Guide Stones

Guide-stones in the Craven District: the 'Skipton stoops'

Around the Skipton area are over 20 small triangular stones, mostly painted white with black lettering, most with a pyramidal top, and found mostly at minor road junctions. Village names, sometimes with arrows or crude hands painted on them, direct the traveller along the lanes.

They can be found throughout the Craven District – in Bolton Abbey, Coniston Cold, Cracoe, Draughton, Eshton, Gargrave, Linton, Stirton-with-Thorlby, Thorpe and Threshfield.

A typical example, YN_XXSGCT, illustrated here, is on the B6265 – the road usually followed by anyone from the south going to our Spring meetings at Hebden – about a mile north of the Skipton northern by-pass. It is at the junction of Bog Lane (an indication, perhaps, of its formerly uninviting condition) with the B6265, just before the oddly-named None-Go-Bye Farm. The narrow Bog Lane leads directly to Stirton, and thence to Gargrave – as indicated on the left-hand side of the stone. The right-hand side shows directions to Cracoe and Threshfield (though these destinations are incomplete, perhaps following an altercation with a road vehicle).

There is, however, no indication that the main road leads back to Skipton, suggesting that whoever erected it assumes this is the direction you have come from – though if this was the case and you really wanted to go to Stirton or Gargrave you wouldn't have come this way.

The stones do not appear to have been erected in response to the demands of the County Justices at the turn of the 18th century: these were aimed at travellers on featureless moorlands, and were more prescriptive. And since there are so many of them in a very similar style it seems unlikely that they are the work of different parishes.

This stone (like others) appears on the 1896 Ordnance Survey map, but not on the 1853 edition, and assuming this was not a lapse by the OS surveyors it was therefore erected in the later 19th century. It is probable therefore that all these stones were erected by the East Staincliffe Highway District (ESHD). Highway Districts became common in rural areas in the 1860s, taking over the functions of parishes (who thus gave up their highways responsibilities) and, later, failing Turnpike Trusts. ESHD, named from the ancient wapentake of the same name, also erected a number of boundary stones in the area; these are marked E S H D.

RWH / Feb 2019

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