Out & About …

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

Northdale’s Mysterious Stone Pig-Sty?

During my wandering around the aesthetic barns of Northdale yesterday, this little curiosity caught my eye.

View from the north.

A curving quadrantal chamber within a natural rock formation, adorned with two large recesses flanking the “southern” entrance and another substantial chamber gracing its northern flank. Clearly, the hands of man have toiled here, evident in the distinct dressing marks etched upon the stone faces.

The main chamber, a metre in depth and width, extends approximately four metres in a curvaceous fashion, open at both ends. Nearby is an 18th-century barn named as Ebenezer1“Building named Ebenezer east of Northdale Beck.” NYM NP HER No: 10564.

My imagination went into overdrive, grappling with the riddle of its purpose. The notion of a sheep dip was promptly dismissed; no recollection of a nearby stream lingers, and the logistical challenge of obstructing the ends would be difficult.

Could it be associated with the old practice of salving sheep? A bygone shepherd’s practice, predating sheep dips, where the sheep’s sub-fleece skin was coated with a concoction of tar and rancid butter. A tedious endeavour, carried out in autumn to thwart sheep scab and kill pesky ticks. The sheep, legs tethered, would be laid on a wooden trellis.

But then, my imagination became more whimsical! Might it be linked to a clandestine distillery?

However, it seems that this feature has been listed by Historic England2‘Heritage Gateway – Monument Number 60485’. 2023. Heritagegateway.org.uk <https://www.heritagegateway.org.uk/Gateway/Results_Single.aspx?uid=2880f1b3-5895-4c9c-99b7-7004ab1ace46&resourceID=19191> [accessed 13 December 2023]. They admit that there is no local tradition that can shed light on its function. But a farmer has postulated that it served as pens for pigs or ducks, albeit acknowledging it is some distance from the nearest habitation. Probably because of this, the Ebenezer barn is also recorded as being “associated with animal pens”.

Alas, my understanding remains in doubt. I just don’t see why such a great deal of work would have been expended merely to house a pig or a handful of ducks. Could it be that the farmer, having tried houses of straw and wood, found them susceptible to the huffing and puffing of a sly fox?







One response to “Northdale’s Mysterious Stone Pig-Sty?”

  1. Fhithich avatar

    Gavin has contacted me on Facebook:

    “ this features in Elizabeth Ogilvie’s lovely little 1996 book An illustrated guide to stone antiquities on the NYM. She has this to say, In the early C19 the last owner was a retired ironstone miner called Mr Jack Spenceley, who must have been quite a handy stonemason. He laboriously cut out sections in a large natural rock to make a pen for a few pigs…

    She also mentions that Ebenezer was a ‘small cottage holding’ Jack Spenceley being the last owner”

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