On This Day…

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.

On This Day…

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.

Online AGM and Meeting

The History Society is holding its first online meeting since we are still not able to meet face-to-face. The first meeting will be a combined Annual General Meeting and future planning meeting. It will include a review of 2020, the treasurer’s report, the election of committee members, and then an open discussion about what else the History Society could be doing as we move forward. The meeting is open to both paid-up members and non-members, although only members will be able to vote where appropriate.

The meeting will be on Wednesday 13th January 2021 and will be hosted on Zoom. The meeting will be from 7.30pm to 8.30pm but we will open the ‘doors’ of the meeting at 7pm so that we can make sure people have logged in okay etc.

In order to join the meeting, we will need your email address. Please DO NOT type your email below. But if you would like to join in with the meeting please write a comment below (like “I would like to join in”) and Steve Bown (the Vice-chairperson of the History Society) will get back to you in a private message with the details you need. Or if you have any questions please post them below.

Happy New Year

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.

KHS_P_518_ (1)

Christmas Countdown

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.

On this day…

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.

The War Memorial Keighley

Looking Back and Looking Forward

November is usually the month when we hold our Annual General Meeting, but at an online meeting the History Society committee decided that it was more practicable to postpone this until Wednesday 13th January 2021. We will be holding the meeting online and anyone will be welcome to attend although only paying members will be allowed to vote on any matters that require a vote. More details will be published nearer the time.

As we announced back in April, anyone who paid for 2020 membership of the History Society will have that membership extended to cover 2021 as well. This will also apply anyone who takes out a membership before the end of December 2020. We have discussed several ideas about how we can operate differently in the future, to be more effective in the “new normal”, and would like to get feedback from existing members and people who perhaps just follow us through our website and Facebook pages.

Although we only managed to hold three of our monthly meetings in Keighley Library at the beginning of the year, the History Society has not stood still during the rest of the year. The Committee has been holding monthly online meetings, but the situation always changed too fast to put our ideas in place. But in the meantime the Facebook group has grown by over 600 people (that’s nearly double what we had last year), and the number of images added to our Flickr page has grown from 9,700 to over 12,000 (that’s over 40 new images every week). We have also seen a lot of questions and queries come through the website.

Covid looks likely to be affecting all our lives for many more months to come. So even though it is our aim to get back to having in-person group meetings, we also want to look at other ways of carrying on such as online guest speakers and meetings. If people want to share ideas about what else the History Society can be doing, please send us a message or comment below. Similarly, if anyone wants to help us run things please get in touch.