A while ago on this Blog we mentioned the annual Egton Bridge Gooseberry Show. This year it took place on 1 August and here are a few photos from the day.
For the Show on film – have a look at The Forgotten Fruit, made by Deadpan Films.
Many place names survive from the early middle ages and from even earlier. The spelling may have changed but the roots are still identifiable.
In a lot of cases the names of settlements include a personal name, presumably the most important person – mostly male, but sometimes female*. Other place names describe the location using the visible landscape topography and identifiable natural environment features, and also indicate the worth of the land being described i.e. whether it is fertile or not, whether it has been cleared for agriculture. People and personal names have changed but where a settlement or location is named after its topography or a nearby habitat it can still be possible to see why today where these features still exist a thousand years later.
These kind of place names are rare on the eastern side of England because this is where the Anglo-Saxon and Viking forays and then annexations began, securing their footholds and establishing new settlements before entrenching. So it is more often features, in particular rivers, rather than settlements that have an Old British name.
North York Moors examples:
Glais(dale) – small stream, or grey/blue/green
River Esk – water
River Derwent – river where oaks are common
River Dove – black, dark
River Rye – hill, ascent
The Roman Empire in the British Isles reached the North York Moors and beyond. Roman features like forts and roads which were few and far between are described in subsequent Old English place names elsewhere, but not so much in the North York Moors.
Old English (Anglo-Saxon, Anglian)
North York Moors examples:
Personal names such as Beage* (Byland), Broc (Broxa), Ecga (Egton), Helm (Helmsley), Poca (Pockley).
Ampleforth – a ford where sorrel grows
Cawthorn – a cold place with hawthorn trees
Goathland – good land (surrounded by the barren moorland)
Hackness – a hook shaped headland around which a river flows
Lealholm – small island where willows grow
River Riccal, tributary of the River Rye – calf of the River Rye or little Rye
Ruswarp – silted land where brushwood grows
Norse (Viking, Scandinavian)
North York Moors examples:
Personal names such as Asulfr (Aislaby), Bolti (Boltby), Rudda* (Rudland), Thymill (Thimbleby), Uggi (Ugthorpe).
Ellerbeck – a stream next to alder trees or woodland
Fangdale – valley with a river for fishing
Hesketh – a race course
Laskill – the location of a hut, possibly with abundant lichen
Lythe – a hillside, a slope
Sleights – a level field
Upsall – a high homestead or hall
The basic rule of thumb is that if a settlement name ends in –by (farmstead, village) it is from the Norse, and if it ends in –ton or –ham (enclosure, farmstead, village, manor, estate) it is from the Old English. Another frequent Old English place name ending is –ley or –ly meaning a clearing and then later, when more established, a pasture.
Sometimes there is no question about the origin of a place name, for example Danby is very clearly connected to the Vikings – it means a settlement of Danes. But there were often Norse settlements alongside Anglo-Saxon settlements as the populations fluctuated, adjusted and integrated over time. Many places names were hybridized, adapted and amalgamated e.g.
Kirby Knowle – village with a church (Norse), below a knoll/small round hill (Old English)
Ingleby Greenhow – village on a hill (Norse) which is green and belongs to the Angles/English (Old English)
Scugdale – valley with Goblins (Scandinavianized Old English)
There are common words still used in the north of England such as beck (Norse) for a stream, rig or rigg (Norse) for a ridge, mire (Norse) for a bog, and dale (Old English) for a valley. Moor is an Old English word for an unproductive marsh or barren upland area.
Old French (Norman) – unlike the Anglo-Saxons and Vikings who came with populations that were then settled and absorbed, the Norman invasion was more of a baronial take over so Norman names mainly occur around seats of power demarcating property and patronage.
North York Moors examples:
Rievaulx – valley of the River Rye, is close by Helmsley Castle which belonged to the De Roos family.
Grosmont – big hill, an off shoot monastery named after the mother house at Grosmont in France.
Where settlements now include ‘le’ in their names, this is sometimes a modern addition and doesn’t necessarily indicate a Norman/French connection.
Then there are newer, more obvious names with recognisable descriptive (Middle and then Modern English) words and connotations like Black Moor, Cold Moor, Littlebeck, Sandsend, Church Houses, Low Mill. Sometimes however what seems obvious is not necessarily so. The name Rosedale probably isn’t to do with roses at all, it’s more likely to be about horses (hross is the Old Norse word for horse). Robin Hood is a generic name for a thief, so Robin Hood’s Bay might be more to do with its excellent location for smuggling, rather than a connection to THE Robin Hood.
With thanks to the Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names
Beth Davies – Building Conservation Officer
A hundred years ago the First World War was into its fourth calendar year with no end in sight; Germany announced on 31 January 1917 that unrestricted submarine warfare would commence the following day and all ships in the war zone would become targets…
It is very difficult for us now to appreciate the full horror of what the servicemen who fought in the war experienced. Similarly we can only begin to imagine what it must have been like for those at home left behind without fathers, husbands, brothers and sons.
In the aftermath of the First World War thousands of built memorials to the dead were erected across Britain. These communal memorials acted as shared totems for society suffering devastating loss and in the face of the official policy of not repatriating the dead. They provided an embodiment of the common grief felt and the validation of sacrifice, and still today provide a tangible reminder of the real impact of war. Whereas the huge numbers of dead and injured are difficult to grasp, the individual names of the local people lost are poignant and tangible.
War Memorials draw particular public interest and warrant serious consideration for listing. Historic England is particularly keen during the centenary of the First World War to increase protection of unlisted memorials. Following on from the listing of the Commondale Shepherds’ Memorial last year, we are pleased that two further war memorials in the North York Moors have been afforded Grade II listed status as part Historic England’s drive to protect for posterity these meaningful and evocative structures.
Glaisdale War Memorial was unveiled on 4 December 1920 by Major General Sir James K Trotter, FCB, CMG. It is an elegant example of a Latin cross set on a tapering octagonal section shaft and displays a high level of craftsmanship with carved decorative details and fine lettering. Its prominent location on a small green with expansive views north down Glaisdale contributes to its impact in recalling the memory of the dead and where they belonged. The plinth at the base of the shaft reads ‘TO THE MEMORY OF THE MEN OF GLAISDALE WHO FELL IN THE GREAT WAR 1914-1919 JESU BLEST GRANT THEM IN THY LOVE TO REST’. There are thirteen names: John Boas, William J M Child, James Jefferson, John Pearson, Ralph Scarth, Charles E Scanlon, John H Scarth, Frederick Scarth, Francis R Scarth, William Ward, Ernest Wilson, Pennock Winspear, Harry Winspear.
The Commondale War Memorial was unveiled by Lord Guisborough at an ecumenical ceremony held on 31 August 1921. It was designed by WH Earl of Danby and made by J Ford of Castleton. The memorial commemorates nine local servicemen who died during the First World War including the two shepherds commemorated by the aforementioned Grade II listed Shepherds’ Memorial. The names are Thomas Monk, Samuel Lawson, Thomas Gibson, Robert H Leggott, William Hill, Frederick W Robinson, Charles E Foster, Alfred Cockerill, David Johnson. It comprises a stone Latin cross on a short tapering square-sectioned shaft which rises from a plinth set on a four-stage square base. Set into the plinth are unusual, brown salt-glazed stoneware tablets probably made by the local London and Cleveland Fire Brick Co Ltd Brick and Pipe Works. On the main facing and rear tablets are stamped the words ‘IN HONOURED MEMORY OF THE MEN OF COMMONDALE WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES FOR GOD, KING AND COUNTRY, IN THE GREAT WAR 1914-1918. THEIR NAME SHALL LIVE FOR EVER AND THEIR GLORY SHALL NOT BE BLOTTED OUT. LEST WE FORGET’.
For anyone interested in finding out more about the war memorials in the North York Moors and the men commemorated please visit the Roll of Honour website. For communities wishing to carry out repairs to their War Memorial it’s worth contacting the War Memorials Trust as grant aid and advice are often available. For further advice about how to apply to have a War Memorial listed please contact the National Park Authority’s Building Conservation team on 01439 772700.
Tom Stephenson, External Funding Officer
There must be something in the water in the North York Moors, having just started delivering the This Exploited Land of Iron Landscape Partnership Scheme, the National Park Authority and its partners* have also been successful at the first stage of securing a further £2 million of Heritage Lottery Fund money to develop our next Landscape Partnership Scheme – Ryevitalise.
The River Rye and its tributaries rise on the moorland of the North York Moors, flowing through fast and clear upland becks that carve out steep sided dales until the land flattens and the river slows and broadens taking on the character of the undulating Howardian Hills and the flat lowlands of the Vale of Pickering. The Ryevitalise Landscape Partnership Scheme under development will help appreciate and enhance the Rye’s verdant landscape and clear waters which have been prized for millennia for their beauty and tranquillity resulting in a more natural, better functioning and better understood landscape.
Planned projects will cover four themes:
Without wanting to spoil the surprise of future blog posts, below are just some of the particular issues we are aiming to address through Ryevitalise scheme projects if we’re lucky enough to be successful in our Stage 2 application due in October 2018.
Water is the major theme of Ryevitalise. Through the Ryevitalise scheme, from the high moorlands to the lowland wetlands, we will identify priority areas of riparian habitat for restoration to ensure existing high-value habitats (and their species) are in positive management and can act as nodes from which to extend outwards by creating ‘stepping stones’ and connections between these habitat sites.
Wetter still, we will assess the geomorphology and key features of the aquatic environment and target areas where aquatic habitats could be improved by creating changes to the channel through creating gravel bars, by placing debris to create slacks or by making changes to river bank profile. This work will include a survey of the habitats and species of the oxbow lakes in the lower Rye, and also the collecting and analysis of sediment cores to look for valuable paleoecological data which might shed light on how the local landscape formed.
We have previously reported on the problems that fluctuating water levels in the River Rye
in Duncombe Park has on the White-clawed crayfish, the only native crayfish in the UK, which is suffering from a “perfect storm” of threats. Ryevitalise will prioritise protective measures for the existing population and carry out a feasibility study to identify where potential local ark sites might be located. Ark sites for White-clawed crayfish would allow populations to become established in isolation, separated from the threat of non-native crayfish and the crayfish plague they can carry.
One of the Rye catchment’s smallest inhabitants is the Alcathoe bat. Relatively new to science, having been first identified in 2001 and only recently becoming the latest addition to the UK bat family, this little creature has only been found at two other sites in the UK so far. Ryevitalise will seek to establish a deeper knowledge of where colonies of the Alcathoe bat and other key bat populations are, along with the requirements to support their survival.
At the other end of the size spectrum and intrinsically linked to bats are some of the Rye catchment’s largest residents – its ancient and veteran trees. The area is a national hotspot for these giants that not only give an air of majesty to the landscape as living witnesses to history but also provide important habitat for many invertebrate species as well as providing important roosting sites for Rye bat populations.
Not only is the Rye catchment home to iconic built heritage like Rievaulx Abbey, Rievaulx Terrace, Duncombe Park and Nunnington Hall but it also contains a wealth of less obvious heritage that traces vernacular land use and tells the story of the working River Rye. Working with local history groups, Ryevitalise will record the remaining evidence of man’s relationship with the river over the centuries, surveying and recording the traces of the former agricultural and industrial settlements along the river banks. Accurate 3D models will be produced of the principal remaining watermills, iron working sites, water races and leats. Essential conservation and consolidation work will be identified from the surveys carried out.
Like a lot of watercourses, it is not practical to access the river in its entirety at ground level. So as part of the Ryevitalise scheme an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle flight will record the entire 50km main river from its moorland origins all the way downstream to where it
meets the River Derwent. This will produce an invaluable record and will provide an insightful journey along the river for local communities, highlighting how this vital artery connects them all. Tailored sections of flight data will be made freely available to local schools, businesses, and community groups as a community resource; it will also form part of the scheme’s wider education programme.
We are all really excited about the next steps in developing the Ryevitalise scheme; the opportunity to make the most of the wealth of habitats, species and history surrounding the river; the potential to make a lasting difference to this wonderful landscape, and the chance to create a real splash.
* Partners currently include East Yorkshire Rivers Trust, English Heritage, Environment Agency, Forestry Commission, Howardian Hills AONB, National Trust, Natural England, North Yorkshire County Council, Ryedale District Council, Woodland Trust, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, as well as local communities.
Whether by accident or design these were our top 5 posts in 2016, according to the number of views.
If you’re a land manager and you’re interested in grant to help you create, manage or improve your own woodland masterpiece – here’s a link to the national funding that’s available. Watch out for the set application windows because they’re often quite short.
As part of the renovation of The Crown Hotel in Helmsley the building was subject to a re-assessment of the development of its historic fabric by Colin Briden, an Historic Buildings Archaeologist who reported in April 2016. His report concluded…
Although partly demolished in the 18th century to bring it ‘up to date’, and extensively refurbished in the 20th century to make it look ‘olde worlde’, the building retains considerable evidence for a high-status late mediaeval timber framed house of two jettied storeys (where upper storeys project beyond the lower storey) and attics in a prominent position. The house is of an unusually large scale. Other comparable size houses in the wider area are from much later dates.
Now that the building is free from the unfortunate results of the 20th century remodelling it is possible to see it as it really is – ‘the battered remnant of late mediaeval construction work on the grand scale carried out by an unusually wealthy owner’.
In 1478 Helmsley was sold to Richard, Duke of Gloucester, later Richard III; it reverted to the de Roos family on his death. The name of the subsequent hotel is suggestive of a reference to this short lived but significant royal ownership.
In its latest adaptation, the building is now a shop.
Following our work in 2014-15 (reported in early 2016), we were pleased that Historic England were able to remove one of the coastal alum working Scheduled Monuments from the Heritage at Risk register because we had fully recorded those parts of the monument which were under threat. However, four other Scheduled alum working sites remain on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register despite our efforts to record some of their most vulnerable features. So what next?
Working with Whitby Museum and specialists from Historic England, we held a seminar last spring bringing together a group of dedicated people with a strong interest or connection to the coastal alum working sites – landowners, archaeologists, academics and private researchers – to review what we know about the alum industry, to decide what we don’t understand and to look for a way forward to manage the risk to the sites under threat and ensure that we do not lose the valuable information held within them. One of the ideas emerging from the seminar was a further excavation project with an emphasis on engagement and interpretation as well as research.
Archaeological excavations take considerable planning and funds to ensure that they are carried out to a high standard and achieve objectives without causing accidental damage, so it can be a slow process getting started. We are now working towards setting up a project to investigate one of the sites which we didn’t include in the investigations in 2014-15 – the alum works at Stoupe Brow, near Ravenscar. An extensive system of reservoirs and water leats (dug channels) was revealed on the nearby Fylingdales Moor after the 2003 wildfire and we know that this water management system supplied the needs of the alum processing at Stoupe Brow, but other than that we currently know very little about this site. Historic England recently completed a topographic survey of the earthworks so we can now see how the site was laid out, but not how it operated. The site still includes its alum house (where the final processing to produce alum crystals was carried out) and there is still a general gap in knowledge when it comes to how alum houses functioned. As well as trying to discover more about the practical operations at the site the project will record the structures which are currently being gradually lost over the cliff edge. A big advantage of this particular site is that it is more accessible and less dangerous compared to some of the other coastal alum working sites – providing great opportunities for volunteers and visitors.
The first stage of the project is producing a project proposal which will outline what we want to do and how much it will cost, and this is expected by the end of this winter. The next step will be using the proposal to generate partnership support and seek funding. It is early days yet, but we hope this will develop into an exciting project – watch out for further posts as our plans progress.
Mags Waughman, Monument Management Scheme Officer
Our Senior Archaeologist is taking phased retirement, so before he goes he has been asked to reflect on his time with the North York Moors National Park.
Graham Lee – Senior Archaeological Conservation Officer
I started work for the North York Moors National Park in April 1990, having previously worked in the archaeology section of North Yorkshire County Council since the summer of 1983. I had decided many years before that I loved the north of England and had no desire to return to my southern ‘roots’.
One of my first tasks with the National Park was the completion of a management survey of one of our large estates, encompassing moorland and large blocks of forestry. This quickly whetted my appetite for the excitement of making new archaeological discoveries – often very subtle earthworks, no more than a handful of centimetres in depth or relief – despite an exceptional tradition of previous high quality archaeological fieldwork in the region. Working solo in large blocks of conifers was a good test of dedication – crawling under the branches of dense stands of conifers searching for vague earthworks mapped in the 1890s – and the steadiness of nerve, when yet another wretched pheasant exploded out of the leafy vegetation where I was just about to step! In recent years the delights of discovery have been broadening thanks to new technology and techniques, especially LiDAR which provides an aerial view through tree and ground-cover vegetation of archaeological remains that were previously hidden or obscured.
If you have a passion for the past, the North York Moors have something for pretty much everyone – enigmatic Neolithic rock art; surviving prehistoric pitted boundaries and avenues; upstanding Bronze Age funerary monuments and field systems; Roman encampments; medieval castles and monasteries…
Human industry is also well represented – from the earliest iron industry through the search for alum into the full-blown “iron rush” of the mid 19th century, the exploitation of coal and jet, and the plentiful local rivers managed to provide motive power for a range of watermills. Research and conservation priorities relating to these local industries finally led to our new HLF Landscape Partnership Scheme, This Exploited Land of Iron. Some 15 or so years in gestation, it is very rewarding to see new generations captured by the excitement of the important remains of our 19th century ironstone industry and the associated development of early railways – although the original scheme for a canal link between Whitby and Pickering would have been a sight to behold and a major tourist attraction if it had ever been built.
Into the 20th century, remains survive here from both world wars – in the form of coastal defences, army camps as well as troop training and target practice areas. Finds are still occasionally made of 2nd World War unexploded ordnance in former training areas across the North York Moors, in particular after the wildfire on Fylingdales Moor in 2003 which affected two square kilometres of heather moorland.
Although an environmental disaster – the severity of the fire in reducing the shallow peat cover to ash, this event was an archaeological revelation. Virtually everywhere you looked, subtle archaeological remains became visible, including the drip gulleys around former prehistoric round houses, low stony prehistoric boundaries and cairns, large numbers of previously unrecorded examples of Neolithic rock art and occasional shallow trenches which resembled grave cuts with a subsiding infill. As numbers of the latter quickly increased their interpretation became clear – slit trenches from 2nd World War troop training. I remember my first visit to the site after the fire when the ground was reddened and blackened, covered in ash and still smouldering; few trees had survived and many had toppled after the peat holding their roots in place had been burnt away. Flashes of colour were very noticeable, such as an adder emerging from its underground refuge having survived the conflagration. A major project ensued, both to protect and restore the moorland habitat and to record and investigate the breath-taking remains of surviving archaeology.
There have always been new specialisms to get to grips with. A visit to the Scheduled Rosedale iron calcining kilns with the Park’s Conservation Director at the time revealed that a portion of one of the kilns’ firebrick linings had collapsed the previous winter. This led to a major conservation project to stabilise these huge monuments which ran for three years in the mid 1990s, a forerunner of This Exploited Land which will continue the efforts to conserve these monumental sites 20 years on.
It has been such a pleasure working with like-minded and dedicated professionals, both in my own National Park, but also with colleagues throughout the family of British National Parks, and Historic England and Natural England. We’ve shared experiences and ideas to the betterment of our discipline from research to management, and also shared the excitement of attempting to bring our subject, which we love, to life for anyone who cares to see and to get involved.
The National Park Authority is currently looking for a new Senior Archaeologist to lead on archaeology in the North York Moors. The closing date for applications is 26 January 2017.
Building Conservation Team
The Building Conservation team at the National Park have a vested interest in keeping the area’s traditional buildings in good repair so as to maintain and secure this particular element of the North York Moors’ special qualities. We have a new Advice Note on using lime mortars, the rudiments of which are explained below.
Most buildings in the North York Moors were traditionally constructed using stone and lime mortars (to bind the stonework together), often with earth and rubble filled cores. Lime was used for bedding and pointing the stonework and for rendering. Rendering with mortar was used to cover poorer-quality masonry underneath or to make a building more weather proof, for example on the coast. Most historic buildings were constructed from materials found locally and this contributes to what is distinctive about the ‘local vernacular’.
When it comes to repairing a surviving traditional building it is important to understand how they work. These buildings are usually of simple construction and built using breathable materials. Bricks and stone are bonded with flexible and permeable mortars made of lime and sand which allow the building to ‘breathe’. When it rains moisture is absorbed into the external surface but is then able to evaporate through the more porous pointing or render. Using a lime based mortar or render for repairs nowadays means that this process can continue.
In contrast modern cement mortars and renders along with plastic paints, waterproof sealants and damp-proof courses all act as barriers to a traditional wall’s natural ability to breathe. The trapping of moisture within permeable materials like stone can exacerbate the very problems these products are trying to resolve. The use of cement-based mortars can have a significant negative visual (photo below left) and physical impact on traditional historic buildings. The photo below (right) shows the extent of stone decay caused by the use of a cement mortar. Because the cement is much harder than the stone, moisture cannot evaporate through the joints and instead evaporates through the stone causing it to ‘weather away’ through premature erosion.
You can usually tell what type of mortar has been used most recently; cement based mortars tend to be dark grey and hard in appearance and texture whereas lime based mortars are generally lighter and softer in appearance and texture. Because they allow the surrounding masonry to dry out the colour of the stone will also lighten.
There are a number of different types of lime mortars/renders. Replacing like for like is important.
Non-hydraulic lime is the raw material produced when limestone (calcium carbonate) is fired, often called ‘quicklime’ (calcium oxide). It is sold in a slaked form (with water) as lime putty which is then mixed with an aggregate (e.g. sand) to produce mortars and plasters. These putty limes possess good breathability and flexibility and are ideal for use with soft porous materials allowing the maximum permeability.
Hydraulic lime comes in powdered form and will start to set as soon as it comes into contact with water. It is ideal for use in wet or very exposed situations or where there is a need for a higher compressive strength or a quick set. Hydraulic limes come in a variety of strengths e.g. NHL2, NHL3.5 and NHL5 – the higher the number the less flexibility and breathability the mortar will have.
Hydrated or bagged lime is a form of non-hydraulic lime which is sold as a powder. It is sold by builders’ merchants as an additive for cement mixes in order to give modern cement mixes more plasticity and workability. It is generally considered to be inferior to lime putty, not least because an unknown proportion will have reacted with carbon dioxide and set by the time it reaches the site.
Hot-mixed lime is made when quicklime is mixed with water and aggregate simultaneously. The vast majority of historic lime mortars were probably hot-mixed. There are several benefits of using a hot-lime mortar: it can produce cleaner work as there is less leaching, it has a easily-workable elasticity which produces solid and full joints, it appears to be more breathable and therefore more compatible with stonework, and it has potential for use in colder weather notwithstanding the requirement for protection from freezing during the curing (setting) process.
A standard pointing mix consists of a lime mortar mix of 1:2½ lime:sand (sand mix of 50% sharp sand and 50% builders sand) for a slightly recessed bagged finish. However there may be times when a bespoke mix is required such as when different colour sand is needed to match existing historic mortar.
Repointing is only needed where mortar has become loose, decayed or eroded to an extent that water has started to penetrate the joints. If the mortar is firm or so hard that it needs to be chiselled out then it is best to leave it in place as removal could damage the masonry. The repointing of delicate ashlar joints (made out of worked stone) is not generally advisable as the joints are so fine that getting old pointing out can lead to irreversible damage of the masonry.
If repointing is necessary joints should be carefully raked out manually or by non-electric tools (no angle grinders) to a depth equal to one and half times the width of the joint and never less than 35 mm. Great care must be taken to keep the edges of the stone intact and joints should never be widened. Work should not be carried out when there is a danger of frost or heavy rain (this is less important when using a hot lime mix). Mortar must be protected from drying out too quickly from wind, rain and frost by protecting the area. Rain must never be allowed to strike the mortar and stonework until the setting process is complete.
The mortar should be stippled as the initial set takes place, with a stiff bristle brush, to produce a textured appearance capable of shedding water and slightly set back from the stone outer surface to ensure the full arris (edge) of each stone shows clearly in relief.
The photo below (left) illustrates a good lime mortar mix and pointing method. The aggregate used in the mix has been exposed by brushing back the pointing to a recessed finish which allows the stone to be the dominant feature. The other photo below (right) shows historic pointing on an old outbuilding where roof tiles were used to fill in larger gaps between the stones, adding to its particular character and appearance.
If you need further information, or advice on sources of materials, or any clarification regarding the need for listed building consent or planning permission before re-pointing or rendering a traditional building, get in touch with our Building Conservation Team.
Tom Mutton – TEL Programme Manager
When businessmen visited the Beck Hole Ironworks in 1860 their report in the Whitby Gazette gave a beautifully poetic account of this new enterprise. Despite the author’s lyrical writing style the article also illustrates a perceived total domination over the natural world that was the foundation of the industrial revolution.
This is partly what This Exploited Land is all about. Although in modern times we may miss the elegant language of the Victorian era, many of us have a very different view of the natural world and the potentially devastating effects of humanity’s exploitation of the planet. The way that nature has reclaimed the mines of the Esk Valley and Rosedale is humbling to see and shows us that we are surrounded by a beautiful and fascinating world that we should use our intellect to care for rather than abuse. To do this best we need to remember and learn from the past, being inspired by the monumental relics in the landscape and the stories from our ancestors who lived very different lives in the North York Moors we now enjoy.
Transcribed from Whitby Gazette 16 June 1860:
“…It is our pleasing duty to report the successful operation of the Whitby Iron Company’s (Limited) Works, at Goathland, which we noticed in our last impression as having been blown in on 7th inst.
A few of our principal townsmen spent Monday evening at those Works, and were delighted with the various departments. The magnificent engine which supplies the blast for smelting the iron from the ore moves round like a thing of life, and at once the ever-lasting hills of the valley resound with the voice as of a tide bursting upon our shores.
We heartily wish the Company success, as the pioneers in a pursuit which is destined to revolutionise the habits and maxims of the valley of the Esk, and with the facility of the rails and our own good port, we venture, the day is not distant when capital and enterprise will demand that the whole of the district become one grand scene of industry, and that, from one end of the valley to the other, Old King Coal, supported by the genius of man, will assert his power in developing those vast storehouses of wealth which, during the last few years, have attracted the attention of strangers to those exhaustless beds of minerals which nature has provided and stored up in this locality, for the use of man in the arts of civilised life. And Whitby will one day have to rejoice in the fact, that she is one of the principal ports in the kingdom for the export of iron to the commercial ports of the world.
Beckhole, the little village at the head of the valley where these works are situate, has now a strange sight to look out upon morning and evening, which are ushered in with a torrent of molten iron and a flood of lava gushing forth from the bowels of the company’s furnace. The sweet songsters of the woods and glens are now giving up their claim to the morning’s dawn and evening calm. The _________ voices of the sons of toil mingling with the music of the compressed air of the blast engine, wait for the dawn of the East, whilst the perpetual columns of vapour, smoke, and flame, tell of the presence of man, successfully reducing to practice the maxim of the company’s tablet, viz “Tis the prerogative of man to command, develope, and appropriate to his service the elements with which God has surrounded him.” The tablet at the foot of which the above inscription is fixed commemorates the incorporation of the Company, the date at which the first Iron was made upon the Works, and the names of the Directors; and was cast from the Iron first run from the furnace.
In this noble course of action the W.I.C.L., have led the way. We heartily wish them god speed, and doubt not the success which awaits their spirited enterprise; and hail with joy the event as a blessing to the surrounding neighbourhood, and the watchword to the progressive establishment if similar works, whose effect will be to convert this district into one of the most thriving seats of the iron trade of this country, creating labour for man and beast, and scattering in its train the blessings of trade hitherto unknown in the locality.”
This tablet, referred to in the article and cast from the first Esk Valley iron, can be seen today in Whitby Museum.
It’s worth noting that Whitby Iron Company Limited was short lived – it was wound up in 1862.
Can you help?
There are two words in the article that are obscured by a tear in the paper from which it was transcribed – can you suggest what the missing words before ‘voices of the sons of toil…’ might be? please let us know.
Ravens (Corvus corax) are a relatively common bird in some places. In the British Isles they currently breed mainly in the west and north. But they have been moving eastwards.
Single Ravens are now and again seen over the North York Moors. Excitingly, this summer saw the first breeding Ravens in the North York Moors for a long while, at least 50 years. Three chicks fledged.
The nest was near Ravenscar on the coast. Ravenscar and other places in the North York Moors such as Raven Hill, Raven Heath, Ravensthorpe, Raven Stones, Ravens Gill and Ravensgill Beck, usually share some kind of nearby cliff edge habitat (coastal or inland) where Ravens like to nest. The occurrence of these place names indicate that Ravens were more usual in the North York Moors in the past, so the fact that they have bred again in the North York Moors suggests a return and a boost to the natural heritage of the area.
These places were named so because of the presence of Ravens; Ravens have always been culturally significant. It’s not hard to see why. Their size, colour and sound is striking, but it is also their perceived cleverness, their carrion eating habits and their interaction with human society which gives them a special place in cultural history. Ravens have been loaded with superstitions and connotations. Wariness of the apparent watching and knowing nature of the bird causes unease. They are associated with premonitions of doom; seeing or hearing a Raven has been taken as a sign of imminent death. These dark associations continue, at least in part, today.
So in celebration of this age old cultural fear and to mark Halloween, here is an example of a local Raven tale. The lesson is – never look a Raven in the eye.
Some time ago a man was walking home over the moors.
It was already dusk but he didn’t mind because he didn’t have much further to go and he had made money that day.
He knew the way because he had walked it many times before. He counted the scarce land marks as he went till he knew there were only three more boundary stones to pass before the moors would give way to a gentler landscape and then it was only a few miles to his home.
As the gloom drew in he saw the first of the three boundary stones just ahead of him. A Raven was sitting on top of the stone. As the man went passed the bird didn’t fly away, instead it looked at him, cocked its head and called out in the silence
The man turned his head. The Raven still looked at him.
The man hurried on. He was starting to feel tired but he could see the glow of the lights of his village in the distance just over the horizon of the darkening moors. He thought about the warmth of his fire and the taste of his dinner.
It was getting colder and the greyness around him was turning to black. There were no stars in the sky, and he couldn’t see the moon. There were odd shapes on the moors, in the gloom – ancient silent burial mounds and twisted bitter rowan trees.
Just in front he saw the outline of the second boundary stone. There was a Raven sitting on top. The man didn’t look at it – he walked straight on, looking ahead. The Raven looked at him though.
The man pulled his coat around him. He didn’t know why he was mishearing the bird call. He tried to hum a tune, but he couldn’t think of one.
For a moment he thought about heading off the track to avoid the last boundary stone but he knew he couldn’t because then he would be lost. He thought about the people he’d heard of that had been lost on the moors and who had never got home.
He kept walking. He felt the damp blackness pressing about him. He couldn’t see the last boundary stone. He thought he should have seen it by now. The glow on the horizon didn’t seem any closer, in fact it looked to be receding as if it were being out blotted out by the dark.
He stumbled and nearly fell. There was the last boundary stone and there was a Raven.
The man stopped and looked at the Raven. The Raven looked back at him, eye to eye.
The man became aware of the dead around him and knew in fact he must be dead too. He could go on walking but would never get home. So instead he sat down next to the last boundary stone and waited.
The darkness gathered in.
Ravens make a lot of different noises (listen here) – and can even learn to mimic words.
For a Halloween Raven-themed treat – both ominous and ghastly – try here.
The British Film Institute’s Britain on Film Archive holds a number of amateur and professional films that feature the North York Moors and provide a treasure trove of 20th century cultural heritage. Each film is of its time – the sensibilities, the landscapes, the cars (or lack of them), the clothes – from a 1927 mediaeval pageant performed at Mount Grace and starring Sir Hugh and Lady Bell; to the Yorkshire Television documentary from 1985, The Unsleeping Eye, which went inside the RAF Fylingdales early warning station and couldn’t be more Cold War centric.
But many of the elements are also familiar – children playing on the beach, boys not wanting to dance, moorland sheep wandering across the road, the appeal of steam locomotives, and the unending desire to record moments in time.
The Yorkshire Moors 1950 features a mother and daughter, and two small dogs, exploring the moors and dales and ending up in Whitby where inevitably they count the 199 steps up to the church. There is presumably a husband/father behind the scenes taking charge as Director and Camera Operator. The North York Moors National Park was designated two years later and the landscape as seen was one of the main reasons for the designation. But its not all pretty scenery; for a few seconds there is a view of ‘disused iron ore mines’, which are probably near Skelton to the north of the present day National Park.
Staithes 1959 heavily features the village of Staithes and its cobble fishing as well as recording the wider countryside round about including the eroding alum industry remains along the cliff edges and shore line which have eroded a whole lot more since.
Without any sound or any intertitle cards the film maker’s motivation is left to the viewer’s imagination.
And then there is The Children of Eskdale made by Yorkshire Television in 1973. It’s a fly on the wall documentary about two generations of a farming family – the Raw family of Fryup Dale. It’s about ordinary life in the early 1970s that happens to be on a farm in the North York Moors with all that entails. It comes with the low key reflection by John Raw on the dispatching of a couple of bantams “they come but they’ve got to go – that’s farming for you”.
The coldness of the winter landscape contrasts with the warmth and care that the family members have for each other. It ends with a understated act of familial kindness.