Yorkshire – Kate Shackleton Territory

Yorkshire – Kate Shackleton Territory

Yorkshire is a surprising place of stark contrasts. My home, the city of Leeds in West Yorkshire, was once a hub of industry including engineering and tailoring factories. Today’s emphasis is on banking, insurance, shopping and eating. Leeds is home to my detective, Kate Shackleton who trod the mean streets and drove her car along winding roads in the 1920s. Kate’s sleuthing takes her across the broad acres of Yorkshire, popularly known as “God’s Own County”.

Much remains the same since the 1920s. Upper Wharfedale is a favourite spot, around the village of Hubberholme with its Norman church. The writer J B Priestley described the village as the  “smallest, pleasantest place in the world”.

St Michael and All Angels Church, Hubberholme

The old county boundaries were the North, West and East Ridings, ‘Ridings’ from the Old Norse word thrith or third. During the industrial revolution, towns and cities in the West Riding drew men, women and children to work in mills and factories. They migrated from outlying districts as handloom weaving became a skill of the past. Traces of those long ago days and the weavers’ cottages can still be found in places like the village of Heptonstall.


Bradford, once the wool capital of the world, retains many of its fine Victorian buildings including those built by German merchants in the nineteenth century in the area known as ‘Little Germany’. The Bradford Wool Exchange is now home to booksellers Waterstones, perhaps the finest setting for a bookshop anywhere in England. It’s where I launched the first book in the Kate Shackleton series, Dying in the Wool.

Courtesy Creative Commons Sirenuk

Mill owner Titus Salt made his fortune from alpaca wool. He created a model mill and village for his workers. The main street is named Victoria, in honour of his monarch. Other streets are named for his many children, with superior houses reserved for over-lookers and managers. Salt believed that maintaining a healthy, happy workforce, and providing them with church, hospital and school, would pay dividends. And so it proved. He insisted on a ‘dry’ village. A bar and restaurant reminds visitors of the old prohibition against alcohol, calling itself Don’t tell Titus.

A modern entrepreneur, the late Jonathan Silver, turned Salt’s Mill into a gallery, housing the work of artist David Hockney. The town is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and hosts an annual arts festival.

Photos of Salts Mill courtesy of Lindsay Attree

One of the pleasures of living in Yorkshire is easy access to the countryside, areas of outstanding natural beauty. The moors and dales are on our doorstep, and free for all to enjoy. It wasn’t always so. Early twentieth century industrial workers from the smoky towns, desperate for fresh air on their Sunday off work, fought for the right to roam, leading to the establishment of hundreds of miles of footpaths and rights of way.

An idyllic walk in the Yorkshire Dales National Park starts in the village of Malham, with a walk to Malham Cove and a climb to spectacular limestone pavements. Scenes for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows were filmed around Malham.

The Limestone Pavement Malhamdale

A footpath leads to Janet’s Foss (or Force) waterfall, modest by the scale of some waterfalls but with a magical quality. In A Death in the Dales, Kate Shackleton’s niece picnics by a similar waterfall, Catrigg Foss.

Another favourite spot of mine, and the setting for Murder on a Summer’s Day, is Bolton Abbey, an area owned by the successive dukes of Devonshire, the Cavendish family. The family made their money from the dissolution of the monasteries, from timely deaths and propitious marriages. Bolton Abbey is the name of the ruined priory and of the surrounding area. A delightful walk through ancient woodland, on the banks of the River Wharfe, was first opened to the public in 1810.  Stepping stones across the Wharfe are a great attraction for families on a day out. But take care! The river is dangerous.

In Britain, we are never far from the sea. My haunts are Scarborough, Filey and Whitby. A former whaling port, Whitby’s skyline is dominated by St Hilda’s Abbey. The town was home to Captain James Cook, eighteenth century explorer, navigator and cartographer. The parish church of St Mary is reached from the old town by 199 steps. Its churchyard inspired Bram Stoker to write Dracula. Twice-yearly, the town hosts a hugely popular festival for Goths.

Whitby inspired me to write Death at the Seaside. It was a pleasure to research in Whitby Library, which must have the best view of any library in the world.

Escape to the countryside and to the coast was a welcome diversion for Yorkshire factory workers whose working hours were long and arduous and living conditions overcrowded and insanitary. Perhaps the tough life contributed to the Yorkshire character. Inhabitants are said to be straight-talking, cautious about spending money, yet with no time for miserliness.

Being born in ‘God’s Own County’ creates a sense of pride. An old joke might best describe this state of mind: Never ask a man if he’s from Yorkshire. If he is, he’ll tell you. If he’s not, you’ll only embarrass him.


This blog was first published in July 2016 in German and English at: http://www.genussliga.de/hier-dort/yorkshire-voller-ueberraschungenyorkshire-a-surprising-place-deutsch-englisch/

Yorkshire – Voller Überraschungen/Yorkshire – A Surprising Place (Deutsch & Englisch)



http://www.yorkshirenet.co.uk/yorkshire-dales/malham/ https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/malham-tarn-estate/trails/malham-village-to-janets-foss



  1. Hello Frances! I have just finished reading – thoroughly enjoying – Death of an Avid Reader. First Kate Shackleton book I’ve read, but have now ordered two more. I loved the Yorkshire setting, the historical accuracies and the dry sparkiness of Kate’s thoughts and retorts. Great posts here, giving a real sense of the setting – thank you!

  2. Message Have just been introduced to your Kate Shackelton series and am loving them.
    So easy to read in the large print. As Yorkshire is my favourite county in England and having stayed
    in Skipton I can visualise many of the settings of your novels. Thank you so much for giving many readers
    so much engaging pleasure through your very readable novels.

  3. Forgot to mention I live in South Australia which is so different from lovely Yorkshire
    but just as beautiful. Have you ever been to Australia?

    1. Claire, I agree that it helps to visualize the settings. So glad you’re enjoying the books. It’s a pleasure for me to visit and re-visit the places I write about, and be inspired by the landscape. No I’ve never been to Australia. One day, perhaps …

  4. Message I found Kate a few months ago and in the last month, reread the first in the series and the next 4. They were all on the shelf at the library, so I got them because I have to read books in order. I’ve been a Maisie Dobbs fan for several years, then picked up Joe Sandilands, the Charles Todd series, and now Kate. Anyone see a pattern here? Helen MacInnes and Rosamund Pilcher are old friends with many rereads. One day I’ll make it to Cornwall and Yorkshire by way of London. I’ve really enjoyed the development of Kate’s character and getting to know her family and associates. Looking forward to the next one!

    1. Thanks for the message, Kay. So glad that the Kate Shackleton novels are now on your list! I’m just now revising the next book, Death in the Stars, which I’ve greatly enjoyed researching and writing.

      1. Like one of the earlier post-ers, I obsess over reading book series “in order.” However, the first one I picked up at the library was “A Death in the Dales” — so now I must begin at the beginning! (Very much impressed with your moving — semingly without effort — from Kate’s voice to Harriet’s and back.) And now I’m delighted to learn that when I complete the existing body of Kate Shackleford cases, yet another one is already in the works! Hurrah!

  5. I am pleased to be able to comment on your blog as I’d love to tell you just how much I have been enjoying your books.I love things like Jo Nesbo, Camille Lackberg, Spy stuff and other heavy books.

    When I came across the first book of yours that I found, I thought this would be a bit tame, given the period it is written about! What I found was a wonderful book with places I have actually been to, the countryside as well, with lots of interesting asides like the clothes Kate wore, her Mum telling her what to do and the car she drives. Most important – a plot that kept me on the edge of my seat so that my house was completely neglected (who cares?) until I could read the conclusion. A different style than my ‘normal’ thrillers but I was hooked, I searched for them all. I’ve read quite a few.
    Now I have found your blog maybe I can keep up to date with your new books. Thank you for happy hours of reading.

    Thank you so much

    1. So glad you’re enjoying the books, Anne Marie. It’s an encouragement to know that they bring you pleasure. I love doing the research, and finding places for Kate to go, and new adventures. You probably spotted on the Home Page that there’s a sign up slot for my occasional newsletter – which is a good way of keeping in touch. Happy reading!

  6. I have also been to the church in Hubberholme when I was about 8 on the back of my Dad’s tandem. We went on cycle touring holidays. I loved the Yorkshire Dales and still do

  7. Many thanks for Kate Shackleton. have read seven books of the series, much looking forward to reading the eighth and then the ninth new one. Kate and her friends are a complete joy, love the clothes, the places she visits, some of them I know well, some need to visit.
    (I live in York)

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