As local traditions go, the Burning of Bartle is pretty odd: a group of men carrying a straw guy down West Witton’s main road, stopping to drink shots of alcohol at houses and pubs, singing a song, while getting progressively more drunk. And then they burn the Bartle.
Traffic is stopped at both ends of the village (apparently an irate driver tried to push his way through the crowds in 2017) and most of the local residents turn out to either accompany the Bartle, or stand on their thresholds with a glass of wine or spirits. Eventually the group make their way onto Grassgill lane, where the Bartle is deposited by a dry stone wall and set alight.
The exact origins of the tradition are unknown, but most believe it stems from an incident with a sheep thief who met a grisly end.
John Harker, who has been involved with the ceremony for over 40 years and has led it in recent years, said that 2018 would be his last year.
More information can be found in this excerpt from an old copy of the Dalesman.
“In Penhill Crags he tore his rags;
At Hunter’s Thorn he blew his horn;
At Capplebank Stee he brake his knee;
At Grisgill Beck he brake his neck;
At Wadham’s End he couldn’t fend;
At Grisgill End he made his end.
Shout, lads, shout.”