Percy Monkman – Artist

March is already upon us, and this month’s History Society meeting (on 13th March) features author Martin Greenwood talking about the life and work of his grandfather, the acclaimed local artist Percy Monkman. Percy Monkman’s life can be summed up in one phrase: “A job in banking, a life in the arts”. By day Percy Monkman worked in the same Bradford bank for 40 years, indeed the same office, ending up as chief cashier. Everything else about Percy was totally unconventional. By night, at weekends, on holidays he transformed himself into an entertainer, actor, artist and cartoonist whose work was regularly acclaimed by the public and held in great respect by colleagues.

He came from a humble working-class family in the Toller Lane area of Bradford and left school when he was fourteen. He joined the Bradford Civic Theatre in the 1930s and the Bradford Arts Club in the 1920s. Subjects for his paintings included the moors above Haworth, the Dales and the Pennines, Bolton Abbey, Bingley Fair, Forster Square, the canal at Shipley and Otley Chevin.

Martin has written an affectionate and comprehensive biography of Percy, published by Plash Mill Press, £24.49. A small number of copies of the book will be available to buy on the night (cash only please).

Anyone is welcome to attend the meeting. Entry costs £3.50 (free if you are a history society member). The meetings are upstairs in the local studies library of Keighley Library on North Street. Doors open at 7pm, the meeting starts at around 7.20pm and Martin’s talk will begin at 7.30pm. We finish around 8.30pm. Please use the side entrance to the library on Albert Street if you are arriving after 7pm. Anyone is welcome to come along and if people wish to join the society they can pay in cash on the night (membership for the rest of 2024 costs £15 or £20 for a couple living at the same address).

The history society is 20 years old in 2024. It organises monthly meetings which are free to attend if you are a member (alternatively you can join via Zoom if you are a member). It has its own website and Facebook page, and it runs a Flickr site with over 20,000 images on that anyone is welcome to look at. It produces four newsletters a year which are sent to members via email, and it tries to organise at least one special visit a year.

Yes! Yes! Nanette!

We’ve just uploaded another album of images to our Flickr site. This time it’s the programme for Keighley Amateurs’ 1950 production of “No! No! Nanette!”. What makes this programme uniquely special is that it was signed with dedications by many of the cast and production team, saying goodbye to long time Amateurs performer Arthur Day. Signatories include Elsie Greenwell, Keith Marsden, Pamela Fitzjohn, Frederic W. Pye and Irene Ogden.

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Great Talk, Great Turnout

A big thank you to artist Kevin Bell, who spoke to the History Society at Keighley Library on Wednesday night about growing up in the town in the late 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s. He shared memories of school, the Mechanics’ Institute, waiting to use a public phone box, scrumping for apples, using donkey stones to clean stone steps, Millers shop on North Street, Keighley gala, the ABC Ritz cinema, the market and night clubs in Haworth, accompanied by his fantastic paintings.

And a big thank you to everyone who came along to hear and see Kevin. Over 50 people came along on a rather damp night – we had to keep asking the very helpful library caretaker for more chairs!

If you are interested in seeing Kevin in action, he will be painting his latest piece, that marks the 100th anniversary of the unveiling of Keighley War Memorial, in Keighley Library on Wednesday and Thursday next week (21st and 22nd February 2024). Please pop down and say hello.

Keighley in the 1960s/70s

February’s History Society meeting is on Wednesday 14th February. It is open to everyone and will be held at Keighley Library. Artist Kevin Bell will be revisiting the town where he grew up to share his memories and show some of the paintings he has created of that time. Plenty of nostalgia accompanied by terrific evocative paintings.

The meeting is held upstairs in the Local Studies Library. Doors open at 7pm and Kevin’s talk will start at 7.30pm. If arriving after 7pm, please use the side door entrance on Albert Street. Admission is £3.50. Admission is free to History Society members, who also have the option of joining via Zoom (Zoom meeting details are sent out via email a few days in advance).

Yorkshire Dialect Matters

The History Society’s first meeting of 2024 is a members-only meeting on Zoom. Dialect expert Rod Dimbleby will talk about past and current interest in Yorkshire dialect as well as entertain with poems and stories in Yorkshire dialect. Details of how to join the meeting on Zoom will be sent to members a few days in advance.

The Zoom meeting will open by 7.15pm, with Rod’s talk starting at 7.30pm. If members have any queries, please get in touch with Anne-Marie or Steve.

Christmas Meeting

A reminder that next Wednesday (13th December) will be the History Society’s Christmas Meeting. It will be held upstairs in Keighley Library on Wednesday evening. Doors open at 7pm and the meeting starts at 7.30pm. Anyone is welcome to attend. It is free entry for History Society members and £3.50 for anyone else.

The meeting is more informal than our usual monthly meetings. There will be mince pies! There will be a short just-for-fun quiz, committee member Steve Bown will be talking about (or reminding some of us!) of what Christmas in Keighley was like back in 1973, and there will be the chance to look at some of the items we have had donated during 2023.

One collection we will have out is some photographs we have been given that there taken by Keighley Boys Grammar School teacher Frank Trenouth in the 1950s and 1960s. These show some of the school trips abroad during this time. We are keen to identify as many of the pupils as possible, so come on down and see if you recognise anyone.

This meeting is also the chance to take our a membership of the Society, or to renew your membership if you are already a member. We are grateful to anyone who joins, because as well as the benefits for yourself (free entry to meetings and events, members-only Zoom access, quarterly newsletter, a say in how the society is run), it helps us pay for the things that keep the society running (such as insurance, equipment, the website and Flickr site, Zoom, printing posters and so on). Your support is vital. Membership costs £15 and covers January to December 2024 (or £20 for a couple living at the same address). Please note that paying on the night will need to be in cash because we don’t have electronic means of taking payment.

The image shown here includes a Christmas painting by Keighley artist Stanley Boardman (the painting is held in the History Society collection), and three examples of the Frank Trenouth photographs.

Gerald Newton

The History Society is very sad to announce the passing of Gerald Newton. He was a proud Keighlian his whole life and many of you will have known him through his time as a town councillor, through his work with Keighley Bus Museum, or through the History Society. He served on the Society’s committee for the last few years, coming into his own when we needed practical support for events such as the Keighley Show or Bronte Vintage Gathering. But behind the scenes probably his most important role was in the support he offered his wife, our chair, Joyce. His remembrance service was held yesterday at Oakworth Crematorium, and amongst the capacity mourners were several members of the History Society. We remember Gerald with much affection and our thoughts are with Joyce and her family.

Devonshire Park Opened

Devonshire Park was officially opened to the public on 4th September 1888 and remains open today.

The Devonshire Park and Cliffe Castle Conservation Area Assessment (City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council, April 2002): “(Devonshire Park) was laid out on the nine acres of land that were presented to the town of Keighley by the Duke of Devonshire in celebration of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee, and was formally opened to the public on 4th September 1888. The establishment of Devonshire Park reflects the fashion in the closing decades of the nineteenth century for rich members of society to demonstrate their benevolence by gifting land and resources for use in municipal projects. It was a period of philanthropic gestures… The layout of Devonshire Park is typical of late Victorian parks, with serpentine paths curving around islands of formal planting and an ornamental lake, leading up to a broad gravel terrace just above the bandstand, ideal for its intended purpose as an area for peramble. In 1888, Devonshire Park was bounded on three sides by a Wesleyan Chapel, the residences of Mr. Summerscales, Mr. Prince Smith Junior and Mr. Henry Wright and the precincts of Cliffe Castle. It is evident that at this time a number of wealthy professionals had already set up home in the area, but to the masses the area remained relatively inaccessible, as it could only be reached by the use of private transport. The area continued to expand as a residential quarter throughout the closing decades of the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth century, with the attractiveness of the park no doubt contributing to its appeal. The smaller roads were constructed to allow access to the new properties and as streets on which to site new developments.”

Postcards from the History Society’s digital archive on Flickr. 

Postcards of Devonshire Park from the History Society’s archive.