Little is known about the Druids, the ancient Celtic order associated with magic, religion and, sometimes, bloodthirsty barbarism, who resided in northern Europe around 2,000 years ago. Archaeology has proved unenlightening: ‘Not a single artifact has turned up anywhere which experts universally agree to be Druidic’, wrote Ronald Hutton in History Today in 2009.
Yet, removed from the lost reality of who the Druids really were and taken, instead, to refer to the various things Druidry has come to mean, plenty of ‘Druidic’ sites exist across the British countryside. The evocative potential of pagan Britain was embraced in the 15th century when an awakening nationalism encouraged the Celtic nations and, later, England, to seek heroic ancestors. Druids fitted the bill. In 1740 the clergyman William Stukeley dated Stonehenge to 460 BC and attributed its construction to the Druids. Although now debunked, his claim held for over a century.
This folly was inspired by Stonehenge and known as ‘Druids’ Temple’. Built-in 1820, It was commissioned by William Danby, one-time Sheriff of Yorkshire, near his home, Swinton Park, in the north of the county. Unlike Stonehenge, no mystery surrounds its construction: Danby paid local workers affected by a depression to build the 100-ft long temple with stones standing 10ft tall, a sacrificial altar and a tomb where, reportedly, Danby hired a hermit to live for seven years, ‘speaking to no one and allowing his beard and hair to grow’ (the successful candidate lasted only four years).
Reports of mysterious happenings at The Temple, have mainly come from youths and students camping out there in the evening. One group, in particular, became alarmed by basic ‘country noises’ however they did report to seeing shadows amongst the Temple Stones. On another occasion, two friends were on a morning stroll and they witnessed a pig’s head placed upon the Alter within the Temple, this was then to strike rumors of Satanism and Devil worship being brought to the Folly. However, there has never been any significant proof of this.
Baroness Masham of Ilton cited the temple in a speech to the House of Lords in 2000, arguing for restricted public access to the countryside.
‘It is thought that there has been Devil worship there’
I myself have visited The Temple on three occasions, two of which were during adverse weather conditions (snowscape series and fogscape series) and the final one was a late evening with my team colleagues at Paranormal Hauntings. During my entire duration over the course of three visits I have experienced nothing I would personally deem paranormal or negative; in fact quite the opposite. My time at The Temple was peacefull, energizing and definite tranquil experience.