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


Black History Month 2021 #3 – Abraham Johnson

Abraham Johnson was born in Zanzibar where he was enslaved as a teenager. His slavery took him to China, Japan and India.

He escaped enslavement in South-East Asia before working as a member of crew on board a ship, sailing from the Indian Ocean to Liverpool.

He is referenced in records as having been rescued from a shipwreck.

Abraham worked at John Marshall’s Temple Mill in Holbeck, Leeds before settling in Bradford where he lived in a lodging house. He was married with a daughter. In Bradford he sold pamphlets and newspapers on the streets.

He was painted by John Sowden in June 1888 at the age of 40.

Black History Month 2021 #2 – Street Characters of a Victorian City. Paintings by John Sowden (1838-1926)

Bradford Libraries are Proud To Be part of Black History Month 2021 and delighted to share some of the historical stories featured in the Black History Timeline for Bradford District.

The Black History Timeline showcases the long history of black people in our community and the contribution they have made to our society.

You can view the full timeline here: https://bradfordlocalstudies.com/black-history-timeline-for-bradford-district/

Paintings by John Sowden (1838 – 1926)

In the next of our series of posts we focus on some of the characters who could be seen about the streets of the late nineteenth century painted by local Artist, John Sowden.

John Sowden was art master at the Bradford Mechanics Institute for 40 years as well as a key figure in many of the political and current affairs of the time. He was primarily a water colour artist and several of his pictures were exhibited at the Royal Academy.

He compiled a large collection of pictures of notable Bradford characters giving a rare insight into the stories of some of the characters who could be seen about the streets of Bradford, creating a unique social record of the time.

The water colour paintings are in Bradford Museums’ collection and can be viewed here:

The stories have been collected in the book: Street Characters of a Victorian City: John Sowden’s Bradford, edited by Gary Firth, Bradford Arts, Museums & Libraries Service (January 1, 1993), 978-0907734406

Thomas Jackson #2

Thomas Jackson was born in 1815 enslaved in Virginia. He was a well-known local street character known as ‘Old Tom’ and was persuaded to pose for John Sowden and his students in 1888 at the age of 73.

We now know that 3 years later in 1891 he can be found on the census living in Keighley.

His death certificate in 1897 says he died in the Union Infirmary and the informant given is Master of the Union Workhouse. He was buried in Utley cemetery. No grave marker has been found.

Post script:

Keighley Local Studies staff recently located the following entry in the workhouse records:

The Master reported that he had found the sum of 2s/3d upon Frederick Hanworth and the sum of 10s/6d on Thomas Jackson.
Resolved that the 2s/6d be paid into the common fund but that the sum of 10s/6d be dealt with when Jackson takes his discharge.
(Keighley Union Records (KU/1/17)

Black History Month 2021 #1 – Henry Box Brown

Bradford Libraries are Proud To Be part of Black History Month 2021 and delighted to share some of the historical stories featured in the Black History Timeline for Bradford District.

The Black History Timeline showcases the long history of black people in our community and the contribution they have made to our society.

You can view the full timeline here: https://bradfordlocalstudies.com/black-history-timeline-for-bradford-district/

Henry ‘Box’ Brown

The fascinating story of Henry ‘Box’ Brown is inspirational across the world.

Henry Box Brown was born in 1815 and enslaved on a plantation in Louisa County, Virginia.

In 1849 he escaped slavery to freedom by concealing himself in a wooden crate and arranging to have himself mailed to abolitionists in Philadelphia, enduring 27 hours of travel.

Brown became a noted abolitionist speaker and later toured the UK with his anti-slavery panorama to tell his story and help the abolitionist cause.

In 1851, Henry ‘Box’ Brown appeared to a crowded audience at the Mechanics’ Institute in Bradford for 5 nights, ‘depicting in a striking and painful manner, the abominations and horrors of slavery’. (Bradford Observer 8th May 1851)

He re-enacted his escape by having himself shipped from Bradford to Leeds where his arrival was greeted with a parade of music and banners throughout the central streets.

In 2009 to celebrate Black History Month this journey was re-enacted by artist Simeon Wayne Barclay who was transported in a box by van from Bradford Central Library before being unveiled in Leeds.

Simeon Wayne Barclay

Being Young in Bradford: Youth Culture in the 1970s and 80s

This was the title of an exhibition on display at Cartwright Hall Art Gallery in Lister Park from May to August 2021.

People can now view stories from this exhibition in Bradford Libraries.

The show was a partnership between Bradford Council run Cartwright Hall and Being Bradford – a group of working class mavericks that have organised themselves into a sort of artistic trade union and whose primary aim is to see their authentic story told by themselves and featuring in the city of Bradford’s cultural narrative.

The 1970s was a time of great political and social unrest yet also of creativity and activism. Punk changed the world of many Bradford teenagers providing a sense of belonging and fostering an active culture of Do It Yourself.

Each of the six members of the group wrote about their experiences of growing up and others were invited to contribute their stories.

These stories will be on display in Shipley Library from Monday 27 September to Friday 15 October and in City Library from Monday 25 October to Friday 19 November.

The exhibition also prompted intergenerational conversations about being young in the city. View a number of short films on the subject on the Bradford Museums You Tube Channel.

Share your memories of growing up if you are on facebook, twitter or instagram and tag:




The Discovery of Yorkshire’s Landscape Heritage

This particular summer many of you will have embraced the outdoor life more fully with a great, hearty “Phew!” and for that you will have used maps of all kinds and many of you will have run, walked, cycled, driven, wild swum and sailed through the Yorkshire moorland, parkland and countryside, hopefully marvelling at its great variety and beauty. However, not that many of you will have heard of John Phillips and his uncle William ‘Strata’ Smith who both contributed so much to the identification and classification of our wonderful land, despite both lacking in any kind of formal higher education.

William Smith (1769-1839) pioneered geological researches. His techniques and those of other such surveyors and engineers promoted the development of canal and navigation networks to be constructed over suitable water retaining fault-free ground.  William Smith analysed the strata of rock layers and he was the first to realise that the age and properties of rock strata in the British Isles could be indicated by the fossils found in each stratum. William’s life was not an easy one, facing competition and theft from colleagues, a wife who tragically went mad and eventual imprisonment for debt. His fascinating life and achievements can be followed in The Map That Changed the World, A Tale of Rocks, Ruin and Redemption by Simon Winchester (Penguin Books, 2002), available for loan in Bradford Libraries.

John Phillips (1800-1874)

Smith’s nephew, John Phillips, became one of the most influential scientific figures of the mid 19th century. What is remarkable about his eventual achievements is that Phillips, like his uncle William Smith, had no formal higher education. Early tuition was paid for by his uncle William but funds did not stretch far and so he began to work for William as his assistant between 1817-1819, making regular surveying trips around England. Consequently, he absorbed Smith’s practical engineering and surveying skills and the application of the new science of geology.

John Phillips must have really appreciated that without the influence of his family and friends in his early life, he would not have enjoyed career success in pursuing interests that had fascinated him from a young age. This is probably why he later became committed to the general education of people of all classes and gender and in particular to helping make the modern science of geology more popular and accessible to the public. He contributed much to modern understanding of the natural world through research, lecturing, academic and popular writing and published the first geological timescale. Phillips also adopted and was passionate about the landscape heritage of Yorkshire, especially its history and archaeology. He was amongst the first to produce studies of the carboniferous limestone of the Yorkshire Dales as well as detailed studies of the Yorkshire coast. Amongst other achievements, he helped to found the Yorkshire Geological Society and the British Association for the Advancement of Science (British Science Association), established in York in 1831. He was Senior Secretary of the Yorkshire Philosophical Society (https://www.ypsyork.org/ ) and became Keeper of Collections (1825-1840) of one of Yorkshire’s first purpose built museums, the Yorkshire Museum in York which still has a library dedicated to the Society and displays of maps, fossils and other artefacts depicting the work undertaken by William Smith and later with John Phillips.


New book for loan

A recently published and very enjoyable book by Colin Speakman, John Phillips, Yorkshire’s traveller through time is now available for loan in Bradford Libraries and, as well as discussing the above, presents John Phillips as a pioneer walker-writer and artist in his adopted Yorkshire and tells of how he went on to produce two of the best early guidebooks to Yorkshire and one of the first ever railway guidebooks in the world. Perhaps a Michael Portillo moment coming up? The book traces his footsteps through the moors, dales and coastal beauty of Yorkshire and how he became a source of inspiration behind Britain’s National Park and outdoor movement. You never know John Phillips may even have had a hand in influencing your own summer time adventures this year.

Read and Visit

John Phillips, Yorkshire’s traveller through time by Colin Speakman (Gritstone Publishing co-operative, 2020)

The Map That Changed The World, A Tale of Rocks, Ruin and Redemption by Simon Winchester (Penguin Books, 2002), the story of William Smith

Now the main tourist crowds have gone, why not visit the ‘Reading Room’ and see William ‘Strata’ Smith’s ground breaking 1815 geological map of England and Wales at The Yorkshire Museum, York Museum Gardens, York


You could also visit the Rotunda Museum in Scarborough. This was designed by William Smith in 1829 and is one of the world’s first purpose built museums:


If your interest is peaked in geology and you don’t want to travel further than Bradford visit our own Cliffe Castle museum in Keighley which houses the Airedale Gallery exploring the geology of the district, the Molecules to Minerals Gallery, and its own Natural History Gallery all wonderfully curated. The Molecules to Minerals Gallery has been described by the former head of the Geology Museum as ‘…probably the best, as regards the range and quality of its minerals and its design, outside the major national museums’.


Gina Birdsall, Keighley Local Studies