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A snapshot of Skipton's history, as told by Hettie herself.

Hettie's Journal

 

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XVII Hettie's Diary April 17th 1888


What a to-do there has been at St James’ Church in Barnoldswick.  My dear friend Mary told me all about it when she came for tea this afternoon.

Apparently, after the service Sunday 1st April there was a fracas between the vicar, some of his supporters and the church warden Mr Briggs.  No-one seems sure what it was about but the following Sunday there was a further squabble between the two.  During this altercation the vicar’s cloak was torn and Mr Briggs had to be forcibly removed from church to prevent him from entering the vestry!  Both parties had put forward a summons for assault, but Mr Briggs’ summons was withdrawn - presumably on advice from some of the more level headed parishioners.  The vicar continued to present charges but they were dismissed at Skipton petty sessions.
 
No wonder Mary was shocked at such behaviours - I will not be surprised if she were to join another congregation.

N.B. Holy Trinity church replaced St James church in 1960, when it was pulled down and a supermarket erected in it’s place.  St James’ had never been consecrated for marriage and there were problems with the structure.

 

XVI Hettie’s Diary October 10th 1885

What a fun afternoon we had as we gathered to celebrate the opening of the new suspension bridge over the river Wharfe at Woodside near Burnsall. There was a brass band and public tea for all! Even Harry seemed in his element as he chatted away to William Bell the local blacksmith whose talent and skill was put to good use building the magnificent bridge. It is reputed that in total he used 262 yards of redundant steel rope apparently bought for purpose from the Hebden Moor mining company. What a price!   £6,000, and all raised by public subscription.

It will make crossing the river so much more pleasant than using the stepping stones that only recently claimed the life of a local man drowned whilst trying to make the crossing. Even so, I must say, I held very tightly to the rails finding the swaying motion as we crossed the river very disconcerting indeed.          

 

XV Hettie’s Diary January 5th 1884

It never ceases to amaze me what antics some rogues will get up to.

Phyllis was in the shop today recounting the tale of the capture of the ‘ghost’ at Sutton. Such a rumpus he has caused over the past few weeks as he lay in wait on Holme Bridge Lane – that being the lane that leads from Sutton to Crosshills.

The upstart, dressed all in white roughly handled and terribly frightened females who passed by that way on dark evenings.  If it weren’t for the terror and upset that he caused, one might be tempted to consider it a feat to be able to pass oneself off as a ghost! Apparently he has suffered severe castigation at the hands of those who caught him.

 

 

XIV  Hettie’s Diary September 3rd 1881

Such a sad day today, it was the internment of Billy Bolton of Burnsall actually known to us all as the Singing Minstrel – such a fine voice he had. Occasionally he would sing to his own accompaniment of the fiddle or pipes. I shall miss hearing his tales and songs as he grinded away at kitchen tools or skilfully mended pots and pans. Such delight he took in having an audience – particularly the youngsters - for he was something of a conjurer and a scholar as he would often read aloud to those assembled around him. Poor Tabitha Duckett, it must have been such a shock that after 60 years of wandering through the Dales plying his trade, he should collapse as near to home as Linton.

Mr John Atkinson, being a long-time friend of Billy, has set up a subscription to pay for a tombstone that befits such a colourful character of some 85 years of age. I do hope that people who relied upon his skills make generous contributions. I shall give what I can.                                  

 

XIII   Hettie’s Diary June 17th 1880

I am in a state of indecision. Mary kindly invited me to join with her and Mr Metcalfe in becoming a member of the Craven Lawn Tennis Club. What is wrong with that?

My uncertainty revolves around the fact that the newly formed tennis club in Gargrave was started last year for ‘distinguished and influential ladies and gents in the area’ – I am certainly not one of those- and whilst it could be considered that I have adhered to their membership terms which are ‘strictly by invitation’, my invitation could promote discussion that my livelihood is that of a tradesperson. The advertisements claims that ‘Trade is definitely unacceptable’ at the club. I fear that my acceptance of their kind offer would cause immense embarrassment to my dear friends, and yet I do so enjoy a game of tennis!

 

XII Hettie’s Diary - October 27th 1880

Our men folk have come out of the ’special’ meeting in a state of uproar! The meeting was held by the Skipton Local Board to take into consideration the advisability of removing the cattle fair from the streets and erecting a market in order to ‘smarten up the town’. Preposterous! Skipton is known throughout the land for its varied and high class livestock fairs– who would have thought that such a thing could even have been muted.

The proposal is to erect the market in Jenny Croft  which is part of the Red Lion Inn and farm. Apparently the entire suggestion was met by great opposition from the owners of those public houses who fear loss of trade as their stabling facilities and shippons may no longer be required.

The market was actually established in Jerry Croft  in 1886 although cattle was still sold on the streets by Irish men and others every alternate Tuesday. As feared, many Public Houses were forced to close.

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XI Hettie’s Diary   4th May 1880

There is much chatter, astonishment and shock about town today after the tragic funeral of the sons of Mr and Mrs Eddy was held at Carleton earlier today.  Mr Stephen and Mr Charles were both drowned last Thursday afternoon having been on the Granta River in canoes with sails. Apparently the younger of the two boys had only been away from Carleton for a few days having gone to join his elder brother for the remainder of his vacation in Cambridge where Mr Stephen was a student at Pembroke College. One of the canoes was found upside down and the other at the side of the river.

I feel such deep sympathy for the distressed parents at their great loss- the unfortunate boys being their only children. Even being the agent for the Duke of Devonshire cannot prevent such tragedy and mishap.                   

 

X Hettie’s Diary January 22th 1881

Oh my! Such ill humour descended upon Harry yesterday.

On account of the prevalence of foot and mouth across many English counties, together with recent outbreaks in Scotland, it has been decreed that the cattle fair on Monday will be closed. The bother for him and his master is the readiness of both the cattle and sheep for sale. Can you believe that at the last sale – held in Long Preston- the fat cattle reached between £16 and £28 and calving cows between £16 and £24 each? Such good prices and yet it is unclear when the fair will re-open. Rumour has it that restrictions may be lifted in a fortnight for the sale of fat cattle but they do not want the burden of keeping the calving cows through the bad weather. It is such a devastating disease which, as Harry knows too well, impacts greatly upon the ‘droving community’.     

            

IX Hettie’s Diary December 23rd 1879

What a different event the Tradesman’s Ball held last night was when compared with the Craven Ball held three nights previously! I have never seen carriages as grand as those that bought the ladies and gentlemen of Craven to their Ball! All the ‘frippery and finery’ was a joy to behold! I am sure that the dressmakers and outfitters in Harrogate will have had plenty to keep them busy these past cold autumn days. Even William was telling how busy Mr Frattorini’s workshop had been with working on the latest designs in jewellery, pocket watches and the like – they have been working under extremely difficult conditions trying to get items finished by gas light.

A different affair altogether was the gathering for the Tradesman’s Ball – Yes, the ladies and gents were dressed in their finest – but, oh dear, nowhere near as fine! I can only dream of being able wear the sort of gowns that were seen on Friday night.      

     

VIII Hettie’s Diary   29th June 1880

It has eventually come to light why Harry has appeared melancholy and in such ill humour over the past few weeks.

Unbeknown to myself, he had applied to be a delegate on behalf of Craven farmers to go to Ontario, Canada in order to report back in three months’ time as to the suitability of the land for emigration of Craven farmers. At a meeting in Mr Throup’s assembly rooms adjoining The Black Horse George Curtis from Silsden was chosen, much to the chagrin of Harry who was not even short listed for the task.  

I am full of grief that he had not spoken to me about such a momentous decision and even more concerned that should the Province be deemed suitable by Mr Curtis, Harry will want to emigrate to start a new life. A life that I am unsure that I want having become so settled here in Skipton.

 

VII Hettie’s Diary   18th November 1879

The meeting last night regarding the establishment of a ‘Coffee Tavern Company‘in Skipton was well attended and the decision made that the offices of Mr Heelis should be used. The aim is to open the tavern in January and seven members of the Temperance Society will own shares in this company - the aim of which is to provide a counter attraction to a public house.

How will this work? Those who are inclined towards the over-use of alcohol will surely not be persuaded to enter a coffee Tavern, even though I have heard tell that the fashion is to set them out in the same manner as public houses.

For my part, I wonder whether the Tavern shareholders will be interested in buying my sweetmeats for their customers to consume with their coffees. I must ask Mr Heelis who to approach.                                ­

 

Hettie’s diary extract – Circa December 1876

We finally arrived at Gargrave late last night and what a wonderful sight it was after the past dark, dismal days. ‘Low Green’, as it is called, was full of noise and activity – bellowing cattle, barking dogs, bagpipes, singing, joyous laughter and, sadly one or two brawls due to excess beer or whiskey having been consumed by the less worthy drovers.I know that I have caused my family terrible upset by my disappearance, but being here with Harry and seeing him being warmly greeted by so many people, both young and old, just confirms what a wonderful, popular man he is; how lucky I am and that I had no choice but to follow my heart…...

 

IV  Hettie’s diary extract approximately March 1877

Mr Vickers kindly called today to tell us all about the new play he is hoping to direct at the Royal Alhambra Theatre. Molly (a friend of Aunt Hettie?) was so excited as he had suggested that she could help him with setting the scenery- her being such a talented artist. Who would have thought that our very own Skipton would have such a popular and well thought of theatre. People come from far and wide to see the performances – the Saturday matinees being a particular favourite with young couples. I suppose it is a courtship activity that does not require chaperoning

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III  Hettie’s diary extract February 1879

When we opened the soup kitchen on New Year’s Eve Evening I was one of many volunteers who, in all truth, believed that the problem of poverty (and number of so called ‘destitute characters’) was an exaggeration created by ‘do-gooders’ in order to ‘make work for idle hands’. Oh… to have ‘idle hands’! In all honesty I was concerned that the ‘good’ people of Skipton were creating a problem that did not exist! I am ashamed to say how wrong I was – I feel like one of those dreadful women who sit on the poor reform panels deciding whether families deserve help or not. How wrong am I? In the past six weeks we have served nourishing soup to between 240 and 250 men, women and children, and I am assured that we shall continue this support throughout the winter months.

 

II  Hettie’s Diary 28th August 1879

There is much busyness and excitement in town today with it being the eve of the great Craven Agricultural Show. People have been arriving from far and wide with produce to show and sell and I have even heard say that Mr Watson from Conistone, is so determined to win the coveted ‘Champions trophy’ (especially since the demise of Mr Boothman’s prize heifers) that he has been keeping his best animals in the shippen for the past four days. Not only that, he has been washing and preening them every day, trimming their tail hair and has even used oil from linseed on their hooves to bring out the shine! Who would believe it – my how the drovers would laugh at such behaviour.

Oh how I long to hear Harry laugh again!

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­I  Hettie’s Diary 18th November 1879

The meeting last night regarding the establishment of a ‘Coffee Tavern Company‘ in Skipton was well attended and the decision made that the offices of Mr Heelis should be used. The aim is to open the tavern in January and seven members of the Temperance Society will own shares in this company - the aim of which is to provide a counter attraction to a public house.How will this work? Those who are inclined towards the over-use of alcohol will surely not be persuaded to enter a coffee Tavern, even though I have heard tell that the fashion is to set them out in the same manner as public houses.For my part, I wonder whether the Tavern shareholders will be interested in buying my sweetmeats for their customers to consume with their coffees. I must ask Mr Heelis who to approach.­

You may be interested to know that Hettie, the character from whom the restaurant is named,  is based on Brettle's great Aunt, whose fictional journal brings to life a different perspective of Skipton history.  Whilst some poetic license is attributed to the characters, the history is factual and garnered from Skipton Museum and Library.

Introducing Hettie

As a young child I was always fascinated by the whispered tales of Great Aunt Hettie who, allegedly, disgraced the family by eloping with a Drover from the Scottish Borders.

Unfortunately their relationship did not last, and Hettie settled in Skipton where she managed to successfully make a substantial living through her ability to cook – something that she had always had a talent for. She gained a reputation for providing produce for local café’s, shops shooting parties etc.Thankfully Hettie was eventually reconciled with her family and spent holidays with her brother and his family in County Durham.


Keep checking back here to find out more about Hettie’s life and Skipton in the Victorian era, as we publish more extracts from Hettie's Journal.

hettie - original black and white photograph low res