Hear historic voices from the past – Skidby Mill memories recorded

Wed 19th June 2024
Hear Historic Voices From The Past Skidby Mill Memories Recorded

Historic memories of an East Riding landmark, local residents and their rural lives are now available for all to listen to. 

East Riding Archives has released digital recordings of interviews with more than 60 people who worked in the countryside around Skidby Mill, near Cottingham, in the first half of the 20th century. 

The first-hand accounts were all collected as part of the Skidby Mill Oral History Project, which was carried out in 1999 and 2000 during a Heritage Lottery funded redevelopment of the museum. 

Now they have been preserved by the East Riding Archives team and uploaded for anyone to listen to at Skidby Mill Oral History Project 

Olivia Northrop, archives assistant, who led on the archiving of the project, said: “These recordings serve as a valuable resource for historians of agricultural and rural life, while offering compelling insights for local residents into the East Riding's past, a landscape both familiar and markedly different from the present day.”

The aim of the original project was to create a repository of memories to bring to light the lives of local, rural residents, and to enrich the collections at Skidby Mill. 

The project was carried out by historian Stefan Ramsden and the interviewees were mainly sourced through newspaper appeals, through local societies, and through presentations to community groups.  

The memories were all recorded on Minidiscs, which are now almost obsolete, but they have all been freshly digitised for the Skidby Mill website. 

The project also collected older recordings on cassettes, which were donated for the project by the public to the East Riding Museums Service. 

Olivia Northrop said: “We'd like to invite everyone to hear tales about life from former hired lads, female domestic servants, farmers, and windmill workers. 

“Hear recounts of significant annual events like Martinmas hiring fairs and Friendly Society Feasts. 

“Listen to personal narratives which illuminate historic moments such as how, for many, the end of World War I was signalled by ships' horns across Sunk Island, and other wartime events such as the Luftwaffe bombing of RAF Driffield and the Blitz on Hull. Learn how the Great Depression impacted the agricultural economy, and how tractors led to the decline of horse-powered farming. 

“These recorded memories are all presented by the people who lived through it all with humour, gumption and skill.” 

In the 20th century, the East Riding experienced significant technological and cultural shifts that reshaped its landscape and way of life. 

From the introduction of farming equipment such as tractors and combine harvesters, which revolutionized agriculture and replaced traditional horse drawn methods, to advancements in the home, such as the introduction of electricity and indoor plumbing. 

No facet of life was left untouched. The expansion of railways and the proliferation of cars, also opened the world up, making travel accessible for a greater amount of people. 

These changes completely transformed the way of life for many rural communities, many who had not seen substantial change for centuries. 

Picture Captions :-

Memories of rural life around Skidby Mill in the 20th century, shown in these photos, can now be heard online:

1. East Riding farm labourers in the early 20th century (image courtesy East Riding Museums Service, ref 2015.6).

2. Stacking hay at Skidby early to mid 20th century with Skidby Mill in the background. (image courtesy East Riding Museums Service, ref 2021.5).

3. Ploughing the fields around Skidby in the early 20th century (image courtesy East Riding Museums Service, ref 2020.6).

4. View of a plough and Skidby Mill (image courtesy East Riding Museums Service) 

Just Beverley