Local Studies are open as normal

The Local Studies service offers Local and Family History resources for the Bradford Metropolitan District and the West Yorkshire region.

The two specialist Local Studies libraries in the district are in Bradford and Keighley, and libraries across the district can also provide local information and help with accessing online sources.

The Local Studies centres at Bradford and Keighley welcome visitors to use the collections for study and research.

Bradford Local Studies Library welcomes visitors to use the Local Studies and Archives collections for study and research.

We are now open as normal to the general public, although you are advised to phone up and check opening hours as these can be affected by circumstances beyond our control

Researchers can still make an appointment in advance of their visit.

To make an appointment, please contact the library by email or telephone to book a session.

Requests for items from the collections required for use on your visit made in advance will enable library staff to have the items ready for your visit.

Please note that we require at least 72 hours’ notice for Archives.

On booking your appointment via telephone or email, our team of library staff will help to search the catalogues to identify appropriate items as required.

Celebrating the Yorkshire Dialect

Yorkshire Day Weekend event with the Yorkshire Society and the Yorkshire Dialect Society

Keighley Local Studies Library
Saturday 30th July
10.30am – 4.30pm
Admission £5 (See ticket details below)

The Yorkshire Dialect Society is kicking off a weekend of activities for Yorkshire Day in Keighley with something unique and special about Yorkshire people – how we talk! The way we speak is unique and helps define us – it’s part of what makes us Yorkshire!

Speakers will include Ian Stevenson on The Story behind Yorkshire Dialect; Rod Dimbleby, Chairman of YDS, on the prolific 19th century Halifax dialect poet and storyteller John Hartley of Clock Almanac fame; and Eric Scaife on Tyke Talk – readings and recitations of dialect poems and prose.

There will also be an exhibition of books and pamphlets by the noted Keighley librarian, historian, writer and dialect poet, the late Ian Dewhirst who sadly died in 2019.

Yorkshire Dialect was, and hopefully still is, the language of the ordinary people of Yorkshire.  So come along to Keighley Library for a day of celebration of this wonderful living part of our Yorkshire heritage.

Tickets can be bought through Eventbrite at:


Keighley Local Studies Library
Tel: 01535 618215
E: keighleylocalstudies@bradford.gov.uk

Discover Bradford and District’s untold stories this Summer when #StoryTrails comes to town

Bradford District is delighted to be one of 15 locations across the UK taking part in Storytrails, a one-of-a-kind experience where untold stories from the past are brought to life using augmented and virtual reality and the voices of the local community.

As the UK’s largest immersive storytelling project, it will change the way we tell stories about ourselves, animating public spaces across the UK.

Come down to Bradford Library on Friday 22nd and Saturday 23rd July to discover a range of exciting augmented and virtual reality experiences for all the family to enjoy.

Explore untold stories and forgotten histories from Bradford and District through a virtual map made up of 3D models and audio recordings of people from local communities from across the Bradford District.

Or try out cutting-edge virtual reality headsets to see history come to life before your very eyes.

Back outside, take part in immersive StoryTrails walking tours, where a free app will guide you around key historical places in the City, bringing history to life before your very eyes.

Events take place between Friday 22nd July at 11.00am – 19.00pm and on Saturday 23rd July 10.00am – 18.00pm.

StoryTrails is part of ‘UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK’, a ground-breaking UK-wide celebration of creativity in 2022.

To find out more about StoryTrails, visit www.story-trails.com

Tricia Restorick – The Role of the Mechanics Institute

Established in 1832, The Mechanics Institute Library was part of a national initiative to provide adult education, especially in technical subjects for working men. During this illustrated talk hosted by Institute President Tricia Restorick, we aim to find out how crucial this institute was in imparting  knowledge to the workers of Victorian Bradford.

Follow the link for more information….


Local Studies Lunchtime Lectures

Celebrating the 150th Anniversary of Bradford Libraries 1872 – 1922

A week of lunchtime lectures during the celebration week 13 June – 17 June featuring aspects of Bradford’s history in the collections at Bradford Local Studies Library and West Yorkshire Archives, Bradford.

All are welcome to join in these free events which will appeal to everyone with an interest in the history of our great city.

The Federer Collection of Victorian literature: A rare treasure at Bradford Libraries

By Simon Ross Valentine

Dr Valentine showing the Federer Collection card index

Bradford Library – celebrating its 150th anniversary this year – has several book Collections of national importance.

One of these, the Federer Collection, consisting of 8,000 books and pamphlets, purchased by the city library on the death of the owner Charles Antoine Federer in 1908, provides a fascinating window into Victorian Bradford.

Federer, born in Switzerland in 1837, on coming to England twenty years later, worked as a teacher in Derbyshire, and East Yorkshire, then at Low Moor, Bradford.

Having a passion for languages, and being fluent in Latin, Greek, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Danish and Dutch, Federer later gained employment as a lecturer at the Bradford Mechanic’s Institute and the Technical College.

Federer had an interest in all aspects of Yorkshire life. With Thomas Empsall, J. Norton Dickons and other local worthies, he founded the Bradford Historical and Antiquarian Society, later becoming President and editor of its journal, the “Bradford Antiquary”. He was also active in the Yorkshire Dialect Society, the Brontë Society and as editor of the Yorkshire Magazine.

Formerly a Roman Catholic, Federer converted to Methodism and became a member of the White Abbey Wesleyan Chapel.

Charles Antoine Federer 1837-1908

Federer‘s vast library now forms the Federer Collection of Yorkshire Ephemera, kept in the Local Studies Library on the ground floor of the Margaret Macmillan Tower, Princes Way.
The Colllection covers a multitude of subjects. Unsurprisingly, Federer being a Nonconformist, many items relate to Christian theology and the Bible.

As a Methodist he took a scholarly interest in the history of his denomination collecting early biographies of John and Charles Wesley; and the Lives of many ministers and Lay Preachers. These included not only Wesleyan Methodism but also material on Primitive Methodism; the Wesleyan Reform Church and Protestant Methodism.
Federer, ecumenical in attitude, also collected material on Anglicanism as well as various Nonconformist Churches such as the Baptists, Moravians, the Quakers (Society of Friends), Congregationalists, Unitarians and lesser-known groups such as the Swedenborgians; Southcottians and the British-Israelites.

Official tourist guide, c. 1868

Many items in the Collection are non-religious covering the political, economic, social, legal and municipal aspects of Victorian Bradford. Of particular interest are the Reports of Bradford’s Chief Constable’s in the 1880s and Yearbooks of the Bradford Trade and Labour Council. Various leaflets refer to Chartism and the Independent Labour Party (founded in Bradford in the 1890s).

As a Nonconformist Federer had an interest in matters such as the anti-gambling league; the Temperance movement; Church rates, dis-establishment of the Anglican Church and state education.

The Collection contains Reports on the National Census 1851 and the local religious Census undertaken by the Bradford Observer in 1881 “with press & pulpit comments”.

 Other books and leaflets cover local topography, geology, fossils, archaeology, astronomy, dialects as well as poetry and literature.

Certain items relate to Patrick Brontë and his famous literary daughters such as Abraham Holroyd’s “’Currer Bell’ and her sisters”, 1855, and Reports of the Brontë Society & Museum, 1896.

A Temperance tract 1874

The Collection has beautifully illustrated Guide Books to places such as Whitby and Scarborough; Bolton Abbey, Cleckheaton, and Castleford. Railway enthusiasts can enjoy looking at Crowther’s Penny Railway Guide, 1875.

Various books focus on Titus Salt and Saltaire. There are several papers relating to Edward Baines, proprietor of the Leeds Mercury and William Byles, owner of the Bradford Observer.

Federer, possibly a keen sportsman himself, collected publications on Amateur Athletics; Angling, Archery and cricket. A very rare item in the Collection is the Yorkshire Owl Cricket Annual, illustrated cricketer’s guide, of 1896.

The Federer Collection has much material on medicine such as Reports on the local Fever Hospital; Bradford Children’s Hospital and the Hospital for the Blind. Invaluable primary sources include the 1904 Report on Diphtheria in Bradford and the 1849 Report on Cholera in the West Riding.
Educational material includes not only grammar and other text books, but also class lists relating to Bradford Grammar School; Burnsall Grammar School; Ackworth School, and minutes of the Bradford School Board.

Several items are quirky and controversial such as the temperance tract titled “A lecture on a pint of ale: what it is and what it’s not, what it’s worth and what it costs” and a leaflet on “Capital punishment: Hangman’s thoughts above the gallows”.

The Collection contains rare periodicals such as the Babbler, or Weekly Literary & Scientific Intelligencer; the Bradford Chronicle of the 1850s & ‘60s; the British Spiritual Telegraph, 1859; and the Eastbrook Herald, 1889 to1894.

Building on the work previously done by Bob Duckett, a former senior Bradford librarian, I am in the process of putting the catalogue online making the Collection known, and accessible, worldwide. So far about 40% of the Collection is catalogued and can be viewed on the library website.

Enquiries are welcome. If you see something of interest in the online catalogue please ring the library and book an appointment to see the item chosen.

Alternatively, an appointment can be made to look at the card index at Local Studies and request any item of interest. Many of the pamphlets have been microfilmed. Please remember however that items from the Federer Collection are reference only and cannot be borrowed.

As part of the anniversary celebrations, a series of lunchtime lectures will be given at Local Studies in June. In one of these lectures I will talk on Charles Federer and his amazing Collection.

For more information about the Federer Collection or any of the other library Collections of books, photographs and maps of “bygone Bradford”, please contact Local Studies on 01274 433688; or email local.studies@bradford.gov.uk.

Rachel Leach and Anne Lister

A talk by Irene Lofthouse with Keighley and District Local History Society

This month’s History Society guest speaker is writer, actor and social historian Irene Lofthouse, giving her talk on two prominent local women, Rachel Leach and Anne Lister.

Keighley Local Studies Library, Wednesday 13th April 2022

Doors open at 7pm for a 7.30pm start.

Open to both members and non-members.

The charge for non-members is £3, payable on the door.

Please check social media or our website nearer the time for any updates.


To reserve a place please email klyhistory@yahoo.com

Keighley Library remembers Dr Ian Dewhirst MBE (1936-2019)

This January, Keighley Library marks the saddest loss of Dr Ian Dewhirst MBE, former Lending and later Reference Librarian, renowned local historian and speaker. We continue to miss him in Keighley itself but especially in the library that he so loved and continued to visit regularly and support up until his death on 20th January 2019.

This time, we thought that we would let this very popular raconteur speak for himself. The quotes are taken from some reminiscences that he wrote for the library when aged 64. We have added library photographs and photographs from Ian’s archive, details given where possible.

Leisure and professional interests

“As regards my interests, I am a total non-sportsman but have always been a walker, both as a daily non-driving pedestrian and as a hiker.”  

These photos include Fellsman Hike, 1970 and Walshaw Dean Reservoirs, 1991.

“However, my main interest is local history from the point of view of original research, writing and lecturing. I average about eighty talks a year, have contributed a weekly feature to the local newspaper for the last nine years, have written hundreds of magazine articles and several books … I also make occasional television appearances, usually on Tyne-Tees and Yorkshire TV.”

These photos include the Brontë Conference, Haworth 1980; the Yorkshire Ridings Magazine Christmas dinner, Hebden Bridge 1989 and some of the many published works by Ian.

Here’s Ian with Khalid Aziz of Look North and John Noakes, Blue Peter presenter, looking at Knurr and Spell equipment, c1970s.

To see a demonstration of the game follow this link, filmed in 1972 at the very lively world championships held at Greetland.


For an updated history, please see Robin Longbottom’s recent Down Memory Lane:


Keighley Library

“From 1965-1967, I was Lending Librarian, then in 1967 I became Reference Librarian, remaining in the same post until I took early retirement in 1991.”

These photos include Ian’s early days in Lending c.1966; during Keighley Library’s alterations June 1984 and Ian at his retirement in 1991 in the Library theatre.

“As a career it was not perhaps very exciting, but from my point of view being Reference Librarian with oversight of a large and growing Local History collection, dovetailed admirably with my personal interests. I was never sure where my work ended and my hobbies began, and vice-versa, and I think both benefited as a result.”

“I count myself fortunate in that I was able to survive until 1991 as basically an Edwardian Reference Librarian (I could scarcely be one now, when a row of Internet screens occupies a prominent place in my former place of work). Granted, microfilm readers and photocopiers became increasingly important, but they were advantages. I remain dubious, however, about technology replacing the human touch.”

 “If this is progress, I am not impressed.” (For one time only, Ian looking at an old Keighley News on the scanner for film viewing, Keighley Local Studies, 2018)

As a speaker

“Whatever the audience – whether it be chapel retirees or an Antiquarian Society – they want to be entertained. It’s a case of getting one’s main serious points over while leavening the subject with humour.” From “The funniest man in Britain” by Christopher Phipps (The Dalesman, Oct 2016 p.60) Photo from a 2017 event in Keighley Local Studies.

Despite professing not to know much of popular music, Ian certainly did not lack some appreciation. We found this picture of Ian getting into the groove at a work’s do in 1974. When Janet Mawson asked him to give a talk in August 2018 at a Musical Heritage event, alongside the Presidents and the Doveston Brothers, he gamely obliged and true to form, he really enjoyed it and gave of his best.

The Dr Ian Dewhirst MBE Memorial Collection, Keighley Local Studies

Here is the Dr Ian Dewhirst MBE library and study corner in Keighley Local Studies that showcases his many interests including amongst many subjects: art, literature, American history, Yorkshire and the countryside. The books and magazine collection were very kindly donated by Ian’s family as part of the archive bequest in 2019.

Keighley Library Customer Support Assistants, January 2022

Treasures of Keighley Library

Artist Steve Manthorp will illuminate the exterior of Keighley Library with an imaginative projection artwork inspired by the library’s archives and collections.

Using a mixture of archival imagery of Keighley and illustrations and images from books, Treasures will create a moving banner of imagery that showcases the building’s incredible architecture and re-connects audiences to the treasures held within.

Outdoor Event, Fri 5 – Sat 6 Nov 2021, free entry