In 1887, an account of one person’s ascent of Roseberry Topping appeared in the Leeds Mercury1“ROSEBERRY TOPPING.” Leeds Mercury, 3 Sept. 1887. British Library Newspapers, link-gale- com.ezproxy.is.ed.ac.uk/apps/doc/BC3201838443/GDCS?u=ed_itw&sid=GDCS&xid=14956f9d. Accessed 14 Apr. 2021.. Unfortunately the identity of the correspondent is unreadable:
“… After a brief survey of the ruins [Guisborough Priory] we proceeded to Pinchinthorpe, whence we had a pleasant walk to the village of Newton, and leaving the village green and church to our right, we left the highroad, and commenced our ascent of Roseberry. We were cautioned to keep to the line of the cart-road, and not try to save the long-winding half round the mountain, by attempting a more direct ascent, and we found out the value of the advice. We were amused at the earnestness with which one old man – far over seventy years old -attempted to dissuade us altogether from attempting the final ascent; but, laughing at his timidity, we proceeded on our way, and found the last hundred yards more difficult than we expected; but by perseverance we succeeded in our attempt, and at length stood on the summit.”
The “long-winding half round the mountain” would be the circuitous route via the summerhouse summiting from the south. The account continues with a description of the view from the summit:
“But how can we attempt to describe the magnificent prospect ? At our feet lay the little village of Newton, by way of which we had come, snugly reposing beneath the shadow of its towering guardian. To the left lay the villages of Great and Little Ayton, and farther away the town of Stokesley. To the west a long range of hills shut out the view. To the south a vast extent of moorland stretches for miles, with scarcely a single tree to break the monotony of the wild and barren prospect. Rising prominently on the hill immediately opposite stands Cook’s Monument. To the east Guisborough is visible, with its noble Gothic ruin; then Skelton and its Castle; and farther away, Saltburn, Huntcliff, and Boulby, with their stupendous cliffs; and, closing the view, the North Sea, shining in the sun.
Finally, a brief description of the summit:
On the summit of the hill were the remains of the beacon, pieces of charcoal, nails, and screws, with the surface of the rock burnt by the intense heat. Rising direct from the plain below, one conical hill with its summit over 1,000 feet above the sea level, the beacon fire must have been visible from points at a very considerable distance. We remained on the summit nearly an hour and a half; …”
Now this is interesting. The year, you remember, is 1887: Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. This was a national celebration and was marked by the lighting of beacons on the top of many hills around the country. There was definitely one on Roseberry for the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902 but as yet no evidence has been found of one actually on Roseberry in 18872“Roseberry Topping”. Great Ayton Community Archaeology Project. ISBN 978-0-9554153-0-2 2006. It seems likely that what our mysterious correspondent was describing was the aftermath of such a beacon to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee.
- 1“ROSEBERRY TOPPING.” Leeds Mercury, 3 Sept. 1887. British Library Newspapers, link-gale- com.ezproxy.is.ed.ac.uk/apps/doc/BC3201838443/GDCS?u=ed_itw&sid=GDCS&xid=14956f9d. Accessed 14 Apr. 2021.
- 2“Roseberry Topping”. Great Ayton Community Archaeology Project. ISBN 978-0-9554153-0-2 2006
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