The Historian

Settle Town HallSettle Town Hall, © W.R. Mitchell
and Bradford University Special Collections

W.R. ‘Bill’ Mitchell has a passionate and lifelong interest in the history of the people of the Dales. He was a founder member of the Settle Local History Society and a member of the Friends of the Settle and Carlisle Railway Preservation Society. Bill's books on the Settle and Carlisle Railway are recognised as important contributions to railway literature.

Bill has written over twenty books on the Settle—Carlisle Railway alone, investigating the practicalities of how the railways were built in ‘How They Built The Settle—Carlisle Railway’, ‘The Men who Made the Settle—Carlisle’, and ‘Long Drag - A Story of Men Under Stress’. Bill also explored the individual history of various stations along the line in ’Hellifield and the Railway’, ‘Garsdale: History of a Station’ and ‘Dent: The Highest Mainline Station in England’. He also documented the lives of the railwaymen's families in his books ‘Lost Shanties of Ribblehead’ and ‘Life on the Settle—Carlisle Railway’.

Bill has also written many biographies ranging from the well-known, such as Wainwright and James Herriot, to the lives of clog-makers and cheese-makers earning a living in the Yorkshire Dales. His research into the friendship of Sir Edward Elgar with Dr Buck of Settle for his book 'Mr Elgar and Dr Buck - a Musical Friendship', led to the discovery of original manuscript music by Elgar. Bill presented the valuable Giggleswick scores to the Elgar Society. Bill's popular histories such as 'The Civil War in Craven' and 'The Fabulous Cliffords' continue to be re-printed.

His many articles and books on Yorkshire life such as 'Letter from the Dales', 'High Dale Country', 'Dry Stone Walls in the Yorkshire Dales' and 'Memories of Yorkshire Mill Towns' have documented the uniqueness of Dales life, and today his tapes preserve the voices of many who lived and worked in the Yorkshire Dales.