April 2012

Northern Spring Meeting, April 2012

Another glorious Spring day in the Yorkshire Dales, the pee-wits decoying, the pheasants whirring, the tiny lambs shivering pitifully on the frosted grass, as around 40 milestoners and guests gathered at Hebden near Grassington, to hear a variety of interesting speakers – though curiously there was little mention of actual milestones.
Our guest speaker was Christopher Evans from Scarborough, who described his findings on “Trods – paved ways in NE Yorkshire”, as used by panniermen, fish merchants and smugglers. Click here for full details.

This was followed by a profusely illustrated talk by one of our members, David Garside, with the provocative title “Boundary stones – more interesting than milestones?”  Those of us who share that view were treated to a wide variety, plain and fancy: county, monastic, manorial, chapelry, industrial and parish – as were those who don’t.  The picture on the right shows how interesting boundary stones can be: taken on the road from Skipton to Hebden it is unusual in having been erected by a Highway District (the bodies created by the Highways Act of 1862, which also took over when turnpike trusts failed).  This marks the boundary between Rylstone and Stirton-with-Thorlby, erected by the East Staincliffe HD (1864-1895).

Following lunch, with a chance to look at albums and peruse the hot-off-the-press Yorkshire Newsletter, Jan Scrine showed us the Society’s latest publicity ventures, being produced with the cooperation of Barnsley poet Ian McMillan.  Already out on Youtube is The Rabbit and the Milestone, showing how easy it is for any rabbit to find our milestones on Google Earth.  Watch it here:

h?v=zUs6Elrm8Xk67 miles to where?

And finally: “Cross at the cross-roads, 230 miles to Clovelly and a real puzzle” by Dr Lionel Scott, who showed us some intriguing waymarkers at junctions, ending with a plea for anyone to identify the obliterated destination “67 Miles” on a pre-turnpike milestone from the Great North Road at Robin Hood’s Well, seven miles north of Doncaster (pictured left).  Rescued when the A1 was widened back in the 1960s this now resides in a garden in nearby Brodsworth. [Personally, I think it’s lost the figure 1 and is 167 miles to London – Ed.].

Plenty of lively contributions from the floor ensured that this was another enjoyable meeting!  Next year’s meeting will be at the same venue on Sunday 21st April 2013.  Put it in your diaries now!

JS/RWH / April 2012

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Trods: flagged paths in North-east Yorkshire

A trod, according to the OED, is a dialect word for a trodden way, a footpath, path, or way.  Brockett’s Glossary of North Country Words in Use of 1825 describes it as a foot path through a field. 
The word is still in use, having been revived by Christopher Evans from Scarborough, who has tramped across miles of field and moorland tracing the route of these old ways across the northern parts of the North York Moors. 
The essential feature of a trod is the single row of large stone flags, as seen on the cover of Evans’ book (pictured right) in an old photograph by Frank Meadow Sutcliffe, the Whitby photographer (1853-1941).  His photographs show a number of trods which have now vanished, and Evans believes that perhaps only 20% of them survive.
Nineteen “long trods” have been identified, some running from the northeast coast southwestwards; some following or crossing dales, such as Eskdale (both the north and south banks) and Glaisdale.  Two notable ones are:
* The “George Gap Causeway”: Blakey Ridge through Rosedale and Great Fryup Dale (a very steep descent, and trods can be very treacherous when wet) to Staithes;
* “Quakers’ Causeway”: from White Cross (just east of Commondale) over Commondale Moor to Guisborough; the present name is obviously later than the trod, which may have a monastic origin, leading as it probably does to Guisborough Priory.
But shorter trods are found all over the moors; they lead to individual farms, mills and churches.  And locally they converge on market towns (and former market towns such as Egton near Whitby, and Castleton in Danby Parish).
There is no single reason why trods were constructed.  They do not tally exclusively with the existence of monastic properties, though many may have such links, and it is probable that monastic labour helped create them – they are even sometimes referred to as Monks’ Trods.  Nor do they tally precisely with the locations of mineral workings (alum, iron or coal), or with the locations of crosses and other waymarkers (although some can be found on them, and many continue to be rights of way today). 
The key factor in any road’s existence, however, is to connect goods from their place of origin with the people who want them: the trods that lead from the coast provide one obvious example, connecting fish with local markets. 
The earliest ones date from mediaeval times, and they were still being constructed in the 18th century: Castleton, for example, did not develop until this later period.
Many trods are vulnerable by running alongside later highways, but the North York Moors National Park Authority is aware of their historical significance, as are some local history groups, and it is hoped that concerted efforts will be made to preserve those that survive. 

Source: talk given by Chris Evans to the Milestone Society at Hebden, April 2012.
RWH / April 2012

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