Robert Holmes, Mayor of Keighley

Robert Holmes, J. P., who served as Mayor of Keighley between 1886 and 1887, died on 21st June 1904, just short of being 77 years old. Holmes was the fifth Mayor of Keighley, and had been born in July 1827.

The mini-biography of Holmes, published in the Keighley News’ Borough Jubilee publication of 10th September 1932 reads: “One of Keighley’s earliest chancellors of the exchequer, Mr Robert Holmes, who was the son of Mr Thomas Holmes, a grocer and yeast merchant, High Street, Keighley, entered public life in 1877, when he was elected to the Local Board of Health. He continued a member of that body and its successor, the Town Council, down to the time of his death, occupying the chairmanship of the Finance Committee for 25 years. He was appointed an alderman at the first meeting of the Town Council but was ousted in 1898 by a Tory-Socialist compact. As chairman of the most important committee Mr Holmes had the reputation of being an economist. He was not opposed to expenditure if it could be shown to be reproductive and not reproductive merely in the material sense. Showy and spacious schemes likely to entail heavy rate charges frequently encountered his opposition. He was a Borough and a West Riding magistrate, and among his many other interests were the Keighley and Craven Building Society and the Keighley Temperance Society. His efforts were chiefly instrumental in enabling the Temperance Society to take over and to hold the old Mechanics’ Institute – a purchase that afterwards proved to be remunerative. His Mayoral year coincided with the Queen’s Jubilee, and, being a widower, the duties of the Mayoress devolved on an unmarried daughter.”

As noted above, Holmes was involved with the Keighley and Craven Building Society, serving as Vice-President in 1882. The building society was established in 1851, and for more than half of the 20th century had its head office on Cooke Street in Keighley, overlooking the Town Hall Square. By the 1930s it had branches in Cowling, Cross Hills, Haworth, Oakworth, Oxenhope, Steeton and as far away as Morecambe. It merged with The Provincial Building Society on 31st August 1966. Engraved stonework can still be seen on the Cooke Street building today.

Portrait of Robert Holmes taken by William Cooke’s Studio on Earl Street, Skipton Road, Keighley. Town Hall Square photograph is a detail from a 1938 Valentine & Sons Ltd. postcard, with the Keighley & Craven Building Society head office on the left. Modern photograph taken by Tim Neal in 2019.

Running for the hills

A big thank you to Colin Kirkham who delivered an insightful and amusing talk on Zoom last night about how he started running while at Keighley Boys’ Grammar School – mainly as a hobby to have something to talk about in any university interviews! How he worked as a groundsman at Marley fields and trained at the same time. All of which led to competing on behalf of GB and England in Olympic and Commonwealth Games. Even while living and working in Coventry, he would return to Keighley to practice running on the hills!

Images from Colin Kirkham’s talk on his running career.

On this day 100 years ago…

The inauguration of Keighley Hall in Poix-du-Nord, France, took place on Monday 5th June 1922. The event was attended by Councillor James Longton (Mayor of Keighley 1921-22), Alderman Albert Smith, Councillor W. A. Brigg, Councillor G. A. Calverley and Samuel Clough. The building was designed by Keighley architects W. H. & A. Sugden.

Keighley established links with Poix-du-Nord after the first world war. In 1920, under the scheme of the British League of Help for Devastated Areas in France, Keighley ‘adopted’ Poix-du-Nord and raised over £4,000 by public subscription for a civic hall, which opened in 1922 and was named Keighley Hall.

There is also a street in the town named after Alderman Ferdinand N. Binns (Rue Ferdinand Binns), a former Mayor of Keighley (1918-20), who was awarded the Order and Cross of the Legion of Honour for his efforts to promote good relations between the two towns.

Regular visits between the two towns were exchanged by the branches of the International Brotherhood Alliance (founded in 1905) up until 1938. The town was visited again by the Mayor and Mayoress of Keighley (Mr and Mrs J. E. Brownbridge), the town clerk (Mr J. A. Caesar), the borough architect (Mr. B. A. Waddington) and Councillor David Seeley and his wife Judith Seeley (Judith was the daughter of Mr and Mrs Brownbridge) between Friday 30th May and Sunday 1st June 1969.

All the items shown here are from a collection that records the Mayoral Year of Alderman John Edward Brownbridge and his wife, Councillor Alice Gertrude Brownbridge, as Mayor and Mayoress of Keighley, from May 1969 to May 1970. The collection now belongs to their granddaughter and was loaned to the History Society for scanning in July 2019 by David Seeley.

Keighley Hall in Poix-du-Nord, France. Images from a scrapbook loaned by David Seeley in 2019.

June’s Guest Speaker Talk

This month’s History Society guest speaker talk is “Running Through the Streets of Keighley”, to be given by Society member Colin Kirkham. Colin grew up in Keighley in the 1940s/50s and took up running as a way of having something to talk about at his interviews for university! Ultimately this led to competing for GB in the Olympic and Commonwealth Games in the early 1970s.

Colin’s talk will be split into two parts. The first part is next Wednesday (8th June) and is subtitled “Part One: My Story”. The second part, on the town’s running clubs of the early 20th century, will be presented early next year.

The meeting is on Zoom only this month (NOT at the Library) and is for paid-up members of the History Society only. Members will receive their emails with details on how to join the meeting in the next few days.

Royal Visit over 100 years ago

A Royal Visit by King George V and Queen Mary to the works of Prince Smith & Son in Keighley took place on Wednesday, 29th May 1918. The visit took in the Burlington Shed site (now the area largely occupied by Keighley’s Asda store).

There the Royal Party witnessed the manufacture of wool combing and worsted spinning machinery, vital to the thriving yarn industry of the West Riding, and the additional repurposing of some manufacturing to serve the war effort. They met management staff, veteran employees and women working on the munitions lines.

According to the account in a commemorative booklet produced shortly after the visit: “Her Majesty the Queen expressed pleasure and admiration at the sight of a large group of munition girls in their smart khaki-coloured uniforms, whilst a group of old employees, most of whom could claim from fifty to fifty-five years’ continuous service in the firm’s employ, excited the lively interest of Their Majesties, who graciously shook hands and spoke a few words to each of these faithful old servants.”

The four sets of photographs shown here are from the commemorative booklet which was printed by The Tillotson Press. Copies of the booklet are held in the Keighley and District Local History Society archive. The full booklet is available to view on the History Society’s Flickr site.

Royal visit to Keighley by King George V and Queen Mary on 29th May 1918.

On this day 70 years ago…

This postcard of The Cross and Low Street was posted to Bridlington on 28th May 1952. The area is known as The Cross because it was the location of the original Market Cross for the town. The top of the original cross is now in the Cliffe Castle Museum while a copy was relocated outside the Parish Church just along Church Street.

The photograph was taken around 1950 and is looking from High Street to Low Street. The main building on the centre right is at the corner of Church Street and is the old Midland Bank building, demolished in 1977 along with one side of Church Street (now a grassed pedestrian area). Chadwick’s Stores are on the left (“Uncle Chadwick always serves you well”). The Tetley’s pub on the right is The Devonshire Arms, which opened in the 19th century, became The Grinning Rat in the 1990s and then the K2 night club.

The postcard was published by Valentine & Sons Ltd. The modern photograph of The Cross was taken by Tim Neal in July 2021.

The Cross in Keighley – 1950s and 2020s. A Valentine & Sons Ltd. postcard and photograph by Tim Neal.

St. John’s Church part of KTF

St. John’s Church in Ingrow is celebrating its connections with the trains and the trams as part of In-Motion: The Keighley Transport Festival next week. The church is open on Thursday and Friday (2nd/3rd June) from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. There are two exhibitions for visitors to look at – on the history of the electric trams that ran through the town in the early 20th century and on the history of the church itself. It is also an opportunity to see inside this historic church that will be celebrating its 180th anniversary next year. And the church will be serving tea, coffee and cake from its new kitchen.

There is a free bus service running between the different venues of the Transport Festival and it drops off right outside the church. You could also visit Rail Story Ingrow at the same time which is on the other side of the road from the church.

St. John’s Church in Ingrow (photograph by Tim Neal) with two early 20th century postcards showing the railway and electric trams at Ingrow.

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.