“Be-Bop-A-Lula” -Yeh!

Over the past 12 months Keighley Local Studies Library has held a series of very popular  events celebrating the local music scene featuring bands, musicians and speakers but nothing could have prepared the Library for the huge crowd of music fans who turned up on Saturday,  8th December. It became standing room only quite quickly as nearly every chair in the building was commandeered for the burgeoning audience.

The afternoon  featured a rock n roll reunion with a band called the Elderberries,  whose lead singer is the legendary show business entrepreneur Garth Cawood and the event was more than ably compered by the equally legendary Small  Town Saturday Night author, former referee  and local celebrity, Trevor Simpson, making a return visit to Keighley.  The event almost literally raised the roof. Many had attended previous events but the word had spread and the library was soon humming and bouncing to the foot tapping and even impromptu jiving of some of these music lovers.

Garth Cawood’s experience as a music promoter and entertainer really showed in a spot-on performance with his band, despite Garth initially confessing to being “a bit nervous now” at performing in a library to such an unexpectedly large and enthusiastic audience. One member of the band confided that they had expected a quiet afternoon gig in a library – but this is Keighley Library!

Trevor Simpson was compère for the afternoon, back by popular demand, to start the show with a talk about the music of the 1960s in the Yorkshire area. Trevor also interviewed Garth about his career and the time he  purchased Keighley Variety Club at the end of the 1970s and changed its name to the Funhouse. Garth has been friends with many music and T.V. personalities throughout the years such as Tom Jones, Gene Vincent, Billy Fury, Jess Conrad, Diana Dors. The Rolling Stones actually supported Garth’s early band, The Dingos, in concert and Garth had introduced The Beatles on stage in Leeds in the early 1960s. Entertaining stories followed, such as the time Tom Jones (then in the charts at No 1 for Not Unusual) sang for Garth for the price of 4 pints and we loved the fact that Diana Dors, despite being a blonde bombshell in a more chauvinistic era, always managed to manage her manager and herself and even took the troublesome PJ Proby under her wing. All this made for a fascinating hour of music chat and entertainment and that was before the band even started playing!

This whole event was also enhanced by the talented work of local artist David Ingham with some magnificently skilled portraits of Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash and David Bowie, some large scale, which added a certain gravitas to the library as a music venue extraordinaire. The children of the Keighley area were also not forgotten with a special Musical Rhymetime with Martin Henderson of Keighley’s Jamba community band which enabled children to share in the playing of a variety of musical instruments finishing with a rhythmic rendition of Jingle Bells.

Jill, Nina and Denise manned the very busy refreshment stand and managed to raise £121.46 for the Lord Mayor’s Appeal in support of Sue Ryder and Bradford Nightstop. All in all, the event proved the most popular to date. Questionnaires had been distributed to gain very useful feedback. The importance of such events to local people is indicated by the fact that 95% of the forms were actually completed and handed in (a record in itself). The comments were 100% favourable with the express wish for more such events, including future suggestions. Janet Mawson, event organiser, as Tom Jones himself might say – keep your thinking hat on and definitely those blue suede shoes!!

Charlie Bhowmick MBE was also in attendance on the ground floor of the library signing his newly published autobiography which has been going like hotcakes out of this building. It covers his journey from Calcutta to Keighley and has received wonderful reviews. The book is not for sale but a request to donate to charity on receipt of a copy has so far successfully realised £1188 in donations to Yorkshire Cancer Research, together with another £71 raised from the book signing on Saturday 8th December.  Copies are still available in Keighley Library; get your very own before stocks run out.

Gina Birdsall, Keighley Local Studies

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Family History Organisations to Merge

We are pleased to pass on the post below with the news from the recently merged society now known as the ‘ Airedale and Wharfedale Family History Society’.

We commend all of the extensive work done by the societies in the past and look forward to working with the newly formed society in the future.

Two Yorkshire family history organisations, Wharfedale Family History Group and Keighley Family History Society, both of which have been in existence since the nineteen eighties are to merge.  From 1st January they will be known as the Airedale and Wharfedale Family History Society.  The society will have three branches – Burley in Wharfedale, Keighley and Threshfield.

The two organisations have had overlapping areas of interest and the new society will take in Wharfedale, Airedale, the Forest of Bowland and all towns and villages to the borders of Lancashire and Cumbria.  Their list of publications which will number close to five hundred encompasses parish registers and memorial inscriptions – valuable aids for anyone in search of their roots.

The society’s aims are:

  • To provide good lively informative monthly meetings at our soon to be three branches.
  • Attract new members
  • Offer assistance for those new to the hobby.
  • Provide new research aids, particularly those less obvious and less  financially rewarding to warrant the interest of the major websites.

Although a lot of family history research can be carried out on the internet, due to the complexities of the records it is very easily to come to a standstill or end up in the wrong tree!  Local knowledge of available sources can supply invaluable aid to the researcher at a much lower cost and with more accurate results.

The society website can be found at www.awfhs.org.uk.  This includes a list of the publications and several databases, details of the society meetings, articles and news.

The first meeting of the new society is on Thursday January at the Salem Hall in Burley in Wharfedale starting at 7.30.  This will be a research evening, an ideal opportunity for visitors and new members to come and meet the team.  Visitors and new members are always welcome at our meetings.

good news pic

House History at Keighley Local Studies Library

Gina Birdsall and Angela Speight who delivered our recent courses on the subject of House History agreed to write a blog for us about the course.

Following the recent popularity of television programs like ‘A House Through Time’  on BBC 2 that aired earlier this year which looked into the social history, occupants and architecture of a house throughout different periods of history we decided to embark on delivering a course on that often neglected and sometimes difficult area of research: the history of your house.

Condensing such a wide area of research down into a manageable two hour course was a bit of a challenge. Ultimately, we opted for an introductory level course with a one hour talk and slideshow divided into three main areas possible to research: Site, Building and People. There was a small fee for this course which included printing and hand-outs, some concessions applied.

After addressing these research options we then embarked on trying to help get people started or further their research.

Some people opted to look at the computerised resources and used ancestrylibrary.com and findmyppast.co.uk   to look at the Census and 1939 Register. These websites can be used free of charge in all Bradford Council libraries.

With some help people did have some success in finding who had lived in their properties. Others took a look at some of our vast resources that we had on display including the conservation area assessments and the Tithe Awards for the local area.

With such a wide range of properties and different areas to cover, time seemed to fly and we soon had to finish up, with most people keen and inspired to continue their research. Still the course seemed to be a great success so much so that we hope to run the course again sometime during the New Year.

Gina and Angela

Many thanks to all who have been on courses and left such useful feedback.

‘An excellent session thanks’, ‘Really enjoyed it’ were a couple of comments received.

For more information about further courses contact Keighley Local Studies Library on 01535 618215 or email keighleylocalstudies@bradford.gov.uk

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Temporary Closure of Keighley Local Studies Library

Keighley Local Studies Library will close for a week from Monday 26th November for Collections Week.

The Keighley Lending Library will remain open.

The week’s closure will enable work to be carried out on a section of the large collection of Local Authority material with the aim of increasing convenience of user access and ensuring that these unique items are stored in the best way possible for future preservation.

This collection which originated in Keighley Town Hall consists mainly of rate books from local Urban District Councils and Townships including Morton, Oakworth,  Oxenhope, Haworth and of course Keighley.

The collection also includes UDC committee minutes, account books and various administrative records.

The earlier records date from 1820 and many of the items are a unique source of information representing the early and middle part of the 19th century for the area.

As records of people and places for the central period of the industrial revolution, these archives are used by a wide range of researchers. They provide an important source of local, social and economic historical information.

UDC committee minutes are also popularly used for the history of villages and their pattern of development.

Local Authority archives are a valued source of information for present day conservation area assessment reports and restoration projects such as Keighley’s North Parade and Royal Arcade.

Rate books are also becoming increasingly requested records of research due to the continuing and growing popularity of family history and house history. They give information on the owner/occupier of the property and in some cases,  a description and details of size.

A selection of items from the Local Authority archives will be on display when the Local Studies Library reopens on Monday 3rd December..



Treasure of the week no. 24: ‘Wot! No telly!’ – Creative recreation for 1858’s working man

Popular Amusements. Four Essays by Working Men of Bradford. (Bradford Review, 1858)

JND 196/1 (Please quote this number if requesting this item.)

Football challenge 001

In 1858, the Bradford Review of 21st August offered a prize of one guinea (£1.05) for the best paper, and half-a-guinea (52½p) for the second best in reply to the following question:

What are the best and most practicable means of promoting recreation among the people, during the winter months, in manufacturing towns?

It is hard to imagine life without television and radio, phones (mobile and landline), i-pads, video and CDs, the internet, even electric light and motorized transport. What were young people to do in the evenings after work but congregate in the streets, visit the pubs and betting shops, and generally be a raucous nuisance? What was needed to provide a positive solution to the problem?

Fourteen essays were submitted and forwarded to the adjudicators, the Rev. J.P. Chown and W.R.Haigh, Esq. In addition to the prizes for the first two, Mr Haigh offered a third prize, and the proposer thought that one of the unsuccessful essays contained suggestions of so practical a character that he thought a pity if these hints could not be discussed. Four essays, then, were printed in the Bradford Review, and reprinted in a 32-page pamphlet by James Hanson of Bradford. It is this latter that is to be found in the Dickons Collection of Bradford tracts.

The prize was won by William Harrison, a compositor, who proposed singing classes, Saturday evening concerts and entertainment, a public gymnasium and popular lectures. Chess, draughts and billiards were also suggested.

Second prize went to Malcolm Ross, a lithographic printer, who urged the establishment of a Working Man’s Literary Association to embrace  debating and other classes of an improving character; also a reading and news-room of social and political knowledge. This reminds us that there were no public libraries in Bradford at this time.

Benjamin Preston, a wooolsorter, won the third prize. He suggested cheap music or popular concerts, together with dancing and theatrical entertainments under judicious regulation.

Brass Band 001

The final prize winner was Edward Sloan, a book canvasser, who proposed that the workmen of each establishment, firm, or location, should form themselves into a small society for their mutual instruction and amusement. As with all the candidates, Sloan emphasized the need to provide creative opportunities to counteract, in his words, “depression of spirits, exhaustion of body, a sickness and deadness of the whole man, [which] cry out imperatively for a change. But hitherto the world has provided for the ignorant no place of recreation half so enticing as the public house.” Wise words from a woolsorter.

Reading these accounts emphasizes how much society has changed since those mid-Victorian times. The essays were followed by a feature article in the Review of October 9th, 1858, commenting on the proposals. Reading them today we see that what was proposed closely foreshadows the establishment of public libraries, youth clubs, and many of the social and cultural activities we have today. Maybe the essays of William Harrison, Malcolm Ross, Benjamin Preston and Edward Sloan had a part to play!


Keighley Roll of Honour 1914-1918

Bradford Libraries World War One Blog

As we reach this particular poignant Remembrance Sunday on the 11th November, marking one hundred years since the First World War armistice,   we would like to share some information on the Keighley Roll of Honour for 1914-1918.

The Keighley Roll is a magnificent manuscript and situated in Keighley Library, upstairs in the Local Studies Department. The pages are turned on a regular basis but if you wish to look at a particular name staff are happy to turn the pages for you.

More information about the Keighley Roll of Honour

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Branwell was the second best poet in the Brontë family and some of his poems are worth studying in their own right.
(Tom Winnifrith in The Poems of Patrick Branwell Brontë)


The year 2017 was the bi-centenary of the birth of local lad, Branwell Brontë, born Thornton 26th June 1817. It was also the year that Routledge published the three-volume complete literary works of Branwell Brontë, which the Library purchased for Keighley’s Brontë Collection.

Like his sisters, Branwell Brontë wanted to be a published writer and thanks to the local newspapers, he succeeded. Indeed, Branwell was a published poet five years before his sisters published their book of poems in 1846 and their first novels a year later. In all, eighteen of Branwell’s poems are known to be published in his lifetime (1817-48), the last just six months before the publication of Jane Eyre in October 1847, and six published a second time in other newspapers. “Given that his sisters’ 1846 volume of poems sold only two copies in its first year, it is safe to say that Branwell’s poems enjoyed significantly wider readership.” (Neufeldt, v.3., p. xx)

All Branwell’s poems were published pseudonymously under the name ‘Northangerland’ except one, which was just signed ‘PBB’. Thus at no time did Branwell’s name appear in print. Why this is so remains a mystery. What is also a mystery is whether his sisters knew of his success. Getting poems published in local newspapers was no easy achievement at that time. There was great competition between newspapers and it is to Branwell’s credit that not only was his work accepted, but also reprinted in rival newspapers.

It has taken a long time for the full extent of Branwell’s poetic success to be realised. In Winnifrith’s edition of Branwell’s poems published in 1983, he wrote that the poem ‘The Afghan War’ was “the only composition of Branwell’s which is known to have been printed during his lifetime.” (p.140). Yet only fourteen years later, Professor Neufeldt, in the US edition of The Works of Patrick Branwell Brontë 1837-1848 (the Routledge edition noted above is a UK reprint) noted twenty-six publications.* More remarkable was the re-discovery, reported in 1999 by Professor Neufeldt, in the Halifax Guardian for October 1847, of an outstanding piece of art criticism on the illustrator Thomas Bewick by … ‘Northangerland’! This, plus Branwell’s success as a published poet, not to mention the mass of his hitherto unpublished writings now made accessible, has caused scholars to modify the hitherto largely negative view many had of Branwell.

With the acquisition of his complete works by the Library, we can now read for ourselves Branwell’s writings, published and unpublished. Listed below are his published poems (together with the page numbers in Volume 3 of Neufeldt’s edition).

‘Heaven and Earth’   Halifax Guardian, 5 June 1841 (p. 335)

‘On the Melbourne Ministry’   Halifax Guardian, 14 August 1841 (p. 340)

Sonnet I: ‘On Landseer’s Painting’   Bradford Herald, 28 April 1842 (p. 365)

Sonnet II: ‘On the callousness produced by cares’   Bradford Herald, 5 May 1842

also Halifax Guardian 7 May 1842 (p. 366)

‘The Affghan War’   Leeds Intelligencer, 7 May 1843 (p. 367)

Sonnet III: ‘On Peaceful Death and Painful Life’   Bradford Herald, 12 May 1842

also Halifax Guardian 14 May 1842 (p. 369)

‘Caroline’s Prayer – On the change from childhood to womanhood’   Bradford Herald, 2 June 1842

also Halifax Guardian 4 June 1842 (p. 370)

Song: ‘Should Life’s first feeling be forgot’   Bradford Herald, 9 June 1842

also Halifax Guardian, 11 June 1842 (p. 371)

‘An Epicurean’s Song’   Bradford Herald, 7 July 1842

also Halifax Guardian, 9 July 1842 (p. 372)

‘On Caroline’   Bradford Herald, 12 July 1842

also Halifax Guardian, 14  July 1842 (p.374)

‘Noah’s Warning over Methuselah’s Grave’   Bradford Herald, 25 August 1842 (p. 375)

‘On Landseer’s Picture: The Shepherd’s Chief Mourner ‘ A Dog Watching alone by his master’s grave’   Yorkshire Gazette, 10 May 1845 (p. 407) Revision of Sonnet 1, above.

‘Black Comb’   Yorkshire Gazette, 10 May 1845 (p. 408)

‘The Emigrant – Two Sonnets’   Yorkshire Gazette, 7 June 1845 (p.406)

‘Real Rest’   Halifax Guardian, 8 November 1845 (p.471)

‘Penmaenmawr’   Halifax Guardian, 20 December 1845 (p. 473)

‘Letter from a Father on Earth to his Child in her grave,   Halifax Guardian, 18 April 1846 (pp. 479-80)

‘Speak Kindly’   Halifax Guardian 19 September 1846 (p. 512) The authorship of this poem is disputed.

‘The End of All’   Halifax Guardian, 5 June 1847 (pp. 504-508)

Also: ‘Thomas Bewick’ [Prose review article] Halifax Guardian, I October 1842 (pp.397-400)

Branwell died in Haworth on 24th September, 1848, aged 31.

Haworth Church (Before it was rebuilt)

While no great claim can be made for the excellence of Branwell’s poems, they are no worse than many others that were published in the newspapers of the time, and some were considerably better. They range from comments on the political events of the day such as the introduction of the self-adhesive postage stamps and the First Afghan War, to the heartbreak of child deaths – a frequent occurrence in the Haworth of Branwell’s time.

Branwell’s habit of using a pseudonym once caused Library staff a problem when an Australian professor wanted photocopies from the newspapers themselves. She gave us precise references and we managed to find the poems in the Halifax Guardian, Yorkshire Gazette and Leeds Intelligencer, but annoyingly, not in the Bradford Herald, which the library did not have.  A request to the British Library Newspaper Library was returned ‘No Trace’ despite being given the correct dates and page numbers. The reason? We gave the poet as ‘Patrick Branwell Brontë’, whereas the poet’s name in the paper was … ‘Northangerland’!

Bob Duckett

*Neufeldt states that there were 26 publications, though I can find only 24. BD

Selection of Bronte books inKeighley Local Studies Library

Family History with Bradford Local Studies Library

Your Local Studies Library is the ideal place to discover how to go about researching
your own unique family history. Here you can find a wealth of resources to enable you to become a Family History Detective.

Get advice from our expert staff who will be on hand to assist with your research:

Tuesday 13th November 10.00 am. – 12.00 noon
Tuesday 20th November 10.00 am. – 12.00 noon
Tuesday 27th November 10.00am. – 12.00 noon

This is a free course but booking is essential as places are limited.

Contact Bradford Local Studies Library for more information or to book a place.

Bradford Local Studies Library,
Margaret McMillan Tower,
Princes Way, Bradford, BDI INN.

01274 433688


Neglected Bradford Industries: Copperas

Bradford is famous for spinning and weaving but textile production was only one of a group of important industries which ‘Worstedopolis’ supported. Since several  are now almost forgotten by contemporary citizens I should like to draw attention to those which seem unreasonably neglected, in a series of short articles.

  I would be delighted if any reader has ever heard of copperas, let alone that it had once been produced close to the city of Bradford.  Copperas is nothing whatever to do with the element copper, but is an old name for ‘green vitriol’ or iron II sulphate heptahydrate. Copperas was used in the manufacture of iron gall ink, leather tanning, and a very early process for the production of sulphuric acid. Copperas, like alum, was also important as a mordant in cloth dyeing processes. For centuries both these chemicals were papal monopolies. The monopoly was eventually broken and in the early post-medieval period the production of alum, on the North Yorkshire coast, and copperas, at several sites round the country, marked the origin of the domestic chemical industry. The industry flourished and the UK became the world’s biggest copperas producer.

At various times production works existed in several places, this being indicated by name evidence: Copperas Hill in Liverpool, Copperas Road in Colchester, Copperas Point in Chichester Harbour, Copperas House Terrace in Todmorden, and Copperas Bay on the Stour estuary in Essex. The technique adopted  was similar at the various sites. Some years ago I was surprised to learn from historian Jean Brown, of the Thornton Antiquarian Society, that Denhome had been a centre of this industry. From trade directory evidence it is clear that, between 1822-1854, copperas was being made at not only there but at Hunslet, Birstall, Huddersfield, Elland, Southowram and Todmoden as well as in the cities of Manchester and Liverpool. Nineteenth century historian William Cudworth, writing about Denholme, recorded that an extensive coal seam was then being worked by Messrs. Townend of Cullingworth and that in parts of this Hard Bed coal ‘quantities of iron pyrites were to be found’. Cudworth stated that the process of converting iron pyrites, or pyrite, into sulphuric acid was carried on along the line of the coal seam’s outcrop. He omitted to say that two copperas works, Field Head and Denholme Gate, were associated with a family called Horsfall.


08 Plan Image

Essentially the Copperas process was the slow oxidation of iron (II) sulphide, obtained as the mineral pyrite, using atmospheric oxygen and rain water to form iron (II) sulphate heptahydrate, that is copperas. Essential to the process was, of course, access to a plentiful supply of pyrite. Pyrite nodules (‘brass lumps’) are found in the Coal Measures in Cumbria and West Yorkshire. At Denholme the producers obtained the nodules and placed them in ‘beds’ lined with clay. They were then left to weather for up to six years. Towards the end of this time they began to produce a large quantity of liquor, a dilute solution of hydrated ferrous sulphate and sulphuric acid, which was pumped into a lead boiler positioned over a furnace. Quantities of additional scrap iron were added to increase the final yield. As the liquor was reduced by evaporation more liquor was added. When it was  sufficiently concentrated the liquor was tapped off into a cooling tank. As the solution cooled the copperas crystallised in the tank. Crystals were collected, heated to melting point, and poured into moulds; finally the resulting cakes were packed into barrels for transport.

Why did the industry survive in Denholme? The most important property of copperas for nineteenth century textile manufacturers in Bradford must have been that it ‘saddened’ and ‘fixed’ wool dyes. Because it prevented the colour from washing out or fading, copperas became an essential part of the black dyeing process, especially for woollen cloth in conjunction with log-wood imported from South America. We known that cheap coal and pyrite nodules could be obtained with minimum transport costs and I imagine that once the plant had been set up there were little additional capital costs.

The cheap manufacture of vitriol, in Bradford and elsewhere, by the lead chamber process inevitably killed off the copperas industry. Once you can make sulphuric acid cheaply and in bulk you can make copperas more quickly by reacting the dilute sulphuric acid with scrap iron fragments and evaporating the result. The discovery, by Sir William Henry Perkin in 1856, of aniline dyes which did not require mordants were to make copperas largely redundant in dyeing in any case. Elsewhere copperas works were adapted to produce other industrial chemicals but this did not happen at Denholme in its rather rural location. Nevertheless at one time this community was a small but significant centre of Britain’s chemical industry. By 1888, at the very latest, all production had ceased.

If this topic interests you do read the following paper which includes Jean Brown’s meticulous family history studies:

D.J.Barker & Jean K Brown, Bradford’s Forgotten Industry: Copperas Manufacture in Denholme, Bradford Antiquary, (2015) 3rd series, 19, 25-38.

Derek Barker, Local Studies Library Volunteer.