SUPPORTERS of the Yorkshire Dales Mining Museum at Earby fear it will close and its unique collection scattered following the ending of an annual grant.

The museum, housed in the listed former Earby Grammar School or Robert Windle Free School, is now in desperate need of new sponsors if it is to continue even for the next few months.

In a Catch 22 position, it also needs more volunteers to boost its current numbers of just six so it can open more frequently than just weekends and bank holidays.

Treasurer Rosemary Carroll, Pendle's Earby councillor, said it was a desperate situation which was currently being reviewed on a monthly basis.

The annual Pendle Borough Council grant of £2,500 had covered insurance costs, and without it, the museum is having to dip into its own reserves.

But its reserves are limited and cannot be entirely drained because of the potential costs involved in closing the museum.

"It was the only grant we got over the years, but it did cover our insurance costs and if we can't get a new sponsor, we will have to close," said Cllr Carroll.

There is a cafe, which is a big fundraiser, and visitors are charged admission , £2.50 for adults and £1 for children.

The grounds are beautifully maintained by a volunteer and former landscape gardener, and the cafe is a place where ramblers enjoy end of walk refreshments.

The museum was opened in 2006 by the then Mayor of Pendle. It is housed in the 16th century former grammar school building which remained as a school until 1910. The current owners, The Robert Windle Foundation Trust, let the museum used the building at a peppercorn rent.

The vast majority of the items housed in the museum were donated by the Earby Mines Research Group.

It includes the renovated Kettlewell crusher in the grounds outside the museum and a model Dales Pony, Kexwith Bess, drawing out a rake of three wagons.

Visitors can also see pickmen working on a lead vein and filling the ore into small cars, known as durk wagons, before being tipped into an orepass feeding a hopper.

Other items include a steel hook and socket worn by a Grassington miner who had lost his hand, and the possessions, including felt hat, found on the remains of a man found in Buckden Gaven mine in the 1960s.

Alan Butterfield, a founder member of the Earby Mines group, said it would be a great loss if the museum was to close.

"This is the biggest collection of lead mining artefacts in this area and if it has to close, that collection will go," he said.

Anyone able to help either with sponsorship or time to open the museum additional hours should contact Cllr Carroll on 01282 844127, or during opening hours at the museum on Saturdays, Sundays or Bank Holidays from 11am to 5pm.