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Malcolm Hanson - Skipton tourist guide

Malcolm Hanson



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Forward by Malcolm Hanson

This is my third offering on our wonderful little market town of Skipton, and once again I've managed to dig up all manner of weird and wonderful stories. Mind you, it's not a laborious task; so many books have been written on Skipton's colourful past that one need not look far before something turns up. In fact, it has always been harder attempting to get the grammar right (as those of you who have read my earlier offerings will know only too well!)

But don't worry, you will be glad to know that for this book I have taken a crash course in 'good writing', and hopefully I now know the difference between a colon and a semicolon; a full-stop and a comma; (are quotation marks 'inverted commas' - and vice-versa?)

Anyway, I have a 'get out' clause: the course advises: 'at the end of day you must write it as you would wish to say it, so don't worry if it's not totally right.' Well then I won't!

A little Taster...

And now once again, back to the dark side of Skipton, and back to some more night-walkers and stalkers.

My landlord, Simon Smith, has often told me that my own flat is reputedly haunted. Before the rear room - which leads out on to a sun deck and fire escape - was a kitchen it used to be a children’s bedroom, and the children often reported seeing a dark shape peering in at the window in the middle of the night. It never frightened them as they felt it was a friendly being, and often seemed just to be checking on them to see that they were tucked up safe and sound in their beds.

I have never felt a presence in the flat, but there was one occasion, in the small hours of the night, I happened to be awake staring at the ceiling when my bed gave an almighty shake and had me pulling the covers over my head. It was only the following morning that I discovered on listening to the news that a tremor had hit most of the country and there were reports of people being tossed out of their beds! (Readers of my book ‘This Frightful Town’ will remember I gave accounts of several earthquakes that have taken place in Craven over the years.)

You would expect Skipton Castle to have plenty of ghosts flitting about the place but not so. I understand a lady with red hair (some think she may be Mary Queen of Scots) has been seen gazing forlornly out of the windows, and Lady Anne Clifford’s spectral carriage is supposed to career up the High Street, through the closed gates to draw up outside the door, there to collect, on his death, the spirit of the castle’s owner (look out Seb!)

Sheep Street of course is the ‘biggie’, having more ghosts to the square foot than any other street in Yorkshire, and in This Frightful Town I’d believed I’d given as comprehensible an account as possible on just who, or what, walked the building in the small hours.

There was Mr Crump, the long-dead chemist, seen by many in the Vodaphone shop; further along at a photographic shop a resident ghost in the form of a little girl holding a teddy sat at the top of the stairs; A ‘pink lady’ in the cellar was the toast of the Woolly Sheep pub, while the Bradford & Bingley Building Society branch had a room with a presence.

My research - which also appeared in the Dalesman magazine and the Bradford Telegraph & Argus caused quite a stir at the time, and ever since anyone with anything new to add has made a bee-line for me - and, Boy, are there plenty of new kids on the block!

Try this little lot!

Although the manager at W.H. Smith declined to give me an interview, there was plenty of talk among the shop floor staff about the lift. This apparently has a habit of setting off for the upper floor on its own, and now and again voices and banging have been heard from within. Few employees feel comfortable when using the lift on their own.

Not too long ago, an article appeared in the Craven Herald & Pioneer which reported ghostly goings on at ‘Just Books’ - another Sheep Street business.

Shop manager Lynda Hargreaves told of books throwing themselves across the room and eerie footsteps sounding on the attic steps.

“A book threw itself across the room, startling an assistant and a customer,” she explained, “this has happened on numerous occasions, with books from one shelf ending up in other parts of the premises,”

Lynda was sceptical at first, but soon thought again when one Sunday morning she heard footsteps on the stairs. She was working alone at the time. But she was not the only person to witness supernatural events. Four members of the six part-time staff also had experience of the ghost - which came to be labelled ‘cheeky’.

“You can feel a presence here, but it is quite a nice feeling. I would say it is more of a mischievous spirit than a scary one,” continued Lynda “the supernatural theory could be true.”

The present manager confirms that things are still happening around the little bookshop, “One of our assistants saw something indistinct standing by the upstairs window - there was no one else in the shop at the time, and another has reported hearing voices coming from the cellars below. I’ve not really experienced anything myself but the shop does sometime feel to have a spooky feel about it.”

At the time of the haunting, the Craven Herald & Pioneer also reported weird things happening at Jumpers, formerly Manby’s Ironmongers. At that time shop manager Marianne Irbins said: “We have a lot of weird things happening here, such as footsteps along the top landing and things disappearing and then coming back. We are convinced we have a ghost.” Join the Sheep Street club Marianne!

And finally...


...The biggest ever 'punch up' to take place in Skipton happened on the night of August 16th 1842, when over three thousand got stuck in - what single event could cause such upheaval that it became necessary for local magistrates to send for the mounted horse soldiers from Burnley...?

...lighting a match, the young couple were horrified to see by the pale light a lifeless body propped up against the wall. It was the body of a young Skipton lad...but who was the murderer..?

..the photograph taken in Holy Trinity Church showed a Christ-like figure, and other religious figures - where none could possibly be, but what could they be...?

Open the book and find out!

A descent into the Dark Side

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