I recently spotted this stone leaning against the wall at Tocketts Mill. It puzzled me for a while, I had seen a picture of a similar stone but couldn’t remember where. Eventually I remembered, the wonderful Hidden Teesside website
The stone is the base of a Verjuice or Beam Press. Elizabeth Ogilvie writes
..Verjuice or Beam Presses which were used to produce a kind of acid apple vinegar known as verjuice made mostly from crab apples and used in cooking and medicine. The method of crushing the apples was simple. Crab apples were placed on the base stone, a weight was positioned on top and pressed down by means of a wooden beam wedged at one end into a hollow of a tree stump or groove cut into a stone wall.
An Illustrated Guide to Stone Antiquities on the North Yorkshire Moors. E Ogilvie. 1996
The Crab Tree
Another Cleveland usage is, when a mare foals to hang up ‘the cleansings ’ (the placenta) in a tree, preferably in a thorn or failing that a crab tree; the motive assigned being to secure ‘luck with the foal.’ Should the birth take place in the fields, this suspension is most carefully attended to, while as for the requirements of such events at the homestead, in not a few instances there is a certain tree not far from the farm-buildings still specially marked out for the reception of these peculiar pendants. In one instance lately, I heard of a larch tree so devoted, but admittedly in default of the thorn; the old thorn-tree long employed for the purpose having died out.
Again, a lamb that is dropped dead, or that dies while still very young, is customarily hung up in a tree—properly in a thorn, though any fruit or berry-bearing tree will do. In the last case under my notice, the tree was a rowan-tree or mountain-ash. In all these cases the same principle is, I think, beyond question involved. Certainly in the case of the mare the offering would originally have been to Odin; probably in all cases of suspension on a berry-bearing tree the same may be true.
J. C. Atkinson, N. & Q., 4th S., vol ii., pp. 556, 557.
I needed to unravel a few knots and put some ground under my boots. I was undecided as to where to go…time for the coin. A flip of the coin as to whether it would be moorland or coastal, a second flip to decide on a old favourite on a new site. The outcome, coastal/new.
A while ago I was reading about the Boulby Alum Quarries, I’d never visited the place, I did once try to get there via the the Loftus quarries but failed. I had read that Boulby was one of the best examples of its kind in the country, so that was that, Boulby was the place.
I walked along the Cleveland way to Rockhole, looking for a path into the quarry. All I could find was the trace of a track heading towards Rockhole Hill. I followed the track which got fainter and fainter and took me deep into the quarry. The vegetation got higher and thicker and the track eventually petered-out completely at a large pile of droppings. I’d been following a rabbit track which had led me into a deep thicket of gorse and brambles. I looked for a way forward but couldn’t seen anything that resembled a path.
I had a choice, try and push forward through the quarry or retrace my steps back up to the main footpath and start again. I decided to push on and look for another path. I thought that if I could skirt around Rockhole hill towards the cliff edge I would come across a path, a simple enough plan. The problem was that the foot of the hill and the quarry floor is covered in chest-high rosebay willowherb, bracken, gorse, brambles and boulders, there are also a number of small, steep-sided beck channels concealed beneath the vegetation. The flanks of the hill are steep but less treacherous, they are covered with deep heather and large, impenetrable patches of gorse and brambles. It took me about half and hour of constant scrambling and slipping to cover the short distance to the cliff edge.
Much to my relief, my efforts eventually led to an overgrown track that looked as though it was heading towards the main quarry and alum works. After that it was fairly plain sailing, there were still patches of gorse and brambles to get around but the ground was fairly level and the surrounding vegetation was fairly low.
Moving along the track I began to noticed low walls, the remains of a building, a stone-covered culvert and two beautiful circular stone-lined tanks. The production of Alum started here in the mid 1600s, the Rockhole quarries and structures are the oldest part of the site.
I continued to walk north into the later sections of the works and suddenly found myself standing in the quarry, an amphitheatre of alum, ruins of massive stone walls and heaps of alum shale, facing the sea and backed by the massive sandstone cliffs, a wonderful sight.
The cliffs are never static, large blocks litter the site, some bearing fossils.
Walking around the ruins, the mind starts to wander. It is easy to forget that this was a place of industry and imagine that these are the remnants of a cliff-edge citadel whose myths are still waiting to be discovered.
These cliffs are the highest point on the east coast of our island. The land above the quarry has been occupied for thousands of years, its soil contains the evidence of the district’s earliest house. Archaeologist Steve Sherlock has also found evidence of prehistoric salt production on the land behind the clifftop, evidence of early industry, albeit on a small scale. The people of prehistory performed their rituals of the dead and these clifftops. It is also the location of the famous Saxon Princess burial.
I left the quarries and followed the path that runs between Rockhole Hill and the cliff edge. The track is becoming overgrown, an indication that this site doesn’t see many visitors. A couple of short sections of the path have eroded away, this is not a place for anyone who is nervous of walking along a cliff edge. The track leads back to the Cleveland Way via a couple of lovely tiny woods, shoehorned into the short valleys running down to the cliff tops.
If you are going to visit the quarries I would advise that you avoid following the track down into the Rockhole Quarry, my legs are covered in small cuts, pin-cushioned by brambles and gorse and it took a fair bit of effort to escape the quarry. The cliffs along this part of the coast can be unstable, the track around Rockhole Hill is difficult to find but definitely the one to take, however it is not without danger and should be approached with great caution.
In the past, Midsummer was celebrated the lighting of bonfires on the 23rd of June, St John’s Eve. The following Sunday, Head Sunday, was a popular day for visiting healing wells.
…midsummer fires, with their numerous ceremonies, the rubbing the sacred flame, the running through the glowing embers, the throwing of flowers on the fire, the baking in it and distributing large loaves and cakes, with the dance about it, remained village customs.
Forty Years in a Moorland Parish. J.C. Atkinson .1908