Oldest Yorkshire Folk from Stone Age Onward

The first Yorkshire folk were from the Palaeolithic era over 10,000 years B.C. These Fred Flintstone characters were able to cross from the continent as the glacial waters of the ice ages melted away and plant and animal life increased to feed the nomads. Evidence of inhabitation and exotic animal bones is found at Victoria Cave near Settle and Kirkdale Cave near Kirkbymoorside in the Vale of Pickering, North Yorkshire. These cave dwellers were restricted to roughly shaped flint and stone tools and no evidence of permanent settlement has been discovered.

Middle Stone Age Yorkshireman from the Mesolithic age visited via what is now the North Sea possibly from warmer Pyrenees or the Mediterranean about 7500 B.C. Evidence of a brushwood platform for Lake Dwelling remains were found at Star Carr in the Vale of Pickering and there was a camp at Marsden where many arrow shaft flints have been discovered. Flint axes have also been discovered in Calderdale, Blubberhouses, Glaisdale and Wharfedale and scattered on the Cleveland Hills and North Yorkshire Moors.

Neolithic man 3000 B.C. were the first farmers in Yorkshire with both cereal crops and small animal husbanding. Large trees in the fertile valleys were too difficult to clear so much of the farming was done on the tops and valley sides. There are Neolithic sites at Flamborough Head, Hartendale and Beacon Hill. Most evidence comes from the long barrows the burial mounds from Sleights to Kilburn and around Folkton. By 2000 B.C. Duggleby Howe round mound shows evidence of inhumation (interment) and cremation.

Bronze age man probably arrived from the Rhinelands about 1800 B.C. and have been named ‘Beaker Folk’ after the pots they were buried with. Burial mounds at Grassington, Baildon Moor and West Tanfield display an interest in gold and amber and the picture below demonstrates the find at Kellythorpe.

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Ripon Of Men and Fishes

The founders of Ripon St Eata and St Wilfrid were fishers of men in the Middle Ages. The Cathedral, containing one of Europe’s oldest crypts, was founded on the ruins of St Wilfrid’s Abbey about 672 AD, the small crypt is Saxon is called St Wilfreds Needle. In 686 AD the diocese was combined with York and there was no Bishop of Ripon from then until 1836. The present building was begun by Archbishop Roger (1154-1181),with the transepts and portions of the choir still existing. The western front and towers are fine specimens of Early English and believed to be the work of Walter de Grey, Archbishop of York.

Ripon is said to have been made a royal borough by Alfred the Great, and in 937 AD, Athelstan is stated to have granted to the monastery sanctuary status, freedom from toll and taxes, and the privilege of holding a court. There was a ring of Sanctuary Crosses around the City and whilst only one original remains a facinating walk has reconstructed and linked others with replicas. Around 950 AD the monastery and town were destroyed by King Eadred during his expedition against the Danes and again by the Normans in 1069 AD but they were rebuilt by the archbishops of York.
Ripons hey-day was during the twelfth to sixteenth century before the woolen industry moved to Leeds, Bradford and the West Riding towns. Ripon was also famous for its school of carvers who made the Cathedral misericord and supplied choir stalls to other places of worship including 68 stalls for Beverly Minster in 1520.

The first Ripon fair was in 1100 AD and there is still a thriving Thursday market in the square. In the square is an obelisk built in 1780 which is surmounted by a horn. This symbolises the custom of a Wakeman or watchman blowing a horn at 9.00 pm daily as he took over the safety of the City for the night. The horn is still blown though the Wakeman was superseded by the first Mayor in 1604.

Ripon takes its name from Ripum or Ripa ‘on the banks’ and indeed there are the banks of three rivers the Ure, the Laver and the Skell meeting in Ripon.

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Pickering Day Out with Murals

Pickering takes its name from ‘the settlement of Picer and his people’ or Piceringas. Arriving in Pickering by the old North Yorkshire Steam train or by road, you will see the church spire of St Peter and St Paul atop a small hill in the town centre. (There is reasonable parking by Pickering Beck.)

Famous Church Murals
The main body of the church is hidden by a cluster of cottages, shops and the Liberal club below. You can access the church grounds by one of three flights of stone steps that cut through the surrounding buildings. The 15th century wall paintings, some of ‘the most extensive and valuable examples not only in Yorkshire but England’, were hidden by limewash and over the centuries forgotten. In 1852, when work on the interior revealed these treasures many visitors came, only for the murals to be rewhite washed by Vicar Ponsonby three days later and so it remained until 1937. Entering the church from the south door the huge figure of St Christopher is the mural you see on the north wall a favourite position for this painting. It is thought that to look at St Christopher gave protection for the day from sudden death (fast drivers may not benefit). There are many other murals including St George, St John the Baptist, St Catherine of Alexandria and the Decent in to Hades. These murals were originally intended for education as well as devotion and may have been based on wood-cuts from travelling artists.

If you are interested in murals there are other fine examples at St Agatha’s, Easby near Easby Abbey close to Richmond.
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Sorry that is Bilborough in Nottingham not the village near York. I had found this book before I realised there were other less worthy Bilboroughs around! Continue Reading →


Folly or Sculpture at Harlow Carr

It isn’t a folly to link sculpture with a classic garden like the Royal Horticultural Society ‘s  Harlow Carr. The former Doric columns were part of the entrance to Harrogate’s Cheltenham Pump Room and later the Spa Concert Hall. Now as salvage, or recycling in the modern manner, these columns are tucked in a sunny glade in the woods. The six giant columns, with the two lions keeping guard at the base, are one of the many attractions that draw children away from looking at plants to appreciate the many features Harlow Carr has to offer.

Originally Harlow Carr once vied with Harrogate as a spa with a hotel and hydropathic centre with sulphur springs and Chalybeate (Iron) waters. In the 17th Century it was said

‘These waters youth in age renew
Strength to the weak and sickly add
Give the pale cheek a rosy hue
And cheerful spirits to the sad.’

That is cheering of spirits and creation of a healthy glow is now the job of the flowers, walks and gardens of Harlow Carr.

Harlow Carr was the trial grounds for the Northern Horticultural Society since 1949 with extra land added in 1955 and 1958. Since the RHS amalgamated with the Northern Horticultural Society there has been an ongoing investment programme and there is much to see and do on the site. Bird hides, bee keeping, fruit growing demonstrations and a library currently housed in the former suite of baths built in 1844 are just a few of the activities. Spot the sculptures as you go around the gardens or see them on Gardeners Tips The woven willow structures are part of the living sculpture series first introduced by Mathew Wilson.

It would be Folly not to take a trip to look at Harlow Carr with its historic links, great gardens and new features like the Alpine House, Bettys Tea Rooms and the learning centre currently being developed.


Dance Yorkshire

Book Cover
Whilst this book features Dancing in the East Riding there is a lot more going off in Yorkshire. I am always surprised at nthe number of dance venues still functioning for classes, medals and competitions. Undoubtedly a healthy pastime for a great many people it is good to feel a resurgence for dance.

Dancing as a Sport
The Yorkshire Dance Festival took place in Sheffield earlier in September. There were 28 classes of ballroom and latin and details can be found on Dance Info Sports that boasts ‘Everything you wanted to know about competitive dance world and dancesport.’
The 2012 Olympics created the idea of a 2012 dancers getting fit by dancing in city centres. A more traditional programme of dance events is on Dance Yorkshires web site.

Dancing as a Career
Yorkshire Dance in Leeds is a charity based operation that offers training courses and more dance related activities. It has just received more funding from The Arts Council for a Lift project to develop the work and careers of a selected group of talented dance practitioners. There will be an expert career mentoring programme and support for artists. The Riley Theatre is based at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance and runs an edgy programme and various courses.

Dance Humour
The Russians have the kosack, the Spanish the flamenco. If Yorkshire had a dance of its own, it’d involve swilling a pint of Tetley’s to and fro in front of the football while shouting ‘Leeds! Leeds! Leeds!’. Thankfully they don’t teach you the ins and outs of that dazzling composition, but you could learn some more credible forms of groove — street, jazz, tap and ballet are just a few of the jigs that you could be mastering here. Jangle that spangle, girlfriend. according to the Itchy guide.

The Butchers Dance

A guy has spent many years travelling all around the world making a documentary on Native dances. He thinks he has every single native dance of every indigenous culture in the world on film. He winds up in a pub in Sheffield where he hears about the seldom seen and sacred “Butcher Dance.”

The guy’s a bit confused and says, “Butcher Dance? What’s that, I thought I knew all the worlds great dances?” After a great deal of persuasion he gets an invite to the local dance hall. With great excitement because he believes he has uncovered a great new dance format he turns up at the appointed time.

A deathly hush descends over performers and spectators. The guy is becoming caught up in the fervour of the moment himself. This is it. He is about to witness the ultimate performance of rhythm and movement ever conceived by mankind. From somewhere the rhythmic pounding of drums booms out and locals begin to sway to the stirring rhythm.

Then he hears “You butch yer right arm in. You butch yer right arm out. You butch yer right arm in and you shake it all about…..



Dry Stone Walls in Yorkshire

dry stone wall

Yorkshire has more miles of Dry Stone Wall than any other county and these walls are an outstanding feature of the Dales. It is quite a craft to build such a wall and the techniques have been passed down for generations. This is just a superficial guide to whet your dry stone appetite.

The way dry stone walling works is to make the weight of the outside lean inward to the core structure of the wall, each stone is carefully selected jig-saw like to create a near flush contact area between each stone to prevent slipping or wobble. Walls are usually 5-7 feet high and traditional measures are used such as a Rood (quarter of an acre or 40 perches) which equals a furlongs times a rod which is itself a quarter of a chain or 22 yards. (There will be a test at the end).

Gather and sort the stone by size in a type that complements and harmonises with the landscape such as limestone, grit stone or sandstone. Make foundations level and about a yard wide. Large stones go at the bottom butting against each other. All other stones must make contact with others and have the weight back into the wall and the face facing (Mmmm).  With each layer of stone fill in void spaces with smaller stones to ‘bind’ the wall. The wall should taper like a flat topped ‘ A’,  this slope is called the batter. ‘Throughs’ are the large heavy stones laid across the wall at intervals for extra strength. Topping stones as the name suggests are the icing on the cake also called coping, cap or comb stones.  Cheeks or Heads are the end stones. A Cripple hole is a rectangular opening at the base of a wall built to permit the passage of sheep. Also known as a hogg hole, lonky or lunky hole, sheep run, sheep smoose, smout hole, thawl or thirl hole. Smoot hole is to allow Rabbits and Hare to move through or even small streams.

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The Dry Stone Walling Association of Great Britain is registered as a charity and offers training and has several branches in Yorkshire.

The Yorkshire Dry Stone Walling Guild recently featured an arch bridge and an article from the Yorkshire Post on their web site.

Photo credit the wet or snowy ‘dry stone wall by lynnepet’ CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


Seven Yorkshire Castles

We are not a war like race but Yorkshire folk have long stood up for what is right. Sometimes it has been necessary to stand inside a castle to repel t’other side and here is a selection of Yorkshire Castles. All are worth a visit and repay a bit of study of their history.

Scarborough Castle
Scarborough Castle
The headland was a signaling station from the 4th century and used by Romans as part of their coastal defences.
The unauthorised castle was built by William le Gross in the 12th century and rebuilt by Henry III.
George Fox the founder of the Quakers was imprisoned in the castle in 1665.
The castle was in use until bombed by the Germans during World War I.

Skipton, Grassington & Pateley Bridge
Skipton Castle
This was a fortified house and is in a good state of repair. The open sections date from 12th century.
From the 14th century the Clifford family took up residence. After it was seiged and damaged during the civil war Lady Anne Clifford restored the castle.
There are a large number of doors leading from the courtyard and children like to play in the area.
The church of Holy Trinity has a slab giving the Clifford genealogy and this is also worth a visit.

Richmond Castle
Richmond Castle
The castle is the oldest stone built castle in England which is maintained and owned by English heritage.
The remains are of a Norman castle the building of which commenced 1071 overlooking the river Swale.
The keep was added to the castle in the 12th centurywith walls of an amazing eleven feet thick.
The castle keep rises to a height of over 100 feet and can be seen from many local vantage points.
During World War I the detention cells were used to house conscientious objectors.

Middleham Castle
Middleham Castle
Built to replace a motte and bailey castle formerly on William’s Hill, Middleham castle was built in 12th century. A chaple was added in the 13th century with other additions through to 15th century.
Richard III was based at the castle when it was used as part of the government for Northern England.

Conisbrough Castle
Conisbrough Castle
See Conisbrough-village-and-castle

Pickering Castle
Pickering Castle
Visit Pickering via the North Yoork Moors Steam railway to start your historic trip.
The castle was started in the 11th century and wooden palisades were replaced during the 1220’s
The 15th century gatehouse is now a ruin but the Diate Hill and Rosamund’s towers can be seen with a postern gate to the inner bailey.
St Peter & St Paul church provides a historical backdrop to the castle and Pickering.

Bolton Castle
Bolton Castle
Started in 1379 Bolton Castle near Hawes in Wensleydale was a more comfortable castle than earlier designs. It is now one of the best UK examples of 14th century architecture in a secular building.
Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned at Bolton in 1568.

Photo Credits
Scarborough Castle by Ingy The Wingy Scarborough Castle by Ingy The Wingy CC BY-ND 2.0
Skipton, Grassington & Pateley Bridge by dvdbramhall CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Richmond Castle by Ambersky235 CC BY-ND 2.0
Middleham Castle by rofanatorCC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Conisbrough Castle by James.Stringer CC BY-NC 2.0
Pickering Castle by James.Stringer CC BY-NC 2.0
Bolton Castle by davesag CC BY-NC-SA 2.0



Bah Humbugs Sweetie Shop

Masham is really for beer not sweets but in the corner of the  market square is a shop to treasure. Not only because they offer Licourice sweets from New Zealand, Holland and Pontefract but because they seem to be going the extra mile in the provision of treats for the sweet-toothed amongst us. ‘Yorkshire Mixture’ is another favourite a Northern Classic of boiled sweets in an assortment of different shapes and flavours including Pear Drops, Fruit Rock & Fishes and mint rock.

I do not want to drive you away from this web site by if you want to look inside the digital sweetshop of Bah Humbug then click here.

With winter and flu nearly upon us why not stock up with some winter warmers like Coltsfoot Rock, Paynes Original Army & Navy Tablets or real Cough Candy. Too say nothing of Aniseed Balls and the retro range including ABC Candy Letters, Dip Dabs, Double Dips, Shrimps, Anglo Bubbly, Black Jacks, Refreshers and Lover Hearts .

Maxons Humbug Suppliers to the World

Maxons of Sheffield is one of the few remaining traditional sweet manufacturers in England specialising in boiled sugar and flavoured sherbet. Maxons continues as a privately owned, independent, manufacturing company under the direction the original Pitchfork family. Henry Dixon Ltd. had existed since the late nineteenth century and had acquired a significant reputation and history in the area. Following the end of sweet rationing in 1953, both the wholesale and manufacturing began to expand and, in 1958, they all merged.
The traditional brands, as supplied to Bah Humbug, of Maxons, Dixons, and Jesmona account for the majority of production. Traditional products like Pineapple chunks, Pear Drops and Yorkshire Mixture are made along side Black Bullets, Sherbert Fruits and Humbugs.



Packhorse Bridges in Yorkshire

Built like a Packhorse bridge over the Leeds Liverpool canal this bridge has the traditional narrow, one horse wide masonry arch and low parapets so as not to interfere with the horse’s panniers. It is at the junction of the now defunct Bradford Canal and was opened in 1774. The canal and the bridge carried industrial revolution products too and from Bradford. Despite many problems with the water flow into the canal it was a commercial asset until it closed in 1922 due to the high cost of pumping water back to the head of the canal.

Pleasure craft now float under this fine old bridge heading towards Shipley.

The Roman fort of Olicana now known as Ilkley, once guarded this strategic crossing of the Wharfe, on the legion’s road to Boroughbridge (Aldborough). This packhorse bridge was built in 1674 close to the Roman built ford across the river Wharfe. It is an unusual bridge as it is wider than many packhorse bridges and would allow two loaded pack animals to pass on the bridge. It is closed to traffic but you can wheel a cycle across. Continue Reading →


Barden Tower and Priest House

Barden Tower

Barden Tower

Twixt Appletreewick and Bolton Abbey is Barden Tower the former residence of Lord Henry Clifford. Built in the 15th century it has suffered several periods of decay and decline and is the ruin you now see. Nearby is Barden Bridge a 17th Century Arch bridge that is designated an ancient monument. There is some parking and plenty of interesting walks near by including access to the Dales Way that follows the northern bank of the river Wharfe up stream from the nearby Strid cottage. Over looked by the ruin is the old Priest’s House which housed the ‘Clifford’s’ private Chaplain. This is now a popular restaurant with a bunk barn for walkers or diners.

Henry Clifford was the eldest son of John ‘The Butcher’ Clifford who was know for his hatred of the Yorkists. Following his fathers death at the battle of Towton, Henry was hidden for 24 years until after the battle of Bosworth and now thirty-one years old, he was restored to his estates and titles by Henry VII who knighted him. Henry assisted the Earl of Surrey and fought at Flodden in 1513, he was one of the principal leaders with a large retinue and even brought home to Skipton Castle some Scottish ordnance.
Having spent his childhood and early years with a shepherd family he had little education and used Barden Tower as a place to learn and study.
Having regained his property and position, he immediately began to repair his castles and improve his education. He quickly learnt to write his own name; and, to facilitate his studies, built Barden Tower, near Bolton Priory, that he might place himself under the tuition of some learned monks there, and apply himself to astronomy, and other favourite sciences of the period.

Psychic Evenings
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