This is the story of a guide stoop. Errr, wot’s a stoop? Stay with me and you’ll find out!
How did people find the way before there were satnavs, before there were maps or even roads? Yes, they asked other people, who said ‘turn left at the big tree’ or ‘go straight past the tall stone’ – but trees fall over and stones get used for buildings. People easily got lost, especially on the moors of the Pennines.
In the late 1600s, a lady and her two children set out to walk the twenty miles to Sheffield to spend Christmas with her sister. They lost their way and their bodies were not found till the snow melted in Spring; they were huddled together in a hollow. This caused a public outcry and the Government passed a law in 1697, making the local Justices set up markers on tracks across the moors and at places where these tracks met. These way-markers were made of locally-available materials, and in the Pennines that meant stone. The word ‘stoop’ comes from the Norse word for a stone, so guide stoops are guide stones.
Now let’s look at an example…
The one in the picture is at Farnley Tyas, at the junction of three packhorse tracks, now tarmac’d roads. It is a typical example and is designated Grade ll* listed, by English Heritage, so has been protected by railings.
Let’s take a closer look and see what the lettering says. On this side, it has the names of Jono Hoyle Constable and Thos Bottmly Surveyor, and a date, 1738. At that time, the parishes or townships were responsible for the highways and tracks that passed through; local people had to spend several days each year working on repairing the roadways or else pay money instead. The Constable enforced the law and the Surveyor organised road works – both were unpaid jobs. The stone mason didn’t allow much space for fitting in their names!
Let’s look at the next side. To ‘Hudderffield 3 miels’ No, he hasn’t made a mistake spelling Huddersfield, that was the old way of writing an ‘s’, it looked like an ‘f’. But he has spelled ‘miels’ very quaintly.
Now let’s look at the other sides – Holmfirth 2 miles, Pennyftone 6 miles, with pointing hands. Now that you know about the f for s, you can read Pennystone, or Penistone. But look, ‘miles’ is spelled correctly on both these sides ! Do you think the stone mason had too much ale to drink with his lunch and forgot how to spell? Or did he leave it to his apprentice to finish the carving, maybe?!
This guidestoop has stood guard over this junction for nearly 300 years. At some time, someone fixed a sundial to the top, the marks are still visible.
Because it’s ‘listed’, it can’t be improved or modified without the consent of Kirklees Council’s Planning Department, but Shelley Parish Council had the railings repainted and a stainless steel plaque made, to tell people about the stoop.
How would YOU tell your friends about it? On facebook? on twitter? or writing a poem, doing a painting, making a model?