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Dales Countryside Museum – walling, knitting, gardening and Mick Jagger!

June 14, 2016 By: Pip Land Category: FDCM Volunteers No Comments →

I learnt a lot during the past 10 days of visits to the Dales Countryside Museum. It began with a demonstration of dry stone walling by David Wright and Pam Norris. A few days later I watched Kate Trusson knitting with a knitting stick. On my next visit I put my camera down and worked alongside other committee members of the  Friends of the Dales Countryside Museum as they weeded and tidied up the garden. And I spent yesterday helping others research their family histories – only to learn something about the history of St Andrew’s church, Aysgarth and the ancestry of Mick Jagger.

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Above: Some visitors to the museum were fascinated by the demonstration of dry stone walling given by David and Pam.

David Wright and Pam Norris have been working as dry stone walling volunteers with the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority for several years. Pam commented about the walls: “I think they are great – fantastic and iconic. If people don’t maintain this skill it is going to disappear. There are professionals and we don’t want to take work away from them. But farmers can’t afford to pay wallers.”

This has led to small teams of volunteers working on walls in the Dales. David explained how they had to plan carefully for a day of walling to make sure they didn’t over-stretch themselves. “We can do about four to five metres a day depending on the number in the team,” he said. He described how dry stone walls differed according to the stone available. (Below: David and Pam)

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Another traditional skill is that of using knitting sticks. Kate Trusson pointed out that the DCM has one of the best collections in the country.

“The best two days in my life were in this museum looking at the knitting sticks and describing them for the catalogue. It was wonderful,” she said.

During her demonstration she showed visitors how, centuries ago, local knitters used a knitting stick so that they could keep one  hand free. This meant they could carry on knitting while doing other jobs. Their knitting supplemented the meagre family income in areas like the Yorkshire Dales and the Scottish Isles.

knitting_two“You just have a piece of wood with a hole in it, stick it in your belt, and off you go,” she explained (left). Many of the sticks were carved into attractive shapes and so old knitting sticks have now become collectors’ items.

The museum also has a good selection of leg boards. Kate explained that the knitters would knit stockings too large as this meant they only needed to remember  one pattern and could work very fast. The stockings would then be put on the correct-size leg board and felted down. Sweaters were also felted down.

Kate will return to the museum in September to give another demonstration of traditional knitting.

 

(BelowKate explained that she usually held the knitting stick under her armpit when she wasn’t demonstrating the more traditional method.)

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The Friends of the DCM have the knitting stick as their logo, inspired and drawn by the artist Janet Rawlins over 20 years ago. Friends committee members, Sue Foster (chairman), Marilyn Cruikshanks, Martin Garside and Brian Alderman needed rather different implements on June 9 – and I put my camera aside for a while to join them.

They had set themselves the task of weeding and tidying the cottage garden at the east end of the museum. This was created by Sally Reckert and some DCM Friends in 2007 with the objective of showing what sort  of plants were grown in a small upper-dales cottage garden between 1900 and 1960. Marilyn commented: “We have not strayed too far from the original planting,” and added that the peonies and honesty were looking good alongside the catmint and forget-me-nots. The potato patch is also doing well. Below: the team at work. In the bottom photograph are, from the left, Marilyn, Brian, Sue and Martin.

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I returned to the museum on Monday (June 13) for duty in the research room. I often sit there on my own and so took my laptop and some work with me. But this time there were family researchers waiting to get started at 10am. Jeremy and Kathy Kettlewell had already done a lot of research on their family history and had come prepared for a full day at the museum. Thanks to the hard work of Friends in the past (like the late Marian Kirby) there were plenty of transcripts of Anglican and Methodist church registers for them to study plus more nuggets of information tucked away in the Macfie-Calvert collection.

As I searched for additional information for them and for another researcher I found some nuggets myself. One of these was in a 1910 Almanack and described the post-Christmas festivities in Swaledale in the 19th century. That is likely to be reproduced in this year’s Now Then, the annual magazine of the Friends of the DCM. And the Kettlewell’s had an interesting story to share with me.

One of their ancestors was Thomas Kettlewell who lived near Aysgarth with his family in the late 19th century. In the 1881 census he was listed as having a lodger: Charles E Jagger, 21, professor of music and a composer who was, at that time, the organist of Aysgarth Church. The Kettlewells then showed me an article written by Matthew Beard which was published in the Independent in March 2006. This stated that Charles Jagger became a renowned classical composer and was commissioned to write the wedding score for the Duke and Duchess of Kent. He also had four children and one of his descendants, Mick Jagger, is renowned for a very different style of music.

Firebox Cafe at the Dales Countryside Museum

March 30, 2016 By: Pip Land Category: FDCM Volunteers No Comments →

The Firebox Café at the Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes is going to be a source of great temptation for the DCM staff and volunteers!

Not only is there seriously good coffee but the “Queen of Tarts” – Emily Pickard – is providing the cakes.  She is known locally as the “cupcake queen” but for the Firebox Café she is baking more of a variety and her  lemon cake proved to be especially popular.

Mike Allenby and Helen Pollard, have created a delightful, cheerful ambience with colourful chairs and serving area. Mike said that he was inspired by the firebox on which the driver and crew of a steam train used to fry their bacon and eggs.  As he said, he did get a bit carried away with some of his own ideas.

The bright ambience of the cafe is enhanced by Sue Dewhurst’s paintings of Dales’ scenes. Six-years-old Daisy Allenby, Mike and Helen’s daughter, selected that of sheep at “Tea Time” as her favourite.

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When I was on duty in the research room at the museum during the Easter holidays  Daisy (above), was doing a great job of making the café’s customers feel even more welcome. Sue Brohie (left)and Eileen Steven from Bolton in Lancashire were so impressed by the flowers that she was making out of tissue paper that they wanted to buy some.

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The Firebox Café is also a feeding station and bike repair centre for cyclists. Bicycles can be hired there and Mike and Helen can provide advice for visitors and organise tours. They, along with Kirsten Civil, are working closely with the local community to help children to learn how to ride well and safely on roads.  This has grown out of their Stage 1 Cycles business which they began in Askrigg in 2014.

The café will certainly enhance the visitor experience at the museum – and I was pleased to hear that some visitors had gone into Hawes to buy lunch.  There are some excellent restaurants and cafes in the centre of Hawes, plus those at the Wensleydale Creamery. So visitors have plenty of choice.

Below: Mike working on creating the cafe in January 2016 – and, at Easter, serving cake and coffee. For more photos of the cafe click on the bottom photo.

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Dales Countryside Museum – counting squirrel hairs

February 14, 2016 By: Pip Land Category: FDCM Volunteers No Comments →

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Is that a red squirrel hair?  David Pointon examines some hairs under the microscope, while Tony Harrison checks the manual, watched by Ian Court (YDNPA wildlife conservation officer) and John Page (right).

The red squirrel monitoring team met on Thursday, February 11 to discuss the data collected in 2015 and how to improve the identification system.

As part of the Red Squirrel Northern England’s on-going survey hairs are collected from baited hair tubes twice a year, between March and April and again between mid September and mid November, from several sites in the northern part of the Yorkshire Dales. These are then examined under a microscope to see if they came from grey or red squirrels.

The survey depends a lot on volunteers like David, John and Tony working closely with the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s (YDNPA) area ranger and wildlife conservation officer. The data collected is used to try and prevent the incursion of grey squirrels  into current red squirrel strongholds.

In the Yorkshire Dales National Park red squirrels can be found in Widdale, at the Greenfield Red Squirrel Reserve and the Garsdale and Mallerstang Red Squirrel Reserve. There is a viewing point at Snaizeholme in Widdale and details of the Red Squirrel Trail and access by public transport are available from the Dales Countryside Museum.

There is free access in the museum to the live video recording of red squirrels using a feeding station. On July 28 at the museum the area ranger, Matt Neale, in his talk entitled Seeing Red , will describe the best places to spot red squirrels. The cost is £4.50 for adults, concessions £4, and free for children. This includes admission to the museum.

Dales Countryside Museum – Research Room

February 05, 2016 By: Pip Land Category: FDCM Volunteers, In Wensleydale No Comments →

I’m enjoying being a beginner when it comes to helping in the Research Room at the Dales Countryside Museum. There are so many interesting books and documents there, from census material about those who have lived in the northern part of the Yorkshire Dales to the books in the Macfie-Calvert collection.

R.A. Scott MacFie’s passion for the culture and history of upper Wensleydale, Mallerstang and the surrounding dales led to him collecting some fascinating books until he died in 1935. The Trust set up to take care of those  books later acquired Kit Calvert’s collection. The trustees are now busy re-cataloguing and re-organising the MacFie-Calvet Collection and the Friends of the Dales Countryside Museum (FDCM) are paying for some of the books to be rebound.

During the cleaning day Eleanor Scarr pointed out to me the bound volumes of the Wensleydale Advertister which was published in Hawes for a few years in the mid 19th century. So when I was on duty in the Research Room on February 3 I was keen to have a look at them.

But first there was work to do for there was a request for information which led to me searching the MacFie-Calvert catalogue for any information about local amateur dramatic societies in the dales between the WW1 and WW2, as well as delving into the archives of Yorebridge Grammar School for a local couple.

The Research Room is open from Monday to Sunday from 10am to 5pm and FDCM volunteers like myself are available to help with research every Monday and Wednesday from 10am to 4pm. The Macfie-Calvert Collection can only be viewed by appointment or when a volunteer is there.

I didn’t read many issues of the Wensleydale Advertiser that day but did find some interesting local stories among the eclectic mix of poems, national news and whatever else interested the editor. I was especially fascinated by the account of the funeral of James Anderson at Wensley church in February 1844.

His relatives and friends were joined by 70 members of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and, as a token of respect, Miss Chaytor, his last employer. The newspaper reported: “He entered into service when but six years of age, and after living 15 years in one family, and 28 years in another, he died at the age of 49; having thus spent 43 years of that time in active service. His industry, attention, strict integrity, and indefatigable exertions in behalf of his employers rendered his services truly valuable.”

It was noted that Anderson was a useful and consistent member of the Odd Fellows by “endeavouring faithfully to discharge the duties attendant upon that station of life in which it had pleased God to place him; although that was but in the humble office of a servant, yet by his good conduct therein he succeeded in making that station honourable.”

That provided some food for thought revealing, as it did, how far we have come from that type of class-dominated society here in Britain. The 19th century was not an easy time to be unemployed and poor.

In Hawes Township in 1844 it was announced:  Take care that the first Letter of the said Township with the Letter P, be put to the upper Coat of each Inhabitant who receives the Alms of the said Township: and if the said poor Inhabitant refuse constantly to wear the said Badge, his or her allowance may and ought to be withdrawn.”

Another article, published in March 1844, showed just how much Hawes has changed.  This stated:

“There are few places, we imagine, which have risen so rapidly from a state of obscurity to comparative respectability as the small market town of Hawes. Individuals are now living who can well remember its thatched cottages, and the humble and yet hospitable hearths of its inhabitants when trade and commerce were scarcely known in its streets, and when few opportunities were afforded for the exchange of money or goods beyond the simple and ordinary wants of a primitive community, similar to what Hawes presented at that period.”

The writer went on to call for a general tidy up, lamenting the dirty shambles and the filth due to imperfect drainage which greeted any visitor.

I did like the article published in May 1844 about taking those responsible for road repairs to court if the work had not been carried out!

Dales Countryside Museum – the photographers

January 19, 2016 By: Pip Land Category: FDCM Volunteers, In Wensleydale No Comments →

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It was just an old, rather drab-looking candlebox from the collections at the Dales Countryside Museum  at Hawes– but on January 14 it was honoured with the full attention of the volunteers who were learning how to use a small lighting tent.

The tent, with two low energy lamps producing pure white diffused light, should be a great help to the volunteers who are continuing the long job of photographing objects in the museum’s collection.

John Turner, Tony Dobson and Lynne O’Hagan had a training session with Andy Kaye, the YDNPA website manager, on January 14 on how to use the new equipment. Marcia Howard wasn’t able to get there because it was snowing in Richmond. Above: from left, John, Lynne, Tony and Andy beside the lighting tent. Click on the photograph to see more pictures.

Debbie Allen (museum officer) explained that John had started the process of photographing objects because each item in the database needs an illustration.

John said he had been a National Park volunteer for a long time now. He not only helps at the museum but also leads walks and guided tours, as well as being involved with footpath restoration.

“I quite enjoy the guided walks and the footpath service, as well as working in here. I also do walks for Holiday Property Bond properties in Askrigg. A group of us do those walks every Monday – for the National Park. We charge and that makes money for the National Park.”

Tony joined the volunteers about six years ago after he retired as an electrical fitter. “I wanted to find something to do,” he commented.

And Lynne was an archaeologist with the National Park until she had to retire due to ill health. She commented that every time she visited the museum she learnt something new.

Andy encouraged them to use high resolution cameras so that the photographs could be used in various ways by the National Park and not just on the database.

When John pointed out they wouldn’t be able to photograph objects like manuscripts inside it they discussed ways to solve that problem – either by going outside on good days where the light was naturally diffused, or using as much natural light as possible when inside.

Then it was tea time accompanied with a cake that Debbie had especially baked for John, albeit a month after his birthday.

 

Dales Countryside Museum – January 8, 2015

January 10, 2016 By: Pip Land Category: FDCM Volunteers No Comments →

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The collections at the Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes are like a treasure trove and you hardly know where to start.

Liz Kirby is helping with redesigning the display of toys which is in one of the rail carriages beside the museum and the trail started at Janet Thomson’s desk. Above from left: Liz Kirby, Debbie Allen and Janet Thomson studying a list of toys. For more photos, including of some of the toys, click on the photo. 

Museum officer, Debbie Allen,  explained: “Janet is our most loyal volunteer.” For Janet has been working on the accessions database since 2008. Prior to that she and several other Friends of the Museum helped to label exhibits.

When an object arrives at the museum it is entered onto an Entry Form and given a group number before being assessed for the relevance to the collection. Fiona Rosher, the museum manager, explained that if  an object is to be “acquired” it is passed to Janet to be placed on the database and is allocated a unique number.

The museum uses the MODES database system and since 2008 Janet has been adding information into the “free text” box  on each record to give a fuller description of each individual object.

Janet said: “At the moment there are 7,339 objects in the database and I started from number one – going back and upgrading the descriptions.  I started just working on the computer but then found I had to go and handle the objects. It slowed things down.

“I was joined by Margaret Hartley. Originally we were coming once a month but we found we weren’t making enough progress so we came every Friday – and had lots of fun doing it together.” Since 2011, however, Margaret hasn’t been well enough to help and so Janet has plodded on alone.

She’s no nearer reaching the end because more boxes of objects have arrived, including from the now-closed mining museum at Earby.

Janet has that researcher’s love for having direct contact with the past. She pointed to a bookcase of old books and commented: “I thought they were much more accessible on a shelf than in a box. Some of them were school prizes and that is written inside. So there is a history of a person in a collection of books which have been donated. You wouldn’t know that unless you look at the books.

“I particularly like going through all the old photographs from a hundred years ago or even 50 years ago. There’s a collection of photographs from Leyburn that somebody  had collected from the 1950s. It was quite good fun going to look at the places now so I could say what the shops had become.”

The job of scanning all the photographs has been taken on by Marcia Howard. She told me: “I’m scanning the entire collection of archives photographs. I’m currently up to T so I’m doing Transport at the moment. That covers the Settle Carlisle railway and Wensleydale railway stations. The ultimate aim is that the photographs will all be available on line eventually. And there’s an awful lot of them.

“I’ve lived up here for about 16 years and I’ve been coming up for 40 because we used to have a holiday home in Hawes – and I’m learning so much more about the Dales and the people in it. Some of the tales written on the back of these photographs are wonderful. So I’ve often got a smile on my face. It sounds like a tedious job but it’s so fascinating that it’s not tedious at all.”

Soon she and Janet were sharing with me some of those great stories as they showed me the photographs. Yet more ideas for Now Then – the annual magazine of the Friends of the Dales Countryside Museum of which I am now the editor.

And just like Liz I will turn to Janet and that database for help in finding interesting objects in the museum. Janet had already prepared a list of toys for Liz that morning, and soon they were in search one particular box. Opening it up they found a traditional Yorkshire Knurr and Spell game on an old, well worn piece of wood. Janet explained that men would often play this game as they walked across the Yorkshire Moors.

L:iz had selected that box because she thought the Victorian brass tea set would be interesting but soon she was much more fascinated by the homemade toys and the Knockemdown set of  ninepins skittles made by the Disabled Ex-Service Men’s Industries after the First World War.

The skittles had obviously been the centre of a lot of fun in some Dales’ household – unlike Mr Turnip, “the children’s favourite television puppet” who was still in pristine condition. Mr Turnip became a celebrity in the 1950s after being created by Joy Laurey for a BBC television magazine show called “Whirligig”.

Among the home-made objects was a skipping rope made from old wooden spools and string, and a miniature chair created from wooden clothes pegs. There were also some board games including a well-worn Snakes and Ladders morality game.

This game originated in ancient India to teach children the effects of good deeds as opposed to bad ones. It became a favourite among the Victorians as Snakes and Ladders with its encouragement to do good to others and the dire penalties for participating in gambling (ruin), stealing (prison), laziness (poverty) and bad temper (murder). One of the longest snakes begins with Pride and ends with a Fall.

Once she had made her selection Liz then had to consider the design of the new exhibit. Stuart Armstrong,  a regular volunteer at the museum, was there in the afternoon to put in more shelves.  So when the museum re-opens in February there will no longer be a “Le Mans” line up of small bikes and trikes as Janet has described the old exhibit.

There will be more bikes at the museum by March – but they will be very modern ones. For Mike Appleby and Helen Pollard are moving their Stage 1 Cycles and Cafe business  (Firebox Cafe) from Askrigg to the museum. Nick is busy this month fitting out the rooms at the western end of the museum.