Out & About …

… on the North York Moors, or wherever I happen to be.

Blakey Ridge and The Lion Inn: From Crutched Friars to Modern Hikers

A view across Rosedale towards Blakey Ridge. In the front, Florence Terrace, one of many rows of terraced cottages built to house the ironstone miners and their families. Rosedale’s population surged in the two decades between 1851 and 18711“This Exploited Land of Iron. Page 17. North York Moors National Park. 2015.”.

The Lion Inn—in the foreground, a bell pit from an old coal mine

Barely discernible on the distant skyline stands the Lion Inn. There are few inns more remote, yet archaeological evidence suggests man has been wandering this ridge since the earliest times. Cockpit Howe, a Neolithic burial mound, rises just behind the inn. Meanwhile, at Loose Howe, there is a tomb where a chieftain of the Bronze Age rests eternally, encased in a coffin reminiscent of a canoe, adorned with his weaponry, garments, and provisions for his celestial journey. Or he did rest until excavated by Elgee in the 1930s2‘Loose Howe (Rosedale)’. 2019. The Megalithic Portal <https://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=5152> [accessed 8 September 2023].

Fast forward to the reign of King Edward III, when a parcel of land of ten acres was bestowed upon the Order of Crutched Friars3https://arts.st-andrews.ac.uk/monasticmatrix/sites/monasticmatrix.osu.edu/files/commentaria/primary_texts/mm-S11876-dugdalew-crutched-kildale.pdf. Their purpose? To construct an oratory and associated buildings, no less. Legend has it that these friars, plagued by penury, might have ventured into the inn-keeping business to alleviate their destitution. Yet, alas, historical records are sparse, and it’s quite probable that the Black Death dealt a grim hand to these friars, sealing their fate.

During the middle part of the 18th century, the farmers residing in the dales branching from the Esk valley, which included Westerdale, Commondale, Danby, and the two Fryups, found a nice little market for their extra corn, mostly oats, at this inn. They’d transport their excess up to Blakey to cater to the needs of folks (and there were quite a few) who maintained stables for hunting and racing in the lower lands of the Ryedale Valley. The horse-drawn wagons from the dales would trundle up to the Inn, where they’d rendezvous with dealers from Ryedale, trading their goods before heading back to their respective destinations4Ford, Joseph. “Some Reminiscences and Folk Lore of Danby Parish abd District.” Page 169. Horne & Son Ltd. 1953..

Bacon was another trade at Blakey, and so too the hand-loom weavers of the dales peddled their goods. Fish, freshly netted in the early morning at Staithes, made their way through Blakey to find another market in York that very day. This feat was achieved by the exchange of horses along the route, thanks to arrangements with local farmers. Furthermore, coal mining was also being carried out on the ridge. It was a busy hub of commercial activity.

However, with the advent of the railways in the Esk valley, Houlsyke, Stokesley, and Guisborough gained popularity as alternative trading markets for the dales. So Blakey’s role as a commercial centre diminished temporarily until the iron mines in Rosedale became established. The Inn then began drawing in miners, navvies, and the small community that gradually developed around Blakey Junction.

The mining operations ushered in a surge of custom until their gradual decline at the outset of the 20th century. Consequently, the Lion Inn experienced another period of tranquillity, prompting the landlord to diversify, dedicating a substantial portion of his hours to farming in Farndale. Following his death, his widow assumed the mantle, succeeded by their son, Fred Johnson.

Improved roads and the establishment of the Coast-to-Coast footpath have meant a rejuvenated influx of clientele has descended upon the Lion Inn, now one of the most popular in the area.



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