The Dark Ages, the Axeheads and the Torque
“Darkness which could be felt.”
Three flanged bronze axeheads were found under a large stone in 1867 during the excavations for Cragg Royd, (now a nursing home) Woodlands Drive, Cragg Wood. The date of manufacture may be as far back as 2000 B.C. and they are now, after some vicissitudes, in the Manor House Museum, Ilkley, though not on display. Does the remark “found under a large stone” in the earliest report suggest that they may have been deliberately buried as valuable objects?
“On the lofty ridge of Billing, which yet retains its British name, was found about the year 1780 a valuable relic of British Antiquity; this was a torque of pure and flexible gold, perfectly plain and consisting of two rods not quite cylindrical but growing thinner towards the extremities and twisted together. Its intrinsic value was £18.0.0 sterling. It was claimed by the Lord of the Manor.”
The Lord of the Manor would be Richard Emmott (as such 1761-1819). Palliser uses the words “claimed as treasure trove” but treasure trove belongs to the Crown and not to the Lord of the Manor, and his present successor, Mrs J. Mackellar (née Green-Emmott) tells me that she has no knowledge of it. There is a widely held view in the village that it is now in the British Museum, where there is certainly a magnificent display of gold torques. Indeed, a respected headmaster of St. Peter’s School, now deceased, told his pupils year after year that he had seen it as a young man! However the Museum is most emphatic in denying any knowledge of it.
The Bank of England says that if Whitaker’s statement is correct, that if it was of pure gold, which they doubt, its value in 1780 of £18.0.0 represented a weight of 249.214 troy ounces and they put the value in December 1997 of such gold at £965.70. I very much fear that it went into the melting pot.
However the first gleam of light was the acquisition by about the year 950 of the Manor of Otley by the Archbishop of York and the building of a church there. What became the ancient Parish of Guiseley was part of Otley parish until about 1200 but the dedication of Guiseley church to a Saxon saint, Oswald, could indicate at least a preaching cross there before the Conquest. All ancient parishes in West Yorkshire were huge (Halifax originally contained about 124 square miles) and Guiseley contained what was before 1974 the whole of Guiseley, Yeadon, Rawdon and Horsforth. It would have been very thinly populated.
1. This may not be strictly true. An archaeological bulletin issued by Cartwright Hall Museum, Bradford in June 1956 suggested that it was referred to in the ‘York Courant’ of 24th August 1781. Research at York, however, shows that there was no issue of that paper on 24th August 1781 and it has not been possible to trace it on any other date.
2. Whitaker (1759-1821), educated at Rochdale Grammar School and St. John’s College, Cambridge, ordained 1785, LI.D. 1801. His clerical career was spent in Lancashire but he wrote at length on Yorkshire topography. Some of his books were illustrated by no less an artist than J.M.W. Turner. It has been said of him that “his style was elaborate and elegant but his scholarly standards were sometimes compromised”. From 1796 to 1813 he held livings within easy reach of Emmott Hall, Colne where Richard Emmott also had an estate. From his full description of the torque, he must have either seen it or a good drawing of it.
4. 249.21 troy ounces (a troy ounce weighs 31.10 grams) in lbs that would be 249.21/16= 15.5625lbs which is a more than a stone in old money! Far from being jewellery this would be a curse having 15.56lbs or 7.06 Kgs of gold around your neck. Somewhere along the transcription a decimal point has got misplaced. In 2021 1kg of gold is advertised for sale by the Bank of England for £44,500 pounds.