Fabric of the dales: Talk at the Swaledale Museum, Reeth, by Helen Bainbridge (curator of the museum)
In days gone by, the making, purchasing, altering and recycling of textiles was an integral part of life in Swaledale and Arkengarthdale. Its location, remote from the major cities of the north, meant that people had to fend for themselves, to make do and mend. This did not mean, however, that Dalesfolk were divorced from the influences of fashion or that they or their homes were poorly dressed.
Using the resources of the Swaledale Museum (built in 1836 as the Methodist Day School) Helen will enable us to explore the area’s rich textile heritage, focusing on the textiles themselves and including 18th century pockets, samplers, patchwork quilts and knitting. We will also use associated materials, like inventories and photographs, to recreate the material culture of 18th and 19th century Swaledale. Helen’s talk will not only inform you about Swaledale’s past but will also inspire you to make things for the present.
Participants do not need to bring anything with them except their curiosity: this is a hands-on session.
This talk is open to non-participants as well as rugmakers, but anyone who is not a delegate of the Triennial will pay £10 to attend.
Helen Bainbridge was born in Halesowen near Birmingham and always had an interest in history. From the age of thirteen she worked as a volunteer in various museums and has an MA in history from Cambridge as well as a Doctorate from the joint Royal College of Art/Victoria and Albert Museum postgraduate course. She has taught on the History of Design programme at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and at various universities including Essex, Warwick and Oxford.
Helen was a Senior Research Fellow and Museum Consultant to two research projects based at Warwick University and University College London. She was awarded a Leverhulme Fellowship to study the College Silver in Oxford and has published extensively on the social and material culture of the early modern period. As a freelance curator she has curated major exhibitions at the Crafts Council, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Goldsmiths’ Company, the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, and in Prague.
In 2004 Helen and her husband Alan took over the Swaledale Museum in Reeth, thereby saving it from closure. Thanks to the support of the Friends group, the fabric of this historic building has been restored and the potential of the collection has been developed, expanded and catalogued. Helen, Alan and The Friends have introduced events, activities and associations of interest to all who visit, live in or simply love Swaledale.
The Museum explores the story of Swaledale from its geological foundations to the 1970s. The collection’s particular strengths lie in explaining the development of the lead mines from the 17th century to their closure in the early 1900s, using the stories of the inhabitants and the objects they owned and used to tell us about their lives and work.