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.
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 World War 1 topics and is finding out about things like the Women’s Land Army and conscription of farmers. He sent us this delightful photo of a Women’s Land Army recruitment poster showing a dairy maid and calf.
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 gathering 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.
The first factory came about at the end of the nineteenth century because a Hawes-based corn and provision merchant called Edward Chapman became concerned at the quality of some of the cheese he was receiving from local farmers. A barter system was operating whereby farmers received animal feedstuffs and groceries from Mr Chapman and other merchants through the year in exchange for their farmhouse-made cheese. For a variety of reasons, this cheese was sometimes of poor quality, but not wanting to lose the farmers’ business the cheese buyer often had to make a loss by feeling obliged to take all the cheese bargained for even if it was below standard.
In the end Edward Chapman decided that if he bought the milk from the farmer instead and manufactured his own cheese, he would have more control over the end product. And thus the Wensleydale Dairy was founded in 1897. Premises soon came up when a woollen mill next to Gayle Beck in the centre of Hawes went bankrupt. This photograph shows Edward Chapman and others in front of the dairy in 1908. Notice all the milk churns that have arrived by horse and cart from outlying farms.
Kit Calvert had cause to be grateful for this factory as is recorded in his 1981 biography ‘Kit Calvert of Wensleydale: the complete Dalesman’ by Dalesman Books. Having managed to rent some grazing land as a young man he had an arrangement with a woman he once worked with, the ex-housekeeper of their late employer:
“The housekeeper sold for me whatever milk the customer required and any balance that was left over I took to the local cheese factory which was only 200 yards away” ibid p14
By the 1930s Kit was married and still dairying but the Great Depression hit farming hard:
“My wife was selling milk at 1 1/2d a pint and whatever was unsold I delivered to the dairy at 3d a gallon in summer and 8d a gallon in winter” ibid p15
He notes that at those prices many local farmers went bankrupt. He was saved by taking on a teaching post with the Workers Educational Authority. In 1933 the dairy itself went bankrupt and it was at this point that Kit Calvert stepped in and began the first of many fights to save locally manufactured Wensleydale Cheese.
Having researched all this we felt it only right to pop into the Creamery on our way home and buy ourselves a small slice of Special Reserve Wensleydale Cheese – and very tasty it was too!
We’ll tell more of Kit Calvert’s story in later blog posts.
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 email@example.com
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 already very excited about the prospect of our 2018 Yorkshire Dales Cheese Festival and this year we want it to be even bigger and better!
There are so many ways to get involved, whether you are local, a visitor or a Yorkshire Dales business.
From Saturday 15 to Sunday 23 September 2018, all across the Yorkshire Dales, we are asking restaurants, cafes, farms and attractions to come together to champion the fantastic range of food that is produced right here on our doorstep. Continue reading “Why you should take part in this year’s Cheese Festival”
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.
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.