“Muker people are Liberal in their politics and teetotal in their appetites,” so opined the 19th-century travel writer Arthur Harwood Brierley after a visit to the upper-Swaledale village in 1897. Brierley’s account was published among a series of his articles headed Leaves of a Yorkshire Itinerary, and which appeared in the Leeds Mercury newspaper.
His article on Muker is especially interesting because it is not a matter-of-fact description of the place and its history, but rather an honest reflection of the experience of a visitor in 1897, giving in equal measure his scorn for the short-comings of the place and his endearment towards its people and their struggles in such a remote community.
Born in Beeston, Leeds, and later living in Bradford, then York, Brierley obviously knew the county well, and had visited Muker on previous occasions. But familiarity didn’t diminish his blunt objectivity. For example, he described the village’s Literary Institute as ‘a two-storeyed edifice of aggressive ugliness, and therefore in harmony with all modern Swaledale buildings’. And he had no qualms about publicly quashing the hopes of the 78-year-old licensee of the King’s Head, who lived on the premises ‘practically by himself’, often not seeing a single customer for several days, but who was ever optimistic of an upturn in trade.
Brierley’s lengthy article on Muker is being transcribed in stages and uploaded to the web site associated with this blog. The first section can be seen here: Muker in 1897.