Malhamdale Local History Group has re-grouped post-pandemic. Here chair Linda Hodson shares its latest exhibition and a look at what’s to come.

A FASCINATING insight into days gone by in Malhamdale has been held by the Malhamdale Local History Group.

The exhibition was due to be held in March 2020 in celebration of its 30th anniversary but festivities were postponed due to coronavirus as the country went into lockdown.

Two years on, the group was able to go ahead with this commemoration and staged “A Celebration of Bygone Malhamdale” in April.

Over the years the group has assembled a substantial collection of documents and photographs relating to history of the Dale. The exhibition showcased many items from this collection, together with research carried out by members of the group. Whilst the main emphasis of the exhibition was on the social history of the Dale, there was also a focus on creativity inspired by the surrounding landscape. The life and work of former artists, writers and poets featured, alongside items on education, local businesses, influential figures, transport and tourism. Findings from recent archaeological excavations on the St Helen’s Chapel site in Malham and on Chapel Fell, Malham Moor were also be on display.

Malhamdale Local History Group began as a small group, brought together by a shared interest in the history of the Dale. Early meetings were held in members’ houses but as numbers increased it was decided to hold monthly meetings in a local Hall. The group has thrived over the years and members and visitors alike have enjoyed a varied programme of talks, visits and social events. The pandemic brought a halt to normal proceedings but only for a few months. It was agreed that online talks would be a temporary solution and the group moved to meetings via “Zoom” from August 2020 to May 2021.

The chair of the group, Linda Hodson, said “We started off in a fairly low-key way with talks being given by group members. Over time, we progressed to using external speakers and incorporated a quiz as a social event. Whilst “Zoom” wasn’t for everyone it allowed the group to keep going and we began to realise some of its benefits. For example, organisations such as the British Association for Local History began offering online lectures to member groups giving access to eminent speakers and diverse topics. A further benefit was that you could access the meetings from wherever they happened to be. This resulted in the group gaining members during this period. However, we all looked forward to the day when we could meet again in person.”

“We eventually held our first “live” meeting in June 2021, when we welcomed Kevin Illingworth to talk to us about “Vernacular buildings of Craven and the Forest of Bowland. Understandably, people were cautious about attending indoor events to begin with but numbers have steadily increased over time. The 2021/2 programme has included a wide range of topics including the origins a local stone circle, the history of shoemaking, the impact of the Poor Law and Workhouse and Yorkshire dialect. The group also made a visit to Giggleswick Chapel and ended 2021 with dinner in Kirkby Malham Parish Hall. Our final talk of the season was entitled “Walter Morrison – a man of many parts and explored the life and work of this philanthropist who did much for Malhamdale. This was a fitting end to the Walter Morrison Festival, commemorating the centenary of Morrison’s death. We now look forward to our new season’s programme which began in April.”

The group’s website,, contains a wealth of information for those wanting to find out more about any of the townships within Malhamdale. Originally, created by David Tippey, the website contains census information, links to Parish registers and to many other historical documents, such as Wills, Poll Books and Hearth Tax records. It has received praise from the British Association for Local History and is well used by people from all walks of life. The website is a testimony to the enthusiasm and dedication David had for history. He was also a talented artist and this aspect of his life and work will be celebrated in the group’s exhibition.

In addition to the website, the group maintains both a physical and electronic archive. The physical archive holds approximately 1500 photographs, postcards and documents such as sale catalogues, programmes, newspaper articles and letters. Grant funding from Craven District Council Ward Councillors of £550 and a further donation of £500 from Malham Safari has allowed the group to purchase conservation quality archive storage and a new filing cabinet to help preserve these items for many more years. MLHG welcomes donations of items of local interest to add to our physical archive or the loan of items to scan and copy for the electronic archive.

The next talk will be on Thursday, May 19 at 7.30pm in Kirkby Malham Parish Hall. Jean Robinson of Friends of Raikes Road Burial Ground will update the group on her talk ‘Raikes Road Burial Ground – the next instalment’.