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Malcolm Hanson - Skipton tourist guide

Malcolm Hanson



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Forward by Malcolm Hanson

Skipton is one of the weirdest places on earth - that I can say from having first-hand experience. If it's not the place, then it's the people themselves. I liken it to living among the scaly inhabitants of a typical H. P. Lovecraft novel (did you ever read Shadow over Innsmouth?). Thousands of tourists visit the town every year; all eager to enjoy its 'chocolate box' image of  castles, churches and canals. You'll also find plenty of happy, smiling stall vendors in the High Street market; you'll even find them in the shops too. The problem is - at night they all change into horrible half-man half-insect 'things' that go around devouring people... 

Ok, perhaps things aren't quite that bad, but you can see that just recently I've grown a bit disenchanted with the town and its people. But that - as they say - is my cross and I have to bear it. The one thing 'they' can't take away from Skipton is its amazing off-the-wall history, and I'm glad to say that A Skipton Anthology is crammed full of it! In fact, the book is truly an 'anthology' since it is made up of my three original Skipton books: The Gateway Walk, This Frightful Town and The Dark Side of Town. But there is much more to add; I've updated many of the stories, and added some real contemporary shockers like The Thing at the Police Club and The Glass-Coffined Boy.

After this little lot, you may ask, is there still more weird stuff to be uncovered in Skipton? The answer is definately YES! But I have to say I'm not sure if I will ever get around to writing it all up. Time moves on - and so do we. Other towns call me (get into Keighley Darkest Secrets and you'll know what I mean!); I feel me wings flexing - but who knows? Maybe, just maybe...there's life in the old town yet...!

A little Taster...

 I love oddballs - especially if they are vicars. The idea of ‘men of the cloth’ causing mayhem and violence among the good folk of Skipton keeps me in stitches for hours - that’s why I always have space in my books for new stories about them.

The latest story I’ve come across occurs in Margaret Lancaster’s book: ‘The Tempests of Broughton’ and concerns the arrival in Skipton of the Reverend Edward Guy, appointed as vicar of Broughton in 1744 - a rabidly Protestant man who had come hell-bent on severely plaguing the Catholic Lord of the Manor Tempest family for many years to come.

The trouble began with a ‘modus’ - this being monetary compensation in lieu of hay and corn which Stephen Tempest, as Lord of the Manor, was obliged to pay the vicar. The Reverend Guy flatly refused to accept anything from a ‘Papish Zealot’, but was forced by the courts to accept, though most unwillingly. (Similar trouble had occurred just two years prior when Guy had had a ‘run in’ with Lady Bingley, where on that occasion the kindly Mr. Tempest, not realising what kind of a man the vicar was, had defended Guy writing: “The Vicar is not of a quarrelsome temper and I believe only desired what’s right.” If only Mr. Tempest could have foreseen what future this man he now defended had in store for  him!)

Within days of being forced to receive the ‘modus’ Guy had set about the flummoxed Tempest by screaming and ranting “Your agent is a scoundrel and a scandalous puppy! I’ll have your trees for this!” and with this the fiery priest immediately set about hacking down what the Tempest family had spent generations in time and money developing. It was a serious offence in those days - just as it is today - to ‘cut, top, lot, prune or fell any oak, ash, beech, etc., growing in any of the plantations, hedges or lanes belonging to the Lord of the Manor’, but Guy couldn’t give a fig as he went about his business of ‘seeing to King Tempest’s’ finest possessions.

When ordered to appear before the ‘Court Baron’ to answer the charge of  wanton vandalism, our rebellious reverend returned the presentation papers with a selection of  very  un-Christian and choice words:-

‘To the mock Lord, Lord would be, or Lord Pretender of the Barren and unprofitable Court in Broughton. As all Papish laws are abolished and ye Pretender banished, it ill becomes a clergyman of Ye Church of England by Law established, to own ye Pope’s supremacy, or admitt such snivelling rules…

‘Such arbitrary laws from such a fictitious Lord made by his own tenants (who own themselves wiling every Monday thro’ the year, for a good dinner and a furden of ale, to make what additions or alterations He may like best, and likewise in their next fool’s verdict to style him Lord Protector, Prince Regent…or if the Pope’s leave can be obtained, King of all Craven.) - to be read or published with his manour or jurisdiction. Rather let such a sham Lord Zealot keep and publish such…rules or no orders to, ands in his own more like kind of worship. Neither let him from henceforward endeavour to exercise slavish power and authority, or any Papal Tyranny over a free people in as free a country. In short, let him pay for what has been read and send no more.’

Tempest decided it was high time to go to war with the fiery vicar and brought an action against him. The Lord of the Manor won, but if he thought that this would now calm things down a bit he was sadly mistaken. The martinet churchman reported Tempest to the Proctor, Mr Shaw, for not attending church and the lord was fined £2. 3s. 0d. Then in 1753, the vitriolic vicar was at it again busy vandalising the Squire’s gates, removing them and pulling down walls protesting that Tempest had no right to enclose the plantations therein. But Mr. Tempest indeed had the right to enclose the land therein, and in 1754 dragged the vicar to York assizes - he won the case outright, but the clergyman had the last laugh - it cost the Lord of the Manor £87 in lawyer’s fees!

‘Old Man’ Tempest had had enough; he threw in the towel, and handed everything over to his son, Stephen Walter, to run. The younger Tempest might have thought his youth alone might see of the fiery old upstart but he was no match for this well-seasoned volatile vicar. Losing no time in accusing the son of being ‘a Papist over 18 not taking his oaths,’ Mr Guy had a summons issued and Stephen Walter was told to appear before two Justices in Skipton - he apparently ignored it.

For the next fifteen years the young Lord of the Manor was to receive ‘special treatment’ from this fanatical Protestant priest; many was the occasion Stephen Walter found accusations of ‘converting locals to the Catholic faith’  levelled at him. Both ended up threatening actions against each other, and for a time there was a ‘stand off.’

The last indignity that Guy threw at the Tempest family was when young Stephen Walter’s infant son and heir died. The vicar refused to conduct the funeral and burial in the Tempest Choir at Broughton, on the grounds that the child had not been baptised by a Minister of the English Church. The boy remained unburied for three weeks until at York Assizes, the young lord was able to prove that he had the right to bury the boy in the chapel.

It is hoped that by the time the ‘Old Man’ died, Guy had also shuffled off his mortal coil, otherwise…

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