Yorkshire Maypoles 13 Roxby Back to the Main Historical Society page
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Yorkshire Maypoles No.13
A Maypole near the Sea.

from The Barwicker No.45

This article about the Roxby maypole was written for us by Tom Chambers of Norton, Stockton-on-Tees, who has contributed to past editions of 'The Barwicker'. Tom is an enthusiastic 'chaser' of maypoles, who has travelled about this country and elsewhere photographing them and researching their history. He meticulously records the physical features of each pole and never fails to include some interesting information about such topics as the geographical situation and the origin of the place name of the site. We thank Tom most warmly for his article.

Roxby (National Grid Reference SE3282) is a small village 2 miles south west of Staithes and is on an unnumbered road which descends from the east end of Scaling Dam to Dalehouse, and is between the Guisborough to Whitby 'coast' and 'moors' roads, the A174 and the A171. Place name authorities associate the name Roxby with 'Rauceby' in Lincolnshire. Roxby was noted in the Domesday Book as Roxeby and as Rochesbi in c.1145. Both elements in the names probably originate from old Norse or old Danish, Rauce/Rox being the 'red one'. Therefore it is possibly the village (by), or farmstead, of a Scandinavian with red hair or beard.

Roxby is now part of the estate of local landowner Gerald Turton and there was a report in the Yorkshire Post, 2 August 1993, as follows:

"A village in the North York Moors has got a new maypole for the first time for 25 years. A 65 ft. tall maypole, complete with weather vane, has been erected at Roxby to commemorate the 65th. wedding anniversary of Lord and Lady Tranmire of Upsall, near Thirsk - the parents of the local landowner Gerald Turton."

The maypole stands in a field at the right hand side of the road through the village and opposite the village pub, 'The Fox'. It is a single larch trunk 65 ft. long with the base, approximately 10in. diameter, 'buried' 6 ft. in the ground. The pole is unpainted, but was debarked, and has short stumps of branches still showing. It is topped by a fox weathervane which has north, south, east and west indicated. There is a plaque attached at about 8ft. from ground level stating:

"This maypole was kindly donated by Turton Estates and is dedicated to the Right Honourable Lord and Lady Tranmire on their 65th. wedding anniversary celebrated in their 90th. year. Kindly opened by Mr and Mrs G Turton on 26th. June 1993."

The tree from which the pole was made was selected by Colin Welford who is an employee of the Turton Estates and was raised shortly before the 26th. June. A selection of coins was placed below the pole's base - not too much value though. Colin thought it was not worthwhile digging the pole out as they were not worth stealing.

Recent poles at Roxby have had the fox weathervane sticking and not rotating, due to rusting of the pivot pin. Colin arranged for the new wind indicator to have a 'sealed for life' bearing from a Ford motor car so that it will continue operating, hopefully, until the timber requires renewal. The previous maypole stood until about a year before the present pole was raised. (The Yorkshire Post report possibly means that a new pole had not been erected for 25 years.) Maypoles at Roxby are not taken down for maintenance but stand until the base becomes unsafe. As they are located at the top of a sharp slope, the ground is quite well drained and the poles usually last 20 to 25 years. In 1993 a new pit was dug for the pole's base in a new place further from the village street, so that if the pole falls unexpectedly in bad weather, it will land in the field and not across the street as the previous pole would have done.

It is known locally that there has been a maypole in the village at least since the early 20th century. The son of one of the landlords of 'The Fox', Charles Stephenson, often still visits the village and stays at 'The Fox'. His parents were early, if not the earliest tenants, after the pub was built (or rebuilt) in the 1910s or 1920s. Mr Stephenson remembers a maypole there when he was very young. Another possible 'pole connection' exists nearby where there is an ancient burial mound known as 'Stang Howe'. There is not now a pole on or near the Howe so it is unlikely that there is a connection, although 'Stang' derives from old Norse and a maypole in Sweden is known as a 'Majstang' and is used as part of midsummer celebrations.

The Roxby pole is unique as it is probably the closest to the sea of the continuously standing maypoles, being only 1 mile in direct line from the North Sea. It can also be seen, if you know where to look, from the A174 road. Having driven past probably hundreds of times and not seen it, I am much obliged to Arthur Bantoft for sending me the Yorkshire Post cutting.

I am also grateful to Sue Stevenson, landlady of 'The Fox', who introduced me to Colin Welford and to both for giving me much of this information.


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