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Alston in Cumbria stands on the River South Tyne. It has the distinction of being the highest market town in England, and since Roman times has formed the centre of a thriving area where lead and silver were mined. The seams however are now all worked out, trade much declined and the surrounding country, being too high to be usefully cultivated, is somewhat wild: but Alston itself, though small, is a handsome, stone-built place.

Described by our author however as a "grim moor town", in the year 1279 Alston was also the scene of a horrid murder. The body of a young boy was found hanged in a thorn tree in the churchyard; the murder was witnessed only by a statue of the Virgin and Child. The people of Alston applied to Newcastle for justice, and the Raven King sent two magicians to awaken the statue (perhaps using magic similar to that of The stones of York). From then on, whenever a stranger approached, the statue would say whether or not the stranger was the one who committed the murder. Despite this the Alston murderer was never found, and the town acquired a reputation for being an eerie place afterwards. After The stones of York in 1807, the former theoretical magician Honeyfoot cited Alston as an example of when a statue's testimony was taken as judicial evidence [3].