Information on Muker, Yorkshire

Muker is a Swaledale village with a population of just over 300. The area has been settled since Bronze Age times, and the good grazing land in the area encouraged the Vikings to settle here – the name comes from the Norse word “Mjor-aker” meaning “the narrow acre. The flower-rich hay meadows around Muker continue to be of importance and are carefully protected. Farmers receive grants which allow them to farm the land by traditional methods, without using artificial fertilizers. Muker grew rapidly in the 18th century due as it became as centre for lead mining and hand knitting, and many of its stone buildings date from this period. Muker’s Church, St Mary the Virgin was built during the reign of Elizabeth I. It was consecrated in 1580, and was a ‘Chapel of Ease’ to St Andrews Church further down the Dale at Grinton. This meant the inhabitants of Muker had to pay for their vicar but all charges such as those for weddings, funerals etc had to be paid to the vicar of Grinton. This changed in 1751 when Muker became a parish in its own right, and 11 years later the churches thatched roof was replaced by a slate one. Until Muker Church was built, Grinton Church was the only one in the area, so families had to carry the bodies of family members there for burial along the track which became known as the ‘Corpse Way’. Special wicker coffins were developed to ease the load on what could be a walk of over 15 miles, and special flat stones were sited along the route. It’s possible to walk the corpse way today and spot some stones which would have been used for this purpose. Muker has a tea room, woollen clothing shop, and a craft shop and gallery located in the old school which is well known for having a stuffed sheep on its roof!

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