Ian Dewhirst Remembered

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).

Images of local historian Ian Dewhirst from a copy of the Keighley News dated 31st January 2019.
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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.

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.

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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.

Twelve Thousand Plus!

A new album of Keighley photographs taken by Roy Dean Willoughby in the 1980s means we now have over 12,000 images for anyone to view on our Flickr site. The photographs were donated by Roy’s grandson Billy Stride.

Take a browse and explore the History Society’s albums. As well as photographs there are postcards, newspaper cuttings, documents, adverts and more.

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The Picture House Reopens

Welcome back to Keighley’s Picture House cinema which reopens this Friday (30th October) after over seven months of closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Picture House Cinema opened in 1913. It originally had an iron and glass porch the front of the cinema. The venue hosted live shows and pop concerts as well as film showings. In 1954, it was bought by the Essoldo chain of cinemas and became the Keighley Essoldo. In the 1970s the cinema was restructured and what was the original cinema balcony became a second smaller screen room, as it remains today. In the 1980s the building was acquired by Bradford Metropolitan Council and it reverted to The Picture House. The cinema closed in 1991 and reopened in 1996 run by the Northern Morris Cinemas.

See the cinema’s website or Facebook page for details on some of the classic movies being shown from this Friday. Images from the History Society’s archive on Flickr.

The Picture House, Keighley. Images from the History Society archive. Montage created by Tim Neal.

Cliffe Castle Reopens

Welcome back! Cliffe Castle Museum in Keighley reopened to the public this week. The museum will be open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays from 11am to 3pm. Please be aware there are various social distancing measures in place to ensure public and staff safety. Details are available on the museum’s website (https://www.bradfordmuseums.org/venues/cliffe-castle-museum)

Driveway to Cliffe Castle Museum. Photograph taken by History Society committee member Tim Neal on 22nd August 2018.
The Dining Room or Tapestry Room, Cliffe Castle, Keighley. The portrait on the left is of Maria Louise Roosevelt Burke, Henry Isaac Butterfield’s wife, painted by Roberto Bompiani around 1880. Many of the original pieces of furniture and ornaments were taken away or auctioned by Henry Isaac Butterfield’s granddaughter, Countess Manvers (1889-1984), when she inherited the house in 1943 and sold it in 1950. The rooms were faithfully restored in various stages from the late 1980s onwards. Photograph taken by History Society committee member Tim Neal on 22nd August 2018.
Timmy Feather’s Workshop, Working Landscapes Gallery, Cliffe Castle, Keighley. The last reported handloom weaver in the area was Timmy Feather. He lived and worked in Buckley Green, Stanbury. He died in 1910 at the age of 85. This is a recreation of Feather’s loom shop in the upper storey of his cottage, including the last known handloom of the district. Photograph taken by History Society committee member Tim Neal on 22nd August 2018.
The Bracewell Smith Hall, Cliffe Castle, Keighley. When, in 1950, Cliffe Castle was purchased by Sir Bracewell Smith for the people of Keighley, he appointed architect Sir Albert Richardson to reconfigure the entire building. The Bracewell Smith Hall was the magnificent centrepiece that came out of this work. It was designed as a picture gallery and public hall. The octagonal shape of the room was inspired by Brighton Pavilion and is echoed in the original wooden lantern that hangs from the ceiling. The room was restored to its 1950s appearance in 2013. The marble statue in the centre is by German artist Carl L. H. Muller and is called ‘The Minstrel’s Curse’, based on a poem by Ludwig Uhland. Photograph taken by History Society committee member Tim Neal on 16th February 2020.