Another Transport Tale

‘In Motion’, the Keighley Transport Festival, is happening across the town on Thursday 2nd and Friday 3rd June 2022. It is free entry to all the participating sites and events run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The History Society is mounting an exhibition featuring “Ten Tales of Transport”. One of the stories we are telling is “Yester-Day Trips” which tells the tale of daytrips from Keighley organised by local firms, businesses and churches from the 1900s to the 1960s. You can see the exhibition upstairs at the Civic Centre on both days.

Saturday 16th May 1959

The foundation stone for the extension to Keighley Central Library was laid by Alderman John S. Bell, Chairman of the Libraries. Arts & Museum Committee of Keighley Borough Council, on 16th May 1959. The stone can still be viewed set in the wall of the library along North Street today.

The space to the left of the Library as you look across North Street from Town Hall Square was originally occupied by Lowfield House, a private residence (see the postcard top right). This house had belonged to George Smith when the Library was built in 1904. George Smith was the father of Sir Swire Smith who had been one of the driving forces behind getting the Library built in the first place, through his friendship with businessman and entrepreneur Andrew Carnegie.

Lowfield House and the adjacent house number 2 on Spencer Street were bought by Keighley Corporation in 1918 with the intention of extending the Library. For some years, 2 Spencer Street was used as the home of the serving Chief Librarian. Even with plans approved for a Children’s Library on the site in 1938, nothing happened for many years and the building was occupied as the offices of the Health Department of the West Riding County Council.

This arrangement came to an end in June 1955 and plans were drawn up to build a new single storey Library extension on the site. These plans were recognised as not ambitious enough and secondary plans were drawn up and approved in May 1957 for a two storey extension at a cost of £37,178. These then had to be scaled back again to a smaller plan at a cost of £26,811 which was approved by the Council in January 1958.

The Chief Librarian and Borough Architect drew up the final plans with the successful contractor for the work being Wm. Mallinson and Sons (Lockwood) Ltd. of Huddersfield. The natural stone used at the front was sourced from Matlock House Quarry in Huddersfield while the bricks at the rear were Messrs. Whittaker’s Burslem bricks.

It took almost two years for the work to be completed, with the extension formally opened by Alderman John S. Bell (who by this time was the Mayor of Keighley) on 25th March 1961. It comprised a Children’s Library, stackroom, work room, staff room, kitchen, stores, lecture hall, three study rooms and toilets. The opening ceremony was followed by afternoon tea in the Municipal Hall across the road.

Currently the building houses the Offices for City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council’s Early Childhood Services and Youth Services, and the Bereavement Services.

Keighley Library extension. The photograph of the foundation stone was taken by Tim Neal in 2019. The postcard of the Town Hall Square with the Library and Lowfield House in the background is from around 1910 and was donated by Laurence Brocklesby. The image of the newly-completed Library extension is from a booklet issued at the formal opening in 1961, which was donated by Liz Hornby in 2021.

Monday 15th May 1972

The top photograph was taken for publicity and marketing purposes by the Dean Smith and Grace Ltd. Photographic Department on 15th May 1972. The original photograph is held in the History Society’s archive.

By 1972 the company was already over 100 years old. Three Keighley engineers, Joseph Dean (1824-1909), James Smith (1834-1906) and John Grace (1840-1904), formed the partnership Dean, Smith & Grace in 1865. The men borrowed money to buy land from the Duke of Devonshire and built the Worth Valley Works. According to their 1889 catalogue, they manufactured machine tools “for locomotive, marine and general engineering, ordnance manufacturers, boilermakers, shipbuilders etc. etc.” and had already procured various government contracts. By 1883 their debts had been cleared and in 1898 the partnership became a limited company.

In the early years of the 20th century, some rebuilding and restructuring took place and the company started to specialise in the manufacture of industrial lathes. Their reach was global, doing trade deals with Australia, Japan, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Spain, Mexico and Argentina.

At the outbreak of World War One, now trading as Dean, Smith & Grace (1908) Ltd., the firm’s efforts were recognised in a letter from Lord Kitchener. The letter, dated 22nd October 1914, acknowledged the importance of the work undertaken by the firm and its employees in playing their part towards the war effort. During this period the company also manufactured breech blocks for guns. From 1938, the firm was run by Sir Harry Smith, James Pearson and Bert Laycock.

During World War Two, Dean, Smith & Grace financed their own Spitfire as part of a nationwide drive to raise money for fighter planes. They produced lathes for all branches of the armed forces, the government’s Ministry of Supply and for the Admiralty, and became one of the first traditionally all-male firms to employ women. At their output peak they were producing 107 machines per month, meaning one-fifth of all the lathes manufactured in this country were coming from Dean, Smith & Grace. In 1948, a new range of lathes was exhibited the Machine Tool Exhibition held at Olympia in London, which led to considerable trade with Canada.

According to advertising from the time, by 1960 they were manufacturing 13” to 30” swing engine lathes, surfacing and boring lathes, and precision tool room lathes. The works at this time boasted many labour-saving devices including mechanised accounting machines, colour-coded signalling systems and index systems for accounts and stores control. Staff benefitted from a superannuation scheme, a canteen (with DSG-stamped cutlery) and a surgery “with sun-ray and infra-red lamps for treatment during working hours”. The company also had its own sports field and pavilion for its cricket team and other sporting activities. The firm boasted of its employee loyalty, recognising long periods of service – in one case over sixty years.

A new foundry in Lawkholme Lane, the Nelson Works, was built between 1962 and 1965. In 1974 the company was sold to US company Monarch Machine Tool Co. The firm then became independent again in 1992, rebranding as DSG Lathes. There was a management buyout in 2005 and former Rolls-Royce engineer Nigel Grainger took over as managing director. He initiated a rebrand and a complete overhaul of the product range, including the launch of new aerospace and pipe lathes. In 2008 the company went into administration and was bought by Newsmith Stainless Ltd. and traded as Dean Smith & Grace Lathes Ltd. In 2012 the company was sold on to Machine Tool Technology Group who in 2015 made the decision to move the firm from Keighley to Halifax.

Dean Smith & Grace is now a Belgrave & Powell Ltd. company operating out of Preston in Lancashire. According to its website “it still develops new machine tools but also offers robotics and automation, CNC retrofitted solutions, rebuilds, machine tool services and breakdown support for all types of machine tools with the same level of professionalism and pride in the name instilled in the business over a 150 years ago”. An example of a Dean, Smith & Grace lathe is held in the Science Museum Group’s collection.

The postcard is from the 1930s while the advert is from a 1960 edition of the Official Keighley Handbook. The former DSG offices on Pitt Street were photographed by Tim Neal in February 2021.

One More Tale…

‘In Motion’, the Keighley Transport Festival, is happening across the town on Thursday 2nd and Friday 3rd June 2022. It is free entry to all the participating sites and events run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The History Society is mounting an exhibition featuring “Ten Tales of Transport”. One of the stories we are telling is “Keighley’s Own Aire-Force” which tells the tale of how the town rallied round to fund two fighter planes in the early days of World War Two, told with the help of Ian Walkden from the Men of Worth Project. You can see the exhibition upstairs at the Civic Centre on both days.

Coronation Celebrations

The coronation of King George VI took place on Wednesday 12th May 1937. There were many celebrations held around the town including a service of thanksgiving at the Parish Church (attended by Keighley Town Mayor Thomas Wardle and members of the 6th Battalion Duke of Wellington’s West Riding Regiment), followed by luncheon and then tea in the Municipal Hall; and a procession of different tableaux and a funfair in Victoria Park. The procession was watched by around 30,000 spectators and was made up of 28 tableaux created by local schools.

The town was well decorated with flags and bunting. Each child in the borough received a commemorative mug, and a party for youngsters was hosted by Edward Roberts and his wife at the New Mansions Lodging House in Westgate. Cake and crockery were distributed to employees of J. Haggas and Co. Ltd. of Ingrow Mills. A fancy dress parade and celebrations were held in the grounds of East Riddlesden Hall, which had only been handed over to National Trust a few years earlier.

A scrapbook containing dozens of cuttings from the Keighley News of a few days later is held in the Keighley and District Local History Society archive. All of the images shown here have been taken from this scrapbook. The scrapbook has been scanned in its entirety and is available to view here.

Cuttings from the Keighley News showing celebrations around the town marking the coronation of King George VI in 1937. Taken from a scrapbook held in the History Society’s archive.

On this day…

This postcard of an electric tram trundling down Bradford Road was posted on 7th May 1906. It is a Valentine’s Series postcard from J. Valentine & Sons Ltd., published by J. Overend of Keighley. The building to the left of the tram has Stock Bridge Bowling Club painted on the side. There is a post office to right.

The postcard features in one of the “Tales of Transport” being told by Keighley and District Local History Society as part of their contribution to the forthcoming Keighley Transport Festival. The Festival is being held around the town on the Bank Holidays Thursday 2nd June and Friday 3rd June this year. The electrified tramways system ran between Utley, Ingrow and Stockbridge from 1904 to 1924. The History Society’s exhibition on the electric trams will be available to view in the Civic Centre and at St. John’s Church in Ingrow on both days.

Postcard of an electric tram running along Bradford Road. Item loaned by Stephanie Toothill.

Another Tale of Transport

‘In Motion’, the Keighley Transport Festival, is happening across the town on Thursday 2nd and Friday 3rd June 2022. It is free entry to all the participating sites and events run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The History Society is mounting an exhibition featuring “Ten Tales of Transport”. One of the stories we are telling is “Making Inn-Roads” which tells the tale of the various 18th and 19th century horse-drawn coach services and the inns in the town that served them, recounted by Eddie Kelly. You can see the exhibition upstairs at the Civic Centre on both days.

May Guest Speaker

The History Society’s guest speaker this month is Kathryn Hughes giving her talk ‘Mr Pybus and Bradford’s Munition Factories – How Bradford took the lead in engaging female munitions workers’. The talk is on Wednesday 11th May.

This talk is happening upstairs at Keighley Library and is open to both members and non-members. The charge for non-members is £3, payable on the door. To reserve a place, please email

If members wish they can join in by Zoom instead (this option is only available to paid-up History Society members). Members will receive their Zoom invites by email from Anne-Marie a few days in advance.

Doors open at 7pm for a 7.30pm start. Please check social media or our website nearer the time for any updates.

Women workers at the Burlington Sheds factory of Prince-Smith & Stells Ltd., producing bayonets for use on rifles during World War Two. Photograph donated by Joyce Wood.

70 years ago today…

Saturday 3rd May 1952 was closing night of Keighley Little Theatre’s production of ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ by Oscar Wilde. It starred Eric B. Broster, Ken Everett, David Brown, Morag C. Moorhouse, Norma Feather, Joyce Reeder, Ray Dewsnap, George Scull and John Harker, and was produced by Eric B. Broster. At this point the President of the Theatre Group was Keighley Mayor, Councillor David C. Hudson.

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. The Theatre Group included Doreen Mary Hillary (known as Mary) who acted and was involved in productions for over three decades, and Eric B. Broster, who went on to direct many of their plays.

In the early months of 1949, the Theatre Group was offered the lease on the premises in Devonshire Street that became home to the amateur theatre company. Those premises were 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 (and continued to be for hire through Keighley Little Theatre). Having been looking for a permanent home, the lease was taken up. A stage and proscenium had to be built with an appropriate new lighting rig. The theatre remains the home of the Theatre Group to this day. In 1969, Keighley Little Theatre re-branded as Keighley Playhouse.

Keighley Playhouse with pages from the programme for ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’, staged in 1952. The original programme was donated by Tim Neal in 2020. The photograph of the Playhouse was taken by Andy Wade in 2012.