Kilham - Once crowned king of the Wolds now a centre of entrepreneurial activity

PUBLISHED: 11:32 05 January 2011 | UPDATED: 19:56 13 June 2016

Ceramic artist Denise Hayhurst

Ceramic artist Denise Hayhurst

A village, once crowned king of the Wolds, is a centre of entrepreneurial activity as Chris Titley discovers

Brian Hardgrave in his studioBrian Hardgrave in his studio

Art and agriculture

A village, once crowned king of the Wolds, is a centre of entrepreneurial activity as Chris Titley discovers

Raised up above the wide main street in Kilham is All Saints Church. With a commanding tower and ornately carved doorway, this is as fine a Norman church as you could wish for. But there is something else that sets it apart.
Peer at the top of the tower and you realise – that’s not a weathercock.  It’s a weatherturkey. The weathervane is in the shape of everybody’s favourite Christmas bird. A plaque dating from 1990 explains this unusual decoration. ‘The present weathervane, in the form of a turkey, was provided thanks to the generosity of Raymond W Twiddle, born in this parish and now resident at Knapton Hall.’
Mr Twiddle started Twydale Turkeys in 1956 with £100 capital and grew it into a massive business supplying all the major supermarkets. One year the company even sponsored Hull City’s shirts. I’ll leave you to add your own joke here.
It is fitting that a turkey should gaze down on Kilham, a large, pretty village near Driffield, as this is still very much farming country. Unlike many a Yorkshire village, whose agricultural traditions have gone the way of the post office and bus service, farms are still an important and active part of life here. The map found on the corner of Church Street is dotted with them: Hall Farm, Manor Farm, Pasture Gate Farm, while the biggest business in the village deals in agricultural machinery.
At one time Kilham was cock of the Wolds, a bigger market centre than Driffield. All roads led to it – nine in all – and it held annual fairs which were unrivalled for miles. It is said that the village had six schools and one lunatic asylum, which is a commitment to public service few others could match. But with the coming of those new-fangled canals, Driffield steamed ahead and Kilham drifted.
Evidence of the long history of tilling the land
is still all around the village. The turkey weathervane isn’t All Saints’ only nod to agriculture: a bull ring set in stone and found on a verge near the church ‘is a reminder of the baiting which entertained our ancestors’ as the information board puts it. What was once the village windmill is now someone’s home.
There’s also a very picturesque duck pond, the inhabitants of which toddle over to you with straight backs and curt quacks every time you approach. Apparently there are at least two more such oases in the village although they are harder to find.
A village that has more than one duck pond is clearly a place of substance. So it is no surprise to find that Kilham is still chock full of facilities, suggesting that the residents have heeded the much-repeated mantra to use it or lose it. There’s a post office, W J Harrison & Sons butchers – established fully 50 years ago – The Stores, offering a warm welcome and a custard tart, an impressive modern village hall and two pubs, The Bay Horse and Ye Old Star.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of Kilham is the way it still treasures cottage industry. Not for this village the fate of becoming a commuter haven, empty of all but the retired and the young mums during daylight hours. The people here are productive and they sell goods and services to one another as well as to visitors.
The Women’s Institute produced a village information sheet in 1988 and ‘it was heartening to list all the trades and professions still being practiced in the 20th century in Kilham’, the information board says. And judging by one afternoon’s stroll round its streets, the village’s entrepreneurial spirit is going strong well into the 21st century.
On one doorstep, hefty fresh marrows and cabbages were on sale – the grower trusting you to drop the money through the letterbox. On another, kitchen cupboard doors were up for grabs with a sign reading – ‘££ offers’.
Elsewhere new businesses were growing in the premises of the old. Where once was the old ropery and brewery, you find a sign offering beauty essentials. A faded poster next door promotes the restoration of antique clocks and barometers.
There is a thriving artistic community here too. As well as watercolourist Brian Hardgrave (see panel), Denise Hayhurst creates wonderful ceramics in her studio. You can study with Tony Hogan at his Wolds Gallery with the uplifting slogan ‘Art For All’.
Art and agriculture, long vanished markets and new cottage industries – Kilham’s a village which is proud of its past and confident of its future.

My Village

All Saints ChurchAll Saints Church

Artist Brian Hardgrave has lived in Kilham for 25 years, sharing a cottage with his wife until her death three years ago.
The retired engraver, 78, loves the Wolds. Originally from Leeds, he lived in Bridlington for a while and was the landlord of The Black Swan in Wetwang in the early 1980s before settling in Kilham.
‘I love it as a centre. It’s a social place. There’s an awful lot goes on in the village hall, there’s always functions.
‘The church is very good, although the congregation has diminished. There are a lot of very helpful people in the village, a very active neighbourhood watch – a good community spirit.
‘I like the farming aspect of it. Tractors get noisier I know, but I just like it. Friends of ours came over to see us and they thought they were in Texas because of the size of the fields!’
He still paints in the studio at his cottage, in watercolours and acrylics. ‘I’ve got three little Wolds pieces on the go,’ he said. ‘I’ve just finished a semi-commissioned watercolour of a bearded collie.
I do pigs, sheep – I once spent three months painting highland cattle for a chap.’
He likes it that there are more artists in the village – ‘there’s a very good potter not far from me who makes some lovely stuff, Denise Hayhurst’ – and he takes part in open studio events, the next one is due to be held this month.
These used to have the title Big Skies, Brian said. ‘That’s the amazing thing on the Wolds, you do get some very big skies.
You get more depth to the sky because of the rolling hills and wide open spaces.’

Getting there: There are many ways into Kilham, but the most obvious is to take the A614 Bridlington road and turn left after Driffield.
Where to park: Kilham has plenty of on-street parking. Try Church Street, next to All Saints.
What to do: It is a wonderful base for a walk, a scenic drive or a cycle ride along the Driffield Byway Loop.

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