On a very sunny Sunday in early February I’ve just walked from Woodthorpe in the suburbs into York across Hob Moor. Hob Moor is one of the ancient commons of the city with mediaeval strip fields very evident in parts. There are also the remains of an old golf course, greens and bunkers, that existed between 1920 and 1946.
At the Tadcaster Road end there are two stone monuments, a weathered coffin lid of a 14th century knight and a “plague stone/bowl”.
During the visitations of the plague in the 16th and 17th centuries, victims were brought from the city and housed in wooden lodges on Hob Moor. They would pay for food brought out to them by placing money in water or vinegar in the central depression in the Plague Stone, following the old belief that bubonic plague was spread by contact with coin.
Beside the Plague Stone is the Hob Stone, the effigy of a knight of the de Ros family. It was sculpted in about 1315 and is now much eroded, but the head, shoulders and shield can still be seen. It may be the coffin of William de Ros or Roos, 1st Baron de Ros of Helmsley (c.1255 – 6 or 8 August 1316), was one of the claimants of the crown of Scotland in 1292 during the reign of Edward I. He was the great grandson of Sir Robert de Ros, one of the twenty-five barons who guaranteed the observance of Magna Carta, and Isabel of Scotland, an illegitimate daughter of William the Lion, King of the Scots, by a daughter of Robert Avenel.
A sketch of Hob Stone was made by George Nicholson in 1825. It shows the wording engraved on the back of the knight’s coffin lid that said 'This image long Hob's name has bore who was a knight in time of yore and gave this common to ye poor'.
These were engraved on a brass plaque that has sadly gone missing.