Words by Melanie Calland
Images by Frankie Calland

Well, spring has finally sprung here and Retropoodles took ourselves away for an afternoon down to Druids Temple at Ilton in North Yorkshire; a wonderful old folly created in 1820 by local eccentric squire William Danby (1752-1832, based on an original plan by P.T. Runton Esq.).

William Danby was tutored at Eton College, went to Cambridge and was made High Sheriff of Yorkshire in 1784. He created the temple to generate work for the local population, who were undergoing a time of agricultural depression and high unemployment. He offered to pay 1 shilling a day and there are rumours that the job was strung out for a long while! The immense size of some of the rocks must have puzzled some of them and made them wonder why he went to such an extent, for no reason other than to give them work!

William was a bit of a philosopher, writing such works as “Travelling Thoughts” and “Thoughts on Various Subjects.” He was also a bit of a dreamer or a romantic, especially when he offered to feed and pay a “Hermit” to live there for a seven year contract.

Apparently one such man gave up after four years, with the Pennine weather beating him down and the constraints of having to grow his hair and beard long as part of the agreement – as well as being prohibited to talk to anyone! It’s said that he gradually went mad.

The temple was meant to be a replica of Stonehenge, though on a much smaller scale. It consists of a stone circle, including a cave and altar, and lots of wonderful stone stacks etc. surround the area if you have a walk around the woodland.

It’s quite magical, even though there’s no real history to it but with outstanding vistas looking down to Leighton Reservoir, it’s really quite inspiring!

Although built on private land, he did want the public to visit, but don’t forget insect repellent on a warm day. My sister and I used to ride up there on horseback years ago and learned our lesson. Dark and mysterious, the stone circle will draw you in with a feeling of uncertainty, not being able to see past the pillars and into the cave at first. The poodles adore it: stones, puddles and woodland to explore! Playing hide and seek is the best!


I donned a spring outfit, with fresh yellows, turquoise and spring greens, including a hand painted 50s skirt from Mexico, featuring wonderful striking roses. These skirts were made on large circular boards that rotated for the artist to apply their design and were sold to tourists who visited towns on the Mexican / USA border. An original 1950s yellow, grosgrain jacket with nipped in waist kept me warm and I also wore a yellow straw hat which is conical in shape, also a favourite style in the 50s, along with my “Green Dahlia” blouse from Freddies of Pinewood. It felt great to get out of the woollies, even if it was only warm enough in direct sunlight…

Scarves are great for this time of year and I purchased this one for a pound at a vintage fair – it’s great for keeping the chill away! I took my trusty green “Judy” shoes along for the trip, but also tried out my yellow “Dorothy” although it was a tad muddy, if I’m honest – both from Rocket Originals.

I love the bright bold colours of these funky brooches from Luxulite, I’m never without a brooch! It’s the details that make an outfit; I love wearing gloves, as with having five poodles to groom, my nails get a bit tatty!

William also built his home in the style of a castle at Nearby Swinton. After he died, the whole estate was bought by wool magnate Samuel Cunliffe Lister. The parkland and castle still belong to the same family, although the castle is now a hotel (Swinton Park Hotel).

They can arrange weddings at the hotel or at Druids Temple itself, which I think would be wonderful! (Although no druids have ever been seen there!)

 Check out more musings at retropoodles.wordpress.com

Lisa Harrison
Written by Lisa Harrison
Lisa is the Deputy Editor of Vintage Life Magazine and Publisher at Dragoon Publishing. She is avid bookworm, collector of vintage homeware, loves travel, lazy weekends away and eats way too much cake!