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A rare 18th century marriage stone removed from inside what was the Old Fox Inn, Kirk Deighton, North Yorkshire.   The final manifestation of a pub on the site - which was derelict - was destroyed in a fire in 2006.  The Old Fox had been through a number of different names, most recently being the Alpine Lodge.  It originally opened as the Old Fox.  It was a known as a drovers and coaching inn on the Great North Road, or later A1, from London to Edinburgh.  It was also known as the Halfway House as it was regarded as equidistant between the two cities.


Marriage stones serve as a record of a marriage, especially important in aristocratic families and also sometimes practiced amongst the newly established and monied middle classes. They were sometimes added to a building which was constructed specifically as the new family home for the married couple, especially when the dowry was large, or were carved into a pre-existing lintel. The stones also clearly indicated the ownership of the building to onlookers at the time as well as serving as a record for posterity of both marital bliss and often also of social advancement


In his book The Old Coaching Days in Yorkshire, written in 1889, Tom Bradley said of the Old Fox:


"Exactly midway between London and Edinburgh, and a mile out of Wetherby on the road to the north, there still stands the Old Fox Inn, a house that was well known in the old coaching days, although it had no immediate connection with coaching.  This old half-wow house is but little altered although the straw-thatched roof has given place to red tiles and the old tree from which the swing sign used to hang has long ago disappeared.  The mile-post which marked the same distance each way to London and Edinburgh stood at the foot of this tree, and the drovers who came periodically from the north with their great herds of cattle made a point of never passing the Old Fox without having a pint or a drop of something short.  At certain seasons of the year numbers of cattle that came south along the Great North Road were something prodigious.  Many a time from sunrise to sunset have the streets of Wetherby never for one minute been free from cattle, as drove after drove passed through the town, and some idea of the magnitude of these droves may be gathered from the fact that individual herds have been known to pack the road for fully a mile of its length.  Of course these droves used to greatly impede the regular traffic of the road, but their appearance was chiefly at ‘fog’ time and only extended over a few weeks.


"Although the Old Fox was the best known he road to the drovers, yet it could not be called a drover’s house, as it had neither land nor sleeping accommodation, such as was usually to be found at the inns patronised by this class of gentry.  In the old days this inn was kept by Mr. John Cullingworth, and afterwards by his widow, whose time at the Old Fox expired just about the same time that the coaches went off the road. She was a good old soul, kind and generous to all, and no one went thirsty away from her house who had not the wherewithal to purchase the necessary pint.  Good-natured hospitality seldom escapes without abuse, and the kind-hearted landlady of the Old Fox was no exception to the rule.  In those days of unlimited "chalk," regular customers were allowed the exercise of its full privileges.  The ledger accounts kept on the back of the huge old-fashioned long-settle that still graces the kitchen, and the hieroglyphics that crowded over its broad surface could testify how deeply its customers were involved.  The trusting widow even allowed them to post the ledger themselves, and it is said of some of them that where they chalked one mark on the rubbed ten off."


Naively carved initials and a unicorn, denote a marriage of a male, with the initial 'R' a female with the initial 'C' and a surname of 'A'. Dated 1733.


Provenance:


A local historian recalls the stone being shown to him some years ago by a previous owner, who he interviewed when researching the inn, who was the son of the last landlord of the original Old Fox in 1932.  His father was also the first tenant of the new building on the site.  This appears to be when the stone was removed from the Old Fox.   The stone was originally under cover in a west facing porch on above the door at the Old Fox.

The stone had been kept under the landlord’s son’s bed for safekeeping in recent years.


Measuring: 41cm x 55cm

Dated 1733



£1,100