The Black Dog of Ivelet Bridge

When researching my blog post, The Swaledale Corpse Way, I stumbled on another great story … the Black Dog of Ivelet Bridge, a Barguest, a headless hellhound, a portent of death.

The Swaledale Corpse Way – a sad story

Coffin Stone by Matt Brown

A Coffin Stone

Photo by Matt Brown1

The Swaledale Corpse Way is a sad enough story. A Corpse Way is a well-trodden path used by the family and friends of a deceased to transport the corpse to the nearest consecrated ground for burial. In the wilds of North Yorkshire this could involve a long journey, sometimes many miles, with the body carried in a wicker basket. Overnight accommodation was provided in local Inns along the way, with the corpse placed in a ‘Dead House’ a separate building nearby. During the journey, rest breaks were taken by laying the basket on long, flat ‘coffin stones’ beside the route allowing the pallbearers to have a breather.

The Legend of the Black Dog of Ivelet Bridge

In Swaledale, on the Corpse Way journey to St Andrew’s Church at Grinton, one of these stones was at Ivelet Bridge where the path crossed the River Swale. As if the journey wasn’t tough enough for the pallbearers, at Ivelet Bridge they ran the gauntlet of a headless black dog. This Barguest, it is claimed, silently runs up the bridge, jumps over the wall on the bridge, and dives into the river. Not only that, but the ghostly hellhound is, of course, a bad omen, especially for anyone who spots it … according to the legend, they will die within a year. Precipitating, I guess, another journey down the Corpse Way and, along with it, another Ivelet Bridge black dog challenge!

It is surely no surprise that the last sighting of the headless beast was over a hundred years ago. Who is going to admit laying eyes on that particular black dog!

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