Thursday, January 7, 2016

Picking up a book

The book in question is Madeleine Bunting's The Plot, a description of an acre of land her father bought, and to which they all as children went.  Not quite narrowed it into the landscape but Sutton Bank was not far away. She writes so well, about the history of this part of Yorkshire, that my mind is turned to the Victorian 'barrow bashers' of their time
Today, once more it is raining, shall we go back to the time when the Vale of Pickering was a lake, Star Carr is not too far away it should be noted, and then there is the fascinating river Derwent which runs 'backwards', probably due to a geological fault, but if you are fanciful it could have been  that which gave this small vale a 'ritual significance' in prehistoric times.  So much to discover, the Howardian Hills, and the Tabular Hills. 

“The whole drainage of the country south of the Esk, except a strip a mile or two broad north of Scarborough, enter the Vale of Pickering, and instead of taking the simple and direct course to the sea at Filey, is all diverted, against the slope of the rocks and the grain of the country, and passes out into the Vale of York by the gorge at Kirkham Abbey.” (Kendall, 1902, p. 499)

“When I went to school I learned that the Vale in which we lived had once been a lake, but long ago the sea had eaten through the hills in the east and so released the fresh waters, leaving a fertile plain. But such an idea would have seemed strange to my innocent mind… I seemed to live, therefore, in a basin wide and shallow like the milkpans in the dairy; but the even bed of it was checkered with pastures and cornfields, and the rims were the soft blues and purples of the moorlands” (Read, 1933, The Innocent Eye)

Taken from Vale of Pickering - Statement of Significance

Grave Robbers; Thomas Kendall of Pickering was one in the 19th century, he gathered the biggest collection of prehistoric remains ever made in North Yorkshire. "He assembled 135 pottery vessels, 27 urns, 26 axe hammers and at least 26 stone and flint axes from mounds in the county".

There are of course no provenance notes to go with this collection and this caused some concern, and eventually there was a backlash against these souvenir hunters; diggers were accused of  "desecrating these time hallowed monuments for no better purpose than the indulgence of a craving acquisitiveness and the adornment of glass cases with ill-understood relics to be paraded for the empty admiration of those who may descend to flatter the equally vain and ignorant collector"

Mmm, that takes some thinking about but true, just don't expect me to stand up for these Victorian gentleman from the past.  There were two other rascals as well,  Canon William Greenwell (again scanty notes of provenance,).  Then there was Canon Atkinson, who boasted of excavating four barrows a day, and was responsible for 'excavating' - I use the term lightly - because both these men excavated from the top of the burial down, and were very careless in either tidying up after themselves, which got the landowners mad, or excavation techniques.

to be continued....


  1. I do love the way you have entered into the history of the area as soon as you got up here Thelma. There are plenty of folk around here (born here in fact) who don't seem at all interested in the past of the area.