Local Library Collections and the Camera in Local History. A Celebration for Local History Month

Over the last couple of years Elizabeth Edwards, Professor Emerita of Photographic History at De Montfort University in Leicester, and until recently Andrew W, Mellon Visiting Professor at the V&A Research Institute, London, has been making periodic academic study visits to Keighley Local Studies Library. Elizabeth is the author of the ground-breaking study, The Camera as Historian, and generally hopes to raise awareness of library photographic collections that she feels have been much neglected in academic and heritage circles. Elizabeth generously offered to write a blog for us and in so doing, gives us a brief but fascinating insight into these valuable collections, their regional and national importance, and the vital role played by libraries in the development of local history.

The Camera as Historian

Among the local studies treasures in Keighley Public Library is a set of 6 bound volumes of photographs. That they are little known is the result of the almost total neglect of the photographic holdings in local studies libraries more generally, despite the distinguished social historian Raphael Samuel referring to them as the lifeblood of local histories. Certainly, many local historians have used the photographs productively in their work. But to really appreciate what is at stake, we have to think about the photographs collectively, as an assemblage, which came into being with a clear purpose, and with work to do in civic society.

This is where the 6 volumes come in. While they are just part of a larger collection of historical photographs in the Library, they represent a cornerstone, both as a collection and more especially as a purpose. They are described from the outset as a ‘photographic survey’ – as embossed on the spines of the volumes. They were donated to the new Library in 1911. However, their genesis was a couple of years earlier, in 1909, when Keighley Photographic Association formed a sub-committee to undertake a photographic survey.

They were inspired, according to an article in the Keighley News, by Birmingham MP Sir Benjamin Stone who was a keen amateur photographer. In 1897 he founded the National Photographic Record Association to which he hoped that local photographers and photographic societies would contribute, creating a national record of ancient buildings, folk customs and so forth. Stone seems to have been something of a thorn in the flesh of the photographic world with his pronouncements on how photographs should look and what they should do. He hated forms such as pictorialism (as practised by Keighley’s famous photographer of the early 20th century Alex Keighley) which he, Stone, referred to as ‘fuzzigraphs.’ So while many surveys give lip-service to Stone, most went their own way, working and thinking locally, bringing local knowledge and networks to bear on their production.  For all the razmataz, Sir Benjamin’s national association failed because he tried to turn into a national centralised archive, something that was profoundly local, tied to local desires and local civic and civil society.

Writing about the photographic survey movement, which emerged in the 1890s, has tended to characterise it as nostalgic, ruralist, conservative – anxious about the loss of the ‘old ways’. In 2012 I published a book The Camera as Historian which argued against this position. Instead I suggested that the surveys were driven not so much by a sense of loss, but one of local dynamism, and a fear not of a direct fading away, but of a future that had no sense of its past. These sentiments resonate through Keighley’s survey photographs, recording as they do, civic and national events from wars to elections and charity events, street scenes, the demise of horse-drawn trams, the advent of electric trams, the modernisation of factory plant, slum clearance, everyday life and much else. They also copied older photographs, many of which map civic society in the modern town – the postmasters (and one postmistress), the chiefs of the local constabulary, the medical officers, and local teachers – people who made up the infrastructure of the town. Consequently, Keighley’s survey is concerned not with the quaint and picturesque, but with the changing face of a modern industrial town.

Unfortunately, I didn’t know of the Keighley survey when I finished the manuscript for that book about 15 years ago. If I had it would only have reinforced my argument. Because it really stresses the ways in which local identities were being played out. Yes, one can make arguments about who was doing the photographing (the expense of photography meant that most photographers came from the broad middle classes) but it would be a mistake to narrowly define them and reduce them to that. They were photographing in the contexts of a broadly liberal, non-conformist, philanthropic environment, where photographic skills in relation to survey were seen as a contribution to the civic and civil body. The photographs in the albums trace the presences and life experiences of a multitude of Keighley citizens and their families if one cares to look – and think. It has the feeling of a collective being.

The Library itself is an important player here. It was seen as the proper place for the survey albums, which were added to until about 1936. And Keighley is not alone here. A good many of the surveys were donated to public libraries or in some cases, such as Norwich or Dundee, were the result of a direct collaborative relationship, commission even, between public libraries and photographic clubs. I have become so interested in the role of public libraries in the development of local history, and more broadly, in a sense of local identity and local particularities, that they have now become part of my current book project. This explores the role of photography in an increasing, yet dispersed, sense of the past, which is manifested through everything from picture postcards, illustrated guidebooks, or the management of ancient monuments (the extensive visual presence of Kirkstall Abbey in west Yorkshire narratives is a good example here), to family albums, and even cigarette cards – and a multitude of photographic places in-between.  And Keighley will most definitely be playing a major role in that argument.

Elizabeth Edwards


Elizabeth Edwards has generously donated her book, The Camera as Historian, Amateur Photographers and Historical Imagination, 1885-1918, (Duke University Press, 2012) and it will shortly be available for reference in Keighley Local Studies library.

Some publications by Elizabeth Edwards

Photographs and the Practice of History: a short primer. (London: Bloomsbury, 2022)

What Photographs Do: the making and remaking of museum culturesed. E. Edwards and E. Ravilious. (London: UCL Press, 2022) available as open access free download: https://www.uclpress.co.uk/products/192312

Raw Histories: Photographs, Anthropology and Museums (Oxford: Berg, 2001)

Anthropology and Photography: A long history of knowledge and affect (Taylor & Frances Online, 30 Nov. 2015)

Photography, Anthropology and History: Expanding the Frame, ed. C. Morton and E. Edwards (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2009)

Sensible Objects: Colonialism, Museums and Material Culture, ed. Chris Gosden, Ruth B. Phillips, E. Edwards (Oxford: Berg:Routledge, 2006)

Keighley Local Studies Team

Crime Fiction and Reality

How do you write a prison based novel when you have never been inside yourself?

How do you help prisoners to aim for better lives when they come out of prison?

How do you research local history for novels set in previous decades?

Which prisoner covered himself in butter to fight, and delay his slippery arrest, after his football team lost a game?

These are just a few of the questions that were answered during the course of last Saturday afternoon with our two brilliant local authors and speakers – Frances Brody and Veronica Bird OBE.

You may know of the acclaimed author Frances Brody, as she is very well known for her very popular Kate Shackleton mysteries, some set in Yorkshire, including Haworth and Saltaire but you may not have heard of Veronica Bird OBE who was the first female governor of HMP Armley in Leeds and of her aptly named autobiography, Veronica’s Bird.

This dynamic duo who met through Frances’s research into her new series of novels, the Brackerley Prison mysteries, thoroughly informed and entertained their large audience. As well as the writing of her novels and her characters, Frances also spoke about local history research and the use of news cuttings in libraries including the valuable collection in Keighley Local Studies. She also included notes on the craft of creative writing and very helpfully to budding authors in the audience, gave some really good advice on making a start at writing a story or novel, overcoming writers’ block and on how to find interesting minor stories to set within the main plot.

Veronica spoke about her deprived upbringing and subsequent hard won career in some of Britain’s most challenging prisons. She also highlighted the lack of literacy amongst at least 50% of prisoners with consequential feelings of hopelessness and sadly an increased chance of re-offending on release. Both Veronica and Frances support the Shannon Trust that helps with learning to read and improve other basic skills so that prisoners, “can pursue wider opportunities and thrive in the community”. Veronica also told us some amusing stories of what can happen when the occasional slip-up in prison guard vigilance occurs such as the attempted sale of prison knickers at a local market stall. Never destined to be a best seller, however, not one pair was sold.

Veronica, now retired but still working with prison inmates, also works for various charities including Ukrainian refugees, and was awarded her OBE for her charitable works. On Saturday, both speakers raised funds for their chosen charities and Frances Brody very kindly donated to Bradford Libraries two large print versions of her novels, including A Murder Inside (the first prison based novel), as well as an audio version of A Mansion for Murder, her latest Kate Shackleton mystery.

We thank them both for a great afternoon of information, education and entertainment and thank Alice and Felicity, the volunteers who so efficiently supervised refreshments.

Keighley Local Studies Team

David Kirkley, Keighley’s gentlemanly historian

It was with great sadness that staff at Keighley Library heard of the recent death of David Kirkley. David had not only become a major contributor to Heritage Days and Keighley local history but also a friend to the library staff.

David was the other half of the Schools’ Heritage Group, together with Jan Rotheram. This was set up a few years ago and ever since, their wonderful photograph collection has provided a source of displays for Heritage Days and other events held in Keighley Library, in particular the Local Studies Library on the first floor. These displays always won a brilliant reception from locals, as families and friends pointed out their old school selves or others they recognised and reminisced about the “best days” of their lives. In 2022, David had put on another great display for us of local school sport photographs to accompany a talk on Keighley and football in the 1950s by Mike Halliwell.

Before Covid, David came at least once a week to Local Studies for a catch up with other locals, equally enthusiastic about Keighley’s history and we learned a lot from them and their projects in our turn.  David supported this historic library in both word and deed and was amongst the first to support the wonderful musical heritage events. We, the staff, always enjoyed chatting to him, he was a knowledgeable, reliable, kind and helpful gentleman and we shall all miss him very much indeed. We are not surprised that in other areas of his life such as the Cougars’ rugby club, he was held in such high regard, a local legend indeed.

Keighley Local Studies staff.

International Women’s Week in Keighley Local Studies Library

International Women’s Week in Keighley Local Studies Library was celebrated with another popular talk by Irene Lofthouse in full costume. Over 50 people ignored any remaining difficulties of ice and snow to hear about some of the inspirational women of Keighley at the turn of the century.

Margaret Winteringham (first British born female MP in Parliament, child and family welfare campaigner); Rachel Leach (early Dalton mill owner and business woman); Lady Ethel Snowden (campaigner, speaker for women’s rights, ILP member, BBC Board of Governors); Frances Smith (mill worker, councillor, champion of child welfare and public health and first woman director of the Co-op Society Ltd); Margaret Pickles (a Keighley Guardian, a member of the Keighley Union Relief Committee who championed better conditions for the poor and taking children’s upbringing outside the workhouse environment) were just some of the women brought vividly to life by this entertaining actor-historian Irene Lofthouse, who, we are proud to say, does much of her research here in Keighley using our renowned Local Studies’ collection. Our holdings include the Lady Ethel Snowden Library, Down Memory Lane articles by the late Dr Ian Dewhirst MBE, news cuttings, local histories and archives, including a large collection of resources on local mills and their owners. Please see our leaflet guides on this site.

Women in Publishing

Keighley Local Studies also put on a display about women in publishing with reference to an excellent online article on the British Library website by Dr Margaretta Jolly, Professor of Cultural Studies at the University of Sussex. This examines the progress made by women in the world of publishing, alongside women’s suffrage and rights’ movements that inspired publications such as the Spare Rib magazine and the establishment of Virago press whose archive is now held at the British Library. The article also notes the emergence of greater diversity in the industry to be inclusive of the working class and also minority ethnic representation with a look at Margaret Busby OBE Hon. FRSL, the youngest and first black woman director of a publishing company. There is plenty online about Margaret Busby who is a patron of Independent Black Publishers and was appointed Chair of Judges for the Booker Prize in 2020. Her latest book New Daughters of Africa (ISBN: 9780241997000), an international anthology of writing by women of African descent, is available from Bradford Libraries.

There is a great reading list attached to this article but check out the following sites for more information:





We also featured the emergence in Bradford of two female Asian publishers at Bradford based Fox & Windmill, Habiba Desai and Sara Razzaq.

This is the first independent book publishing company for British South Asian writers, established in 2021. Their inspiring collection of short stories and poetry from British South Asian writers, Into the Wilds, bridges the gap in the publishing industry for writers from a different background.


Women in the Printing Industry

The printing industry itself was also covered with reference to another article about women’s experiences in the printing industry today but also the first woman to have her own printing press and to employ and to train the first young women in the industry, Emily Faithfull (1835-1895). Emily, a vicar’s daughter, trained as a printer and typesetter and launched the Victoria Press in London in 1860. Its aim was to promote women’s rights to skilled and decently paid employment. The Press printed The English Woman’s Journal, considered the first British feminist periodical, edited by activist-poet Bessie Rayner Parkes. Emily was appointed publisher-in-ordinary to Queen Victoria in 1862. The full article can be read at the following site:


Keighley Local Studies also holds a small selection of 19th century broadsides (single sheets of commentary, song or poetry) and previously has collaborated with Piston, Pen & Press an AHRC-funded project that aimed to “understand how industrial workers in Scotland and the North of England, from the 1840s to the 1910s, engaged with literary culture through writing, reading and participation in wider cultural activities”. Check out their web site for more information please:


It just goes to show that inspirational women are everywhere, should be celebrated and their struggles and achievements recorded. We are pleased that Bradford Libraries and Archives on their bookshelves, displays and in their Local Studies’ departments can share in their journey past, present and future.

Gina Birdsall, Local Studies & Archives Assistant

Unfamiliar Females: Keighley Movers & Shakers

Unfamiliar Females: Keighley Movers & Shakers

11 March

Keighley Local Studies Library – 10 – 11 am FREE

Discover the woman who owned the first ‘Dalton Mill’ and fought off intimidation; another who championed the first children’s allowance, now Family Credit; why a female councillor resigned from the Labour Party in 1947; who stood up to Lord Reith as one of the first woman members of the BBC Board; which Keighley lass wrote The Feminist Movement – way before the 1970s -and more anecdotes along the way.

Join writer/historian Irene Lofthouse as she shares stories about some of the lesser-known women of Keighley, their achievements and legacies that still resound today. Then visit the exhibition of portraits by local artist #SophiePowell.

The anniversary of the birth of the Independent Labour Party (ILP) in Bradford, its connections across the district in Keighley and with Philip Snowden, one of the most talented and charismatic of Labour’s leaders

It is true that local history is only a second behind national current affairs. Given today’s volatile political climate and workers’ unrest, an examination of early 20th century history, is not the antiquated process that the notion of progress might lead us to hope for in 2023.

Keighley Library holds a small but important collection of ILP records (BK11) and also the Snowden collection that includes the libraries of early ILP members: Lord Philip Snowden and his wife, Lady Ethel Snowden, so we thought that we would look into these important and still very relevant local connections for this anniversary year.

The national Independent Labour Party was led by Keir Hardie who became its first chairman and had its inaugural meeting in Bradford at Laycocks’ Temperance Hotel, Albion Court, off Kirkgate on 13 January, 1893. Its foundations were rooted in the turmoil in the Bradford textile trade which was facing competition from France and rising foreign tariffs on British goods. This had led to greater local competition and an intensification of machine led production with pressure to produce more by fewer workers for the same wages. The Manningham Mills strikes of 1890 and 1891 saw powerful links forged between the ILP and local trade unions that the Liberal and Tory parties had failed to make. However, most importantly from an historical perspective, the ILP’s critical eye, focused as it was on established politics in such challenging times for lower paid workers, helped to lay the foundations for the growth of the “working class” affiliation with the less radical Labour Party that was emerging under Ramsay MacDonald and ultimately that party’s much greater political success in replacing the Liberal and Tory norm at both local and national levels of government.

In Bradford today, the founding meeting of the ILP is still marked by the large mural on the north side of Leeds Road near the city centre on the wall of the Priestley Theatre in Little Germany.

The ILP in Keighley

Keighley is joined with Bradford in its reputation as being part of the heartland of Labour politics at the Party’s time of emergence. In fact, in the 1890s, Keighley had one of the largest ILP branches in the country. Nevertheless, it seems that the politically dominant Liberal elite in Keighley was able to deter the political success of the ILP in the town.

The 1880s-1890s were full of discontent for working men and women in Yorkshire but despite this, the established party of choice, the Liberal party, still won elections – the largest single group on the Borough Council from 1882-1908. Furthermore, in spite of early electoral successes by 1900, consisting of four ILP town councillors and three School board members (both including Philip Snowden), ILP representation on the Council declined so that from 1904 to 1912 there were no Keighley town councillors for the ILP.

One argument could be that the successful influence and patronage within other areas of the town’s community life: employment, culture, education, religion and temperance were such, that voters could not ultimately be persuaded to embrace the ILP’s more radical politics.  Liberal leaders such as Sir Isaac Holden, Sir John Brigg and Sir Swire Smith had brought much success to Keighley, both as employers in successful and expanding industry but also socially and culturally. They were instrumental in the establishment and success of the Mechanics’ Institute, its popular and nationally successful technical education for young working men and women and also the establishment of a Carnegie Public Library for all in 1904. Keighley’s sizeable Irish population also backed the Liberals at a crucial time in Keighley because of the staunch Liberal Home Rule policy. It is also worth remembering that the ILP in Keighley had fewer funds than either Bradford’s ILP branch or Keighley’s Tory and Liberal parties that relied less on the coffers of lower paid workers. One more point is that voting was still restricted to women who were ratepayers and heads of the household and that excluded many potential radical votes from single working women, paid little within poor working conditions, many in the textile trade. Lady Ethel Snowden was to do much to support women’s suffrage and Philip Snowden also became a champion of this cause.

Another argument might run that as a smaller town than Bradford, there was perhaps less room for independent opposition in such an economically, socially and culturally interconnected town. The Liberal elite were employers, sometimes landlords and held good standing within Keighley’s Non-conformist and temperance led community. Minority radicals would have had to have the mesmerising charisma of John Wesley to pull in supporters who would be going against the grain of such family and communal loyalties. Keighley, as a small town, also appears to have had some class fluidity for the educated and skilled working men. David James, former Bradford District Archivist and Labour historian, points out that some Chartist sympathisers had also been able to do well and gain influence within various organisations in Keighley and that this had also subsequently somewhat clipped their radical wings, (David James, “Local Politics and the Independent Labour Party in Keighley” in Keith Leybourn and David James (eds), The Rising Sun of Socialism 1991), p.106.

However, despite the ultimate failure of an early political conquest in Keighley, the influence of the ILP, as in Bradford, was still a pervasive one. It endured and promoted an alternative political option to Liberalism and Toryism in frustrating times for those working people, particularly with skill and education, and it offered a means of publicly active criticism, not least through its growing relations with developing trade unions. Finally, and again in the words of David James, above all, “…it sowed the seeds of a successful independent working-class political party, though it was the Labour Party that was to reap the harvest.” (ibid., p.118).

Lord Philip Snowden, Chancellor of the Exchequer for the first Labour Government

Although he never became Keighley’s MP, it was in Keighley that Philip Snowden was to cut his political teeth.

Born in Cowling in 1864 to cotton and worsted weavers from Ickornshaw, his parents were staunch Methodists and members of the Temperance society. It was an upbringing that was to shape his later political career.

“I was brought up in this radical atmosphere it was then that I imbedded the political and
social principals which I have held ever since”

Philip was one of three children but unlike his two elder sisters, due to the shrewd saving of his father, he did not enter the local mill to work at the aged 10. Instead, Philip who was a bright child stayed on at school and attended the newly established board school from 1874, becoming a pupil teacher in 1877.

His interest in politics started when his family was forced to move to Nelson on the closure of Cowlings mill in 1879.Taking up a job as a clerk in an insurance office in Burnley. His early leaning however, were to favour the Radical Liberal ideals of his father.

In 1886 he won a competition to join the civil service and started to work as excise man. Over the next few years he travelled the country working in Liverpool, the Orkneys and Aberdeen.   However, his civil service career was cut short when in 1889 whilst at Plymouth he sustained a back injury that that left him paralysed. He returned home to Ikornshaw to be nursed by his widowed mother and over the next few years he learned to walk again but walked with a stick for the rest of his life.

Whilst convalescing he put his frustrations into reading and began to read widely on the subject of socialism. Between 1892-1995 his leaning went from the Radical Liberal to moving over to the Socialism of the Independent Labour Party.

His contribution to local politic in Keighley was a significant one, he joined the Keighley ILP in 1895 only a few years after its formation and he became editor of the Keighley Labour Union Journal in 1898. By 1899 he was a Labour councillor and School Board member. His journalistic abilities along with his fine oratory skills made him popular figure and he drew large crowds to his speeches. At the Labour Church and he went on to tour the nation giving talks on socialism.

Philip was now making a name for himself with in the Labour moment, one of the big four alongside Keir Hardie, Ramsey MacDonald and Bruce Glasier. He served as chairman of the National Administrative Council of the ILP.

The early 1900s saw his gradual withdrawal from the Keighley political scene and his attentions tuned first towards Leeds and then west to the Lancashire. Local politics had shown its limitations, and he became of the belief that real social change could only be achieved through entry to parliament. His attempt to stand as the ILP candidate in Keighley in 1895 had been thwarted by lack of funds. He did not give up and after two failed attempts at Blackburn in 1900 and in Wakefield 1902, he was eventually elected as Labour MP for Blackburn in 1906.

It was also around this time that he met Ethel Annakin a young school teacher, feminist and socialist. Like minded and both ambitious for their political causes they married in Otley in 1905, against his mother’s wishes. A leading suffragist it was Ethel that was to convert her husband to the cause. He was also becoming a recognised expert on economic issues and advised David Lloyd George on his 1909 peoples budget.

The couple were travelling when war broke out and they found themselves on the other side of the Atlantic. Snowden’s opposition to the Fist World War was contrary to the Labour Party’s patriotic support and he found himself once again aligned with the left and the anti-war ILP. Such views were against the grain at the time, saw him defeated at the next general election in 1918.


In 1922 he was elected as the Labour MP for Colne Valley. Only two years late in 1924 the first Labour Government was formed, and he was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer under Ramsey MacDonald. He went on to reprise his role as Chancellor in 1929 as part of the second Labour government.

It was when he continued as chancellor 1931 under the National Government that he met with controversy. After he introduced a budget that had been rejected by the previous labour cabinet, he was expelled from the Labour party.

Struggling with ill health he did not stand in 1931 instead he given a peerage. They became viscount and Viscountess Snowden of Ikornshaw. Philip turned to journalism in later years, but he suffered from increasing ill health and died on 15th May 1937.

The town had obviously made an impact on her husband for it was to Keighley library that Lady Ethel Snowden gave his 3,000 strong collection of books along with his writing desk. Her books joined those of her husbands on her death in 1951.

A Sleigh Full of Health and Wellbeing. HOME TOWN SOUNDS –The Haleys and John Drury play Keighley Library

Santa came early to Keighley Library bringing the precious gift of Live Music on Friday night, 2nd December. A growing atmosphere of happy anticipation and pure joy filled the room as first John Drury and then the Haleys took to the library floor to thunderous applause – and we are not joking here or being Charles Dickensy just for the season. The gigs at Keighley Library, that pay for themselves incidentally, have become so popular locally that tickets sell out literally within hours. Glastonbury eat your heart out!

It is a truth universally recognised that listening to music improves mood and promotes feelings of wellbeing. Music shared combats loneliness and creates a sense of community spirit.  In the words of the legendary John Denver, “no matter what language we speak, what colour we are, the form of our politics or the expression of our love and our faith, music proves: we are the same.”

This month’s gig was no exception as regular library borrowers, friends, family, fans and first time library visitors queued for a big slice of communal wellbeing and musical magic. A performance of this scale and calibre to be held, for the very first time in the evening, added to the Christmassy getaway feel that, for some local people this year, could well be limited to this library experience and the books borrowed to escape into over the holiday.

John Drury is a singer songwriter from a London-Irish background who now hails from Oxenhope.  His songs have been described as ‘poetry with music on top’.  He writes about the little as well as the big things in life, and believes deeply that ‘we are all in this together’.  Friday night though was all about the cover versions with a couple of his own compositions thrown in for good measure.  He proved to be the ideal ‘support’ act and from the off had the audience in the palm of his hand, clapping and singing along, troubles of the outside world forgotten for the time being!

What to say about the Haley Sisters? The sisters were born and raised in the village of Harden near Bingley and from a very early age they followed in their parents’ footsteps. The siblings have appeared alongside many respected artists since launching their professional career back in 1989, Freddy Fender, George Hamilton 1V, Raul Malo, Nathan Carter and Daniel O’Donnell.  On 28th May 2017, they performed to a sell-out audience at the London Palladium and in April 2018 they were the opening act for the first of its kind, the Roy Orbison ‘In Dreams Hologram Arena tour’.

 Becky and Jo-Ann are now award winning vocalists who could easily sell out the Grand Ole Opry in good old Nashville, Tennessee. Think a female version of the Everly Brothers with a magical natural blend of vocal harmonies with Becky on rhythm guitar and Jo-Ann on bass.  The third member of the group is Becky’s husband, songwriter and steel guitarist, Brian ’Smithy’ Smith.  Brian has worked on many recording sessions in Nashville including Crystal Gayle’s ‘Three Good Reasons’ album. 

Proving that music really is in the genes, we were also treated to a song or two from 80-year-old Pa, Tony Haley, who taught us how to yodel with a rousing version of the Frank Ifield classic which earned him a standing ovation led by our very own Town Council Mayor.

Our other guests included Trevor Simpson and his wife Denise.  Trevor is a former FA Premier League and international football referee, the author of two bestselling music books ‘Small Town, Saturday Night’ and a walking encyclopaedia on anything to do with Elvis.

Regular library customers still discuss gigs of years’ past and this will no doubt be one of them in the future. We will now let the music do the talking, see for yourself below and rock on 2023!

Keighley Local Studies Library.

Time Travel in Keighley on the Brontë Trail

Mission: to follow closely in the footsteps of the Brontë family

Location: Keighley town centre…? Keighley town centre

Time Lord: Nancy Garrs, servant to the Brontës. To regenerate later into Irene Lofthouse, popular local guide and author for all things history in the Bradford District

Information provider: Keighley Library Town Trails, first episode Brontë Footsteps in Keighley

Mode of travel: definitely legs not telephone boxes

On Saturday 3rd December, for the first time in history, an intrepid group of literary searchers set off on the Brontë Footsteps Trail around Keighley, led by Nancy Garrs, former Brontë servant. Their mission was to discover the Keighley people, places and buildings that had formerly provided the Brontës with entertainments, tuition, publications and national cultural updates in the development of science and the arts.  This was a first and all the information was gathered together from many secondary and primary sources held at Keighley’s own Carnegie Public Library.

The Trail was launched with an introduction by library staff and authors, Angela Speight and Gina Birdsall, who outlined why Keighley’s 19th/20th century’s rich history and rapid economic growth and burgeoning cultural development was to become the subject of a series of published Trails set in the town centre. They also noted the large numbers of connections between Keighley and the Brontës that authors have made in biographies and histories of the family that led to the creation of this, the very first town trail, and the first full recognition of Keighley’s contribution to the formative development of the Brontës in the 1820s and 1830s. Furthermore, all these references in books and articles and published diaries of the Brontës are to be found in Keighley Library’s own Brontë Library collection. The trail walk followed and we all, some of us it seems for the first time, really looked at Keighley town places and buildings.

Nancy must have had a lenient day of chores because she was full of energy and enthusiasm and brought some of her own extensive knowledge to the walk regarding the Brontës, their lives and times. It was a very entertaining trail through history and Nancy really did rival the best of the best of Dr Whos.

Nancy Garrs (Irene Lofthouse)

Temple Street Buildings Devonshire Arms Buildings on Church Green

However, the library tardis and a warm space eventually beckoned and we returned for tea and cake and a look at some of the library’s wonderful books and archives that make up the unique history of Keighley in relation to the Brontës, including the Brontë Library that is now the largest in the country outside that of Haworth Parsonage. Angela and Gina had also provided a more detailed fact/source sheet and bibliography for those who wanted to do further research.

We would like to thank all who joined us on the trail, Irene Lofthouse for her wonderful tour on the day, Steven Wood and Eddie Kelly, local historians who contributed their knowledge and expertise to the trail research. Finally, we would like to thank Dionne Hood, Bradford Libraries’ Development Officer for Reading and Stock, and Create Connect Make (especial thanks to Jean McEwan) for their wonderful support and offer to publish this cultural first in Keighley.

Here’s what Ann Dinsdale (Principal Curator, Brontë Parsonage) and Sharon Wright (journalist and author of The Mother of the Brontës thought about the trail booklet:

“The Brontë Trail not only flags up the wonderful resources available at Keighley Local Studies Archive, it shines a light on all the forgotten corners of Keighley which are associated with the Brontës’ lives. It allows you to follow in their footsteps around the town and includes details which are usually missing in biographies of the famous family.”  (Ann Dinsdale, Principal Curator, Brontë Parsonage)

“The Brontë Trail is a long-overdue guide to the family’s forgotten local links. The authors have mined important and exciting knowledge from the local history goldmine at Keighley Library.” Journalist and Brontë biographer Sharon Wright.

Some Feedback for the new Brontë Trail

“That was such an interesting walk. I thought I knew quite a bit, but I learnt a lot as we walked. Thank you.”

“What a refreshing way to find out about the Brontës. Really enjoyed the presentation, and the leaflet with pictures is great to be able to retrace the steps.”

“I shall be able to impress my family with what I’ve learnt, and I’ll be going to visit the places on the map we didn’t get to.”

“Thank you for the walk, and discussion about the routes the Brontës used to come from Haworth. I’ve been trying to work out what Charlotte meant in a letter she wrote, and this has been really helpful.”

“Setts or cobbles? What did Brontës call them? Enjoyed the walk, and it created questions I’d not thought about. I hope there’ll be more walks like this.”

“Thank you for a fantastic walk and talk at the weekend about the Brontës in Keighley. It was so informative and really brought the research you’ve done to life. Congratulations to everyone involved in all of the process.”

“What a wonderful walk-talk- and exhibition – full of colour, humour and life and history. Congratulations to our guide.”

“Just enjoyed the Brontë Town Trail – wonderful! Thanks to Irene (Nancy Garrs) for such a spirited and lively tour. Thanks to Gina and Angela for such an interesting and informative booklet!”

For those of you interested in Nancy Garrs herself please follow these links:


For Irene Lofthouse, author and local history guide:


Gina Birdsall and Angela Speight, Keighley Local Studies Library

Brontë Trail Launch

Keighley Local Studies Library staff are very pleased to announce the launch of the very first Brontë Trail around Keighley. It’s now published and will be available in the library from Saturday 3rd December after the launch at 10am. All welcome.

 You too can follow in the footsteps of these literary greats as they catch up with friends, tuition, lectures, shopping, book borrowing, publishing, travel stops and entertainments. We shall have a range of photographs, books and archives out in the library for those wanting to follow the trail in more depth.

The Trail will also be taken out onto the streets of Keighley after the launch by the local historian and very popular guide, Irene Lofthouse, who will be dressed in the guise of Nancy de Garrs (Nancy Garrs), nursemaid and cook to the young Brontë children for 8 years. There are only 15 places available for the actual trail so please telephone 01535 618215 to book your place.

The day will also hold other Create Connect Make activities as well as the regular children’s story time at 11am. There will be Learn to Crochet with CCM Making and Crafting group in the meeting room, first floor, a special story time at 2pm with Catrina Farnell, bookmaking/collage drop in all day in the library with CCM’s wonderful Jean McEwan and a Christmas crafts drop in.

Please come and join us for this Christmas feast of activity.