Cornering the cattle market in North Yorkshire

An exhibition is being held at the Folly Museum in Settle looking at livestock markets in north Yorkshire from the 1970s through to the present day.

By Michelle Blade
Thursday, 21st October 2021, 3:57 pm
Updated Thursday, 21st October 2021, 3:58 pm
Skipton livestock market in 1986. Picture by John Bentley.
Skipton livestock market in 1986. Picture by John Bentley.

Entitled ‘Going to Market’ the exhibition features vintage pictures of markets now gone, like the old Skipton Mart, as well as contemporary pictures of current markets, including Bentham, Hawes, Skipton, Kirkby Stephen and Broughton-in-Furnace.

Photographer John Bentley focuses on the human participants and seeks to trace the paths from long-gone markets right up to present day auction marts.

John Bentley first photographed a livestock market at Penistone in 1976, wandering in to the somewhat dilapidated brick and tin sheds where cattle were being auctioned.

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Retiring farmer Michael Faraday of Kingsdale Head with family selling the flock of 170 Dalesbred sheep in lamb at Bentham Auction Mart. Picture by John Bentley.

There were plenty of interesting ‘characters’ to photograph in what was really the end of the era when farmers dressed in characteristic long coats and cloth caps and buying agents dressed in smart waistcoats and trilby hats or bowlers.

Nowadays it’s more likely that they’ll be dressed in logo-ed rugby shirts, jeans and baseball caps.

Over the following 10 years he photographed several more markets, unaware that within 20 years most of them would be gone.

However, two of the marts photographed have successfully moved to large new edge of town sites at Skipton and Bakewell.

Annual Shows and Sales of 60 Crowned Swaledale in-lamb ewes, shearling ewes and gimmer hoggs and Bluefaced Leicester Ewes, gimmer hoogs and gimmer shearlings, plus sale of Herdwick ewes Hawes Auction Mart 17-01-20. Picture by John Bentley.

Over the past decade John has visited many present-day markets to record what they are like in the 21st century.

The exhibition contains a mix of vintage black and white images and present era colour photos, mostly covering markets in Yorkshire, Cumbria and Derbyshire. The pictures record the vibrant goings-on, featuring the buyers, sellers and onlookers, as well as the market buildings and livestock.

John is also currently working on a project to document northern hill farming, which includes photographing farmers at work, agricultural and sheep shows, sheepdog trials and the hill farming landscape through the seasons.

In 2016/17 he was a contributor to the ‘Voices from the Land’ project and exhibition, which focussed on interviewing, documenting and photographing farmers in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

Hope Sheep Market, Derbyshire, 1986: Merlin Poynton and Richard Hadfield (JRH). Picture by John Bentley which features on a flyer for his exhibition at The Folly.

Earlier this year, John’s exhibition ‘A Year in Hill Farming’ was staged at The Gallery on the Green in Settle. Two of John’s articles on hill farming have featured in recent editions of ‘The Dalesman’ magazine and his market pictures have also recently been used in The Prince’s Countryside Fund’s publication ‘More than a Mart’.

More of John’s market photographs can be seen on his Flickr site

John would like to gratefully acknowledge the support and sponsorship of the following markets in staging this exhibition: Bagshaws Auctioneers; Bakewell Market, Derbyshire; Bentham Auction Mart; CCM Auction Skipton; Hawes Auction Mart.

John’s exhibition, ‘Going to Market’, can be seen at The Folly in Settle, North Yorkshire until December 23. The museum is open 11am-4pm Tuesday- Saturday.

The Folly, built in 1679, is the Yorkshire Dales’ only Grade I listed historic house open to the public. It is home to The Museum of North Craven Life, which tells tales of the people and landscape of the local area.

The building, and the neighbouring Grade II Zion Chapel, are owned and run by the North Craven Building Preservation Trust, the volunteer-led registered charity dedicated to preserving the historical, agricultural, and architectural heritage of the district and sharing information via its museum service.