“It’s brilliant – spot on. It’s far more realistic,” Eleanor Scarr announced when she saw the way the traditional Dales Kitchen at the Dales Countryside Museum had been re-vamped by Lottie Sweeney of Feasts of Fiction.
While the museum was closed in January Lottie had prepared fake pies that would never age and worked on the fireplace to make it more three dimensional. She explained that she had been contracted in January 2015 to make replica havercakes (oatcakes), butter and cheese for the kitchen. At that time she had commented that she could make the whole display much more effective and so had been invited back this year.
“You want it to tell a story,” Lottie said. And she does a lot of research so that she can create authentic replicas.
Eleanor regularly gives talks in the museum’s traditional Dales Kitchen. For many years this was done by Ann Holubecki who, like her sister José Hopper, was a stalwart of the Friends of the Dales Countryside Museum.
Eleanor explained: “Ann was in her late 70s when she said to me ‘Now look – what’s going to happen to my kitchen when I’ve gone because there’s nobody younger who knows what they’re doing. I want somebody to look after it.’ So I helped her for quite a number of years. I learnt a lot because she could just talk from memory and I didn’t really know as much.”
Ann then encouraged Eleanor to join the Friends of the DCM committee in her place. Now Eleanor also helps in the museum’s Research Room, assists with cataloguing the books in the Mcfie-Calvert collection, and is on the editorial panel of Now Then.
The Dales Kitchen originated in the 1950s after Ann Holubecki’s mother, Margaret Hopper, helped at an event at Bolton Castle to celebrate the Festival of Britain. Ann wrote later: “The castle was brought back to life as in Tudor times: the year 1568, to be exact – when Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned there.
“My mother was in charge of the kitchen tableau. She was ‘Mistress of the Stillroom’ and I was the ‘First Still Room Maid’ (i.e. skivvy). It was great fun.”
After the Festival Mrs Hopper inspired others to donate items and the collection of Victorian furniture and utensils from the Dales grew. Eventually the then Lord Bolton allowed them to create a Dales Kitchen at Bolton Castle and this was formally opened in April 1965.
It was an interesting attraction for many years but by the 1980s Mrs Hopper was no longer able to care for it as well as she had. Hurricane Charlie finally put the “tin lid” on it in 1986 when the castle roof was damaged and water poured into the Dales Kitchen.
“After its 22 years at the castle, it now seemed a good idea to remove it and salvage what we could,” wrote Ann. “The kitchen display from Bolton Castle eventually became the foundation of the ‘new’ Old Dales Kitchen in our museum at Hawes. The Kitchen was re-opened at the Dales Countryside Museum in 1994.”
Her daughter, Janina Holubecki, wrote in her postscript to Ann’s account which was published in Now Then in 2014: “For many years, until her death in 2013, Ann Holubecki continued to be closely involved with the Museum – in particular the Dales Kitchen. She had regular ‘demonstration days’: Washday, Baking, Butter and Cheese-making, Pig Killing and Preserving Time. She passed on her knowledge of those old domestic tasks to younger museum volunteers – such as Eleanor Scarr, Evelyn Abraham and Brenda Watering – so that the Dales Kitchen demonstrations could continue.”
Click here for pictures taken on January 29, 2016