This beautiful hill has always fascinated locals and visitors alike. Prior to the twentieth century a number of antiquarians and historians speculated as to whether Freebrough Hill was natural or man made. It was often compared to Silbury Hill in Wiltshire, the largest man-made mound in Europe. Sadly, the hill is completely natural and bears a scar where sandstone was once quarried from its flanks. There are a number of folk tales concerning the hill and it’s origins.
Freebrough was supposed to have been created by the Wade, the giant of the moors. The origins of Wade and his wife Bell are unknown but they were primal deities, responsible for the creation of many of the landscape features on the North York Moors. Another tale attributes the creation of the hill to the Devil. Apparently ‘Ould Scratch’ was enraged by a witch who had outwitted him. As the witch made her escape the Devil threw handfuls of earth at her across the moors, thus creating not only Freebrough Hill but also Roseberry and Blakely Toppings. The resulting hole, from where the Devil had gouged out the earth, became the Hole of Horcum or the ‘Devil’s Punchbowl’.
My favourite tale regarding the hill is the story of Edward Trotter, a farmer who lived in Dimmingdale during the reign of King Edward II. Trotter was checking his sheep on the slopes of the hill when he discovered a tunnel leading into the hill. He crawled into the narrow opening which soon opened out becoming large enough to walk along. After a while he came across a heavy wooden door which led to a dimly-lit chamber. On entering the chamber Trotter met a large man, dressed in chain mail, guarding the chamber. Beyond the guard he could see a number of men, dressed in armour, sleeping around a large wooden table. The guard hushed Trotter and told him that the sleeping knights were King Arthur and his knights. The guard told Trotter that the knights were sleeping until a time when they were required to free England from tyranny.
The guard swore Trotter to secrecy and allowed him to leave, Trotter returned home and told his wife about the tunnel and the sleeping knights. The following day they returned to the place where Trotter had discover the tunnel but could find no trace of it. Mrs Trotter accused her husband of dreaming the whole event.