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Historic sites on Holcombe Moor and Stubbins Estate

Ellen Strange Memorial
Ellen Strange Memorial | © Oliver Smith

Holcombe Moor is steeped in history, with a number of interesting historic sites dotted about the moors, that offer up tales of bravery, determination and even murder.

Ellen Strange

The story of what happened to Ellen Strange is one that for many years has been shrouded in mystery. Up high on Holcombe Moor stands a stone pillar next to a cairn, which traditionally marks the place where Ellen Strange was murdered in 1761.

Local folklore tells a very different tale from what we now understand to be closer to the truth, after a local historian John Simpson researched the story in the late 1970s. Folklore tells the story of how Ellen fell in love with a pedlar, and it was he who killed her.

More recent speculation is that Ellen was heading to her parents’ farm at Hawkshaw after a quarrel with her husband. Her husband, John Broadley, caught up with her and killed her on Holcombe Moor. He was arrested and sent for trial; however, he was later acquitted due to lack of evidence.

It is thought a stake may have been put into position to mark the place of her death, and this was later replaced with stones to make a cairn.

Pilgrims Cross

Pilgrims Cross is an iconic monument sitting high up on Holcombe Moor. The four sides tell the story and history of the cross, its significance and destruction.

The ancient Pilgrims Cross was standing in A.D. 1176, and probably much earlier than that. Although nothing is known about the removal of the ancient cross, the socket was destroyed by unknown vandals in 1901, and by 1902 the present stone was put in place.

It is thought pilgrims to Whalley Abbey prayed and rested here. Monuments such as these would have been invaluable in guiding medieval travellers in knowing how far they had travelled and navigating in poor weather. This would have been especially crucial in upland and moorland environments such as Holcombe Moor.

Robin Hoods Well
Robin Hoods Well | © Oliver Smith

Robin Hoods Well

Robin Hoods Well was thought to have been a welcome place for pilgrims to rest and take a drink on their way to Whalley Abbey or Sawley Abbey. This medieval route is marked by the nearby Pilgrims Cross.

So, you may wonder why the name Robin Hoods Well? It is believed that this name did not refer to the famous outlaw but has instead morphed into it. Popular opinion is that it derived from Robin Goodfellow, a fairy figure now best known to us as Puck in Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. Robin Goodfellow is an old name locals gave to a fairy and many rural landmarks had fairies associated with them. Belief in fairies was once widespread, and these same magical folk were also referred to as hobgoblins or boggarts.

Rangers and volunteers on Holcombe Moor


Everyone needs nature and outdoor space, now more than ever, and as a charity we rely heavily on your support and generosity. Your support plays a vital role in allowing us to protect Holcombe Moor and Stubbins Estate’s natural landscape and rich wildlife for everyone to enjoy.

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