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A Botanical Tour
at Malham in Craven 1837

 by Samuel King of Halifax  (1810-1888)

Samuel King, the youngest son of John King, was born and lived at Lane House, Luddendon, near Halifax – Instead of following the family trade of shag weaving and farming he established a nursery garden at Lane House and devoted his spare time to botany, forming a herbarium, or collection of dried plants which in 1945 was in Halifax Museum.  He became well known in the area, writing on botany and corresponded regularly with people all over the country.  He began to go blind in 1864 and then was succeeded in the nursery by his Eastwood nephew.  During the latter part of his life he was pastor for 19 years at Butts Green Chapel near Luddendon and was almost blind for all that time.  The Chapel documents comment that:
 He used Moon’s Embossed books of the Scriptures* which he read with considerable proficiency. His recollections of passages of Scripture to chapter and verse was very remarkable as for several years he had not been able to attend worship in the winter months

In 1837 when he was 27 he made a journey to Malham with a John Riley seeking plants for his collection. Later he made a more comprehensive botanical tour to Teesdale, about which he also wrote.

*An alternative to Braille developed by William Moon in 1847, Moon typeExternal Website logo was largely based on the letter shape of the alphabet.

On the 17th July 1837, being a fine morning, I set off for Malham about a quarter before six o’clock, got to Peat Pits about seven, where having got a glass of ale, waited fifty minutes of J. Riley.   We then walked by way of Cullingworth, Keighley and Steeton, where we dined in a hurry, expecting the coach:  it came up, so we got on and rode to Skipton where we stopped half an hour.  The street was crowded with Blues expecting Wortley, hustings being erected for the purpose.  We then rode on to Gargrave, where we arrived a little before three p.m. at John Ellison’s Old Swan Inn, got some brandy and water, and then walked on towards Malham (being a dismal afternoon), distant seven miles, but I should rather say ten; however we trudged on till we came to Kirkby where stopping under a helm for a shelter an old farmer called us in to rest ourselves.  We stayed a while and baited Chloe with milk and bread.  We then went on a good mile and came to Malham about seven p.m., put up at the The Listers Arms for the night where we had poor entertainment, got a very bad night’s rest.  However the next morning we got our breakfast and then began our excursion being a dreary wet morning; proceded about a mile to the right where we came to Gordale, climed up the scar (on the left side) where a more Romantic, Terrific, Tremendous, Awful, Majestic and Sublimer scene my eye never beheld, the Earth appearing as if it had been rent upon by some violent concussion to an enormous depth, adorned with limestone rocks one heap upon another.  It amazes the eye to behold them. In one part the rocks nearby close where the water rolls thro’ forming a fine waterfall, adorned with yew trees.  A fit place for the Poet, the Painter or the Sketcher, likewise  a most acceptable place for the Botanist, the rocks and the intervening ground being richly clad with an abundance of rare plants.  The morning now began to clear breaking into showers till at length it became one of the finest days I could wish for.We now began to feel the keen sensation of appetite so we got upon the rocks over against the waterfall where we baited on sandwidges.  To give a further idea of these scenes, we here thought we could throw a stone against the rocks on the other side, so we each tryed our strength when to our great surprise the stone did not reach the bottom by a great way.  We then tryed other places till at last we managed to hit the opposite rocks.  We then proceded, traversed the moor, crossed the water to the right where we found Lycopodium selagincides  in a boggy place near a wall, wandered about on the moor, till at length we came in sight of the tarn, a most beautiful place adorned with plantations.  On the north side, on high rising ground is the most beautiful situation I ever saw.  On this spot is a beautiful modern mansion called Malham House, built by Lord Ribblesdale about sixty years ago.  It is surrounded with plantations on the west, north and east and the Tarn in front; on the back are still more rising grounds to the north and east.  It is adorned with enormous limestone cliffs reaching, as it were, the clouds.  We thence proceded on the lower side of the Tarn towards Malham, following the water course for about a mile where it disappears, sinking among the stones.We proceded on amongst Mountains of limestone rocks clad with verdure till at last we came to another rent in the Mountains equal in some respects to Gordale, yet wanting water and the beautiful assemblage of plants;  it is called Caum Scar by the people.  Proceeding onward down this narrow and deep rocky valley we came imperceptably to the top of Malham Cove, which surpasses all that I ever saw before; it is a massive limestone rock forming a beautiful amphitheatre across the valley.  It is about 288 feet down the front, the top overhanging the bottom out of which issues a stream of water clear as cristal, forming Malham Beck.  This is not the water from the Tarn, that I have mentioned above as loosing itself in the ground, better than a mile above here, as has been the opinion of many; that making its appearance again a little below Malham, which has been proved by stopping the water at the Tarn.  Add to this, the hillsides are adorned with trees and shrubs and flowers which greatly augment the beauty of this spot.  To speak of these scenes to the full is out of the power of man.  It may be truly said that is this part of the country Nature has painted with her broadest pencil.  They are:

Where heaps of rocks and plants and pil’d;
Scenes that amaze the stoutest of heart
Amazing wonders, vast and wild,

And bid it from the place depart.

We were now within a half mile of Malham where we reached about five p.m. having got a good appetite for our dinner.  We now thought fit to change our lodgings so we dined at The Buck and spoke for a bed, where we got good entertainment and a good night’s rest. So much for the second day.The next morning July 19th we took our rout by the Cove, Caum Scar, and so on to the Tarn, where we met with an old shepherd with whom we had some pleasant conversation, wandered about on the left, western side of the Tarn, then crossed the moor towards the lower part of Gordale.  When better than a mile from the Tarn we crossed the road leading form thence to Malham where we came amongst natural limestone pavements (as I call them) and here for a specimen of the neighbourhood for plants.  I will just mention what we could see without moving many yards from the place:
actae spicata, abundantly Carex stricta
Geranium syvanticum, common Peterium sanguisorba
G. sanguineum, common Geum rivale
G. lucidum  Primula veris
Ribes petraeum, common  Scolopendrium vulgare
Cnius hetrophyllus, common Thymus serphllum
Cistus Helianthemum, common Thalictrum minus
Aspenium aculiatum  Saxifraga hypnioides
A. Ruta Murara  Galium pusillum
A. viride, common  Listera Nidus Avis
A trichomanes Arabis hirsula
Sanicula europaea   Hypericum hirsutum
Epipactis latifolia  Anthyllis vulneraria
Sanguisorba officinalis Crystea fragillis
Hiaracium paludosum     Epilobium angustifolium
and a great many commoner plants not mentioned here.
(Written on the spot)
I forgot all along to mention poor Chloe, which was our faithful companion, but was now quite fatigued, taking every opportunity of rest being lame in one leg.  From the last mentioned place, we came over the hills right at Malham, where we arrived at seven p.m.  After tea we set out to see Jenny’s Cave, but night coming we returned disappointed.  During the evening we was in company with a teatotalling Quaker, a mineralogist from Kendal. Got a good night’s rest.The next morning returned home (well loaded with plants) by Gargrave, where we waited for the coach at The Old Swan Inn, got our dinner on old martin pig cheek.  At one o’clock the coach came, so we took out places for Keighley, came to Skipton where the Yellows were erecting hustings expecting Morpeth and Strickland, stopt half an hour, then forward to Keighley, when on the road we was aroused by the ring of bells and bands of music; when we got into town the street was crowded with Yellows. We met with S. Gibson, son and company with whom we stayed till it came on a thunderstorm.  They then came on with us to the crossroads, raining all the way to here; they then left us so we came onward till we came to Peat Pits where we at first met, rested ourselves and then parted.  I arrived home a quarter after ten at night.
Samuel King, Botanist, Lane House
Transcribed by V Spence

A version of the above was also published originally in the Halifax Antiquarian Society journal, transcribed by James  Eastwood, who as a boy had lived with his mother's King relations at Lane House.

Read the accounts of other 18th & early 19th century visitors to the Malhamdale area.


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