Funding helps keep rural Northumberland history alive

Shillmoor clipping (1893) from the Stan Owen collection.
Shillmoor clipping (1893) from the Stan Owen collection.

Alnwick’s Bailiffgate Museum and Gallery has been awarded £285,600 for a social-history project, which will help to preserve the stories and traditions of a special part of Northumberland.

Made possible by National Lottery players and awarded through the Heritage Lottery Fund, the grant will enable the award-winning museum to work with individuals and community groups in the Coquetdale area to collect their precious oral history.

The Out of Town (OOT) Museum will focus on routes, journeys and travelling and collect and record memories and stories told in local voices, along with collecting photographs, audio, documents and other artefacts.

New heritage records will be created and archived within the Bailiffgate Museum and Gallery collection and Northumberland Archives so that future generations can easily discover these wonderful stories and heritage.

Jane Mann, from the museum, said: “Coquetdale, while stunningly beautiful, is also the most remote region of England and this geography has created a fascinating heritage.

“Many of the people who remember the past, and speak with the distinct local dialects, are growing older and time is pressing to ensure that their valuable memories of the old way of life are recorded. That is why this project is so important and Bailiffgate is so delighted to receive the grant.”

OOT will also run a varied programme of events and training to interest people of all ages and backgrounds and enable them to participate in and contribute to the OOT Museum, as well as learning about the area’s heritage.

The project will finish with an exciting touring exhibition celebrating the rural heritage, local voices, memories and stories.

Jane added: “Lots of local people, schools and parish councils are keen to support this project, and we will build on the good work that has already been carried out in the area to record the lives of people who lived and worked in Coquetdale.”

Peter Dawson, local resident and historian, said that he was delighted to learn about the award of the grant.

He said: “Coquetdale has a rich history and you will find that all the villages, although relatively close together, are different and every community has their own stories to tell.

“Having been involved with local history for decades, I recognise the importance of having these stories told now.

“Everyone loves a good story and modern technology makes this so much easier to do and is the ideal opportunity for the younger generation to become involved.

“The local dialect is being lost, so now is the right time to capture it, before it is lost forever.”

Jean Humphrys, chairman of the museum trustees, said that gaining such a prestigious award ‘is a testament to the hard work and commitment of our dedicated volunteers who have done so much to capture the heritage, history and voice of people in Alnwick and district’. 

The initiative will be appointing a Project Leader in the next month or so to work with volunteers and the local community. Details are at www.bailiffgatemuseum.co.uk
Jane added: “It will take a couple of months to get the project up and running, but it will last three-and-a-half years, so due to the generosity of National Lottery players we have been given a fantastic amount of time to do a very thorough job. Thank you to everyone who has contributed.”

Bailiffgate will be recruiting volunteers in the Rothbury and Alnwick areas. To get involved in the project, send an email to OOT@bailiffgatemu seum.co.uk