“One live pig, two guinea fowl and 100 cigarettes” – High Stakes in Rathmell Raffles of the 1960s

Scan of a 1997 article from the Craven Herald, about Rathmell Reading Room

Text of the article

New lease of life: Rathmell Reading Room

Historic building enters new era

“A raffle which took place in 1962 offered the prizes of one live pig, two guinea fowl and 100 cigarettes!”

AFTER an impressive village effort, Rathmell Reading Room has been brought up to standard and has just received its first Public Entertainment Licence.

The Reading Room committee began fundraising when it became obvious that without major work it would not be granted a licence. Now the £7,500 works have been completed and the reading room is a venue to be proud of, with new toilets and tiling, new kitchen tops and sink, plus new plaster ceilings in all the downstairs rooms. 

“It is used by the young farmers, Thursday Club (Age Concern), and for playing snooker and billiards. We would like it to be used by more clubs and classes. At £6 an evening it is very competitive and worth people using it from Settle,” said Julia Weston, reading room committee chairman.

Rathmell Reading Room was built around 1904 by the Geldards of Cappleside as a place to read newspapers and borrow books. Since then it has enjoyed a colourful history, including staying open throughout both world wars, and being a prominent venue for short plays and entertainments in the days before television.

Originally it had private membership, with men paying more than women, but in 1964 Colonel Geldard made it into a charity, throwing it open to the village.

In 1908 papers including the Leeds Mercury, Illustrated London News, Farmer and Stockbreeder and the Yorkshire Post were available for reading, and the library was established in 1910 – the same year as the minutes record it cost sixpence to practice the piano.

In 1912 it went bankrupt after losing a legal case. It was bailed out by the owner Mrs Geldard, for £201, and in 1918 it was reported to the committee that “profane language” had been used in the Reading Room.

A raffle which took place in 1962 offered the prizes of one live pig, two guinea fowl and 100 cigarettes!

The cash for the work came from local efforts plus grants from Telethon, Camelot, Rural Communities Council and Craven District Council.

Still in private ownership, Mrs M Weston, formerly of Cappleside, has just made a new 30 year lease to the trust, and in September a new

scheme will be launched encouraging an annual donation to help maintain the building – Patrons of the Reading Room.

The annual meeting is on October 14 and all parishioners over 18 years old are welcome.