A backcan for carrying milk Silk tie quilt Roman milestone Shirt The gold Viking ring found in a ditch near Sedbergh Wood blocks for printing One of Piers Browne's works

Our collection includes anything to do with the social and industrial history of the Yorkshire Dales, mostly relating to the period 1800-1950 and with a concentration on the northern dales such as Wensleydale and Swaledale. It therefore covers an extremely wide range of history!

It is important to us that our items are well provenanced, each one having a story that brings it to life, and of good quality. The strengths of the collection include agriculture, dairying, tinsmithing, rural crafts and medicine, and material relating to the founders of the Museum, Marie Hartley and Joan Ingilby. As well as social and industrial material, we also have a small collection of archaeological material, relating in particular to the prehistoric period.


In an attempt to give a simple explanation of the nature of our collection, it can be loosely divided into a number of categories. These are:


This category includes anything to do with farming and food. The top image on the right is a backcan, used to carry milk around easily - there would have been straps through the metal loops so that it could be worn like a rucksack.

Domestic crafts

Textiles, knitting and quilt making are the main activities of interest in this category. The crafts were not just for fun - they usually provided essential extra income for a household. A silk tie quilt is shown in the second image on the right.

Industry and transport

The Yorkshire Dales has a rich industrial heritage as well as its agricultural background. Other industries to have prospered include lead mining, peat extraction, tourism and railways. The image on the right shows a Roman milestone - you can see this in the Museum and put your hand where a Roman soldier might have put his!

Daily life

People's day to day life has always been busy and involved a wide range of activities, and life in the Yorkshire Dales is no different. Our collections cover clothes, religion, sports and life in the home. The image on the right shows an agricultural worker's smock.

Landscape and archaeology 

The landscape is one of the most important and special features of the Yorkshire Dales, but there is much more to it than beautiful panoramas. When you consider the large extent to which the actions of people have shaped the landscape, there is a great deal of detail to explore about the landscape and how people have lived within it - this detail is often discovered through archaeology. The image shows a beautiful Viking gold ring that was discovered in a ditch near Sedbergh.


Artistic and creative activities have played a part in people's lives for thousands of years as a way of expressing themselves, as a means of communication or simply for simple enjoyment. We only have a small collection of art, including some prints and drawings and the carved woodblocks for printing pictured.

Special collections

We are delighted to have several special collections that we have acquired or that have been kindly donated to the Museum.

Macfie and Calvert Archive 

These include the Macfie and Calvert Archive, a collection of books dealing with the history of the Dales that was accumulated over many years by two former Wensleydale residents, R.A.Scott Macfie and Kit Calvert. Macfie was a Liverpool businessman who lived in Lunds, west of Hawes and is remembered in Wensleydale as the man who paid for lecturers to visit the local farming community and talk about farming methods. Kit Calvert was born in Burtersett near Hawes in 1903 and is remembered as the saviour of the Wensleydale Creamery in the industrial depression of the 1930s. In his later years he owned an antiquarian bookshop in Hawes. He is regarded as a local hero and Hawes' most famous and respected son.

The Macfie and Calvert Archive is now stored is our Research room and can be viewed by appointment.

Piers Browne artworks 

Piers Browne donated a collection of his works to the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority that are now held at Dales Countryside Museum. The collection comprises a series of oil paintings and the etching plates that he made from them. He also donated the very first print of each of the limited edition etchings made with these plates.

On leaving the Royal Academy Schools, London, in 1975 he travelled and painted all over the world, places including Africa, Java, Iceland and Europe, but settled in North Yorkshire. His home in Wensleydale is in an inspirational hillside location - it stands at 1,000 feet above sea level and provides amazing views across Upper Wensleydale with the winding River Ure below. It has been a major influence upon Piers' life and work.

The Piers Browne collection is available to view by appointment.