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Full text of "Jeppe Knave Grave - Jeppe Curtey Highwayman"

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 
legend. 



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 
importance. 

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.