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Unusual Facts about Ryedale
Unique and unusual facts that you might not have known about Ryedale, North Yorkshire - our heritage, folklore, residents and environment.
If you have an interesting fact about Ryedale, or if you think we've got one of our facts wrong, please get in touch using the email address or our contact us form.
Famous Folk - Ryedale's Rural Radicals
Hovingham Hall was the childhood home of HRH the Duchess of Kent. Her brother Sir Marcus Worsley still lives in the family home.
One well-known resident of Kirkbymoorside was George Villiers, the 2nd Duke of Buckingham (1628 - 1687). Rich and powerful, he was said to be one of the most notorious and dazzling courtiers of his time, but died in shame after a life of drunkenness, violence and general misbehaviour. Legend says he lay dying in the worst room of the worst inn in Kirkbymoorside, but this is not so. He died in one of the best houses in the town next door to the King's Head Inn. The parish register records his death simply as "1687, George Vilaus, lord dooke of bookingham". His intestines were buried at Helmsley and his body taken back to London for burial beside his father in Westminster Abbey.
The wonderful Yorkshire dialect poet, John Castillo, "The Bard of the Dales" was born in 1792, the son of a wandering Irishman who married a girl from Yorkshire. Castillo was born in Ireland before his family moved back to Yorkshire, whereupon he became a methodist preacher. His gravestone in Pickering bears an extract from his most popular dialect poem "Oad Isaac".
The famous entertainer George Formby was an apprentice jockey at Norton.
Many of the former Prime Minister Harold Wilson's ancestors were from Ryedale and can be traced back to his great-grandfather who was the Workhouse Master in Helmsley. When Lord Wilson was seeking a territorial appendage on being created a baron in 1983, he chose Rievaulx.
Sir Herbert Read is buried in the graveyard of the Minster. His grave is easy to find and is inscribed: Here lies Herbert Read. Knight Poet Anarchist. Read, the son of a local farmer, was a poet and critic who shaped the British art scene profoundly from the 1930s to the ’60s. He fought in World War I, emerging in 1918 as a decorated hero (DSO, MC), committed pacifist and poet. His name is inscribed in the Memorial to the War Poets in Poet's Corner Westminster Abbey. He was a curator at the V&A, a friend of TS Eliot, Picasso and Man Ray and a champion of young artists including Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth. He wrote important and influential works on the role of art in education & society and co-founded the Institute of Contemporary Arts. Read accepted a knighthood in 1953 despite regarding himself as an anarchist. His Yorkshire roots were important to him and he made his family home at Stonegrave, where he died in 1968.
Ian Carmichael's favourite place is Duncombe Park, where he met his wife whilst serving with the 22nd Dragoons of the 30th Armoured Brigade during the Second World War.
Richard III held court at Sheriff Hutton Castle. The tomb of Edward, Prince of Wales, Richard III's only child can be found at the Church of St Helen in Sheriff Hutton.
George Hudson the 'railway king', who pioneered the York to Scarborough line, is buried in the churchyard at Scrayingham.
Peter Walker, who wrote under the pseudonym of Nicolas Rhea, the author of the books which inspired the Heartbeat television series, was the village bobby in Oswaldkirk from 1963 to 1967.
Edmund Burke (1729-97) was the MP for Malton for fourteen years from 1780 as well as a famed Irish thinker and politician.John Wesley's first missionaries to America came from Ryedale communities between Bransdale and Farndale. John Board and Joseph Pilmore responded to John Wesley's call at a Methodist conference in Leeds for volunteers to serve "in the wilderness of America". They landed later that year, after surviving what Pilmore described as "a fearful storm" at Gloucester Point near Philadelphia.
The Reverend William Scoresby, who was born in 1879 at Cropton near Pickering, was the son of the famous Whitby whaler - William Scoresby Snr. Scoresby Snr, who invented the crow's nest, first took his son on a whaling trip to Greenland when he was ten. By the age of twenty-one he had captained his first ship and brought the whaler Resolution back with a record quantity of whale oil.
Nunnington Hall was once home to Queen Elizabeth I's doctor. The Fife family who owned the Hall in the 1920's used to flood the garden in winter so the children could go ice skating.
Richard Spruce, the famous 19th century naturalist, lived at Coneysthorpe and is buried at Terrington. He was responsible for bringing quinine into mass production as an anti-malaria antidote. A great Victorian plant expert, he explored the Amazon and was one of the first ethno-botanists.
Ryedale boasts an Area of Natural Beauty (AONB), the Howardian Hills.
The longest lime tree avenue in Europe can be seen on the drive up to Castle Howard.
The top three largest towns in the District of Ryedale in order of population size according to estimates supplied in the year 2000 are as follows: (i) Pickering - 6710; (ii) Norton on Derwent - 6620; (iii) Malton - 4840.
Norton-on-Derwent is the Newmarket of the north and has a long tradition of training racehorses.
Ryedale is the location of many television and film locations. The most famous is Heartbeat which is filmed in the North York Moors and uses the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. Brideshead Revisited - the TV series - was based at Castle Howard (and the location for the same titled film in 2008). The original film about James Herriot- All Creatures Great and Small - was set around Malton and Pickering.
The walls of the church of St Peter and St Paul at Pickering bear a unique gallery of 15th century wall-paintings. Discovered in the 15th century they were promptly concealed with whitewash because the vicar thought that they would encourage idolatry. Happily, they were rediscovered in 1878. They depict scenes form the Bible, from history and from legend ranging from St George slaying the dragon to the martyrdom of St Thomas-a-Becket. The Church also houses a memorial to Robert King and his son Nicholas who went to America in the eighteenth century and helped plan the city of Washington DC.
One of the largest known gooseberries was grown by Mr Bernard Harland of Pickering. In 1994 he showed a Yellow Woodpepper Gooseberry, weight of 31drams 22 grains, at the Egton Gooseberry Fair and won first prize.
North York Moors
The North York Moors National Park has the largest expanse of heather upland in England.
If you hear somebody talking about Fat Betty, Young or Old Ralph, don't worry these are just stone crosses in the North York Moors National Park.
King Billy, Uncle Sam's, Monkman's Slaughter, Scoresby Stour, Backwood's Bitter, Two Pints, Olde Bob, Double Chance are all current or past locally brewed beers from the Cropton Brewery and Malton Brewery Company and take their names from local fables and facts.
The tallest lime tree in Britain can be found at Duncombe Park, Helmsley - measuring 46 x 3.7 metres.
The North Riding Forest Park, now known as Dalby Forest, is the largest upland heath forest in the country.
You can find a bridge over nothing on the village green at Sinnington, along with the world's first stainless steel maypole.
The North Yorkshire Moors Railway runs steam trains along 18 miles of track from Pickering to Grosmont and is the longest steam operated railway in Great Britain.
The Battle of Byland was fought in 1322, two miles from the Abbey. King Edward II was surprised (and almost captured) by an invading Scottish army as he sat dining with the Abbots.
A cave at Kirkdale was found in 1821. In it the remains of hundreds of hyena, bear, tiger, elephant and wolf were discovered. One theory at this time was that Noah's flood had involved Yorkshire, but it is fairly certain that the cave was a hyena den. King Ethelwald is allegedly buried at St Gregory's Minster, Kirkdale.
At St Gregory's Minster at Kirkdale, visitors will see a Saxon sundial carved on a 7ft slab of stone. This is the most complete example of its kind in the world and shows the eight hours of a Saxon day. The inscription on the sundial reads "Orm Gamal's son bought St Gregory's Minster when it was all broken down and fallen and he let it be made new from the ground to Christ and to St Gregory in the days of Edward the King and of Tosti the Earl. And Harwarth me wrought and Brand priest."
Farndale is a long and remote valley which reaches deep into the centre of the moors. The dale is famed for its wild daffodils. Every spring, around the middle of April, the banks of the River Dove are covered with small yellow daffodils. They are the true wild daffodils native to Great Britain. Yorkshire folk often call them "Lentern Lilies", because they bloom around that season. Over 50,000 visitors come to see the daffodils every year.
The Hole of Horcum is a large natural amphitheatre in Levisham Moor, over 120 metres deep and over a kilometre wide, created by glaciers during the Ice Age. A "Devil's Punchbowl" type feature, local legend has it that the amphitheatre was made by the Giant Wade who scooped out the earth to throw at his wife Bell. Another is that the devil picked up a huge handful of earth and cast it across the moors to form the 800ft-high Blakey Topping.
Hutton le Hole, as well as being one of the showpiece villages of the Moors, is unusual as the common land of the village and surrounding area is still administered by a courts leet. The Spaunton Court Leet and Court Baron with View of Frankpledge is one of the few remaining Courts Leet in the country.
The North York Moors National Park is one of the country's greatest strongholds for the breeding of merlins, a small falcon.
A Witch Post can be found on the smoke hood which covers the fireplace in Stangend, a cruck cottage dating back to the mid 15th century, which is one of the exhibits at the Ryedale Folk Museum. It is thought that they were intended to protect the house or hearth from the influence of witches or prevent them from entering the house. Less than 20 of these carved posts are known, all in north east Yorkshire, except one found in Lancashire.
Rievaulx Abbey Yorkshire's first Cistercian Abbey, was once home to 150 monks and 500 lay brothers. The wealth of the Abbey came mostly from their success as sheep farmers. At one time the Abbey farmed 14,000 sheep on the moors and the monks were very successful at selling wool to cloth merchants from Flanders, France and Italy.The woods at the end of Rievaulx Terrace are a Site of Specific Interest. It is one of the few homes to the Rievaulx Beetle. The Terrace, which was created by the Duncombe family, took 8 years to build and was finished in 1757.
The Ryedale Folk Museum is the home of the oldest daylight photographic studio in the country. Dating back to 1902, this Edwardian photographic studio incorporated a darkroom and a finishing room at one end, with a large area lit by daylight illumination suitable for photography. In 1911 it was dismantled from its location in York and transported by horses and carts to Hutton le Hole.
A few unusual residents can be found in the moorland villages of Hutton le Hole and Appleton le Moors. Common grazing is still practised and sheep can be found wandering around the village, grazing on the roadside, greens and gardens.
The highest point in Ryedale? The crown of Round Hill (454m) is just a few yards outside Ryedale though the boundary around there may be just below the 450m mark. Certainly the Urra Moor general area is higher than Bilsdale Moor which rises to about 420m. Round Hill (above Ingleby Greenhow) is said to be the highest point on the Cleveland Way.
The Yorkshire Wolds is the northernmost most outcrop of chalk hills. The grassland is rich in chalk land plants like the Pyramidal Orchid and Purple Milk Vetch and is a haven for butterflies including the Marbled White - at the northernmost limit of its range.
Wintringham is thought to be the location of Britain's most northern lavender farm - Wolds Way Lavender.
One of the last breeding grounds of the Great Bustard was in Ryedale, on the Yorkshire Wolds.
Wharram Percy is a classic deserted village in the Yorkshire Wolds. Now in the care of English Heritage, the site tells the story of a village abandoned in the 16th century probably when farming methods changed from arable fields to sheep.
The "electrogena-affinis", a type of mayfly, is found nowhere else in Britain and is therefore unique to the River Derwent in Ryedale.