As we approach 11 November it is only appropriate that we spend some time examining two of the many exceptional and varied war memorials in the Dales.
Possibly the most unique of all is Rylstone Cross, most notable not for the memorial itself, but for its fantastic location.
Sitting atop Barden Fell at the end of Rylstone Ridge, Rylstone Cross has an interesting (and, at times, confusing!) history. It is commonly believed that the site of the cross was originally home to a large, human-shaped boulder, known as the ‘Stone Man’. Alternatively, the name ‘Stone Man’ could signpost the presence of a cairn. Indeed, the place-name ‘Stone Man’ is recorded on the 1st edition 6” OS map (1856), which indicates that the cross was not the first structure on the site – but goes no further in clarifying what exactly this ‘Stone Man’ was.
At some point a timber cross was erected in the Stone Man’s place. While it is agreed that the cross was originally erected as a celebration of peace, confusion has arisen over which peace it was. Some claim the ‘Peace of Paris’ ending the American War of Independence in 1783, others claim the ‘Treaty of Paris’ ending the Napoleonic Wars, and others still claim the ‘Peace of Paris’ ending the Sino-French War in 1885.
Although the 1814 Treaty of Paris would seem to be the most likely candidate (being a British victory), the 1856 OS map does not appear to indicate the presence of a cross on the site – though of course, this does not mean that one did not exist.
What is clear, however, is that by the late twentieth century the cross had fallen into disrepair. The body of the cross was replaced with a sandstone monolith in 1947, but soon the timber arms that had been bolted onto it with ironwork were deteriorating rapidly.
Therefore, it was decided that the whole thing would be replaced with a stone monument. Made from locally quarried stone, the new cross, intended to honour the members of Rylstone parish lost during both World Wars, was erected on 19 and 20 April 1995 (VE day anniversary).
The cost of the monument was met by a collaboration of local and national organisations. These organisations include National Power, the British Mountaineering Council, Bolton Abbey Estate and the then Yorkshire Dales National Park Committee.
Cracoe War Memorial
As Rylstone Cross is situated on Open Access land, it has become part of a popular walk for visitors and locals alike. This walk also takes in the Cracoe War Memorial (also known as the Rylstone Parish War Memorial).
This impressive Yorkshire gritstone obelisk measures 23 feet 6 inches in height and 9 feet square at the base, tapering upwards to 3 feet.
It was put up over a period of 6 weeks in 1922 by local men (including Jack Moore of Cracoe, Richard Baines of Malham and Hetton, and John Tomlinson) at a cost of £56.
The group had taken over the project of a previous unsuccessful drystone wall construction. The erection of the monument was a huge community effort, with men living in tents near the site and relying on a Primus stove for cooking. Supplies (including beer!) were sledded up to the site by local farmers, who were keen to support the project.
A sealed bottle, a copy of the Craven Herald and some coins were placed in the lower section as a time capsule (interestingly, Rylstone Cross also reportedly has a time capsule of local newspapers set inside the structure).
Originally erected to commemorate the local fallen of the First World War, the current bronze plaque lists a roll of honour for both the First and Second World Wars. It is a sobering record of the young lives lost fighting for their country, and a tragic reminder of how such events can never be allowed to happen again.
- Private John DENT (Border Regiment)
- L/Corporal Frank HIGHAM (West Riding Regiment)
- Private Charles Edward HYMAS (Labour Corps)
- Private Horace MARSHALL (West Riding Regiment)
- Captain Gerald William Edward MAUDE (Yorkshire Regiment)
- Captain Michael Day Wade MAUDE (Yorkshire Regiment)
- Private Fred Slinger NELSON (South Staffordshire Regiment)
- Lieutenant John Norman William Atkinson PROCTER (West Riding Regiment)
- Private Thomas Benson RENTON (Machine Gun Corps)
- Private Rhodes SPENCE (West Riding Regiment)
- Ordinary Seaman James Thomas SWALES (Royal Navy)
- Private Tom SWALES (West Riding Regiment)
- Private John William WHITFIELD (West Riding Regiment)
- Pilot Officer Sidney DAGGETT
- Lance-Bombardier Richard M. PROCTER
- Driver Curtis WALKER
If you are interested in visiting these monuments to pay your respects this Remembrance Day, there are a number of carefully planned and well-explained routes available online. A word of warning, however – the route is steep in some places and can be boggy, so wear appropriate footwear, wrap up warm, and if possible take someone with you.
With special thanks to Chris from Craven’s Part in the Great War http://www.cpgw.org.uk/local-war-memorials/cracoe-yorkshire/
Keith Taylor, Swaledale and Wharfedale Remembered: Aspects of Dales’ Life Through Peace and War (2006).