“Muker people are Liberal in their politics and teetotal in their appetites”

“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.

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About Will Swales

Amateur historian with a special interest in Swaledale, Yorkshire.
This entry was posted in Swaledale history and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to “Muker people are Liberal in their politics and teetotal in their appetites”

  1. blairsou says:

    Well something changed from the eighteenth century! My great (x5) grandfather died in 1764 and his obituary stated: “In the 125th year of his age, George Kirton, of Oxnop hall near Reeth, in Yorkshire, esq; a gentleman more remarkable for fox hunting than the famous Mr Draper; for, after following the chace on horseback till he was upwards of 80, fo great was his defire for the diverfion, that (till he was 100 years old) he regularly attended unkennelling the fox in his fingle horfe chair. He was an inftance that length of days is not always intailed on a life of temperance and sobriety; for no man made freer with his bottle than he did, even till within ten years of his death.” Oxnop Hall had outlying premises including a ‘bruehouse’ (sp?) which was the brew house.

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