ON May 24, 1967, a small group of volunteers first opened the doors of a museum celebrating rural life in Ryedale.

Starting out as a museum and arts centre, Beck Isle exhibited objects of local interest, displayed to the public for the cost of one shilling.

Now , 50 years later the museum is still going strong with a team of enthusiastic volunteers and a full-time member of staff making sure its fascinating collection of social and agricultural history is made accessible to the public.

The Grade II listed building, which houses the museum beside Pickering Beck, 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 in the ground floor of the house.

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.

The museum has extended beyond its few original rooms and visitors can now explore 27 different displays relating to the history of Pickering, its people, trades and industries.

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 social history collection at Beck Isle Museum reflects rural life in Pickering and the surrounding villages from the late 19th and 20th centuries,” she said.

“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.”

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

“Within the collection are the portraits, landscapes, studio work and popular postcards by the Pickering photographer Sydney Smith,” she said.

“Between 1900 and 1956 Sydney, captured and recorded every aspect of rural life in this part of Yorkshire. “

Over the last 50 years Beck Isle volunteers have been involved with all sorts of local events such as the Pickering carnival and flower festival and have organised events at the museum from summer fetes and scarecrow competitions to the centenary of the Pickering pageant in 2010.

As Beck Isle Museum looks to the next 50 years, it wants to refresh and update some of its displays, develop its involvement with schools and community groups and continue in its aim to preserve and exhibit items of local historical interest.

Founding member Gordon Clitheroe is still actively involved in the museum and regularly delivers talks about the history of Pickering and the local area.

He said: “As the museum celebrates its anniversary, it is important to recognise all the hard work and many hours of volunteer time which has gone into transforming the home of William Marshall into a treasure house of history in the heart of Pickering.”

The 50th anniversary celebration take place on Saturday, from 10am to 4pm, with displays of 1960s memorabilia, as well as games and crafts. Admission is free.

There is also a temporary exhibition “50 years, 50 objects” which includes a range of artefacts from the collection from Bronze Age arrowheads to 19th century costume to 1960s domestic appliances. This exhibition, as well as displays about the history of the museum, will be running until the end of November.

The museum is open from 10am-4pm in February, March, October and November and from 10am-5pm April to September.

For information phone 01751 473653 or go to beckislemuseum.org.uk