IN 1903 Skipton magistrates prosecuted a speeding motorist for the first time. Her name was Dorothy Levitt, 21, she had been taking part in a race between Glasgow and London and was clocked by constables as she tore up a straight stretch on the Gargrave to Skipton road - at a mind blowing 21mph.

Magistrates were told how Miss Levitt had seen placards in Hellifield warning of policemen lying in wait and how later, three men had leapt in the road, ordering her to stop. Thinking they were tramps, she ploughed on, forcing them to jump out of the way.

Her solicitor told magistrates there was no proof she had been the driver, but her case was proved and she was fined 40 shillings. The fiery Miss Levitt appeared later the same year at a London court for an identical matter. Her comment that she wished she had run over the police sergeant involved earned her little favour with magistrates, who fined her more than double the amount handed out to other speeders that day.

Skipton’s first speeding motorist is one of many entertaining facts discovered by former Craven Herald editor, Ian Lockwood, and included in his book, The History of Skipton. At 550 pages long with illustrations - many from Skipton Library's Rowley Ellwood Collection - it's the most comprehensive book published about the town since William Dawson’s History of Skipton almost 150 years ago. The culmination of 12 years of research, it covers the town’s history from the Norman Invasion until 2000 with sections including Health and Wealth; Skipton at Work; Crime and Punishment; Life During the World Wars; Education; Skipton at Play and the development of the town’s infrastructure.

One might think Skipton wasn't big enough to have a whole chapter devoted to murder - but it does. Included is the case of a baby discovered in 1870 in a pile of rubbish and a gruesome double murder in 1882 when a man slit the throats of his wife and daughter then tried to do the same to himself at the entrance to Skipton Woods.

Mr Lockwood, Craven Herald editor from 1993 to 2008, claims to reveal new facts, including a scandal about alcohol distributed to inmates at Skipton Workhouse. He reveals Skipton had several lucky escapes from development, including plans to fill in the Springs Canal to provide a car park and drive an elevated dual carriageway through the town, crossing Skipton Woods on a viaduct. “A lot of people think of Skipton as being affluent. But I would contend it is a working-class town with much in common with mill towns of East Lancashire,” he said.

Much of his research was done from old copies of Skipton’s two newspapers - the Craven Herald and the Craven Pioneer, from the days when the local press ‘recorded key events with a small army of reporters and correspondents’. “The internet will not leave such a legacy for future generations,” he says.

Mr Lockwood launches The History of Skipton at Skipton Library on Tuesday, June 19, at 2pm. Email or call 01609 534548.

* Published by Austin Macauley, priced £18.99 and available online.