A FEW weeks ago, we tried to persuade you that Bilsdale on the North York Moors got its name because it was the dale where William the Conqueror became lost while trying to conquer Teesside.

Disappointingly, rather than being Bill’s Dale, the dale is more probably named after Bildr, a Viking who settled there long before William turned up, crashing around.

This week, we are going to try to convince you that Tripsdale, a side valley off Bilsdale, gets its name from the Old English word “thripel”. A thripel was apparently once an instrument of torture, but why should this remote and little traipsed dale be named after such an appalling device?

The Oxford English Dictionary includes the old word “thripple”, which is a frame tied to a cart to extend its size on all sides. By attaching a thripple, you could pile far more straw onto your cart than if you were just using the cart itself.

Perhaps, if a miscreant were attached to a thripple, or was dragged behind one, it would become an instrument of torture.

Or perhaps that is just a tortuous beginning to a wander from Bilsdale into Tripsdale in search of the Ship Stone – or t’Ship Steean, as Michael Heavisides calls it in his 1903 book, Rambles in Cleveland.

Darlington and Stockton Times:

Several people have kindly drawn this stone to our attention as it is, by all accounts, unmissably large.

Heavisides strode one September through the bracken to visit the stone. “The scene before us is wild and grand,” he wrote as he approached the stone. “Large lichen-covered boulders, rolled down centuries ago, have their summits and sides partly covered with heather, in full bloom. Not a blade of grass is to be seen in the valley, as the bracken, heather and bilberries carpet it o’er.”

But the Ship Stone – with its pointed front looking like the ice-breaking prow of a ship – stood proud.

Heavisides clambered all over it and worked out that it was 17ft 6ins high, 20ft wide, 61ft long and weighed about 1,500 tons.

He also noted that more than 50 years earlier, teacher Jonathan Hart had visited the stone and had spent hours carving on it in immaculate capitals: "DEI PLENA SUNT OMNIA. JOANNES CERVUS, BILSVALLENSIS. ANNO MDCCCXLIX."

This translates as: “All things are full of the creator, Jonathan Hart, a man of Bilsdale, 1849.” The Romans did not have a word in their vocabulary for “a man of Bilsdale” so it looks he used a little Latin leeway to create “Bilsvallensis”.

Jonathan had been born in Tripsdale in 1824, and the 1861 census found him teaching at Ingleby Greenhow. But by 1891, he and his wife, Margaret, were in Hawaii where they were teaching in a Roman Catholic mission. What prompted his conversion and emigration is unknown, but he died in Hawaii and his grave his since been lost due to volcanic action.