By Wilf Fenten.

THE starting pistol was fired on a new series of exhibitions in North Craven last weekend entitled: “A Portrait of Ingleborough”.

Thanks to National Lottery players, a collection of portraits capturing many local characters living and working around Ingleborough will be shown at The Folly in Settle until September 30.

Local photographer Hilary Fenten, from Selside, was commissioned by the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust (YDMT) to create a “snapshot in time” of Ingleborough’s social history, as part of the Stories in Stone scheme.

For over 18 months she went to countless homes, businesses, farms, etc., in the area to meet well over 150 people. Nearly all were very happy to be photographed by her in their special environment.

That was the key to the portraits she took which she then discussed with the Stories in Stone team.

Soon a long-list of over 80 photographs was whittled down to a short-list of the “Top 30” for the exhibition launched last Friday.

The Folly is a striking and impressive 17th century Grade I listed building and one of Settle’s finest buildings.

It dates from the late 1670s and is of outstanding architectural importance. It stands by the old main road into the town and was built to make an impact. Today it contains the Museum of North Craven Life with a fascinating collection of local-history items, a well-frequented coffee place and gallery full of works by local craft-makers and artisans.

At first glance, such a building could be thought of as not being ideal for an exhibition of contemporary photo-portraits of local people.

However, making The Folly the first stop of this community-inspired exhibition proved to be inspiring in itself.

Walking around the rooms filled with historic items telling the stories of local people, the landscape they lived in and how they shaped each other, one is struck by how many connections there still are.

Rather than having just one room full of photos and nothing else, visitors to the exhibition are led with guidance from a small booklet through each floor of the building and different rooms, much like a treasure trail.

Here they discover how the new portraits by Mrs Fenten echo the series of historical portraits and images taken from the Dales Community Archives, the result of the Stories in Stone project “Capturing the Past”, and from Back in Settle, a Facebook group for people who “enjoy a blast from the past”.

That sparkling mixture becomes particularly poignant when some exhibits in The Folly throw up unexpected mirror images.

There is, for example, on the second floor a lovely portrait of Mrs Betsy Mason in her older days directly next to several old photographs of her younger self making butter.

At the launch, the same sparkling mixture was reflected in the guests, mostly people whose portraits are exhibited.

The theme of Dales communities being special and diverse was taken up by Mrs Fenten addressing the guests at the launch.

Having thanked the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust (YDMT) and the team at The Folly for their support, she concluded: “Local people taught me that this part of Yorkshire has special people and a real quality of life.

“The folk in this part of the world are robustly different and, most of the time, a pleasure to meet. However, things change quickly and it is important to record the present, so later generations can see how we were.”

Debbie Boswell, Stories in Stone “Discover Ingleborough” officer at YDMT, summed it up well. “It was a good evening. I particularly enjoyed seeing the characters in the photos in real life.”

The Jackson family from Horton underlined that feeling with their comment, “We feel you captured the area well.”

A commemorative book inspired by the exhibition will be produced in due course.

The exhibition at The Folly continues until the end of September and will then tour around Ingleborough to Ribblehead and Horton Station, St Mary’s Church, Ingleton, and the Ingleton Community Centre, finishing at the Dales Countryside Museum, Hawes, during December.

There is also a mini-exhibition in the Gallery on the Green, Settle, from December 10 to January 13.

For more information you can call the Stories in Stone team on 015242 51002 or email

This exhibition is part of Stories in Stone, a four-year programme of community and heritage projects developed by the Ingleborough Dales Landscape Partnership, led by YDMT and mainly funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.