A MUSEUM described as being at the heart of Pickering’s heritage is looking forward to a golden year of celebrations.

Beck Isle Museum of Rural Life reopened last Saturday for the 2017 season having been closed for maintenance and exhibition changing during the winter.

This year is particularly special as the museum celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Founded in 1967 by a small group of local volunteers, Beck Isle started out as a museum and arts centre in the ground floor rooms of the Grade II listed building beside Pickering Beck.

It was inherited by William Marshall, a leading agriculturalist, from his brother John in 1816. William set about converting the building with the intention of creating England’s first agricultural college, but he died in 1818 before its completion.

The building then passed to his sister Elizabeth Wells, after whom the nearby Wells Walk is named, and became a home for Elizabeth and her husband, William.

For the remainder of the 19th century the building became the residence for a number of practising doctors; this continued into the 20th century with the last being Doctor Murphy MC who lived and worked in the building between 1916 and 1966.

In 1967 a group of local people interested in preserving the history of Pickering decided to set up a small museum and art gallery.

The ground floor of the house previously belonging to Dr Murphy was transferred into a museum and arts centre.

The museum proved popular and quickly gained support and charitable statues, enabling the purchase of the whole Beck Isle Museum building which, in turn, enabled the collection to grow further.

Over the last 50 years the museum has continued to grow in popularity and size with the help of an enthusiastic and knowledgeable team of local volunteers.

Museum manager Ella Vose said the collection now numbers some 60,000 objects and catalogues Pickering’s rich history as a rural market town.

“The costume collection includes a wide range of objects, from children’s wear, evening dress, menswear, military uniforms and wedding clothes to shoes and accessories and nightgowns and under slips,” she said.

“Our earliest costume dates from 1790s and a number of different fashions are represented from the 19th century bustle to 1960s mini dresses.”

Ella said the museum also has an extensive collection of photographs, negatives and photography equipment.

“Within the collection are the portraits, landscapes, studio work and popular postcards by the Pickering photographer Sydney Smith. Between 1900 and 1956 Sydney, captured and recorded every aspect of rural life in this part of Yorkshire. His work has provided us with a unique record of life in and around Pickering, capturing people, events and landscape.”

The social history collection at Beck Isle Museum reflects rural life in Pickering and the surrounding villages from the late 19th and 20th centuries. From kitchen equipment and household appliances to toys and games these items reflect the ordinary aspects of peoples lives.

A number of local industries are represented within the collection including farming and forestry. The collection also has blacksmiths, wheelwrights and cobblers tool and a large number of items from the printing studio of Pickering printer, Eric Dewing. There is a collection of besom maker’s tools and equipment, which was once a popular trade in Pickering.

As well as the interesting displays, a team of volunteers have been researching the men from Pickering who fought in the First World War and did not return. This is part of an on-going project, which started in 2014, to celebrate the centenary of the Great War supported by a grant from Arts Council England.

The result of this research has formed a Book of Remembrance, which went on display in the museum last July in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.

A second book has now been published based on expanded research about the lives of these men before the outbreak of war as well as their military movements after they signed up and the next stage of the project is to research the soldiers who returned home to Pickering after the war.

To celebrate the museum’s 50th anniversary there are new displays on the history of the museum and the building as well as a small temporary exhibition ‘50 years, 50 objects’ showcasing the wide ranging collection from early bronze age arrowheads to 1960s costume. The focus of the anniversary will be in May when there will be a special event.

In the meantime there is plenty going on, including a volunteer recruitment morning taking place on March 9, from 10.30am to 12.30pm.

For more information, phone 01751 473653, email info@beckislemuseum or go to beckislemuseum.org.uk