News from Ryedale Folk Museum

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20 May 2022 - Sacred Spaces of the Region, Three Views

A dazzling new exhibition explores three different artists’ perceptions and portrayals of sacred places across North Yorkshire and beyond at Ryedale Folk Museum this season. 

Bringing together new work by Anna Matyus, Ian Scott Massie and Stephen Guyon Bird, Reimagining Sacred Spaces combines their unique styles and approaches, at times atmospheric, intriguing or simply beautiful. At a moment when more people are opting to lead a secular lifestyle, the exhibition considers: what do sacred spaces mean to us today?

Museum Director, Jennifer Smith, says: “As any visitor knows, a short drive or walk in the region will throw up numerous signposts to heritage. Many of these are for places that have been connected with a particular religion or place of pilgrimage, at various times in history – from abbeys and priories to stone crosses. We were fascinated with the significance they still hold for people. There’s clearly something very special, albeit often intangible, about these spaces.” 

The Museum invited Anna, Ian and Stephen to look at their own practices to consider what it is that they are drawn to and what it is about these places that elicits such a strong connection. 

“At a time when many of us claim to have no religion, we may simultaneously acknowledge feeling something different in these traditionally religious sites – but what is it?” asks Jennifer. “Is it the weight of history, the voices of the past? Or is it something else? Is it a spiritual connection?  And of course, a very great number of visitors make their excursions to marvel at the architecture to be encountered – as well as the engineering and craftsmanship that went into these great buildings.”  

The exhibition features a range of well-known landmarks including Byland Abbey, Fountains Abbey, Gisborough Priory, Mount Grace Priory, Rievaulx Abbey, St Gregory’s Minster and Whitby Abbey. The exhibition doesn’t promise definitive answers, but visitors are invited to explore for themselves and to reflect on what these special places mean today.  

Visitors can see Reimagining Sacred Spaces for free in the Art Gallery at Ryedale Folk Museum, from Saturday 28 May until Sunday 10 July, 10am – 5pm daily except Fridays. 


Find out more about the three artists’ different approaches: 

Anna Matyus 

Taking inspiration from the patterns and textures of the natural world, Anna’s works explore the architecture of historic sites, often focusing on the smaller, intricate details that captivate her. 

Anna says: 

“The sacred spaces I capture are not wholly of human creation – there is a tranquility to be found in the solitude of the natural settings surrounding the buildings and ruins, a sense of awe and mystery that seems to have seeped into the stones which nestle there. As St Aelred wrote about Rievaulx Abbey: ‘Everywhere peace, everywhere serenity, and a marvellous freedom from the tumult of the world.’ At this moment, I think we all need some of that peace and time for reflection.” 


Ian Scott Massie 

Ian’s evocative watercolours render the unique character and personality of places, exploring the special sites that draw people to them and rooted within Ian’s own life in the North of England. 

Ian says: 

“I’m drawn to sacred spaces because of the way they feel. Standing in the cloister or the restored monk’s cell at Mount Grace Priory doesn’t just give me a sense of their history – I can feel the peacefulness and other-worldliness of the place which they must have felt. 

“Putting those feelings into paint doesn’t always work but just occasionally I feel I’ve nearly cracked it and that draws me to explore and portray further special places.” 


Stephen Guyon Bird 

As well as expressing a preoccupation with the mechanics of drawing, Stephen approaches the theme through visual storytelling, often including figures within the landscape which hint at narratives beyond the page. 

Stephen says: 

“These ancient buildings embody powerful stories and for me they present a compelling challenge to look beyond their physical appearance to capture their essence, inviting the viewer to create their own stories. 

“The structures crumble away due to the vicissitudes of time, weather, history, iconoclasm, war, vandalism or simply indifference and neglect. I’m constantly reminded of how fragile life is, yet the building also represents something of the eternal and the possibility of the existence of a sacred dimension in our lives.”  

Open Saturday to Thursday, 10am – 5pm. Closed on Fridays. 

For press enquiries, please contact Rosie Barrett: 01751 417367 or [email protected] 

1 April 2022 - New exhibition reflects on the special places of the region

Saturday 2 April until Sunday 22 May  

Inspired by the rural landscapes of North Yorkshire, printmaker Andrew Dalton presents a series of bold new prints in Abstract Reflections at Ryedale Folk Museum.   

Many of the featured artworks are rooted in the topography of the North York Moors, although he offers a different version from the one familiar to most visitors.   

Working out of his studio in Thirsk, Andrew turned to his immediate surroundings for inspiration for the exhibition. “I found myself reflecting on the landscape of the North York Moors National Park and surrounding area,” he says, “including the land directly beneath my feet – often gathering found objects on my walks which feature in my prints. The works thereby became a record of a particular moment in time and are part of a personal narrative – a distillation of moments that represent experience.”   

Often rendered in black and white, his works draw on familiar landscapes of the region, though Andrew seeks to go beyond what is physically present. He explains: “Colour changes things. Adding a wash can create a beautiful haze or mist. But I don’t want to wash away the darker aspects or the reality. Black and white allow nothing to hide.   

“For me, the landscape of the North York Moors is a highly-dramatic one, shaped by centuries of work. It’s easy to slip into nostalgia when exploring a place that is clearly very beautiful. But I am interested in pursuing a clarity of vision.”  

 Jennifer Smith, Director of Ryedale Folk Museum, says: “We’re delighted to be hosting Abstract Reflections in the Museum’s Art Gallery this season. Rather than offering a literal, photographic-style depiction, Andrew’s works explore his own reflections on the landscapes of the area, infused with his unique vision of a place, and allow the viewers to form their own responses.”  

 Many of the prints featured in the exhibition also explore the artist’s individual interactions with landscape, printmaking and water. “Abstract Reflections is an evocative and atmospheric journey across a range of landscapes, capturing the emotional resonance of these special places,” says Jennifer.  

Abstract Reflections can be viewed in the Art Gallery at Ryedale Folk Museum, in Hutton-le-Hole in the heart of the North York Moors National Park, from Saturday 2 April until Sunday 22 May.  

Entry to the Art Gallery is FREE. Open Saturday to Thursday, 10am – 5pm. (Closed on Fridays.)  

For press enquiries, please email [email protected] or phone the Museum – 01751 417367


17 September 2021 - Artists open up about the experience of lockdown

An open exhibition to explore the northern landscape within the context of the pandemic launches at Ryedale Folk Museum on Saturday 18 September, as well as online via the Museum’s website.

Funded by Arts Council England, ‘In the Open’ brings together artwork in a range of media from professional, amateur and hobbying artists who have turned to the landscape for inspiration.

Jennifer Smith, Director of Ryedale Folk Museum, says: “We are absolutely delighted by the quality and variety of entries. We received over two hundred entries after what has been such a challenging year for many of us. It is encouraging to witness the broad range of people turning to art to express their feelings about landscape and countryside during the pandemic. It has been my great pleasure to bring these individual perspectives together.”

Staff at the Museum also invited entrants to submit an accompanying piece of writing, reflecting on the effects of the events of the previous eighteen months on their creative practice.

“Many artists have taken the opportunity to discuss the role that their art has played in their lives during this time, supporting them through the lockdowns in a range of really significant ways,” explains Jennifer.

Called ‘In the Open’, as well as showcasing art produced during lockdown, a central aim of the exhibition was to provide a platform for artists to speak openly and share their experiences.

“During the selection process, we had a strong sense of the therapeutic aspects of making art, as well as the benefits of spending time out of doors. It’s very moving to learn how much both their artwork and the countryside have meant to artists in these times,” says Jennifer. “Some artists have contributed very personal reflections. Taken together, they are poignant, touching and capture a particular moment in time.”

The exhibition can be viewed in the Art Gallery at Ryedale Folk Museum and online until Sunday 14 November, 2021. Open 10am – 5pm during September and 10am – 4pm in October and November. Visit the gallery page for more information.

For press enquiries, please email [email protected] or phone the Museum – 01751 417367


14 July 2021 - The artist and the land – Kane Cunningham’s ‘Northern Eutierria’

A series of dramatic new artworks by artist Kane Cunningham is showing at Ryedale Folk Museum this summer. Funded by Arts Council England, ‘Northern Eutierria’ brings together a selection of watercolours and oil paintings exploring the interconnectedness of the artist and the northern landscape during a year like no other.

On display from Saturday 24 July to Sunday 5 September, the exhibition marks a new phase in Cunningham’s work, created in response to the conditions of lockdown.

“Cunningham has a strong awareness of the complex relationship between the landscape artist and the land, including the North York Moors that surround the Museum,” says Ryedale Folk Museum’s Director, Jennifer Smith. “What we are seeing now is that this has been augmented by the conditions of lockdown. We’re delighted to host this new work, showing a change in Cunningham’s working practices, the scale of work, even his materials.”

“I have always felt uncomfortable painting without permission in the landscape,” says Cunningham, “but this feeling became more extreme during lockdown, when we were told to Stay Home. For 20 years, I have travelled from Scarborough to St. Bees, coast to coast, but in early 2020 this journey had to become imaginary.”

Though raised in Manchester, Cunningham is a long-standing resident of Scarborough and his art often responds to the landscape surrounding this coastal town – including the North York Moors to the west. The Lake District and other northern landscapes will also feature in the exhibition.

Once restrictions eased in the region, Cunningham resumed his normal painting methods, with much of his work taking place out of doors, following in the tradition of other landscape painters, including J M W Turner, whom Cunningham cites as an influence.

Like Turner, Kane often works in watercolour: “It’s my preferred medium, because it is wonderfully expressive. It allows artists to work intuitively, outside in the landscape.”

After lockdown, however, Cunningham found that he felt differently about his former working practices: “Even though I was now allowed to be outdoors, painting outside, I felt conspicuous in the landscape. I found myself wanting to be less visible, tucked away, sometimes even working from my van.

“For me, the landscape has often felt like a contested space,” explains Cunningham. “The freedom to roam in the landscape and the battle over access to the moors is well documented. Walkers’ rights to travel through common land and open countryside were protected by the CROW Act in 2000. But lockdown added another layer of complexity to this.”

Another side effect of lockdown has been a reconsideration of Cunningham’s use of materials. “With shop closures, it became impossible to browse art materials in specialist shops. I started experimenting with the natural resources surrounding me in the moors.”

Having been unable for many months to paint in front of the landscape, Cunningham now found himself painting directly from it, literally using what he found. “I began experimenting with textures and colour,” he explains, “mixing materials from the land, such as peat, water and even sheep droppings, directly with gum Arabic.

“Working at Bank Top, not far from the Hollins Mine near Rosedale, I found deposits – limonite, the residue from iron ore mining. There’s a stream which is bright orange. It’s very inspiring to paint with.” What results is a new body of work in which Cunningham has developed his relationship with the land a stage further.

‘Northern Eutierria’ is on display in the Art Gallery at Ryedale Folk Museum, in Hutton-le-Hole in the heart of the North York Moors National Park, from Saturday 24 July to Sunday 5 September

For more information visit

2 July 2021 - Statement from Ryedale Folk Museum about the loan of the Harrison Collection

The trustees of Ryedale Folk Museum (“the Museum”) have decided not to try to extend the loan of the Harrison Collection, which had always been for a fixed-term ending on 31 July 2022.

The Harrison Collection includes objects spanning five centuries of British social history, from cooking pots to brain surgery tools. It has been on loan to the Museum since 2012 and the much of the Harrison Collection has been on permanent public display since that time.

The Museum trustees have decided that after a decade of housing and storing the Harrison Collection, a renewal of the loan will not be sought. Therefore, the items will be returned to the care of the Harrison Collection Trust and Edward and Richard Harrison.

The trustees assessed the future of the Harrison Collection against a range of factors. This included the Museum’s Collection Development Policy, which is a policy requirement of all accredited museums. This policy sets out the themes and priorities for future collecting and rationalisation. The trustees concluded that the Harrison Collection does not fit with the criteria (including objects on loan), as the majority of the collection does not relate to the local area. The trustees also considered the impact on Museum storage, resources, care and conservation requirements and what the future aims of the Museum are.

Philip Holt, the Chair of Ryedale Folk Museum said “After a decade of displaying the Harrison Collection, we have decided that the loan should end as planned and the collection to be returned to the trustees of the Harrison Collection and Edward and Richard Harrison. We are privileged to have had the Harrison Collection, but the trustees feel that it is time to focus on the Museum’s own collection and move forward with new projects.

“The last 18 months have been particularly challenging due to the public health crisis and while I feel very optimistic about the future, the first priority is to secure the Museum’s future. This is coupled with ambitions laid out in a new ten-year strategy, which puts a greater emphasis on working with communities and local people. My fellow trustees and I believe that the decision to return the loan of the Harrison Collection will help the Museum to open-up new opportunities for growth and deliver greater public benefit.

“I would like to thank the trustees of the Harrison Collection and Edward and Richard Harrison for the kind loan of their items, and we wish them every success with their own plans for the future.”

Ryedale Folk Museum and the trustees of the Harrison Collection are now in discussion about the final year of the loan and the practical arrangements that will follow.

22 June 2021 - Final call for ‘In the Open’ – an open exhibition in response to the Northern Landscape.  

There is one week remaining for professional, amateur and hobbying artists to enter their artwork for ‘In the Open’, an open exhibition to be held at Ryedale Folk Museum this autumn.

The museum has been encouraging entries that explore the Northern Landscape within the context of the pandemic, for an exhibition to launch on Saturday 18 September.

Jennifer Smith, Director of Ryedale Folk Museum, says: “We are encouraging a broad range of people to express their feelings about landscape and the countryside, providing a platform for them to share their work and reflections. Artists have until 30 June to enter.

“The increasing recognition of the value of the outdoors and nature has been widely reported during the pandemic. This has been captured in some of the responses so far. We really want to encourage anyone who has been considering submitting an entry to do so this week, about a range of experiences.”

The exhibition is funded by Arts Council England and supported by a number of artists who have shared their own experiences of working creatively during the pandemic via a series of videos, including landscape artist Kane Cunningham, photographer Joe Cornish, and sculptor Andy Goldsworthy. The selection panel will also include ceramic artist Layla Khoo.

Artists can submit an application, including a digital image of their original artwork along with between 50 and 300 words explaining their own experience of how the pandemic has influenced their art or creative practice.

The final exhibition will take place in the gallery at the Ryedale Folk Museum, in Hutton-le-Hole in the heart of the North York Moors National Park, from Saturday 18 September until Sunday 14 November.

Full details of how to enter are available via the website: Art Gallery – Ryedale Folk Museum

Photo credit: by Tessa Bunney – showing Joe Cornish at work

Media Contact – Jennifer Smith: 01751 417367

Peter Hicks’ sketchbook

16 May 2021 - Ryedale Folk Museum launches weddings with a difference across a range of heritage buildings.

The Museum is now able to welcome couples for small and intimate weddings within nine of the twenty heritage buildings across the Museum’s six and a half acres. These include a stunning thatched Manor House, a nostalgic 1950’s village store, and even an Iron Age roundhouse.

“We think the Museum is such a romantic setting,” says Museum Director, Jennifer Smith, “with characterful historic buildings and surrounded by serene countryside – it’s ideal for a small, informal wedding built around a couple’s unique tastes.”

Weddings and civil partnership ceremonies are currently permitted in England for up to 30 people.

“We know it has been a really tough twelve months to have a wedding,” says Jennifer. “What’s heartening, though, is that Covid seems to have focused people’s thoughts on the things that really matter to them.”

Whilst the limit on wedding-guest numbers is set to be removed later in June, some couples continue to explore smaller wedding options that demonstrate their own tastes and preferences.

“Many couples really love the intimacy of a small wedding,” continues Jennifer. “They can gather with a select few of their nearest and dearest and focus on making the day really special and personal. Hosting weddings is something we’d been exploring, but a grant from the Culture Recovery Fund has enabled us to get the venture off the ground this year.”

In its idyllic, moorland location in Hutton-le-Hole, Ryedale Folk Museum is now in a unique position to cater for those seeking a quirky and intimate wedding.

“Our smallest space on offer is an Undertaker’s which can accommodate just two witnesses,” says Jennifer. “It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, of course, and not for the fainthearted, but undeniably different!”

The Iron Age roundhouse, photo by Angela Waites.



8 May 2021 - Ryedale Folk Museum all set for the new season

Ryedale Folk Museum is delighted to reopen its doors to visitors, following the government confirmation that Museums can resume service this month. With a series of additional safety measures in place, the Museum is getting set to welcome visitors this season from 17 May.

“It’s really great news,” says Museum Director, Jennifer Smith. “We have missed our visitors during lockdown and know that lots of people are now ready to get out and enjoy history and culture once more.”

Across the open-air museum in Hutton-le-Hole, visitors will once again be able to explore the cottage gardens, orchard and historic farming area, traditional cornfield and 20 heritage buildings which tell the story of life across the North York Moors from the Iron Age to the 1950s. In the last few weeks, staff have been busy preparing the site for a safe reopening.

“We have a range of measures in place again this year so that staff and visitors can feel confident about returning,” says Jennifer, “as it’s really important to us that people feel able to enjoy themselves in our beautiful museum once more.

“Our absolute priority remains the safety of visitors and staff,” says Jennifer. “We received some really encouraging feedback last season about the systems we’d put in place. For smaller buildings, visitors can check that the space is empty before venturing inside due to a simple flip sign system that is operated by a foot, walking stick or umbrella.”

With over six acres, there is also plenty of outdoor space for visitors to enjoy. “As always, visitors are welcome to bring their own picnics with them,” says Jennifer, “to be eaten anywhere outside. The Museum is set in such a lovely location, with plenty of room for people to spread around, relax with a picnic, visit the animals and enjoy the sunshine.”

Stang End, photo by Angela Waites.

3 May 2021 - Leading artists to share the impact of the pandemic

A group of leading artists, including Andy Goldsworthy, is collaborating with Ryedale Folk Museum to explore the impact of the previous 12 months on artists and their creative practice. It will culminate in an open exhibition in September, bringing together professionals, amateurs and hobbying artists in response to the northern landscape.

The project, funded by Arts Council England, grew out of a strong awareness of the lack of access to the natural environment in adherence to the Government’s Stay Home message at the height of the pandemic. Like everyone else, artists found their travel restricted during a series of lockdowns.

Land artist Andy Goldsworthy’s latest project on the North York Moors developed from conditions created by the pandemic. ‘Southfield House’ is part of Goldsworthy’s quest to explore the environment through natural materials. “It was conceived during lockdown and made between lockdowns,” says Goldsworthy. “I wanted to make something during that period that has that sense of being uplifting. The work is now connected to that moment in time.”

Goldsworthy is one of six artists to feature in a series of videos, created by landscape painter Kane Cunningham, and also including photographer Joe Cornish, landscape painter Peter Hicks, photographer Tessa Bunney, sculptor Peter Coates and painter Francesca Simon. The videos will be shared throughout May and June.

“At its heart, the project is an opportunity for artists to share their experiences and to encourage others who may have seen significant changes to their output because of Covid-19,” explains Ryedale Folk Museum’s Director, Jennifer Smith.

“Through Kane Cunningham’s films, we are seeing honest and open discussions about the challenges – and, sometimes, the opportunities – faced by the artistic community.

“Situated within the North York Moors National Park, we needed only to look outside the museum window to realise that there was nobody here during lockdown. One question that interested us was what impact that was having on artists who respond directly to the landscape and who make their living from that inspiration,” says Smith.

The partnership with Kane Cunningham was a natural one. “For 20 years, I’ve travelled from Scarborough to St. Bees, coast to coast,” explains Cunningham. “In a normal year, my art takes me over hill and dale and across mountain pathways to find the perfect view.”

The sense of loss during lockdown led to a desire to reach out to others on this theme: “I felt the need to discover more about the landscape and what it means to me and other artists in these challenging times. Has it changed the way they think about their work? Has it changed the way they think about the landscape?”

The Museum hopes that sharing the contemplations of other artists will inspire people to create new work or reflect on a piece created since the start of the pandemic, to feature in the open exhibition of two- and three-dimensional work from September.

The submission window opens this week until 30 June, with the selection panel to include Cunningham, Joe Cornish and ceramic artist Layla Khoo.

Artists and other creative practitioners, of any art form, are also invited to send their own brief film clips (less than a minute long) to be shared on social media, responding to the question: ‘How has your creative practice changed in the last 12 months?’

Photographer Joe Cornish, photo by Tessa Bunney.


21 April 2021 - New exhibition at Ryedale Folk Museum depicts the ‘incomparable beauty’ of The North

An exhibition of paintings and prints depicting the ‘incomparable beauty’ of The North opens in the art gallery at Ryedale Folk Museum in May.

Ian Scott Massie’s Northern Soul represent the artist’s personal journey of 45 years living in The North. It can be seen from Monday 17 May to Sunday 11 July at the Museum at Hutton-le-Hole, in the heart of the North York Moors National Park.

The 50 watercolours and screenprints portray northern views as diverse as Bamburgh and Barnsley, and landmarks ranging from Fountains Abbey to the Tees Transporter Bridge. The images reach right across the country from Newcastle to Liverpool.

Raised in Buckinghamshire, Massie moved north in the 1970s to study at Durham University. He now lives in Masham in the Yorkshire Dales with his artist wife, Josie Beszant.

He began working in watercolours ‘to paint quickly’ when his children were small, and cites JMW Turner as an influence.

“The depth of colour, the freedom of the expression and the speed at which a picture could come together captivated me,” he says.

The North, he says is ‘the truth of England, where all things are seen clearly: the incomparable beauty of the landscape, the harsh ugliness left by industry, the great wealth of the aristocracy, the miserable housing of the poor, the civic pride of the mill towns and a people as likely to be mobilised by political oratory as by a comedian with a ukulele’.

“Both the pictures for Northern Soul and the book take a very long view of The North, reaching back into my personal history and the history of the region. The exhibition also refers to my time working as a music researcher for Beamish Museum (which I loved), from which experience grew an interest in the industrial, social and folk culture of The North which Ryedale Folk Museum reflects so beautifully.”

Jennifer Smith, Director of Ryedale Folk Museum, says: “I am delighted that we will open Ian’s exhibition on the same day as Ryedale Folk Museum, following a six-month period of closure. Northern Soul is a stunning and atmospheric journey across northern England. Ian captures the beauty, wildness and culture of The North, transporting the viewer to the places featured in his magical paintings and prints.

“The fact that we can share these works online, as well as in the art gallery, means that even if people can’t or don’t want to travel, they can feel nostalgic about their favourite northern places and maybe discover some new ones too.”

Northern Soul can be seen at the art gallery at Ryedale Folk Museum from Monday 17 May to Sunday 11 July 2021. The gallery is open daily from 10am to 5pm. Entry to the gallery is free.

The exhibition will also be available to view on the Ryedale Folk Museum website during the same period:

A book accompanying the exhibition will be available to buy from the museum’s shop and online via the website at a cost of £26 (plus P&P if bought from the website).

Roseberry Topping, dawn.