1st November 1944 - Knaresborough - Harrogate

Longed for a wash.  Felt rather ill.  Went all over York between 8 and 9 but could not get a wash anywhere.  At last found a “Wash and brush up” in the lavs in the old market place – with a large notice to say “No shaving allowed” – Why?

Minster bells were ringing and 5 or 6 nuns from the Roman Catholic church near the West door hurried across the Close, their white headdresses and black robes fluttering in the cold breeze.

Went to library as soon as it was open, to see morning papers.  Divers over twice yesterday, once in daylight, about 8 o’clock in the morning.  A hotel was hit, and totally destroyed.  Apparently few survivors.  No sign where, but apparently in “E. Anglia”. 

Set off at 10 towards Harrogate, intending to spend the night there.  A pleasant road, and the weather getting better all the time, clouds clearing, and the sun coming through.  Everywhere tractors and horses plough, Women's Land Army working in the potatoes.  Passed about 2 miles north of Marston Moor.  Many large farms along here, with extensive brick built buildings, all in good condition.

Got to Green Hammerton soon after 11, went on by Allerton Park along the Park wall, up the Gt North Rd for half a mile, and then turned towards Knaresborough.  At Goldsborough there is an enormous factory of some sort, quite new, built against the station, some sort of Ministry of Supply place.  I have ancestors from these parts.  The spike of Knaresborough Church stands up well.

Wonderful farming country.  Cattle everywhere.  Along by River Nidd, and up the steep hill into Knaresborough.  Market day, but the little town looked sleepy and decaying.  Several very good houses, 18th century, in both brick and stone, along the High Street, and York Place, the best a wonderful shop front, with two bow windows and a two-leaf door, with the name “Berry” above it, apparently contemporary with the original.  Now occupied by an ironmonger.  Quite the best shop front of this kind I have seen, as good as Fribourg’s in London.

The market stalls were set out in the cobbled market square – selling old clothes, junk of all sorts, vegetables, books, old pieces of furniture.

Somehow the scene, though animated, seemed curiously dim and rather less than natural size.  Round the corner found the remains of the Castle, large scattered remnants of walls and towers.  Leland said there were “11 or 12 Towres numbered in the Ward of the Castelle.”  The remains of the Keep had a notice attached to say that is was a museum containing “William Conqueror’s Record Chest, Queen Philippa’s ditto, the oldest fire-engine known and other rare curiosities.  Admission 6d.”  Unfortunately the place was shut, thus depriving me of the pleasure of seeing these extraordinarily interesting things.  Place is run by the Council.

Got a decent lunch for 2s in a little “olde worlde” café nearby.  On one wall was an incredibly crude diagrammatic map of Knaresborough with inset drawings of Old Mother Shipton, Queen Philippa etc. the whole very badly done. 

At the bottom of the hill, a signpost indicates “To the Castle and Public Lavatories”.

Suddenly thought of the Rudsdales in this district, and particularly Henry Rudsdale on the mug [an antique Rudsdale family mug], so decided to enquire at the church.  Went down steep hill to the station, across the level-crossing, down in the churchyard.  Found the verger, who said “Rudsdale?  No, never heard the name.  You’d better ask the Vicar.  He is responsible for the Registers, though I’m sure I dont know why this should be so.”

Went to the vicarage right against the churchyard, a huge barrack of a house, with apparently only a back door and no front.  The Vicar was in, a smallish pleasant faced man with a rather hooked nose and bald head.  He took me into a typical vicarage study, lined with books, religious cheap coloured prints on the wall.  Received me courteously, but said he had never heard of Rudsdale.  However, he put on his hat and coat and we went down to the church, and in at the “priest’s door” across the chancel to the vestry.  In some way the Isle of Man was mentioned in conversation, and he remarked “I was born and bred there”.  I spoke about the Manx language, and he said vaguely “Ah yes, it’s a hybrid between Celtic and a – other things” and said the probably not more than 20 or 30 people spoke it at the present day.

In the vestry he produced the Registers for 1825-1835 and we looked through them, - no Rudsdales, but several Ridsdales, of all ages.  Suddenly he seemed to become tired of the search, and said “Oh, well, it was in all probability a mistake – the name was probably Ridsdale after all”, so, seeing there was not much more to be got out of him I left.

And then across the Nidd, up the steep slope on the other side.  The view across the valley with the Railway viaduct and the Castle perched behind reminded me of one of Mrs Mary Benham’s watercolours of this place.  (Suddenly remembered I had not seen the Petrifying Well, or Eugene Aran’s Cave).

It is now “built up” practically all the way from Knaresborough through Starbeck to Harrogate.  Found a call-box just past Harrogate Hospital, and asked the exchange for Daven Soar.  Got him within a few minutes.  He was naturally surprised to recognise my voice, and said his wife and daughter were up in Harrogate now.  However he suggested I should meet him at 5, and we would go to his place to tea.

I then went on into the town, which seemed to be a disappointing place, (perhaps more so because it was early closing day) full of airforce people.  It is very hilly and there seemed to be a large number of imposing buildings, mostly pump-rooms and concert halls, with glass covered verandas here and there, rather like a high class seaside resort.  The place seems well cared for, with gardeners working among the flower beds.  Had an hour to visit, and soon found that although the place abounds with enormous hotels, concert halls, baths, high class dress shops, confections, beauty parlours, the library in Victoria Avenue is not very large or modern, and the art gallery consists of 2 rooms above it, now showing a nice but small collection of textiles, completely unlabelled.  There are a lot of good topographical prints and photos hanging on the stairs, showing the remarkable development of Harrogate during the past century, but few of these are labelled and those which are are not done very well.  There is no other museum in the town which seems quite absurd for a place of this size and character.

Went along West Park Terrace and met Daven.  He was glad to see me, but was worrying and anxious as to where I should sleep.  True I had made no plans, but I had half thought that I might sleep on a couch in his rooms (not knowing of course that Mrs. Soar was there) but his absurd worrying made the whole expedition seem unpleasant, and I wished I had never come.  However, we had tea, and little Jennifer who is really the sweetest girl I have ever met made much of me.  I bought in biscuits, but somehow the party was not going well.

After tea I got 3 or 4 hotel names from Daven and went down to the phone box at the corner to ring them.  As it happened I got a room easily at the first I tried – West Park Hotel.  Just by the phone was a large church with all its windows brightly lighted, the organ peeling forth inside.  Such a strange site to see in these days.

Then Daven and I went off to get a drink, he walking at a tremendous pace, leaving me panting behind.  First we went to a very new pub, somewhere in Otley Rd where he insisted I had 2 pints, which is considerably more than my bladder will conveniently hold.  At 9 we had to rush away, got a bus, and go down to the main part of the town to another pub, in Ripon Road I think, an enormous filthy place, swimming in beer, pools all over the floor, broken glasses everywhere.  Here I had another pint, and I think he had 2.  By this time I was getting very hazy and I can't remember whether we went to one or two more pubs after that.  I only remember great crowds, heat, singing, and pools of beer everywhere.  Dozens of Americans, all much drunker than I.  I have a vague idea that we walked back to his lodgings and that I wanted to sit on the wall and talk.  Then his wife came out, scolding like an angry hen.  Old Daven went indoors like a little boy, just as he used when bullied by his mother years ago.

I found the hotel with much trouble, but I was feeling really bad by this time.  The next thing I remember is waking to find myself lying dressed on the bed, freezing cold.  Next came a hazy recollection of seeing a grandfather clock at 10 to 4am but hope I dreamed this, otherwise I must have wandered downstairs at that hour.  Crawled miserably under the sheets, feeling sick, ill and headache.

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