April, 1784 and Kitty Garthwaite, a domestic servant girl from Gillamoor, was meeting her lover, Herbert Longster at Lowna in Farndale, close to the farm where she was employed and which was Herbert’s father’s farm. It seems Kitty was pregnant and previously, when first told, Herbert had refused to accept responsibility. Herbert’s father wasn’t too happy also and had told Kitty to leave. Herbert must been repentant for he had sent a letter to Kitty to arrange this meeting.
The present bridge at Lowna was built in 1825. Before that the river had to be forded. On that April afternoon the River Dove was in flood. A severe storm had turned the river into a torrent. Kitty had to cross the river to get to the meeting place. Kitty was seen on the west bank of the river, frantic that she would not get to the precise meeting place on the east bank. Herbert meantime was reported to be seen in Hutton-le-Hole riding south towards Kirbymoorside.
The next morning Kitty’s naked body was discovered in a pool in the River Dove. Herbert’s riderless horse made its way back to his father’s farm and soon Herbert was also discovered drowned in the river; with a wedding ring in his pocket.
It was generally thought that both Kitty and Herbert had committed suicide. Kitty for having been abandoned and Herbert full of remorse on discovering Kitty’s body. The couple were therefore not buried in the churchyard but by the roadside as was the custom at the time for suicides.
Three weeks later Kitty’s naked apparition first appeared, seen by local children. Over the next twenty years, sixteen men drowned in the River Dove at Lowna.
A sark is a local word for a rough working class dress or chemise hence the naked apparition became known by the name of “Sarkless Kitty”.
The sightings and drownings are said to have ceased only when the bodies were exhumed, in great secrecy, and buried in the Quaker burial ground on Lowna.
There are many variations to this story. Even the name of Kitty’s lover is not consistent. The photo was taken looking downstream from Lowna Bridge perhaps the very spot where Kitty met her death.