Aireborough Historical Society

1781 & 1956 Gold Torque Found In Rawdon

Gold Torque
Date July 1781
Location Rawdon
Photo ID

                           To the Printers of the Leeds Intelligenser


        As no attempt has been made towards a refutation of the opinion given in your paper of the 12th ult, in regard to the piece of gold lately found at Rawden, I must presume that it is allowed to be at least as natural, as rational and as probable to give an opinion as the former.

But some suggestions having since been offered to the very great improbability that any person who had the least pretension to wear a "Gold Cable Hatband" 200 years ago, should then have resided at so obscure and insignificant a village as Rawden.

        I beg leave to refer those and such other of your readers, if any there are, who are still in doubt, to Wilson's  M S Pedigree of the Yorkshire Gentry* for better information; they will find that at the very town where this curious antique was found, there was an ancient and opulent family of the Rawdens :- that Francis Rawden Esq. (whose eldest son George was afterwards created a Baronet and from him the family of the present Lord Rawden is lineally descended) was living there at the precise time, when, according to Ben Johnson  (poet & playwright 1572-1637) Gold Cable Hatbands were in fashion.

    And is it not more likely that either the father in his elder or the son in his younger years might have worn, and some accident have lost such a Hatband in some of the woods in his own neighbourhood than that nobody knows or can conceive  who should bring such a piece of gold from nobody knows where or when, to be used as an ornament and that much less as such a kind of ornament as was hinted at in your paper, at a place  which it is more than probable, 2000 years ago was not inhabited by any human creature!

        In this circumstance, in addition to the former, is not sufficient to convince even the Antiquarians themselves that their opinion of this said supposedd "torques of the ancients" is erroneous, neither would they be persuaded, tho' both Sir George and his father were to rise from the dead.

Leeds June 26                      NY

* In the Circulating Library in this town


Image courtesy of the British Newspaper Archives, research by Edwy Harling

 Further information by Christine Lovedale

This article is about the mystery of the gold torque, one of the most intriguing finds which were made in Rawdon, where did it come from and what happened to it ?

     The writer of the letter is wrong to assume that Rawdon had no history in the distant past, it would have been an ideal location for an ancient settlement, on a hillside, protected from the ravages of marauding animals which preferred to keep to valley bottoms and with a plentiful supply of water.

The torque would have been worn by a chief or leader, a symbol of his authority.

     Several years after the torque had been found, the Rev. T D Whitaker, in his 1816 work Leodis in Elmete wrote "On the lofty ridge of Billing --- was found about the year 1780 a valuable relic of British Antiquity.

This was a torque of pure and flexible gold, perfectly plain and consisting of two rods, not quite cylindrical but growing thinner towards the extremities and twisted together.

It's intrinsic value was £18.00 and claimed by the Lord of the Manor"

       Philomen Slater claimed in his book, The History of the Ancient Parish of Guiseley, that it had been found at Intake by a hand loom weaver called Joseph Cooper who used it as a weight for his loom.

       James Palliser in his History of Rawdon written in 1914 says the torque was claimed by the Lord of the Manor as treasure trove.

The Lord of the Manor at the time of the discovery was Richard Emmott (1761- 1819), if this were true he would have been acting illegally as treasure trove belongs to the Crown.

      It's present monetary value would be in excess of £10,000, it's historical significance beyond price.

It has been rumoured that it was given to the British Museum but there is no record of this, or it's existence at the museum.

The fate of this remarkable artefact will perhaps never be known.


June 1781: 

                 To The Printers Of The Leeds Intelligencer

              Sirs,                             Leeds June 8th 1781

     My curiosity having prompted me to get a sight of the Piece of Twisted Gold, lately found by a labouring man at Rawden, of which an account was given in your Paper some weeks ago ; and being no Antiquarian myself I cannot so easily join in opinion with the Connoisseurs in that science, that it is what they call  "The Torque Of The Ancients" or that it so perfectly agrees in shape with the quotation you have made from Virgil.

For, had it been designed to be worn around the Neck and pendent upon the Breast, arguably to that quotation, it must I think have been larger and it's construction more chain-wise than its present appearance indicates.

      Some probable reasons might also be offered against it being so old as it is supposed.

And if I may be allowed to hazard a conjecture of my own about it, without the least design of offence, I humbly conceive  there is no sort of occasion to go near two thousand years back to find  a name for it as a more modern (tho' ancient enough)  and in my opinion a much more probable one may easily be found by referring to Ben Johnson's play "Every Man Out of His Humour" written about the latter end of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, where, one of the characters in giving a description of his dress says " I had on a Gold Cable Hatband" (a fashion just then introduced) "of  ? Goldsmith's Work".

    Wether this or your former description of it is the most natural one is submitted with deference, to the better judgement of those who are more conversant in Antiques than your humble servant , NY"

Image courtesy of the British Newspaper Archives, research by Edwy Harling


1956: Gold Torque, Rawdon

Bradford Archaeology Group Bulletin account of the gold torc (or torque) found on the Billing, which is in Rawdon not Yeadon as stated in the report.


Graham Branston
Graham Branston
In my opinion, the gold torque was, probably, as Christine Lovedale suggests, once worn by the leader or senior member of an ancient local settlement. It was discovered at the Intake area at the foot of The Billing. Primitive societies left gifts to their gods for providing the essentials for living. The essential in this case may well have been water. There are springs in various places around and below The Billing and I think there must be an aquifer beneath it. There is no stream or beck to feed Larkfield Dam, so its water feed, apart from rain and snow, must be subterranean. Furthermore, I think there was once a small community near the top of The Billing. There is what looks like and unnatural defensive edge if you look out towards the airport, also a hollow with a tree in it which may have been a primitive homestead. Trees nearby could have provided a framework for the roof as well as fuel. If you go into the wooded area there is what may once have been a sacrificial circle, though one stone is missing. There was once quarrying on The Billing, but it is likely that stone waste would have been left in a heap. I have drawn this theory to the attention of The Yorkshire Archaeological Society, but they didn't seem impressed. They may think again if someone with a metal detector made a valuable find of some other ancient artefact! I am not sure who is the Lord of Rawdon Manor now, probably descendants of the Emmott family.
23 December 2018
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