The valley along which the River Nidd runs from its source in the moors, about ten miles away, was known as Nidderdale. In the church book at Middlesmoor, about six miles distant, were two entries connected with two hamlets on the banks of the Nidd near Pateley Bridge which fix the dates of the christening and marriage of that clever murderer, Eugene Aram. We place them on record here:
son of Peter Aram, bap. ye 2nd of October,
1704. LOFTUS.—Eugenius Aram and Anna Spence, married May 4th, after
banns thrice pub. 1731.
We retired to rest early. Our last week’s walk was below the average, and we hoped by a good beginning to make up the mileage during the coming week, a hope not to be fulfilled, as after events proved.
SIXTH WEEK’S JOURNEY
A WEEK OF AGONY
Monday, October 23rd.
We left Pateley Bridge at seven o’clock in the morning, and after walking about two miles on the Ripley Road, turned off to the left along a by-lane to find the wonderful Brimham rocks, of which we had been told. We heard thrashing going on at a farm, which set us wondering whether we were on the same road along which Chantrey the famous sculptor walked when visiting these same rocks. His visit probably would not have been known had not the friend who accompanied him kept a diary in which he recorded the following incident.
They were walking towards the rocks when they, like ourselves, heard the sound of thrashing in a barn, which started an argument between them on their relative abilities in the handling of the flail. As they could not settle the matter by words, they resolved to do so by blows; so they made their way to the farm and requested the farmer to allow them to try their hand at thrashing corn, and to judge which of them shaped the better. The farmer readily consented, and accompanied them to the barn, where, stopping the two men who were at work, he placed Chantrey and his friend in their proper places. They stripped for the fight, each taking a flail, while the farmer and his men watched the duel with smiling faces. It soon became evident that Chantrey was the better of the two. The unequal contest was stopped, much to the chagrin of the keeper of the diary, by the judge giving his verdict in favour of the great sculptor. This happened about seventy years before our visit, but even now the old-fashioned method of thrashing corn had not yet been ousted by steam machinery, and the sound of the flails as they were swung down upon the barn floors was still one of the commonest and noisiest that, during the late autumn and winter months, met our ears in country villages.