Discovering Buckden and beyond

Dales characters and their stories

Alfred Wainwright - Pennine walker

Alfred Wainwright

Wainwright’s first walking book was not about the Lake District at all but the Yorkshire Pennines. In 1938, while the storm clouds of war were darkening over Europe, the young Wainwright set off on a solo walk from Settle to Hadrian’s Wall. It took him through Buckden where, during “the blackest night I remember”, he groped around in the dark looking for accommodation.

“Stumbling like a blind man”, he was helped to the front door of the Falshaws by a young lady who was also staying in the village. He never saw her face, since it was so dark, but was smitten with her voice, which he wrote “came from a level midway between my elbow and my shoulder, which was just where it should be”. She left him at the Falshaws’ door – probably what is now Clifford House, next door to West Winds – and then disappeared into the gloom. When the door eventually opened, “Mrs Falshaw scrutinised me as though I was a visitor from another planet, but she finally decided to risk everything and admit me, and set about making me a big supper of which I was sadly in need.”

The following morning, Wainwright went to Buckden Post Office and bought a box of chocolates, delivering them to the lodgings of the young lady to thank her for her services as a guide in the dark. When asked if he would not like to present them to the girl herself, Wainwright declined. Afterwards he wrote: “I wanted to remember her only for her voice as she spoke to me so quietly in the darkness.”

Jimmy Falshaw - Village shop keeper

Buckden Post Office

In the 1930s, Buckden Post Office was run by Jimmy Falshaw and his wife Cissie. Jimmy was brought up at Prospect Farm (now Clifford House) next door to West Winds. He may well have been living at the farm when Wainwright came knocking in 1938. If he was, it seems Wainwright was lucky to get a bed for the night, since Jimmy had two brothers and three sisters and the house wasn’t so big.

In those days, village shops sold pretty much everything that existed and Buckden Post Office was no exception, selling groceries, newspapers, hardware and even petrol.

By the 1960s, however, the post office had probably moved to Chestnut Cottage, close to West Winds, lately owned by Major Austin, whose great great aunt was Jane Austin, author of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. As elsewhere, there used to be more small shops in the village than exist today, including an antique lace shop, which supplied material for the wedding dress of Princess Diana in 1981.

Today Buckden Village Stores is back in its old position, although the post office services have now gone. The Falshaw family still live in the area too. Jimmy Falshaw’s nephew Gordon Falshaw farms at Hubberholme with his son Mark.

Tom Smith - Edwardian mail coach driver

Tom Smith

In the early 1900s Tom Smith used to drive the mail coach between Grassington and Buckden. Passengers could ride in the two-horse carriage with him and this would have been a well used means of travelling down to Grassington – the ‘big city’ – where there was a railway station.

In the early 1900s, Leeds tailor Thomas Ryder was one such mail coach passenger. He waited at the Buck Inn for the coach, where he attracted the attention of curious locals. He wrote: “The sound of horses’ hoofs, and the rumbling of wheels on the hard limestone road, announces the approach of the mail. It is our signal to be off. Bidding good day to the villagers, we take our seat on the front alongside the driver. Daylight is fast fading and the drive down to Grassington changes its fashion altogether soon as dusk has fallen. The little villages are points of light upon the darkness. The coach lamps throw strange gleams and fluttering shadows on the road and limestone walls, and the night comes heavy-hearted down the fells.”

Tom Smith himself lived at Hartrigg House at the entrance to the village. The imposing building has repeatedly been used as a guest house over the past 100 years, as it is today.

Kit Calvert and Wilfred Pickles - Yorkshire dialect speakers

Kit Calvert

Becoming something of a local hero when he revived Wensleydale cheese making at Hawes in 1935, Kit Calvert was a great Dales character and North Riding Yorkshire dialect speaker. He ‘translated’ parts of the New Testament into Wensleydale dialect, including St Luke’s Gospel:

St Luke’s Gospel: Chapter 15. Good News Bible
There was once a man who had two sons. The younger one said to him: “Father, give me my share of the property now.” So the man divided his property between his two sons. After a few days the younger son sold his part of the property and left home with the money. He went to a country far away, where he wasted his money in reckless living.

St Luke’s Gospel: Chapter 15. North Riding dialect by Kit Calvert
A farmer had tweea lads, an’ yan on ‘em, t’ youngomer, sez teu t’ aad feller: “Father, give ez mi sharr ev t’ farm, ‘at’s ta cum ta mi.” An seea he let ‘em sharr an’ sharr alike. Nut manny days efter, t’ youngomer githered awl he’d gitten t’gither, an’ teuk hizsel off inta foreign parts, an’ thar’ weeasted his brass i’ lowse leevin’.

Full Yorkshire dialect, as opposed to a modern Yorkshire accent, is becoming less and less common, but older inhabitants of Upper Wharfedale, Wensleydale and Swaledale still use distinctive words that differ from standard English and are part of North Riding dialect (although geographically Wharfedale used to be in the West Riding part of the county). Closely allied to North Riding dialect is the dialect that still lingers in parts of the East Riding area, but West Riding dialect – originally spoken south of line linking Settle, Skipton and Otley – is more different.

Wilfred Pickles was a West Riding dialect speaker and in a BBC series entitled Seeing and Believing, he gave the West Riding ‘version’ of our St Luke Chapter 15:

St Luke’s Gospel: Chapter 15. West Riding dialect, spoken by Wilfred Pickles
There wor once a well-ter-do farmer ‘at ‘ad two lads. T’ youngest on ‘em comes up to ‘is fatther an’ ‘e says: “Fatther, will ta give mi my share o’ t’ land?” T’ farmer must ‘a’ been ta’en aback bi this: t’ deeacent thing is to cahr quiet until thi fatther dees afooare tha starts askin’ fer thi legacy. ‘Owever, t’ fatther thowt ‘e’d give t’ lad a chonce, see what ‘e could do on ‘is awn, like. So ‘e gev ‘im ‘is share o’ t’ land. Well, would-ta credit it? No sooiner does ‘e get ‘is ‘ands on it than t’ lad sells it all, taks all t’ brass an’ goes off inter forin’ parts. An’ theeare ‘e ‘as a grand time, blewin it all in, wi’ lots o’ mates an’ plenty o’ fancy-women. ‘E stays up till all hours, an’ mooast o’ t’ time ‘e’s as drunk as a fuzzock.

Miss Elizabeth Crompton-Stansfield - Lady of the Manor

Miss Elizabeth Crompton-Stansfield

As Lady of the Manor of Buckden from 1904 until just before the Second World War, Miss Elizabeth Crompton-Stansfield was once a powerful force in Upper Wharfedale. She owned most of the properties in the village and much of the surrounding farmland and grouse moors, and lived at Buckden House.

The estate had been bought in 1879 by her father, Colonel Crompton Stansfield of Esholt Hall in Esholt village near Leeds, later famous as the setting for TV’s Emmerdale Farm. Colonel Crompton-Stansfield rose to prominence in the Crimean War, when he was decorated for saving the regimental flag of the Black Watch during battle.

The Buckden estate included Redmire Woods, where Miss Crompton-Stansfield planted rhododendrons and drove along the rides in her Baby Austin motorcar. She was fond of feeding the deer in her deer park and it was said she loved every stick and stone in the district. In winter snows she travelled to Hubberholme Church on a handsome, red, horse-drawn sledge.

However, she was also remembered as autocratic with firm views on politics and social matters. Her will was to be done and many of the estate staff were seemingly frightened of her, keeping out of her way as much as possible. Perhaps they felt they couldn’t do right for wrong, since she particularly disliked anyone who “toadied”. However, although wages were generally low on private estates at the time, she was generous to her workers, providing them with rent-free cottages and often continuing to pay them after they retired. When she died in 1938, she left her devoted maid, Miss Blakely, a cottage in Buckden, furniture and an allowance of £1 a week.

Buckden House is now an outdoor centre for schoolchildren. The former kitchen garden is now occupied by the Dalegarth holiday cottages and Miss Crompton-Stansfield’s stables have been turned into the cottages making up Buckden Court.

Hotspur and the Earls of Northumberland - Keepers of the Chase

Harry 'Hotspur' Percy

After the Norman Conquest in 1066, large tracts of wild land throughout England were set aside for game and hunting. These Forests belonged to the king but hunting rights for some of the forests were granted to the nobility and were known as Chases. In the Dales, Langstrothdale Chase was one such hunting ground, held by the powerful Percy family until 1534. The Percys were created Earls of Northumberland in 1377.

Most Forests and Chases would have been partly wooded but not completely covered by trees. Langstrothdale was probably no exception. The four so-called ‘beasts’ of the Chase were roe deer, fallow deer, fox and pine marten.

In the 12th century a new settlement was built to provide houses for the main officers of the Chase, headed by the Forest Keeper. It was called Buckden, a clear reference to its hunting origins. By 1241 seven hunting lodges had been created within established Norse settlements, with the names clearly recognisable today: Crey (Cray), Huberham (Hubberholme), Yoghamethest (Yockenthwaite), Risegile (Raisgill), Depedale (Deepdale), Beckersmote (Beckermonds) and Uhtredestall (Oughtershaw).

The Chase was administered firmly and local peasants would have had to obey a string of forest laws, although they would have had some common rights such as collecting firewood, collecting wild honey, grazing their pigs and digging peat on the moors. Poaching would have been common, however, despite the Chase having its own court – the Woodmote – to deal with local disputes and wrong-doers. Twelve verderers (each responsible for the vegetation and hunt animals within a lodge area) and freemen would have sat in judgement.

Perhaps the most famous member of the Percy family – and the hero of Shakespeare play Henry IV Part 1 – was Harry ‘Hotspur’ Percy. Hotspur earned his nickname through his speed and skill in battle – he reputedly fought his first battle at the age of eight – and a degree of hot-headedness. In league with his father, then Earl of Northumberland, he raised a rebellion against King Henry IV in Cheshire but was killed by the King’s forces at the Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403. The King ordered that the head of the young Percy be sent to his widow, common practice at that time.

The Hird brothers of Yockenthwaite Farm - Bachelor farmers

Hay-making by hand (Picture by Bertram Unné from www.northyorks.gov.uk/unnetie)

In the 1930s the main farm at Yockenthwaite was run by three brothers of the Hird family: Thomas (nicknamed Brother), Anthony and Lodge. The three never married and opted for a bachelor existence together, employing a housekeeper to look after them.

At that time, life in the Dales would have been very localised with little penetration by the outside world, with the possible exception of radio. By 1925 the BBC could be heard through most of the UK and early wireless sets would have been transforming parlour life in the Dales as they were elsewhere. Television, however, probably didn’t appear in the Dales until the 1950s. Elsie Thornborrow remembers in 1952 the inhabitants of Raydale, where she was brought up, travelling en masse down dale to Bainbridge in Wensleydale to watch the Queen’s coronation on the nearest available TV set, black and white of course. Even at the end of the 1950s, outlying farms in the Dales were still not connected to electricity. And Yockenthwaite Farm didn't get its first telephone until 1966.

In the 1920s and 30s, traditional breeds of cattle such as the roan-coloured dairy shorthorn would have grazed the valley sides in the Yorkshire Dales. The buttercup meadows would have been mown with cutter bars drawn by horses and the hay turned, raked and piled up into pikes by hand in an intensive operation drawing in hired labour (often from Ireland), the farmer’s family, friends and pretty much anyone who happened to be passing. Some farms would still have been hand-scything the meadows, which was standard up to the First World War. The finished hay was then dragged on sledges by horse to the many small field barns where it was forked in and left to provide winter feed for the four or five cows that spent the winter in each barn.

During winter, farmers would continually walk round the scattered barns, feeding, mucking out and milking, carrying milk away on their backs in a primitive rucksack known as a back-can. Most things then were done by hand and on foot; at Redmire Farm near Buckden, the first tractor didn’t splutter onto the scene until 1948. Making hay into bales came later still, during the 1960s. Cray farmer Charlie Thornborrow was making pikes rather than bales until the late 60s, about the time his friend Jimmy Sayer in Buckden bought a ‘new fangled’ baling machine and travelled from farm to farm in Upper Wharfedale on a contract basis. In 1971 a seemingly innocent development altered the face of farming across the Dales as it did in other parts of the country. The introduction of bulk cold storage tanks for milk made milk churns obsolete. Small producers who couldn't justify the investment necessary to modernise their equipment had to switch to rearing beef cattle instead. Dairying became concentrated on a smaller number of larger farms.

Up until the Second World War, and perhaps beyond, many farmers too would have been using the old Celtic-derived dialect system of counting or scoring sheep. This varied from one dale to another, but it is likely that the following numerals would have been used in Langstrothdale and Upper Wharfedale at the start of the century:

Despite being rather cut off from the world – or perhaps because of it – the bachelor Hirds of Yockenthwaite were surrounded by relations. Half a mile from Yockenthwaite, at Raisgill Farm, lived Ottiwell Hird, the brother of the three. He did get married and went on to have four sons and two daughters. Two of the sons took over the Raisgill farm from their father and another son, Anthony, moved to Yockenthwaite to take over from his three uncles in 1942. It was he who had to weather the bitter winter of 1947 when it snowed from January to April, creating snowdrifts reportedly up to 40-feet deep. Anthony lost nearly all his sheep in the drifts or through starvation.

Today Yockenthwaite Farm is still farmed by the Hird family. Stuart and Elizabeth Hird are influential sheep farmers and makers of high quality breakfast cereal. Their children are also keen on farming and look set to continue the family tradition.

Denis Healey - Honeymoon visitor

Denis Healey

The former Chancellor of the Exchequer in Harold Wilson’s Government was a Leeds MP for 40 years from 1952. Three days before Christmas in 1945, he spent his honeymoon at the Buck Inn in Buckden, or to be exact, in the converted stable next door since ‘there was no room at the inn’. As they were settling down for their honeymoon night by candlelight in the loft – Denis and his wife Edna later related – a grey-haired lady popped her head through the trap door to ask if they would like to hear her recite her poetry. According to Edna: “Gently we rejected her kind offer and she disappeared, never to be seen again.”

Denis Healey retained his connections with the Dales and in 1991 fronted the National Trust’s Yorkshire Moors and Dales Appeal, launched to fund conservation work, including on the Upper Wharfedale estate newly acquired from Graham Watson.

Graham Watson - Landowner and modern benefactor

Lister's Mill, Bradford (Picture by www.workers.org.uk)

When the redoubtable Miss Elizabeth Crompton-Stansfield, Buckden’s last Lady of the Manor, died in 1938, it was the end of an era at the top of Wharfedale. The Crompton-Stansfield estate was broken up and part of it was bought by Graham Watson, Managing Director at Manningham Mills in Bradford, home of Lister’s textile manufacturers. Lister’s employed more than 5000 people producing fine silks and velvets.

Graham was, in fact, the fourth generation of a great Bradford textile dynasty. He was educated at Marlborough College and then Emmanuel College, Cambridge.

Graham and his brother David acquired more land as time went on, eventually owning 5590 acres of Upper Wharfedale, including many local farms. The Watsons were inspired by a love of the Dales and a desire to do what they could to protect its beauty. They were welcome new landlords and displayed a keen interest in what was happening on the farms, even helping with hay-making.

Graham Watson often arrived in Buckden on a huge motorbike – which he rode into his 90s – and was a regular customer at West Winds. He was a founder-member of the Yorkshire Dales Society and the Friends of the Lake District, and simultaneously sat on the decision-making bodies of both the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District National Parks. He was also Chair of the Bradford Chamber of Commerce, Chair of the Bradford Magistrates’ Court, Commander of the Auxilliary Fire Service in the city and a Governor of Giggleswick School for an incredible 51 years.

His five decades with the school were remembered thus by a fellow Governor: “Graham used to sit at the far end of the table during Governors’ meetings, away from the centre of the debate. He would say little. When he finally spoke, his quiet authority, the product of years of experience, invariably brought the discussion to an end. Instinctively, we all knew that Graham’s solution to the problem would be the right solution. It always was.”

In 1989 David Watson died and Graham decided to donate their entire estate to the National Trust. Graham himself passed away in 2002. The ashes of both brothers were scattered at the place they loved most, high on the valley side above Redmire Farm.

Hannah Hauxwell - Solitary North Country farmer

Hannah Hauxwell (Picture by Bertram Unné from www.northyorks.gov.uk/unnetie)

Hannah Hauxwell sprang to public attention in 1970 when she was ‘discovered’ by the Yorkshire Post living a harsh, solitary life as a farmer in Baldersdale above Teesdale. At that time this Pennine moorland was still part of the historical North Riding of Yorkshire. Hannah then featured in a TV documentary entitled Too Long A Winter, which followed her through the cold months at Low Birk Hatt Farm where she had no running water, phone or electricity. She collected water by hand from a stream and led a meagre, simple existence. She kept a handful of beef cattle and her only source of income was selling the odd calf, which she took to market herself on foot. In 1970 she reportedly lived on £170 a year, the equivalent of around £1700 today.

Hannah took over the family farm at the age of 35 and stayed there for 30 years. She is now in her 80s and lives less than 5 miles away in the village of Cotherstone. Looking back on her time at Low Birk Hatt, she says: “I existed during winter and truly lived during the summer. People always think that I was happy there, but it was not always the best of times. I was not always the happiest person in the world.

“I muddled on and I didn’t rely too much on possessions; I cut my cloth according to my needs. These days there seems to be such a reliance on material things; it’s all about keeping up with Joneses. I do not blame or begrudge people if they want nice things, but these things are not always what they really want.”

In June 1992 Hannah opened the Buckden Gala, a modest and traditional village fete probably very much in keeping with her own values. Fittingly perhaps, Hannah’s birthday is on Yorkshire Day, 1 August.

Thomas Hall and ‘Buckden Bill’ - Worker and victim of the mines

Thomas Hall

It’s hard to imagine today but once the Dales area was something of an industrial centre and jobs in the lead mines swelled local populations, particularly in Swaledale and Arkengarthdale, where in the middle of the 19th century, the population was six times what it is today.

Mining also took place in Upper Wharfedale, on the fells above Buckden, Starbotton, Kettlewell and Grassington. At Buckden, lead was mined at Buckden Gavel on the western flank of Buckden Pike at least as far back as the 17th century and by 1734 there were more miners working at Buckden and Starbotton than at the larger Grassington, where the moor is still heavily scarred by mining.

There must have been a shortage of housing in Buckden. Indeed in 1751, two miners and their expanding families were lodging with Henry Falshaw, the farmer at Redmire Farm. Miner Roger Weatherhead and his wife Mary had four children under six years old; his fellow miner James Warriner and his wife had three children under six. This was under the same roof as the farmer Henry and his wife Agnes and their nine children at the time (they went on to have a total of 11). Sixteen children in one house. Of course, in those days large families usually turned into smaller families. At least five of Henry and Agnes’s children died young, from smallpox and other diseases.

At Buckden Gavel early mining took place via shafts sunk above Cray but in 1804 work began on a new horizontal tunnel high up in Buckden Ghyll. The entrance can still be seen today. In the 1860s the mines, run by Charles Lodge and Co, were producing significant amounts of lead. The tunnels and shafts were extensive and on three levels. The lead ore was brought out in wagons running on iron rails and then sorted and cleaned on-site at a dressing floor, before being taken for smelting to extract the raw metal from the ore.

In the 1700s ore from Buckden Pike had originally been smelted at Buckden High Mill by the side of Buckden Beck, close to where the tunnel entrance now is. After this 19th century tunnel was driven, however, ore was probably smelted at Birks Mill above Redmire Farm across the valley from Buckden, and later it was probably processed mainly at Grassington and Starbotton.

In the 1870s world lead prices were driven down by competition from new sources and the Dales lead industry, with their by now overworked veins, could not survive. By 1877 production at Buckden Gavel Mine had probably more or less ceased.

It was probably during 1890 that a man entered the now disused mines on his own. He never left the mine alive. His skeleton was found there in 1964, 400 yards into the mine. He seemed to have died of natural causes but was never officially identified, being dubbed Buckden Bill ever since. With him were found some fascinating bits and pieces from a bygone age, a sixpenny piece dated 1872, two shilling pieces dated 1885 and a funeral card for a John Winskill, who had been buried at Settle in 1890, along with his walking stick and felt hat.

Shortly after ‘Bill’ was discovered, the Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association explored the workings more fully and found them to be just as the last shift of miners had left them, more than 80 years before. Clog marks could be seen in the mud on the floor of the mine. Even impressions of the miners’ corduroy trousers were visible on the muddy side walls. Here and there were also the stumps of tallow candles, stuck to the walls in clay cups, and chisels and an iron-bound bucket were found, along with a broken clay pipe laid on a shelf in the tunnel.

Local historian Jean Reinsch wrote a poem about Buckden Bill shortly after he was discovered. It is printed in her book Spanning the Centuries.

On the high slope of Buckden Pike
Where the mist obliterates the spoil
Amongst the heather a deep lead mine
Where men had toiled in days gone by
Extracting galena and calamine
Deserted now for countless years
Till prying youth deigned to explore
Its levels with clog marks in clay
Reminding us of former days
Candle stumps on shelflike wall
A power flask, a gad, a pick

But who lies here? A man's remains
With hat, a stick and mildewed boots
For nearly fourscore years he lay
One cold, snowy spring night, with reverence
His rescuers went to retrieve his bones
His pathetic belongings, wallet with coins, a funeral card
Why did he enter the mine, along?
Who can he be? No-one knows
As Buckden Bill he will always be known

In 2011 work by local journalist Sebastian Oake with the help of the Northern Mine Research Society and a member of the original 'rescue' team who carried out the body, finally revealed the likely identity of 'Bill'.

To find out more about Buckden Bill and who he really was, visit the website of Sebastian Oake.

Few pictures of lead miners exist since the last lead miners at Buckden were disappearing just as photography was beginning to arrive. One of the few Dales miners to be caught by the camera is the one shown here: Thomas Hall of West Burton in Bishopdale.

Lady Anne Clifford - Saintly aristocrat of the Dales

Lady Anne Clifford

The Cliffords were the landed gentry of the Dales area for hundreds of years, owning estates from Yorkshire to Westmorland. Lady Anne Clifford was the most illustrious member of the family, living at Skipton Castle in the 17th century, but she spent much of her life in a struggle against personal injustice.

On her father’s death in 1605, his land and titles were transferred to his brother, bypassing Anne who was just 15 at the time. She fought for her rightful inheritance for 38 years, finally gaining control of the estates in 1643, when the English Civil War was raging. She devoted the rest of her life to restoring her castles at Skipton, Barden, Pendragon, Appleby, Brough and Brougham. She also rebuilt churches and chapels, erected monuments, built bridges and founded almshouses. Her philanthropy was legendary.

Whilst supervising the work on her castles, she would travel to each one in turn with a substantial following of ladies-in-waiting and servants. It is said that whenever she was on the move, 44 carts and two wagons were pressed into service to transport her possessions. She was often seen on horse-back in Wharfedale and reportedly spent the night in the ‘manor house’ in Starbotton, now split between Beck Cottage, Cam Cottage and Well Side at the head of the village.

Subsequent writers have been effusive in their praise for Lady Anne. One said: “Her house was a school for the young, a retreat for the aged, an asylum for the persecuted, a college for the learned and a pattern [example] for all.” Her ancestors, however, had mixed reputations. One of them – branded 'The Shepherd Lord' – had a great love of the pastoral life and spent much of his time at Barden Tower at Bolton Abbey, “giving to all in the neighbourhood the example of a useful, peace-loving and contented life”. A previous Lord Clifford, on the other hand, was nicknamed ‘The Butcher’ for a range of barbarities, including allegedly the personal murder of the son of the Duke of York with a dagger on Barden Bridge.

Today you can follow Lady Anne's Way, which retraces the routes she took between her castles. The trail runs from Skipton Castle, where she was born in 1590, to Brougham Castle on the outskirts of Penrith, where she died in 1676. It meanders through Wharfedale and Wensleydale, follows an ancient green lane known as Lady Anne’s Highway through Mallerstang and then explores the tranquil countryside of the Eden Valley.

George Fox - Founder of the Quaker movement

George Fox

In 1647, George Fox – a travelling shoe-maker – experienced a spiritual revelation that convinced him all earthly authority was corrupt, whether from the Church or the State. He decided that God’s message could only come to individuals directly through the inner light of their personal inspiration. Fox began preaching this message as he travelled around the Midlands and the North, attracting small groups of followers who called themselves Friends of the Truth, but became popularly known as Quakers.

Fox’s denunciations of the established church and its ministers alarmed the authorities, leading to periods of imprisonment at Nottingham (1649) and Derby (1650-51). During his imprisonment at Derby, Fox refused a chance to gain his freedom by joining the army and his personal pacifism became an important feature of the Quaker movement. Upon his release late in 1651, Fox resumed his ministry in Yorkshire and Lancashire. He called for the abolition of tithes, refused to bow or doff his hat to social superiors, and insisted that anyone, including women and children, could speak at Quaker meetings.

At Sedbergh he addressed a gathering of 1000 people at Firbank Fell. He also came to Langstrothdale, visiting Scar House high above Hubberholme, which became a Quaker Meeting House. James Tennant, the farmer at Scar House at the time, was imprisoned for his Quaker beliefs and died in a York jail. To the west of the house still lies a small Quaker burial ground.

Bishop Heber - Christian missionary and hymn writer

Bishop Heber

Reginald Heber was a 19th century missionary who spent many years in India ‘promoting’ the Christian faith. He was also a renowned hymn writer, his best known works being From Greenland’s Icy Mountains and Holy, Holy, Holy.

Described a man of devout faith, strong personality and great humanity, Heber was educated at Brasenose College, Oxford, and later elected as a Fellow of All Souls College in the city. He became a rector in Shropshire, before accepting in 1822 a post in India as Bishop of Calcutta. He died just four years later, essentially from overwork, having hardly rested from his Christian mission. His biographer portrayed him as a man ahead of his time, full of vision, integrity and compassion. In his last sermon to his parishioners in Shropshire, he had told them: “According to the gospels there are only two kinds of human beings: those we love and those we ought to love.”

In 1893, in honour of Bishop Heber, Kirkgill Manor at Hubberholme was rebuilt from a farmhouse owned by the Heber family, and for many years it was the local vicarage. He also gave his name to Heber Farm in the centre of Buckden.

JB Priestley - Novelist, dramatist and BBC wartime broadcaster

JB Priestley (Picture from www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk)

One of the great literary giants of the 20th century, JB Priestley had a special affection for Hubberholme, referring to it as “one of the smallest and pleasantest places in the world”. His ashes were buried in the churchyard when he died in 1984.

His writing career took off in 1913 when, aged 19, he did a weekly column for the Bradford Pioneer called Round the Hearth. He went on to publish novels, plays (including An Inspector Calls), reviews and essays, but is perhaps most respected for his iconic 1940s BBC radio broadcasts, in which he captured the wartime spirit in a way bettered only by Winston Churchill himself.

Speaking to the nation on 5 June 1940 about the evacuation of the British Army from Europe via Dunkirk, JB Priestley said: “I wonder how many of you feel as I do about this great battle and evacuation of Dunkirk. The news of it came as a series of surprises and shocks, followed by equally astonishing new waves of hope. What strikes me about it is how typically English it is. Nothing, I feel, could be more English both in its beginning and its end, its folly and its grandeur. What began as a miserable blunder, a catalogue of misfortunes, ended as an epic of gallantry. We have a queer habit – and you can see it running through our history – of conjuring up such transformations. And to my mind what was most characteristically English about it was the part played not by the warships but by the little pleasure-steamers. We’ve known them and laughed at them, these fussy little steamers, all our lives. These ‘Brighton Belles’ and ‘Brighton Queens’ left that innocent foolish world of theirs to sail into the inferno, to defy bombs, shells, magnetic mines, torpedoes and machine-gun fire to rescue our soldiers.”

Charles Kingsley - Author of a great British classic, set in the Dales

Charles Kingsley

One of the classic works of 19th century English literature was inspired by places and characters in the Dales. Charles Kingsley wrote The Water Babies after visiting Malham Tarn House in 1858. This imposing mansion on the moors above Malham was owned by millionaire Walter Morrison, who hosted Kingsley and others including Judge Hughes, author of Tom Brown’s Schooldays.

While staying at Malham Tarn, Charles Kingsley visited Malham Cove and is said to have gained inspiration for The Water Babies from dark smudges of lichen on the light coloured limestone rock. They became the sooty marks left by Tom, the hapless chimney sweep, as he climbed down “by stock and stone, sedge and ledge, bush and rush”.

The Water Babies touched upon most of Kingsley’s favourite themes: the working conditions of the poor, in this case those of chimney sweeps; Christian-led morality; the wonder of nature and its pollution by man; the closed minds of the traditional scientists of the day; and evolutionary theory.

The central character, Tom, was forced to climb up chimneys to clean them, one of the wretched “climbing boys” of Victorian times. He lived in a large northern town – probably based on Bradford – and was taken by his bullying master, Grimes, to sweep the chimneys of a great country mansion, Harthover Place, based on Malham Tarn House. Walter Morrison was the inspiration for red-faced squire Sir John Harthover from whose house Tom fled.

Kingsley also wove a piece of Littondale into the story. While staying at Malham he had walked over the moor to Arncliffe in Littondale and had tea at a house with an elderly lady called Miss Hammond. Her cottage, Bridge End, was meticulously described in the book, where she appeared as the woman in the red petticoat. The nearby River Skirfare is where Tom began his adventures as a water baby.

But fantasy or not, Kingsley’s story was immediately used as a force for social change. Within a year of publication of The Water Babies in 1863, the Chimney Sweepers Act had been passed by Parliament, forbidding the exploitation of children as chimney climbers.

Marie Hartley, Joan Ingilby and Ella Pontefract - Extraordinary recorders of Dales history

Marie Hartley

No-one knew more about the daily happiness and hardship of ordinary Dales people over 200 years than local historians Marie Hartley, Joan Ingilby and Ella Pontefract. When Marie died in Wensleydale in 2006, aged 100, she had been chronicling life and work in the area for 75 years with her friend Joan Ingilby and, before her, Ella Pontefract, creating a lively and absorbing record of the way things were between the mid-19th century and modern times.

A defining moment came in 1941 when a magnificent jumble of household history known as Horne’s Private Museum went to auction in Leyburn. Hartley and Pontefract bought most of it and began a collection that quickly took on a life of its own, expanding year on year. Ella died in 1945 but her shoes were filled by Joan Ingilby. Hartley and Ingilby went on to gather together many more artefacts and wrote and illustrated many books, including the 1968 classic Life and Tradition in the Yorkshire Dales, which has become the established point of reference for anyone interested in Dales domestic history.

Driven by pride in their county and a love of its landscape, Hartley and Ingilby were accurate but unsentimental in their writing, demolishing many romantic myths about life in the pretty, but austere, villages.

Joan Ingilby died in 2000, three years after the two women had been awarded MBEs and months after they had received honorary degrees from the Open University and gold medals from the Yorkshire Archaeological Society. Marie spent the final six years of her extraordinary life alone in her cottage in Askrigg.

Their fine collection of bygones outlives Hartley, Ingilby and Pontefract and is now housed at the Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes. It covers farming, lead mining, cheese making, hand knitting, home life, wartime and more, providing a rich kaleidoscope of connections with the past.

Joseph Fusniak - Wartime Buckden air crash survivor

Joseph Fusniak

On 30 January in 1942, with the ground deep in snow, the faint tracks of a fox led a Polish airman to safety after his plane crashed on Buckden Pike during a training flight. The Wellington bomber had clipped a dry-stone wall in the snow-storm and broken up into a pile of twisted metal on the summit ridge, killing four of the six-man crew instantly. A fifth crew member would not survive the night.

Minutes before the crash the plane had been spotted by Home Guard soldier Tommy Metcalfe at Starbotton, and by 12-year-old Norman Parrington, who was in the playground of Kettlewell School.

The plane’s rear gunner, Joseph Fusniak, suffered a badly broken ankle in the accident, but stuffing a tin of tomato soup into his bomber jacket (and leaving another for his injured colleague), he crawled off through the snow to seek help. Visibility was almost non-existent and Fusniak had no idea which way to go. Finding the tracks of the fox, he reasoned that the animal would be heading down to habitation in search of food and followed him as snowflakes “the size of golfballs” continued to fall.

Amazingly he made it down to the village of Cray, where he was spotted in the snow by Nannie Parker, daughter of the landlord of the White Lion. Initially the Pole – unable to speak much English – was suspected of being a German pilot, but he finally convinced them he was in the RAF and received the care he needed.

In recognition for his bravery, Joseph Fusniak was awarded the British Empire Medal by King George VI and decorated by Chief Air Marshall ‘Bomber’ Harris.

But the Buckden Pike crash was not the only wartime ordeal Joseph Fusniak had to endure. He spent many months in Stalag VIII-B prisoner of war camp at Lamsdorf in Germany. On 2 February 1945, with Russian troops drawing near, he was one of 4000 PoWs forced by the Nazis onto an evacuation march, later known as death marches due to the appalling conditions and the toll they exacted. The allied prisoners were marched up to 25 miles a day with little food and water and in temperatures reaching minus 10C. “A slice of bread or sausage would have to last three days,” he wrote afterwards. The march lasted three months. Men were infested with lice and physically and mentally exhausted. Many had dysentery, pleurisy, pneumonia or frostbite. Those who fell ill and couldn’t keep up were left to die and those who tried to escape, or steal food from the fields they passed, were beaten with rifle butts or killed. One morning, Joseph woke to find that the men lying on either side of him were dead.

Eventually the survivors reached the Hartz Mountains in central Germany where they were liberated by American soldiers. Joseph finally made it back to London and his fiancée Jessica.

In 1973, still haunted by the war and the trauma of the crash on Buckden Pike, he decided to build the memorial cross that stands there now, commemorating the fox that helped him survive against all the odds.

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