The West Yorkshire Archaeology Survey records finds of flints on Staups moor dating back many thousands of years. It is hard to envisage the landscape of these early times but it was not until two and half thousand years ago that Iron Age farmers succeeded in clearing the rough scrub and woodland that covered the area enabling some rudimentary farming to be carried out on the upper terraces of the valley. It was well after the Norman Conquest before the valley floor itself was cleared of dense woodland.
There is some evidence in Blackshaw of these early inhabitants. Besides an ancient track leading to Lower Rawtenstall, there is an “orthostatic” wall (wall made up of vertical stones) which could be many thousands of years old and fringing the waters of Hippins clough below the farmhouse there are the remains of a massively constructed boundary wall possibly Iron Age in date. Other than a pre-conquest quern also found at Hippins, there is no tangible evidence of so-called Dark Age inhabitants of the area.
It is to language and dialect that we must look for signs of people who were lived in the area in the Anglo-Saxon period. It is known that there was a considerable influx of Norwegian settlers via Ireland and Lancashire into the Pennine dales. They left a signature of their presence deeply rooted in the Yorkshire dialect in words such as bairn (child), flit (move house), gawp (stare), hey up (hello) laik (play) familiar to all those who had a Yorkshire childhood. Our description of the landscape owes much to these people i.e. fell, beck, ness, moss, and scar. More specifically many words of Norse origin are used to describe settlement and farming. For settlement there are words such as toft, thorpe, gate, flags etc and for farming acre, ing, midden, muck, scale, seat, sett (summer pasture).