Knaresborough set to showcase 350m years of history in Jubilee weekend history festival ahead of new museum opening

From roaming bears and hyenas 350 million years ago to dresses made from dishcloths during the war, there is a lot to the history of a North Yorkshire spa town that even the locals don’t know about.

However, it is all set to change next year with the opening of a museum that will tell the varied story of Knaresborough from the geological footprint to living memories of the Second World War.

Knaresborough Museum Association (KMA) was formed three years ago after a successful pop-up museum at a heritage festival prompted calls for a permanent one.

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The group quickly swelled to 50 people made up of locals and professionals who despite the pandemic, and with a lot of behind the scenes work, raised £47,000 to make it a reality and is set to open in spring next year in the former Castle Girls School building near the historic castle and court room museum.

Prehistoric items found in and around Knaresborough and which will be on show for a Community History Festival to mark the Queen's Platinum Jubilee weekend. They will then feature in a new museum being opened by the Knaresborough Museum Association (KMA). Picture Tony Johnson

Researching material for the new museum has dug up - quite literally - some unexpected and surprising stories.

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“The stone that was used for the viaduct, you can see pieces of granite that came from Scotland in the geological process. People don’t realise there were pre-historic bears and hyenas that used to roam and we have dug up artefacts, fossils and pre-historic tools.

“We also think there was a medieval hospital site and have found a washing tank in somebody’s garden that is the only one in the country.

Kath Allday from the Knaresborough Museum Association (KMA) with a cardigan made from WWII linen dishcloth outfit which will be going on display at the Community History Festival to mark the Queen's Platinum Jubilee weekend.

“To the other extreme we have been interviewing people for stories about the Second World War and we have oral podcasts that people can listen to. We go from 350m years ago to the 1940s and 1950s.”

One of the most charming exhibits, said Ms Allday is a piece of child’s clothing from the war that had been made from dishcloths due to material being in short supply and it is embroidered.

She added: “There is a small court house museum but that focuses on the civil war and the castle but this is about the social history and archeology, aspects of Knaresborough’s history that are not covered.”

However, for history enthusiasts they won’t have to wait until next year to delve into Knaresborough’s deep history.

Ruth Bulmer from the Knaresborough Museum Association (KMA) with a publication celebrating the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria which will be on display for the Community History Festival.

KMA is holding a community history festival on Thursday June 2, Friday June 3 and Saturday June 4, from 10am to 4.30pm, at Knaresborough House to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee weekend and give a flavour of what the museum will hold.

Among highlights are a Jubilee display including a Victorian bound scrapbook showing all the festivities in Knaresborough in 1887 to mark Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee; guided walks; an architectural design model showing the museum in 3D and demonstrations of crafts.