Pendleton Village History

Discovering the past

Jeppe Knave's Grave

Jeppe Knave’s Grave lies on Wiswell Moor to the south-west of the head of the Nick of Pendle road from Clitheroe to Sabden and is clearly marked on Sheet 103 of the 1:50,000 Series Ordnance Survey map at the co-ordinates 760378. Following the walls along the crest of the hill from the road, it is not long before the trig point at 315m altitude is reached and, from here, the site is clearly to be seen, especially in late summer, as a low circular mound on which the rough moorland grass is pale and clear against the darker surroundings. Arriving at the site, a depression at the centre can be seen partially filled with large stones upon one of which there is inscribed a Celtic cross and the words “JEPPE KNAVE GRAVE” in letters 60 – 70mm high.
Clifford Moorhouse tells us in his book “Sabden – The Forgotten Valley”, published in 1978, that …”it is situated just outside the Sabden boundary in a depression of the ridge of the Pendle elevation stretching from the Nick of Pendle in the north to the dip at Clerk Hill to the south and is believed to date from some 650 years ago. In recent times, the site has been declared to have been a Bronze Age burial place though denuded, in all probability, long before Jeppe’s interment. The site is quite large, circular, approximately 20 feet in diameter and like an inverted saucer. The outer ring of stones can be discerned in the rough pasture grass at the perimeter – yellow in drought conditions, showing the circular shape. At the time of the burial, this would, in all probability, have been much more evident and the contemporary population may well have regarded it as a pagan and, therefore, godless place, one providing an appropriate burial place for such a miscreant. A rude headstone or slab, five feet high and about four inches thick, and peering three feet above the accumulated soil is to the south-west of the grave whilst, ten feet from it in a northerly direction, a footstone has been placed. Such, at least, was the general description of this intriguing spot on the moor as recorded earlier in the twentieth century and probably derives from the research and writings of Dr. J. A. Laycock of Sabden.

Dr. Laycock researched the siting of the grave and wrote, “By including the land in Wiswell township, Pendleton got rid of the undesirable fact of having a malefactor buried within its bounds, a circumstance that was a bone of contention at the time Jeppe the Knave was buried”. A recorded perambulation of 1327 (see below) of the boundaries of the two townships gives a landmark between the two as Jeppe Knave Grave. Whether the burial on the boundary or the agreement of the boundary line as passing through the grave came first is not clear but Jessica Lofthouse, in her book, “ North Country Folklore”, makes reference to three townships who refused to bury the decapitated body and it was laid where the three boundaries meet on the highest ridge of Wiswell Moor. Certainly, at the time, malefactors or felons could not be buried in holy ground.


Source: members notes.  Additional information available