On Dead Man’s Hill

Or the continuing story of Jenny Twigg and her daughter Tib.

We parked up at Scar House Reservoir at the top of Nidderdale last night and from across the reservoir, Dead Man’s Hill beckoned. A plan formed for my morning run.

There was no phone reception at Scar House Reservoir so I had to wait until Google revealed a little more of the story. Or should I say stories? There are many variations. All agree Jenny Twigg was indeed a proprietress of an inn. Some say at Arkleside in Coverdale, others say Lodge in Nidderdale. Some say three pedlers were the victims, another three drovers.

Dead Man’s Hill is better known today as an unclassified road between Scar House Reservoir and Arkleside. It is a very popular route with off-road motorcyclists and has caused controversy in the past. In the photo, Scar House Reservoir is on the left and Angram Reservoir is on the right. The trees on the left mark the hamlet of Lodge, long deserted and now just ruins but once a medieval grange belonging to Byland Abbey.

So the more convincing of the stories tell us that three drovers bringing cattle from Scotland to the market at Bradford rested at Lodge, at the inn run by Jenny Twigg and her daughter Tib. It’s unlikely to have been just a one-night stopover as the cattle would need to be fattened up ready to be sold. Apparently, the cattle had been seized by the English in the aftermath of the battle of Culloden so it is not clear whether the drovers were of Scottish origin. Anyway, they continued to market and returned with pockets full of the proceeds of the sale.

It is at this point that the drovers were killed, their heads cut off and buried up on the hill behind Lodge. The women’s downfall came with the drovers’ dog. It couldn’t be caught and roamed the hill, eventually leading to the bodies being discovered. Jenny Twigg and her daughter Tib were tried at Pateley Bridge and hung for murder and the hill became known as Dead Man’s Hill. Occasionally the drovers’ ghostly spirits are said to appear wandering the hill.

So the two weathered rock towers above Lofthouse, how do they fit into the story. Some say the two women were in fact witches and the rocks are their petrified remains.
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