Arbor Low

Arbor or Arbour Low on Middleton Moor, west of Youlgreave, is a double-entrance henge monument dating from c.2000–1600 BC. Standing high above sea level and commanding a wide view, it was probably, like other henge monuments, a ceremonial and political centre. It has been known by this name, meaning ‘earthwork hill’, since at least 1533, when it is recorded as Harberlowe.

Oval in shape, the henge’s grass-covered bank and ditch, less imposing than they once were, thanks to erosion, enclose what was perhaps originally an egg-shape rather than a circle of white limestone blocks. Officially numbered at forty-six, these stones are not upright, and perhaps never were. All but one – which leans at a shallow angle – have lain flat on the ground since the monument was first described in 1761. While writers in 1783 and 1824 cite local men as having said that within living memory, or that of their fathers, the stones had stood upright, excavation has failed to reveal any sockets cut into the limestone to hold them.

In the centre of the circle, near three larger stones, was found the skeleton of a man buried in an extended position, and in a round barrow near the south-east entrance of the monument a cremation burial was discovered. Possibly local people knew of these burials, or else assumed the dead were buried here, as in the nineteenth century the site was said to be haunted and avoided after dark. In Romances of the Peak (1901), W. M. Turner says that, coming away from Arbor Low after a visit in 1897, he accosted a young herdsman tending some cattle and asked him if he knew how it came there and what its purpose was. The herdsman said he could not tell. He only knew what old people had told him, that it had been there undisturbed for generations. That was all – except there might have been a battle there and people buried about the place.

‘How did he come to know that?’ ‘Well, you see,’ he said, ‘the folks round about never go that way at night for fear of “boggarts.” Several have been seen prowling about, and it is the common talk that people must have been buried there.’



Haunted England : The Penguin Book of Ghosts – Written by Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson
Copyright © Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson 2005, 2008