The Legend of Jenkin Hole
by Robin Longbottom

Plague and pestilence have been no stranger to Sutton in Craven over the centuries. Perhaps the best recorded is the one of 1587 when many villagers died, including eight members of the Harper family (father, mother and six children). The plague was so devastating that no one would bury the dead and the Kildwick Parish Registers record that a certain .... Robert Walkden a pauper of Lancashire came to clean the houses of those who had died in Sutton of the plague. Sadly he too caught the infection and died. Further plague is recorded during the seventeenth century and stories of victims buried in land to the rear of Croft Shed in the High Street and in Thompson's Field were told until recent years.

The late Dr Davy recorded the tale behind a field called Jenkin Hole, now known as Thompson's Field.... One can quite understand that these frequent and terrible visitations were a source of terror. But, great as the fear must have been, it is difficult to believe the traditional Sutton story of Old Jenkins and his wife.

It is said that the old couple were both prostrated by a "low" fever. At first the neighbours did what they could for them; but, as the weeks grew into months and the man and his wife showed no signs of improvement, an uneasy feeling began to grow in the villagers minds. Stories of past plagues were whispered and tales of the sufferings of the victims and of whole families being swept away were mooted. At last, the fear of the neighbours turned to frenzy, and, it is said, they took the poor old man and his wife and buried them alive in the field between the stream and the Baptist Church. This field is still known as Jenkin Hole, and I can well remember that when I was a boy it had an ill repute.

The field name, Jenkin Hole, is recorded on the Tithe Map of 1840 and also in a number of deeds dating back into the eighteenth century. Unfortunately the parish registers do not appear to record anyone by the name of Jenkin.

With thanks to Robin Longbottom for providing the text. September 2011.