Druids Temple, Ilton
The Druids Temple, situated near Ilton, about 4 miles west of Masham is a folly created by William Danby of nearby Swinton Hall in 1820. The structure sits deep within a private forest and includes a large stone table, a sheltered cave and an altar stone. The temple is approximately 100 feet long and 50 feet wide, with some of the stones standing over 10 feet high.
William Danby (1752-1832) was made High Sheriff of Yorkshire in 1784. He created the temple to generate work for the local population who were paid 1 shilling a day. A salary was offered for someone to live at the Temple as a hermit for seven years. I am unsure if anyone did stay the full seven year term, but I believe someone stayed for five years before going a bit mad.
Baroness Masham of Ilton (quoted in Hansard): “A few miles from Masham, on the estate, is a realistic copy of a druid temple, with all the stones, including the sacrificial stone, in the correct positions. One Sunday afternoon, my secretary was going for a walk with a friend when she found a pig’s head sitting on the altar, which gave her a terrific shock. It is thought that there has been Devil worship there.”
[The idea that ‘Devil worship’ was taking place here is not one shared by the Mysterious Britain team]
“On another occasion, I had to leave home early one morning. Just outside Masham, I found a small group of Leeds University students who had spent the night at the druids temple. They were cold and frightened. With the night shadows and the country noises, such as owls hooting, they had fled. As I was going towards Leeds, I gave them a lift. They told me that they had had a terrible experience.”
“Another incident at the druid temple was a large gathering of people from Manchester who took over the place for the whole night in order to have a rave. They tore gates off their hinges and broke down trees to make a huge bonfire. The police were called and with the gamekeepers, could only watch at a distance. It was only after a fight had taken place within the group and one of the people had been taken to hospital with severe injuries that the rave subsided. When my nephew visited the site the next day to inspect the damage, he found half-burnt probation orders and such discarded documents.”
I would advise anyone to visit the Druids Temple at Ilton, but, should you decide to visit this fantastic peaceful site, please treat it and the property it is situated on with respect. Please note camping and camp fires are prohibited.