Out & About …

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

The Wicked Squire of Basedale

A photo of Baysdale to accompany this story I came across by Richard Blakeborough in the Northern Weekly Gazette from 19121BLAKEBOROUGH, R. ‘The Wicked Squire of Basedale. PART I. | Northern Weekly Gazette | Saturday 20 January 1912 | British Newspaper Archive’. 2022. Page 22. Britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk <https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/BL/0003075/19120120/248/0026?browse=true> [accessed 19 August 2022]2‘The Wicked Squire of Basedale. PART II.| Northern Weekly Gazette | Saturday 27 January 1912 | Pages 24/5 | British Newspaper Archive’. 2022. Britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk <https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/BL/0003075/19120127/109/0024?browse=true> [accessed 21 August 2022]

It’s a cracking story, which I fear would be diminshed if I attempted to trim it down. I am therefore repeating it in full which makes this my longest post ever (which I’ve split into two pages).

Basedale, by the way, is the old name for Baysdale.

The Wicked Squire of Basedale.



VIEWED from no higher standpoint than a fireside story this legend dates from the time of the Wars of the Roses, but as a degraded legend or myth story it is as old as the hills.

Here and there one gets just a passing glance of the shadow of some early myth, but so altered, so redressed, that one hardly recognises whence it comes, and to what it belongs, but to those who can see, and do understand, it is recognised.

I give the story as it was told to me, but how it came to be localised as having happened in Basedale, is one of those difficulties which is beyond solution, and one which presents itself in connection with many such stories. Let that pass.

A long time ago we are told a farmer came to reside in Basedale. He rented a small farm, for he was not a wealthy man. Still. with hard toil, he was enabled to keep in comfort himself, his good dame, and their only child, Dorothy.

As Dorothy grew to maidenhood her charms became noised abroad, far beyond the confines of the dale, and lovers of high and low degree came wooing the lovely maiden. Some were honourable, many were the reverse. Amongst the latter was the Squire of Basedale, a man of great wealth, dissolute habits, and a widower.

From the day Dorothy came to live with her parents (she had two or three years with an ailing aunt), who dying left her niece comfortably off, and free to return home. From that time the Squire became enamoured of Dorothy, and many were the schemes his furtive mind devised to gratify his passion. For a time flattery and small presents were heaped upon the maiden, continually did he call upon farmer Gray to see a cow or horse, or some other excuse for paying a visit. On such occasions he always managed to crack a joke withe the mother, and chuck the maiden under the chin. There were reasons which induced the maiden to permit these freedoms with the best grace she could assume. This submission, on her part, unfortunately led the Squire to imagine he was going have quite an easy conquest. Acting on this belief, he at last ventured too far. Then it was the maiden of low degree, with dignity, bade him for the future to be of good behaviour and to leave her in peace.

From the moment his dishonourable proposals were treated with scorn, he became her enemy: an enemy, mind you, who was by nature both vindictive and revengeful.

Unknown to him, and her parents also, the Squire’s only son Arthur, a captain in the Royalist cause, had won Dorothy’s heart, It was because of this secret engagement Dorothy had permitted the Squire to take certain small liberties, which otherwise she would not have granted him, and certainly did not to any other. Wishing not to cause no ill-feeling between father and son this engagement was secret.

Being an officer he knew he might at any moment have to join his regiment at York. Under those circumstances, on his part, and because of the Squire’s persecutions on hers, it required but little persuasion to win his beloved Dorothy’s consent to a secret marriage. A friendly priest willingly performed the ceremony, and then for two months they lived the life of blissful, stolen interviews; life was to them an unbroken dream of unalloyed happiness, but there came an awakening. He petted and comforted her, when the news at last came that he must repair to York and join his regiment.

‘My dear,” said he. “although we must part now, it wiltl not be for long, because after the next battle I will see the general and ask him to beg the King to intercede on our behalf, and I know my father will forgive us.”

Dorothy said nothing, but she was not so sure about the matter.

“I shall be sure to gain promotion.”

Dorothy’s heart trembled lest he should be slain.

“You know, my darling, I have no fear but the King will help us. I have told you of the great service I rendered my Royal master some few months ago. He is not one who forgets. And, besides, I don’t expect to be absent very long. Three months at most. And then,” said he, holding her in the circle of his strong living arms, “We shall be as happy as the day is long, never to leave my bonny bride again.” And thus he tried to comfort the weeping girl, who—as she clung to him—saw the dangers ahead he knew not of.

But when he did return to York circumstances detained him month after month, until he began to think he was never again to return home. But my pen is going too fast ahead. To return to the day when Captain Arthur left his darling Dorry. As he rode along, towards York he surprised two ill-looking men grievously maltreating an old dame, for no better reason than she had dared to remonstrate with them for having stolen her one and only hen. Speedily he compelled them to restore the stolen property, and bade her have no fear, as he would drive them before him to York.

“Thank ye; thank ye!” cried the dame, adding, as he turned his charger about-—

” Tak’ heed,
Foor this deed
I’ mah need,
When it’s thy need,
Foor this deed
Ah’ll tha help tha”

Having thus delivered herself, the thieves, the dame, and the hen all vanished in the twinkling of an eye.

That he had won the goodwill of the fairies, or a good spirit, Arthur entertained not the least doubt. That he had been promised aid in his hour of need afforded him great comfort, as he knew such promises were always faithfully kept, and, situated as he was, he felt there was great likelihood of that faithfulness being tested.

When he had been in York two months Dorothy sent him a letter begging to know when she might expect him home again, explaining that his presence was daily becoming imperative, to save her from much scandal and trouble, as their secret could not much longer remain hidden from the prying the austere dames of the Dales. Unfortunately, this letter never reached him; so he remained without any information concerning his wife’s approaching trouble.

As Dorothy feared, it was not long, ere it was first covertly whispered, and then openly declared, that Dorothy Gray had proved herself a disgrace to her sex, and a reproach to every virtuous maiden. Then followed a sad time for the poor young wife.

Fearful of in any way injuring her husband, she faithfully kept her secret. Cruel taunts met her on all sides from the bitter tongues of the women, whilst the men, fearing to compromise themselves, kept out of her way, hardy daring to speak to her.

Dorothy’s mother, never a strong woman, broke down altogether, not because of her daughter’s disgrace, for that was something she did not believe. Had not Dorothy said to them weeks ago—

“My dear father and mother, for the best of reasons I must keep my lips closed even to you, but, when I tell you I am a truly wed woman, I think you can guess, without my saying more, who my husband is. Now, remember, not a word of this to anyone, no matter what follows. You know nothing for certain.” And the parents knew their child did speak the truth, and, furthermore, they felt sure they did know who was their daughter’ s husband, and they bore with the best grace they could their neighbour’s slights. But as the days went on the persecution and the cruelty which certain of their neighbours practised upon their daughter threw Mistress Grey into a kind low fever, from which she could not rally.

Thus it happened, when Dorothy’s baby was born, its grandmother was too ill to raise her head from her pillow. No woman dare lend a helping hand, the Squire having given everyone to understand they would no longer remain tenants of his did they dare cross the Gray’s threshold, or even called to learn how the young mother was progressing, so vile was his revengeful nature.

What would have happened had not the day before the baby was born, a quaintly dressed old dame, quite a stranger to everyone in that part of the world, begged for a cup of water at Gray’s door.

“Ye look in trouble, good master; may I step within and rest a few moments? ”

“Come in great mother, and rest; my daughter would have ministered to your needs, but—” And then Gray broke down, and for a few moments sobbed like a child. Five minutes later the old lady learnt the full extent of his trouble.

” And no neighbour will come to your daughter’s help at such a time, d’ye tell me that?” exclaimed the dame sharply.

“They dare not, dame, they dare not,” Cray repeated, as if to impress the truth of what he said upon her mind.

” Then I will, ” said she, removing her hood and shawl.

That night Dorothy’s baby was born. And a treasure the unknown, kindly hearted, ever active, never weary old dame proved to be. The mother, the baby, and the grandmother were nursed as few ailing folk ever are; all were attended to and comforted.

So soon as Dorothy was to walk abroad she was summoned to appear before the Parson and Squire, so that her misdeeds might be fully inquired into, and the name of the child’s father disclosed, and sworn to.

The day before this dreaded ordeal to be held the Squire paid a private visit to Dorothy. He then made an offer, which, to many a girl situated as Dorothy was supposed to be, would have been considered as a fortunate means of escape. He swore, if she would only yield to his plans, he would have her secretly conveyed to a place of safety, in which she would live surrounded with everything which wealth could provide. Dorothy repeated which she had many times affirmed, that she had committed no sin, and did he but know all, would be the first to protect, rather than persecute her, and would save her from further insult and reproach.

Finding persuasion and threats were alike fruitless, he left her, in a towering passion, swearing that no indignity which the Church permitted, he might have added, his own malignity could devise, should she escape.

Again Dorothy wrote to her husband, explaining fully the terrible situation into which circumstances had forced her. She wrote she felt sure heir previous letter had miscarried or he would have returned ere this.

This letter was entrusted to the care of a half-wit called Sammy Barker. There were two reasons for such a course being taken, firstly, because Sammy was sincerely attached to Dorothy, and secondly, being under the ban of the Church, no one else dare undertake such a risky venture.

There was much schooling of Sammy by the old dame before he started on his journey. How it was accomplished Dorothy could not imagine, but soon as the letter was written the dame begged it might be entrusted her for a few moments. Taking it in her hand, she bade Dorothy melt the wax upon it, in rather a large circle; this done she was about to press her own seal upon it, when the dame took possession of it, and turning her back upon the astonished girl, muttered a few inaudible words, waving her hand the warm wax. When she returned it, Dorothy discovered it bore the impression a royal seal.

Sammy was made to understand he need not fear any soldiers or gentlemen who wore long flowing wigs, and had feathers in their hats, to all such, if they should attempt to stop him, he had to shout ”In the King’s name,” and ask his way to camp. Once there, he had to ask for Captain Arthur Darnton. Sammy being considered perfect, started on his journey for York.

The day following Sammy’s departure Dorothy accompanied by the old dame bearing the child, appeared before her judges. The Squire having brought together quite a large gathering of the dale folk, this he had purposely done to add to the poor girl’s discomfort.

In answer to the question—

Who is the father of this child which the strange dame doth carry?”

Dorothy quietly but firmly made reply.

“At present I am not free to give you the name of my husband, who is the father of this my child born in true wedlock, I swear.”

Many other questions were asked, and some of them put by the Squire brought the hot blood of outraged modesty to Dorothy’s pale cheeks. Ay! and to those of many another mother and maiden present.

Dorothy, however, having declared she was a true wife, never opened her lips again.

In the end she was condemned to undergo the usual punishment of those days—viz., “To stand
during a portion of the service in the porch of the church and there confess thy sin and beg the prayers of all those who pass in. Then in the middle of the service ye be brought into the aisle and there publicly acknowledge thy wickedness, and further ye do this for three Sundays following each other, and when thus doing penance ye be shrouded in a dirty white sheet, the emblem of soield [sic] virginity.”

Added to this, by the Squire’s desire and command, though opposed by the parson, be it here chronicled to his credit, her judge continued:

“And for thy obstinacy and contumacious behaviour in refusing to make reply to many of our questions, you be further condemned, the three Monday mornings following thy Sundays penance thou shalt stripped to thy sark, at midday walk from thy father’s house to the bridge foot, and there be publicly whipped.” On hearing this shameful sentence Dorothy fell upon her knees, and implored her judges to forgive her this last disgraceful exposure. The parson would again have granted her request, but the Squire would not hear of it, at the same time adding a remark, so coarse, and so evidently uttered with the sole object of hurting and putting Dorothy to open shame, that more than one of those present began to feel the poor girl had been dealt hardly with, and that the Squire for some reason was gratifying a personal spite he must have against her.

” I cry shame upon ye, Squire Darnton,” exclaimed the old dame, the instant the last coarse remark fell from his lips. “You are a bad, nay, ye are a vile creature, and your cup is nearly full. I command ye to free this honest woman from this shameful sentence. Do as I bid you, or my curse shall fall upon ye.”

During her speech, and for a moment or two afterwards there was the stillness of death. The good dales folk were aghast at the old lady’s temerity. As for the Squire he could not speak, being almost choked with passion. At last, springing to his feet with a bound, and pointing towards the door, he fairly yelled, “To the pond! to the pond with the old hag, and duck her! Duck the life out of her.”

Two or three worthless hangers on rushed forward to do his bidding.

“Ye may find this no pleasant task, my masters. Ye know it be no brave deed, four strong men drag one poor old woman. Now, hark ye, if ye go your ways, and do no ill to me, I will forgive you; but an ye do the bidding of that bad man, I warn ye now ye will rue this days to the end of your life. Be ye warned in time.”

Two of the men who had seized her, let go their hold saying: ” It was no business of theirs, and they would have nought to do with ducking her; they hadn’t thought what they were doing, otherwise they would never have touched her.” Both declaring almost together, “We are verra sorry deeame; verra sorry, deeame.” After so saying both sank away like beaten curs.

But the other two, with a jeering laugh, and with a desire to carry favour with the Squire, sprang forward and took their place.

Not another word did the old dame utter until about to pass out of the room. Then, turning to those who held her, she said: “One moment, my masters, I have a word to say to the Squire before we part.”

Cont’d on Page 2.

  • 1
    BLAKEBOROUGH, R. ‘The Wicked Squire of Basedale. PART I. | Northern Weekly Gazette | Saturday 20 January 1912 | British Newspaper Archive’. 2022. Page 22. Britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk <https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/BL/0003075/19120120/248/0026?browse=true> [accessed 19 August 2022]
  • 2
    ‘The Wicked Squire of Basedale. PART II.| Northern Weekly Gazette | Saturday 27 January 1912 | Pages 24/5 | British Newspaper Archive’. 2022. Britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk <https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/BL/0003075/19120127/109/0024?browse=true> [accessed 21 August 2022]



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