ALLENDALE is the most beautiful dale in the North, no doubt about it!

With that, one of the village’s own, Robert Philipson, nails his colours firmly to the mast in the opening pages of the book that has taken him nine years to prepare.

He then goes right on – in glorious fashion – to demonstrate that Allendale isn’t just a pretty face either.

Looking Back At Allendale is brimming with hundreds of old pictures and postcards he has turned up during an adult life spent combing antiques fairs and the trade press.

Some of them date back almost as far as photography itself.

Faded sepia-tinted pictures taken in the market square in 1880 show Major Walton with the massed ranks of Lord Allendale’s private army behind him, standing to attention, ready for an inspection.

The watching crowd of flat caps contains a sprinkling of bowler hats and canes, too, and smartly-coiffeured women wearing fascinators.

The village had a population of 6,500 back then, an era when the lead mines were still going at full tilt. “We’d be lucky if there were a couple of thousand people here now,” said Robert.

“There were also 60 or 70 shops, which is hard to imagine. No wagons used to come out here – everything from clothes and shoes to food was produced right here in Allendale.”

And then there’s the wonderful black and white photo of Major Walton, and presumably his wife, in the two-seater Curved Dash Oldsmobile he had imported from America in 1901.

There they are, posed in front of the pillared portico of The Riding, his old country house on the outskirts of the village, the registration plate X220 clearly visible.

That plate dates the photograph, for motor vehicle registration began in Britain on January 1, 1904, and ‘X’ was the letter used for Northumberland’s first registrations. “It was the only car in Allendale,” said Robert.

Those were lucrative years for Major Walton, who owned the main brewery in those parts.

But sadly his luck later changed, the bottom fell out of his business and he committed suicide.

Robert’s first book, published in 2006, was entitled Fireside Reading: Old Allendale Town. He said: “That one took me seven years to write.”

He is now working on getting the two bulging folders that comprise Looking Back At Allendale printed, too. “I started out doing them because I don’t want this history to be lost.”

He can pay anything from £5 to £50 or £60 for a vintage picture or postcard, although some local residents have given him bits and bobs they’ve found.

“Dealers know what I want now, so when they get a card related to Allendale, they send me a copy and I have the option of buying it.

“I’ve got 2,500 old photographs and postcards and they are all of Allendale.”

He marries up the pictures with the local knowledge he has of the village he has lived in all his life.

Two pages feature the picture of Sgt James Norman Allison, of the 6th Northumberland Fusiliers, and the letter written by his commanding officer to his brother reporting his death in action in France on September 15, 1916.

An accompanying article drawn from the Courant described Sgt Allison as “one of the most prominent (Allendale) townsmen and a keen all-round athlete”. He was just 23.

Robert said: “I found them in a box full of letters and old photographs. The guy who gave it to me had bought an old house and was about to throw out the box and some old history books, but luckily he decided to ask me if I was interested in any of it first.

“When you talk to people in Allendale, dozens of them have thrown boxes of personal papers out.”

His collection of all things Allendale now includes 40 or so history books that between them trace the history of the village back to the 1100s.

Robert, whose working life has embraced being the butcher in Allendale Co-op and a builder with J.H. Newman, can also trace the social history of the village in his lifetime.

He has mounted his own personal memorial to those who have passed on. Two poems he has penned himself anchor a double-page spread of their photographs.

He has gone much further back in time, copying out the parish records of the 1600s, and time-travelled forward through the 1800s and 1900s.

Along the way, he has recorded the origins of place names, the celebrations and fairs that have punctuated the district’s calendar forever and a day, and the battery of colloquial terms used to describe the vagaries of the dales’ weather.

His copies of those oft-repeated pictures of the Arctic landscapes sculpted by the snowstorms of 1947 and 1963 still have the power to fascinate!

But above all else, his books are about the people of Allendale.

He remembers the ‘grand old lady of Britain’s licensing trade’ Ethel Rood, who, when she retired at the age of 83, must surely have been the oldest publican in the country. She had served, girl and woman, at the King’s Head Hotel for 67 years.

There’s Ernest Batey, who was headmaster of the village school for 40 years; William Elliott Pringle (‘Billy’ to his friends), who retired in 1984 after 50 years with Allendale Co-op, and Reuben and Evelyn Laing celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.

And then there’s the special guest at one sumptuous Christmas tea laid on for the 30 or so pupils at Keenley School.

“No, it wasn’t Santa Claus,” said Robert, “for this was Christmas 1946 and the visitor for whom the children waited, bright-faced and eager, was a tall German officer from the P.O.W. camp at Catton.

“He delighted the children and their parents with a marvellous display of conjuring tricks.

“For four years, Mrs Laura Bickerton – or Bickie, as she was known to all and sundry – was headmistress of this tiny school perched 1,000 feet above sea level.

“Although Christmas was always a special time in a small school like this, none was more special than this one, with a long and bloody war at last at an end.”