The Druid's Temple: The 'Stonehenge of Yorkshire' that you can visit

In a forest clearing near Masham stands one of Yorkshire's strangest follies.

The Druid's Temple near Masham - there is public right of way to the site above Pot Beck
The Druid's Temple near Masham - there is public right of way to the site above Pot Beck

The Druid's Temple is a replica of Stonehenge, Britain's most famous prehistoric monument, built by a 19th-century aristocrat to entertain visitors.

William Danby constructed the stone circle on a hill above Pot Beck in 1820 and encouraged local people to visit the 'ruins'.

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Eastthorpe Hall: The country house 'wreck' that became one of Yorkshire's best spasDanby, who owned the nearby Swinton Park estate, commissioned the Temple as a construction project to alleviate unemployment in the area during an agricultural depression, and he paid labourers a shilling per day to build it.

The replica Stonehenge was built in 1820

Despite it being a relatively recent addition to the landscape, the Temple is still shrouded in its own mythology, and is rumoured to be a pilgrimage spot for pagans and those practicing dark magic.

Interest in 'Druidism' first surfaced in the 15th century and many claims were made about the Druids' activities which have since been disproved by modern historians. Fascination with Druids and pagans continued until the Victorian era.

How Sheffield became the climbing capital of the UKDanby's plans were a nod to the supposed beliefs of the Druids - the 100ft-long folly has 10ft stones, a sacrificial altar and a tomb. To maintain the illusion, he even paid a 'hermit' to live at the site, avoiding all social contact with visitors. Very few of the candidates lasted the full seven-year period of residency stipulated by Danby.

The Druid's Temple found itself at the centre of a political row in 2000, when Baroness Masham of Ilton cited incidences of 'Devil worship' at the stone circle as a reason to restrict public access to the countryside during a debate in the House of Lords.

Swinton Park, the historic seat of the Danby family, later passed into the ownership of Bradford mill baron Samuel Cunliffe-Lister. It is now a luxury hotel.