Marie Hartley’s Gayle

Gayle and Duerley Beck by Marie Hartley

Marie Hartley MBE would have been 104 this week had she not died in Askrigg at the age of 100. Fortunately there is a significant legacy of 33 books chronicling the Dales, numerous paintings and wood cuts and The Dales Countryside Museum at Hawes. Marie, born in Morley, went to the Leeds College of Art and the Slade School London where she specialised in wood engraving. She worked with two other redoubtable women Ella Pontefract and then Joan Ingilby.

With fellow Dales affectionado Ella Pontefract they published ‘Wensleydale’ in 1936 and many of the insights remain true today. For example they noted that may villages were built like little clumps up both sides of the valleys but ‘often two of them come together like sisters, as Hawes and Gayle, Bainbridge and Askrigg, Redmire and Castle Bolton.’   In 1936 not unlike now milk and cheese were the most important products of the local farms. Via the Milk Train, over 2 million gallons of milk a year were sent to London as part of the Milk marketing board’s sales campaign, using the Wensleydale Railway.


‘The Old Hand-knitters of the Dales’ was a 1951 book with Joan Ingilby that chronicled the development of knitting throughout the dales. Sold at Richmond Market, stockings and knitware were made in the homes of Gayle long after it declined in other parts of Yorkshire. Knitting started in the mid 16th century and it continued to be a successful activity, employing 400 knitters in Hawes homes, until the advent of machinery towards the end of the 19th century.

Gayle Mill started life in 1784 as a cotton-spinning mill, powered by a 22′ diameter overshot waterwheel, and over the next century, as economic conditions in the Dales changed, was also used for spinning flax and then wool for the local knitting cottage industry in the valley. Marie would be pleased to see the story continue into the 21st century as the latest sustainable technologies enable Gayle Mill to be create all its own carbon-neutral energy for heating and power from it’s reopened water powered generation system. Visit Gayle  Mill and see how it has benefited from the BBC restoration programme.

Bringing Knitting up to date you can read Knitting for Yorkshire here

Knitters of Gayle by Sue Hasker – catching up after being away. ‘Detail from the millennium window in St Margaret’s church, Hawes, Yorkshire Dales. The window depicts the many aspects of life in the town.’ CC BY-ND 2.0

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