Out & About …

… on the North York Moors, or wherever I happen to be.

View down into Danby Dale in the heart of the North York Moors. Bracken covered foreground, lush pasture in the dale bottom, and heather moorland on the far ridge.

Revd. J C Atkinson’s ‘Forty Years in a Moorland Parish’

I have often referred to the Reverend John Christopher Atkinson’s book, ‘Forty Years in a Moorland Parish,’ published in 1891. It offers a detailed account of life in and around the village of Danby, and is a much thumbed addition to my bookshelf. This morning I ventured into Danby Dale, Atkinson’s former parish.

Atkinson was born in Essex in 1814, and studied at St John’s College, Cambridge, being ordained in 1841. When he arrived in Danby, he became fascinated by the region’s traditions and folklore. His book covered everything from local customs to legends about hobs, fairies, and magpies. Atkinson was able to gather material for his book because of his unique position as Lord Dawnay’s Chaplain and later as the vicar of Danby. His church tower can be seen in the photo protruding above a copse of dark trees right of centre.

Atkinson recognised that the old ways of life and customs were quickly fading, and he made it his mission to document them. He was able to do this because of his deep interest in history and nature, as well as his association with North Yorkshire. The region provided him with a wealth of tales, legends, and details, which he meticulously documented in his book. He also wrote several children’s books and works on ornithology and birds’ eggs.

Forty Years in a Moorland Parish‘ remains a key reference source for local historians and academics, and it has been reprinted several times since its initial publication. In 1891, the same year his book was published, Atkinson was installed as Canon of York Minster. Despite this prestigious position, he remained in Danby until his death in March 1900, leaving behind an invaluable legacy for future generations.







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