Geoffrey Curtis), a local robber who was decapitated for his crimes in 1327. The inscription is thought
to have been made by the Scouting Association in the 1960's but there is evidence to suggest it may have been a
chambered passage tomb of the Neolithic period. It is certainly a lonely and isolated spot and a great local
Site Name: Jeppe Knave"s Grave Alternative Name: Jeppe Knape's Grave
Country: Eng l and County: Lancash ire Type: Ca i rn
Nearest Town: C l itheroe Nearest Village: W i swe ll
Map Ref: SD760378
Latitude: 53.835894N Longitude: 2.366175W
Cond i t i o fl=F
Cairn in Lancashire
Jeppe Knave's Grave is situated about halfway between the Nick of Pendle and Wiswell village. It is best
reached from the Nick o' Pendle carpark by going in a south-westerly direction along the track past
Wilkin Heys House then past Parker Place Farm. [Probably best to ask permission to visit the site here].
From here go due N where the land falls away. At the trig point (315 ft) the low, grass covered mound is
just a few hundred yards further along in a south-westerly direction.
It can also be reached along Clerk Hill låne coming from Spring Woods at Wiswell and heading in a
north-easterly direction to Parker Place Farm [and then as above].
The circular shaped mound or cairn is roughly 20m in diameter and it's stone filled hollow in the middle
is 5x3m. A sort of outer ring of stones which vary in size can be made out amongst all the grass and
heather, but it is not particularly circular. Some large stones make up the cairn, which many now believe
to have been a chambered tomb of the Neolithic Age - certainly dating from the Bronze-Age at any rate.
At the side there is a large stone with an inscription which says: JEPPE KNAVE GRAVE as well as a small
incised cross; the cross was probably carved in the 1960s. According to legend, one Jeppe Curteys a
highwayman was beheaded for his crimes in 1327; he was subsequently buried here at this solitary spot
on the moor. The name "Knave" is usually taken to mean 'a wrong doer', but it could also be the Norse
word for a boy, youth or servant. So this is much more likely to be an earlier prehistoric/Dark Age burial
site - pre-dating the highwayman by a few thousand years. We may never know the answer.
Whalley - Wiswell - Nick of Pendle - Heyhouses - Whalley
If arriving early for this walk, it is a good idea to explore the delights of Spring Wood before you start.
Spring Wood was once owned by the monks of Whalley Abbey and originally called Oxheyewoode,
which formed part of a deer-park. In the 1530s the monasteries were dissolved and all the
possessions seized by the Crown. A survey carried out by the Crown on 29th June 1528 stated that
Oxheyewoode was well-plenished with timber and underwood. The underwood consisted of 'Hassel
and Eller' (hazel and elder) which was felled once every twenty years. In the 1970s the wood was
bought by Lancashire County Council and developed into the picnic site that exists today. A pond was
constructed by diverting three springs over the edge of a quarry working. Hard-surfaced paths were
also constructed to make walking easier.
Once you leave Spring Wood, you will quickly start to climb out onto Pendleton Moors, passing Jeppe
Knave's Grave on your way to the Nick of Pendle, the highest point on the walk. At weekends you can
enjoy a locally made ice cream from the car park just above where you come out on Clitheroe Road.
After a loop of Churn Clough Reservoir, you then make your way back to the start, passing through
open farmland and small villages along the way.
There is a fair amount of climbing on this walk, but the majority is taken at a gentle incline and the
views certainly make up for the effort involved.
JEPPE KNAVE GRAVE SD 760 378 - Neolithic
Passage Tomb ?
SD 7600 3782
This landscape feature, known as Jeppe Knave Grave, stands at a place called The Lows high
on Wiswell Moor and takes the form of a low grass-covered mound 16M in diameter with a
stone filled depression in the centre 5 x 3 M. This feature appears to be a mutilated cairn and
has been tentatively ascribed to the Bronze Age. The outer ring of stones can be discerned in
the rough pasture at the perimeter - yellow in dry conditions, showing the circular shape.
Given the large size of the stones here the cairn may have been of a chambered type/ passage
tomb of the Neolithic period, and if this was the case the burial (or burials?) was one of great
Upon the largest stone are inscribed the words 'JEPPE KNAVE GRAVE and a cross
(inscribed by the Scouting Association in the 1960's). The stone marks the final resting place
of Jeppe Curteys (Geoffrey Curtis), a local robber who was decapitated for his crimes in the
first year of Edward 111, 1327. The name first occurs in a record of the boundaries between
Wiswall and Pendleton dated 1342.
In Anglo-Saxon times justice was dispensed locally in a rough and ready mariner. Under later
medieval kings a formal system of justice slowly developed. Minor matters were dealt with in
manoral courts. In Lancashire serious crimes were dealt with by the Kings Justice, who sat at
the quarter sessions at the Royal Castle at Lancaster. Executions took place on the moor east
of Lancaster at a place called Golgotha, which place-name survives even today. Bodies were
sometimes crudely preserved and sent back to the locality to be displayed gibbeted as fair
warning to others.
In those times the punishment of decapitation was unusual, being reserved for those of noble
birth. So who was this Jeppe Curteys, punished by decapitation and later buried on the high
ridge of Wiswell Moor in a pre Christian burial mound on the then boundary of parishes?
That intriguing story we may never know. But to be buried in such a manner and place was
indeed a great indignity - interment in what might be considered in those times to be a
'pagan' or 'devilish' spot. It may be that to bury a man in such a place was to literally 'send
him to the devil'. Alternatively one could ask: 'Was the site thought then to be the burial spot
of some noble ancestor, and Jeppe being of possible noble birth interred with great dignity?
Again we may never know, yet it is significant that this lonely spot is still identified with a
man who was executed 700 years ago.
In 1608 it was stated that one Robert Lowe had taken a stone from the grave and used it as a
cover of his kiln.
Another possible Bronze Age mound can be discerned by a change in vegetation coloration at
Harlow some 300m to the NNW. And a mile NW of the site is Carriers Croft where in 1968
another circular feature was discovered. During excavations between 1968 & 1975, three
collared urns along with a gold cylinder and a bone toddle were found. These are now on
display in Clitheroe Castle Museum.
There are many other features of interest on this moor top to be found by curious eyes and
feet: What is the significance of two stone cairns linked by a low wall sited at the head of a
water-gully above Wymondhouse with smaller cairns nearby? At one point the ridge wall is
built over a huge stone that on the map I call a 'marker stone' - what purpose did this stone
serve before the moor was enclosed by stone walls? These are only two of many questions
posed by the near landscape here not to mention the 'Thorn in the Lane' - good hunting.