Remains of the ‘Druid Temple’ in Yorkshire. It was inspired by Stonehenge and built to alleviate local unemployment, allowing a wealthy landowner to pay workers a shilling per day for their labour

February 26, 2024

The Druid’s Temple in Yorkshire is a 19th century folly, styled after stone circles and well known prehistoric monuments such as Stonehenge.

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The Druids Temple was built to alleviate local unemployment, allowing William Danby, a wealthy landowner of the time to pay workers a shilling a day for their labour.

William Danby (1752-1832) was an eccentric 19th-century country squire, a former Sheriff of Yorkshire and the owner of Swinton Park, near Masham.

In the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, the residents of Danby’s Yorkshire estates were suffering from a serious economic depression, so he decided to help.

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He hired unemployed workmen and paid them one shilling per day to create a fanciful folly based on a circle of standing stones.

The stones ranged up to 10 feet high and formed an arrangement measuring 100 feet long.

The standing stones were arranged around a low stone altar. At the back of the circle was a cave in the style of a tomb.

Three more stones form a screen to an antechamber, and beyond that is a circular chamber centred on the altar, or sacrificial stone.

Not only did Danby design the temple, but he also hired a ‘hermit’ to live in the ‘tomb’ for seven years. The hermit was instructed to remain mute and let his hair and beard grow.

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It was always going to be a difficult task; the successful hermit lasted only four years in his role and it was rumoured that the requirements of the job drove him insane.

There are also clusters of standing stones throughout the nearby woodland too.

At less than 200 years old, it is nonetheless an atmospheric and intriguing location.

Despite its origin being common knowledge, myths and rumours of mystic practices have sprung up over its lifetime with tales of Devil worship and harrowing frights experienced by those who have spent the night.

For most now though, The Druids Temple is a tranquil spot to take a picnic and enjoy a gentle stroll, with convenient parking and refreshments just a stone’s throw away.

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There has been no shortage of rumours of paranormal occurrences near or within its limits.

Campers have been known to set up there overnight and reported sightings of disembodied shadows shifting across its surfaces.

Strange, eerie noises have been reported at all hours of the day.

Without doubt the most significant and well-known occurrence at the temple was the alleged presence of a pig’s head upon the altar, around the year 2000.

According to the two friends, they passed the temple in the early morning, where they saw the grisly tableau.

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Rumours got around until it ended up a point of discussion in the House of Lords.

The Baroness Masham, of the nearby town of Ilton, argued that public access to the monument should be restricted, due to fears of Satan worship.

The site is maintained and cared for as part of the Swindon Estate.

Someone who recently visited the site said “Stunning place. Beautiful woodland walk. Temple very interesting. Nearby cafe and parking.

”Forest area well maintained. Path ways clearly marked. Easy terrain to walk.”

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Another person added: “Visiting North Yorkshire and saw this as an attraction so glad we decided to visit ,it was Monday so very quiet and we had it all to ourselves.

”Lots to see the temple really good nice sunny day which made it even better …enjoyed a lot.”

If you’d like to visit, the address is: Knowle Lane, Masham, Yorkshire Dales, Yorkshire, England.

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