I had the pleasure of chatting about our current exhibition to Dave Robson of Zetland FM. Interview starts at around 2:20:00
My friend Graham Vasey and I took a walk up to Lilla Howe, Graham was wanting to have a look at Lilla Cross and make some images as part of his ongoing Dainn series, exploring landscape and folklore.
Lilla Howe is classified as a Bowl Barrow, a large burial mound built of turf and stone. It dates from the Bronze Age and is part of a chain of barrows that run from the southern edge of the Esk valley to the Tabular Hills. This and other lines of Barrows on the moors may once have been used as boundary markers, defining the territories or estates of different groups, the mounds of the ancestors, perhaps indicating legitimacy and continuity of ownership. This use continues today as many of the more prominent moorland barrows continue to define modern boundaries.
Lilla Howe is a very ancient and important landmark, it marks the junction of four ancient parishes, Allerston, Fylingdales Moor, Goathland and Lockton. This boundary was first recorded in AD 1078 but may be much older.
The stone cross has a ‘G’ carved into its north face, this signifies Goathland, there is a ‘C’ on the southern face which is thought to represent Cholmley. The Cholmley family took ownership of the land in the sixteenth century following the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the estate had previously been owned by Whitby Abbey.
It was also a junction of two significant trackways running south from the coast to the Vale of Pickering, The Old Salt or Fish Road and the Pannier Man’s Way. These tracks are now lost beneath RAF Fylingdales. Lilla Howe continues to be used as a boundary marker, it is a junction for a modern parliamentary constituency boundary.
This section of the moors is also significant as it is the point where the moorland becks and streams run to the south. The northern moors are drained by two major rivers, The Esk and the Leven. The becks and rivers of the southern moors drain into the River Derwent. Derwent Head, the source of the River Derwent is less than a mile south of Lilla Howe.
Lilla Cross sits on top of Lilla Howe, it is one of a few surviving, intact moorland crosses. The tradition is that the cross was erected as a memorial to Lilla, a lord at the court of King Edwin.
The prehistoric burial mound was re-used during the early Medieval period, two Gold discs and four silver strap-ends were found in the mound, these items were used to re-enforce the tradition that this was the burial site of Lilla, therefore dating the cross to the seventh century. Unfortunately the objects found in the mound are Scandinavian in design and date to the tenth century.
Bede’s account of Lilla
…there came to the kingdom an assassin whose name was Eomer, who had been sent by Cwichelm, King of the West Saxons, hoping to deprive King Edwin of his Kingdom and his life. He came on Easter Day to the King’s hall which then stood by the River Derwent. He entered the hall on the pretence of delivering a message from his lord, and while the cunning rascal was expounding his pretended mission, he suddenly leapt up, drew the sword from beneath his cloak, and made a rush at the King. Lilla, a most devoted thegn, saw this, but not having a shield in his hand to protect the King from death, he quickly interposed his own body to receive the blow. His foe thrust the weapon with such force that he killed the thegn and wounded the King as well through his dead body.
Etymolgy – Rivers
Derwent – Derived from British derva ‘oak’ Welsh derw &c. The name means ‘river where oaks were common’.
Esk – A British-river name identical with Axe, Exe and with Usk in Wales and Isch and others on the continent. British Isca became Esca, whence OE Esce and Aesce, which gave Esk and with metathesis Exe and Axe…and probably comes from pid-ska or pit-ska the root being pi- in Greek piduo ‘to gush forth’.
Leven – A British river-name identical with Libnios c150 Ptolemy (in Ireland) and Llyfni, Llynfi in Wales. The name may be derived from the adjective for ‘smooth’ found in Welsh llyfn.
Early Man in North East Yorkshire. Frank Elgee. 1930
Old Roads & Pannierways in North East Yorkshire. Raymond H Hayes. 1988
Lilla Cross on Lilla Howe, Fylingdales Moor. Historic England
Map reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland
Bede. The Ecclesiastic History of the English Nation. 1949
The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names. Eilert Ekwall. 1974
I was passing St. Mark’s Church in Marske and noticed that the door was open, I’d been wanting to have a look at the Norman font for a while so walked in. I was met by a very nice lady who showed me around the church.
The first thing that caught my eye was this beautiful foliated cross. This style of cross is quite rare, the information board states that it is only one of four known to exist in England. The lady told me that the cross was found buried in the sand dunes in 1901. She said that it marked the route of a corpse road along the beach from Redcar to St. Germain’s graveyard.
The information board tells of how in 1570 Archbishop Grindal ordered that all such crosses should be destroyed. Archbishop Grindal was a puritan and as the newly appointed Archbishop of York he would no doubt have wanted to stamp out the superstitious practices of the Northern Roman Catholics. It was his influence that probably led to the loss of many of our moorland crosses. However, it seems that this lovely cross escaped destruction.
Reading through the antiquarian accounts of Marske, there is mention of a cross being erected in the centre of Marske during the 17th century. It was raised when nearby Guisborough was depopulated by the plague and the market moved to Marske. There is no record of what happened to the cross.
In 1874, a time before the cross had been re-discovered, the Antiquarian J.C. Atkinson wrote ‘that the cross itself dates or dated from a much earlier period’, he was right, this cross, if it was the one mentioned, is thought to date from 1230.
The lady asked me if I’d like to see the Green Man, ‘he’s in the kitchen’. We went in and there he was, mounted into the wall.
The carving was came from the ruined church of St. Germain. I guess that the lack of foliage means that he is not strictly a Green Man, he’s lovely and probably formed a capital in the old church. A number of our local Romanesque churches have capitals with carved spiral motifs including Great Ayton, Kirklevington and Egglescliffe. The spiral is also repeated on the font.
The font is a massive block carved with different patterns on all four sides. Rita Wood describes it as ‘slabby’ and lacking the elegance of the local group of early 12th century fonts. The size of the font may give some indication of the size of the church that predated the ruined St Germain’s church.
The font itself has had a bit of a chequered past. Prior to the nineteenth century it was used as a cattle trough in a local farmyard. It was then rescued and placed into the garden of the parsonage where it was used as a planter. It was finally moved into the church where it been returned to its original purpose, a baptismal font.
The History of Cleveland. Rev. J. Graves. 1808
The History & Antiquities of Cleveland. J. Walker Ord. 1846
History of Cleveland Ancient & Modern. Rev. J. C. Atkinson. 1874
Romanesque Yorkshire. Rita Wood. 2012
I took a walk from Danby Beacon to Lealholm Moor to have a look at a Ring Cairn that I had recently read about.
The wide track from the Beacon is made of slag, the slag would probably have been brought from the furnaces of Teesside during the early days of WWII when a large radar installation was built on the moors. Ironstone travelling from Rosedale and the Esk valley down to the furnaces of Teesside with iron-rich slag returning to the moors.
A rainstorm blows into Great Fryup Dale from the high moors
The storm tracks along the Esk valley, the sun briefly follows behind.
At the side of the track a gorse bush has grown a hedge around its base, a prickly windbreak for itself and the moorland sheep
On the rigg the thin moorland soils offer little, this is compounded by the regular burning and draining of the moors, ensuring that very little apart from heather and a few grasses can thrive. In times of increasing climate instability and the loss of native species, the management of grouse moors is coming under increasing pressure to change its ways. Stanhope White once called the moors ‘a man made desert’.
A moorland cross base and cradle, the remains of Stump Cross. The cross was located at the junction of 2 medieval trackways, Stonegate and Leavergate.
The cross base sits at the foot of Brown Rigg Howe, a Bronze Age Round Barrow located on a small hill. The barrow is intervisible with a number of other prehistoric monuments including mounds on the other side of the Esk Valley.
On top of the barrow is a steel plate, a base plate of a military searchlight, used for guarding the nearby Radar station during WWII.
The Brown Rigg barrow was opened by Canon Atkinson of Danby, he found a cremation burial and a stone axe made of basalt. A number of stone axes have been found locally including one made from Ironstone, it is now in the Whitby Museum.
Rabbits have made the mound their home, their paths revealed where the heather has been burned-off.
I walk on to the next barrow, a gamekeeper cruises by in his large 4×4. The keepers work for the Baron of Danby, Viscount Downe owner of the Dawnay Estate. The Dawnay estate website states that the Barons ancestors came from Aunay in Normandy. I would like to think that a number of my ancestors lie beneath the earth and stone mounds of the moors.
I arrive at the Ring Cairn. As with most surviving North Yorkshire moorland Ring Cairns there is very little to be seen, the 14 meter diameter ring can just be made out in the heather.
What draws me to these places is not necessarily the physical remains of the monuments but the opportunity to walk and observe their viewsheds, seeing how they sit in the landscape and speculate on their relationship with the many other prehistoric monuments of the area. Lines of mounds running across the moors and along the coast, marking the trackways and territories of our ancestors.
intervisibility/alignment – monuments – invasion beacons – radar stations – trackways
axe – ironstone – scoria
A great article on the WWII radar site at Danby Beacon http://liminalwhitby.blogspot.com/2012/12/danby-beacon.html
High Thorn under Will’s Hut passing Harlow Bush to the tank road. South passing Robin Hood’s Butts to Sandy Slack Head, west at Elm Ledge crossing Black Beck Swang peat pits to Siss Cross Road.
..the last earth fort
Born waiting to die
Viewshed sunwise – Gerrick Moor – Elm Ledge – Beacon Hill – Glaisdale Rigg – Great Fryup Dale – Heads – Danby High Moor – Danby Rigg – Ainthorpe Rigg – Danby Dale – Castleton Rigg – Westerdale Moor – Kempswithen – Kildale Moor – Haw Rigg – High Moor – Siss Cross Hill
White Cross survives as a base of local fine gritstone…The shaft is dressed in a chevron pattern indicating a post medieval date probably in the 19th century. The base is dateable to the medieval period. The east face of the base has the inscription – White Cross. Each face of the shaft is carved with a simple cross with equal arms 0.22m across. The east face has an OS bench mark cut near the ground. The cross has been whitewashed over the years according to the practice of the Downe Estate. The cross stands in its original position 2m from the edge of the old route from Castleton across Danby Low Moor. It also acts as a boundary marker for the medieval parishes of Danby and Commondale and now the county constituency of Cleveland and Whitby. The original shaft for this cross is in a museum at Whitby.
EXTRACT FROM ENGLISH HERITAGE’S RECORD OF SCHEDULED MONUMENTS
The Boiling well stands on the side of the road from Whitby to Hawsker. The well originally fed Whitby Abbey hence it’s other name T’awd Abba Well. A plaque on the well wall used to read
T’awd Abba Well
Also Known as The Old boiling Well
Lang centuries aback
This wor’t awd Abba Well
Saint Hilda veiled i’ black
Lang centuries aback
Supped frey it an no lack
All ‘r sisterhood as well
Lang centuries aback
This wor’t awd Abba Well
This very worn 10C Anglo Saxon cross sits beside a minor road at Low Hawsker. Much of the detail is lost. The drawing below was published by W G Collinwood in 1911.
Graham Chappell’s wonderful Yorkshire Holy Wells
Anglian & Anglo-Danish Sculpture in the East Riding with addenda to the North Riding. W.G. Collingwood. Yorkshire Archaeological Journal Vol. 21 1911. Yorkshire Archaeological Society. Leeds
Lilla Cross stands on Lilla Howe, a Bronze Age burial mound. The cross is said to commemorate Lilla, who according to Bede was one of King Edwin of Northumbria’s thegns who died in AD626 saving Edwin from an assassins knife. It is unlikely that the cross commemorates Bede’s Lilla as the cross was erected at least two centuries after his death. The mound was excavated in 1920 and pieces of Anglo-Danish jewellery were found.
The cross and mound have a significance in the landscape of this part of the moors. They form a boundary marker for the lands of the abbey at Whitby, the boundary of four medieval parishes and a waymarker for two medieval packhorse roads.
Botton Cross overlooks the head of Danby Dale presumably on an old trackway from Eskdale to Rosedale. In his 1993 booklet, The Crosses of the North York Moors, Lewis Graham remarks that it may be of interest to lay hunters that Botton, Fat Betty and Old Ralph are in a perfect east-west line though Young Ralph is to the north.
The original word in Icelandic botn, and it is applied to the head of a bay, lake, dale or the like, the compound word dals-botn being a word of actual occurrence. Moreover, Vigfussen remarks that “Botn” is a local name still in Iceland.
JC Atkinson. Forty Years in a Moorland Parish. 1891