Sunday, 25 October 2015

King Arthur and Freebrough Hill


Whether Arthur existed or not is hotly debated but in terms of literature his legend does impinge on our area.
First of all there is the tale -
"The Sleeping Knights of Freeborough" which involves the legend of  Edward Trotter who lived in the reign of  Edward 11, in a small holding in Dimmingdale near Freebrough Hill (tumili).

The Sleeping Knights of Freeborough

One legend suggests there is a deep pit shaft running directly from the summit into the depths of the earth, and that this was used to bury hundreds of dead soldiers and horses after bygone battles.
Some say it contains the bodies of those who died during the black death: indeed a grave was found on the side of the hill during the last century. This was made of whinstone blocks, which had been carried three or four miles to this site, thus indicating a grave of some importance.
The is the legend of Edward Trotter who lived in a small holding in Dimmington.
When chasing a lost lamb he found a large hole the size of a badger sett. On crawling inside the hole he found a tunnel running deep into the hill. The tunnel grew larger as he passed through it. He then came across a huge chamber with a heavy oak door studded with iron with a large iron handle.
On entering the door, Edward encountered a man in chain mail with a long spear in one hand and a sword in the other.
The man awoke and stopped Edward from running away.
The man commanded Edward to be quiet. Edward notice that there were more men in similar dress all asleep and seated at a round table.
The guard informed Edward that "we are King Arthur and his Knights of the round table, we are sleeping until our services are again required.
He then swore Edward to secrecy and told him to leave.
In the following poem by John Hall Stevenson, it is alleged that Arthur is buried in the Freebrough Hill tumili! - 

In I.S. Hall's (of Skelton Castle's) A Cleveland Prospect - poem quoted on page 410 in John Brewster's Parochial History of Stockton has the line "Freebro's huge mount, immortal Arthur's tomb". (Line 8 in the poem below) Freebro hill (burial mound) is the Cleveland end of the Whitby road across the North Yorkshire Moors.

In Country Folklore Vol 2  In it it says "Freebrough Hill five miles S. of Castleton is a remarkable circular elevation, like a gigantic tumulus. An almost extinct piece of folk-lore asserts that Arthur and his knights lie within the hill, like the great Emperor Frederick Barbarossa in the vaults of Kifhauser, ready to start forth in their appointed season.111 It is natural, since a sand-stone quarry has been opened in its side; but the name indicates that the court of the Anglian 'Freeburgh' or Tything (above which was the Hundred court) used to assemble her...It was John Hall Stevenson, author of Crazy Tales, who, in A Cleveland Prospect (1736), wrote the often repeated line quoted by ORD, p. 265: 'Freebro's huge mount immortal Arthur's tomb.'. Bulmer scruples not to declare (p. 97): 'Its connection with the illustrious and mythical Arthur exists only in the imagination of the poet'--whether of Stevenson, or of the whole genus, is not clear."

It would seem the poem below is really John Hall Stevenson of Skelton Castle 1736 and close friend of Lawrence Sterne author of Tristram Shandy rahter than I S Hall.

A Cleveland Prospect
By I.S. Hall Esq. of Skelton Castle, addressed to the Gentlemen 
of the neighbourghood. Editor John Brewster wrote  
*(This poem was originally written in Greek Hexameters, and translated by the author.
 A  copy of the Greek original was once in the pocession of the editr. It was lent, 
but never returned. * Zachary Moore, Esq. of eccentric memory.)

I am the first that with advent'rous hand
In Grecian (*) colours draw my nativeland,
Hold the fair landscape to the public view,
and point out beauties known to none but you.
See! haughty Lofthouse there with alum stor'd
Lofthouse still weeping for her hapless lord (1)
Kilton's deep vales, white rill, and sylvan gloom,
Freebro's huge mount, immortal Arthur's tomb,
And Hunley scowling o'er the distant main,
With cloudy head involved in murky rain;
Skelton (2) beneath, the jocund Muses bower,
Smiles on the bard, an ancient humble tower,
Smiles on the bard, an ancient humble tower,
Where feeling Tristram (3) dwelt in days of Yore,
And joyful Panly (4) makes the table roar.
Behold Upleatham slo'd with graceful ease
Hanging enraptur'd o'er the winding Tees,
Whole provinces extended at the feet,
And crowded ships that seem one endless fleet;
No savage beauties here with awe surprise,
Sweet heart-felt charms, like Lady Charlotte's eyes;
Mark Tockets, (5) nurse and cradle of the loves,
Where Venus (6) her children and her doves.
Through yon tremendous arch, like Heav'n's vast bow,
See! like Palmyra, Guisbrough great in woe;
Those towering rocks, green hills, and spacious plains.
Circled with woods, are Chaloner's domains,
A generous race, from Cambro-griffin trac'd,
Fam'd for fair maids, and matrons wise and chaste.
Observe, nor let those stately piles below,
Nor Turner's princely realms unnoctic'd go (7)
Forc'd like Rome's consul, with reluctant brow,
To leave his oxen, cabbages and plough;
His all that coast, and his that wave-wash'd seat,
Coatham, where Cleveland nymphs and naids meet,
Next fishy Redcar; view Marske's sunny lands,
And sands beyond Pactolus' golden sands,
Till shelvy Saltburne, clothed with sea-weed green,
And giant Huntcliff close the pleasing scene.


1 The seat of John Stevenson HallEsq (John Hall Stevenson); where the wits of that age used 
frequently to meet.
2 Sterne.
3 Robert Lascelles, MA Rector of Gilling; called thus from Pantagruel in the French Romance 
of Rabelais. Ob. 1802, AE 84. 
4 Lady Charlotte Dundas.
5 The Plantation; then the seat of General Hale.
6 Mrs Hale
7 Kirkleatham; the seat of the late Charles Turner, Bart.

More on the suggestion that King Arthur was buried in the tumuli on Freebrough Hill....

SKELTON IN CLEVELAND:Geographical and Historical information from the year 1890.

"About a mile south of Moorsholm is Freeborough Hill, a curious mount, rising cone-like out of the plain to a height of about 400 feet. On the summit are the faint traces of a British village, and on the east side a tumulus or ancient sepulchral mound, 45 yards in circumference. When opened about a century ago there was found a large earthern vessel full of calcined bones. Mr. J. Hall Stephenson, the author of "Crazy Tales," calls it "Freebro's huge mount, immortal Arthur's tomb;" but its connection with the illustrious and mythical Arthur exists only in the imagination of the poet. Its name, though evidently Saxon, is of doubtful import. By some it is said to be derived from Friga or Frea, the northern goddess of love, and beorh, a hill; and, like our Friday, was dedicated to the worship of the Saxon Venus; whilst others suppose it was the place where the Fridboch or Frithbock (from frid orfrith, peace) was held - a court or assembly of ten men, for the settlement of disputes and litigations."

Aneurin (Aneirin)

Anerin and King Arthur
W H Burnett mentions that Aneurin (Aneirin), the Celtic bard that wrote about the
Battle of Catterick (Cattraeth) in The Goddodin, tells us there is a "12thc tradition that
Aneurin was, for a time, one of King Arthur's advisors
" See W H Burnett on Anuerin here .

Also "Catterick*, North Yorkshire (SE220990) 
"Both a Roman fort (Cataractonium) and an early Anglo-Saxon settlement have been discovered 
at Catterick. The Battle of Catraeth, the subject of the Gododdin, has also been located 
here by modern scholars." 

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