At 320m high Roseberry’s cap of Saltwick Sandstone Formation has been quarried, subjected to intense heat and generally exploited over the centuries. The hill was to have been used as a beacon during the war with Spain in the 1580s and again during the Napoleonic Wars. These beacons were never lit in earnest but in 1902 an enormous beacon was lit to celebrate the coronation of King Edward VII. 32 tons of wood was hauled up using a steam engine. The iron stanchion to the right of the trig point was erected to tie the structure down. Some heat must have been generated. The nearer post is a fence post. At one time the Topping had so many visitors trying to stand on the summit a length of railings were erected along the crag edge. That was before the collapse of 1912 when the railings were dragged down with the rock.
A sheep finds scant grazing amongst the sandstone boulders below Roseberry Topping. Sandstone which, according to geologists, were laid down at the bottom of a tropical sea 180 million years ago.
The Golden Hour is that hour prior to sunset. It’s said to be the best lighting for photography, reddish hues and long shadows. So an evening wander up to Great Ayton Moor. I had in mind an old disused sandstone quarry which I figure would catch the evening rays. It did, for a while, then the sun dropped behind a bank of cloud and the occasion was lost. The quarry has no name but from this angle I see a gorilla’s face looking out to Captain Cook’s Monument in the distance.
In the cool of the evening the last of the evening light strikes the disused sandstone quarry at Cockshaw Hill above Gribdale. Stone from the quarry would have been used for the alum works and Ayton Bank Ironstone Mine. The quarry was certainly in use in the 1920s when its stone was used in the construction of the Temple Moore designed St. Mary’s Church at Nunthorpe.
Of course Robin Hood didn’t exist. Or did he? There is no doubt that medieval England was full of outlaws roaming the countryside trying to take advantage of unwary travellers. Some may have given to the poor. Robert de Thweng, a knight of Yorkshire may have been a contender for the legend. He came to Kilton Castle by marriage to widow Matilda de Kilton. In 1228 the Prior of Guisborough tried to seize Robert’s parish church at Kirkleatham. Robert’s protests turned into outright rebellion and he took to roaming Yorkshire with a band of hooded outlaws taking the nickname of “William the Avenger”. He plundered the church’s barns and storehouses giving it away to the poor. The church retaliated by excommunicating Robert. But Robert had the support of many northern Lords and the King, Henry III, sent him to Rome to put his complaints to the Pope who forgave him.
What has this got to do with Whorlton Castle? Well Robert’s great-granddaughter, Lucia de Thweng, was born in Kilton Castle but lived in Whorlton Castle with Nicholas de Meynell while her husband, William le Latimer, was fighting the Scottish Wars. At Whorlton she had an illegitimate son, Nicholas de Meynell Nothus.
Lucia was quite a woman. Her story would make a good film, “The Man Eater of Cleveland”, a title by which she was actually referred to at the time. As soon as her husband was called to fight for the King in Scotland she had begun living at Mulgrave Castle with Peter de Li Manley. Not surprisingly on his return le Latimer divorced Lucia, who went on to marry Sir Robert de Everingham. Lucia became a widow when de Everingham was killed in the Scottish Wars. She didn’t hang about long before marrying Sir Bartholomew de Fanacourt, her third husband. Lucia was in her seventies when she died at her manor house at Brotton. Did she die happy or longing for loves lost? Perhaps a clue lies in the ghost of a woman in long flowing robes that has been reported walking along Kilton Lane. Legend says it is Lucia looking for her lost loves.
Also known as Slack’s Gill and until recently buried inside the commercial forestry of Black Bank. It’s my ‘secret’ way up onto Great Ayton Moor. Mine and the mountain bikers who created a downhill course through the wood. But the clear felling has put paid to their activities. I am sure the sandstone crags have been quarried but there is no evidence of the route the stones would have been hauled down the slope. The large boulder in the gill does have an anchor bolt on the top but I guess that could be modern, placed as a protection for rock climbers. I’ve rendered the photo into black and white as the carnage left by the clear felling is hidden.
An unremarkable sandstone wall at the entrance to Firbeck House on Easby Lane in Great Ayton. The ashlar blocks have been dressed well and the wall has been neatly enhanced by the coping stones. On the third course you will notice is a small square hole out of which is growing a stem of ivy. The hole was cut by Mr. Robert Pickersgill who was a member of the village’s Local Defence Volunteers during World War 2. The intention was to provide a spy hole to view the approach to the village from the direction of Easby Lane and if necessary to provide a rifle embrasure.
Right, Pike, you get behind that wall and keep watch. And if any German Panzers come down Easby Lane, hold them at bay.
And don’t tell them your name.
Boulders of Oolite sandstone litter the south west slope of Roseberry, the result of a monumental landslip in 1912. It was said at the time the ironstone miners were to blame but the geologists tell us now that was not so. It would have happened anyway, and it is still happening. The softer mudstone shales are still being eroded weakening the foundations of the crag. A new rockfall will occur. It might be a thousand years but it will occur.
Down below the oakwoods of Newton Wood adorn the escarpment of another sandstone layer, of a much poorer quality to be useful for building stone and in the distance, on the Cleveland Plain, the village of Great Ayton wakes up on this Monday morning.
Last week I visited Nunthorpe Church, built in the 1920s from sandstone quarried at Great Ayton. I have since not only learnt that the actual quarry was Cockshaw but there was in fact twelve sites along the escarpment between Captain Cook’s Monument and Roseberry where sandstone or freestone, as it was also referred to, was quarried such as here on Ayton Bank on the edge of Great Ayton Moor.
Beacon Scar provides excellent climbing but the loose shale layer above makes topping off a little tricky. The sandstone crag towers out of the dense wet Arncliffe Wood and offers fine views across the Vale of Mowbray to the Yorkshire Dales.