Most of the exhibits come from local sources. They tell the story of life in Upper Wharfedale from the days when lynchets or “raines” were cut to terrace and cultivate the fell sides, through times when oats formed the staple diet, to the coming of such “modern” appliances as gramophones, cameras and silent films.
On display are geological specimens, including Grassington minerals, such as galena (lead ore), barites, limonites, calamine, calcite and fluorspar. There are mesolithic arrow points and scrapers, a medieval whetstone, and a spear-head set, also iron age bones, including a tundra reindeer’s jaws from Stump Cross Caverns on the moors between Grassington and Pateley Bridge.
Sections include kitchen equipment and all the items necessary for a self-sufficient life, when a journey to Skipton and back took the best part of a day. There are farming exhibits with some tools so massive one is astonished at the strength required to use them. There is a section on the great lead mining industry that gave employment to thousands of Dales folk for centuries. A cobbler’s bench with his tools and materials remind us of time when footwear was made to order and repaired in the village.
There are specimens of Craven Gold (panned from the Wharfe), St. Michael’s seal and a cock fighting cup and spurs.
Recent excavations at Grimwith Reservoir, a few miles from Grassington, revealed a small coal mine, which had not been charted. The wooden props, secured by pegs together with thin lengths of wood used to make a wattle retaining wall, are in the Museum. The shaft measured about four feet by two feet. One of the exhibits is an axe-head found when the reservoir was being excavated.
We have a collection of splendid old cameras and photographic equipment that once belonged to Francis Todd, who had a shop in Station Road in the 1920s. He recorded items for the Antiquarian Society which flourished around that time under the leadership of John Crowther, author of “Sylva Garrs”, a keen antiquarian, amateur archaeologist, botanist and chemist.
Silent films were shown in the Town Hall with the audience stamping their feet when the projector broke down. One such machine is in the Museum.
A besom-making machine, a tin smith’s anvil, a pit saw, a peat barrow, a harness, gelding irons, woodmaking tools, knitting sheaths, sewing machines, early vacuum cleaners, a knife sharpening machine, butter churn, a milk yoke, back can, a wooden cradle, a mangle of 1885, Victorian dresses, a stone floor polisher and so on: all give a fascinating insight into life of former times.