Wednesday, 15 January 2014




The  Busby  Stoop


The Busby Stoop  an old coaching inn situated at the cross roads junction of the A61 and the A167 at Carlton Miniott near Thirsk in North Yorkshire was also the scene of a hanging early in the 18th century as a replica gibbet outside the inn testifies.

Local man, Thomas Busby married local girl, Elizabeth Auty - nothing strange in that except that Elizabeth was from a wealthy family and her father had unsuccessfully opposed the marriage because he knew that Busby was a drunkard and ne’er do well.   The story goes that Busby had a nice wooden armchair made for himself and one day he returned home to find his father in law sitting in the chair and an argument ensued.  Later on Busby got drunk and went to Auty’s house where a further argument took place with the result that Busby strangled Auty.   Busby was subsequently hanged on gallows erected outside his local pub. Before he died, it is said that Busby put a curse on the chair.

The name of the inn was changed to The Busby Stoop and the landlord acquired Busby’s chair which stood in the bar for many years.   The chair acquired a sinister reputation and people would sit in it for a dare.   It is said that four people died from accidents after sitting in the chair and during the second world war, many airmen who had sat in the chair failed to return from bombing raids.

Busby’s chair is now an exhibit in the museum at Thirsk.

The  Mother  Shipton  Inn

‘ Near this Petrifying Well I first drew breath, as records tell.’  These words, together with the portrait of an ugly woman, signify The Mother Shipton Inn,  which stands at the entrance to the Nidd Gorge at Knaresborough in North Yorkshire.   Legendary sorceress and soothsayer,  Old Mother Shipton,  was born in a  nearby cave  in 1488 and died in 1561 when she was 73 years old.   Close to the cave on the banks of the River Nidd  is the ancient dropping Well whose waters have mystical powers of turning everyday articles to stone.
Born Ursula Southill, she married York builder Tobias Shipton when she was 24.   ‘She was very morose, big boned; her head was long with great goggling, sharp and fiery eyes; her nose of an incredible and unproportionate  length, having in it many crooks and turnings and adorned with many strange purples and diverse colours, which like vapours of brimstone gas, gave such a lustre in the dead of night.’  So said a contemporary writer who went on to say, ‘ She had in addition a chin of the nutcracker order,  yellow skin shrivelled and wrinkled, with one solitary big tooth standing out of her mouth like a tusk.  Her neck was so distorted that her right shoulder supported her head, her legs crooked, with feet and toes turned towards her left side so that when she walked to the right it seemed as if she were travelling to the left.’     That may be so, but her understanding was extraordinary and her strange powers of prophesy became known throughout the land.  Over one hundred years after her death, Samuel Pepys had recorded in his diary that Mother Shipton had foretold the Great Fire of London.  Her predictions were widespread, she is said to have foretold of the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the defeat of the Armada, the Civil War, the Great Plague and so on.  ‘Carriages without horses shall go, and accidents fill the world with woe.  Around the world thoughts shall fly in the twinkling of an eye.  Iron in the water shall float as easy as a wooden boat.  Gold shall be found, and found in a land that’s not now known,’  is how some of her predictions are quoted.   In his Collection of Prophesies of 1645, astrologer W.Lilly quoted that sixteen of Mother Shipton’s predictions had been fulfilled. Many people thought she was a witch, especially Cardinal Wolsey whom she predicted would never be enthroned as Archbishop of York.  Wolsey apparently sent a message to tell her that when he did enter York, he would burn her as a witch.  Fortunately for her she was right.  Equally fortunate, one of her predictions did not come true – the end of the world in 1881!
It is possible to visit Old Mother Shipton’s Cave and the Petrifying Well.
Blind  Jack's
Blind Jack's is a relatively new pub which is situated in The Market Place at Knaresborough in North Yorkshire alongside a fine sculpture of the man in question.
John Metcalf was born into a poor family at Knaresborough in 1717 and at the age of six he lost his sight as a result of smallpox.   Never daunted, young Jack lived life to the full, he could climb trees, run, box, wrestle, ride and swim with the best and he married the prettiest girl in the area.   He became a fish merchant, learned to play the fiddle and he even fought at the Battle of Culloden.  He also ran a horse drawn taxi service and a pack horse service before his big break came.  Following the passing of an Act of Parliament which authorised the building of turnpike roads, Jack somehow managed to obtain the contract for such a road between Harrogate and Boroughbridge, which he completed successfully to be followed by several others and eventually he employed some 400 men.   It seemed that Jack had a nack, determined by instinct for his task, despite the obstacles, and the fame of Blind  Jack  spread. He died a rich man with some 180 miles of northern roads behind him, at the nearby village of Spofforth, when he was 93 years old and the epitaph on his gravestone in Spofforth churchyard tells his story :
‘ Here lies John Metcalf; one whose infant sight
Felt the dark pressure of an endless night.
Yet such the fervour of his dauntless mind
His limbs full strung, his spirit unconfin’d.
That long ere yet life’s bolder years began
His sightless efforts marked th’aspiring man.
Nor mark’d in vain.  High deed his manhood dar’d
And commerce, travel, both his ardour shard’d.
‘Twas his, a guide’s unerring aid to lend,
O’er trackless wastes to bid new roads extend,
And when rebellion reared her giant size
‘Twas his to burn with patriot enterprise,
For parting wife and babes one pang to feel,
Then welcome danger for his country’s weal.’
Reader! Like him exert thy utmost talent giv’n,
Reader! Like him adore the bounteous Hand of Heav’n!



The Boar’s Head
A notice outside this village pub at Ripley in North Yorkshire reads:

‘ This building was formerly the star Inn, one of three pubs in the village. It was the breakfast stop for the Leeds to Edinburgh charabanc, and its final licensee was Frank Smailes,
the Yorkshire and England cricketer'.
Sir William Ingilby, who had been a priest before he inherited the castle, disapproved of people drinking on the Sabbath. In 1919 he ordered all three landlords to close for that day. Facing the loss of their most lucrative day’s trading, all thee departed and Ripley was ‘dry’ for 71 years until the Ingilby’s opened the Boar’s Head Hotel in 1990. Just to show how times have changed, the Vicar came in and blessed the pumps on the opening night.’

The boar's head is the symbol of the Ingilby family.

The  Sun  Inn


Travellers in Bilsdale on the North York Moors are quite pleased to see The Sun  Inn in this remote countryside, an ideal place to stop for refreshment.  This was a popular haunt at the turn of the 19th century of Bobbie Dawson and his friends from the local Bilsdale Hunt.  When Bobbie died in 1902, his gravestone ended up in front of the pub, although it was originally intended for the churchyard grave where Bobbie is buried, but the vicar objected due to the fact that the stone is carved with a fox’s face and brush and a hunting crop surmounted by an old fashioned hunting horn.   So Bobbie’s friends put it outside his local pub where it has remained to this day.  The inscription reads :

‘ In memory of Bobbie Dawson,

Died June 17th 1902.

Whip to Bilsdale Hunt for upwards of 60 years.

Also wicket keeper for Spout House Cricket Club for many years.



 Spout House, a ‘cruck’ built building with a thatched roof, built in 1570 , still stands alongside. Now fully restored, it was the inn until the Sun was built in 1914 to replace it, and has a very fine ‘inglenook’


The locals will tell you that it is thought that Bilsdale was named after William the Conqueror, he who decided to deal with the northerner’s who were  resisting his rule and it was in 1069 that William was passing through Bilsdale, which now carries the B1257 road between Helmsley and Cleveland.   Chroniclers tell us that ‘During the harrowing of the north in 1069, William passed through this wild region and made his way amid cold and ice of winter.  He kep hissen warm wi sweering.’    King Billy as he was known was noted for bad language which gives rise to a local saying, ‘Swearing like Billy Norman , or swearing like Billyo.



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