Scottish Raiders

Extract from an old newspaper, origin unknown.

As I stood in reverie in that sequestered spot, dreaming dreams of yester `year, the scene changed, and every available track leading into the valley, was thronged with cattle and human beings hurriedly making their way into that sanctuary hid away amid the hills of Craven.

Why this turmoil and haste? News had spread that the Scots were making one of their periodical raids, and farmers with their families and stock, were rushing in frantic haste to find refuge in that cup-like hollow at Thorpe.

After the battle of Bannockburn, three raids were made by the Scots, raids of vengeance, only equalled by those made by the Vikings in days of yore.

They drove the cattle before, plundering the houses, firing the churches, maiming or killing any luckless folk who had not been able to find a secure hiding place.

It is recorded that the refuge at Thorpe remained inviolate, the raiders rushing post haste to drive out the monks from Bolton Priory, and secure the treasures of the monastery, whilst the monks fled to the castle at Skipton in order to save their lives.

The raiders as they rushed down the valley of the Wharfe, little dreamed that they were leaving behind them so rich a harvest of loot as was gathered together in the sheltering hollow at Thorpe.

On one occasion the men of Gargrave attempted to stem the rush of the plunderers, confronting them on Coniston Moor, with disastrous consequences, the Airedale men being slain, and it was not until a strong force from Skipton appeared on the scene that the raiders were put to flight.

Mr Nicholson gives a dramatic account of the incident in these lines…

With conquest fir’d the Northerns sallied down,
To plunder Gargrave’s lone deserted town,
The blazing brands within the Church they hurled,
And soon the flames around the altar curled:
While from the roof the molten lead
Dropp’d on the ancient tombstones of the dead
.

And mothers wept where lifeless fathers lay;
Friends, kindred, lover, on earth expired,
Their dwelling plunder’d, and their church’s fir’d;
The holy crucifix away was borne and from the shrine, the sacred relics torn;
The sacramental wine they rudely quaffed,
Smiled o’er the flames and at destruction laughed
.

The blood-red sun sunk slowly in the west,
As by that dreadful scene of woe oppress’d;
But plunder ceased not in the shades of night,
The blazing ruin lent a baleful light,
Till Skipton’s sons appeared, with banners red,
The Scots beheld their glittering arms and fled
.

Extract from the “Chronicles of Ermysted” Spring Term 1936.
Loaned by Mrs Connie Percy.

Antiquarian Notes: Gargrave.

Last February, whilst workmen were laying a gas main in Church Lane, Gargrave, at a depth of two feet, they came across several human skeletons. As these were buried in a shallow grave and there was no trace of coffins, it seems as though the burial had been a hurried one.

After the Battle of Bannockburn the Scots over-ran Craven, harrying and burning all before them. At Sweet Gap, on Coniston Moor, two miles from Gargrave, there was a fight between a band of Scotch raiders and Gargrave men, in which the men of Gargrave were badly beaten. There is a tradition that after this fight the slain were brought to Gargrave for burial. It is quite possible that these bones, which have been unearthed, are those of the Sweet Gap victims.

The following lines referring to this fight are interesting, and it is a pity that more of them are not preserved. They would have made a fine local ballad:-

In 1341, when Gargravians sallied forth,
To meet the bold invaders from the North;
When Gar and Gray wheeled around,
Brought three Scotch heroes to the ground
.

Gar was Lord of Gargrave. The name is perpetuated in Garris Hill, the site of a moated castle. Gray was the parsons son.

Gray was one of the first priests of which we have any record.