Today we are remembering local historian Ian Dewhirst who sadly died two years ago. He made an invaluable contribution to preserving, cataloguing and recounting the history of the town. During his life he wrote many articles and books on the town, and gave thousands of talks and tours to various societies and groups, including the History Society. He was born in Keighley in 1936. He went to Keighley Boys’ Grammar School and graduated from the University of Manchester in 1958 with a degree in English. He started working at Keighley Library in 1960 and was promoted to Reference Librarian in 1967, a role he fulfilled until retirement in 1991.
He wrote over a dozen books on Keighley and Yorkshire, including ‘A History of Keighley’, published by the Keighley Corporation in 1974, and reprinted several times since. Ian began writing the popular ‘Memory Lane’ column for the Keighley News in 1992 and carried on doing so right up until his death. In February 1999, he was awarded an MBE by the Queen for his services to local history. In 2009 he had a Northern Rail 158 diesel train named after him. In 2018, the Dalesman awarded him the W. R. Mitchell Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his prolific work as a local historian and public speaker. He spent almost his whole life in Keighley, living in his parents’ former home on Raglan Avenue, off Fell Lane. He died on 20th January 2019 and his funeral service was held at Trinity Church, Fell Lane, on 15th February, followed by a private cremation.
The History Society was recently given a copy of Ian’s collection of local tales ‘The Haworth Water-Wolf and other Yorkshire Stories’, published over 50 years ago. The booklet has been scanned in full and added to our Flickr site (see the link below).
The Lawrence Williamson Players’ production of ‘Jane Eyre’ opened at the Hippodrome in Keighley on 19th January 1948. Charlotte Bronte’s novel was adapted by Helen Jerome and starred Enid Irvin as Jane Eyre with Donald Morley as Mr Rochester.
In 1876, Abraham Kershaw had built a five-storey wooden theatre on Queen Street, designed by architect J. B. Bailey, that opened at Easter 1880. The theatre was not a financial success and the wooden theatre was pulled down. A new improved theatre, called the Queen’s Theatre was built instead and opened on 26th August 1889. But even this new theatre was deemed inadequate, and in its place was built the new Queen’s Theatre. This was designed by acclaimed theatre architect Frank Matcham.
The Queen’s Theatre became the Hippodrome in 1909, although both names remained on the front of the building, and programmes and adverts continued to refer to the ‘Hippodrome and Queen’s Theatre’. The Keighley Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society’s production of ‘Oklahoma!’ was the last play performed at the Hippodrome before it closed in October 1956. The theatre was demolished in 1961 and in its place now stands the Airedale Shopping Centre multi-storey car park.
Programmes part of the History Society’s archive on Flickr, donated by Tim Neal in 2020.
Programme cover and cast list for a Keighley Little Theatre production of ‘Dr Angelus’ by James Bridie. The production was staged from 16th to 20th January 1951. It starred and was produced by Eric B. Broster. At this point the President of the Theatre Group was Keighley Mayor, Alderman Ernest Hutchinson.
Keighley Little Theatre was formed in June 1947 when Frederic W. Pye got together with seven like-minded people in a house in Oakworth and discussed the viability of forming a small amateur company to stage plays. In the early months of 1949, the Theatre Group was offered the lease on Devonshire Hall, originally part of the Liberal Club on Scott Street, which had been erected at the very end of the nineteenth century. Devonshire Hall had been used for lectures, functions, dances and so on. A stage and proscenium had to be built with an appropriate new lighting rig.
1951 was a busy year for the Theatre Group. It marked the Festival of Britain, and alongside producing six plays in Devonshire Hall, they also put on two plays as part of the Bronte Festival, performed in Haworth Church School.
The original programme was donated to the History Society by Tim Neal in September 2020. It is held in the History Society’s physical archive. More programmes can be found on the History Society’s Flickr site.
Programme cover and players list for a rugby match between Keighley and Halifax held on 4th January 1964. Sadly Keighley lost 3-11. Images from the History Society’s archive on Flickr, match score provided by Eddie Kelly.
Happy New Year everyone – and here’s hoping 2021 is a much better year than 2020. The History Society would love to hear your thoughts for the Society in 2021, so we are hosting a meeting on Zoom on the evening of 13th January. More details and information will be posted next week.
To mark the new year we have just published the scans of a 1954 Official Guide to Keighley. The scans were donated by Billy Stride at the end of 2020 and have just been annotated by Tim Neal. The publication carries a history of the town with local photographs and many adverts for local businesses. Click below to see more.
A Christmas party for employees of Smith Bros. & Foster Ltd., held in the Weaving Shed of North Beck Mills. Smith Bros. was established by John Arthur Smith in 1913. The company had a checkered history, including voluntary liquidation in 1958, but ultimately survives to this day in the form of Pennine Weavers Ltd. Photograph donated by Betty Smith.
The unveiling and dedication of the Keighley War Memorial in Town Hall Square took place on 7th December 1924. It was erected by Keighley Municipal Borough to commemorate the 900 men of the Borough who were killed in the First World War. It was paid for by funds raised from public subscription at a cost of £5,000. The bronze figures were sculpted by Henry Charles Fehr (1867-1940). The memorial was unveiled by General Sir Charles Harington, a distinguished First World War staff officer, and dedicated by the Reverend S. Howard-Hall, former chaplain of the local 6th Battalion of the Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding) Regiment. The War Memorial has been categorised as a Grade II listed site since 1986.
We’ve just added this copy of The Keighlian (the magazine of Keighley Boys’ Grammar School) from Christmas 1949 to our Flickr archive. It was donated by John Shires whose father attended the school. We will be adding more editions over the coming weeks.
Happy Guy Fawkes Day! If you’re wondering what the Keighley connection is – the excellent 2017 mini-series ‘Gunpowder’, starring Kit Harington, was filmed in and around Dalton Mills in Keighley. It’s available to watch on Amazon Prime and might be good to re-watch as we enter a winter-time lockdown.