The woodland at Bivouac is home to the Druid’s Temple which is steeped in history and intrigue. Not a great deal is known about the construction of the folly, but it is believed to have been built in the late 1700’s by William Danby (owner of Swinton Estate and nearby Swinton Park). It is rumoured that a hermit lived there for many years, but its mystical connections are probably fairly tenuous, as it was built at a time when there was a great deal of interest in Druidism as part of the emerging Romantic period. The site contains a main temple along with numerous stone formations dotted around the woodland for eager walkers to find as they explore.
The Danby family also built Swinton Park which is a short drive away and now a 31 bedroom luxury castle hotel. The earliest part dates from 1695, with significant subsequent Georgian and Victorian Gothic alterations, including a turret and castellations. Swinton Park is now owned by the Cunliffe-Lister family who came to Swinton in the late 1800’s and is the ancestral seat of the Earl of Swinton.
The nearby village of Masham’s origins is uncertain but the huge square market place was the site for annual sheep fairs for many years and this still continues on a much smaller scale each September. It is thought that sheep farming was introduced to this area by the Vikings. The parish church St.Mary’s is believed to be mainly Norman with a few additions over the years and holds a fine memorial to Abstrupus Danby, another of Swinton Park’s former owners. One of the unique aspects of Masham’s medieval history was when it was given to the Minister of York, he did not wish to travel to visit it and oversee the town’s affairs, so the parish was designated a Peculiar. Something that now lives on in the famous Theakston Beer.
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