Marie Hartley

Marie Hartley MBE (29 September 1905 to 10 May 2006)

Marie Hartley was a founder of the Upper Dales Folk Museum, now known as the Dales Countryside Museum and the co-author of many books about Yorkshire. She wrote these between 1934 and 1998, first with her friend Ella Pontefract, and later with Joan Ingilby.

Marie Hartley was a founder of the Upper Dales Folk Museum, now known as the Dales Countryside Museum and the co-author of many books about Yorkshire. She wrote these between 1934 and 1998, first with her friend Ella Pontefract, and later with Joan Ingilby.

Together they chronicled the area for 75 years, creating a vast and lively record of the way things were between the mid-19th century and modern times.

Early Life

Marie was born on 29 September 1905 on Middleton Road, Morley, Yorkshire, the daughter of Harry Hartley, a prosperous felt manufacturer, and his wife Gertrude, née Hinchliffe. Their family made woollen cloth in the town, and were prosperous wool merchants at Morley (near Leeds).

Marie attended Leeds College of Art and then the Slade School in London, where she specialised in wood engraving. On her return to Yorkshire, she settled in the market town of Wetherby.

Partnership with Ella Pontefract

Marie first visited the Dales in the 1930s on day trips with her friend, the writer Ella Pontefract. During the 1930s and 40s, they formed a partnership. Ella wrote the text, and Marie drew the illustrations. The two women published six books on Yorkshire life and customs. Their most notable books were based on three distinct Dales. Their first publication together was Swaledale (1934). This was followed by Wensleydale (1936) and Wharfedale (1938).

In September 2020 we published Wensleydale as an audio book on Soundcloud. Here’s a highlight clip from Chapter 9, in which Ella and Marie observe the scene in Marsett in Raydaleside as gipsies make camp on the village green while haymaking happens in the meadows all about them:

Clip from Wensleydale

In 1938, Marie and Ella bought a run-down 17th-century cottage called ‘Coleshouse’ in the village of Askrigg. They painstakingly restored it over many war-interrupted years, and these renovations are described in Yorkshire Cottage (1942). During the war, they worked with the ambulance service in Wetherby. Marie’s interest in the skills and tools of locals grew. Driving around the Dales, Marie and Ella would collect out-of-use cooking and agricultural implements. One of these excursions led to a critical moment: in 1941, a jumble of local curiosities at Horne’s Private Museum went to auction in Leyburn.

After the death of Ella in 1945, months passed before Marie felt able to return to the Dales alone, and she began to write Yorkshire Heritage (1950) as a memorial to Ella.

Photograph of Marie Hartley and Ella Pontefract

Marie Hartley and Ella Pontefract

Partnership with Joan Ingilby

Marie was later joined by her friend Joan Ingilby, her second companion and collaborator. Joan settled in Askrigg with Marie, and together they spent more than 50 years gathering material that related to all aspects of rural life in Yorkshire. Through their work, they live on. Together they published 22 books, and at least two of these – Life and Traditions in the Yorkshire Dales (1964) and The Old HandKnitters of the Dales (1951) – are considered groundbreaking works.  

They continued to collect objects and gather their research. This led to the collection of artefacts that was ultimately donated to the North Riding County Council, for display in the Upper Dales Folk Museum in 1979. Both of them were hugely involved in the development of the Museum.

Photograph of Marie and Joan in Study

Joan Ingilby and Marie Hartley

In 1982, Marie and Joan formed a Friends organisation in order to act as fundraisers and advocates for the museum. They served as chair and vice chair for six years. The Friends organisation, of which Marie became Founder President,  has flourished. It continues to support the museum by organising a lecture programme, events, and fundraising on our behalf.

She and Joan were awarded the Silver Medal of the Yorkshire Archaeological Society in 1993. They were both awarded the MBE in 1997 and received honorary degrees from the University of York and the Open University.

Joan died in 2000, aged 89, and Marie continued her work and research. She published pamphlets on the making of butter, boots, and cartwheels. Marie died aged 100 on 10 May 2006.


Marie Hartley was a pioneer of the recording of the history of the Yorkshire Dales and its people. Her combined skills of photographer, writer, and artist meant that she could create a unique record of the past way of life in the Dales. Her enduring work has ultimately led to the creation of a collection that is of local, regional, and potentially national significance. Her work connects directly with the museum’s collection, often showing the exact context within which items were used.

As author or co-author and illustrator of some 40 books on the social history of the Yorkshire Dales, she facilitated the preservation of the heritage  of the Dales before it disappeared..

Image of Marie Hartley's wood engraving blocks

A selection of Marie Hartley’s wood engraving blocks

One of her greatest achievements is the formation of the Dales Countryside Museum and its collection. Marie is an inspiration to all who work to preserve and interpret the cultural heritage of the Yorkshire Dales and beyond. On her death, Marie made bequests to several organisations. The Museum holds personal items, sketchbooks and diaries as well as the stunning collection of wood engraving blocks.

Collection at Leeds University

The Hartley Archives collection, which is owned by the Yorkshire Archaeological and Historical Society (YAHS) and held in the University of Leeds Special Collections, contains Marie’s working papers. Most are files of notes grouped by subject or publication. There are also correspondence files, photographs, and negatives

See other collections

The Yorkshire Archaeological and Historical Society where the Hartley Archives collection was transferred to in Leeds.

The Leeds University Library’s Special Collections which holds the Hartley Archives collection.

The Made in North Yorkshire campaign bringing to life the resources held at the North Yorkshire County Record Office (NYCRO). Including archive materials of Marie Hartley, Ella Pontefract and Joan Ingilby.