Monday, 11 March 2013

The Literary Institute

The Literary Institute
Phase 3 of The Keld Resource Centre Restoration Project
Awaiting Planning Consent

The Literary Institute was built in 1861 with funds raised by Reverend James Wilkinson who was minister at Keld from 1838 - 1866.  The primary purpose of The Literary Institute was to  provide a reading room and literature for local members of The Mutual Intellectual Improvement Society. The aim of providing such a facility was to encourage self education and discourage anti-social behaviour and drunkenness! It has to be remembered that the population of Keld at this time was far greater than it is now.  Families were much larger, farms much smaller and many worked in the lead mining industry and its associated trades.

In 1867 the building was extended to provide a large upstairs meeting room above what is now The Countryside & Heritage Centre.  Meetings, social gatherings and events were held here but in 1913 a huge row broke out when it was discovered that dances were being held in the building.  This caused a split in the community and finally led to the building of the Public Hall which incorporated its own reading room! The Literary Institute Reading Room's library of books was never increased or updated but by 1920 a billiard table was installed and men still met socially to play snooker, dominoes, darts and bagatelle as well as read the daily newspapers supplied.  After the war Barclays Bank hired a room once a week to provide a banking service and the Post Office had an arrangement where their van driver could use the room whilst he waited for the local postman to return with collected mail to go back on the van to Richmond. Finally in 1970, through lack of subscriptions and use the Literary Institute closed.

During the 1970s the Literary Institute, the School building and The Manse became known as The Keld Centre and was used as a residential centre for groups visiting the dale. The meeting room became the gathering place for visiting groups to interact, play games and relax together.  Holidays for children from towns and cities were arranged.  For some children this visit to Keld was their first experience of the countryside and all it entails; meadow fields, cows, sheep and lots & lots of fresh air.

By the new millennium The Keld Centre buildings were becoming run down and tired and in need of updating and refurbishment.  In 2001 Foot and Mouth disease broke out and out of consideration to the farming community in Swaledale, the Keld Centre committee cancelled the few bookings it had and closed its doors.  Once closed it never regained popularity and a new purpose for the buildings had to be found.  After much consideration a new initiative was launched called The Keld Resource Centre.  It is this forward thinking charity that is driving forward the restoration project. Phase One, the refurbishment of The Manse into a holiday cottage and Phase Two, the creation of The Countryside & Heritage Centre have been completed (see older posts).

   The plans for the restoration of The Literary Institute and School Buildings are with the National Parks Authority and we wait, in anticipation, for approval.  When completed the Literary Institute will once again be a place for groups and individuals to come together to enjoy all that Keld in Upper Swaledale has to offer and will be marketed as Group@Keld.

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