Local Historical Stories


Early in 1996 Alastair Robertson - one of our local historians was asked if he would write a couple of historical articles for the Alston Moor Newsletter. He thought he could manage three or four but in the event, over 20 years later, they were still going. Once, and only once, he received an unsolicited article from an outside source, this was the reminiscence of a school for wartime evacuees at Nent Hall that came from Mr. Michael Dickinson and it was gratefully included in the series.

They’re a real mixed bag, too random to put into a book, but they’re still worth keeping in a more permanent form, so the Historical Society website seemed the perfect place to have them.

Material for the articles came largely from local sources, from the Alston Moor Historical Society Archives, St. Augustine’s Church Records, Alston Library, the Cumbria County Records Office in Carlisle and the County Records Office Northumberland.

There has been editing in some cases that will be noted at the beginning of each item, otherwise the articles have been left as they were written, complete with occasional references to such things as cement lorries, the millennium, and foot and mouth disease, which are themselves now things of the past (?).
Read on …

Story No 52: The Professor of Adventure from Nenthead

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Recently (that’s Summer 2016) there was a play at Alston Town Hall about Millican Dalton, the self-styled ‘Professor of Adventure’, which prompted this bit of investigation.
Millican Dalton is famous for his life in the Lake District, but perhaps the seeds for his unconventional life were sown in the village of his birth – Nenthead. In the middle of the nineteenth century Millican’s father, William Dalton, was among several mining agents working for the London Lead Company. He had been born in Appleby but moved to Nenthead to work in the smelt mill, where workers were not known for their longevity, the fumes from the furnaces were lethal. William married Frances Millican on 15th September 1853. Frances was quite a catch, being the daughter of Tinniswood Millican, district agent for the London Lead Company, who lived in the Nenthead House, the grandest in the village.

The Dalton family lived in a house somewhere between Foulard and Donks Villa, now The Beeches, in Nenthead. Given the status of the family, the house might have been Wellgill Villa. William and Frances had seven children, beginning with William Tinniswood, born in 1854, and John James born in 1856. Their first daughter, Lucy Millican Dalton, was born in 1857. Joseph Crosby followed in 1858. Sadly, Lucy died in 1860 aged only 2½. Another daughter, Elizabeth Crosby was born in 1865, then, on 20th April 1867 Millican arrived and finally Henry George in 1868.

William was a Quaker but whether his whole family were isn’t known. Whatever the case, his three eldest sons went to be among the 34 boys and 30 girls boarding at the Quaker school at Woodside near Wigton, to the west of Carlisle. Millican would have been sure to follow but sadly his father died on 6th October 1874, aged 49, when Millican was only 7 years old. It would seem that the company had sent William to ‘The Grove’ at Ilkley in Yorkshire, where he was diagnosed with a heart disease and died after two-week illness. He was brought home to be buried in buried in Alston Cemetery.

The family had relatives already living in the south of England, and since there was nothing to keep Frances Dalton in Nenthead she moved with her children to Hornsey in Middlesex. In 1881 Millican was 13 years old and at school with his younger brother, Henry. His two oldest brothers had left home, but Joseph was still there and working as an insurance clerk.

In 1891 the Daltons were living in Stamford Hill, Hackney, by which time Millican and Henry had both left school to become insurance clerks. This life obviously was too stifling for Millican and in the 1901 census, at the age of 33, although he was single and still working as an insurance clerk, we find his address as “Tent”, Esperanca, North Weald, Essex. His next door neighbour must have been a kindred spirit because he also lived in a tent.

Some time during the next ten years Millican moved back home to live with his 78 year old mother and his brother Henry in a 7 roomed house in Walthamstow, Essex. In the 1911 census Henry was still an insurance clerk, but Millican was self employed, working as – and wait for it – a “Dealer in Adventures” and a “Conductor of Tourist and Camping Parties.” So at the age of 43+ he was no spring chicken or an impetuous youth when he upped sticks and moved to the Lake District to live in a cave and become the ‘Professor of Adventure.’
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About Us
Alston Moor Historical Society was founded in 1973 and, due to the nature of Alston Moor, it is a member of both the Northumberland Association of Local History Societies and the Cumbria Federation of Local History Societies.
Alston Moor Historical Society
Alston Moor, Cumbria
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