Joseph Smith's Riseborough

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Joseph Smith’s Riseborough.

 "There is a spot of earth supremely blest,

A dearer, sweeter spot than all the rest.

Where shall that land, that spot of earth be found?

Art thou a man?  a patriot?  look around;

Oh, thou shalt find, howe'er thy footsteps roam,

That land thy country, and that spot thy home."




How shall we describe as we visit once again this beautiful' old place our birthplace!  The home of our childhood's happy days!  Every nook and corner is familiar to us: the orchards, the chestnut trees, the lilacs and laburnums, the woods, the beautiful flowers, we see them again blooming in all their freshness and beauty.  These old associations can never be forgotten, can never be erased from our minds; and now when we attain to riper years, our hearts are touched with sacred and hallowed memories, when we know that this was the home for nearly thirty years of him whose interesting memoir we record.


The house stands on the summit of a lofty, oblong-shaped hill, well studded with trees, from which it has a commanding position; a cheerful old place, well open to view, looking boldly over its own lands.  We have no authentic record when the house was built.  Tradition says it was built 800 years ago by the monks, who generally chose a fertile district for their habitations.  The massive structure of the outer walls, their great width, built of stone in solid masonry and carried to a great height, the stone mullioned windows, long winding passages and quaint old staircases, fine old oak wainscoating and carving, numerous rooms and attics speak of an age of architecture of long ago, so that we can lay claim to the truth of the tradition.  From the windows in the upper rooms we have an extensive view from all sides.


To the north, a few miles away, is the pretty village of Sinnington lying almost hidden in the woods, with its fine trout 'Stream winding through, and the old historic Mayday maypole 'Standing on the green.  Further away up the hill stands the village of Appleton-le-Moors, with its pretty little memorial church renowned for its fine peal of bells, whose sweet melody has stirred our hearts as we listened to their music echoing o'er hill· and vale on many a fine Sabbath morn.  And further away lie in a wide wild stretch for miles the North York moors, with Rosedale chimney as a familiar landmark, and to the north-west, over miles of beautiful undulating country, are to be seen the trees in Duncombe park, and beyond we can just discern the Bilsdale and Hambleton moors looming in purple haze in the far distance.


To the west we have before us a fine open country of rich green pastures, fertile corn fields smiling golden in the summer 'Sunshine, brooks and streams, and villages and hamlets, the Howardian hills, and the woods and heights above Gilling and Brandsby.


To the south we have a most extensive view for miles of open country, the lowlands and the broad rich vale of Pickering extend­ing to the Wold hills, the white roads winding up the brow above Heslerton are distinctly marked out, and on a clear day, far away to the north-east, may be seen the range of hills extending to the far-famed Oliver's Mount at Scarborough.  The town and old historical castle of Pickering appears almost at our feet, and further away are the open moors of. Lockton, Levisham, and Saltersgate, with its prominent steep jutting brow, where the railway winds past in the valley on the way to Whitby; and to the north-east are the villages of Wrelton, Cropton and Cawthorn, where are to be seen in good preservation the lines of the old Roman encampment, and further away is the village of Newton, standing high on the hills overlooking the famous Newton dale.


The woods at Riseborough were a favourite resort in the spring and summer months.  The spring wood on the south­east slope of the hill is a bright open wood with tall spreading trees of oak, ash and elm, and the ground is covered in the springtime with primroses, cowslips, anemones, violets, and many varieties of other wild flowers which spring up in rich profusion on every side as we pass through.  And then there was the contrast in the wood below called the Pine Wood or dark wood, because of the close proximity of the fir trees, where in places it was impossible to walk through in an upright position, and where the branches were so dense as not to admit the rays of the sun.  No grass, no flowers, except a few specimens of the yellow iris, which grew to perfection in the ditches, the ground was covered with fir cones and needles, which gave it a brown and lifeless appearance.  This wood has long ago succumbed to the wood cutter's ruthless devastation.


Then further away to the north-east we have the Hagg Wood, which covers a short, steep declivity, and stretches nearly half a mile to the now new railway between Pickering and Kirbymoorside, which is carried through a low part of the hill in a cutting seventy feet in depth. From the grass terrace on .the north side which overlooks the wood, the view presented is most charming, a perfect panorama of scenery meets the eye on every side.  Some people think the view from this position is more commanding and extensive than from the house itself; suffice it to say it is sufficient to arrest the attention of any lover of nature.  This wood is composed chiefly of oak trees and much dense undergrowth of thorn and bramble, and like the Spring Wood is an enchanting spot for wild flowers.  It is enlivened by the happy notes of birds as they fly from tree to tree warbling right merrily love songs to their mates in the nesting season.


The approach to the house from the west is very striking, the road winds up the hill, skirted for nearly half a mile on the south with long rows of oak and ash trees, called the Crow Wood; near to the house is another fine group of trees, which are also a favourite nesting place for the rooks.  We remember the fine rows of poplar trees which used to overlook the buildings on the west, but time and the ruthless hand of storm and tempest which gathers in wild fury in the open sweep from the far moors, has hurled to the ground these and many of the fine old oaks, relics of remote ages long ago beyond our ken.  The photograph we give is of the west front, taken from an oil painting sketched by an amateur many years ago.  There is a large garden in front, which is not shown, and in which stood the far-famed cedar tree, always green, with its large spreading branches, and where for generations it stood as monarch and guardian of the old home, but also, it too, not many years ago, had to bow to the tempest's unruly blast, and fell.


We have heard of many noblemen in our land who wept as they viewed in sad contemplation the havoc wrought by a tremendous gale of wind which swept over the country on February 13th, 1864. Hundreds of splendid trees lay stretched on the green sward of their beautiful parks.  We can under stand the feelings of Mr. Thomas Harrison, the owner of the Riseborough estate, when he saw this stately cedar of Lebanon lying on the lawn, torn up by the roots and shorn of all its beauty and grandeur.  With praiseworthy effort, by mechanical means, he contrived to up rear the tree again, but its main roots were severed and in spite of all attention given, this fine old tree died away and had to be removed; and we can say with Longfellow, when the children of Cambridge, U.S.A., presented him on his eightieth birthday with a chair made of the "blacksmith's spreading chestnut tree" of which he had sung, that the old cedar tree still lives in our homes, and speaks of the past in the shape of beautiful brown furniture and ornamental cabinets.


In the lowlands below the hill, in a large field called the Ings (water-meadow) there is a fine spring of water known as the sulphur spring, and in a dry summer this water reminds one in its properties of the sulphur well at Harrogate, and many people have spoken of its medicinal value.  Joseph Smith used to relate an amusing story of how some years ago a man came from Pickering with a cart load of empty bottles, having heard of this spring and its remarkable virtues, he thought fortune was going to smile upon him, and thus enable him to realize an "independent competence."  Driving down to the spring, he commenced operations, and after much labour filled and securely corked all the bottles.  Greatly elated and in a most sanguine state of mind he set off home again; but alas he had not gone far on his journey when he was startled with a pistol-like report from the cart: a bottle had burst, and then another and another.  This cannonading set the horse off, which only made matters worse.  The shaking seemed to further leaven the compound, and the bottles were not strong enough to resist the expanding element, and the result was that he arrived home with a cargo of broken glass and a well-sea­soned cart.  This is the first and last attempt we have heard of bottling the old sulphur spring.


When Joseph Smith went to Riseborough in 1846 there was very poor accommodation for stock, the old farmstead being in a dilapidated condition.  He conferred with the agent, and in course of time a nearly new farmstead was built.  The' old house was covered with old square flagstones, but as these by their weight were endangering the roof, they were removed and the roof re-covered with slates.  The land was in a very wet state, and nearly all the farm was re-drained. Joseph Smith, taking a great interest in "Meohi's" experiments (Mr. Meohi's study of agricultural improvements 1851), went in for irrigation, and tried liquid manure as a fertiliser.


A large tank was made, water carts were constantly at work, leading this and spreading the contents over the grass-land. We believe the result of this practical experiment was seen to advantage in the increased feeding properties of the' grass. We remember the large number of fine fat cattle fed on these pastures, and bought chiefly by the Kirbymoorside butchers, who at this time were doing a large trade with the Rosedale miners. These mines were yielding a very productive ore, which gave employment to a large number of men.


Riseborough is not without historical interest.  From an old book we note that an officer in Cromwell's army came from near Edinburgh, and bought a horse of the owner of Riseborough, and subsequently ran the horse in a race, in which he proved the winner; also it is understood that Cromwell passed Riseborough and Pickering with part of his army during his many engagements with King Charles's forces in the north of England.


The name "Gallows Head" is the place where the gallows stood at the junction of the cross roads, and where criminals were hung in chains in the olden times.


On July 12th, 1860, the teachers, scholars and friends associated with the Wesleyan Sunday schools at Pickering, were entertained to tea at Riseborough, Joseph Smith sending his wagons with their teams of fine grey horses for them, where, on their arrival, they assembled under the shady trees, and had tea in the open air.  The long rows of tables laden with good things, and the little folks and their friends enjoying themselves at a repast, presented a very pretty sight to the beholder. After tea the children had games and other amusements.  Friends from Normanby and Marton adding to the enjoyment of this festivity by their welcome, and genial presence.  In the evening a public meeting was held in the granary, with an opening speech by Joseph Smith.


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