Some Notes and Speculation about the Names of Caves

Documentary research has shown that some of our more obvious caves and potholes have not always borne the name by which we know them today. For instance, does anyone know where Phial Cave or Cleaver Hole is?   According to Speight (1892) they are both on Leek Fell, in the same field as Rumbling Hole apparently!

A lot of us will have begun our caving career with a trip down Calf Holes. However, we will have to have been shown where Calf Holes is, because we wont find it labeled as such on any modern O.S. map. Up to the 1970s, the OS. had this cave labeled as Dry Lathe Cave. Dry Lathe, or Dry Lade, was the name of a farmhouse which could be found in the 19th century, on the opposite side of the green lane to the cave entrance, and a short distance further along to the north.

The Enclosure Awards for Horton-in-Ribblesdale give us the old names of some other well-known potholes. The 1847 map of Horton Moor names Cross Pot as Crook Cove. The outline of the shaft on the surface is definitely in the shape of a cross, whereas crook implies just a bend or hook. Could it be that an even older name for this shaft was ‘Crux”, which is Latin for cross, and over time the final s sound has been dropped?
The same award names Penyghent Long Churn as Long Churn Caverns, which makes this hole sound far grander than it actually is. The 1821 Award for the lower just a bend or hook. Could it be that an even older name for this shaft was Crux”, which is Latin for cross, and over time the final s sound has been dropped?

The same award names Penyghent Long Churn as Long Churn Caverns, which makes this hole sound far grander than it actually is. The 1821 Award for the Lower Division of Horton in Ribblesdale calls Hull Pot, Hurl Pot. This seems to be just two different spellings of the same word, but what is that word? A hull was a shelter, and a hurl was a pile of stones or cairn, not necessarily the same thing. A large shakehole above
Brackenbottom is known to us these days as Larch Tree Hole, but in 1795 the Dubcoat Scan Award map labels it Heslepot Hole. This would seem to imply not just a change of name but a change of tree, hazel has become larch!

Half a mile to the west of Selside is another massive shaft, Alum Pot. Even the older documents such as the 1822 map of Borrens and North Cote and the 1791 Selside Enclosure map call it Allum Pot, which is no different. But why should it be called Alum? There are no deposits of the mineral alum in this location. There is speculation that it was originally called Helln Pot, meaning mouth of hell, and certainly on the days when clouds of vapour can be seen rising from the pothole, such a name is believable.

The water which sinks into the sump at the lowest point of Alurn Pot is not seen again until it resurges at Turn Dub, which curiously is on the other side of the River Ribble. (Was this originally called Tarn Dub, lying as it does just below Horton Tarn?) However, in very wet weather there is an overflow resurgence back on the west side of the dale at Footnaws Hole. A strange name, how did it come about? Who was Mr Footnaw? The name does not appear in the parish registers. Or was there some ancient artifact or feature called a footnaw, and did this hole have more than one of them?

Unable to come up with any answer, I gave up puzzling after a while. Then a few months ago I came across a map of land at Selside, the properties of Messrs Ayrton and Foster in 1868. The field lying immediately to the north of Footnaws Hole is called, rather surprisingly, Foot and Arse. Yes, really! You couldn’t make it up. The name is written on the map in the field, and also in the list of fields belong to J.W. Foster, so there is no mistake. If you try to say that field name in a local accent, you will see how it was possible that the refined gentlemen who made the first Ordnance Survey map in 1851 arrived at the name Footnaws. Why the field should have the name shown on the 1868 map in the first place is as yet unexplained.

Photo shows Footnaws Hole, (or should the name be changed?). The field with the unusual name is over the wall on the left.

Sources:

1892 “The Craven & North-West Yorkshire Highlands” by Harry Speight

1795   Dubcoat Scarr Award, 1821 Horton Award and 1847 Horton Moor Award - all property of Horton-inRibblesdale Parish Council

1791 Award for the division of Selside Shaws, Lamb Pasture and The
Park - Yorkshire Archaeological Society, Leeds 

1822  Map of Borrens & North Cote and 1868 Map of Selside showing lands the properties of Edward Ayrton and J.W.Foster - North Yorkshire County Record Office, Northallerton

 

Helen Sergeant

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