A hundred years ago, the Rev G H Brown was the minister of Zion Congregational Church, Settle. He
was a keen walker and collected a great knowledge of the district, publishing several booklets of local interest,
such as ‘The Tourist at Settle’, (a forty page book with map, price 1d)and ‘On Foot Round Settle’ containing
twelve walks and history notes. These contained no easy summer evening walks, but were full days
outings like the Malham walks… ‘Stockdale, the Cove, Gordale, the Tarn, return via Cowside and
Langcliffe’, or ‘Stockdale, Ryeloaf (1749), Airton, return via High-side (1272)’. These were what Rev Brown
called a walk. After morning service in Settle his own Sunday afternoon walk was a brisk one to Tosside to
take the afternoon praise, returning to take the evening worship at Settle. Of course a hundred years ago
people accepted the fact that walking was the only way to get to places if you did not have a horse.
During the period before Rev Brown was minister the pulpit of the Congregational Church was filled by students from the college at Idle. They walked forty miles on Saturday, and unless they got a lift on a coal cart going to the canal at Gargrave, it was a forty mile return walk on Monday.
Henry Lea Twistleton, a great friend of Rev Brown, at one time worked in a bank in Wetherby. There was a very able preacher in York and often, for a Sunday service, Twistleton did a twenty two mile walk to hear him; but some weekends he walked home to Winskill via Grassington a forty mile walk. After moving from Wetherby he worked in a mill office at Bentham, and would walk to an evening meeting at Settle or Langcliffe.
Rev G H Brown had a good walking friend in Mr Mat Graham of Langcliffe. It was he who one morning said ‘It is a good day for a walk’, and off he went not returning until evening. He had walked to Catterick, Fountains Fell, Penyghent and back to Langcliffe… he was in his eighties.
A regular early morning outing for Rev Brown was to the Ebbing and Flowing well below Giggleswick Scar. Over a long period he recorded both weather and the function of the well, and collected information from those who had a explanation to offer. He also collected many stories, like the one of the thirsty man on a hot day who came to this well of cool clear spring water, put his face into it and took a long drink. At the same time, before his eyes, he saw the water level drop. He left in a hurry not knowing what would happen to his own system. Rev G H Brown published a booklet on ‘The Giggleswick Well’. which ran to two editions. The first was priced at 1d and ran to 20 pages and the second edition was priced at 2d and ran to 32 pages.
Another booklet produced at this time was ‘Underground Streams’ (23 pages at 1d). The author did not claim to take part in the experiments but records details. In June 1900 a ton of salt was put down Gaping Ghyll, which took ten days to be detected at Clapham Beck Head, We are told of an experiment around Ingleborough of putting dye into an underground stream in Chapel-le-Dale. That day all outlets from underground were checked without any colour appearing. The party had B-&-B in Ingleton and next morning the hostess with some surprise showed them the (dyed) colour of water from the tap. The test of a ton of salt was used at Malham Tarn water sink, and ammonia in the water by the Smelt Mill, with the results checked at Aire Head and the Cove. The bulk of the treated water surfaced at Aire Head and only a little of it at the Cove, an hour later.
The excavation of Victoria Cave was still in progress under the direction of Prof Boyd-Dawkins and Mr Tiddeman, when Rev Brown came to Settle in 1873. On several days each week he would walk up to the cave with Mr Jackson. This provided him with a wealth of first-hand knowledge, from which he produced a pamphlet, and also lectured to local history societies. Brown’s comment made at that time was there should have been a museum at Settle for all the finds to be together. As it was, it went variously to London, Leeds, Giggleswick School or private collectors. The question of a museum in Settle seems to be one long sad story. Good advice was given by Rev Brown to tourists intending to explore a cave, ‘Do not go in your best black suit, but equip oneself with an old greatcoat and take lots of candles and matches.’
One can build up something of a picture of the area at the end of the nineteenth century. Rev Brown lived at the top of Belle Hill and on his walk into Settle the only buildings were the few cottages at Bridge End and some navvies huts by the embankment of the line, which at that time went as far as Batty Moss, as the viaduct was still under construction.
‘Mr Ashwell took me on his engine for a ride up the line as far as the engine could go.’ Batty Moss Viaduct was then well on towards completion. ‘I never felt more nervous than when I stood on that unfinished viaduct. Probably there was not much wind but it seemed as if there was enough to carry one clean away, and the fear of being blown off made me cling tenaciously to the strong arm of a navvy who happened to be near.’
At the time of building the railway, when the population was almost doubled, great temperance meetings were held. The Christmas day meeting filled the Victoria Hall, and there would be perhaps ten speakers on the platform. One who was always in great demand specialised in a story about Samson, which went like this…
‘Israelites git him in tut army, he ed nowt but a old bone, an what ye think? He kilt 1000 Philistines single handed! An Samson supped nowt but water.’
Bank Holiday outings were often by wagonette and on one such, at great length, Rev Brown gave the history of Bolton Abbey and Strid Woods. So the choir sung all the way there and back and had a history lesson for good measure. Another good Bank Holiday was a picnic at Malham. A horse and cart carried the cups and plates packed in straw (for the roads were very rough), firewood, kettle and teapots, along with all the sandwich baskets. Young and old joined in, thirty or more on such outings, and a good time was had by all. Today it can be New York and back by Concorde for a day trip.
Weddings may be all in a day’s work for a minister but the ones that are different find a place in the story book, like the 8 o’clock wedding one December morning. A woman called out to her neighbour, ‘There’s gan tu be a wedding bi gas leet.’ Another occasion is recorded when, off the tops, came the bridegroom with his bride in a milk float. He drove up to the chapel gates, looking for someone to hold his horse, but seeing the chapel keeper put up a finger hailed him and said, ‘Come down and tak mi woman in,’ and so he did, also acted as Best Man. As they departed the question was asked, ‘Where are you going on honeymoon?’ They were going back to milk.
Such was the life in the Dales as recorded by a Congregationalist Minister of one hundred years ago.
Jim Nelson is a member of the Congregational History Circle.
Other books by Rev G H Brown:
Rev G H Brown
Middleham Gate - The Rhythm of Life Diana Kaneps