Thursday, 24 March 2011

Druids' Temple

The Druids' Temple near Ilton produces a weird sensation. There is something wrong with it! It's too small, too neat, too complete and the stones clearly haven't been dragged from Pembrokeshire or anywhere outside of Yorkshire. There is an altar that, on closer inspection, looks a bit like a picninc table with stools and there is a structure that resembles a war memorial in the centre of the first 'chamber'. Of course! It is a just pre-Victorian structure built by William Danby (1752-1833), owner of the nearby Swinton Estate, to provide work for men on the estate. Apparently, they were paid a shilling a day (quite handsome) and invited to live the primitive life in the Temple and its environs for 7 years. The deal was that they would be given an annuity at the end of the 7 years. Someone lasted 4 and a half before it all became unbearably bleak and tedious! The site (now surrounded by Forestry Commission Woodland) is great fun and could fool someone who had never seen a prehistoric monument for about 15 seconds. It has the great attraction of being open to being climbed all over, unlike its authentic brothers and sisters, and of having actual stones, unlike Thornborough, although it has nothing like the atmosphere of the genuinely and evocatively pre-historic site at Thronborough, near Nosterfield. I can remember getting close enough to touch the stones at Stonehenge on a school trip in 1969; I should have savoured the moment far more than I did, aged 11. It now has to be viewed from metres away so I suppose follies like this serve their purpose in allowing us to enter into the spirit of original prehistoric structures. But 'Yorkshire's Stonhenge', as it is sometimes called, it most certainly is not!

The Druids' Circle is just west of Masham,  situated on a site with breath-taking views across to the Cleveland hills and Teeside in one direction and, in the other, over to  Leighton Reservoir, where you can spend a happy afternoon fly fishing or just enjoying the quiet and the birds.  

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