Clive White learns how roof trusses from a former prisoner of war camp have been holding up the roof of a garage in Skipton for almost 100 years.

BACK in 1920, when the Raikeswood Prisoner of war camp in Skipton was being de-commissioned, there was - using modern parlance - a mad dash to "recycle" the buildings and the timber.

The country was so starved of materials after World War One that the structures, auctioned on May 8 1920, went for astonishing sums.

The sale was held at the camp under the hammer of auctioneer T.H. Taylor in front of a large crowd and bidding was brisk, reported the Craven Herald, great demand being for the huts.

Sold were the barracks - one went to become Cracoe village hall which stood for more than 70 years, another became Tosside village institute.

Three huts were in use at Ermysted's Grammar School until the early 1930s, a hut formed part of the early Embsay Institute and one went to the William Lawson timber store off Sackville street.

Other "surplus government property" included sentry boxes, the orderly room, guard room cells and a verandah, some going as far as Manchester and London.

Nearer at home and quick to cash-in on the windfall were the people constructing what is now the Peter Watson garage in Otley Road where trusses from what is believed to be the "old mess" have been propping up the roof ever since.

But no longer. The building is being renovated and the trusses are being replaced by more modern materials.

Yet their usefulness is not at an end and Peter and his son Rob hope they can add to Skipton's rich, historic heritage.

It's an ambition close to the heart of Anne Buckley who with fellow academics at Leeds University has been translating the diary kept by the officer prisoners between 1918 and 1919 during their "stay" at Raikeswood.

On hearing of the "discovery" she said: "It's incredibly exciting to stand under these roof trusses as the German prisoners of war did 100 years ago and image them going about their daily life.

"As far as we are aware they are the only remains left of the huts - they will provide invaluable information to the team of model makers at Leeds Beckett University who are currently designing a 3D virtual interactive model of the camp."

Anne has scrutinised the sale catalogue and believes the trusses came from the long barracks or Old Mess.

"A Craven Herald report of June 25, 1920, refers to the sale of a workshop 78ft by 20ft without mentioning the buyer. I think the size would be about right. It also contained teaching rooms, study rooms, communal rooms and a canteen," she said.

Craven Museum's Rob Freeman, has over the last few years has been looking into how Skipton was impacted by the Great War, a project backed by Heritage Lottery money. It has involved archaeological digs on the old site at which several artifacts connected to the prisoners have been unearthed.

He said: "In terms of what to do next about the trusses the contractors, who are dismantling the workshop, are going to keep a look out to see if they can spot any graffiti or markings in the wood that may have been made by the hut occupants when they were used at the camp.

"We know that the Germans had access to the trusses because there is a drawing of a prisoner standing in the trusses. If they do come across anything, we would look to find a way of preserving a small section for the museum."

Although the German POWs had a relatively painless 12 months or so at Raikeswood, they were even allowed to walk the fells accompanied by one "veteran" soldier and in their diary expressed their admiration of the Craven countryside, they were not however, too chuffed with the weather.

One cove wrote: "It rained and rained without stopping" and going on to remark that there was little sunshine and the cloud cover which normally enveloped them was dark and inhospitable.

Anyone who may know more about the huts and is aware of any that are still in use, Rob and his colleagues would like to hear about them.Rob can be contacted at the museum on 01756 706225 or on e-mail.