The Myths and History of Roseberry Topping

roseberry topping

Roseberry Topping is an oddly-shaped hill in the North York Moors. Its unique shape is partly due to local geology and partly due to a collapse that occurred in 1912 - thought to be the result of nearby mining.

It's become something of a focal point for local myths and stories.

The most bizarre theory I've heard about Roseberry Topping is the one put forward by the archaeologist Alfred Vincent Kidder. He apparently stated that the ruins of a 3000 year old pyramid lie beneath it.

Another pyramid link to the topping comes via the explorer Captain Cook. In the 19th century it was proposed that a pyramid be built on top of Roseberry Topping to honour him. However, that plan was shelved and an obelisk was built instead on nearby Easby Moor.

The history of the name "Roseberry" is also interesting. It's generally believed that it derives from the Scandinavian god Odin. An earlier variant of Roseberry being Othenesberg, apparently Old Norse for hill of Odin. The letter "r" apparently migrating from the "under" in the name Newton-under-Roseberry - a nearby village.

Roseberry Topping has also been known by various other names - Otneberch, Ohtnebercg, Othenbruche, Ornbach, Ounsbery, Onesbergh, Hensberg, Hogtenberg, Thuerbrugh and Thuerbrught.

However, I've often wondered if the name "Roseberry" derives from the name "Oswy". As there's a legend about a prince named Oswy associated with the topping - and Os-wy sounds a little like Rose-berry to my ears.

Prince Oswy was the son of King Oswald of Northumbria. It was foretold that he would die by drowning so his mother took him to the summit of Roseberry Topping to keep him from his fate. However, when she fell asleep he wandered off and fell into a spring near the summit and drowned. His mother who died of grief shortly after was supposedly buried at the nearby village of Osmotherly - so named because of her.

Incidentally, the fresh-water spring on the summit, known as Roseberry Well, was said to have a reputation for healing sore eyes.

In 1826 a bronze age hoard was unearthed on Roseberry Topping. Amongst it was a piece that got labelled the "Druid's Breastplate". It caused a stir at the time as it was decorated with a moon and stars. However, it sadly disintegrated not long after it was found.

On an even odder note former MI5 agent David Shayler chose Roseberry Topping as the location for his "Sermon on the Mount" when he proclaimed himself messiah in 2008. He stated that Roseberry Topping had been artificially shaped over thousands of years by the countless people that had walked and worshipped upon it.

When Roseberry Topping wears a cap,
let Cleveland then beware of a clap.

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