Panaramic view

Druids Temple  | OS Grid Ref: 417509,478700  | Site classified as: Folly  | HPG Ref: 60008

Map Evidence

1856/7 OS
Large standing stones in coniferous woodland.
Indicated as Druids' Temple, set in Druids' Plantation.
1912 OS
As above.
1946 OS Sheet SE 17 NE
As above, Druid's Temple marked.

Extract from Site Visit report

Site Description: Folly
Site Access: Public footpaths
Parking: Car park
Visibility: Clear
Buildings: Folly
Walkways / Gateways / Paths etc: Modern gravel paths.
Water features: None
Other man-made features: Large area of stones, first circle largest with smaller back circle and 'Temple' at the NW end. Hill behind with pile of large stones like totem pole.
Planting: Conifer plantation
General Condition: Maintained.
Local knowledge: Built in 1800s by Earl of Swinton. Full information on Google.
Photographs: (No)
Recorder: PW
Date: 20/06/2009

Additional Information

'Druids Plantation' noted on 1851 OS map, with 'Rocking Stone ' and 'The Druid's Temple', which is still noted on current (2005) OS map.
Can be viewed from public right of way, car park close by.

Historic England Grade II listed.
Cornforth, J. 'Swinton III'. Country Life, 21 April 1966, pp 943-948.
Cunliffe-Lister, S. 1978/1999. Days of Yore Wilton, 65

Historical background

The Druids' Temple at Ilton cum Pott near Masham is thought to have been built c.1800 by William Danby of Swinton (1752-1833) (see Cunliffe-Lister, 1999). J Cornforth, writing in Country Life, states that it was in existence by 1803. It is thought to have been commissioned by William Danby at a time of severe local unemployment, and that he paid the estate workers 1 shilling a day during the period of construction.

The structure is situated in the centre of land granted to William Danby through Parliamentary Enclosure on which he established a large plantation of woodland known as the Druids' Plantation a few miles from Swinton Park. The folly is a reproduction of a Druids' Temple: large stones forming two circles with monoliths and trilithons.

Cornforth quotes a letter to Lord Swinton written by the antiquarian P T Runton in 1936. He notes the 'considerable speculation' about Druidism in the late 18th century, which included the possibility that the Druids were the only true inheritors of the patriarchal religion, that they were British patriots, and also that they were England's earliest men of learning.

The structure at Ilton, according to Mr Runton:
'gives, in concrete form, an interpretation in perfect detail of the several Druidical rites, including not only the Tyrian and the Phoenician but those of England at the time Julius Caesar arrived in this country, when Druidism was at its zenith. The first chamber is in the form of the Vesica Piscis – an emblem still to be found in the English church. This chamber contains the four symbols of the elements, air, earth, fire and water, also the phallic symbol of ancient reverence. Behind the three stones forming a wood screen is the chamber of the Portal ceremony – before entering the circular or solar chamber which contains the Eucharist Table – beyond this lies the Tomb of the Transformation and out on the hill top the symbol of Deity with the twelve signs of the Zodiac'.

The letter ends with the comment that it must have been built 'by a man who must have had great mystical knowledge of such symbolism'.

As a cultured and well-read man who had made the Grand Tour, William Danby would have been well aware of William Stukeley's work. His ideas concerning Stonehenge and the Druids were widely taken up by the romantic Poets and in the popular culture of the time.

Sites related to this site

Built in 1800s by The Earl of Swinton of Swinton Park.

Extract from 1851 OS map centred on Site
Extract from OS Landranger map centred on Site
Extract from Google Map image map centred on Site
View over the site.
Central monolith.
Sacrificial altar and tomb
Column representing a deity and the 12 signs of the zodiac.
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