Local History Society Report
Hebden Bridge Local History Society: Seventy and still going strong
Sunday, 3 November 2019
The annual general meeting of the Hebden Bridge Local History Society gave President Barbara Atack and members of the society the opportunity to celebrate its seventieth birthday by looking back over the years at some of the people and events that have marked its long life. And there was cake!
There was a curious coincidence about the very first meeting of the society in August 1949 – it took place in the front room of the Crown Street home of Barbara’s future father in law, Cedric Atack, one of its founder members. The Local History Society was one of a number of offspring of the Literary and Scientific Society, which since 1905 had been meeting the ‘thirst for knowledge’ of the people of Hebden Bridge.
The History society soon began its lecture series, with Hebden Bridge Grammar School (Riverside) as its base. Head teacher Colin Spencer served as President for over three decades, and is remembered for his book, The History of Hebden Bridge, which is still much valued. Other stalwarts of the committee included Winnie Greenwood, who was the longest serving treasurer and Frank Woolrych, who was Barbara’s predecessor as president for twelve years. From the beginning the society had an active membership who undertook research, conducted walks, made recordings and gave talks.
Archive of documents of local interest
One of the jewels of the society is its archive of documents of local interest donated by local people and organisations. The archive has had many homes from Hope Sunday School to an attic room in the old Tourist Information Centre, but thanks to Pennine Heritage it now has a safe place in the Birchcliffe Centre. It contains some significant collections valuable to local historians and anyone with an interest in the detail of how people lived in the past. Volunteers work to catalogue new donations and to make the archive accessible.
Barbara’s talk reminded the audience of the range of activities that the society has undertaken in recent years. The annual programme of talks continue to attract new members; study days bring in people from across Yorkshire to explore topics such as farming and house histories. The society has organised some longer term courses, notably those run by the late Alan Petford. These in turn have encouraged members to conduct their own research and to give talks to the society.
Over recent years the society has published a number of books covering a range of topics, from the First World War to Dawson city and the meticulously transcribed 17th century probate documents and most recently the story of the Hebden Bridge clothing industry. There are opportunities for specialised interests in the Prehistory, Folklore and Family History sections of the society.
It was good to be reminded of the work the society does locally - volunteers successfully completing churchyard inscriptions from Heptonstall and making them available online and the support given to saving the Pace Egg Play stand out. Recently there have been popular exhibitions in the Town Hall, with the story of ‘How the hippies changed Hebden Bridge’ being especially memorable. All these successes have relied on volunteers and enthusiasts, and seventy years on it seems that there are still people keen to contribute to the life of our town.
The society welcomes new members and visitors to meetings at Hebden Bridge Methodist Church on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month.
The next meeting on Wednesday November 13th at 7.30pm will hear Allan Stuttard’s Memories of Foster Mill. Allan is keen that anyone with memories of working in the Hebden Bridge clothing industry come along and share their memories.
With thanks to Sheila Graham for this report