CONISTONE 'A PLACE TO LINGER' Back to the Main Historical Society page
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Yorkshire Maypoles


Barwicker No 35 September 1994

In the wide stretches of Upper Wharfedale, perhaps the loveliest of the Yorkshire Dales, between the busy villages of Grassington and Kettlewell, near a bridge over the broad shallow waters of the Wharfe, lies the tiny hamlet of Conistone. Unlike its larger neighbours it attracts few visitors except for the occasional hardy walker who sets out to explore the impressive limestone gorge on the steep slope behind the village.

Consistone boasts only a few buildings, all with local limestone walls and thackstone roofs. These former dwellings of farm and quarry workers have been converted or renovated to form attractive houses with colourful gardens. A church built in the last century is one of the few public buildings. In the middle of the open space where the roads meet stands the Conistone maypole. It is perhaps 45 feet high and is made of a single tree trunk, unpainted and with no adorning garlands. At the top is a weather vane, its arm now pointing permanently in a south-west direction.

The present pole was erected two or three years ago by Graeme Hall, a Conistone farmer, and other villagers. A tree was felled in the nearby 'Grass Wood' and the trunk was trimmed to provide the pole which was put up using a tractor and two loaders. In past times it was surrounded by iron railings but they have been replaced by limestone walls producing a small triangular enclosure. Inside the gravel-floored space, several large limestone gateposts have been set on stone supports to act as seats. It is a delightful spot for the weary rambler to rest after a walk over the fells, as the editor can testify.

The pole replaced one put up in about 1953 by Jeff's father, Charles Hall, who remembers that the tree was obtained from near the quarry at Windy Arbor. Previous poles were erected in about 1936 and 1910. Early in the century ribbons were attached and the villagers danced round their maypole but nowadays the only activity associated with the pole is an annual visit by Morris dancers in the summer.

We are sure that present day visitors to the Village will endorse the view of Edmund Bogg, who in 'Higher Wharfedale' published in 1904, wrote: "Many of the houses are tastefully adorned with choice bits of garden. In the centre of the Village stands the maypole. Altogether there is a charming simplicity about the place that makes one wish to linger."

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