Belman Bank

Around a decade ago, felling on Belman Bank — ‘Beautiful Mountain’1“Guisborough Before 1900”. Page 241. Edited by B.J.D. Harrison and G. Dixon. ISBN 0 9507827 0 X 1982 — revealed the great bowl left by Thomas Chaloner’s alum works, said to be the first in Yorkshire. The manufacture of crystals of alum, used in waterproofing hides and in medicinal products, from the alum shales in the Upper Lias beds is a complicated process2“Guisborough Before 1900”. Page 99. Edited by B.J.D. Harrison and G. Dixon. ISBN 0 9507827 0 X 1982. It is said Chaloner acquired the knowledge by bribing some workers from the papal alum works in Italy to come back with him to Yorkshire hidden in barrels3Appleton, Peter. “A Forgotten Industry. The alum shale industry of north-east Yorkshire”. Page 19. Boroughgate Books. 2018. Appendix 5. ISBN 978-0-9933674-1-0.. Elizabeth intrigue and industrial espionage.

The Pope, who had the monopoly in the chemical, was not too pleased and promptly cursed Chaloner.

“By the authority of God Almighty, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and of the holy canons, and of the undefiled Virgin Mary, mother and patroness of our Saviour, and of all the celestial virtues, angels, archangels, thrones, dominions, powers, cherubims and seraphims, and of all the holy patriarchs, prophets, and of all the apostles and evangelists, and of the holy innocents, who in the sight of the Holy Lamb, are found worthy to sing the new song of the holy martyrs and holy confessors, and of the holy virgins, and of all the saints together, with the holy and elect of God, may he be damn’d.

We excommunicate, and anathematize him, and from the thresholds of the holy church of God Almighty we sequester him, that he may be tormented, disposed, and delivered over with Dathan and Abiram, and with those who say unto the Lord God, Depart from us, we desire none of thy ways. And as fire is quenched with water, so let the light of him be put out for evermore, unless it shall repent him and make satisfaction. Amen.

May the Father, who created man, curse him. May the Son, who suffered for us, curse him. May the Holy Ghost, who was given to us in baptism, curse him. May the holy cross which Christ, for our salvation triumphing over his enemies, ascended, curse him.

May the holy and eternal Virgin Mary, mother of God, curse him. May St. Michael, the advocate of holy souls, curse him. May all the angels and archangels, principalities and powers, and all the heavenly armies, curse him.

May St. John, the Praecursor, and St. John the Baptist, and St. Peter and St. Paul, and St.Andrew, and all other Christ’s apostles, together curse him. And may the rest of his disciples and four evangelists, who by their preaching converted the universal world, and may the holy and wonderful company of martyrs and confessors, who by their holy works are found pleasing to God Almighty, curse him.

May the holy choir of the holy virgins, who for the honour of Christ have despised the things of the world, damn him. May all the saints, who from the beginning of the world to everlasting ages are found to be beloved of God, damn him. May the heavens and earth, and all the holy things remaining therein, damn him.

May he be damn’d wherever he be, whether in the house or the stables, the garden or the field, or the highway, or in the path, or in the wood, or in the water, or in the church. May he be cursed in living and in dying. May he be cursed in eating and drinking, in being hungry, in being thirsty, in fasting, in sleeping, in slumbering, in walking, in standing, in sitting, in lying, in working, in resting, in pissing, in shitting, and in blood-letting!

May he be cursed in all the faculties of his body!

May he be cursed inwardly and outwardly! May he be cursed in the hair of his head! May he be cursed in his brains, and in his vertex, in his temples, in his forehead, in his ears, in his eye-brows, in his cheeks, in his jaw-bones, in his nostrils, in his foreteeth and grinders, in his lips, in his throat, in his shoulders, in his wrists, in his arms, in his hands, in his fingers!

May he be damn’d in his mouth, in his breast, in his heart and purtenance, down to the very stomach!

May he be cursed in his reins, and in his groin, in his thighs, in his genitals, and in his hips, and in his knees, his legs, and feet, and toe-nails!

May he be cursed in all the joints and articulations of the members, from the top of his head to the sole of his foot! May there be no soundness in him!

May the son of the living God, with all the glory of his Majesty, curse him; and may heaven, with all the powers which move therein, rise up against him, curse and damn him, unless he repent and make satisfaction!

Amen. So be it, so be it. Amen”

Or it may all be a myth, a made-up story, fake news.

Around the same time, at the turn of the 17th-century, John Bourchier started his alum works at Slapewath on the land of John Atherton of Skelton Castle. We have a definite year of 1604 for Bourchier’s works in a document of 16294Appleton, Peter. “A Forgotten Industry. The alum shale industry of north-east Yorkshire”. Page 23. Boroughgate Books. 2018. Appendix 5. ISBN 978-0-9933674-1-0.. The earliest date for Chaloner’s works is 1605 when it was managed by Chaloner’s cousin, also a Thomas, a naturalist who was more likely to have recognised the alum shales5Appleton, Peter. “A Forgotten Industry. The alum shale industry of north-east Yorkshire”. Page 22. Boroughgate Books. 2018. Appendix 5. ISBN 978-0-9933674-1-0..

This story of Chaloner’s visit to the Italian papal works, subsequent excommunication, and the claim of being the first alum works in Yorkshire was first recorded in 1771 and repeated in Lionel Charlton’s “History of Whitby” published in 1779 and many other histories6Appleton, Peter. “A Forgotten Industry. The alum shale industry of north-east Yorkshire”. Page 20. Boroughgate Books. 2018. Appendix 5. ISBN 978-0-9933674-1-0.. It is certainly the more absorbing.

The text of the papal curse is also doubtful. This wording appears in “The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman” by Laurence Sterne published in 17657Appleton, Peter. “A Forgotten Industry. The alum shale industry of north-east Yorkshire”. Page 20. Boroughgate Books. 2018. Appendix 5. ISBN 978-0-9933674-1-0.8Gutenberg.org. (2020). The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, by Laurence Sterne. CHAP. IV. [online] Available at: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/1079/1079-h/1079-h.htm [Accessed 10 Oct. 2021].. As Sterne was a frequent visitor to Skelton Castle it is likely he was familiar with local myths and included a curse in his novel. Sterne’s curse is now attributed to Bishop Ernulphus, the 12th-century bishop of Rochester9Appleton, Peter. “A Forgotten Industry. The alum shale industry of north-east Yorkshire”. Page 169. Boroughgate Books. 2018. Appendix 5. ISBN 978-0-9933674-1-0.. It seems Chaloner’s story and Sterne’s curse have become conflated.

But it’s a cracking curse none the less though best not to upset the Bish.

  • 1
    “Guisborough Before 1900”. Page 241. Edited by B.J.D. Harrison and G. Dixon. ISBN 0 9507827 0 X 1982
  • 2
    “Guisborough Before 1900”. Page 99. Edited by B.J.D. Harrison and G. Dixon. ISBN 0 9507827 0 X 1982
  • 3
    Appleton, Peter. “A Forgotten Industry. The alum shale industry of north-east Yorkshire”. Page 19. Boroughgate Books. 2018. Appendix 5. ISBN 978-0-9933674-1-0.
  • 4
    Appleton, Peter. “A Forgotten Industry. The alum shale industry of north-east Yorkshire”. Page 23. Boroughgate Books. 2018. Appendix 5. ISBN 978-0-9933674-1-0.
  • 5
    Appleton, Peter. “A Forgotten Industry. The alum shale industry of north-east Yorkshire”. Page 22. Boroughgate Books. 2018. Appendix 5. ISBN 978-0-9933674-1-0.
  • 6
    Appleton, Peter. “A Forgotten Industry. The alum shale industry of north-east Yorkshire”. Page 20. Boroughgate Books. 2018. Appendix 5. ISBN 978-0-9933674-1-0.
  • 7
    Appleton, Peter. “A Forgotten Industry. The alum shale industry of north-east Yorkshire”. Page 20. Boroughgate Books. 2018. Appendix 5. ISBN 978-0-9933674-1-0.
  • 8
    Gutenberg.org. (2020). The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, by Laurence Sterne. CHAP. IV. [online] Available at: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/1079/1079-h/1079-h.htm [Accessed 10 Oct. 2021].
  • 9
    Appleton, Peter. “A Forgotten Industry. The alum shale industry of north-east Yorkshire”. Page 169. Boroughgate Books. 2018. Appendix 5. ISBN 978-0-9933674-1-0.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *