Fields, Folds and Farming Life: Nunnington Hall

A new exhibition at the National Trust’s Nunnington Hall opens on 9th September and runs until 17th December 2023.  ‘Fields, Folds and Farming Life' explores what it is like to live, grow up and work on a rural farm in the heart of Bransdale through the seasons.  

The exhibition features work from the photographer Valerie Mather and a specifically produced film, both of which reveal the hard work and determination of the people at the heart of the farming community, as they continue to navigate the ever-changing agricultural world to achieve a better farming future for people, the environment, and the local wildlife.

Farmer shearing sheep in Bransdale (c) Valerie Mather

As part of the exhibition, you will also come across an edit of archive film – ‘Nature’s Harvest’ – which explores farming and agriculture in the Yorkshire and North East regions. It charts historic changes and complements the contemporary photographs and films showing how certain practices have changed and also how some have stayed the same.

Putting the film together required a delve into our archive collections to look at the different ways farming has been represented on film. For this blog, I wanted to look at a number of the different films looking at farming that provided part of the research for the final edit.

We start off with Farming and Flowers in the 1930s, which contains various farming practices from that decade. The film shows a horse-drawn plough followed by a series of mechanical machines, including a thresher and a hay baling machine, which highlight the agriculture and technological change that was happening at the time.

The next film, Sheriff Hutton Agricultural Scenes, is from the 1940s and 1950s and shows the trends in agriculture post the Second World War, but the film also shows the resilience of farming communities and animals in poor weather conditions such as snow.

Moving to the 1960s, Agricultural Co-operation shows a new concept in farming that involved the integration of three farms in the Rotherham area to run as a co-operative under the name Thrybergh Farming Company. The idea of joining together was to combine production, supplies and marketing, which would allow for achieving greater economies of scale. The co-operative proved to be successful and lasted for 26 years until the next generation of farmers took over in 1988.

These three films hopefully give you a small snapshot of some of the farming practices that have existed throughout the region. It is also important to note that farming did not and does not always have to happen on the large scale either; people can grow food, flowers, and plants on many patches of land, gardens, community spaces or even window boxes.

To find out more about this, make sure to read the blog Home Grown which explores this theme more deeply. 

Also make sure you head to Nunnington Hall to see our Nature's Harvest edit in the exciting new Fields, Folds and Farming Life exhibition. It runs from Saturday 9th September - Sunday 17th December.  To find out more about opening times, entry costs and accessibility, then head to their website.

Martha Cattell, Nature Matters Delivery Manager