Gristhorpe Man

William BESWICK senior was 54 years old when, this day 1834, he invited some friends from the Scarborough Philosophical Society to open up a burial mound on his estate.1834_BESWICKwilliamSarcophagus_news

A couple of months ago I walked the Cleveland Way along the North Cliffs, past Gristhorpe Wyke to the Blue Dolphin Holiday Park and went in search of the Bronze Age burial site. I couldn’t imagine there would be no sign whatsoever of the barrow and, ever the optimist, I refused to countenance Ignorant Man putting caravans on top of a place once sacred to our forebears.

I hadn’t researched the exhumation and a rather crude sketch plan in one article was the only indicator of the location I had. From the top of the 120 bus I had spied  a likely spot and headed there first. The broad hummock with a few small trees and gorse bushes felt right.


The path at the right of the photo gave easy access to the top but the surface was of  scattered broken concrete slabs overgrown with weeds, the remains perhaps of World War Two structures. The North Sea might have been visible from a not particularly high observation tower. The view inland towards Star Carr and the Wolds scarp is wide and, though not what you’d call spectacular, it is easy to imagine the Aboriginal Prince’s people being awed by it.

William BESWICK junior had recently turned 17 and I expect he took part in the dig. Six months older, William Crawford WILLIAMSON may also have been involved in the manual labour that day. His father, the curator at the Rotunda Museum in Scarborough, considered his son competent enough to write the first report on the discovery of the ancient warrior.

WILLIAMSONwmcrawf1695_pdI wonder if the two teenagers formed a friendship as a result of their shared involvement in what must have been a remarkable local event. Young Williamson would go on to distinguish himself as an “English naturalist [and] founder of modern paleobotany” (Encyclopaedia Britannica). This photograph of him was taken when he was 60 years old and the image, a scan from Makers of Botany, 1913, is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons. His obituary in The Times fails to record family that survived him but someone bearing his name married in Bradford in 1874 (two years before the portrait photo was taken). The Find My Past newspaper collection for 1874 only records his receipt of a Royal Medal “for his contributions to zoology and palaeontology, and especially for his investigations into the structure of fossil plants of the coal measures”, (Western Daily Mercury, 13 November).  His appearance on FST (MGJ9-C6R) only records his baptism and parents. Young Beswick had ten fewer years on the planet and remained a single man. William Beswick the Elder died about three years after the discovery of 3,800 year old Gristhorpe Man.

Regarding Today’s Image of the Wave – I offered “apparition” as a tag. I hope this crop shows why…


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