A March 2003 trip
to Yorkshire by Drever
Quote: I spent two interesting and enthralling days exploring historical Yorkshire. Within a small area I found the town where stage coaches made their overnight stop between London and England, England’s largest abbey, a 1,000-year-old cathedral, the home of England’s most famous and feared prophet, and a petrifying well.
I was in the area because I had intended attending a course in the finer points of woodwork at the only major industry in the area, namely John Boddy’s Fine Wood & Tool Store Ltd. The course was cancelled so I explored instead. The ancient cities of York and Ripon, floral Harrogate, Knaresborough, Northallerton, Easingworld and the country written about by James Herriot in his celebrated books about a country vet are all close by. Stately homes, outstanding gardens, ancient cathedrals and Roman ruins abound. I concentrated on the quieter out of the way places.
In Britain the tourist season tends to start from April and some attractions only open then. The museums in Ripon, which cover various aspects of Yorkshire Law and Order were still closed.
The weather was superb. It is often a quirk of British weather that it is nice during early season and turns horrible when it should be nice. Anyway it adds interest – trying to out guess the weather. Just be prepared for anything.
Attraction | "Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal Water Garden"
Its origins began in 1132 when the prior and 13 monks at St Mary's Abbey, York, disapproving of the corruption in their house left to set up their own abbey. The archbishop of York provided them with a site in the River Skell valley. Three years later the exiled monks joined the disciplined Cistercian order. This powered the Abbey monks to prosperity in farming, lead mining, quarrying and horse breeding, and by the middle of the 13th century the Abbey was one of England’s richest houses.
In the 14th century awful harvests, Scots raids after their victory over the English at Bannockburn and the Black Death delivered ruin. The Abbey’s fortunes revived but power and opulence replaced the former high ideals. Henry VIII put a stop to their worldly ways by dissolved the Abbey and selling it to Sir Richard Gresham in 1540.
Today the ruins provide a wide-ranging picture of life in a medieval monastery. The church extended 360ft with a 168ft tower towards the end. The east window and chapel of the nine altars offer special points of interest. The cellarium with its double row of arches is outstanding among the features of the monastic quatres.
The ruins present a dramatic backdrop for Studley Royal Deer Park. The attractive park and its Water Gardens adjoin Fountains Abbey. The Water Garden is the creation of John Aislabie. He inherited Studley Royal Estate in 1693 and after his expulsion from Parliament in 1721 devoted himself for the next 21 years to creating the Garden. Afocal point in the medieval park with its 600 deer is the dramatic Gothic St Mary’s Church. The architect William Burges began this church in 1871 and completed it in seven years.
The Water Gardens begin at the weir end of the lake and extend through the valley to the Abbey. These make scenic use of woods, walks, towers, temples, ponds, a canal, and statuary and surprise views. The 150-acre garden is an outstanding example of a Georgian green water garden. There are avenues, cascades, grottoes, elegant ornamental lakes and a long canal. The magnificent garden buildings are architecturally stunning and include a Temple of Filial Piety, an octagon tower and a banqueting house. The many paths around the garden have an atmosphere of tranquillity.
Sir Stephen Proctor built Fountains Hall in around 1611 with stones from the abbey ruins. It includes a great hall with minstrel's gallery and an entrance flanked by Classical columns. In a state of disrepair it has been undergoing major restoration since 1983.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 22, 2003
Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden
Ripon near Harrogate
North Yorkshire HG4 3DY
+44 (0) 1765 608888
Attraction | "Ripon Cathedral - 1300 Years of History"
The inside of the cathedral contains 800 years of craftsmanship in stone and wood in the nave and choir, and there is a medieval stained-glass window. The lovely ceiling bosses depict Biblical scenes. Tall graceful arches and clustered columns with carved stone capitals and corbels, and a superb example of early 14th century stone tracery in the colourful east window gives the cathedral majesty.
Above the choir stalls and canons' seats are elegant pinnacled canopies. The choir stalls with their carved set of 34 misericords created by a local citizen between 1489 and 1491 are the most exquisite - and amusing - examples of this medieval craft. Among them are the well-proportioned elephant and the griffin and rabbit misericord, which inspired Lewis Caroll to write Alice in Wonderland.
A screen created by Leslie Durban in the 1970s separates the Chapel of the Holy Spirit in the south choir aisle. Fine roof bosses project above the choir and in the Library there are manuscripts including the illuminated Charter of Restoration, issued by King James I. Below the cathedral is a Saxon crypt, which is less than 10 feet high and 7 feet wide but is one of the oldest in Europe being part of the original stone church of 672. A first-rate example of the early building style remains in The Chapel of Resurrection.
From the early church Wilfrid, Bishop of York, controlled the diocese of the north. After Wilfrid’s time Ripon lost its cathedral status and in 950 the Danes destroyed the church. In 1069 the Normans laid waste the replacement church. Thomas Bayeux, the first Norman Archbishop of York, began the third church on the site in 1080.
By the late 12th century, Ripon had received a large sum of money for rebuilding in the Norman Transitional style. In the early 14th century its shrine of St Wilfrid became one of the most important centres of pilgrimage in the north.
During the next 100 years the church gained a Chapter House, an impressive West Front, and an enlarged East End. In 1450 part of the central tower collapsed and was never fully rebuilt but at the end of the 15th century the church gained its spectacular choir stalls, with their elaborately carved misericords.
The 16th century saw the nave rebuilt. Ripon suffered damage and desecration during the Reformation and even more during the Civil War. In 1660 the spire of the central tower collapsed causing damage to the choir stalls, and in 1664 builders for safety reasons removed the spires from the twin towers.
Neglected in the 18th century Ripon afterwards underwent important restoration and in 1836 advanced to becoming a cathedral. The wonderful building that exists today is a result of these centuries of rebuilding.
Liberty Court House Minster Road
North Yorkshire HG4 1QS
+44 (0)1765 603462
Attraction | "Boroughbridge - historical Yorkshire town"
Later in a pub a discussion would ensue as to the purpose of the 18ft, 22 ft and 22.5ft monoliths the passengers had noticed in a field to the west of the town. They were called "The Devils Arrows" and stand in a row on a north-south axis. Heavier than the largest stone in Stonehenge they are mysterious as to origin and purpose. Made of Millstone Grit they had come from Plumpton Rocks, two miles south of Knaresborough?
The High Street has a market square at its south end with an attractive cobbled area in front of Boroughbridge Hall. The street is still full of little shops that have changed little. The greengrocer and the florist still display their produce on the pavement. The Bull, which boasts a history from the 13th century, is one of the few survivors of the mid-19th century. The Crown Hotel, which could stable 100 horse is still there but with a swimming pool, Jacuzzi, steam room, sauna and gym. It has been an Inn since 1672 but stands on the site of a 13th-century manor house - a rendezvous for "The Rising of the North" rebellion of 1569 to place Mary Queen of Scots on the throne.
Boroughbridge Hall was the birthplace, in 1831, of Isabella Bird. She published 10 books, many articles, and two books of photographs about her travels. The first western woman to travel up the Yangtze River or climb Mauna Lao, her written accounts of the assassination of the Korean Queen and Japan’s invasion of Korea were major news stories. A Fellow of both the London and Scottish Royal Geographical Society, her travel books still inform and entertain and made her one of the most famous women in late-Victorian Britain.
North west of Boroughbridge are the three great circles of the Thornborough Henges dating from the Bronze Age. The central henge is the most accessible and is one of the most impressive prehistoric structures in Britain. Henges used to be numerous over the country and according to recent research was related to ancestor warship.
With its quaint inns, little shops, its possession of the mysterious monoliths and henges, Boroughbridge is indeed a treasure.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on March 22, 2003
Yorkshire, England YO51 9DN
Attraction | "Knaresborough - Prophets and petrifing wells"
As I discovered it has much to offer - a castle, the oldest chemist shop in England, historic streets, boating and a mixture of charming buildings - including a house built into a rock. Traders have held a market here on Wednesdays since at least 1310. There are some unusual offspring, legends and folklore. Part of this bustling settlement's appeal lies in the unspoilt quarters with their intriguing maze of alleys and ginnels. The viaduct view and the river complete with interesting boats enchant.
Standing supreme, high on the cliff top, is Knaresborough Castle. Originally built in Norman times but rebuilt in the 14th century it overlooks the River Nidd gorge. The castle's life ended during the Civil War when, as a Royalist stronghold, Parliamentarian troops in 1646 reduced it to ruins. The dungeons are intact!
Hugh de Morville was Constable of the Castle and leader of the group of four knights who on December 29th, 1170 murdered Thomas à Beckett, Archbishop of Canterbury, on the steps of the altar of his cathedral. The four knights fled to Knaresborough, where even the dogs reviled them! Hugh built Hampsthwaite Church and dedicated it to the canonised priest as an act of penance.
Other famous folk associated with Knaresborough are Guy Fawkes (plotted to blow up the Houses of Parliament, an early form of democracy perhaps) and Jack Metcalf, born in 1717 but caught smallpox and became blind. Despite this he was a violinist, major road builder, forest guide, an expert swimmer and smuggler. He died at the age of 93 but a pub in the Market Place bears his name.
Mother Shipton (maiden name Ursula Southeil) born in a riverside cave here during a violent thunderstorm in 1488 is England's most famous Prophet. Her crooked facial features frightened many. People feared her prophetic visions. She foretold the dissolution of the monasteries, the defeat of the Armada, the Civil War, the Great Plague and she forewarned of the Great Fire of London in 1666. She foretold that Cardinal Wolsey would not be enthroned Archbishop of York. He died before facing a charge of high treason. Today her prophecies are still accurate - consider:
'Carriages without horses shall go.
And accidents fill the world with woe.
Around the world thoughts shall fly
In the twinkling of an eye...
Under water men shall walk,
Shall ride, shall sleep, shall talk;
In the air men shall be seen
In white, in black, and in green.
Iron in the water shall float
As easy as a wooden boat.'
She forecast the time of her death in 1561 and many friends wept bitter tears at her passing.
Knaresborough is indeed a colourful place with equally colourful people.
Knaresborough Castle/Market Town
Knaresborough, North Yorkshire
Ayr, United Kingdom