The travel writer Arthur Harwood Brierley branded Muker ‘the most unsophisticated place in Yorkshire’ in a lengthy report on his visits to the upper-Swaledale village in the 1890s. His article appeared as part of a series headed Leaves of a Yorkshire Itinerary published in the Leeds Mercury newspaper in 1897.
Highlighting the effect on the local economy of the recent collapse of the lead-mining industry, he remarked ‘wherever you go in this part of Yorkshire, you are reminded of the state of the German and Russian peasants, whose cries of woes are lusty and endless.’ But after asserting: ‘many will agree with me that Muker is the most unsophisticated place in Yorkshire,’ he went on to suggest some possibilities for better times ahead in the form of an influx of artists and tourists, not unlike himself, who would find inspiration in the landscape and pleasure in the local food.
He wrote: ‘set in a land of noisy streams and waterfalls, deep pine-clad ravines, gloomy passes, invigorating moors, and sterile fells, Muker and Keld ought to become resorts for England’s tourists. Glorious sunsets have I seen over Great Shunner Fell and Staggs Fell… There is room in the place for angler, poet, artist, sportsman, pedestrian, novelist and philosopher.’
And on the local food he commented that it was: ‘cheering to hear from the elders over your nip of pale Swaledale cheese at Muker or Keld, “made on the premises,” that Swaledale can supply the market with cheese equal, if not superior, to the widely famous Wensleydale brand’. And he said: ‘at the King’s Head and the Queen’s Head I have had plenty of that thick cream “on which a penny would float”: and dishfuls of ham and eggs to perfection. And the living is so cheap that on one occasion I felt ashamed to pay my bill as it stood.’
Brierley’s comments on the prospects for Muker can be read in full here: Muker in 1897. Begin at the sub-heading MUKER’S PROSPECTS to see the latest part of a planned full transcription of his article.