Diving into the History of the Leeds Liverpool Canal

Whilst recently researching the Leeds Liverpool Canal, we came across an in-depth collection of documents about the canal history. It also includes letters between members of the Leeds Liverpool Canal Company, which give an insight into their daily correspondence with canal tenants and users. Here’s a small selection of some of the things we found!

The idea of the Leeds Liverpool Canal, a waterway that would cross the country from east to west, was first suggested in the 1760s. However, complex discussion about which route would be best, followed by the long process of building the canal, meant it wasn’t completed until 1816.

This booklet, An Explanation of the Plan of the Canal from Leeds to Liverpool printed in 1788, gives a description by John Hustler about why building the canal was so important. John was a wool-stapler (wool dealer) from Bradford, and was a canal promoter. His list includes the goods that could be transported and the benefits it would bring to the area. He also predicts the profits that could be made and gives an outline of how the money to build the canal could be raised.

‘Canal navigations through the inestimable advantages derived from them to commerce, manufactures, agriculture, population, and improvements of every kind, certainly claim the preeminence over every other exertion of human power and industry’

After the canal was opened, it was used to transport goods across the country. The Leeds Liverpool Canal Company was formed by an Act in 1770 to allow and improve trade connections across the Pennines. The company documents tell us a lot about how the canal operated.

This rent book from the late 1800s shows the individuals and businesses that were paying ‘acknowledgments’ to the Canal Company. ‘Acknowledgments’ included the use of land owned by the Company, or privileges such as having a doorway in a building that opened onto the towpath. Have a look at the reference on this page of the book to the Skipton Castle Estate.

‘Mr Sugden, Kildwick is allowed to put out a doorway from new building on to Canal Bank on payment of usual ackt. From 25. Mar. 1892’

The paying of these acknowledgements was carefully monitored and documented. These two letters from 1902 and 1916 are examples of correspondence between members of the canal company. They both discuss Junction Mills at Shipley. One talks about a barrier installed and the other debates the right of way on a section of the canal tow path.

‘Saw Mr Hill on Monday July 10th re carting along the towing path. He was of opinion that they had acquired a right of way over the towing path

It’s documents like these (sometimes called ‘ephemera’) that help us to learn more about the canal history. They give a deeper insight into how the Leeds Liverpool Canal came to be, and a sneak-peek into the daily workings of the Canal Company.

Do you have a piece of canal history, or a memory about the canal that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you! Check out our contact page to tell us your story.

Your Memories of Skipton Town Hall

in those days everybody always gathered at the Town Hall… That was the place to go to see the New Year in, and Whitsuntide. It’s where all the different processions collected up…. It was always the focal point in the town for people to come to.’

Margaret Jaffa, a Skipton resident, speaking in 1995


As the NLHF funded redevelopment of Skipton Town Hall continues, we’ve been researching the building and its important place in the history of Craven. Throughout June, we’re inviting you to share some of your memories of the Town Hall with us, which could be used as part of our new displays.

Built on the site of the old vicarage for Holy Trinity Church in 1862 by Mr Jee of Liverpool, Skipton Town Hall has a long history. In 1876-8 it was transformed by the architects Lockwood and Mawson (builders of Salts Mill), who raised the ceiling and extended the public hall. In 1895 it was purchased by Skipton Urban District Council. Since then it has been used for public events and civic duties. In the 1970s, Craven Museum moved from its previous home in Skipton Library into the new extension at the back of the building.

As our redevelopment project shapes the next chapter of the Town Hall’s story, we are currently designing welcome and introduction signs for the entrance to the building that will include photographs and quotes about its place in Craven’s history. Throughout June we are inviting you to share some of your memories about Skipton Town Hall, which could feature as part of our new displays.

Do you have a memory of visiting the town hall as a child? Congregating outside during the 1953 coronation? Hearing announcements from the balcony loudspeakers? Seeing a procession pass through the town centre? From royal weddings and national events to local theatre, music festivals concerts and nativity plays, Skipton Town Hall has been a hub of community and cultural activity over its long life-span. Do you have a reminiscence or photograph to share? All memories are welcome, including recent events.

There are lots of ways to contact us. You can send us your memory by email at museum@cravendc.gov.uk, or by post to the following address: 1 Belle Vue Square, Broughton Road, Skipton, North Yorkshire, BD23 1FJ

You can also share your reminiscence with us on our Twitter or Facebook page. Alternatively, you can send us your memory through our contact page.

All of your memories will be collected and may potentially be used as part of our new displays. No memory is too small or too big – whether it’s one or two sentences on the back of a postcard or a long letter, we’re collecting anything you would like to share!

Meet The Team: Kirsty, Visitor Services Coordinator

This week’s blog has been written by Kirsty, Visitor Services Coordinator for Skipton Town Hall. Learn more about her role and meet some of our Visitor Services volunteers:

My name is Kirsty and I am the Visitor Services Coordinator for Skipton Town Hall’s Information and Visitor Centre. I have been working at Skipton Town Hall for a little over three years. What first attracted me to the role was when I read the job description and I thought it fitted my personality and what I wanted to achieve from my professional career and development perfectly. The role offered challenge, variety, a chance to progress and the opportunity to work within a thriving cultural venue.

Looking back, applying for the role is easily one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and I couldn’t be happier to be one of the lucky people who can say I really love my job. I work with a great team, in a dynamic and positive environment and can’t wait to see what the future holds with the redevelopment of Skipton Town Hall. It’s going to be a wonderful opportunity working within the cultural hub for the Craven area. Together with the friendly and knowledgeable staff and volunteers I work with, we are providing a comprehensive and valuable service to the people of Craven and those who visit this delightful district.

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Skipton Information & Visitor Centre is normally open from 9.30am – 4pm Monday to Saturday, including bank and public holidays with the exception of Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and Easter Day. The Centre also opens its doors on selected Sundays throughout the year, please follow our Social Media channels for updates.

Following guidance from central Government, the Centre is currently closed to the public until further notice. With the health and wellbeing of staff and visitors being our priority, we are operating our usual service remotely and here’s how you can get in touch –

  • Phone  01756 792809
  • Email  skiptontic@cravendc.gov.uk
  • Social Media  @SkiptonTownHall

During the exciting redevelopment of Skipton Town Hall, we have been based near the picturesque Canal Wharf on Coach Street in Skipton and once it is safe to do so, we look forward to returning. From a distance, the team are still on hand to help provide information about the area and all the exciting things we can all look forward to enjoying again in the future, when businesses and attractions are open again.

As well as providing an information service, we also offer a whole host of maps, books, excellent souvenir and homeware gift ranges in the shop and we look forward to being able to showcase these when we reopen to the public. Although we are currently closed to the public face to face, we thought it would be great to hear from some of our amazing volunteers, some of who have been with us, providing an indispensable service for coming up to 30 years!

Here are two of our amazing volunteers, Joyce and Kathleen

Here’s one of our wonderful volunteers, Judy, to tell you her story about her time as a Volunteer with us:

“It is exactly 7 years since I started volunteering at TIC [Skipton Information and Visitor Centre, formally Tourist Information Centre] when it took up the space where Wildwood’s [restaurant] now is, probably 4 times as much room there as where we moved to! I started volunteering when I began to phase out of paid employment. I wanted to be in a stimulating environment where I had contact with the public. The Information Centre has certainly provided that over the years in different ways. I love being kept on my toes! Not knowing what the next visitor wants does exactly that! If I don’t know the answer to their query, then I will find out if at all possible & that can be a challenge too! 

With my passion for the Dales, I love to help visitors plan walks or drives to see for themselves the splendid limestone features in our landscape & the myriad interesting places to visit. I adore the Red Philips map of the [Yorkshire] Dales which so clearly reveals the layout of our different valleys & fells. Over the years it has been my favourite sale!! I keep my fingers crossed for a reprint in the future!”  

Judith Boyle

Another of our volunteers, Kathleen Richards first offered her services as a volunteer when the Centre operated under the Yorkshire Tourism Board. She then continued to offer her services when it was taken over by Craven District Council:

I started work as a volunteer at the TIC [Tourist Information Centre as it was formerly known] in November 1991.  I did stop for a couple of years until the ‘new TIC’ opened in 2001. So I have had a few happy years there!”

Kathleen Richards

We look forward to the time when we can safely return to the Centre at Coach Street and work together again, serving the people of Craven and its visitors.

75 Years On: Memories of VE Day in Craven

Today marks the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe day, when fighting against Nazi Germany in Europe finally came to an end after 6 years. Prime Minister Winston Churchill made the official announcement on the radio at 3pm on 8th May 1945 after surrender the day before.

VE day marked the beginning of the end of the war. This photograph of demobilised soldier Gill Masters with his wife Olive and Ruth Bagshaw was taken on 19th March 1947, outside Skipton Drill Hall.

To commemorate this special occasion, we would like to share some memories of VE day in Craven from our oral history collection. Our volunteers are currently transcribing our archive of interviews, and one of our most experienced transcribers, June, drew our attention to these amazing VE day reflections.

Our first memory comes from Audery Beckett, who lived in Bentham at the time that war ended. She vividly remembers the church bells ringing when the news was announced.

Margaret Robinson, who worked for the Council in Skipton Town Hall, had heard about the expected 3pm announcement the day before and waited in anticipation all day. She remembers playing radio announcements and records from some equipment on her desk out of the Town Hall balcony speakers, and in the evening there was a band and dancing in the High Street.

Derek Lister was also out with his friend on the High Street in Skipton, proudly wearing their first pairs of grown-up ‘long trousers’ in honour of the celebration. He remembers the special food that was made from saved rations to mark the occasion.

Celebrating continued throughout the Dales. In Glusburn, Annie Bingham remembers being woken up after going to bed when the village decided to spontaneously open Glusburn Institute for a party, with many women rushing out to dance in their nightdresses!

But along with a feeling of joy that the war was over, some people felt a little more contemplative. Margaret Jaffa commented that whilst gathered in the crowds to celebrate the news in Skipton, she suddenly stopped and thought for the first time ‘what happens now?’. There was still a long way to go before life could return to normal.

We hope you’ve enjoyed listening to these wonderful memories of VE day in Craven 75 years ago today. Do you have a story to share about VE day? We’d love to hear from you! Feel free to comment below, or check out our contact page.

Skipton’s Forgotten War Camp

This week’s blog has been written by University of Leeds students George Davis (History & Spanish) and Louie Cliff (Liberal Arts) who tell us more about their project. Along with students Oli Lawrie (German) and Caitlin Metcalfe (Liberal Arts) they have used Craven Museum objects to inspire their research:

So far in our project we have researched into the objects excavated from the Raikeswood camp. Through investigating when and by who the objects were made, as well as reading in Kriegsgefangen how they were used by prisoners, we have developed an understanding of their importance at the camp.

We have developed a primary school workshop that will hopefully be delivered to a local year 6 class in Skipton in the future, we will share with the students what we have discovered about the objects. We hope that through developing an understanding of the objects, the students will gain an insight into what daily life was like for the prisoners at Skipton and how they were treated.

This ties in to one of our principal aims, to boost local knowledge about the camp and its historical significance. We have also researched into the individual stories of some of the prisoners at Skipton, their experiences before being captured as well as their life after internment.

We have transferred this knowledge into a fun and accessible podcast. By doing this we hope to universalise the human experiences of the prisoners and shed light on their thoughts and feelings being imprisoned by their enemies in a foreign country after fighting in the Great War.

The Undergraduate Research Experience (UGRE) was an opportunity for us to display not only the archaeological finds from the Skipton site but also engage with local academics about our research and theories regarding where the object came from, their use and their origins in general. This was an incredibly important aspect of our ongoing research as it gave us the opportunity to disseminate the information we have been gathering and offer an insight not only on the camp but on the prisoners as well.

From the beginning of our project we felt very strongly that the most important facet of our research was to deliver the individual stories of the prisoners so that they can be viewed as more than a faceless enemy, but rather a men all with individual hopes, dreams, fears, ambitions, people they loved and people who loved them in return.

This universalisation of the human element is seldom considered even though to us, it is the most important detail. The opportunity to package the information to a live audience was an eye opening experience and has driven us to continue our work with our podcast to make these incredible individual stories come to life in an accessible way.

Thanks to Anne Buckley, George, Oli, Caitlin & Louie.

Learning from Home with Craven Museum!

With most schools currently closed, it can be difficult to find educational resources to help support learning from home. Craven Museum have four free home schooling resources available for you to download.

Although we can’t get close to our objects at present we can still share lots of amazing facts, images and even 3D models for you to explore! We have also included a wide range of activities to keep the kids entertained whilst you get on with your own home work!

Our new home schooling resources are inspired by the workshops we deliver directly to the classroom and all have cross-curriculum links.

Each resource can be downloaded from our Education page

Stone Age to Iron Age

Investigate and explore the changes that took place from the Stone Age to Iron Age! Use examples of tools such as hand axes, scrapers, projectile points and arrowheads in the museum collection to discover more about prehistory.

The Romans in Craven

Take a look at a mixture of real and replica objects from our Roman Collection and evidence from the forts and villas of Roman Craven to understand how people lived in the past.

Homes of the Past

Find out what life was like in a Victorian home using real objects from the museum. Think about the challenges of living in a house with no electricity, central heating or running water.

Toys of the Past 

Using toys in the Museum Collection and from your own collection, we will explore toys and games from the past. What were toys made from in the past? Who played with them?  Use your own toys to think about life in the past.

You can also see some of our objects in 3D! Visit our Sketchfab page to get closer to history with Craven Museum.


Treasures in Store

With over 60,000 objects in our collection we wanted to share as much as we can with you. Our new ‘Treasures in Store’ explores our fascinating collection and our Collection Assistant Bryan has kicked things off with an insight into agriculture in Craven and our first three objects; lamb feeder, egg scales and poultice:

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Agriculture has been central to the Craven area for thousands of years and is an important part of the areas heritage, which can be seen in place names like Skipton and Threshfield. During prehistoric times, it enabled the establishment of settlements, as it allowed people to stay in one area and farmers could supply communities with food. Farmers were the lifeline for these places and in times of conflict or famine when crops livestock were destroyed or stolen, villages in Craven would struggle to survive.

Farming also provided economic support to the area. When the monasteries ruled the lands in this area, they owned many granges including one at Malham and at Kilnsey. Most of these were used for sheep farming and they would export the wool either for money or for exchange for luxury goods from the continent. The money would be used to keep up the maintenance of the abbeys. After the dissolution of the abbeys, the farming lands went to the powerful landowners and in the case of Craven the vast majority went to the Clifford family who owned Skipton Castle. They leased the land to tenant farmers. The farmers often advertised for farm hands with many coming as far away as Ireland.

In the last century farming changed rapidly. In both World Wars, farmhands were sent overseas, therefore farmers had to rely on women who could volunteer or were sometimes conscripted to help with tasks. The demand for extra food led to the intensification of farming, with the development of large battery farms, increased use of pesticides and drainage of wetlands. Recent challenges to farming in this area include flooding of the land and at the beginning of this century, the Foot and Mouth Crisis.

Find out more about some of our farming objects, and many more, here: Treasures in Store

Researching the RAF in Craven

As part of our NLHF project, the Museum team are currently busy researching and writing the display text and labels that will be part of our new museum displays. This has given us an exciting opportunity to expand our knowledge of the museum collection, particularly through the help of local historians, collectors and experts.

Whilst looking into the impact of the Second World War in Skipon, we spoke to David Ellwood, the son of local photographer and dentist Ken Ellwood. Ken had put together a huge collection of research and photographs of men from Craven who served in the RAF. Unfortunately, we can’t include all their stories in our new displays, but thought we’d share some here.

Flying Officer David Bryan Smith

David Bryan Smith (pilot, left) with his crew mate Brian Dunford (Navigator, right) with their 600 Squadron Mosquito


David was born in Burnsall in 1922. He went to Ermysted’s Grammar School, and was a keen sports man, becoming part of the rugby team. He joined the RAF in 1941. After initial training in England, David went to Canada to train as a pilot, where he received his wings at the Alberton Service Flying School. He returned to England in 1942 and undertook further training flying Bristol Beaufighters, before joining the 600 City of London Squadron in North Africa. David completed his tour of operations with the Desert Air Force, finishing in Italy. Here he swapped to flying Mosquitoes. He was then posted back to England to a signals flying unit. After the war, David worked for Johnson & Johnson in Gargrave.

Warrant Officer James Arthur Metcalfe


Born in Liverpool in 1922, James (Jim) and his family moved to Ingleton in 1923. He was educated at County Primary School. Jim joined the RAF on 31st December 1941 and trained as a wireless operator at Yatesbury, Wiltshire. He then completed an air gunners course, and joined a crew at Operations / Training Unit Wiscott, where he flew Wellingtons. However, after Jim joined the 196 Squadron Bomber Command, he was moved with his crew to Dorset, where he went on to tow gliders. This would involve going up in his plane to tow an engineless glider plane, which would be full of troops or supplies, into a military zone. Jim was involved in towing gliders on D Day and completed 23 sorties. He also dropped supplies to the French resistance in between towing. One of his last big operations was a glider tow across the Rhine, before he and his crew went to Palestine.

Colin Maxfield


Colin was born in Grassington. He was selected for pilot training in 1944, but volunteered to be an air gunner, as the end of the war was in sight and pilot training took a long time. He initially flew Wellington’s before flying Lancasters with 61 Squadron. Colin completed several operations in 1945. After VE day, his crew joined 83 Squadron Pathfinders to train for the ‘Tiger Force’, which were set to head out to Japan. However, the dropping of the atom bombs in summer 1945 rendered this obsolete. Colin’s brother Claude was also a member of the RAF, who unfortunately was shot down and killed attacking Tobruk in September 1942.

Thank you very much to David Ellwood for allowing us to use his fantastic archive of information on RAF pilots from Craven in the Second World War.

Meet the Team: Joe, University Placement Student

Our blog this week has been written by our placement student Joe who studies archaeology at the University of Bradford. Read on to find out more about his placement so far:

For my placement I have been conducting two main tasks. The first is data checking and clean-up of the accession cards for the first 1000 or so object records that the museum has. This has largely involved checking the cards against the museum database and also the accession register on some occasions. This has been a long but interesting task and has found that largely the two records agree with each other, with 70% percent being complete or only needing minor changes.

During my data clean-up I came across many interesting objects and here are a few of my favorites: the first object was a model train of the flying Scotsman. This model will be part of the new museum display and interested me partly due to its connections with my childhood, where I both saw the real things and used to ride on this size of train (the train in question could carry several children) and also due to my own interest in model trains including the flying Scotsman which I have a model of.

Many of the archaeological items took my interest including the flint collection of John Crowther, a local antiquarian from Grassington and owner of a large collection of flints and other materials of archaeological interest. Another item of interest was a print of a piece by William (Bill) Wild of a man cutting crops with a scythe, I discovered this whilst researching for a pop up display and was very interested by it as I had never heard of Bill Wild.

The second task that I have been performing is photogrammetry for some of the objects from Elbolton cave – mainly the pottery found but also some of the animal bones. This has produced mixed results, but most of them are very good quality models.

Photogrammetry is the process of taking lots of photos of an object and putting them into specialist software and then this produces, after several steps, a finished model. These models are often useful for looking at surface detail such as the pottery, or for example with the museum’s Egyptian collection that I have also photographed. The Egyptian collection was of great interest to me –it has the potential to be greatly benefited from photogrammetry as many of the objects have fine surface detail that could be enhanced by photogrammetry. The results from this are ongoing as the process takes time but initial results are promising on this front.

As well as the above tasks I have also been transcribing some of the oral history project ‘Your Memories’ as part of the Stories and ‘Treasures of Street and Dale’ project. As a part of this I was adding timecodes to previous transcripts done by others. The second task was researching for pop- up displays, specifically around William Wild as one of his items may be popping up in a  temporary display later in the year. This is very interesting as I learn a lot about the area (being from over the border myself) and about some of the key figures. While this has been slow going I have very much enjoyed it.


Culture At Home

It’s been heart-warming to see the amount of online material arts and heritage organisations have already supplied during this first week of staying at home. So we thought we’d pull together some of the arts offer online for everyone to share.

Visit our website here for our complete list of creative and inspiring things to do if you are isolating, distancing or working from home. 

Why not take a virtual museum and gallery tour around some of the most famous museums in the world? Take a look at Musée d’Orsay, Paris and Uffizi Gallery, Florence to get you started. Explore a live theatre performance from the comfort of your own home, we love The Wind in the Willows musical.

Be inspired to dance, write, draw and craft with an online community and share your passions with a virtual reading group. Take part in a creative challenge, read a blog, listen to a podcast….we have links to many creative and cultural activities all in one place.

Everything is out there for free, for adults and young people and children. So what are you waiting for?!

Click below for our complete list of Culture At Home

Stay connected

The Cultural Services team at Craven District Council will continue to keep in touch. If you want to join the conversation about Culture at Home, please contact us at arts@cravendc.gov.uk