Archive for the ‘History’ Category

nik_5734The signpost proclaiming “Finest view in England” stands on an escarpment almost 800 feet (300 metres) high at Sutton Bank on the edge of the North York Moors National Park. On a clear day from this spectacular viewpoint you can look out over the wooded and craggy slopes, beyond nearby Hood Hill and Lake Gourmire, across the Vale of York and westwards to the Pennines.  The adjacent Visitor Centre is a popular attraction and many visitors stop to walk the path along the top past the Yorkshire Gliding Club, along the earthworks of an ancient Iron Age hill fort and around the point of Roulston Scar to the equally famous White Horse above the village of Kilburn. But what many do not know is that this is also the site of a battle. For it was here on14 October 1322 that a Scottish army led by Robert the Bruce attacked and routed an English army and came within a hair’s breadth of capturing the king, Edward II; and it is in the woods below that many English soldiers lie buried.


The road (A170) approaching Sutton Bank with Lake Gourmire in the distance

It was the time of the ‘Wars of Scottish Independence’. In August 1322 Edward II had marched into Scotland with an army of over 20,000, despatching his fleet to sail up the coast to the Firth of Forth in a campaign to defeat Robert the Bruce and capture Edinburgh. However, the Scottish army retreated before the English advance, avoiding battle and destroying all crops and cattle in their wake. Sir Thomas Gray, constable of Norham castle in Northumberland described it thus, “The king marched upon Edinburgh, where at Leith there came such a sickness and famine upon the common soldiers of that great army, that they were forced to beat a retreat for want of food…so greatly were the English harassed and worn out by fighting that before they arrived in Newcastle there was such a marrain in the army for want of food, that they were obliged of necessity to disband.”

Edward left his queen, Isabella, at Tynemouth and marched southwards to York with the remnants of his army, eventually arriving at Rievaulx Abbey, a few miles to the east of Sutton Bank. Behind him Robert the Bruce with an army of 20,000 ‘moss-troopers and clansmen’ had crossed the border, laid waste to Carlisle, Lancaster and Preston and was marching over the Pennines and through the Yorkshire Dales. At Northallerton he met with more Scottish troops and set out to capture a king.


Roulston Scar with the woods beneath

Robert the Bruce and his army marched through the night and by the morning of 14 October were in the woods beneath the craggy summit of Sutton Bank. Alerted, the English army under the Earls of Richmond, John of Brittany, Pembroke, Aymer de Valence and Buchan, Henry Beaumont, had broken camp near Old Byland to take up defensive positions along the top, probably from where the Visitor Centre now stands southwards to Roulston Scar. The Scots advanced against a barrage of rocks and missiles and hails of arrows; the Earl of Richmond attempted to counter the advance by sending men down the slopes but the narrow and steep gullies were easily defended by the Scots leading to many English dead. Bruce now set his highlanders against the English flanks and the Scots fought their way to the summit causing Richmond’s troops to pull back to engage and fight the enemy along the top of the escarpment and beyond. The battle now entered its final decisive phase.


The craggy outcrop of Roulston Scar

Bruce sent his remaining ‘moss-troopers’ and cavalry to find a way around the back up onto the moor, to outflank the English and attack from the rear. The battle was lost, no quarter was given and the English suffered heavy casualties. However, Bruce was not yet finished. He despatched Sir Walter Stewart and a contingent of cavalry to Rievaulx to capture the king. Stewart arrived to find an untouched banquet on the table, treasures, personal possessions and the great Privy Seal but no king.  Edward evaded capture by the skin of his teeth fleeing with a small personal bodyguard. Stewart and 50 men set off in pursuit, first to Nunnington and Pickering Castle; then to Bridlington before Edward turned inland and to safety behind the walls of the city of York. Bruce and his army continued their march as far as Beverley taking riches and loot as they went before finally returning to Scotland 6 weeks later.


I live almost in the shadow of Sutton Bank and Roulston Scar and often walk through the woods and take the path along the top of the hills. However, it was only recently when I chanced upon ‘A brief guide to British Battlefields’ by David Clark that I realised I was walking in the footsteps of history and that such a large battle had taken place hereabouts. There is no plaque, monument or information board to the events of that day, which is a shame. No cairn or memorial marks the graves of the estimated 8,000 Englishmen and 960 Scotsmen who lost their lives on 14 October 1322 and that too is sad. It would be nice to think that as the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Old Byland approaches this will be remedied.


Looking southwards along Sutton Bank and Roulston Scar with the Vale of York in the distance

Words and photographs Copyright © 2016 by Antony J Waller


Read Full Post »


Launched on the 19th July 1843 the ss Great Britian was described as ‘the greatest experiment since the Creation’.

NIK_15577 - Copy

Conceived by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, a visionary engineer of the Victorian era, with an iron hull designed by Thomas Patterson and rigging and engines by Thomas Guppy the ss Great Britain in 1843 was the biggest, strongest ship ever built and transformed the technology of sea travel.

Built as a ‘sail assist steam ship’ with 6 masts carrying special ‘schoonerNIK_15523 rig sails’ the ship was fitted with a revolutionary steam driven screw propeller instead of the more conventional paddle wheels.

NIK_15508 - CopyThis allowed the ship to operate more efficiently in rough seas, cutting down journey times to complete the crossing from Liverpool to New York in 14 days and 21 hours.

NIK_15511 - CopyBetween 1852 and 1875 the ss Great Britain was an elegant emigrant steam clipper making the journey from Liverpool to Melbourne in around 60 days.


(But it wasn’t all plain sailing. It took 18 months to sail out of Bristol! NIK_15525Brunel had made the ship too big to fit easily through the lock gates at the entrance to the floating harbour and he had to persuade the harbour authorities to temporarily dismantle the gates and await a high spring tide.)

NIK_15589The ship underwent several transformations over her working lifetime, passenger ship, cargo ship, steam ship, sail ship until 1933 when her working life came to an end and finally in 1937 when the ss Great Britain was scuttled in Sparrow Cove, Falkland Islands.

Now back in the original dry dock in Bristol where it was built the ss Great Britain has been lovingly restored to those halcyon days of a great ocean liner.


Words and photographs Copyright © 2016 by Antony J Waller







Read Full Post »

To visit Williamsburg in Virginia is to take a step back in time. Back to a ‘Revolutionary City’ where between 1775 and 1781 the inhabitants had to face a life changing decision – remain loyal to a government or start a new nation based on principles never tested before. On July 25 1776 the citizens of Williamsburg gathered outside the courthouse to hear the mayor read aloud the Declaration of Independence. The decision was made. All that remained was to defeat the British!

NIK_14791NIK_14819 - CopyNIK_14793 - Copy

NIK_14794 - CopyNIK_14792NIK_14787

NIK_14783 - CopyNIK_14761 - CopyNIK_14818 - Copy


Words and photographs Copyright © 2015 by Antony J Waller

Read Full Post »

Lake Gormire sits beneath Sutton Bank and the Hambleton Hills in North Yorkshire. The other morning there was a thin covering of snow and it was bright and sunny….

Read Full Post »

Panorama of the battlefield. The Jacobite lines to the left, the Government lines to the right..

On a windswept Scottish moor with driving rain and sleet blowing into their faces the Jacobite Army led by their Chieftain Bonnie Prince Charlie, resplendent in tartan coat and cockaded bonnet carrying a light broadsword and riding a fine grey gelding, stood in lines from three to six deep facing a well drilled Government force commanded by the Duke of Cumberland. It was one o’clock on the 16th April 1746 and the last pitched battle fought on British soil was about to begin. Within the hour the Jacobite Army was routed, up to two thousand Highlanders lay dead or wounded and their charismatic chieftain led away in bewilderment, distressed and in tears.

To read more go to:


Read Full Post »

Isn’t autumn wonderful!

Fountains Abbey, North Yorkshire. A UNESCO World Heritage Site

A world heritage site, Fountains Abbey near Ripon in North Yorkshire is a 12th century Cistercian monastery, one of the largest and best preserved in England. A fantastic place to go for a walk!

Read Full Post »

Nunnington Hall in North Yorkshire is a lovely manor house going back to the 13th century. The present building dates from the 16th and 17th centuries. It is reputedly haunted.

As was the custom in days gone a husband who lost his wife would often remarry, especially if left to raise a young son on his own. The squire of Nunnington Hall was no exception and took a young and beautiful lady as his second wife. It was not long before she became pregnant and gave birth to a son, a second heir. But she was mean and spiteful, hated her stepson and treated him poorly.

The squire died a few years later and his widowed lady wanted her son to inherit all. She became even more bitter and cruel towards her stepson and imprisoned him, locked in an upstairs attic room, alone, cold and poorly clothed, left to survive on a diet of bread and water. She forbade all in the household to have any contact with him and kept a strict watch to ensure this was so. Now she was a lady with a quiet step who enjoyed the finer things of life and so dressed in expensive silks and satins often all that could be heard of her approach was the soft rustle and swish of her gowns as she moved around the house enforcing this isolation.

However, her own son missed his stepbrother and so would creep up to the attic to see the older boy, to talk and play, taking with him food and toys. Then one day he sneaked up to the attic and found the room completely empty. His older stepbrother was gone. Escaped, run away to sea, or simply murdered by his wicked stepmother. No one knows.

The young brother was inconsolable and could not believe his elder stepbrother would ever desert him. In his grief he would spend his days wandering around the house, in and out of every room looking for him in all the nooks and crannies, peering through all the windows to see if he was in the grounds and gardens beyond. He entered the ‘panelled room’ and lent too far out falling to his death on the gravel path below.

His mother was heartbroken and deeply affected by her young son’s death. She would sit for hours in that ‘panelled room’ staring out of that very same window mumbling to herself. When darkness fell she, too, would wander around the house in and out of every room calling out her son’s name. Such was her pain and grief her health slowly deteriorated and she died.

Nunnington Hall passed to new owners. However, before long strange things began to happen. At night could be heard the rustle of a lady’s dress brushing against the stairs and the sound of weeping. Children’s voices whispering in the attic, doors opening and closing. A guest staying in the ‘panelled room’ recounted how every night a black and shapeless form came through the wall, passed over the bed and went out through the window and then there was the terrified scream of a young boy piercing the quiet still of the night.

And it still happens to this day.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: