55. LEAD MINES, DAFFODILS AND AN UNEXPECTED SKELETON

Novel

In my last post I promised to show you more of the places that Mum had in mind when she was writing the original version of When Daffodils Bloom, which had been published in 1978 as The Romany – an inappropriate title which Mum hated and which was forced on her by the publisher.

 

Before I do that, however, I’d like to tell you a little bit about something else that happened on her first visit to Preston Montford all those years ago. Although she was on a geography course, it actually reawakened her love of history. Not the “kings, generals and battles” sort of history she’d had to learn at school, but the history of ordinary people, their communities and how they’d made a living.

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This led to an interest in lead-mining in the Yorkshire dales which, in turn, took her back to Preston Montford many years later to a mining history conference, organised by the Shropshire Caving and Mining Club for the National Association of Mining History Organisations.

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This time she took me with her, but, although we went for a long walk across the fields towards the river, no more would-be heroines came in to Mum’s mind. Instead she came up with the idea of rewriting The Romany, calling it When Daffodils Bloom (which had been her original title) and publishing it herself, under her Thorn Tree Publishing imprint.

preston montford.pngAnd now to some more of the real places in Yorkshire that are re-imagined as part of the background, starting with Jane’s 12-mile journey up Wharfedale from Hawkscliff House, her home near Grassington. On the way she would pass some pretty gardens…

flowers.png…and some wonderful scenery, such as the mighty Kilnsey Crag, which is around 170 feet/52 metres high and a great challenge to rock-climbers.

kilnsey crag- wilf.jpgShe would also pass through the village of Kettlewell, where Mum made this little video of the river rushing by…

And eventually she would reach her destination which was Ashgill House. Mum based this on Buckden House, a real building from the mid-18th century, which was originally a private house with a large estate but which has been an outdoor educational centre run by Bradford Council since 1974.

 

As its name suggests, Buckden House is in the village of Buckden and in her novel Mum uses some real features of the village, together with some of Hubberholme, but her imaginary village is quite a bit larger than the two of them put together.

 

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These days tourism and farming are the main occupations in this part of Wharfedale, but at the time of When Daffodils Bloom lead-mining was also important, with Buckden Gavel mine at the top of Buckden Gill being one of the larger mines.

 

Mum visited it several times when she was younger (and fitter, as it’s a very steep climb up from the village!) and used an imaginary version of it in her novel, with the waterfalls in the gill also playing a part.

 

But there’s a true story connected with the mine that’s even stranger than anything Mum could make up…and it’s not for the faint-hearted!

bill.jpgBack in March 1964 a couple of students from Birmingham University were exploring in Buckden Gavel when, about 400 yards/365 metres in from the entrance, they made a gruesome discovery – the body of a man. Although he was still fully-clothed in boots, trousers, shirt, waistcoat and a felt hat, he’d obviously been there a long time as only his skeleton remained. And, although there were various items in his pockets which showed he must have been still alive in 1890, there was nothing to confirm his identity and so he was nick-named Buckden Bill. Because it was an unexplained death, an inquest had to be held, before Buckden Bill’s remains were buried in Skipton cemetery. His hat and boots and other possessions were displayed for many years at the Yorkshire Dales Mining Museum at Earby – which has sadly now closed – and, although research over the years has led to a probable  identity for him, no one can be sure exactly who he was or what he was doing there.

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I think that’s sad and I don’t think I’d want to go in Buckden Gavel mine, even if it was safe to do so – which it isn’t these days, so please don’t try it or you might end up like Buckden Bill!

I also think skeletons are a bit scary, but mum says there’s one lives inside of me, which I think is scarier than ever. Aarghhhh

skelebobwilf gif aarghhh

That’s all for today, but I’ll be back again soon.

Follow my next blog: 56. HUBBLE, BUBBLE, TOIL AND TROUBLE

17/10/2019

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