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Black and white aerial view of Skipton, including Dewhurst's mill.

Oral history collecting at Craven Museum

Over recent weeks, Jenny and Charlotte, the collections staff at Craven Museum, have recorded two new oral histories from Craven residents. We arranged for Heather and Peter to come to the museum to chat with us about their lives in the Skipton area, and particular memories that they wanted to share.

Craven Museum has been collecting oral histories since the 1990s and we now have a collection of over 100 recordings from local people talking about their lives and Craven through time. It is important for museums to collect oral histories, as they can bring new perspectives on the past that may not previously have been part of a museum’s collection. Oral histories continue to be important for the future of research, particularly when first person accounts of certain time periods are no longer possible to obtain. We also want the story of Craven that we tell to reflect the diverse voices that have contributed to the region, and not just those traditionally recorded in historical or academic sources.

The two interviews that we had recently were themselves diverse!


Heather discussed her childhood in Embsay during the Second World War, living with her mum and sister while her father was away fighting.

She recalled how difficult things must have been for her mum, bringing up two young children alone with no other family nearby, but she said that that despite all the privations of war, ‘our memories are so happy’. She also talked about playing with toys handmade by the Embsay joiner, and how, ‘there was only just over a year between [my sister and I], so we had to have twin toys so there was no squabbling!’

Image: Heather and her sister Jenifer playing with a wooden haycart made for them by the local joiner, Mr Finlay. The haycart was donated to the museum along with the oral history recording and some other photographs. February 1943.

Listen to a clip of Heather’s Interview


Peter worked at Dewhurst’s Mill for forty years and saw the many changes in the industry throughout that time.

He started working there aged fourteen as an apprentice engineer, ‘under the guidance of a chap called Arnie Lambert, who was one of the old-time engineers…he could do anything’ and rose to become a manager. It was wonderful to speak with Peter about his fond memories of Dewhurst’s, ‘we had a lot of characters, we really did, it was a laugh from start to finish!’

Image: (R-L) Peter Horner, Brian Stott and Alan Ryder at the Dewhurst’s Mill boiler house. This photo among others was donated along with some items relating to Dewhurst’s Mill, with the oral history interview.

Listen to a clip of Peter’s Interview

We really want to continue adding to our collection of oral histories and speak with more people about their lives and experiences across Craven. We are happy to meet with people at home, or at the museum. It doesn’t matter how long you have lived in the area, or whether there is a specific topic that you’d like to talk about – we’d love to hear from you! Please contact the museum by phone, email, or in person if you’re interested in adding your memories to the museum’s collection, or if you have questions about how the process works.

01756 706397

by Charlotte Craig, Museum & Collections Assistant

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