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The Folklore of Shipley Glen & Baildon Moor

Up the airy mountain,
Down the rushy glen,
We daren’t go a hunting
For fear of little men.

When I was a child, Shipley Glen was one of my favourite places in which to pass a summer afternoon: many happy hours were spent in the woods, clambering over rocks and splashing through the stream; or else browsing in Brackenhall Countryside Centre, before taking the funicular tramway down to Saltaire and back. This much I had in common with generations of Bradfordians, for whom Shipley Glen had been a popular local recreation spot since the late 19th Century, when its attractions also numbered a wooden toboggan run and Japanese-styled pleasure-gardens. A fairground was still there when I was young and I recall I often haunted the dodgems—much to my grandmother’s discomfort! Sadly, the attractions were shut down about a decade ago and left to decay; as a result, to visit Shipley Glen today is a strangely dismal experience.

However, my interest in Shipley Glen now is rooted in more than childhood nostalgia. The enchanting wooded valley carved out by Loadpit Beck fringes Baildon Moor—a spur of the much larger Rombalds Moor massif. This great tract of upland heath was extensively tenanted during British prehistory—especially the late-Neolithic and early-Bronze Age—when the valleys were too poorly drained to be fruitfully occupied. As such, material remnants of their culture litter than moors hereabouts; especially their religious and funerary relics. Indeed, some scholars have suggested that Rombalds Moor was a vast ritual landscape, in which the eschatological concerns of our earliest settled ancestors were made manifest. Doubtless far more has been lost than survives, but even on Baildon Moor—amidst the thronging tourists—an array of antiquarian interest bristles beneath your feet.

PREHISTORIC MONUMENTS

The most celebrated monument in the area is the Brackenhall stone-circle, which lies almost hidden amongst tussocks of moor-grass, barely a hundred yards from the eponymous visitor centre. In 1891, the Yorkshire antiquary, Harry Speight, described it as “a portion of earthwork raised between two concentric circles, whose greater circumference is 137 yards; and diameter 50 yards north-to-south and 39 yards east-to-west”. The circle was once known as Soldier’s Trench in local tradition, supposedly because soldiers once camped there before battle many centuries ago. It was also connected with May Day festivities in the folk memory and Speight observed evidence of “immense fires” having once taken place within the circle. Another tradition claims there was a third stone-circle known as Cat Stones Ring a short distance to the south, which has sadly fallen victim to depredation by stonemasons over the years.

Various other lost circles scatter the vicinity, including examples at Windy Hill and Pennythorn Hill—along with cairn-circles and various tumuli. Somewhat more spectacularly, the Shipley Glen edge of Baildon Moor is also known for several fine examples of that inscrutable prehistoric rock-art dubbed “cup-and-ring markings”. Some have been protected at Brackenhall Countryside Centre, but others remain in situ on farmland or the golf-course nearby. The Dobrudden Stone is a particularly impressive example of the form, and unlike many such rocks, it is relatively easy to find—propped up against the north side of the wall encircling Dobrudden Farm, which is now a conspicuous caravan and camp site. Dobrudden is the highest point on Baildon Moor and this prominent spot in the landscape was almost certainly once a prehistoric burial ground, as the denuded remains of cairns are everywhere visible.

HOUSEHOLD AND ANCESTRAL SPIRITS

The purpose of cup-and-rings stones—which mostly date to the late-Neolithic period—is hotly contested and no single interpretation is satisfactory. One theory is that where only one or two cup-marks exist on a rock, without the accompanying rings, they may have served as a receptacle for libations to the spirits which inhabit each site. Certainly as late as the early-modern period, many Yorkshire farmers’ wives used to leave milk in the hollow of a stone beside the kitchen door to be consumed by the household spirit overnight. These household spirits had a variety of names across the north of England—including boggarts, brownies, bogles, hobthrusts and dobbies—whilst such stones were sometimes called “dobby-stones”, and were said to have been worn smooth by such spirits as the sat awaiting an opportunity to re-enter the house.

Perhaps the first component of the toponym “Dobrudden” refers to these hobgoblins and they were once considered to be ubiquitous in the area. This would be consistent with existence of the Dobrudden “necropolis” or “cairn-field”, as household spirits—such as dobbies—may represent a corrupted remembrance of pre-Christian ancestor worship and were often associated with the remains of our prehistoric ancestors in early-modern folklore. As such, perhaps the more elaborate cup-and-ring markings—for instance, the Dobrudden Stone itself—were not merely hollows in which to place libations for the spirits, but represent the lineage of ancestors. The similarity of many cup-and-ring markings to the layout of a family tree has often been observed and whilst this may not be their only function it would certainly make sense of those incorporated in a funerary landscape such as Dobrudden.

THE HILL OF BAAL?

However, such tidy explanations are often deceiving and the unreliability of such toponymic analysis has led astray many antiquarian over the years. Too often linguistic roots of separate origins are conflated in order to satisfy some romantic fancy: for example, the name of the village of Baildon was once thought to mean “Hill of Baal” by Victorian topographers. Baal was not a native word, but a Semitic title used as an honorific for the pre-Abrahamic deities of the Levant. It was later used as a derogatory term to demonise the “heathen” and “pagan” gods which were superseded by the Judeo-Christian monotheistic tradition. The root “Baal” is preserved in the term “Beelzebub”—from “Ba’al Zebûb”, literally meaning “Lord of the Flies”—a name cited in Scripture as a synonym for the Devil, which became a common slur used to associate non-Judeo-Christian deities with the Great Deceiver.

As such, in 19th Century, many pious historians believed our pagan ancestors to have worshipped Baal; and when the name “Baildon” was combined with conspicuous evidence of prehistoric ritual in the vicinity, it became obvious to such scholars that this hill must have been a centre of idolatrous worship. Even the usually reliable Harry Speight wrote, “The very name of Baildon would seem to denote a scriptural origin in the place being chosen by the High Priests for propitiating sacrifices to their god Baal, when in honour of the all-giving Sun, baal fires were kindled on the hill tops, just as the festal fires are in Ireland”. Fortunately, standards of scholarship are more rigorous today and we now know that “Baildon” means something more prosaic—perhaps “hill of the berries”—in Old English. If fires were ever lit on the hills hereabouts, they were probably beacon-fires rather than evidence of some “Druidical” hearth-cult.

THE DEVIL IN BAILDON

Although Baildon may not have been the centre of primitive idol worship that Victorian scholars believed it to have been, local folklore has populated it with demons nonetheless. In “Baildon and the Baildons: History of a Yorkshire Manor and Family”—a mammoth work compiled between 1913 and 1926—W. Paley-Baildon refers to an outcrop known as the Cloven Stone, one of the shattered gritstone crags which fringe Baildon Bank. The name may have arisen simply because it is split down the middle—i.e. literally cloven; or it may have arisen from a local tradition which claims the Devil once leapt across the Aire valley from this rock, leaving a cloven-hoof print in his wake. This is a very common migratory motif and can be found attached to numerous rocks in the vicinity: including the Cloven Stone on Rivock Edge; Almscliffe Crag in Wharfedale; Nursery Knott above Appletreewick; and once perhaps many others.

In many instance, stories of the Devil’s impact on the landscape have been transposed onto earlier legends concerning giants. For instance, Almscliffe Crag was variously said to have been thrown from Ilkley Moor by the Devil, or by the wife of the giant, Rombald. Rombald himself was supposed to have left his footprint on the Cow and Calf Rocks, and one wonders if the Cloven Stone at Rivock Edge—the south-western margin of Rombalds Moor overlooking Keighley—may also originally have been associated with the giant. Similarly, as Baildon Moor is an extension of Rombalds Moor, could the Cloven Stone on Baildon Bank also have been connected with the giant—with the Devil a later syncretic addition imposed by some hellfire preachers on an older folk-tradition to provide recognisable exempla demonstrating the Old Enemy’s reality on earth?

ROBIN HOOD

Two sites in the vicinity of Baildon and Shipley Glen are associated with the legendary outlaw. The first is located on Baildon Bank and is known as Robin Hood’s House, the name of which suggests a vague local tradition that Robin once hid here, although no more explicit legend survives. In the 18th Century, a local writer noted, “The country people here attribute everything of the marvellous kind to Robin Hood”. The site was described by William Paley-Baildon as “unquestionably a cromlech… formed of a huge mass of stone, lying apparently just as it fell from the cliff above; the other stones, some of considerable size, have evidently been placed in position by man”. However, the assertion that it was “unquestionably a cromlech” is contentious; early antiquarians often misinterpreted natural features for artificial ones and there is no other evidence to suggest it was once a burial chamber besides its apparent structural similarities.

The second site connected with the folk-hero is Robin Hood’s Chair or Seat, which stands in Trench Wood about halfway down Shipley Glen. It is an earthfast boulder in which water has worn a natural cavity resembling a seat and where Victorian antiquarians suggested some local shaman or chief once sat. Again, this is probably as fanciful as the notion that Robin Hood sat in the chair and there is no reason to believe that humans were remotely concerned with the stone until the late Middle Ages, which is the period when Robin Hood toponyms proliferated as a consequence of the legend’s popularity. Although recent research has shown that the Robin Hood legend probably originated in the West Riding of Yorkshire—namely an area between Pontefract and Doncaster known as Barnsdale—there is no direct connection to Airedale in the earliest ballads.

MURDER MOST FOUL

Not all the folklore connected with Shipley Glen is antiquarian or supernatural. In 2012, the Dalesman Magazine published a letter in which the writer recalls his grandfather telling him that sometime during the 19th Century, a man, his wife and their two children suddenly disappeared from their cottage in Bradford. They were an impoverished family and the police eventually traced the man to Liverpool, where he intended to sail for the New World to look for work. However, there was no sign of his wife or children. One constable considered this suspicious and went to the trouble of following the man across the ocean to keep him under surveillance. Finally, on New Year’s Eve—in a bar full of English immigrants—the man raised a toast “to the ewe and lambs who sleep this night in Shipley Glen”. The constable subsequently arrested his quarry and took him back to Bradford for trial and execution.

Although this story deals with natural facts, it is a folkloric narrative nonetheless and it is doubtful that any such murder ever occurred. The detail that the constable followed his game all the way to the United States should give it away—whenever did the police have sufficient resources to squander in such a fashion?—but even more damningly, an identical story is told about Sawley near Ripon in North Yorkshire. It is said that the body of the Sawley murderer was later hung from a gibbet overlooking the scene of his crime; however, the stone pointed out as the base of the gibbet is actually Lacon Cross—a medieval boundary-stone and way-marker erected by the monks of Fountains Abbey. According to local folklore, “when the moon is full in the winter months a ewe and two lambs may be seen on or near the bridge down Sawley Lane”. One wonders if a similarly spectral tradition was ever attached to Shipley Glen?

Bibliography
Baildon, William Paley (1913-26) “Baildon and the Baildons”
Bennett, Paul (2001) “The Old Stones of Elmet”
Cudworth, William (1900) “Baildon Moor & Its Antiquities” in “Bradford Antiquary” Vol. 3
Glossop, William (1882) “Ancient British Remains on Baildon Moor” in “Bradford Antiquary” Vol. 1
Jackson, Sidney (1954) “Soldiers’ Trench Circle” in “Cartwright Hall Archaeology Group Bulletin” Vol. 1.1
Lambert, Cliff (2012) “Truth or Fiction?” in “Dalesman Magazine: May 2012”
Ross, Ray (2012) “A Gruesome Tale” in “Dalesman Magazine: September 2012”
Smith, A.H. (1961-63) “Place Names of the West Riding”
Speight, Harry (1898) “Chronicles & Stories of Bingley & District”
Turner, Joseph Horsfall (1888) “Yorkshire Notes & Queries” Vol. 1
Turner, Joseph Horsfall (1897) “Ancient Bingley”

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The Hallas Bridge Witch & the Psychogeography of the West Bradford Moors

The triangle of upland between the mill-towns of Bradford, Halifax and Keighley has no particular name of its own and is often overlooked in topographies of the area; yet this tract of the Pennines possesses a distinct identity, a palpable sense of place that over the centuries has bred a glut of remarkable lore and legend. The region is not excessively remote: it is criss-crossed by arterial roads and farmers have reclaimed much of the desolate moorland for pasture. These hills are also home to small towns such as Denholme and Queensbury—two of the highest municipalities in England—whilst the sprawl of the West Yorkshire conurbation is often visible in the valleys below.

The district borders Brontë Country and there is certainly no doubt that the literary sisters were familiar with this territory: they were born in the village of Thornton on its eastern edge and lived there for the earliest years of their childhood before moving to Haworth—itself barely a few miles away. Nonetheless, it feels discrete from the more characteristically “wuthering” landscape of the Worth Valley—which must be considered the Brontë heartland—and for the sake of convenience, I have come to refer to this area as the West Bradford Moors, although it is a shame that a more poetic and evocative name cannot be found.

One of the many hidden treasures of the West Bradford Moors is the wooded dell carved out by the Harden Beck as it flows from the watershed on Thornton Moor towards Bingley where it joins the River Aire. In the upper reaches of this valley, the stream tumbles down a series of charming cascades on its course through Goitstock Wood creating a veritable fairy glen. We know that Charlotte Brontë herself once strolled through this valley in the company of an old Chartist from whom she hoped to extract raw material for the literary endeavour that was ultimately published as “Shirley” in 1849 (although by all accounts he advised her against reopening old wounds).

The Harden Valley is so picturesque that it is difficult to conceive it might once have been a source of dread; yet so it was. Discussing the area at the end of the 19th Century, that indefatigable Yorkshire antiquary, Harry Speight, refers to a “sorceress or witch, who is believed to haunt the lane which descends to Hallas Bridge on the Cullingworth side of the beck. She is traditionally said to be coming down the hill at the cautious pace of seven straw breadths in the year, and when at last she reaches the bridge, woe betide any person or house that may then be upon the hill, for by one magic wave of her hand the hill will vanish, and of course everything upon it”.

The legend is corroborated in 1923 by Elizabeth Southwart, in her excellent book, “Brontë Moors from Haworth to Thornton”. As if to demonstrate the unique quality of the West Bradford Moors, she also notes the persistence of supernatural traditions in the area: “The ghost tale left Thornton, Wilsden and Cullingworth very reluctantly, whilst at Oxenhope and Haworth the only trace is to be found in books; the oldest inhabitants not only deny that they ever believed in ghosts, but that their forefathers ever did. On the other hand, the Thornton, Cullingworth and Wilsden folk, though obviously incredulous, half wish that the tales were true: in fact there are people still left who believe they are”.

The most curious facet of the tale of the Hallas Bridge witch is that whilst the legend is apparently unique in Yorkshire, the motif is more familiar in the extreme south-west of the country—albeit attached to ghosts rather than witches. Such apparitions are known as “cockstride ghosts”: spirits that have been only partially laid at some remote location and now advance homewards at no more than a “cockstride” every year (“cockstride” being an archaic term synonymous with any tiny increment). Examples of cockstride ghosts are familiar in Dorset, Devon and Cornwall but there are no obvious northern analogues and it is unclear how an isolated example the motif has migrated so far.

Similarly opaque are the means by which the “cockstride” motif has become syncretised with the figure of a witch and how the tradition became quite so apocalyptic. The threat that if the witch ever reached Hallas Bridge she would make the whole hillside disappear—Cullingworth included—is considerably more dire than the consequences should a cockstride ghost make it back to the house it used to haunt. However, as the surrounding hills are replete with toponyms such as Egypt, World’s End and the Walls of Jericho, we can surmise that the folk of the West Bradford Moors took their apocalypses very seriously indeed.

Perhaps they needed to in such a stark and windswept landscape; it is often remarked that pitiless places breed pitiless eschatology. Like most of the South Pennines, austere Non-Conformist denominations such as Primitive Methodism flourished on these moors—as did abstinence societies such as Independent Order of Rechabites. Meanwhile, in the late-18th and early-19th Century the area was a fertile breeding for millenarian sects who envisaged that the spiritual transformation of society foretold in the Book of Revelation was close at hand. Followers of self-proclaimed prophets such as Joanna Southcott, George Turner and John Wroe were drawn extensively from these townships.

There is also something about the West Bradford Moors that seems fundamentally liminal; i.e. pertaining to boundaries, borders and thresholds. As mentioned earlier, settlements such as Queensbury and Denholme are amongst the highest towns in Britain and hilltops have long been perceived as a threshold between the earth and the heavens. Liminality is expressed too in the area’s relationship with the surrounding centres of Bradford, Halifax and Keighley. It partakes in the character of all three, but is not wholly identifiable with any one and functions as an effective frontier between them.

Liminal locations are boundaries spiritually as much as geographically; places at which the veil between this world and the other is worn thin. As such, it is perhaps no surprise that the West Bradford Moors were once home to so many uncanny entities: phantom black hounds stalked every lane and rumours of a shadowy horned figure once gripped the neighbourhood. There was also a rich tradition cunning-folk, who were rarely wholly benign: one raised the Devil to recover a client’s lost property; others set out on a disastrous quest to recover a hoard of demon-guarded treasure—after getting lost in the fog, they were reported to ecclesiastic authorities and excommunicated.

The Witch of Hallas Bridge is just one panel in the region’s rich tapestry of curious lore, and the apocalyptic tone of the legend is easy to understand in the context of this environment. Survival here was tenuous; the end always near. Disaster and hardship hove over the horizon like the witch slowly advancing towards that ill-fated crossing whereupon she would whisk the hill away. In such elemental landscapes it is easy to conceive of these malign entities and we must face the prospect that our anthropological interpretations are merely rationalist fancies to sooth our eschatological angst. If I lived in Cullingworth, I’d certainly be worried: after all, the witch must have almost reached that bridge by now.

 

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Robin Hood – The Best Books

My first and most personal book was “Grave Concerns: The Follies and Folklore of Robin Hood’s Final Resting Place” for CFZ Press in 2011, and although that work is a study of how certain locations breed legends as much as a study of the medieval outlaw, I read extensively on the history and evolution of the Robin Hood canon whilst I was writing it. With so many books available on the subject it can be difficult to decide exactly which ones are worth your time, so I’ve come up with a list of the sources I found the most comprehensive and reliable. A couple of entries are out-of-date and discredited, but they remain important in understanding the historiography of the legend. I also found a number of journal articles equally useful, but that list will have to wait for another time. Clicking on the hyperlinks in each title will direct you to purchasing information (which I’ve added from shamelessly mercenary motives).

1. “Robin Hood: 3rd Edition” by J.C. Holt (Thames & Hudson, 2011)

Undoubtedly the definitive survey of historical evidence concerning the figure known as Robin Hood and the evolution of his legend. It was first published in the 1970s and has now reached its third edition; each revised version adds new material crucial to our understand of the mythos.

2. “Robin Hood: A Mythic Biography” by Stephen Knight (Cornell University Press, 2009)

A more recent work than Holt’s study but now tied for the title of best book on the subject. Knight is a Professor of English Literature and he views the Robin Hood legend as a literary canon rather than a historical or folkloric topic. His background also ensures that the book is highly readable.

3. “Robin Hood & Other Outlaw Tales” by Stephen Knight & Thomas Ohlgren (Eds.) (Medieval Institute Publications, 2000)

A comprehensive and up-to-date collection of all the medieval and post-medieval ballads and plays with line analysis of each by two of the most respected scholars working on the academic study of Robin Hood. As such, it is an essential reference resource for all students of the legend.

4. “Rymes of Robyn Hood: An Introduction to the English Outlaw” by R.B. Dobson & J. Taylor (Eds.) (Sutton Publishing Ltd, 1989)

An earlier critical edition of the ballads—now out-of-print—but as essential as Knight & Ohlgren’s volume. It is particularly notable for the linguistic analysis which firmly placed the origin of the ballads (and therefore the legend) in Barnsdale—a former region of the West Riding of Yorkshire.

5. “Imagining Robin Hood: The Late Medieval Stories in Historical Context” by A.J. Pollard (Routledge, 2007)

As both literary works and historical artefacts, the Robin Hood ballads and plays that circulated in the late Middle Ages form a fascinating record of the concerns of medieval England. Pollard’s study explores what the legend has to say about issues such as yeomanry, forest law and popular religion.

6. “The Outlaws of Medieval Legend” by Maurice Keen (Routledge, 2000)

Although Robin Hood is the only medieval outlaw whose legend has survived into the present day, he was not unique and the likes of Eustace the Monk or Fulk FitzWaryn were equally popular folk heroes in the Middle Ages. Keen’s study examines Robin Hood in the context of this wider corpus.

7. “Robin Hood: Medieval and Post-medieval” by Helen Phillips (Ed.) (Four Courts Press Ltd, 2005)

An excellent collection of essays relating to historical aspects of the Robin Hood myth. It is particularly interesting for those studying the legend of his death as it contains a number of papers on this subject, including the first academic scrutiny of the history of Robin Hood’s Grave at Kirklees.

8. “Robin Hood: An Anthology of Scholarship and Criticism” by Stephen Knight (Ed.) (D.S. Brewer, 1999)

Published by an academic press, this mammoth anthology is almost prohibitively expensive; which is a shame because it is a rigorous and diverse resource, including studies of everything from Robin Hood’s role in the May Games to a study of the character’s role in the Romantic poetry of John Keats.

9. “Robin Hood in Popular Culture: Violence, Transgression & Justice” by Thomas Hahn (Ed.) (D.S. Brewer, 2000)

Another absurdly expensive critical anthology, but once again its contents are multifarious and compelling. The book includes essays on Robin Hood and the Nottingham tourist industry; Robin Hood musicals in the 18th Century; Robin Hood and swashbuckling cinema; and many more just as diverting.

10. “Robin Hood: Outlaw or Greenwood Myth” by Fran and Geoff Doel (DPI Media Group, 2000)

Although the mythological interpretation of the legends of Robin Hood has fallen out of fashion in academia, it was highly influential from around 1850 – 1950 and survives in the popular imagination thanks to the 1980s TV series, Robin of Sherwood. This is a good overview of the evidence.

11. “Robin Hood: The Green Lord of the Wildwood” by John Matthews (Gothic Press, 1993)

The mythological interpretation of Robin Hood survives most strongly in Neo-Pagan and other New Age circles, where it is almost an article of faith. Matthews is a veteran writer on such topics and whilst his book lacks academic rigour it nicely shows how the legend influences the Neo-Pagan imagination.

12. “The Haunts of Robin Hood” by Jill Armitage (The History Press, 2008)

In late medieval and early modern England, the ballads of Robin Hood were so popular that nearly every region claimed the outlaw for their own and sites bearing his name proliferated—from Robin Hood’s Arbour to Robin Hood’s Well. This book provides a useful gazetteer of the most famous.

13. “Robin Hood: A Collection of All the Ancient Poems, Songs and Ballads” by Joseph Ritson (James Clarke & Co, 1826)

Long out-of-date, of course, but this was the seminal study of the Robin Hood legend: the first attempt to collect together all material relating to the outlaw and place it in a historical context. As a radical, Ritson’s work strongly influenced the image of Robin “robbing from the rich to give to the poor”.

14. “The True History of Robin Hood” by John William Walker (E.P. Publishing, 1952)

The theory that Robin Hood was based on a 14th Century resident of Wakefield has been conclusively disproved by new evidence found by J.C. Holt. However, the argument was once very convincing and this is its definitive expression, based on preliminary work by Rev. Joseph Hunter in the 19th Century.

 

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The Victorian Occult Revival in West Yorkshire

Forming a sad, decaying conurbation on the eastern fringe of the South Pennines, today Bradford and the neighbouring town of Keighley scarcely seem the most obvious setting for occult drama. Yet in the 19th Century they were engines of the Industrial Revolution, prosperous municipalities brimming with an emergent middle class. As such, the region became arguably the most important locus of the Victorian occult revival outside London and whilst the city’s esoteric tradition is often overlooked, it represents a significant thread in both the social history of West Yorkshire and the development of occultism in Britain generally.

We will begin this tale of conflict and transformation with the foundation of a society, variously referred to as The Dew and the Light, the Ros. Crux Fraters or the Rosicrucian Fathers of Keighley, in 1870 by local man, David Lund. Lund was a typical product of the Victorian middle-class. A self-taught mechanic who co-owned a small engineering business with his brother Thomas at Albert Foundry, he held a degree in Political Economy thanks to the Oxford University Extension Scheme and was politically active as a member of the Keighley Foreign Affairs Committee.

Lund also had a long-standing interest in astrology and earned a supplemental income casting horoscopes, including some for the Liberal MP for Oakworth and Keighley at the time, Sir Isaac Holden. Doubtless such pursuits led him towards Rosicrucianism, an esoteric doctrine developed in early 17th Century Germany and regarded as widely influential, not only in European history of ideas, but as the basis of Freemasonry in Britain and most subsequent orders in the Western Hermetic Tradition.

Despite many of the philosophies which developed from it eventually mutating into neo-paganism in the Twentieth Century, Rosicrucianism itself was a firmly Christian theology, rooted in the Protestant Reformation and German Lutheranism. However, Rosicrucian orders were initiatory and hierarchical, seeking higher knowledge and a “universal reformation of mankind”. Influenced by Gnosticism and the symbolic, transformative aspects of alchemy, their rituals tended towards theurgy, aiming to achieve self-perfection and ultimately, union with the divine.

In the 1880s, the Dew and the Light produced a handwritten folio newsletter entitled Lamp of Thoth promising to reveal “mysteries of the great unknown” (Thoth was an Egyptian god of knowledge), the editorship of which was attributed only to a mysterious figure known as “Zanoni”. Surviving copies suggest the beliefs of the order were entirely consistent with Rosicrucian doctrine and the editor highly knowledgeable in this field. Such content belies the later charges of plagiarism and black magic which were levelled at the society by its rivals.

One local historian, Marie Campbell, speculates that the group may also have had what might now be described as a psychogeographical bent. She suggests that Daniel Murgatroyd, scion of the local landowning family who constructed East Riddlesden Hall, was once a member of the organisation. He was known to possess a “spell book” attributed to Sir Henry Clifford, the Second Earl of Cumberland, who occupied Skipton Castle and Barden Tower in the 16th Century and is remembered for practicing alchemy with the assistance of the monks at nearby Bolton Abbey.

Campbell refers to a title page, whether of Lamp of Thoth or otherwise is not made clear, headed “The Lands of the Dragon”, which depicts the symbol of a triangle inside a circle (a common alchemical motif) forming a map with Skipton, Keighley, Ilkley, Bingley, Baildon and Bolton Abbey as cardinal points in the circle, which would place the prehistoric sacred landscape of Rombalds Moor within the triangle. Campbell associates this chart with both Sir Henry Clifford and the Rosicrucian Fathers, but aside from the unproven Murgatroyd connection, there is little justification to suggest Clifford’s acquaintance with it.

The Society of the Dew and the Light must presumably have operated in Keighley without drawing any undue attention for the best part of two decades, from bases at 14 Parkwood Street prior to its demolition in 1881 and subsequently Lund’s home addresses, 190 Spring Gardens Lane and Fern Cottage on Highfield Lane. However, in the late 1880s, Lund and his organisation found themselves under attack on two fronts, attracting opposition from both the pious local authorities and rival camps in the Western Hermetic Tradition itself.

Lund’s troubles began in June 1887 with the first of several prosecutions related to his astrological services. It is uncertain why his activities provoked quite such ire from the authorities, especially as other astrologers advertised in the local press and practiced without hindrance in neighbouring towns. However, they were clearly willing to go to great lengths to indict Lund, as their first move against him would now be regarded as entrapment, with the police superintendent commissioning a horoscope under the false name, John Feather. Bizarrely, Lund was charged under the Vagrancy Act and fined £3 plus costs.

Lund and his society found themselves under further scrutiny, this time from fellow travellers, when a letter appeared in an 1889 edition of Lucifer, the journal of the Theosophical Society. Signed “One who has been duped” it protested, “They profess to be in the possession of much knowledge which they cannot give to the student, until he has attained to their state, and this knowledge is copied from books, which they either possess, or borrow or steal, and when they descend to originality it is simply one mass of error and nonsense.” The anonymous “dupe” also accused Lund and his followers of sacrificing goats and consorting with elementals.

It was followed by a letter from Dr. Wynn Westcott, distancing the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn from the Rosicrucian Fathers of Keighley. Whilst Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia was a well-known name at the time, having been founded in 1865, this was the first time the title of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn had appeared in the public domain. It had only been founded that year by Westcott and Samuel MacGregor Mathers, originally as an offshoot of the SRIA, which unlike its parent organisation would permit non-Christians, non-Freemasons and women to be members.

Lund replied to defend his organisation, but the correspondence rapidly degenerated into a slanging match between Lund, Westcott, Mathers and the “One who has been duped”. The London adepts were given succour by an editorial in Lucifer by the founder of the Theosophical Society, Madame Blavatsky herself in which she refers to Yorkshire as “overrun by fraudulent astrologers and fortune tellers who pretend to be Theosophists… (and) swindle a higher class of credulous patrons”. This was surely aimed at Lund, who had once been a member of the Theosophical Society and who had been so recently prosecuted.

Surviving issues of Lamp of Thoth have impressed modern occultists with their learning and so it must be concluded that the accusations brought against the Rosicrucian Fathers of Keighley were a naked attempt to discredit the society and promote the newly established Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in its stead. It was a successful ruse, for whilst the slanders may have been unfounded, they clearly took their toll on either Lund’s enthusiasm or the society’s membership, as Lamp of Thoth ceased publication around the same time.

Needless to say, The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, with its compelling synthesis of Rosicrucianism, Kabbalah, Enochian magic, alchemy and mysticism, went on to become one of the most significant forces in the Victorian occult revival, wielding an influence on culture and alternative spirituality which persisted through the Twentieth Century. Its membership at one time or another included such illustrious figures as W.B. Yeats, Aleister Crowley, Algernon Blackwood, A.E. Waite, Arthur Machen, Maud Gonne, Florence Farr, Evelyn Underhill, William Sharp and Allan Bennett.

On 10th June 1888, the Order appointed Baildon watchmaker T.H. Pattinson, under his occult name of the Very Honoured Frater Vota Vita Mea, as Provincial Hierophant of Yorkshire Members and charged him to seek out potential members in the region. Pattinson was similarly a Freemason and member of Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia, having joined that order in Halifax on 16th November 1887. His demonstrable esoteric interests suggest that he may also have been a member of the Society of the Dew and Light and there has even been speculation that Pattinson was the true identity of the mysterious “One who has been duped” in the Lucifer correspondence.

Pattinson had greatly impressed many of the London adepts. Some years earlier, Reverend William Ayton, a noted authority on alchemy who was to become one of the first initiates of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn had commented following a meeting with the watchmaker “From what I then saw of the strong proclivities of Yorkshiremen for Occultism, I had the greatest desire to organise a Lodge somewhere in this neighbourhood for the carrying on the study of it.” He would later describe Pattinson and other members of the Yorkshire SRIA lodge as “men who really know something.”

Meanwhile, A.E. Waite felt that Pattinson was not “one who made up spectacles” and evidence of this cautious, sober approach can be seen in a letter Pattinson wrote to Westcott on 20th June 1888, entreating him not to accept candidates for the Order too readily, citing an astral vision from the “Crowned One” in support. This advice was readily accepted and Mathers transcribed Pattinson’s purported vision, adding embellishments of his own. It was subsequently the Order’s policy to refuse all initial requests for membership and advise an applicant to try again in six months time, in an attempt to deter dabblers and dilettantes.

The Bradford Horus Temple was subsequently established on 10th October 1888 in rooms at the now-demolished Alexandra Hotel in Great Horton Road (the manager of which, Carlos Faro was a member) and consecrated by Mathers himself on 19th October. Pattinson was appointed as Imperator, with F.D. Harrison and J. Leech Atherson as Praemonstrator and Sub-Praemonstrator, a tripartite division of responsibility which obtained for each Golden Dawn temple, borrowed from the structure of Masonic lodges.

However, whilst his erstwhile competitors flourished, further trouble was in store for David Lund. In May 1890 he was once again convicted for the practice of astrology, this time on charges of purporting to be a fortune teller and deceiving Her Majesty’s subjects. It is said that the police were forced to consult a local antiquarian society to ascertain legislation under which he could be prosecuted. Two of Lund’s clients, Lily Wrigley and Annie Stott testified against him and despite receiving support from the Keighley Herald, he was sentenced to spend a month in the notorious Armley Jail near Leeds.

Lund was apparently the first Theosophist to be incarcerated at Armley, which attracted a great deal of interest from the prison chaplain. However, the astrologer would later remark that as a tee-total vegetarian, he did not find his tenure there especially arduous. Following his release, he returned to his single-storey residence at Fern Cottage and lived a solitary, hermitic existence whilst continuing to practice astrology until his death in January 1903 at the age of 63.

Meanwhile in Bradford, as the occult revival progressed through the 1890s, the adepts of the Horus Temple were not immune from factionalism and infighting of their own. This situation was not uncommon in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn at large, which despite aiming at higher modes of being apparently could not escape the petty politics of the human sphere and was frequently riven by internecine squabbles, a tendency that would ultimately prove its undoing.

In 1892, a quarrel broke out between Pattinson and other members of the Horus Temple, including one the three chiefs, Francis Harrison, who were seeking to introduce a Theosophical element into the rituals. Annie Horniman, a renowned London theatre manager and Sub-Praemonstratrix of the capital’s Iris Urania Temple (not to mention Mathers’ primary financier in this period), was sent to Bradford on Septmber 25th of that year to rebuke them. Her intervention led to the suspension of Harrison, along with the resignation of two members by the names of Oliver and Florence Firth.

The report Horniman submitted to Mathers giving an account of the meeting suggests that it had rapidly descended into farce. Whilst Oliver Firth may have been described by Colonel Henry Olcott, the co-founder of the Theosophical Society, as “that joyous-hearted, keen-brained friend”, he was clearly not the most diplomatic of individuals. Horniman complained that “Instead of expressing penitence (Firth) gloried in doing as he felt inclined in the Temple, and said he would laugh there if he chose, even if turned out for so doing… Such a speech is bad enough in itself, but being made before Neophytes and other low grade Fratres and Sorores is destructive to their discipline.”

Specific transgressions by Firth mentioned by Horniman included referring to astrology as “mere divination”, showing “a rebellious wish to pick and choose his subjects of study”, refusing to wear “the sash of his grade in the Temple because of its similarity to Freemasonry” and “speaking disrespectfully of our ceremonies”. Moreover, “when requested by the Hierophant to act as auditor he refused rudely and disrespectfully and sitting down suddenly he exclaimed ‘I shan’t!'” A recently admitted neophyte had also complained of a “want of reverence on the part of some of the spectators at his Initiation” and “said how it lost in solemnity”.

Meanwhile, F.D. Harrison, despite being one of the founding members of the Horus Temple, was similarly insubordinate. He “sat in a lower place than his 3=8 grade allows and was source of or a party to an unquietness during the 0=0 ceremony,” “referred in a most disrespectful way to both communications read that day in open Temple” and spoke “as if the Ceremonies were only foolish mummeries in his eyes”. Perhaps most revealing in terms of the light it throws on the attitudes of the “Yorkshire Chelas” is Harrison’s reference to the expulsion of Theresa Jane O’Connell following a dispute with Mina Mathers as “a mere squabble between two women”.

The Horus Temple members were far from happy with Horniman’s intervention, particularly resenting interference from a female. Although women were permitted in the Golden Dawn, due to Mathers’ belief in their mediumistic abilities, the Bradford members’ background in the male-only environment of Rosicrucianism and Freemasonry seems to have left them uncomfortable with women performing any substantive role. Pattinson’s own wife may have been the first female member of the Horus Temple but she never rose beyond the lowly grade of Zelator, suggesting that her participation was merely the result of taking an interest in her husbands activities and that neither party was unduly committed to the arrangement.

Their distinctly unenlightened attitude in matters of gender politics has led one commentator to dismiss the Horus Temple as “good old boys” and it is a far cry from the progressive outlook of the London temple. Yet despite the attitude demonstrated by Harrison above, he went on to be influential in the determinedly unisex Order of Universal Co-Freemasonry in Great Britain, founded by Annie Besant, Madame Blavatsky’s successor as President of the Theosophical Society, in 1902. By contrast, Pattinson would only retreat further back into male-chauvinism, as his subsequent career attests.

The expulsion of Harrison left a gap in the Horus Temple’s ruling triumvirate, and his authority undermined, Pattinson decided to temporarily stand down from his principle role. This forced Dr. Wynn Westcott to adopt the position of Imperator and on November 2nd he circulated a letter to Bradford members informing them of his decision to “take charge of the Temple until it has once more its Three Chiefs”. Members were summoned to attend a meeting on November 13th at which he further explained the reasons for what the Bradford adepts clearly regarded as interference and apparently delivered a “stirring address”.

However, the strife continued, with some members reported as still being in contact with Harrison and Firth, causing Mathers himself to travel to Bradford from his new home in Paris in March 1893 in an attempt to mediate. He threatened the Temple with suspension if members did not cease communicating details of their activities to the expelled individuals. However, he also tried to emphasise that members of the Golden Dawn and Theosophical Society should not regard themselves as being in conflict and went on to reaffirm the “solemnity to be observed in the Ceremonies” and “the humility and self-denial necessary in every true occultist.”

The doctrinal differences which instigated this controversy seem remarkably involved. After all, whilst Pattinson may have been opposed to Theosophical ideas infiltrating the Rosicrucian ethos of the Golden Dawn, he was clearly not entirely averse to that philosophy in general as he is recorded as one of the first members of the Bradford Lodge of the Theosophical Society in 1891 and attended the funeral of Madame Blavatsky in May of the same year. Nor does he appear to have had any issue with Eastern doctrine influencing the Western Hermetic tradition, as illustrated by his later interests.

In Spring 1897, Dr. Wynn Westcott was forced to resign from his role as Chief Adept in Anglia under pressure from within the English political establishment which regarded such high-profile association with occultism as inappropriate for a Crown Coroner. His successor was the formidable Florence Farr, an actress and close ally of W.B. Yeats, who had already held the position of Praemonstratrix of the Isis-Urania Temple for some while. With Mathers still firmly ensconced in Paris, she was now essentially responsible the day-to-day running of the Golden Dawn.

However, her ascension was not universally accepted. Farr was rather severe in her authority and uncompromising when it came to the minutiae of ceremony and in 1897 she harshly reprimanded a member by the name of Frederick Leigh Gardner for his inappropriate attitude towards the Order’s hierarchy and ritual. Gardner wrote to Mathers to complain, but despite Gardner’s financial influence he refused to undermine Farr’s position and instead, suggested that Gardner transfer from the Isis-Urania Temple to the Horus Temple as a corresponding member.

Gardner evidently found a sympathetic reception from the Horus Temple and in a letter to him dated 16th February 1898, Pattinson states “All the Horus fellows agree that they could not conform in any way to such treatment or pander to its dogmatic control… No petticoat government will do for us…” Pattinson subsequently wrote to Mathers in Paris petitioning him to assume direct control of the Horus Temple and so release them from Farr’s control, insisting that “common sense and good fellowship” were held in higher esteem by Bradford members than ceremonial hierarchies. Pattinson records that Mathers “seems to regard it as a compliment”.

Yet although Pattinson clearly believed him to be a better option than Florence Farr, he does not seem to have been especially enamoured of Mathers either and wrote to Gardner “You have no need to fear Mathers getting the top end of the Horus Temple chaps”. This attitude may be partly explained as loyalty to Dr. Wynn Westcott, whose friendship with Pattinson preceded the Golden Dawn. When, in February 1900, an increasingly paranoid Mathers accused Wescott of having forged the Anna Sprengel letters upon which the Golden Dawn was founded, Pattinson sympathies clearly lay with Westcott.

Following Mathers’ accusations, Westcott sought affidavits affirming his good character and Pattinson complied, writing “I consider Mr. Mathers’ mental state to be a peculiar one because he now claims the name of MacGregor to which he was not born and also considers himself to be… Jacobite nobility to which he never hinted any claim during the years when I saw most of him… On the other hand, Dr. Westcott always was and still is, a clear headed man of business and an earnest literary student, of whose character no suspicion has ever been raised in the presence of myself or of my associates, except by this Mr. Mathers aforesaid.”

However, by the end of 1900, there were clearly rumblings of discontent in the Horus ranks, the temple acting as a microcosm of the wider disquiet in the Order. In a letter dated October 6th of that year, the three chiefs of the Horus Temple circulated a letter to members explaining how efforts to “take a room in Bradford to be used as a head centre for the development of such occult projects… especially for the promotion of advanced study” were thwarted by an “undercurrent… not in accordance with that harmonious and confident zeal which has been so characteristic of the Horus brotherhood in the past.”

Whilst the Horus Temple endured until at least 1902, briefly surviving the 1900 schism which marked the end of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn as a movement of any consequence, the uncertainty during this period clearly left Pattinson further disillusioned. In its stead, he began to transfer his enthusiasm to a Higher Degree of Freemasonry which styled itself the August Order of Light, Otherwise Called the Mysteries of Perfection of Sikha (Apex) and of the Ekata (Unity).

The Order had been founded in 1881 by Dr. Maurice Vidal Portman, one-time governor of the Anderman Islands. It was rooted in Hindu mysticism and the Royal Oriental Order of Sat B’hai, the only other Eastern influenced philosophy in Freemasonry, and which slightly predated Portman’s teaching. Such “Orders Beyond the Craft” were only open to master masons and thus inevitably, women were excluded from membership. Pattinson’s interest represents a retrenchment into his Masonic roots and given the Eastern character of the order, it seems to corroborate the notion that Orientalism was not the aspect of Theosophy to which he had objected in 1892.

Dr. Portman retired from Freemasonry in 1900 through dissatisfaction with many of its strictures and passed control of the August Order of Light to Pattinson. Pattinson and Dr. B.E.J. Edwards, Praemostrator of the Horus Temple, revised the rituals and with themselves as Arch-Presidents of the Order or “Guardians of the Light”, established the Garuda Temple in Bradford in the cellar rooms of a pub at 81 Kings Parade in 1902. Sixteen members of the former Horus Temple were in attendance at the inaugural meeting.

As an offshoot of the more stable Freemasons, the August Order of Light persisted for a much longer period than the Golden Dawn and indeed, it still exists today. However, its most active phase appears to have been during the early part of the Twentieth Century when its membership stood at around fifty. One of the Guardians of Light during this period was Sir John Arthur Godwin, who between 1906 and 1907 was the first Mayor of the newly incorporated City of Bradford, whilst a Memorial Book published in 1924 upon the death of Dr. B.E.J. Edwards counted Rudyard Kipling amongst its subscribers.

In 1939, the Order leased the two upper floors of a building at 52 Godwin Street, as they required a location in which they could install electric lighting. The lower storey was employed as a “clubhouse”, whilst the windowless attic room was decorated as a temple, by millworkers supplied by the Shipley industrialist Henry Williamson. Recollections from long-term member Andrew Stephenson and sign-writer Harry Fryer, who was employed to retouch the temple murals in the 1950s, indicate the room possessed a throne and ornate pillars, whilst representations of Egyptian deities and occult symbols adorned the walls and carpet.

During the late 1960s, Bradford City Council discussed plans for the complete redevelopment of the city centre and began to issue compulsory purchase orders to many buildings in the district. Faced with eviction and a dwindling, aging membership, the August Order of Light decided to abandon their Godwin Street premises and in 1971 established two new temples in London and York (the latter of which would subsequently move to Halifax), finally bringing to a close the continuity of occult tradition in Bradford.

In a curious postscript, the Godwin Street temple was uncovered in October 1983 by new owners Cindy and Salvo Illardi, who had converted the building into Gobbles restaurant. Whilst renovating the attic room, they revealed old wall-paintings depicting Horus and the sun setting over the sea, along with a ceremonial oath inscribed above the doorway. The discovery caused a certain sensation in the local press, and despite it only being twelve years since the temple had been abandoned, the work was heralded as belonging to the original Golden Dawn Horus Temple. There was even talk of preserving it as an occult museum.

However, the truth finally emerged when Harry Fryer and his colleague Malcolm Brook contacted the newspapers to reveal that they had worked on the temple during the 1950s. The initial identification of the site as the Horus Temple appears to have come from Chris Bray, proprietor of the Leeds-based occult supply shop Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Bray was also responsible for publishing an occult journal at the time which borrowed its name from David Lund’s Lamp of Thoth and reprinted some of the original articles, alongside more modern treatises on ritual and chaos magick, bringing West Yorkshire’s esoteric history full circle.

Bibliography:
Blavatsky, H.P. (Ed.) “Lucifer: A Theosophical Magazine Vol. IV (March to August 1889)”
Bradford Star, 3rd November 1983, “Temple of mystery”
Bradford Star, 10th November 1983, “Temple find just magic”
Bradford Star, 17th November 1983, “Temple is no mystery”
Bradford Star, 24th November 1983, “Signwriter’s brush with Horus horror”
Campbell, Marie “Curious Tales of Old West Yorkshire” (1999)
Campbell, Marie “Strange World of the Brontes” (2001)
Gilbert, R.A. “Revelations of the Golden Dawn” (1997)
Greer, Mary “Women of the Golden Dawn: Rebels and Priestesses” (1996)
Greer, Mary & Kuntz, Darcy “The Chronology of the Golden Dawn” (1999)
Haigh, Mike “Esoteric Keighley” (19??)
Hanson, Malcolm “Keighley’s Darkest Secrets” (2009)
Howe, Ellic (Ed.) “Magicians of the Golden Dawn: Documentary History of a Magical Order” (1978)
Howe, Ellic (Ed.) “The Alchemist of the Golden Dawn: Letters of the Rev. William Ayton” (1985)
Lofthouse, Jessica “North Country Folklore” (1976)
Owen, Alex “The Place of Enchantment: British Occultism & the Culture of the Modern” (2004)
Stephenson, Andrew B. “The History and Work of the August Order of Light” (1992)
Telegraph & Argus, 12th November 1983, “That occult tale is bunkum”

 

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