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The Early Inhabitants of Barkisland

by A Rinder
from The Village Voice #1, February 1991


In the Middle Ages, the ancient Parish Church of St Mary's in Elland served all the people who lived in an area which stretched from Rastrick in the east to Ripponden in the west. However the earliest inhabitants in this particular area came from Barkisland and its neighbourhood.

The first inhabitants were known as Paleolithic Man (the Old Stone Age Man) who were hunters and lived in caves. They roamed over the moors in search of small animals which they would kill with their stone hammers, axes and arrows. These were followed by the men of the Mesolithic Age ('Middle' Stone Age Man) and it is known that these people lived in the area, as a hand axe of that age (about 10,000 years ago) was found near Ringstone Reservoir.

Then came the Neolithic Man (the New Stone Age Man) and these people started to farm as they kept tamed animals like sheep, goats, cows and pigs. They also lived in small communities in huts of grass, sdtone and mud and started to weave cloth. Of this age, there have been discoveries of stone axe heads at Krumlin and arrow heads and a pierced stone which may have been a loomweight at Ringstone. There may also have been some circular hut habitations on Norland Moor.

The Stone Age Man was followed in about 2,000 BC by Bronze Age Men or Beaker Folk, whose tools of bronze were sharper and stronger than the stone tools. They built stone houses and they learned how to cut grass and make hay from it and to grow corn which was ground between stones into flour and was then made into bread. Also they had developed a religious cult because it is believed that the Ladstone on Norland Moor is the place where sacrifices were made. The word 'lad' is derived from 'llad' which means to kill or flay.

In about 1,000 BC, the Bronze Age was superseded by the Iron Age. These people, called Celts who were powerful in many parts of Europe, made swords and knives from iron which was stronger and better than bronze. They lived in rectangular huts and built fortified hill forts for protection against tribal enemies. A high type of civilisation developed when iron ploughs were used in agriculture, the land was divided into fields and better clothes, bracelets and jewellery were worn.

On the way to Scammonden, near Ringstone Reservoir, there are the remains of an ancient British settlement called Meg Dike. This earthwork was built on a rectangular pattern and it included the site of an artificer's workshop. From here there was a track which led directly to the Ring of Stones (an ancient Druid place of worship) near to Ringstone Reservoir (hence the name). This part of the moor is called Whole Stone Moor (Holy Stone Moor).

There is a theory that Meg Dike was a Roman camp but it seems to be too close to the well known camps at Slack and Castleshaw. Members of Huddersfield Historical Society have made a few 'digs' on the site but have not found any Roman remains at all. The Romans were definitely in the area as some people believe that the Roman road at Blackstone Edge descended to Ripponden, then ascended to Barkisland and then continued to Greetland where there was a Roman Camp. Although a Roman altar was found behind Clay House in West Vale, there have been no other discoveries in that particular area.

It was the coming of the Anglo-Saxons and later the Danes which settled the boundaries of the Mediaeval villages. These were the people who gave the names to the area.

Deanhead is believed to have gained its name from the place where the Danes went furthest up the valley. Although the Danes occupied the area during the Danegeld, I think that there is a simpler explanation of the name - a 'dene' was the name of a valley and the uppermost part was the 'head' - Deanhead.

However Barkisland obtained its name in a way different from all the other 'lands' in the area - Elland came from 'ea' (water) and 'land' (houses or habitation) (a settlement by the water - the Calder); Greetland from 'grit' (the gritstone of the area) and Stainland from 'stone' or 'stane'.

Barkisland obtained its name from being the settlement ('land') of a chieftain called 'Barkis'. There are many places which obtained their names in this way. Therefore in the ancient parish of Elland fame for having the first inhabitants and being called after a real human being goes to Barkisland.


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