Tumulus: OS Grid Reference – SD 970 568
Pretty simple really. Go up the B6265 Skipton-Rylstone road for about 3 miles, past the Nettlehole Ridge woodland on your right. The next turn along to your right, up the track, is Scale House. Go past this until you get to Scale House Farm. The remains of the burial mound is in the field to your left, just before the farm. Knock on the door and ask!
Archaeology & History
This ‘tumulus’ (as it’s marked on the OS-map) was one of the many explored by the legendary reverend William Greenwell (1864) in the middle to latter-half of the 19th century. His description of the finds at Scale House were considerable; thankfully our old Yorkshire antiquarian Edmund Bogg (1904) shortened it and told us the following:
“The tumulus was 31 feet in diameter and about 7 feet high; it opened from the southeast; the soil immediately under the sod consisting of yellow clay to a considerable depth; then layers of blue clay… Exactly in the centre…at a depth of 7 feet, and on a level with the plane of the field, was found an oak coffin, formed out of a tree, split and hollowed-out, and placed due north and south, the head being placed to the south, as that as the larger part of the tree. After being exposed to the air for about 2 minutes, the bared coffin parted at the sides, and could not be moved except by detached pieces. The body had been wrapped in a cloth or shroud of texture resembling wool and coarsely-woven, of which there was a considerable quantity remaining; but the body itself was dissolved… The interment was considered to be that of an ancient Briton… The learned antiquary said it was the only instance (except the one at Gristhorpe, near Scarborough) where an interment in an oak tree hollowed out had a tumulus placed over it. It was more than 6 feet in length inside and about 7 feet 6 inches outside. The remains were carefully replaced and the mound restored to its former shape; a small leaden tablet being placed within, stating that it had been opened in AD 1864.”
Jessica Lofthouse (1976) listed this as one of the places reputed to be an old fairy haunt, wherein “the folk of Scale House discovered a fairy kist or chest.”
Bogg, Edmund, Higher Wharfeland, James Miles: Leeds 1904.
Greenwell, William, British Barrows, Clarendon Press: Oxford 1877.
Lofthouse, Jessica, North Country Folklore, Hale: London 1976.
Out of Oblivion: Archaeology and Notes – Directions and notices on this once giant tomb.
© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian