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Hebden Bridge Arts Festival

Monday, 8 March 2017

Blue plaques for everyday heroes


Blue plaques have sprung up all over Hebden Bridge, commemorating the lives of every day heroes in 1916

Blue Plaque

Blue plaques could be seen during the recent
Hebden Heritage Story Walk. Photo: Craig Shaw

Funding for Festival project

The distinctive blue plaques dotted across the town were created by local people keen to find out who lived in their homes in 1916 supported by Hebden Bridge Arts Festival who won Heritage Lottery funding for the scheme.

Blue PlaqueWho Lived In My Street?

The ‘Who Lived In My Street’ project was inspired by research the festival team had done into Hebden's textile history where they discovered that legions of townsfolk had been involved in the manufacture of trousers right up to the outbreak of the first world war. So the festival board thought it would be interesting to invite people to research the previous occupants of their houses.

Forgotten history revealed

The research project revealed a forgotten history where most of the local men marched off to war, and the women carried on working in local mills only this time producing thousands of uniforms every day for the war effort.

For some household there was sadness, as some of the local Tommies who sailed off to fight for King and Country never made it back to the valley, and are buried in war cemeteries where they fell.

Strong women

Arts Festival Artistic Director Helen Meller said: “This project has been a real roller-coaster of emotions as people dug deep to find our who lived in their house all those years ago, and sometimes it revealed a sad tale of loss, but in others inspiring tales of strong women who unlike lots of their counterparts elsewhere in the UK, had been earning a good living for a long time.

“All too often the only people who get blue plaques are the great and good, who have usually been honoured.  This was an attempt to make that process more democratic as so called ordinary people have done extraordinary things too.

“We’re grateful to the Heritage Lottery fund for supporting us in this extraordinary community heritage project, and to everyone who spent time doing the research which has brought the history of our town to life"

Local shop owners have joined in and for Helen Baron and Caroline Burton the research was a welcome distraction after their Ribbon Circus shop on Market Street was being refitted after it was submerged in the Boxing Day deluge.

Helen said, “After all the trauma of rebuilding  it was nice to find out who traded on these premises before us and amazingly we found that it was also a haberdashers shop back in 1916!

Town with small shops - even back then

“Hebden Bridge is seen as the town with lots of small shops, but the research I and other traders did showed that has always been the case. It was fascinating to see how small businesses have always been the backbone of the town’s economy and who the shopkeepers of 1916 were.”

The blue plaques are being documented by the After Alice photographic team who will add their photos to their growing archive of local history.

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