Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Saturday Soaking above Sabden – 17 July

With our original plans for a long run in the Lakes thwarted, initially by poor weather forecasts and finally by poor weather, we ventured not quite as far north to the (deforested) Forest of Pendle to have a another recce of a route Pauline needs for November. Even here the weather wasn’t encouraging but we needed to have a look at the grave of Jeppe The Knave on Wiswell Moor above Sabden.

Sabden-2 Sabden nestles in the Forest of Pendle

Sabden, as if you didn’t know is famous for its Treacle Mines but we wouldn’t have time to explore them today. There are more traditions associated with Jeppe Knave’s grave and its location than you can shake a stick at. The Internet Archive contains a short video and says the following -

“Folk traditions about this site. ascribe it as the grave of a character called Jeppe.who was an outlaw in the 11th or 12th century. This Jeppe and his band at some stage were waylaid and Jeppe was slain. As none of the local parishes would want to fork out for a decent burial for the knave, his cadaver was taken to the point where the parishes of
Pendleton, Wiswell and Sabden meet and interred there. However, it appears the point where the parishes meet is actually some way away at the summit of Wiswell Moor, so Jeppe was deposited in a prehistoric monument on the side of the fell.

Other traditions claim that Jeppe was a murdered pauper, though the same economical reasons for his odd burial spot are cited. An interesting note is that, in 1969, an axe dating from the Bronze Age was discovered in Pendleton. The object is now on display at Clitheroe Museum.History has provided us with an interesting anomaly regarding this grave. Firstly there is the straightforward legend. Jeppe was an outlaw, a 'knave' who many hundreds of years ago struck terror into the hearts of local folk. He marauded around Pendleton, Sabden and Wiswell and, along with his gang,  lundered and robbed wherever they saw fit, taking whatever they wished from the more honest, law abiding fraternity.

Inevitably,one of their forays went wrong, and, on the foothills of Pendle, he was caught by some of his intended victims. Instant justice was meted out and Jeppe was executed on the spot. Realising that no parish would be willing to bear the expense of a decent funeral, his dismembered body was dragged heavenwards towards the summit of nearby Wiswell Moor. There, at a point where three parishes meet, he was hurriedly interred, some local stones being collected up to mark the actual spot. Normally this would have concluded the story had not the villagers, in their excitement, mistaken a prehistoric burial mound for the summit cairn. Jeppe, instead of being interred at the parish boundaries, was in fact placed to rest within an ancient long barrow, the stones presumably having been taken from the attached cairn. Today, the O.S. map, as in many cases, identifies the grave, however, in this instance, Roman lettering signifies the spot as a place of historical interest. Historians still debate fiercely over the resultant confusion, with dates etc being vigorously contested.”

Sabden-1 Jeppe the Knave’s grave

Having found the grave and wandered all over the moor to establish that, with one exception, none of the field walls on the south side of Wiswell Moor have stiles or gates we returned to the car having decided another ten miles in the rain to check the next tricky part of the route wasn’t for today.


  1. so was jeppe a bit of a robin hood character?... i'm intrigued as to pauline's november route.

  2. Kate - I don't think Jeppe a "Robin Hood" character because most accounts suggest he was killed by local people which seems unlikely outcome if he was helping them. There are other references to the route here http://justusandafewfriends.blogspot.com/2010/04/sabden-valley-04-april.html

    It will be her first Rucksack Club meet so she is a little nervous

  3. is there some kind of initiation with the club then?

  4. Kate - LOL, I should have made it clear this will be Pauline's first meet as Meet Leader rather than her first meet. This route is fairly familiar, in general terms, but it is plagued with too many paths and they are troublesome even in good weather. In November there has to be a possibility of poor weather which will make route finding altogether more entertaining - hence her trepidation.