We’ve already met David Hodgson because our museum manager Fiona went out to see an old milk cooler he owns. He has farmed at Lowlands in Askrigg all his life so we were also keen to record his memories for the project.
We’ve already written about the rather wonderful prospect of a milk vending machine returning to Wensleydale courtesy of Ben & Adam Spence of ‘The Home Farmer‘ so we were delighted to be invited over to their farm near Aysgarth earlier this week to have a tour and discuss how the Dairy Days project might work with them.
The horsebox with the vending machine was off being branded up but we did see samples of the various milk bottles they’ve had designed to go into it. We love the glass one, which people can reuse over and over again. The intention is to move the unit from village to village up the dale on a rota system – we’ll post details once they are firmed up.
Neil Haworth’s contact details were passed on to us by a member of the National Park Farm Team who shared a train journey with him back from a conference. It turned out that he had a very interesting story to tell about his involvement with the dairy industry in Wensleydale through pig farming. He was interviewed by Maggie Townsend at his farm in Garsdale late last year.
He started by describing how, having left the Army, where he had served in Cyprus in the 1950s, he set himself up breeding pigs while working part-time on a nearby farm at Churchtown, near Garstang in Lancashire. Fate took a hand when a well-known Lancashire pig farmer, Bill Richardson, approached him with a life-changing offer. Bill sold pigs from his farm in Fylde, near Blackpool, to the Walls meat company in Manchester and he used to deal with the manager there called Harry Whittle. Bill arranged to meet Neil to discuss his proposition:
“…we met in the local pub, The Horns Inn, in Churchtown, and he said ‘You’re a young, likely lad, look as if you’ve some work about you. You wouldn’t like t’come into partnership with me? Because I’ve heard that in Hawes, in North Yorkshire, that the Wensleydale Cheese factory,’ which…was a cottage industry then…'[was] going to be bought by the Milk Marketing Board, and Harry Whittle has told me, informed me, as to what may happen’, but…what I’ve already forgot, that Bill fed all his pigs on whey, which he got out of Lancashire, which is the by-product from cheese of course, which is very good feed for pigs… there was a lot of competition for the whey in Lancashire, a lot of big pig farms, a lot of competition. And Harry Whittle had told him that, on the grape vine, and that if we’s prepared t’move t’Hawes … and the Milk Marketing Board got into production, there’ll be plenty of whey for your pigs.”
Neil Haworth (82) of East Bridge End Farm, Garsdale
One of the contacts we made at the Middleham & Dales Local History Group talk last week, Valerie Slater, has now sent us a brilliant set of family photographs especially ones to do with Coverham Dairy. She writes:
“Have just sent you a photo of grandma at Coverham Dairy…[it] shows staff and visitors at Coverham Dairy c. 1920. My grandmother, Annie Mary Horner, is front right next to her friend Mary Hogg.
Here at the National Park office in Grassington we are still lucky enough to get our milk delivered in eco-friendly recyclable glass bottles. The milk is semi-skimmed and homogenised though, so no cream on the top like in the old days.
The lucky folk of Wensleydale will soon have the option of milk with the cream on top from The Home Farmer who has just tweeted a photo of their lovely new milk bottle design.
It was lovely to meet family historian Robert Mason at the Middleham and Dales Local History Group talk last week. He has already contributed a great deal of his own family’s history to the Dairy Days project, particularly about their connections to the Carisbrooke Road Dairy in Liverpool. Having heard Karen’s talk with its emphasis on uncovering the stories of the women in the dairying industry in Wensleydale, he thought we might be interested to hear the story of Mary Metcalfe Ewbank née Pratt (1843-1903), a remarkable Dales woman who ended up running a Liverpool cowhouse on her own for twenty years in the late nineteenth century. He sent us the following article about her which we reproduce here in full with grateful thanks:
Sally is one of our oral history recorders but the roles were reversed last year when Margaret Townsend recorded her talking about her happy childhood on a farm in Walden.
There was a record turnout of around 44 people to hear Karen Griffiths talk about the progress of the Dairy Days project yesterday afternoon at Middleham Key Centre. Karen writes “the Middleham & Dales Local History Group made me feel most welcome and it was a pleasure to talk to such a knowledgeable and interested audience many of whom have already helped a great deal with the Dairy Days project. ”
Amongst the audience were people who had contributed oral history recordings to the project including 92-year old Women’s Land Army member Margaret Watson and farmer Neil Howarth who had travelled all the way down from Garsdale to be there.
Several new contacts came forward after the talk including a man whose family ran Coverham Dairy and a woman whose grandfather was a cheese factor in the dale. We look forward to finding out more about their stories.
Richard Fawcett has been very helpful to the Dairy Days project already as the stackstands we surveyed and excavated last Autumn at Floshes Hill near Hardraw are on his land – read more about the site in the blog post Stackstands….latest research. Richard has farmed in Hardraw all his life and is well known locally for his regular sheepdog demonstrations .
In our previous blog post Dairying during wartime we mentioned how the Women’s Land Army played an important role in helping Wensleydale farms keep on producing milk during the Second World War. We were delighted to add depth to this story with a wonderful recording by Marjorie Iveson of the memories of 92-year old Margaret Watson who joined the Land Army from her home in Leeds, aged just seventeen in 1943.
Of all the stories that came out of our Dairy Days project launch event last year – one of the most interesting was from local woman Mary Dinsdale who told us that her husband, Wilson Dinsdale, had a milk vending machine in Hawes in the early 1960s. The machine had already been installed between the chip shop and the car park on the High Street and Wilson bought it as a going concern. We know nothing more about it as Mary wasn’t able to take part in the Oral History side of the project – but if anyone has any memories or photographs of the machine we’d be delighted to hear from you.
The Hawes vending machine is long gone, but with the wholesale price of milk being so low, as discussed by retired dairy farmer John Simpson in his oral history recording, there is a growing trend for today’s dairy farmers to retail their own milk direct to the customer, and modern vending machines are one of the ways for them to do this. We were delighted to hear that Wensleydale will be getting its very own milk vending machine once again.
We’ve been following the progress of Ben Spence of Thorngarth Home Farm, Aysgarth since the beginning of the Dairy Days project. He’s one of the new generation of dairy farmers who see diversification and adding value to his milk as crucial to his business model. The farm is developing its own raw milk cheese, which we’re pleased to say benefited from one of our Sustainable Development Fund grants. They have also invested in a milk vending machine which will be out and about in March in an adapted horsebox. We can’t wait to try some farm fresh milk from it – with the cream on top, just like we remember from our childhood!
Follow the Spence family’s progress on The Home Farmer Facebook page and Twitter account. Check out The Home Farmer Instagram account for a wonderful photo montage of them building their brand new state of the art cow shed last year.
John Simpson has farmed man and boy at Gildersbeck Farm, near Agglethorpe for over 50 years. Marjorie Iveson recorded his memories of how the farm has changed over those years for the Dairy Days project last September.
Local historian Ian Spensley has been a stalwart of the Dairy Days project right from the start due to his extensive research into early Wensleydale wills and inventories – we’ve already mined lots of information from them and there’s lots more to come. Ian wears another hat however in that he was born in the dale to a family of farm workers. His grandfather Ernest Spensley worked as a shepherd at Castle Banks Farm in Castle Bolton. Ernest and his wife Annie also kept two cows in the common pasture at Castle Bolton (the Ellerlands). The photo below shows Annie off to milk them some time in the 1930s. Read more about her in the blog post A Wensleydale Milk Maid.
Ian’s uncle Albert was also a shepherd at Castle Banks, and his father, Metcalfe (Mec) Spensley, was the cowman. Author John Duncalfe has sent us his wonderful book about the Castle Bolton artist Fred Lawson, who painted Ian’s uncle Albert inside one of the farm’s barns.
The farm was actually run by Ian’s Great Great Uncle Metcalfe Spensley, followed by his son John and his grandsons David and Richard. Ian grew up around the farm and those of his friends in the village, the Horns at West End Farm and the Bostocks.
Ian was interviewed by Sally Stone last August, and she started off by asking him what time his father’s day began on the farm:
“Generally about half-past six, he’d be up at half-past five, have his breakfast. Half-an-hour’s walk down t’the farm, then start milking. Probably come back mid-morning I think…first memories were they were all milking by hand, in the old cowhouse and that there’d be probably m’dad; Thomas Hunter; Cuthbert Kirkbride; Richard Spensley, there’s probably five or six of them milking by hand…”
Ian Spensley (64), of Redmire
The photo shows Fred Peacock, a member of another Castle Bolton farming family. He’s hand milking at around the same time as Ian’s father was. The Peacocks farmed at East End Farm.
The milk was then taken into what used to be called the milk room, an annexe of the old cowhouse, where it was cooled using a metal water cooler “like a washboard” as Ian describes it. The milk churns or cans, full of milk, were collected by lorry and probably taken to the Express Dairy in Leyburn.
Ian fondly remembers hanging around at the Horns’ farm and also going down with the Bostocks, father, daughter and Jimmy the donkey, to milk their cows as described in the following audio clip:
Terry Dodd who features in this well-known photograph of Jimmy, has recently written to Ian about it:
“My family came to Leyburn in 1947 when my father started as manager at Macnamee grocery shop in High Street and we left in 1959. My father delivered grocerys all over the Dales at that time and that’s how we got to know the Bostock family who became very good friends and we still keep in touch occasionaly. I know Frank [Knowles] because he lodged with us for a time in Maythorne.”
Sally asks Ian when hand milking gave way to milking machines::
“Lot of the cowhouses were built about, well, mid-50s to early 60s, so I’m guessing they, most of the milking machines were installed about that time. The ones I remember around the dale, were from Alfa-Laval, actually, thinking about it, lad I went t’school with, his father, Jack Dent, was the Alfa-Laval agent for the Dale.”
Sally asks Ian if any farmers delivered their milk locally:
“In Castle Bolton and Redmire you’d go to either one or two farmers within the village who would supply the milk…you would go t’them, if you weren’t a farm labourer, you would go t’farm t’get the milk.”
“When we moved down t’the pub in Redmire, t’the Kings Arms, we used t’get our milk from one particular farmer, and m’mother was a bit suspicious about it so she had her own sile [sieve] pads to filter the milk!”
As Ian says, the farm labourers had free milk as a work bonus, which they carried home in little tin cans made locally. Ian actually remembers Frank Shields the village tinsmith who is featured in Marie Hartley & Joan Ingilby’s ‘Life & Tradition in the Yorkshire Dales.’
“Yep, there was Frank Shields particularly, obviously quite unique really, he was, apart from being a plumber and electrician, he was a tinsmith. So he actually made the backcans, either for donkeys or for people t’carry on the’backs, plus they used t’make the little cans. The farm labourers who were given a quart of milk every day, t’bring their milk back home in.”
Ian emailed us about him: “I spent hours with Frank especially if I saw smoke coming out of the chimney and then I would go and watch him making cans and copper kettles”.
The contents of Frank’s workshop at Castle Bolton was saved when he died and is now on display at the Dales Countryside Museum, along with many examples of the work of Dales tinsmiths.
Every farm in the area had cows apparently, many were grazed on communal pastures which still survived in Castle Bolton from feudal days when much of the land was farmed communally on behalf of the local lord of the manor.
“Every farm would have some cows. Will Dinsdale had a bit of a, he used t’keep so many cows down below Bolton Lane, and he would milk them down there, and then he would keep so many cows in what used t’be the communal pasture along with Horn’s cows, and Will had a ramshackle, rough stone building with a tin roof at the bottom of the cow pasture and he used t’milk his cows in there with a milking machine that attached t’the power take off on the back of the tractor.”
In winter, all the cows were kept indoors at various locations scattered around the village. Some farmers were lucky enough to have them nearby, others not so lucky:
“Well, Bostocks obviously kept their cows out at a distance; Peacocks, now, their cows was about a quarter of a mile outside the village, they always used the same cowhouse; Castle Bank, obviously, next t’the farm; Horn’s was just across the road from the farmhouse.”
Even from a young age, Ian and the other village boys were roped in to help at haytime, gathering enough fodder to feed the cows housed in their barns over the winter.
“Well that was one of our main jobs I suppose, even as young kids, we used to, at Bostocks, all the hay that he got was loose hay, so you’d t’take it down on a sweep, then it had t’be forked into the hay shed and as kids we were encouraged t’jump up and down on the hay in the hay shed t’consolidate the hay…[what pulled the sweep?] They used a tractor, grey Fergie…Horns used t’use a horse for sweeping up the loose hay…it was all taken to field barns.”
Part of our aim for the Dairy Days project is to make sure that we collect dairying stories from the length and breadth of Wensleydale and also into the tributary dales like Bishopdale, Coverdale and Walden.
To help us make sure we’re doing this we’ve been working on a very low tech visual aid – a map with stickers on it – showing the location of every farm and village mentioned in one or other of our blog posts.
We’re really pleased to see that we are certainly hitting our distribution target with a very good spread of stories.
This map will also be really useful when we come to plan the content of our upcoming walk leaflets.
Our Media Officer Andrew Fagg has just written a delightful reminiscence about dairy farming in Wensleydale which has been published in the Yorkshire Post’s farming section. We particularly love the quotes from Wensleydale dialect poet John Thwaite (1873-1941) which he has unearthed as proof of how central to local lives the dairy cow was last century.
Lines like this description of a ‘bonny rooan’ cow being auctioned at Hawes Market:
“Says Edwin ‘Who says sixty – a jingler that,’ says he
As long as a wet week, wi’ bag an’ tit for all to see.”
We were particularly interested to meet Ian Millward at the Dairy Days launch event last April. It turned out that he once managed the Creamery in Hawes and he brought along a wonderful collection of objects and photographs from his days there. We were obviously very keen to record his memories so volunteer Sally Stone arranged to meet up with him last August.
Following publication of our blog post Wensleydale cowkeepers in Liverpool we were contacted by Robert Mason, a descendant of the Mason family who built the Carisbrooke Road dairy we researched. Robert turned out to be the grandson of Edward Ewbank Mason whose memoirs have been published by Dave Joy on his Liverpool Cowkeepers website – see Memoirs of Edward Ewbank Mason .
Robert very kindly provided us with lots more background information about his family including telling us about a transcript of a taped interview that local author and journalist Bill Mitchell conducted with Annie Mason nee Pratt, one of the cousins that Edward Ewbank Mason writes about meeting on his farm holidays in Burtersett as a teenager.
We are lucky to have a complete run of the nineteenth century Wensleydale Advertiser newspaper at the Dales Countryside Museum. It had a short lifespan starting in 1844, reporting on a selection of local and national news as well as promoting its editor’s fairly forthright opinions on a wide range of subjects.
Our volunteer Stuart Barron visited Alan and Edith Pratt (nee Heseltine) last year to record their memories. Alan Pratt’s stories of dairying can be found here Oral History Recording: Alan Pratt.
Edith was keen to talk about her grandfather Christopher along with other members of her family involved in dairying in the past.
“I want t’talk about m’grandfather who I didn’t know, granddad Christopher Heseltine was born in 1882 at Swinacote [Farm], Thoralby. When he got married he moved to Hestholme Farm, West Burton. 1920s, he moved to Heaning Farm at Thoralby. ”
Edith Pratt, nee Heseltine (65), formerly of Studdah Farm, Bellerby
We’ve already featured the story of Alan’s dad, Jim Pratt in a previous blog post. Volunteer Stuart Barron recorded Alan’s memories last October, bringing the two generation story up-to-date. We also recorded Alan’s wife Edith talking about her family’s wide-ranging involvement in dairying which we’ll create a separate blog post about shortly.
Alan was born at West End Farm in Marsett in 1945 and has early memories of his father hand milking the family’s cows there. One in particular was a bit of a pet, but as Alan recalls in the following audio clip, you always had to be a little wary around cows however tame, especially ones with horns:
Two of our oral history interviewees, Alan and Edith Pratt, came along to meet us at our Open Day last September in Askrigg. They have their own fascinating dairying stories to tell which we’ll publish here shortly, but Alan also gave us a copy of a typed manuscript containing the recollections of early twentieth century farm life at the eastern end of Wensleydale by his father Jim Pratt.
Well-known local press photographer Frank Knowles has sent us an archive of his wonderful photographs for the project, some of which record the efforts made to get milk though to the Express Dairy during the snowy winter of 1963 which we thought we’d share with you this Christmas Eve. If you’d like to see more of Frank’s photos then visit his exhibition at Tennant’s in Leyburn.
Happy Christmas to you all and we look forward to sharing more of the heritage of dairying in Wensleydale with you next year.
Volunteer Marjorie Iveson has recorded the early memories of her husband Glynn who left school aged fifteen to be a farm worker, progressing from mucking out cow byres to helping milk a sizeable dairy herd before ending up running his own farm.
Earlier this year, we spent quite a lot of time helping out the production company making the new ‘Made in Great Britain’ series now showing on BBC2. They were keen to hear all about our research into the history of cheese making and make contact with contemporary cheesemakers and collectors of historic recipes. Andy Swinscoe of the Courtyard Dairy is of course going to be featured as are several other people we have been working with like Jane Sammells of Curriculum Kitchen.
The episode is due to be aired on BBC2 on Friday 7th December at 9pm – further details on the Made in Great Britain series webpage.
Eleanor Scarr is well-known to visitors to the Dales Countryside Museum because she does regular talks and demonstrations about life in the Dales in times gone by.
Our volunteer Stuart Barron interviewed William (Billy) Porter last month, one of our oldest contributors to the project at 86. He was born at West Shaw Cote Farm, Abbotside in 1936.
For really rather obvious reasons, we had to cancel our second day of surveying at the Green Side shieling site today!
Our interview with retired dairy farmer George Sledge was conducted by Marjorie Iveson. George farmed at Constable Burton which is at the far eastern end of Wensleydale with quite different soil and weather to the majority of the farmers from Upper Wensleydale that we have interviewed for the project so far.
With Northern Archaeological Associates (NAA) appointed as our archaeology consultants, we were keen to get them started surveying our chosen selection of archaeological sites and buildings. A couple of weeks ago, we met up to do a recce of them all including a possible early shieling site up on Green Side at the head of Sleddale. We quickly spotted the large circular banked enclosure with a couple of what looked like round huts clustered along one side.
Coverdale is perhaps less well known than neighbouring Wensleydale, but it also has a long history of dairy farming and cheesemaking. Marjorie Iveson has done several interviews for us with farmers in the dale, starting with Michael Horner who had a small village farm in Carlton.
We were delighted to receive this interview conducted by Marjorie Iveson with 72-year old Doris Harker, because Doris turns out to be one of the last women remaining who made and sold farmhouse cheese in the northern Dales.
Our next recording is of 77-year old Mason Scarr of Cravenholme Farm in Askrigg. Our recorder was Maggie Townsend. Mason was born in 1941 and came to Cravenholme Farm with his parents when he was four.
Before they moved, his mother made cheese and butter in the dairy in Askrigg. We’ve already posted her recollections in an earlier blog post Masons Dairy, Askrigg. Mason was too young to remember those days but he does remember his mother making butter for the family as he recounts in this audio clip.
When he was old enough, Mason joined the other lad employed by his father on the farm and the team of three worked together milking and tending to the dairy herd. The extensive interview is fascinating because it gives a really good idea of the sheer volume and variety of the work needed to look after a herd of dairy cows all year round.
Our interview with David Mason was undertaken by Sally Stone last month and we have just finished transcribing it. David’s involvement with dairying in Wensleydale was very wide ranging – starting with family stories about his grandfather Edward Preston, a farmer and cattle dealer who bought the old Hawes Dairy as an investment, through trips out on the wagon collecting milk churns with his Uncle Herbert, to working as a boy on a milk round in Leyburn.
David’s grandfather was born in the 1860s and farmed at Borwins, near Hawes for some years having married a Jane Dinsdale from Dent. He also did some cattle-dealing on the side, and was apparently popular with farmers because of the fact he paid in sovereigns:
“…this was the time when paper money was coming in, and Dales farmers did not trust paper money and quite rightly ‘cos some of the small banks went bust, and they had every cause not to trust them. So with his bagful of sovereigns he was always secure at doing deals.”
David Dinsdale Mason (79), formerly of Leyburn
The first oral history interviews conducted by our newly-trained team of volunteers are now being transcribed. The first one to be finished was recorded by Colin Luckett who interviewed farmer Cliff Allen of Scaur Head Farm above Gayle.
Cliff was born in 1953 and came to the farm when he was four years old. It had been bought by his granddad, the son of Elijah Allen of grocery shop fame in Hawes and it had dairy cows on it right up until Cliff gave up milking around twelve years ago. This photo shows his children herding the cows down to be milked sometime in the 1980s.
A handful of photographs which we discovered scanned onto the Research Room computer at the Dales Countryside Museum started us on a little piece of detective work yesterday. They relate to a Liverpool cowkeeper named George Bargh.
Our second set of farm accounts held at the Dales Countryside Museum belonged to Jane, known as Elizabeth, Thwaite (possibly born Wilkinson, or this surname may come from a later remarriage) who conducted a profitable dairy and poultry business from her farm up at the head of Walden at the end of the nineteenth century.
The book we have in the collection covers Jane’s butter and cheese sales from 1894 to 1910 and her income from poultry and egg sales from 1898 to 1904.
Among the collections at the Dales Countryside Museum are two sets of nineteenth century farm account books which together provide an incredibly detailed history of the finances of two farms making and selling cheese and butter in Wensleydale.
We discovered the first set after reading a short article about them in the museum’s journal ‘Now Then’ :
“Eight small notebooks containing itemised accounts from 1822 to 1850, with a gap of two years from April 1828, in a cardboard box marked ‘Aniseed Balls 20 a 1d’, gave an interesting insight into a self sufficient community in Upper Wensleydale. The books belonged to James Willis of Yorescott. The house no longer exists but it lay just to the west of Yorebridge, north of Bainbridge and had a walled garden. The Willis family was from Carperby and initially James kept the accounts on behalf of E. Willis & Sons as his father, John, died at Yorescott in January 1821. His widow Eleanor, sons James and Matthew and two daughters Jane and Eleanor (Ellin) carried on farming.”
Denny Minnitt (1995) ‘James Willis of Yorescott’ Now Then pp15-16
Thanks to our small army of oral history recording volunteers we are now gathering more and more stories about dairying in Wensleydale. It will take us a while to transcribe them all, but in the meantime, one of our interviewees, Mason Scarr, let us have a copy of a typed recollection from his mother Amy Scarr nee Mason, whose father founded Mason’s Dairy in Askrigg. It offers a fascinating window into yet another small cheesemaking operation in the early years of the twentieth century. It also confirms a story told to us by Janina Holubecki that her grandmother Margaret Hopper shared her college-learned expertise in cheesemaking with local dairies.
Our two week-long excavation of a pair of stackstands near Hawes is now completed. Dig director and our Community Heritage Officer Douglas Mitcham was very pleased with the results and how much the volunteers achieved in spite of the appalling weather with high winds and heavy rain causing us to lose several days half way through.
On the final day, four of us bravely laboured through squalls of rain to backfill and returf the site to Doug’s satisfaction. Who said archaeology was glamorous?!
Nearly fifty people joined us in Askrigg village hall last week to sample cheese, discuss the progress of the project and watch demonstrations of butter and kefir making.
A small but determined team of staff and volunteers braved the rain and wind earlier this week to break ground on the Dairy Days dig at Floshes Hill near Hardraw.
We hope to discover the relationships between two stackstands and possibly an adjacent field boundary as well as finding dating evidence.
The dig will continue until the end of next week and there will be an opportunity for the public to visit the site – get in contact if you are interested in a tour.
There we were plodding across a floodplain in Hawes, carrying boxes of measuring equipment, flags and poles.
“There are lumps everywhere,” said Stuart Brown, rubbing his eyes after a Tuesday morning in the classroom at the Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes.
Tuesday 18 September 2018 10.30am-3.00pm
Askrigg Village Hall
Join us for tea and cake and the chance to find out how the Dairy Days project is progressing.
- Listen to oral history recordings of people who lived and farmed in Wensleydale. Tell us if you have dairying memories that you’d like recorded
- Hear about our research discovering Wensleydale’s dairying heritage – did you know that both Bainbridge and Thoralby had cheese factories?
- Displays of old photographs donated to the project. Bring your old photos along for us to scan
- Handle dairying artefacts from the collections at the Dales Countryside Museum. Tell us about cheese or butter-making items that you own
- Find out about our archaeological excavation and book a tour of the site later in the week
- Try traditional farmhouse cheeses from The Courtyard Dairy
- 10.30am-12.30pm Dairying demonstration by Jane Sammells
- 2.00pm Kefir-making demonstration
For further information contact Karen Griffiths (Dairy Days Project Officer) on 01756 751619 email: Karen.email@example.com
Part of the Yorkshire Dales Cheese Festival
Alongside our Archaeological Surveying Techniques training days for community volunteers, we have also recently run a Staff Development Day in survey techniques to give national park staff a taste of the work that we are doing as part of the Dairy Days project. We had wonderful sunny weather for it, and the stackstands stood out really well in the bright light.
We have had a busy week starting with five more local people trained in the art of oral history recording by Tracy Craggs and now all set to interview people around Wensleydale – one or two already had people lined up including a woman who was a Land Army girl and several retired farmers.
The next day we had our first Archaeological Surveying Training day led by our Community Heritage Officer Douglas Mitcham. Six people enjoyed a day studying the theory and practice of surveying using the plane table and also tape and offset techniques, both easy for community groups to undertake as they don’t require expensive equipment. Read more about it on our main blog ‘Lumps seen in Upper Wensleydale.’
We have another archaeological survey training day lined up on 26 September. Contact Douglas Mitcham on 01969 652353 to book a place.
Among all the photographs that we have been collecting for the project, there are many showing children both at work and at play on the dairy farm in the past.
As we saw in our last blog Dairy Maids in the census record, girls in their early teens were working as dairymaids on farms in Wensleydale during the late nineteenth century either as paid servants or helping their older female relatives. Boys would have been similarly employed as farm labourers or helping their fathers.
Most of the earliest photographs we have, show boys helping adults in the fields hand-milking cows or carrying milk back to the farmhouse.
The younger children would have been going to school by the time these photos were taken and they would have had to fit their farm chores in around it. There were early starts and gloomy evenings spent foddering and watering cattle in the winter and feeding calves and pigs and helping father with the milking outside in the summer. Farmer’s daughters helped in the dairy and fed hens, collected eggs and also helped feed the calves and pigs. They may also have gone out round field barns in the winter letting cows out to water and giving them hay.
By the time we get to the 1960s, things have changed. Some photographs are clearly posed as if the children are ‘helping’ with farm chores. Sometimes they are visiting a grandparent’s farm as with Janina Holubecki’s charming photo of her ‘lifting’ milk cans.
There’s no doubt that children were also (and still are) playing their part in helping out round the farm. Herding cows down to be milked being a common task for the younger members of the family.
Northern Dairy Shorthorns and the first Friesians were docile because they were well-handled and many photographs show children cuddling or playing with them.
Sometimes children were plonked on top of cows as in these two photographs, taken 30 years apart. They were sent by Janina Holubecki who wrote that the earlier one shows her Aunt Josephine Hopper,
“…she looks about 4-5 and she was born in 1934 so that makes it around 1938-9.”
“The colour one is dated August 1973. L to R my sister Marysia Holubecki (on Cilla the Ayrshire
cow [sic]) and 2 of our cousins Jane Lambert and Elizabeth Lambert. It was taken at Raygill Farm near Hawes. The cow belonged to my uncle, Bill Lambert – Elizabeth and Jane’s dad.
This is what Liz remembers of the incident:
“I believe it was taken seconds before a low flying jet caused Cilla to bolt – with Marysia
shouting ‘shall I hang on or jump off?’ I don’t think she had a choice, but she bounced well!”
Cilla was a much loved pet as well as being a good milker. She was apparently not an Ayreshire as Janina first thought, but a dairy shorthorn and Friesian cross.
We expect to hear lots of childhood memories of work and play on the farms of Wensleydale as our team of oral history recorders starts the process of visiting and interviewing people around the dale. Get in contact if you have stories of dairying in Wensleydale that you’d like to share.
Census records provide a fascinating snapshot of communities, telling us who lived where and with whom and often what their occupations were. Thanks to the wonderful Dales Genealogy website, we have access online to full sets of censuses for Wensleydale from 1841 through to 1911. They provide us with an interesting picture of the number of women involved in dairy work in Wensleydale over that period of time.
Have you ever wondered what a stack stand is? Do you want to take part in an archaeological dig? This is your opportunity then…
The Community Heritage Officer will be leading a 2 week excavation this September as part of the Dairy Days project.
We are delighted at the number of local historians who have come on board and are busy researching various dairying-related topics for the project. Geoffrey Keeble of the Middleham & Dales Local History Group has a particular interest in wartime farming topics and is finding out about things like the Women’s Land Army and conscription of farmers during the First World War. He sent us this delightful photo of a Women’s Land Army recruitment poster showing a dairy maid and calf. These young women provided a crucial workforce on farms up and down the country as men were enlisted and sent away to fight in the Second World War.
On the subject of recruitment, the North Yorkshire County Record Office holds an extensive archive of World War 1 Appeal Tribunal papers where local men appealed against being conscripted. In one example, a 31 year old dairy farmer from Bainbridge Ings called Ralph Tiplady Metcalf offered the following argument:
“Metcalf is sole proprietor and worker on his dairy and sheep farm, he milks his own cattle and has a milk contract. If he is called up, there is no-one to take over his farm. The local tribunal granted one month exemption from 13 Mar 1916″
Geoffrey has followed the case up and it appears that Ralph’s exemption was short lived,
“… he lost his next appeal and sold all his stock. He went into the army in 1916 and died, without ever having been in action, of pneumonia in the south of France in 1917 whilst his regiment was on its way to Italy to fight the Austrians.”
Geoffrey Keeble (pers comm)
A sad end indeed. We will be very interested to hear more from Geoffrey as the project progresses.
We’ve discovered Ralph and his family in the 1911 census for Bainbridge parish. It turns out he was farming at High Fors with his sister Mary working as dairymaid and two servants. One can only imagine the consequences for this little family following on from his conscription and subsequent death.
39. High Fors
METCALFE Ralph Tiplady/head/28/S/farmer/Yks/Bainbridge
METCALFE Mary/sister/25/S/dairy work/Yks/Bainbridge
CATTON Hilda May/serv/17/S/gen serv dom/Yks/Bradford
METCALFE Robert Pickering/serv/17/S/farm lab/ Yks/Aysgarth
We have been reading the ‘Milk traffic’ section of Christine Hallas’ superbly researched book ‘The Wensleydale Railway’ this morning. In it she describes in detail the close link between the railway line and the farmers in upper Wensleydale who relied on it to transport their fresh milk to city customers from the late nineteenth century to the early 1930s.
The arrival of rural railways such as the Wensleydale line towards the end of the nineteenth century was apparently perfectly timed. Continental cheese imports were depressing the prices of locally made cheeses and farmers needed to look elsewhere in order to sell their milk at a decent price. The new railways allowed producers to send fresh milk at speed to distant city populations and thus the ‘Milk Train’ was born.
We’ve already written about the nineteenth century cheese factory founded in Hawes by Edward Chapman in the blog post ‘Early factory production of cheese in Hawes’ but we’ve now gathered some information about another early factory, this one located in Bainbridge at Low Mill and known as Harper’s Dairy. The name is interesting because a well-known cowhouse in Liverpool had the same name – read more about the Harpers in Dave Joy’s blog.
We were lucky enough to visit two large cheese competitions recently, at the Great Yorkshire Show and at Nantwich Agricultural Show, the latter being one of the largest in the world.
The range of cheeses on display was quite remarkable and the chance to go round all the producer stands and try samples was brilliant.
Of course, pretty much all the cheese in these modern competitions comes from commercial cheese-makers. Things were quite different in the nineteenth century, when the makers of farmhouse cheeses competed for cash prizes at Cheese and Butter Shows such as this one held in Leyburn in 1890.
‘Yorkshire Wensleydale Cheese’ manufactured in the Wensleydale Creamery in Hawes is world famous and the company is proud of its long history in the town. We’ve recently been learning about the early days of factory-made cheese in Hawes from Kit Calvert’s little booklet ‘The Story of Wensleydale Cheese’ published in 1946 by Dalesman Publishing. We have a well-thumbed copy in the Research Room at our Dales Countryside Museum.
Local historian Penny Ellis has kindly put together a folder of information for us relating to a small farm called Spickles near Thoralby. The documents range from part of the 1840 Tithe map for the parish right through to a wartime Agricultural Returns form for the farm. The maps, census returns and government paperwork provide a fascinating picture of the life of a family-run dairy farm over a hundred year period.
By coincidence we recently walked along Eastfield or Eshington Lane (we’re not sure which name is correct!), from Eshington Bridge towards Thoralby and ended up near Spickles – which is still very much a working farm. Notice the big stack of green plastic wrapped silage bales and modern sheds for overwintering cattle.
Our newly-trained team of oral history recorders is busy setting up interviews with our first group of local people with dairying memories to tell, but in the meantime, we have already transcribed our first interview – recorded by Dairy Days project officer Karen Griffiths last month.
We were contacted by Eileen Cockburn after she saw this lovely photograph published in The Dalesman accompanying an article about the project.
It turns out that Matt was Eileen’s older brother and that they both grew up on Hogra Farm in Redmire where her father and mother had sheep and dairy cows (plus six children!).
Dairy Days Archaeological Field Survey training day
Tuesday 4th September 2018
A really exciting aspect of the HLF-funded Dairy Days project is the archaeological field surveys and excavation we have planned for the coming year.
For our first training day we will be learning to survey and record the enigmatic archaeological features known as stackstands. Read our blog post on ‘Stackstands and stackgarths‘ for background information on these important sites.
Our Community Heritage Officer Douglas Mitcham has sent us the following short summary of the aims of the day:
This Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority-led one day training event aims to teach local volunteers basic archaeological survey techniques. It forms part of the HLF-funded Dairy Days project, which is currently investigating the heritage of dairying in Wensleydale. The course aim is to equip people with the skills needed to help us survey a number of key dairying sites in the dale. Participants will be given an introduction to the Dairy Days project and the role that archaeological survey will play. The course then comprises five main sessions which will focus on understanding survey, planning and reconnaissance; understanding earthworks; conducting reconnaissance and level 1 survey; undertaking plane table survey; undertaking tape and offset survey. A final open session will give participants the chance to undertake further practice in whatever techniques they wish. The day will conclude with a re-cap on what the course has covered, including forthcoming opportunities to take part in archaeological surveys for the Dairy Days project.
If you would like to join us then contact Douglas Mitcham to book your free place. Lunch will be provided.
Phone: 01969 652353
One of the most useful sources of information about dairy farming in the nineteenth century and earlier are the Tithe Maps and their lists of field names, owners and occupiers known as the Tithe Apportionments.
Tithe Maps were drawn up during the first half of the nineteenth century in order to allow tithes historically paid to the church in kind (usually agricultural produce) to be commuted into money payments proportionate to each person’s property and land.
We are lucky in that a local couple, Fred and Joyce Roberts, have transcribed both the 1844 Tithe Map and the apportionment for Bainbridge and published them as ‘The Township of Bainbridge in the Middle of the Nineteenth Century’ (June 1979 North Yorkshire County Record Office Publications No 21).
Armed with a highlighter pen, we have been doing some detailed research on the places where cows were grazed during the summer months.
The photograph above shows a large area of ‘Cow Pasture’ relatively unenclosed at Fors (pink highlighter), whereas the photograph below tells us a different story.
What at first glance might seem to be a range of small fields owned and farmed by different people from Marsett village, turns out to be the remains of a single D-shaped village grazing area called ‘Marsett Cow Pasture’ (pink highlighter), once held in common or stinted, with each villager having a number of cattlegates allowing them to graze a certain number of beasts on it. At some point in time before the drawing up of the Tithe Map in 1844, the pasture has been divided up and enclosed, with each person with grazing rights being assigned a proportionate area which they then had to wall or fence.
Look at the owners and occupiers and an even more interesting picture emerges. A small lot in Marsett Cow Pasture belonged to one Robert Nichols. However, it turns out that Mr Nichols farmed from Bella on the edge of Marsett Cow Pasture and also owned a large D-shaped area of pasture and meadow adjoining it (green highlighter). The names of a couple of his fields tell us more, no 833 ‘Knights Close Pasture’ and no 832 ‘Lower Knights Close Pasture’ allow us to match up the farm with a medieval vaccary of the same name. The D-shaped close or pasture is a classic indicator of one of these cattle farms, owned and run for the benefit of their aristocratic landowner, in this case, the Lord of Middleham.
Archaeologist and historian Stephen Moorhouse discusses the evidence for the fluctuating numbers of these vaccaries or cattle farms in medieval Wensleydale:
“Occasionally the documents tell us that a farm no longer exists. The loss of income of £6 from the Lordship of Middleham’s vaccary at Bardale in the Forest of Wensleydale in 1465/6 is explained: ‘because the buildings of the said holding are laid waste long ago and the pasturage was taken out of use for the keeping of animals.’ The vaccary was functioning in 1342, but was similarly described in accounts following that for 1465/6 showing that it was probably not re-occupied. The earthworks survive adjacent to the post-medieval farm at Knights Close…”
Stephen Moorhouse (2003) ‘Anatomy of the Yorkshire Dales: decoding the medieval landscape‘ in ‘The Archaeology of Yorkshire’ ed Manby, Moorhouse & Ottaway
The farm called ‘Bella’ on the nineteenth century Tithe Map is called ‘Bella or Knights Close’ on the modern Ordnance Survey map, so we can identify it as the likely location of the medieval cattle farm or vaccary called Bardale.
We’ll write more about the history of vaccaries later in the project.
Many people with allergies or lactose intolerance prefer goat’s milk to cow’s milk nowadays, but in the past, goat’s milk was prized because it could be safely fed to orphan lambs. In this delightful photo – farmer Redvers Hopper of Yorescott feeds an orphan Dalesbred lamb watched on by his granddaughter Janina and her cousin David.
Our colleagues here at the national park have been working hard to put together this year’s festival which promises to be even bigger and better than last year.
All the events are now confirmed and full details can be found on the Yorkshire Dales Cheese Festival 2018 website. From cheese-tasting to cheese-heritage walks, there’s something for everyone.
The Dairy Days project will be running an open day as part of the festival on 18 September at Askrigg village hall. It will be a chance for the public to come in and see how the project is progressing. Details on the Dairy Days Open Day event page, with further information on this blog soon.
We discussed the evidence we have for who and where people were milking their cows before the advent of mechanised milking parlours in a previous blog post called Milking in the Fields. We have just received a fantastic series of photographs of farmers in Wensleydale doing just that. They were collected by local historian Ann Holubecki and date from probably the 1920s through to the 1960s. Notice that they all milk from the right hand side of the cow? We also really like the little corrugated iron shelter used by Colin Horner, it will be interesting to see if we can spot the remains of any of these field shelters today.
Oral History specialist Tracy Craggs ran our first training day for volunteers yesterday. The course was fully booked (we have a waiting list!) and a wonderfully inspiring day was enjoyed by everyone.
A morning session discussing dos and don’ts and illustrated with plenty of examples was followed by an afternoon concentrating on the Dairy Days project and included some role playing which everyone seemed to enjoy.
Participants will now be matched up with people who have offered to help with stories and memories and we hope to build up a really informative archive of digital recordings for the project.
The northern dairy shorthorn was the premier cow for milking in Wensleydale up until the 1960s when the black and white Friesian began to take its place with its superior milk-producing capabilities.
We’ve seen this changeover illustrated in the following series of photographs sent to us by Janina Holubecki, showing her great grandfather Joseph Hopper (1859-1949) and grandfather Redvers Hopper (1900-1970) both of whom farmed at Yorescott near Bainbridge. We’ve blogged about Redver’s wife Margaret in an earlier post ‘Margaret Hopper nee Moncrieff.’
We finally got to meet award-winning cheesemonger Andy Swinscoe at The Courtyard Dairy near Settle earlier this week. He is at the forefront of a movement championing the uniquely-flavoured ‘proper’ farmhouse cheeses that are growing more and more popular here in the UK.
It’s already clear from our research that people have always had quite strong opinions about how to make the best cheese and butter in Wensleydale. We were shown this little snippet of advice from the Victorian vicar of Askrigg last week:
It comes from the delightfully named ‘Dawn of Day’ the Askrigg Parish Magazine and dates to September 1894. The author refers to a recent cheese competition:
“At the recent Show of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society, held at Beverley, Mrs Willis, of Carperby, suceeded in carrying off four out of five prizes offered for Wensleydale Cheeses, her exhibits being placed 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th; while Mrs Brown, of Marske, occupied the 4th place. I cannot help thinking it is a pity that our local cheese-makers do not more frequently compete at the Yorkshire and other good shows, as to do so is one of the best possible means of calling public attention to what is undoubtedly one of the most important industries of the district.”
We were pleased to see that at last week’s Great Yorkshire Show in Harrogate, the Hawes Creamery carried off the top prize and many others besides. Read more here on the Wensleydale Creamery blog
Another rather sternly-worded letter dating to the early 1930s has been copied to us. It was sent to a local newspaper following an article about cheese-making which clearly met with the correspondent’s disapproval. The author was in fact Margaret Hopper who we profiled in an earlier blog post. Her discussion on the correct use of bacterial starter cultures is fascinating. Many thanks to Janina Holubecki for sending it to us.
Oral History Training Day
Monday 30 July 10am -3.30pm Dales Countryside Museum
Please join us for a fascinating day with Tracy Craggs learning how to make oral history recordings for the Dairy Days project. You will learn how to plan interviews; how to create a comfortable atmosphere and get the best out of your subjects and what pitfalls to avoid.
A buffet lunch will be provided and the course is free but there are limited spaces so please book early to avoid disappointment. Contact details below.
Once trained you will become a vital part of the Dairy Days project, recording the memories of local people involved in Wensleydale’s dairying heritage.
Contact Karen Griffiths to book a place
We spotted an interesting bit of detective work going on over on The Courtyard Dairy’s Facebook page last week. They’ve got a copy of a letter written in dialect by by the famous saviour of Wensleydale cheese, Kit Calvert and they were asking for help translating part of it.
He was apparently writing about how much easier it was making cheese nowadays in his factory than when his Aunt Nanny was making it on the farm.
We translate it as follows:
“Cheese-making these days is child’s play compared to the old days although I doubt that we’re making a Wensleydale with the flavour in it that Aunt Nanny had, but maybe if it had such a flavour this generation wouldn’t eat them. Who knows?”
If you think differently then get in contact with Andy at The Courtyard Dairy!
We found ourselves in Burtersett yesterday – looking for clues about the village’s dairying heritage. We already know from its ‘-sett’ name that it probably started life in Viking times as a temporary settlement among valley-side summer grazing pastures. Early in May each year, cows were brought up from family farms somewhere down the dale to the east. Family members lived with them during the summer months, watching over them until November-time when they were brought back down to the main farm. Read more about it in our Shielings and summer pastures blog.
The hot sunny weather means that cutting and baling winter fodder is now in full-swing in Wensleydale. We were reminded during a walk up Mill Gill in Askrigg, of how important the old stone barns or cowhouses once were for storing the summer hay crop in order to feed the cattle tethered inside over the long winter months.
Of course nowadays the field barns are mostly empty and it’s more likely to be silage being made rather than hay.
Janina Holubecki has just sent us some wonderful photographs and documents about her grandmother Margaret Hopper nee Moncrieff who farmed at Yorescott with her husband Redvers. They had northern dairy shorthorns and Dalesbred sheep apparently.
We’d like to welcome Dr Tracy Craggs to the Dairy Days team. She’s been appointed to help us train a small number of people to conduct the oral history interviews which will form the backbone of the project. We’ll be posting the training dates shortly so watch this space.
Tracy has sent us a short bio:
“Dr Tracy Craggs has worked in the field of oral history for more than twenty years, both interviewing a wide variety of people with different stories to tell, and training others to capture memories. She has worked for the Holocaust Survivors’ Friendship Association for ten years, recording survivors and their families, interviewed members of the armed forces, young and the not so young, and worked extensively with a large number of organisations and community groups including English Heritage, the Royal Armouries and the Oscars. Her most relevant experience for this project is working for the Yorkshire Museum of Farming for three years, being fortunate to meet and interview farmers and their families about their working lives and their hopes for the future. Despite not knowing one end of a cow from the other, after three years she could discuss the problems of slurry disposal with a dairy farmer! Tracy is really looking forward to working with staff and volunteers and to contribute towards the success of this exciting and worthwhile project.”
In our recent blog post Milking in the Fields we decided that, at least from the nineteenth century, men and boys were most likely to found hand milking the cows out in the fields in Wensleydale, while the women of the farm ran the dairy.
However, there are always exceptions to any rule, and local historian Ian Spensley has just sent us this wonderful photograph of his grandmother Annie Spensley, off to milk her cows at Castle Bolton some time in the 1930s.
“My grandmother was in service during the 1890’s first at Fountain Farm in Booze in Arkengarthdale and then at Yorescot near Bainbridge before marrying and settling in Castle Bolton. Like many other young women she spent much of her time in the dairy.”
She has a typical Dales backcan or budget made of tin on her back and carries two metal milking pails. Notice that she is also apparently wearing wooden-soled clogs, a vital bit of equipment when the ground was muddy or covered in cow muck.
Our first training afternoon took place last Monday at the Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes. Five people joined us, with one other not able to come but interested in coming along on another day.
The aim of the session was to introduce people to the dairying collections at the museum and then look at the ways we might research the stories, people and places behind a selection of them.
We started with a brief introduction to the Dairy Days project and then we had a look round the ‘Life and Tradition’ exhibition and discussed the materials and makers behind items like the tin back can and a pottery stand churn.
We also had a look at the permanent displays and talked about the farms and families associated with some of the items.
Most of us are familiar with the idea of a haystack, even if it’s just the idea of looking for a needle in one. However, it’s been a long time since outdoor stacks of loose hay have been seen in Wensleydale. Ensuring a sufficient supply of nutritious sweet hay to feed cows and sheep with over the winter has been a problem from the earliest times for Yorkshire Dales farmers. The winter weather being what it is, stacks had to be protected as much as possible to prevent the hay from going mouldy and rotting.
The stone field barns we are so familiar with had the dual purpose of both housing cattle in winter and protecting their winter feed supply in the large hay mew.
Have you ever been held up by a herd of cows being slowly walked up the road to be milked? It’s still a common sight in Wensleydale during the summer when the cows are grazing outdoors. Twice a day, come rain or shine they are driven to the milking parlour and then brought back out to their pasture. A hundred years ago however, and this would have been a rare sight.
The development of mechanised milking parlours centralised the process of milking after the Second World War along with increasingly stringent hygiene rules and regulations, but one might have expected that walking cows to the farm to be milked, even by hand, would have been much less hard work than carrying gallons of milk back from the cows in the fields, as was actually the case during the summer months in Wensleydale in times gone by.
Monday 18th June 2-4pm
Dales Countryside Museum, Hawes DL8 3NT
Join us for an afternoon delving into the stories behind the dairying objects held at our museum, finding out how they were made and used and how we might connect them up with the descendants of the families that once owned them.
We’ll be exploring the MacFie and Calvert archive with the research room team at the museum, looking round the exhibitions and chatting about the various ways that you can help us research these stories for the project.
Let us know if you plan on coming along as places are limited. Contact Karen Griffiths on 01756 751619 or firstname.lastname@example.org
We have been reading a 1941 version of an early seventeenth century survey of the ‘Manor of Wensleydale’ with great interest. It has been republished by Cambridge University Press (2014).
Sadly the map that once went with it has been lost but it still paints a fascinating picture of the importance of cows to the tenant farmers at that time.
Most of us know a version of the folk song with the line “…it’s dabbling in the dew that makes the milk maids fair” and we may imagine that in the distant past, groups of sleepy girls in mob caps and white aprons would be seen heading out on summer mornings to hand milk the cows in the fields.
However, from the evidence we’ve gathered so far, this does not seem to have been the case in Wensleydale at all. It was much more likely that you would have seen men and even boys heading out with their milking stools and tin pails. Marie Hartley & Joan Ingilby describe ‘the men who graze cows’ on Preston Pasture:
Farmer David Hodgson has been in contact to tell us about an old milk cooling device that he still has on his farm in Askrigg. Fiona from our Dales Countryside Museum went out to see it and to have a chat. It turns out to be rather a fine bit of kit – milk straight from the cow was cooled by running it over a ribbed metal surface – water was pumped through the inside of the device to keep the metal cool on the outside.
From the manufacturer’s mark we can see that the cooler was manufactured by R A Lister & Co Ltd of Dursley in Gloucestershire and that it was known as the ‘Mor-Na-Les’ . Gloucestershire was of course one of the great dairying counties of England. The company was founded in 1867 and also manufactured a popular cream separator known as the ‘Alexandra Cream Separator’ along with wooden butter barrels and milk churns.
The Hodgsons were famous for their ‘Lowlands’ pedigree Northern Dairy Shorthorns and we snapped these pics of some of David’s photos of their prize winning animals.
Semen from the bull calf in these photos is still stored in the Rare Breeds archive apparently. He was called ‘Lowlands Sunrise’ and is listed on the online Shorthorn Register as having sired 17 progeny so far, the most recent in 2016, and called ‘Bradden Sunrise’. Farmer and cheese-maker Andrew Hattan, from Nidderdale sent us this recent photo of him. He’s hoping to use this bull’s semen on his own shorthorn cows.
We look forward to spending time with both David and Andrew hearing about their prize-winning pedigree animals.
In our last blog post ‘Traditional cheese making‘, we touched on the crucial role that women played in the farmhouse dairy in years gone by. It was their craft skills, industry and attention to detail that resulted in cheeses which, when sold provided a substantial part of a Wensleydale dairy farm’s income. The men-folk stuck to the management of the dairy herd and farmland and seem at least in Wensleydale to have done the bulk of the milking. The dairy and the cheese room were apparently the realm of the women, usually a wife, daughter or well-qualified dairy maid.
We’ve just thoroughly enjoyed watching The Courtyard Dairy’s Cheese Chat Video featuring Lancashire cheese maker Graham Kirkham talking about his family’s cheese making traditions. He describes how his grandmother passed on her cheese making knowledge to his mother and how, after years of cheese making he finds himself coming full circle with a return to the more traditional styles of cheese that his grandmother had been making all those years earlier.
This reminded us of an interview with Kit Calvert that we’ve had passed to us from an unidentified publication.
It’s titled ‘The King of Wensleydale’. We’ll be writing more about the crucial role that Kit Calvert played in saving the Wensleydale Creamery in Hawes later, but for the moment it’s interesting to read what he had to say about traditional cheese making in Wensleydale:
Many of us will have happy memories of reading Johanna Spyri’s ‘Heidi’ published in 1881, where the young heroine joins her grandfather high in the Swiss mountains as he and young Peter look after a herd of milk goats grazing on the sweet Alpine pastures.
In the winter when the snows arrived, the goats were brought back down to the shelter of the valley bottom farms. This is an ancient practice known as transhumance where members of a community or farming family (often the youngsters) took their animals (cows mainly in the UK but also sheep and goats) some distance from the family farm to graze them on remote pastures during the summer months. They lived with their beasts, milking them daily and bringing the milk or cheese made up on the hills regularly back to the main farm or village.
A really important part of the Dairy Days project will be investigating and recording the archaeological evidence for early cattle farming in Wensleydale. One of the most interesting sites we already know about dates to the Bronze Age (c. 2500 until c. 800 BC) and lies on Burton Moor.
The aerial photograph shows this fascinating site really clearly.
We have been doing a little research into the superstitions surrounding dairying after we read this in Marie Hartley & Joan Ingilby’s book ‘Life and Tradition in the Yorkshire Dales‘:
“Mr J. Swales, born 1874, of Low Wood, near Pateley Bridge, remembers a family story of his grandfather, born about 1812, going to Ripon to see a wise woman because the butter would not come, and she gave him some horseshoe nails in a bottle to be buried in the churchyard. Similarly, Margaret Little of Lowlands, Askrigg, Wensleydale, used to put a poker across the top of her stand churn to keep witches away”
Hartley & Ingilby (1997 2nd ed p17)
We have historic records for dairying in Wensleydale going back to the medieval era but by that time people had already been milking cows, sheep and goats for thousands of years.
The very first farmers are associated with the Neolithic period. People were still using stone tools then, but they gradually stopped hunting and gathering their food and settled down to grow crops and farm animals. The first people to start farming lived in the so-called Fertile Crescent in the Near East, 10,000 to 12,000 years ago (read more in this article from ScienceMag.)
They domesticated wild goats and sheep and also wild cattle known as Aurochs around 10,500 years ago. Archaeologists studying a fascinating range of evidence believe that using the milk from these animals began almost immediately and over the following two thousand years, dairying spread, along with farmers from western Anatolia (modern Turkey) throughout northern Europe.
One of our contacts has forwarded some excerpts from old Yorkshire newspapers about cheese making in Wensleydale. They date to around the turn of the last century and offer a fascinating insight into how seriously the manufacture of Wensleydale cheese and butter was taken locally.
One article titled ‘Blue Moulded Cheese’ dated 27th July 1911 quotes a gentleman called Mr John Benson writing in the Journal of the British Dairy Farmers’ Association as follows:
Our Dairy Days project is funded by both the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and most importantly, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
This means that if you play the lottery, then you are funding wonderful community projects like this one. We’re very keen to thank the people that contribute to our work so at last week’s Dairy Days launch event we presented a piece of delicious Yorkshire Wensleydale Cheese to the first five National Lottery players who turned up with a recent ticket. We snapped photos of two of them!
We’ve been very busy sorting though all the amazing information, contacts, photos and objects that people brought in to share with us last week at the project launch. We had such a wonderful and productive day with lots of people turning up throughout the day to talk to us.
Just a quick blog about the fantastic launch event we had this week. Lots of fantastically interesting people turned up with photos; memorabilia; stories and some excellent questions for us to investigate.
We took lots of photos and a couple of videos which we’ll share next week. In the meantime here are some pics of the lovely National Lottery players who turned up to claim their free piece of Yorkshire Wensleydale Cheese. Congratulations and THANK YOU!
We are delighted to say that the project now has a easy-to-use logo designed for us by the talented Mike Lewis over at The Archipelago Leeds.
We sent him lots of ideas involving grass, buttercups, churn stands, old milk bottles and milk kits and in the end he chose the latter, along with a font based on one used on a local milk bottle.
The drops of milk spilling out also reminded us a little of buttercup petals.
Look out for the new logo appearing all over the place soon!
We mentioned the 50th anniversary reissue of Marie Hartley & Joan Ingilby’s book ‘Life & Tradition in the Yorkshire Dales’ in our last blog post. We got the chance to have a look round the accompanying exhibition at the Dales Countryside Museum yesterday and thoroughly enjoyed seeing their handwritten notes and wonderful sketches about dairying in the National Park.
The Wensleydale Creamery have teamed up with Welcome to Yorkshire to feature artisan cheese-making at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show. A little stone bothy will feature traditional cheese-making all set in a Yorkshire Dales National Park themed garden. What a great way to tell the story of our local cheese!
Read more about it in this Northern Echo article.
One of the most important sources of information about traditional dairying in the Yorkshire Dales is Marie Hartley & Joan Ingilby’s book ‘Life & Tradition in the Yorkshire Dales’. The pair recorded and photographed life in the area during the 1930s when the last farmhouse cheeses were being made and people still milked by hand.
We are launching our new Dairy Days project on Tuesday 24 April, 10.30am to 3pm, at the Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes.
- Was your family involved in dairying and have you got memories, photos or stories that you’d like to share?
- Are you interested in finding out about archaeological sites, old buildings or even going on a dig?
- Do you have dairying bygones you can tell us about? Come along and see some of the ones we have at the Museum
- Do you make your own cheese, yoghurt or kefir? Share your favourite recipes, hints and tips
- Do you run a visitor business selling, making or serving dairy-based food? We’d like to work with you!
Welcome to our new blog for the Wensleydale Dairy Days project.
Follow us over the next two years as we discover and celebrate the importance and longevity of dairy farming in this iconic valley.