BOROUGHBRIDGE, in the parish of Aldborough, lower-division of Claro; (the seat of Mrs. Lawson,) 6 miles from Ripon, 7 from Knaresborough, 10 from Harrogate, 11 from Thirsk, 12 from Wetherby, 17 from York and Bedale, 19 from Northallerton, 22 from Catterick, 206 from London. Market, Saturday. Fairs, April 27 and 28, for horned cattle and sheep; June 22, for horned cattle, horses, &c. 23 for sheep, and the week preceding, for hardware woollen cloth, pedlaryware, &c. October 23 and 24, for horned cattle and sheep. Bankers, Messrs. Fletcher, Stubbs, Dew, and Stott, draw on Sir Richard Carr Glyn, Bart. Mills, and Co. 12, Birchin Lane. Principal Inns, Crown, and Three Greyhounds. Pop. 860. The Church is a perpetual curacy, dedicated to St. James, in the deanry of Richmond, diocese of Chester, value, £10. p.r. £48. 16s. 8d. Patron, the Vicar of Aldborough.
This place is remarkable for those monuments called the Devils Arrows, but whether Roman or British, is uncertain. "Here was, in the British times," says Dr. Stukeley, "the great Panegyre of the Druids, the Midsummer meeting of all the country round, to celebrate the great quarterly sacrifice; accompanied with sports, games, races, and all kinds of exercises, with universal festivity. This was like the Panathenian, the Olympian, Nemean meetings, and games among the Grecians. These obelisks were as the Metae of the Races; the remembrance hereof is transmitted in the present great Fair held here, on St. Barnabas Day."
In Leland's time there were four, but in the seventeenth century, one of them was pulled down; the remaining ones are placed at unequal distances from each other. The tallest one is 30 feet 6 inches from the bottom, about 6 feet of which are buried in the ground; its greatest circumference 16 feet.
Richard Frank, a singular traveller, and famous peripatetic angler, in his tour to the northern parts of Scotland, to enjoy his favourite amusement, which he published in 1694, says that he saw near Boroughbridge, seven of these stones, in which he must have been mistaken, as it is not likely that they have increased since the days of Leland. Evident marks of the chisel appear below the surface of the earth. It is of the common coarse rag stone or mill grit; a large rock of this stone from which, probably these obelisks were taken, is at Plumpton, near Knaresborough. Doctor Stillingfleet considers them as British Deities: Leland, Camden, and Drake, suppose them to have been the work of the Romans, and erected by that people as trophies, to commemorate some important victory.
Near this place, in 1322, that unfortunate Prince, Thomas Earl of Lancaster, with some of the nobility, disgusted with the royal favourites, the Spencers, made stand against the forces of his nephew, Edward II. but was taken by Sir Andrew de Harcla, who, being insensible to entreaties and solicitations, and after suffering every possible indignity that cruelty could suggest, was mounted on a sorry horse, and brought before the King, who ordered, without any form of trial, his head to be struck off, on an eminence near Pontefract. One of his partisans, the powerful John de Bohun, Earl of Hereford, in passing over the bridge, then made of wood, was run through with a spear, by a soldier, cowardly placed beneath for that execrable purpose. It sends two Members to Parliament, a privilege it derived from Queen Mary in 1553.
[Description(s) edited from various 19th century sources by Colin Hinson © 2013]