Staff and volunteers at Brimham Rocks have been left intrigued after an anonymous donor sent them a copy of a previously unknown guidebook for the attraction.
The mysterious booklet – which measures around four inches by three inches – arrived in an unmarked envelope postmarked “North and West Yorkshire” addressed to “The Administrator” at Brimham Rocks.
Community Ranger Sophie Badrick said: “None of us really thought anything of the envelope until Sue Gregory - the administrator - opened it. She came running through saying ‘look what I’ve got!’”
The team are thrilled with the intriguing gift, which is in pristine condition, but with no note included in the envelope Sophie, Sue and communications volunteer Victoria Sauron have no idea who sent the booklet, or where it was found.
“We’d like to find out where it came from so we can say thank you,” Sophie added.
And the mystery deepens as the booklet itself does not show a date.
“We’ve looked through it for clue, but all we’ve found are adverts for shops which say the date the business was established,” Sophie said.
They have narrowed the publication date down to sometime between 1920 and 1937 when Fred Burn, who advertises “Tea, Coffee and Aerated Waters during the Season” in the booklet, is known to have lived and worked at Brimham Rocks.
The booklet – called ‘Brimham Rocks: The Wonder of Nidderdale’, written by H W Ogle of Otley, priced at sixpence – describes Brimham’s attractions in flamboyant and romantic terms.
“Few places in the British Isles represent so strange and wonderful a spectacle as Brimham Rocks,” it reads.
“These huge rocks, many weighing hundreds of tons, are scattered about in convulsed piles and irregular positions, as if some wild convulsion of nature had shaken and hurled them hither and thither.”
The booklet clearly dates from a much earlier time, and even parts of the famous rocks have changed since it was produced.
“There are names of rocks which I don’t recognise at all,” Sophie said. “The book refers to rock formations I know, but it also refers to some I don’t know. There’s one called the Druid’s Face, and one called Rabbit Rock, but working here I have never heard of those names.”
“But then our rocks have always changed names. There is a rock here we call the Druid’s Writing Desk and for a long time that became known as ET. And one rock has recently been called ‘The Meerkat’ because of the television adverts.”
And visitor attractions across the district are mentioned in its pages.
How Stean Gorge, “The Switzerland of England”, advertises “Good Accommodation” at the Crown Hotel, while Hackfall near Grewelthorpe is described as a “Romantic Gorge with exquisite River and Woodland Scenery” which “no visitor to Brimham Rocks should miss.”
Shops and businesses across the district advertise in the book, including the Unicorn Hotel in Ripon which boasts “motorcars and charabancs for hire”, and Buckley’s up-to-date store in Harrogate which lures customers with the promise “You are invited to walk around without being expected to purchase.”
Now staff at Brimham Rocks, which reopens for the weekends after the winter season tomorrow, Saturday, February 16, hope to find out more about the mystery publication, and track down their benefactor, in time to display it to visitors.
They are planning an exhibition of some of the archive materials they have gathered from the site’s long history as a tourist attraction.
“We have a few old postcards and even a menu from cafe that people have sent us, but people have usually included a note to explain they found it in the attic and thought we might like to see it, or similar,” Sophie added.
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