Dales Tales

Anyone with a dales tale to tell you can contact Angela on 01969 663652 or e-mail angela@kershaw.org or add a message at the bottom of the page.

Mrs Thwaites robbery

Askrigg– About three weeks ago a robbery was commited at this place in the shop of Mrs Thwaite, by the stealing of a piece of merino, about 14 yards in length, from betwixt two other pieces.

During the past fortnight Mrs.Thwaite has made it known to the inhabitants of Askrigg that she would make application to the wiseman for the purpose of having her property restored back.

The guilty party, hearing of Mrs. Thwaite’s intention, and being conscious of the wiseman’s superhuman power, rose early this morning (Tuesday) and placed the piece of merino at the shop door of Mrs.Thwaite, which was cheerfully welcomed by its owner.
From the Wensleydale Advertiser January 1848.


Married at Askrigg on Saturday the 11th August 1848, Mr. Michael Thompson, to Mrs Margaret Thwaite also of Askrigg. The buxom lady has enjoyed 33 weeks of widow-hood.

On Monday the 18th of September 1848 at Askrigg, William Kilburn butcher Bainbridge was married to Nancy Taylor of Bradford. It was the third marriage of the valiant knight of the cleaver and the second of the gay lethario, and both ages summed up together amounted to upwards of 140 years.

The Mayor of Askrigg

Never having elected a mayor would scarcely appear to be true, as we gather from the following published in the “Wensleydale Advertiser” of January 6th, 1848

“On Wednesday last the citizens of this spirited place proceeded with all due solemnity to their ancient custom of appointing and electing an eligible person to the honorable office of mayor of this city. Several candidates announced their intention of contesting the vacant chair, and more than the usual interest was excited on the occasion.

“At seven o’clock precisely the right hon. the retiring mayor,John Dinsdale alias (Jeffrey Jack). Esq., was seen wending his august personage towards the Town Hall, preceded by two bands of music and carried on the shoulders of ten stalwart bearers in his magnificent chair.
“The proclamation of his retirement having been duly made, the assemblage adjourned to the house of Mr. A. Hutchinson (King’s Arms), where a large concourse of citizens were awaiting the arrival of his ex-Lordship, and where he was received with loud acclamation.

“After the sensation had in some manner subsided it was proposed and seconded that above-named gentleman be re-elected to the aforesaid honorable office for the ensuing year. On hearing this the other candidates immediately retired, and the election was declared unanimously to have fallen on Mr. Jack.

“The chairing subsequently followed and was distinguished by the usual `eclat,’ it being the 25th year of his `Lordship’s’ successive reign. After descending from the chair, his `Lordship’ addressed the attendant citizens to the following effect

” `Fellow citizens, my old reed has grown so hoarse that I can hardly sound my high note, but I don’t want to play trumpeter now myself when all my life I have been used to more polite music. Gentlemen, my old heart knocks away to the favourite tune of `we part to meet again.’ and I think I and you do meet again. These 25 years I have governed you, my children, in Adam’s Kitchen, and now when the downhill of life gently inclines towards my wandering footsteps I long to play with my old companions the harmonious tunes of my boyhood. My needle, flies through the broad cloth with less activity ; my old bellows cannot keep up the steam in my favourite bassoon, nor can my old shaky fist throw the fly for the poor deluded trout with such unerring precision as it did, but my old heart can and does thank you for those accumulated honours, and I wish good health, pleasure and pastime among us all.’

“The honourable gentleman retired amid loud applause, and the assemblage afterwards celebrated his return in due style in Adam’s Kitchen.”

Adam Hutchinson at that time kept the King’s Arms, and Jeffrey Jack was a characterr in those days, a kind of Jack-of-all-trades. He served his time as a tailor, but was also a disciple of old Isaac Walton, and in addition could scrape music out of a fiddle or blow it out of an old bassoon.

Hawes Mad Dog Chase

Mad Dog chase – On Friday last, (1847) a cur dog, the property of William Kilburn, of Borwins, was observed floundering in the market place in a highly rabid state, and after severely lacerating a favourite bitch, belonging to Mr. Richard Blades, took the high road leading to Leyburn, closely persued by our active constable and several gentlemen, carrying guns and other weapons of destruction. At the Town Foot a wealthy farmer, whose name has lately been applied to a certain street in Hawes, joined the pursuers, mounted on a spirited steed, and with a loaded Manton on his shoulder, manifested the greatest anxiety, for the destruction of the rabid animal until the dog had fairly passed his cattle, after which he gave up the chase and rode quietly home. However, the chase was still kept up with vigour by the other persuers to Aisgarth, a distance of nine miles, at which place two young men volunteered to release the jaded persuers, and who succeeded in overtaking the dog at West Witton, where he was immediately shot.

The Naked Men of Aysgarth

From a Month in Yorkshire 1861
A tall maypole stands on the green, the only one I remember to have seen in Yorkshire. It is a memorial of the sports and pastimes for which Wensleydale was famous.
The annual feasts and fairs would attract visitors from twent miles around. Here, at Aysgarth, not the least popular part of the amusements were the races, run by men stark naked, as people not less than forty years old can well remember. But time have changed; and throughout the dale drunkeness and revelry are giving way to teetotalism , lectures, tea-gatherings and other moral recreations.

Burglary at Nappa Mill

In 1860 two irish haymakers broke into Nappa Mill and attacked the occupant Mr Winn the vicar of Aysgarth with a spade. The Vicar’s cool courage saved his life.

A cut in the beam at Nappa mill can still be seen where the assailant tried to strike Mr. Winn with a hay spade.
In Aysgarth church there is a window commemorating this remarkable escape.
The subject is the “Good Samaritan,” one of the thieves is brandishing a hay spade.

Harvest Home and the Mell Sheaf

The gathering in of the last sheaf of corn (called the mell-sheaf) and the holding of the mell supper are commemorated in a Wensleydale dialect poem “Harvest Home and the Mell Sheaf”

“We have her, we have her,
A coo iv a tether,
At oor toon-end.
A yowe an’ a lamb,
A pot an’ a pan.
May we git seafe in
Wiv oor harvest yam,
Wiv a sup o’ good yal,
An’ some ha’pence to spend.

John Metcalfe has gitten all shorn an’ mawn,
All but a few standards an’ a bit o’ lowse corn.
We have her, we have her,
Fast i’ a tether,
Coom help us to hod her
Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!

Blest be t’day that Christ was born,
For we’ve getten t’mell o’ t’ farmer’s corn.
It’s weel bun’, but better shorn.
Mell! Shout, lads, Mell!”

Gigantic Icicle Askrigg 1820

This extract was from the Liverpool Mercury February 4th 1820
*Ultimo – In the last Month preceding the present.

GIGANTIC ICICLE! – Wonderful Phenomenon – On Sunday, the 16th ultimo,* the inhabitants of Askrigg and its vicinity were led by curiosity to view an icicle which had formed itself from a small fall of water, at the turn off on its course to drive a mill wheel: the form being a cone, with an opening of about six feet from its base sufficient to admit the body of any person to the interior, which was decended into by means of a ladder, its height twenty-three feet, and its base seven feet.

After further examination, another apartment was found, formed behind the first apartment by means of two grand pillars of solid ice, with a base of three feet and a half; both were proved by admission to hold twenty people.

In the afternoon a company of ladies and gentlemen, of not less than eight or ten, regaled themselves with a bottle of wine; the night being mild, several lights were placed in the inside, when the transparent view struck the eye with such splendid grandeur that it is impossible for any pen to describe.

At the same time a party of vocal and instrumental performers was placed in one of the apartments, and entertained the company assembled round with several pieces of sacred music to a late hour.”

Somewhere on this stream-probably near what was known as the ” Flax Mill “-must have been the scene of the occurrence related in the following extract from the Liverpool Mercury of February 4th, 1820 :­

When the lights went down in Askrigg

About 60 years ago in Askrigg there was a gentleman called Ernest Burton who was a lay preacher and ran the local water wheel at Mill Gill that supplied electricity to the village.

It had not gone unnoticed by members of the congregation that whenever Mr. Burton was preaching the lights were particularly bright.

On one such occasion imagine his annoyance when he was preaching and the lights began to dim. Two teenagers in the back pews were having great difficulty suppressing themselves from giggling.

Earlier in the day they had stuffed three bags of straw into the sluice channel to reduce the flow of water to the water wheel. I was one of those teenagers evacuated from Tyneside and staying with a lovely lady called Flo Trotter.

by Mr Turnbull, Gateshead

Pig in a coffin

(A little home front anecdote)

These old farmers during wartime were trying to get away with killing an extra pig.
They had killed the pig and were cutting it up in the farmhouse when they were tipped off the meat inspector was around.
Quick thinking they rang the undertaker and borrowed a coffin to hide the pig in.
They put the coffin on the back of a Land rover and as it was being driven down the hill they passed the meat inspectors who doffed their hats to the coffin as a sign of respect.

by Dorothy Lambert

Decimus Durham

Decimus (Dess) outside his grocery shop at Aysgarth 1890s
Every year in May when my mum was a very young girl she used to be taken to Thoralby Feast with friends and her cousins who were quite a bit older than her. They would give her fairings. They teased her and tried to get her to use her fairings to buy fruit from Decimus Durham’s fruit stall.

Dorothy’s mum was not taken in as she knew that the lovely polished fruit and apples on his stall had previously had paraffin dripped all over them from his leaking lamps. Decimus used his not too clean handkerchief to clean off the paraffin and polish the fruit, but goodness knows what he left on the fruit from his hanky.

by Dorothy Lambert

Thoralby Feast

On Wednesday the 24th ulti., and the three following days, this ancient feast was celebrated. We are glad to have to record those festivities of olden time, and doubt not but the inhabitants of Wensleydale will, for centuries to come, observe these cutoms with as much reverence as their ancestors.

The weather proved unfavourable during the whole week; nevertheless, the out-door amusements were kept up in pancratical style. The drollest scene we observed was that of a number of young men protruding their heads through horses neck-collars, and the one who made the most rediculous face obtained the prize.
The lads and lasses on the evenings tripped lightly on the fantastic toe until the village clock chimed twelve and then departed for their various homes, all well satisfied with a week’s heterogenous ups and downs.
Wensleydale Advertiser 1848

Stan and Dr Will Pickles

Dr. Will Pickles was the doctor from the Aysgarth surgery during the Influenza Epidemic of the 1930s.

I was sat out on the flags in West Burton with my arm around my dog, Topper, when Dr Pickles pulled up in his car and said “Stanley, can you do a little job for me. Can you walk over to the surgery at Aysgarth and bring some medicines back.” I said yes I could and away he went.

My mother said when you go, go by the fields and see if you can find a rabbit in the walls. That I did but I didn’t find a rabbit.

I got to the surgery and Madge the dispenser put all this medicine into a foot square box that had been used for carrying bottles. She took out all the compartments and filled it with medicines. She tied it all up with string and made a string handle for me.

Then she gave me another bag, one that was used by game keepers I think to carry ammunition. This she filled with bottles and tablets and then I set off for West Burton via the garage, across the field over the bridge and up into the village. They weren’t so heavy when I left Aysgarth but when I got to West Burton they were a ton weight.

To get over the styles I put the boxes on the bottom flag, climbed over the style and then hauled them through at the bottom. It wasn’t so much as I couldn’t lift them as that I was frightened in case I dropped them.

Stan and Topper
I would sit down for a bit, have a talk to the dog and then carry on again.

I was a bit annoyed with the dog as he was usually a daddio at picking up rabbits in the wall backs but this time he didn’t catch anything.

The string had cut my hand even though Madge had wrapped the string with corrugated cardboard.

I met my father on his way home from work and he said “where have you fetched that lot from Stanley” I said “the doctors” and he said “nivver”. He couldn’t believe I had carried them all that way.

This was in the 1930s when I was only 13 years old.

Most of my friends contracted the flu and respiratory complications but I was lucky and didn’t catch anything. Fortunately no one actually died during the outbreak.

by Stan Brook (in a new window)

When I lived at Nappa Hall

I had been to visit my sister Sanna on my push bike and was on my way home to Nappa Hall. My Dynamo failed just at the top of the lane so I got off my bike and felt my way to the gate to open it. As I put my hand on the gate post I felt another hand come down on top of my own. I was absolutely petrified. I heard a man’s voice call out to me “mind the tents”. What a relief.

It was one of the soldiers from the army who sometimes used Nappa Hall grounds in which to practice their manouvres. They would turn up round about seven in the evening and set up camp.

There was no camp or soldiers to be seen when I set out for my sisters earlier that evening.

by Eleanor Dinsdale Carperby

The Buried village of Semerwater

Humphrey Hopper, a colourful gentleman with powers of great exageration who used to live in part of the old silk mill near Countersett, would tell this tale to visitors as he rowed them across lake Semerwater.

‘I were yance i’ this varry booat,’ he said ‘fairish out like i’ t’ middle o’ t’ laaeke, an’ it were a grand loun day. After a bit I stopped an’ started to cut misel a bit o’ bacca. I’d laid mi gully down on t’ booat edge, an’ it tummelled intu t’ watter, an’ I seed it gan into a square black spot, summat like a shaft. I thowt to misel, I’ll loup in an’ git it out, so I doffed mi cleeas an’ dived into t’ black hoal. When I gat to t’ bottom, I worr in a soart o’ a kitchen an’ mi knife were liggin’ on t’ hearthsteean. So don’t thee tell me thar isn’t a village under t’ watter cos’ I’ve seen it.’

by Humphrey Hopper

A Story From Cotterdale

A story told of Cotterdale, a dale which in olden times sheltered many miners, who, so quiet was Cotterdale then, became a law unto themselves.

Lord Wharncliffe, who owned the nearby estates, had to employ 20 gamekeepers to stop the miners from poaching on his land.

One day, a travelling Evangelist visited Cotterdale and succeeded in converting the entire mining population. Lord Wharncliffe noticed the improvement in their behaviour, and on enquiring the reason, was told that the tough miners had been converted to Methodism. Such was his relief that he at once gave them ground on which to build a Methodist chapel. He also gave £5 each year to the chapel during his lifetime.


This writer tells of her great grandmother, who lived at Cotterdale and made her living by knitting. She would walk to Hawes market with her weeks knitting and she would actually knit a pair of mens socks on her journey there and back. The name of this industrious lady was Betty Slinger.

Thomas Little

Dorothy Walker wrote of Askrigg market, held under a charter from Queen Elizabeth the first, and told how, before the police force existed, farmers did unpaid police duty in their turn after being sworn in.
Her great-grandfather, Thomas Little, effected the arrest of the very last person to be convicted for sheep stealing. His truncheon was stamped with a cameo of George the IV.

Boaty Ned

Boaty Ned was a man who lived at the workhouse in Bainbridge. He used to ride up to Hawes on the bus purchasing a return ticket. Ned would walk back and tell people he had duped the bus company.

Ned was responsible for collecting the whey in a wheelbarrow from the dairy in Bainbridge. The local youths would sometimes tease him so he would put the barrow down and throw stones at them. The master at the workhouse got complaints about this so to stop Ned putting his barrow down he sawed the legs off it and Ned had to go straight back with the whey.

One day Ned saw the young lads from the village were wearing flat caps with a neb at the back. Actually they had turned them round possibly because it was windy and they were less likely to blow off if turned round to the back.

Ned, undeterred, went up to Hawes called in at one of the haberdashery shops and asked the shopkeeper for one of these new caps with a neb at the back.

From memories of various local people

Wives of Bainbridge

Bainbridge WI (fancy dress) 2005

Tippling by the wives of Bainbridge would appear to be an ancient offence.

In the Quarter Sessions Records of 1667-68 it was ordered “if a Bainbrigge ale-house keeper suffer any person to tipple or drink disorderly, in his house on the Sabbath-day in the time of divine service, or suffer any man’s wife to drink disorderly against her husband’s mind, then he is to be suppressed from selling ale or beer any more.”

From the Thornton Rust School Register of February 1921

On Tuesday morning there were fearful screams outside. The new scholar was objecting to coming. I didn’t trouble. If parents allow children to become their masters, they must take the consequences. I am a teacher not a wild beast tamer. (This was followed by a row in the village and only 4 children attended the school the rest of them went to the Village Hall for a time).
The teacher was Mrs. W. Armitage

The name of this poor little pupil was Sydney Metcalfe.
Sidney was only four years old at the time of the entry in the register, and his mum had died when he was only two.

Information supplied by Mrs Bell from Leyburn.

The Lost Ear

Concerning Wood Hall in Woodhall circa 1900 (where the head forester of Wensleydale once lived).

The following story of the time was retold by an elderly native of the village: – Late one dark night in mid-winter, when all the family were from home, and one servant was left in sole charge, a burglar with a mask on his face, attempted to break in, and had already forced himself half through a window, when the maid came on the scene armed with a carving knife. She aimed a blow at the burglar and unintentionally cut off his ear. With a fearful yell he withdrew and made no further attempt to renew his operations.

The sequel of this story is very singular.

Some two or three years after the above incident, when the maid was in the service of another family a few miles away, there came a-courting her a fellow with long black hair which completely covered his ears. The courtship was flourishing and was brightening up towards a wedding. Luckily, on one occasion by some mischance, his hair was brushed from his ears and the girl was startled to find him minus the ear she had cut off.

Needless to say the courtship ended abruptly.


The best British makers towards the end of the eighteenth century were Egg and Twigg, but they were rapidly surpassed by the genius Joseph Manton, who was born in 1764 and died bankrupt in 1835, after an amazing career in which expensive litigation absorbed all his profits.

Joe Manton guns are eagerly sought after by collectors of the present day, and his arms go right through the flintlock and transition period into the standard percussion double-barrel gun. The celebrated Colonel Hawker has nothing but praise for Joe Manton, whose art as a gunmaker made the colonel’s achievements as a shot possible. In his Instructions to Young Sportsmen (the fourth edition of 1825), we find the double-barrelled flintlock shot-gun the established arm struggling hopelessly against the percussion system.

Manton revolutionized the sporting-gun world not so much with his exquisite flintlocks as with his percussion arms, and Manton’s workmen founded gun-making firms whose names are famous as existing concerns today. Purdey, Lancaster, Hussey, and Atkins are among the number. Manton’s work shows not only an exquisite mechanical perfection, but a wonderful harmony of design. His guns handle completely differently from the clumsy arms of a few years earlier, and so evident were his successes that the other gunmakers had perforce to follow on the lines he laid down. His main improvements are, the now familiar raised top-rib and the use of platinum in touch-holes, besides many detailed changes in breeching muzzle-loaders.

nash_@tiscali.co.uk 13-Jan-2010 #1528
when I was a girl many years ago I remember a poem I loved it. It went,deep asleep deep asleep ,deep asleep it lies the still lake of semawater under the still skys, and many a fathom many a fathom many a fathom below in kings tower and queens bower the fishes come and go, does anyone remember it and if so who wrote it thankyou so much val liverpool


katlyn/ katie_fromcov@yahoo.co.uk 14-Mar-2009 #1506
Im a city girl, I grew up in west midlands I enjoy summer time in the Dales, but the cold winters can be a bit much at times

peter.gaffney2@ntlworld.com 22-Aug-2008 #1438
I have been a visitor to the yorkshire dales for many years and have learnt so much about this place that i have written a book about my ramblings.
The book is entitled "Dales Tales the ramblings of a hiker" and is available at www.lulu.com.
I have included talks with the locals and studied the histort and feel that this work is a love letter, nay a marriage between man and nature.
I have been able to undertake this task with the help of the dalesfolk and this is my way of a thank you.
Keep up the good work on the website,
From Peter, a townie.

josiebell123@msn.com 17-Jun-2007 #44
can enyone help me please my grandparent and great great grandparents comefrom redmire bred and born therehis name was george miller his wife i beleave was called ellenor between them they had six children willian ellenor ethel,lillian john and mary ethel being my mam there is some photos on the filth collection of the redmire children 1929 one of the children resembles my daughter i was wondering if eny one can name this person or is there enymore sites where i can look up old photo or enymore informatin thanks josie bell

michelinelobjois@hotmail.com 08-Sep-2006 #25
Many thanks Julie Brutnell for your info on Eleanor Fowler born 1787. I am thrilled to have got one generation further back. When I think of the all the years that I visited the Dales with no idea that I had ancestors in Askrigg… Micheline Lobjois London.

JULIE – j.brutnell@ntlworld.com 02-Aug-2006 #24
Regarding John Magee and Eleanor - I found a marriage between a John Magee and Eleanor Fowler 9th August 1813 in Richmond near Leyburn.
Their daughter Mary Magee was christened 29th August 1813 at the same parish. As for Eleanor Fowler the only one that fits with name [ spelling & first name ] year and area is Eleanor Fowler christened 1st Nov 1787 in Spennithorne - parents listed as John Fowler and Ann.
In 1851 census Eleanor John and their daughter Mary are living at 14 South Street Durham. Eleanor states her birthplace as Ashbridge [ Ahbridge is near Manchester and Eleanor states she was born in Yorkshire ] or Asboridge - this sounds like Askrigg in North Yorkshire - on the AA route finder Askrigg to Spennithorne is 13 miles and both are in Leyburn [ near Richmond ]. It is possible that after she was christened that her family moved to Askrigg. I checked Genes Reunited and Maureen has an Eleanor Fowler born Askrigg 1770c. All of the above must be checked for accuracy but I hope I have helped you. Best Wishs on your searches. Regards Julie Brutnell

michelinelobjois@hotmail.com 02-Aug-2006 #23
I have loved the Dales for many years and so I was very excited when I traced my great great great grandmother to Askrigg. Her name was Eleanor..... and she was born in 1787. Has anyone any idea how I could find out her family name ?She married an agricultural labourer,John Magee (born 1776 in Brancepeth), probably in Richmond, as her daughter Mary was born there in 1815. The family moved to Durham where a second daughter Elizabeth was born in 1820.I got much of this information from the Durham Census for 1851 which has been made accessible by diligent volunteer historians. It took them five years to type it up apparently.Suggestions would be welcome.Micheline Lobjois, London.

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