Monday, 24 September 2012

Leeds Scheduled Monuments - Becca Banks and The Ridge

I have been neglecting this blog, partly due to impending nuptials and partly because free time is scarce and the time I do get I very much wish to spend striding across the landscape that is so blessed to me rather than sitting at home thinking about it. Scanning the list of local Scheduled Monuments this morning I realised that, although not all have been cataloged here, I have visited most of them at some point or the other and should probably document them here as I proposed to some time ago.

Becca Bank and the Ridge are part of a possible Brigantian defensive network, Becca bank using some of the natural scarp slope to create a hugely imposing form on the landscape, even today delineating the furthermost westerly reaches of Aberford.

Below the crag we happened to spot a tiny toad amid the rubble and held him captive until a dog walker and his leaping hounds had passed us by. Our little friend inspired Phil to scribble down some lines of poetry in his notebook, while I took in the dusk-lit woodland alongside the bank.

We walked through the Gascoigne estate, walking along Becca Lane in view of the hall and then along to the Ridge, where ripe corn grew.

We crossed over the Cock Beck, Winwaek, which flows down from Whinmoor through Penda's field, where he, the last pagan king, was slain in battle. A few miles further SE and Cock Beck flows through another battlefield at Towton, where the legendary Towton rose flourished on the burial mounds at Bloody Meadow.

The moon rose over the bank as we walked through meadows in the growing dark. The last view of the Ridge with the dwindling sunset through an ancient Miry Lane heading towards the site of the medieval shrunken village of Potterton, or Potter's Tun.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

How Myths are Born - Susan Mary Dawson's Grave

Susan Mary Dawson's grave lies in Weston All Saints churchyard, next to Weston Hall, complete with 16th century banqueting house.

The church has a wonderful patchwork effect, showing the various additions and subtractions over the centuries.

Susan Dawson is buried in a family plot on the side of the graveyard next to Weston Hall, her husband, Col. Walter Stopham Dawson's ancestral home. The Stopham family have, according to Meville Babbage Cox, been associated with the Weston estate since 1250  before the family merged with that of the Vavasours who erected the present hall. The grave marker is a collection of boulders resembling a small cairn, one of which shows quite distinct cup and ring markings.

Searching for information on the grave one discovers a small trail of information. Paul Bennett speculates, entirely reasonably, that unlikely as it may be that the Dawson's had an interest in geomancy, some local landowners had dealings in the occult (David Murgatroyd and his magical maps spring to mind) and this tomb could have been the Dawson family's reconstruction of a bronze age burial. However it seems that this suggestion has taken flight in the imagination of others, making the leap from an interesting speculation to a confirmed 'myth'. 

I do think it is entirely plausible that Mary could have held an interest in the Occult, but some evidence should surface before we state it as fact. In 1912 it was reported in a local newspaper that the family leased Ilkley Moor for grouse shooting and therefore it seems most likely that the moor and it's stones held a personal significance to the family primarily as a place of leisure. I hope to do more research on the stones and their current usage though, the Churchyard also holds some other unusual grave-markers, several holed stones can be found on the other side of the church, perhaps Mary's grave influenced other local families to use undressed rock to mark the resting place of their dead: