Panoramic epistles

Given the Gazette's refusal (well, okay, they've just ignored) to print my latest epistle, here it is. In response to the latest attempt to sell the 'Panorama Stones are modern inventions' line. Gavin Edwards has once again used your columns to promote his pet theory of the Victorian embellishment of the Panorama STone(s). The latest account (23 Nov) seems to provide no more evidence than the previous story (carried in July 2004). In the meantime, an exhibition at the Manor House has also promoted the theory. Are we to take it that this is now the official view of the Bradford Museums Service, and therefore is an explanation for the wilful neglect of these important carvings? Mr. Edwards' case rests on two pieces of evidence. Drawings given to the museum in 1880, and a lecture given in 1913. As yet, he has proved no date of completion for the drawings, so we are unable to say when they were done. What we do have, however, is the drawing of J. Romilly Allen accompanying his article of 1879 ('The Prehistoric Rock Sculptures of Ilkley'), and we also have Allen's and Dr. Call's account of the rocks. All of these point to the ladder motif being present. Allen was a fairly scrupulous draughtsman and was more prone to leaving elements out than including extra (see his drawing of the Badger Stone for instance). As to the lecture, he is taking as evidence the talk given by Gill in 1913, at which point Gill is 63, and talking of events forty years earlier. Against this we have the research and accounts of Allen, Dr. Call, J.H. Turner, and Dr. Little. All were researching and writing in the 1880s, all believe in the ladder motif and none mention any rumours or suspicion surrounding the markings. Indeed, Little worked with the Ilkley Local Board to relocate the stones at considerable expense and effort in 1890. Are we to assume that none of these people ever had a local wander up to them and mention that 'old Ambrose done those markings.'? Or is Mr. Edwards implying a massive conspiracy? Simply put, there is little evidence that these markings were added in late Victorian times. There is ample that the ladder motif was present in the 1870s. English Heritage continues to refer to the stone(s) as being, "one of the finest examples of rock art in the north of England, if not in the British Isles." So why does Mr. Edwards continue to press his line? Why the not-so-subtle campaign to downgrade the importance of the stones? Can it be anything to do with their wilful neglect, and the unwillingness (whatever they say) of anyone to move the stones to the Manor House? What has happened to the Dr. Little Heritage Group, and why have they not been quoted over this story? These might be rather more worthy of coverage than repetition of an interesting though completely unproved theory.

The best solution

So, after all that, the Moor remains in Bradford's hands. But selling off Silver Well Cottage to finance improvements? Why? It smacks of selling off the family silver. What happens next time, in a few years, when Bradford still hasn't provided the money the moor requires? Retaining ownership is fine, as long as they start increasing the amount of money spent on it. Most cultural institutions over the past ten years have produced audits reflecting their impact in terms of cash, and other instrumental effects (help with social inclusion, etc.), in order to make their case for increased grants. Given the amount of tourist money the Moor brings into Bradford, the £10,000 per year provided by the Council was shameful. Given also the agenda around health, there are probably other funds and grants that can be applied for, without selling off local assets (and without re-introducing shooting without any consultation as happened last year). Actually, talking of other funds, our research elves dug up this story from a couple of years back--how the moor and other areas had received £850,000 of extra support back in 2003. So where's the moor's share of this money gone? Also note Danny Jackson suggesting the new group then created--SCOSPA--was the vehicle to receive a lot more money from European and other sources. So was the local trust ever needed?

From the Councillor

This was a comment left by Cllr Hawkesworth. While I have criticised and name-called in the past, some things (like our beloved moor) are too important, so I completely endorse all comments. I'm going up there later, had looked forward to spending a few hours on the moor (it being my birthday and all), but, now...
May I please trespass on your hospitality to give visitors to your blog some news about the Moor? Although you cannot see from the town, 30% of Ilkley Moor is burned out and dead. This includes the most ecologically important sites, the best grazing for sheep and a good proportion of the grouse habitat. I am meeting English Nature and DEFRA tomorrow to discuss what I fear will be a long road to recovery. All who love our town and moor must work together to assist this goal. I may not agree with all that is said to me, I may not act on all suggestions put to me, but I do listen. I am very happy to listen now. The only thing I am not interested in is points scoring. We all value the work of our Fire Service, but I must in addition record our grateful thanks to our own Council staff, the employees of neighbouring estates and the farmers for the huge efforts they put in to contain the fire. I am sorry to have taken up so much space.

Taken on trust

More on the trust idea from the minutes of Bradford council (it's a cached google version of a pdf). Given that the management document suggests that 5K is all that is spent on the moor by Bradford (which sort of makes the management document unattainable), the notion of the trust is to allow an independent body to apply for more funding. Of course, with the very generous precept IPC organizes for itself, there is a pot of money ready and waiting to improve the environment. Those opposed seem to be suggesting that all the moor needs is more brass, which is true. But its unlikely to be increased by Bradford. Better by far to return it to local control. Before going forwards, though, would the trust consist of the usual busybodies? Would there be elections (after all, according the the Middelton settlement, we all own the moor)? Would the people of Ilkley have a say in what happens, or would it be like everything else, and decided in the tory club and the golf club (Ilkley, not Ben Rhydding), or in the gated community on OWler Park Road? But if one of the ideas is considered, selling off Silver Well Cottage, I know at least two people who might be very interested.


Apparently young chap Fraser is on the steam wireless tomorrow (24th May) talking about the Moor. You and Yours, 12pm. Or do I mean am. Anyway, its midday. And I daresay you can hear it on the 'listen again' facility at the beeb's website.


By way of the rather lovely clickrich who I keep meaning to link to (and now have) an image of a memorial to a bomber that crashed on t'Moor during the war. I know nothing about this. Must have completely missed the story due to being over on the wrong side of the Pennines. Maverickapollo has the full story linked here. Can someone give me directions please?

Rose coloured spectacles

Visiting the 'Get Wet, Get Well' exhibition at the Manor House, I was struck by the content of some of Fred Reynolds' cartoons, published in (presumably) the Gazette or the Free Press during the first decade of the last century.

This was a time when there was considerable disquiet about the amount of money being spent on new public buildings (the Town Hall and Kings Hall), which was being raised from the taxpayer with only the slightest nod of the head towards democracy. It was a time when there were real concerns about changes being made to the moor to take away the 'wildness' and make it suitable for visitors. It was also a time when concerns were being expressed over late-night noise, particularly in the form of late-night drinking (and the far greater number of drinking establishments then available) and fireworks ('being released every night').

All of which sounds terribly familiar. Some of the less intelligent members of our parish (supported by various of the councillors) are campaigning against extending pub opening hours. They're talking of the increase in anti-social behaviour, the problems of vandalism and noise. All of which might be true, but are nothing new. Vandalism has been a constant worry since Ilkley became a resort town (and the working classes trooped over from Bradford every Bank Holiday); fountains and tea rooms alike have been forced to close. Not in the last decade, but a hundred years ago.

It's the basic faustian pact made by the elders of the Parish as the hydropathy craze retreated. Bringing money into the town, letting it survive as a town, means an acceptance that on certain days of the year, there will be trouble, there will be vandalism and there will be noise. If you don't like it, move out of the centre.

What irritates me is that number of citizens who can't see further than the end of the warts on their noses. Shut down the visitors, and you shut down the town. The economy starts to collapse and within a decade it's a commuter village for Leeds. That you don't have to have even a basic understanding of local history or the fundamentals of economics to be a Parish Councillor isn't surprising.

And, above, all, a wilfull lack of understanding of what made this town what it is, and what can help it survive.  It's a good thing we have so many opticians in town--there's obviously a great demand for rose-coloured lenses to appreaciate the past through. The darker the better.

Obscure fact

Visitors to our fair town immediately assume that the central car park was once the site of an Ilkley market, and it's the great joy of historical pedants like myself to point out that Ilkley (apart from the granting of a couple of charters in the mid-thirteenth century) has never hosted a market. Indeed, up till the 1840s Ilkley was a completely insignificant place compared to its market-town neighbour Otley.

However, it does appear that there was an intention to host a market on the very site where the car park now sits. Looking closely at the Plan for the second Middleton Land sale (1868), the area around Hawksworth Road now occupied by hundreds of commuting cars is clearly marked as 'site of intended market'. Given the amount of time it usually takes for things to happen in this 'burg, perhaps its still on the plans somewhere in Ilkley Town Hall.