The dragon has been important in Northern European cultures for millenia; as seen in artefacts, poems and sagas. Its symbolism is complex but includes courage, watchfulness and protection – dragons can be good, or bad.
Iron Age Britons, Anglo Saxons and Vikings all used zoomorphism (or animal symbolism) to describe many things from humans to the mood of the sea. The Vikings had their dragon ships, the Welsh still have a dragon on their flag* and the Anglo Saxon burial at Sutton Hoo ( 625 AD) is famous for its dragon helmet. The British King Arthur was the son of Uther Pendragon, whilst the Anglo Saxon poem Beowulf tells of heroic dragon slaying. Modern stories that draw on earlier folklore also have their dragons from The Hobbit, to Harry Potter.
In Guiseley, we too have a dragon: you can find it on part of a 9th century, early medieval cross, now in St Oswalds. This motif has also been carved on the stone at Guiseley Wells when it was restored at the Millennium as a Heritage Lottery project. Now, given what we know about the history of the land which is now Parkinson’s Park, we have a Guiseley dragon protecting our Orchard, based on an Anglo Saxon drawing.
* Our area used to be part of the British Kingdom of Elmet 470 – 617 AD – it was closely allied with the Kingdom of Gwynedd. At the end of the 5th century Elmet had a King called Arthuis ap Masgwid he was likely named after the slightly earlier High King of Britain King Arthur, of legend fame.
The Heritage Behind The Orchard Sign
We chose the dragon, the name, and the backward S ‘plait’ pattern at the top as a result of our Heritage Lottery project which looked at the history of the Kelcliffe area. In our archive and desk research combined with a geophysics survey we discovered likely traces of Romano-British, Anglo Saxon, and Viking settlement. Evidence included:
- A potential Romano-British enclosure in a field behind the Park.
- The foundation structure of dry stone walls which indicates an early construction date.
- The names of areas and fields eg Kelcliffe is Old Norse and will date from the 9th/10th century.
- The backward S shape of the lynchets, which gives the field name Crooklands.
Additional evidence comes from an aerial survey conducted by Historic England who have identified the Park as having a medieval field system. This is the only one in Guiseley, as post medieval ploughing in other areas used for arable farming has obliterated the earlier medieval field evidence.
The field where the Orchard is, and those around, used to be called Crooked Lands or Crooklands: so we reinstated this heritage name. We traced its use back to at least the 16th century where it is mentioned in Manor Court Rolls. The name is derived from the long, backward S shape of the fields. This was caused by a ploughing method which used a team of oxen that had to pull to one side to turn them around.
All the areas of land separated by the lynchets in the Park are remnants of this shape, as is part of Kelcliffe lane itself. We pulled this shape into the design of the ‘plait’ weave at the top of the sign, which is also reminiscent of the intricate designs in Anglo-Viking artefacts, often representing interwoven serpents or dragons, and which can also be seen on the Guiseley Cross in St Oswalds .
The area of fields called Crooklands (field number 120, 129, 130, 197) ran from the Greenshaw area to the west side of Claremont, which is why the house named Crooklands is where it is. Below is a map from around 1825. On earlier maps the fields had been subdivided into narrower strips than this.
Who Made the Sign?
The sign was designed by Jennifer Kirkby and Martyn Hornsby Smith and handmade (apart from the lettering) by Blacksmith Joe Pack, from Valley View Forge in Otley. As this is a Heritage project it was important to use traditional techniques. It has still got to be painted, when we get a spell of dry weather.