Category Archives: history

Ebberston Archaeology Tour: Sword Quest

The sword in the stone (wall). Image: Judith Winters

We all know the story of the sword in the stone, but did you know there is a real life sword in the north wall at St Mary’s church in Ebberston?

The stone is particularly interesting because the carving was not made for the wall. Rather the stone has been selected and reused from an earlier monument (very possibly one that was close by). However it does seem to have been appreciated by the wall builders who recognised something of its significance and importance and kept it facing outward.

Despite earlier theories, it is almost certainly not an emblem that’s been cut out of a larger slab with a cross or other carvings on it. The stone edges have been chamfered (i.e. shaped with sloping edges) which is highly unlikely to have been done at the point of reuse . It would therefore appear to be an emblem-only monument that found a second life in the wall of a church.

What it marked, or who or what it memorialised, we do not know. However the style of the sword pommel (the handle) and the drooping curved guard does tell us that Viking-style sword pommels persisted in the north long after the Norman conquest. The sword is also similar in style to the ‘real’ one found at Cawood, now in the Yorkshire Museum.

It’s difficult to date (but it is clearly earlier than the 14th century church wall), but from the style of the sword, archaeologists think that it is probably was carved in the 12th or 13th century.

Sword quest. Achievement unlocked. 2016. Image: Judith Winters

References

Ellis Davidson, H.R.  1998 The Sword in Anglo-Saxon England: Its Archaeology and Literature, Boydell Press.

Grove, L. 1938 Five Viking-Period Swords. The Antiquaries Journal, 18(3), 251-257. doi:10.1017/S000358150000723X

Perkins, J. 1941 Persistence of Viking types of sword. The Antiquaries Journal, 21(2), 158-161. doi:10.1017/S0003581500086194

And thank you to my colleague Dr Aleks McClain (Dept. Archaeology, University of York) for the pointers.

Judith Winters

Dargo the Dog

About 1km north west of Ebberston is Dargo Plantation in which can be found a memorial to Dargo, one of the dogs of the estate gamekeeper (Matthew Pateman).

The memorial is dated 1812 and so is in the time of Squire Osbaldeston’s predecessors – the Hothams. The engraving is barely visible now but thanks to some villagers in the early 1990s, who attended a course on village history (organised by the Workers’ Education Association), a booklet about the village was compiled and they has been able to obtain a copy of what the engraving said. And now it can be shared again.

Enclosed beneath this peaceful shade

Dargo my faithful dog is laid

Who in his day performed a part

And gained applause from every heart

He was steady to scent and always true

For well his business Dargo knew

But now he’s gone, his work is o’er

My faithful Dargo is no more

Here snug he rests beneath these sods

And leaves the sport to other dogs

Dargo’s memorial, Ebberston. Image courtesy of Di Fletcher

Taken from: A History of Ebberston 1994 published by Centre for Continuing Education, Development and Training, University of Hull.

Remembering the Old Village School at Ebberston

As one of the key focal points in Ebberston, the Village Hall hosts weekly events such as table tennis and yoga. But before it became the Village Hall in 1975, the older residents of Ebberston will remember it simply as the Village School. Erected in 1874 AD, the school started out with pupils occupying two classrooms. The smaller classroom (now the kitchen) had children ranging from 5 to 11, which in the 1950s, was taught by Miss Heuby. The main classroom (now the main hall) had the rest of the children, taught by the Headmaster Mr Winspear from the age of 11 to when they left at 14.

Due to the small size of the building there was no room for a canteen, so the school rented the Chapel House now the privately owned Wesley House as the school dinner hall. Doreen Ruth Vasey who went to Ebberston school between 1950 and 1958 fondly remembers the school dinner being the best part of the day. ” I remember walking down the street in pairs to the Chapel Schoolroom, and I always looked forward to it as the dinners where always very nice”.

Like many schools in the 1900s, Ebberston was provided with little glass bottles with milk in for every student in the school every day which the school then warmed up for drinking. Mary Langdale a resident of Ebberston told me how they kept the milk warm, “They would give us 1\3 of a pint of milk which would have been warmed by the open fire at the south end of the main classroom. The milk would be lined up on a stone in front of the fire”.

An old school photograph from a newspaper article provided by Jean Burnett. It was taken in 1937 with many people in the photo remaining in the area long after they left. The school closed in 1975.
Dickinson Vasey’s school book (provided by Daphne Vasey) used for attendance and grading.
Ebberston Village school photograph taken in 1951 in the main school yard, now used as the Village Hall car park.

As I was doing my research for this blog I discovered that villager John Wood had inherited an old cupboard that was actually used in the school. The cupboard had two marks on the side both to hang two canes. John kindly allowed me to take a photo of it. Apparently, one cane was used for the knuckles while the other was used for bottoms!

The old school cupboard .

King Alfred’s Cave

Hi my name is Alex Vasey. As part of my Duke of Edinburgh bronze award, I am required to learn a new skill, so have decided that my skill should be journalism/blogging. I have taken my topic to be our village history and I am researching sites and buildings, interviewing villagers, then writing a report and creating a webpage. This is my first post and it’s about the Cave. I have more pieces in the pipeline but if anyone has any ideas that they would like me to research, please just get in touch (you can leave a comment at the bottom!).


The Cave is one of the most historical sites around North Yorkshire. It can be found in Chafer Wood to the north of the small village of Ebberston. The cave was erected in 1790 to mark the place where King Alfred had rested after his death in 705 AD.

King Alfred's Cave taken by Alex Vasey taken in 2019
King Alfred’s Cave taken by Alex Vasey in 2019


The story behind the Cave begins with Alfred King of Northumbria in 705 AD who supposedly fought his father in a great battle in the fields between Ebberston and Allerston. The story goes that King Alfred was pierced with an arrow and, when the battle ended, was carried up to a cave to rest where he later died. Alfred was then taken to Little Driffield where he was buried. Much later on in 1790 the stone cave was erected in Chafer Wood to mark the place where Alfred rested. The field that the battle was fought in is known to the local villagers as the Bloody Field and the stream that flowed through the field is known as the Bloody Beck due to the blood of the long lost warriors.


The Cave can still be found today in Chafer Wood which is a popular walking destination due to its history and local wildlife.


After researching the story behind the Cave and discovering the legend of King Alfred and how he died, I decided it would be good to find out what the Cave means to residents of Ebberston now. To do this I asked village pastor and a well-known figure around the village, Helen Leng, of what she thought about the Cave and the area around it.


What does the Cave mean to you as a resident of Ebberston?

I think of the Cave as part of the village really, aside from the fact it is one of the historical landmarks surrounding Ebberston. I also think the nature and wildlife surrounding the Cave is important and when I walk up there with my dog I often look out for the variety of plant life. See https://www.ywt.org.uk/nature-reserves/chafer-wood-nature-reserve


Why do you think the Cave means a lot to the village?


I believe the viewpoint over the village and the vale from the Cave plays a huge part in the Cave being linked to Ebberston. I also think however the local history and in particular King Alfred’s story is why the Cave is important to the village. They share the same history.

Would you be interested in learning more about the Cave’s history?


Personally I would. I think many people just read the plaque in the Cave and assume that’s it. But I would like to know more and I am sure other people would like to find out more about the story of King Alfred and why the Cave was erected.


Finally do you think there should be more tourism surrounding the Cave?


Yes I would. I think most villagers know the brief history of the Cave but tourists who come caravanning and stay in the holiday cottages have no idea the cave exists! So I think maybe some leaflets or an information board and a more detailed sign about the Cave would be a good idea.

The plaque that can be found in the Cave
taken by Alex Vasey in 2019

King Alfreds Cave
taken by Alex Vasey in 2019
The view from the Cave
taken by Alex Vasey in 2019

Further reading

Pastscape

https://justbod.blogspot.com/2016/04/ebberston-curious-carved-sword-bloody.html

https://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/YKS/NRY/Ebberston

http://nymcc.org.uk/king-alfreds-cave/

https://www.thescarboroughnews.co.uk/news/village-reveals-its-secrets-1-5866348