Life on the land
Making a living in Dentdale has never been easy. Situated in one of the most remote and beautiful areas of West Yorkshire where the rolling limestone Dales meet the more rugged grit stone fells of eastern Cumbria, life on the little farmsteads followed a relentless seasonal pattern. Lambing in early spring was succeeded by harvesting the lush meadow grass in summer for animal fodder, followed by the laying-down in autumn of home-cured meat and other provisions for human survival in winter as the great diurnal cycle of the year rolled on. Births, marriages and deaths, good times, bad times and all the continuing daily tasks, both large and small, are recalled at the Centre in a variety of displays, scale models and reconstructions, all illustrating vividly how the hardy Dalesfolk coped in those far-off times with nothing more than the simplest of tools hand-crafted from natural materials of wood, rock, iron ore and other elements to be found locally.
For women, especially, the hard conditions prevailing on a Dale’s farm in those days would be untenable by modern standards. Their life was often one of endless toil, cleaning, washing, making clothes, feeding the livestock and helping their menfolk out in the fields in all weathers. Ofcourse alongside all this there was the daily quota of knitting to complete, for Dentdale was at one time a veritable power-house of hand-knitting, the profits from which provided an often essential addition to their meagre farming income. The knitting boom was at its peak during the Napoleonic Wars when the government of the day required an endless supply of warm clothing such as gloves, socks, jerkins, pullovers and caps for the fighting services. The tale of the “terrible knitters of Dent” and their amazing dexterity is recounted in full at the Centre, together with displays of the special tools involved and a collection of old photographs of the last few practitioners of this sadly now dying craft.