IN Looking Back over the summer, we were wondering why in Swaledale there is a boundary stone with “ED” on it at Robin Cross, above Cogden smelt mill and Grinton on the road from Leyburn that was taken by the Tour de France.

Readers told us it related to the Ellerton Abbey estate belonging to the Erle-Drax slave-owning family. The Drax family were the first successful sugar plantation owners on Barbados and Jamaica, and pioneered the use of African slaves.

Colonel Sir Henry Drax bought the Ellerton estate in the 1690s as a way of re-shoring his Caribbean wealth and generating an income. His son, another Henry, married his first cousin, Elizabeth Erle, the heiress of Charnborough Park in Dorest, and so the boundaries of their Yorkshire estate were marked with “ED” stones.

In the 1830s, when slavery was abolished in the British Empire, John Swabridge Erle-Drax received £4,239 in compensation for losing his 189 slaves – this was one largest amounts of compensation awarded to any slave-owner.

At the same time, he built a Georgian villa as a shooting lodge beside the Swale, and he beautified the ruins of the 15th Century Ellerton Abbey so that the church, with trees growing in its roofless nave, is one of the most striking features of the dale.

Darlington and Stockton Times:

On Sunday, The Observer newspaper reported how there were growing calls from the Caribbean for the current head of the family, Richard Grosvenor-Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax, the MP for South Dorset, who lives in Charnborough Park and still owns a plantation on Barbados, to pay reparations to the islands.

The paper reported that on the death of Mr Drax’s father in 2017, he was bequeathed the 2,200 acre Ellerton estate and the 520-acre Copperthwaite Allotment grouse moor which is above Fremington Edge. The estates are now going through the probate process.

Mr Drax told the paper: “I am keenly aware of the slave trade in the West Indies, and the role my very distant ancestor played in it is deeply, deeply regrettable.

“But no one can be held responsible today for what happened many hundreds of years ago. This is a part of the nation’s history, from which we must all learn.”