This exhibition was put on by the Arnside archive group in the Arnside Educational Institute and attracted around 300 visitors during the weekend. More than 20 relatives of the Crossfield boatbuilding family travelled to Arnside from as far afield as Canada, Wales, London and Derbyshire to see the historic materials and to meet up with one another. New materials were added to the archive as a result and many new connections were made or recovered. Representatives from the Morecambe Bay Partnership project H2H as well as neighbouring local history societies were also there (Mourholme and Cartmel Peninsula).
The exhibition began with displays about the wider context of shipbuilding and fishing in Morecambe Bay and a leaflet pointed visitors to a short walk around the village to see some of the historical buildings connected to the boatbuilding industry. There was plenty of information about the boats themselves, including the "Nobby" prawners, yachts and rowing boats. Arthur Ransome, author of children's book Swallows and Amazons knew Arnside well and his boat, Swallow, was built in Arnside by Francis Crossfield. The original Morecambe Bay lifeboat The William Priestley was also built in the village. Many of the boats are still in existence a testament to their quality and craftsmanship and can be tracked to distant locations. One was even taken to Tasmania. There was also a beautiful wooden model of a Nobby on display along with designs and pictures of the hand tools used to build the boats.
Star of the show was the 1912 Crossfield built yacht The Severn which returned to Arnside in April this year and was in full sail on the estuary during the exhibition in glorious sunshine along with some of the small modern dinghies used by the Arnside Sailing club. The archive group is now working out how to make the exhibition materials accessible to people in a more permanent way and this website is one way of doing this.
Many people worked together to research and assemble the exhibition. It has been a real eye-opener and a genuinely emotional experience for the family members and others with first-hand memories of the boatbuilding industry. Much of the Crossfield boat-building story is already documented in local history books, including one by Dennis Bradbury founder of the archive, whose collection of photographs we drew on heavily for the exhibition. However, we think this is the first time this material has all been been drawn together to focus on the maritime and boatbuilding history of Arnside.
Mary Hamilton (FOR Arnside Archive Group)