From Charles Lubelski, author of Pride, Passion and Printing


Although I was apprenticed and trained in Leeds as a compositor in the printing trade, like many of my peers, I was always interested in the legendary Bradford printing company Percy Lund Humphries. This was where the great Penrose Annual was printed and published. Each edition had fascinating articles about new technologies, new typefaces, articles about typographers and designers and new devices and machines which promised so much in the ever expanding world of the printing industry. And this remarkable printing company was based in the great city of Bradford.

Therefore, I suppose it is not surprising that when Professor Caroline Archer of Birmingham City University suggested that I write a book about PLH — I had no hesitation in accepting this invitation. It was to be a labour of love. Having spent all my working life in the printing industry I quickly realised that PLH was not the norm – it was the exception. Their philosophy was absolute quality and accuracy in every detail – the company was built on pride and passion – hence the title of my book: Pride, Passion and Printing.

For one hundred years Percy Lund Humphries was one of the world’s great printing establishments. The management and the craftsmen and craftswomen worked as a team for a common purpose – it was always quality first and financial gain second, perhaps an uncommon concept in current times.

I have tried to address social, economic, political, technical and artistic issues from an historic point of view supported where possible by illustrations. Technology and artistic endeavour are ever changing; both significantly affect in one way or another political ideas and economics of society. I leave it for others to explore this observation.

I am delighted that Bradford City Libraries have been displaying a number of the books printed by PLH. Bradfordians of today will get inspiration from this display and perhaps be encouraged to take their city forward with new ideas and new industries.

I personally would like to see a revival of design, typography, and the visual arts. PLH once produced the most beautiful art books – could this great city emulate its past masters?

What brick?

I spend a great deal of time studying maps, and writing about maps. Many people feel I should get out more: so here is the result of a Bradford history outdoor trip. Most readers will know Infirmary Field, a green space which begins at the junction of Westgate and Lumb Lane, and which for many years was the location of Bradford Infirmary. The Infirmary was already present in the first OS map of the area (c.1852) but was relocated between the 1932 and 1938 OS maps. At the rear of the site is a snicket connecting Westgate and Lumb Lane.  There has been much modern housing redevelopment in this area but the snicket may have started life as the back lane of Queens Street which, together with Kings Street, was once a terrace that ran parallel to it.

The perimeter wall separating Infirmary Field from this snicket is basically constructed of sandstone masonry, but has evidently been patched or repaired on many occasions and with many materials. A piece of rather sloppy brick-laying placed three bricks on their long edges to reveal the brick mark [P&S] placed in a rather whimsically shaped depression, or frog.

What brick Fig 1

They look like late Victorian machine-moulded bricks, although I have never seen any other examples of exactly this type, among the hundreds of Bradford bricks I have examined. Could the resources of the Local Studies Library be used to identify the original maker of these bricks? Sadly there is no ‘Bradford Brick Book’ in which you may identify individual brick marks, but there are a large collection of Victorian trade directories in which you can investigate local brick manufacturers. Brick works and kilns are marked on the LSL’s extensive collection of maps, and there are also newspaper advertisements and census reports.

Essentially I was looking for a maker who generated the initials P & S, where previous experience teaches me that ‘& S’ was likely (but not certain) to represent ‘and sons’. There seemed to be three possibilities. The least likely were Parkinson and Spencer, a Halifax company making refractory bricks and fireclay items, who survived well into the 20th century. They did not seem likely to have made Victorian house bricks which penetrated as far as Bradford.

William Pickard & Sons operated at Wellington Street, Laisterdyke and they appear in many trade directories: 1867, 1872, 1875-1880, 1881, 1883 and 1887-88. In the 1883 Directory, for example, they are listed as ‘William Pickard, builder, stone merchant and brick-maker’ and the works (probably called Wellington Works) could have had a 25 year existence. But there is a known mark [WP & S] which would fit this manufacturer better than the puzzle brick, so consequently they are only my second choice.

The most likely candidate seems to be the firm of Pearson & Son. Samuel Pearson was a Cleckheaton brick-maker who founded a contracting dynasty. His first contracting works was in Silver Street (off Tabbs Lane) in Scholes around 1856.

What brick Fig 2

His largely forgotten works in Bradford, which he probably acquired from a man called William Poulter, was known as the Broomfield Clay works and later Broomfield Sanitary Tube & Brick Works. In describing the work involved in taking the GNR railway line from Exchange Station towards Leeds in 1866 Horace Hird (Bradford in History, 1968) mentions the activities of Pearson & Son who took over responsibility for the clay excavated from a cutting. They created a ‘great mound’, and for 15 years 60 men were employed making drain pipes, chimney pots and bricks from this mound. One of their brick marks (which I have only seen in a damaged state) is [PEARSON & SON][BRADFORD] but [P&S] could easily have been an earlier alternative. Examination of the Heaton Local Board accounts for 1877 shows that Samuel Pearson & Son were supplying 15” ceramic pipes ‘to be delivered at the Turf Tavern’. Their works can be also identified on the 1871 map of Bradford, but apparently closed in 1885 when a ‘spoil bank’ was exhausted. The site is described as a ‘disused brick-works’ by the time of the 1895 OS map, and Pearson & Sons are not recorded in an 1898 trade directory. In the 1881 census Samuel Pearson is described as a retired brick-maker, born in Scholes, and living in Greenside. He evidently died in 1884 (worth £20,000) at the Elms, Scholes Road.

By the time of his retirement Pearson’s were already undertaking contracts in many major industrial cities. Samuel Pearson’s son was called George Pearson but the firm’s success was largely due to the energy of his grandson, Weetman Pearson (1856-1927), to whom Samuel transferred all his personal holdings. Weetman may have started as a brick manufacturer but the company he managed evolved into the great firm of Samuel Pearson & Sons which considered brick, tile and sanitary-ware making as only a very minor part of their activities. The firm undertook many contracts for the British Government and within a generation it became an international contractor. It was particularly associated with Mexico under the presidency of Porfirio Diaz. Canals, railways, and oil were among the company’s many interests. Weetman Pearson was eventually created the first Viscount Cowdray and died in 1927.  The company still exists as Pearson plc but has widely diversified its interests into the media, which is a very long way from a Bradford snicket.

Derek Barker, Local Studies Library Volunteer

Peaceful Women

Bradford and Keighley Local Studies Libraries celebrated International Women’s Day with a series of events over the week featuring ‘Peaceful Women’  by local author, playwright, actor and historian, Irene Lofthouse.

Irene Lofthouse took on the role of ‘Mrs Norton’, an ordinary working class woman actively involved in the campaign for social reform who is given just a few lines in a Bradford newspaper of the time and then lost in history until now.

Over the week, we were pleased to welcome school classes from Worth Valley Primary, Fagley Primary and Beckfoot Allerton Primary as well as Keighley Association for Women and Children, Keighley Women’s network and a great turnout from the general public on the mid-week performance.

‘Peaceful Women’ looked at the era following the end of WW1 and the efforts to use peaceful methods for change.

The performance explored the stories of local women of the time who campaigned for peace during WW1 or for rights following the end of the war. ‘Mrs Norton’ characterised each person through voice and props. The interactive performance raised awareness of known and hidden histories of local women and their impact locally and nationally through an entertaining and educative piece of theatre.

Some of the women included, campaigned for peace in WW1 such as Fanny Muir and Esther Sandiford from Bradford Women’s Humanity League/Women’s Peace Congress.

Also included were those who campained for social reform after WW1 such as Julia Varley, Ethel and Philip Snowden, Margaret McMillan, Bradford MP Muriel Nichols and Barbara Castle. Margaret Wintringham from Silsden was the first British born woman to take her seat  in the House of Commons.

Local archive materials and Electoral Registers from the local studies collections were on display. Bradford Local Studies Electoral Registers began in 1848 and Keighley’s registers began in 1882 when the town was incorporated.

Pictured below are some of the items from the Local Studies collections on display at the event.

Brontë Images: 116 Years of Brontë Studies


To facilitate exploration of local history and the Brontë family, the Keighley Local Studies Library now has a catalogue file of all images that have appeared in its bound editions of the Brontë Society’s Transactions and Journals from 1898 through to 2014. This means that it is possible to find, for example, a facsimile of a letter written by Patrick Brontë, or a pen sketch of the Black Bull pub by Arthur North, given the name of the author or item.

This collection comprises over 1000 Brontë related images, including familiar ones that may be found on exhibition at the Brontë Parsonage Museum, as well as others of interest such as photographs of extended family members, charts of family genealogy, pictures of places that may have featured in their novels, andgeographical locations that hold the Brontë name (e.g. Brontë, Texas).

There are also pictures of Brontë Society members, who have appeared over the years,
including Butler Wood, the Society’s first editor and Bradford’s Chief Librarian 1887-1925, international members as far away as China, and visiting dignitaries to the Parsonage Museum, such as James Roosevelt, son of U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt, whose family was connected to the Butterfields in Keighley.

Bronte Images BLOG copy

The Keighley Local Studies Library of Bradford Council is opened Monday-Saturday and is located at the Keighley Library, an historic Andrew Carnegie Library on North Street,
Keighley BD21 3SX.

Phone: 01535 618215

Mary E. Adamson
Library Volunteer and Brontë Society Member

Tribute to Ian Dewhirst MBE

Staff in Bradford Libraries but most especially Keighley Library, are deeply saddened by news of the death of Ian Dewhirst MBE, himself a former Keighley Library Reference and Local Studies Librarian.

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Ian Dewhirst MBE 1936-2019

Ian began his career in Keighley Library when he left National Service in the army in 1960 and soon became a popular and much respected Reference Librarian. His local knowledge became unsurpassed due to his dedication to and love of local history, including local dialect, in Keighley and Yorkshire generally. People were impressed and many consequently donated to him a growing archive of documents that together now comprise a unique and much valued collection of Keighley town and its local area.

However, Ian also had a rare talent for delivering the most entertaining talks and for making people laugh and all just a bit surprisingly from local history. He was the Footlights of Keighley, the stand alone raconteur who could bring the house down in just a few words. His talent was spotted by local journals, newspapers and television on which he made a number of rewarding appearances. Once retired from libraries in 1991, his diary was always full and, such was his reputation that rarely a week went by in the library even in 2019, when enquirers didn’t ask to be referred to him or ask for a contact number. He was a living legend in every sense of the word. A kind, patient and generous spirited man, he would always help front line staff in Local Studies if they had a particularly awkward query. He was a true inspiration and a champion of Keighley Library and especially Local Studies to which he would make regular visits to research his Down Memory Lane column in the Keighley News and articles in a variety of Yorkshire journals.

Ian was sceptical of some library developments, especially the growing use of IT and staff could never get him to sign up for email or to use a computer. He remained a determined upholder of traditional communication. Nevertheless, in the last months of 2018, he did use the scanner when all other methods became unavailable. He even posed for a photo when we mischievously asked him to pose because let’s face it; Ian Dewhirst on a computer really was local history in the making. Unfortunately, his final verdict was, “If that’s the future, I’m not impressed!”

id scanner copy

Pop music in the library was another matter, however. The thought of live music shattering what was left of any quiet time (silence no longer applicable) was initially anathema to Ian, an “Edwardian” style librarian as he proudly thought of himself. However, seeing how Janet Mawson had linked the pop to local music heritage in the form of bands and local memories of gigs, he not only altered his opinion but proceeded to give a great introductory talk at the June event in 2018. Nevertheless, he insisted on wearing a colourful tie sporting well laden book shelves that he drew attention to whenever the opportunity arose during the course of the afternoon. Janet was pleased to let him know that following the event a number of local music books were loaned or requested. He was pleased to hear it.

Ian Dewhirst MBE brought real life and energy to local history with an enviable lightness of touch that fronted great dedication, knowledge and scholarship. He was a one-off and we library staff are privileged to have known him and to have occasionally worked alongside him.

He will be greatly missed by us all.

I had the privilege of knowing Ian for almost 34 years through working at Keighley Library and there were many occasions where I was able to work with him upstairs which was then known as the Reference Library.

Ian would always go the extra mile when helping the public with their enquiries and also helped staff like myself if we were unsure about certain questions asked of us.

One of my most treasured memories of Ian was the lunch break. Every week he would have a bowl of soup and pour in a packet of ready salted crisps. I found it so funny but Ian thought it tasted exceptionally good. Our lunch breaks were never boring as he would chat away and always have an interesting story for us, whether it was from the past or present.

I will remember Ian as a kind gentleman. I used to see him most weeks and he always went out of his way to talk to me in the library or whenever he spotted me in town. He was a bright star in Keighley and will be sadly missed.

Ann Watkin
Customer Support Assistant
Keighley Library



Just 4 words, END OF AN ERA. They were not even my words, but were spoken by Steve Wood, the local historian for Haworth to sum up the sudden passing last week of Mr. Ian Dewhirst MBE. Never will such words ring more true.

I’m afraid I was guilty of taking Ian’s presence for granted, he was a constant in my day to day life in the library. He first came to my attention some 40 years ago when he was drafted onto the panel at the last minute when I attended a job interview for an assistant in the lending library. From then on I saw him virtually every day in his capacity as Reference Librarian. Much has been said already about Ian’s enormous presence, enthusiasm, dedication and of course his endless knowledge.

When Ian took early retirement in 1991 our paths still crossed all the time. I would bump into him around town or else he was always in the library, be it one of his talks, an opening speech for an event, a book signing or to do his own research. It wouldn’t be most people’s idea of retirement, in fact he was in more demand than ever, but I’m sure he would not have wanted it any other way. Some 28 years after his retirement we are still receiving a steady stream of letters and e-mails from people all over the country wanting to be put into contact with Ian, to do a talk for their society or for the answer to some obscure query or other. We duly passed them all onto him and they always received a reply. Anyone expecting Ian to e-mail would have a long wait though as he NEVER embraced modern technology, no mobile phone or computer. I don’t blame him, he had no use for the internet as all the information and knowledge was in his head!

In June, 2018 I was tasked with putting on a 1960s rock ‘n’ roll music event in the Local Studies Library. I had already got 2 bands lined up to perform. One was ‘The Presidents’ who were Keighley’s first rock ‘n’ roll band and the other ‘The Doveston Brothers’ who had twice reached the dizzy heights of the London Palladium. Now I just had to find a compere to hold the show together, a crucial job! I started by compiling a list of possible candidates, I’ll be honest and admit that Ian was not top of that list. Ideally, I was looking for someone who had been a part of the local 1960s music scene themselves. I knew from previous chats with Ian that he did not like that sort of music and I feared he probably took a dim view of whatever else went on around it. He once told me that he had been a guest on some chat show on the radio and they asked him to choose a record. I was amazed when he said his choice was ‘Allentown’ by Billy Joel. ‘Allentown’ is an anthem to blue collar America, representing both the aspirations and frustrations of America’s working class during the decline of the manufacturing industry in the late 1970s;

‘’Well we’re living here in Allentown
And they’re closing all the factories down’’

Wow, good choice Ian, I get why he chose it now given that much the same decline was going on in his own hometown.

My quest to find my compere was proving frustrating, would love to do it but on holiday, too ill, too old now for that kind of thing etc. Part of me was thinking just ask Ian Dewhirst, whilst the other part was clouded by something else I remembered. With the onset of records, videos and later compact discs and the library counter starting to resemble a ‘shop’ (Ian’s words) selling carrier bags, maps and children’s badges amongst other things. Ian had said that ‘it was becoming less a place of peace and quiet and more like a market place!’ Furthermore, it seemed all very well attracting young people into a library by putting on a Punch and Judy show and getting them to shout ‘he’s behind you’ at the top of their lungs, but then it becomes difficult to persuade children that the library should be a reasonably quiet place. I also knew that Ian was inclined to speak his mind and that I could be handing him the perfect public platform on which to ‘vent his spleen’. The devil in me wanted to know what might happen when two different worlds collide, I concluded that whatever happens, you could be sure that Ian would be entertaining. There was another reason I was veering towards asking Ian and that was that I was well aware he would guarantee me an audience as his loyal supporters followed him everywhere. I decided to give Bruce Russell from ‘The Presidents’ a phone call for a second opinion. I hardly had chance to read the names on my dwindling list when Bruce said ‘Janet, go for Ian Dewhirst, I’d pay good money to see him’!! I replied ‘yeah, but Bruce, he has no interest in rock ‘n’ roll whatsoever and will probably only be able to speak about dance bands at the Mechanics Institute’. Bruce assured me that it didn’t matter and I agreed.

When I asked Ian if he would do the honour of being my compere, he looked bemused and said ‘oh, good heavens, are you sure?’ I replied ‘I’m sure, I’m sure’. The poster to advertise the event was another matter. When I showed it to people they looked at the acts, nodding their approval. Then when they came to Ian’s name at the bottom (which had a speech bubble by his mouth saying ‘miss it, miss out’) they said ‘oh, oh Ian Dewhirst’. This was usually followed by a raised eyebrow and a ‘that’s a strange choice!’

Come the day of the ‘Showtime 1960s’ event , I made sure I briefed the Doveston Brothers beforehand that they must not take it personally, but if we start counting, we probably won’t get very far before Ian says something along the lines of ‘of course none of this would have happened if they had not abolished National Service’. Ian also insisted on starting bang on 1 o’clock as stated on the poster despite the fact that folk were still piling in. ‘Cometh the hour, Cometh the man’. Ian was a total star from the word off, he had the audience which had swelled to over 200 eating out of the palm of his hand in no time. He did indeed acknowledge that rock ‘n’ roll had passed him by in a flurry of 2 years National Service and helping out in his dad’s newsagents shop. The only song he liked was ‘Peggy Sue’ by Buddy Holly , but he died and that was that!! He made fun of songs with ridiculous titles like ‘Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavour on the Bedpost Overnight?’ and ‘How Much Is That Doggie In The Window?’ If Maurice Chevalier had been alive today and brought out a song called ‘Thank Heaven for Little Girls’, he would have been locked up! He related a story from his teens when he was riding in the countryside with his dad on a tandem and requested some information about sex. His dad didn’t fall off the bike but apparently it all went quiet and after a couple of miles his dad simply said ‘both the man and the woman have to agree, Son’ which brought the house down!

After the Doveston Brothers performance, Ian did indeed acknowledge that he must have absorbed more of the burgeoning culture than he thought because he did indeed recognise some of the songs.

When I looked back at the visitor’s book, amongst the many comments people have written expressing how much they enjoyed the show and the wonderful memories it evoked, two stand out for me. Someone had written ‘loving the two bands and the comedian!’ I remembered back to when I had first started working in the library and one day I took a phone call from a chap asking for Ian who informed me that ‘he is the funniest man I have ever come across’. I was a bit puzzled because at that stage I had only ever encountered Ian working in the Reference Library and had never attended any of his talks, so just replied ‘is he?’ That chap turned out to be none other than Jeremy Beadle!! The other comment was a bit odd; it simply said ‘Ian in a suit and tie?’ Funnily enough, it had not escaped my notice that Ian was sporting quite a natty tie for the occasion with little books printed all over it.  Another subtle nod I guess to times long past.

Me, I found out that day what can happen when two different worlds collide. It’s called magic!!!

Brian Doveston e-mailed me a couple of days later to let me know how much the day had meant to him and to express regret that he had not come out singing ‘ How Much Is That Doggie In The Window?’ He ended his e-mail with the words, ‘Mr. Dewhirst, what a lovely man’.

My colleague and I watched a precious two minute clip of Ian’s performance last Tuesday night through sad eyes. Oh, how I wish now that we had recorded the whole of Ian’s part in the show for posterity and to look back on. It was an 82 year old Ian in full flow, pulling out all the stops. He was still at the top of his game, as sharp and witty as ever. I’m sure as the years pass I will watch that clip and it will make me smile and bring back happy memories.

I will conclude my tribute by adding that there will never be another Ian Dewhirst, moving forward this town will miss him so much in ways that we do not realise yet. I was looking at the Book of Condolence in the foyer of the lending library and the first entry was so poignant, from some children, the next generation, it read ‘sorry we never got to hear you talk, we bet you were really good’. He will always be here in spirit and his legacy will always live on, but it is still END OF AN ERA.

Janet Mawson.
Customer Support Assistant – Keighley Library.
Friday, 25th January, 2019

What a genuine and generous man Ian Dewhirst was, always happy to
help you if you were ever stuck with an enquiry, willing whenever asked
to give his time. His talks, always popular, brought many people into the
library to hear him speak on may subjects. Branwell Brontë, Women &
the Vote, Gordon Bottomley, Keighley Music, are just a few I have heard
him talk about over the years working at the library, such a vast
knowledge he had and so willing to share it.

Ian would come into the library regularly to do his research, or to collect
an enquiry that someone had left at the library counter for him to pick up,
knowing he would be in to do so. Over the last few years he would more
often than not bring us something, be it a map, a pamphlet, or old
minutes from a disbanded society, we were always more than happy to
receive it. In essence his contribution to the Keighley library archives is
beyond measure, and he will be very much missed.

Angela Speight, Customer Support Assistant, Keighley Library

Back in 2000, as a new Keighley Reference and Local Studies Library Assistant, I knew little about the library contents and local history of the area coming from t’other side of
Bradford. My Managers recommended reading Ian Dewhirst’s History of Keighley and it wasn’t long before I met the author and local celebrity himself. Since then, Ian Dewhirst MBE has never failed to offer help and advice with difficult enquiries and never once been patronising or impatient with me or any customer who waylaid him on a busy day of research in the library. His love for history, its better understanding and dissemination, both popular and academic, has been an inspiration and all freely and generously given. What’s more he was totally unique – a Reference and Local Studies Librarian who could bring the house down with laughter in a talk about local history. He will be greatly missed indeed.

Gina Birdsall, Customer Support Assistant, Keighley Library

Ian Dewhirst MBE

We are very sad to hear the news that Ian Dewhirst has passed away:

‘He will be greatly missed by all those many, many people who had the delight of his company, his knowledge and enthusiasm for local history and his constant support for those of us working to collect and share the local history of Keighley and the district of Bradford.’

Maggie Pedley Libraries, Museums and Galleries Manager

‘If you are a native of Keighley you probably don’t think of a Keighley without an Ian Dewhirst. It seems somehow that he was woven into the very fabric of the town itself.

Keighley has not only lost its greatest authority on its own history but also one its most exciting and entertaining  public speakers, a dedicated custodian and protector of its heritage and a valuable source of knowledge for the local historian. He was a man generous with his time and expertise and a man with a great sense of humour.

It has been a privilege to hear him speak over the years and all us Keighlians owe him an immense debt of gratitude for what he has done for not only Keighley but also the library and its archives in his long and remarkable career.’

Rest in Peace Ian.’

Simon Rourke, Team Leader, Keighley Library

“Ian Dewhirst was a true historian and a joy and inspiration to all who had the privilege to know him. He showed us how our history is shaped by personalities who live on by virtue of what they leave behind. His legacy will live on through his wonderful life and work.”

Caroline Brown, Keighley Library 

Please click here for more tributes

‘With the help of Keighley Library, I have arranged for a condolences book to be placed in the entrance of Keighley Library for anyone who wants to write a few words in remembrance  of the late great Ian Dewhirst MBE. It will then be kept in Keighley Archives as a lasting tribute to Ian.

 If you have been inspired, helped, educated or entertained by Ian Dewhirst over the years please come along to the library and share your memories of him and offer your condolences so that future generations can learn first hand from the people of Keighley what an important contribution he made to Keighley, to its history and to its people.’


Charlie Bhowmick M.B.E.

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New Map Website

Bradford Libraries are pleased to announce the launch of a new website, focusing on the hidden histories within maps and plans in the Local Studies Library

Maps and plans, especially when used in conjunction with other documents, are one of the most valuable sources of information for the local historian and geographer.

In this continuing series of regular posts, the author of our ‘Map of the Week’ feature, local historian Derek Barker, explores the hidden history within a selection of the maps and plans from the collection at Bradford Local Studies Library, focusing in particular on the 19th Century.

You can visit our new website here

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  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

Parkwood School Then and Now!

What a joyful way to spend a Thursday afternoon, listening to the sound of children singing, making music and having a right good time! On Thursday 19th July, Gina Birdsall and I were invited to Parkwood School to watch them perform their end of year show. This kind invite was extended to us, due to our help with their World War One Project.

Last month some of the Year 5 pupils came into to Keighley Library to look, first hand at some of our archive material. The children had the opportunity to study and discuss photographs and original documents covering issues such as: food rationing, refugees, entertainment, and the experiences of injured soldiers at the Keighley War Hospitals, using material from the Brigg collection (BK10) and the Herbert France Collection (BK424) and with help from other local groups.

Gertie and Paul, from Whitworks Adventures in Theatre (WAT) who focus on bringing history to life using drama, writing, local stories and primary sources with children in school and community groups, worked with the children as part of their Heritage Lottery Funded Project:  ‘Park Wood Then and Now’, the children’s hard work has been put into a wonderful booklet which we were pleased to receive copies of for the Library.


The school show saw the culmination of the children’s hard work over the year. We were treated to the Year 5 pupils singing two songs from the World War 1 era ‘It’s a long way to Tipperary’ and ‘Pack up your troubles’. The children’s enthusiasm was infectious and by the end of the show everyone was joining in.

Angela Speight

Visit to the Brotherton Galleries, Leeds University Library

On Monday, 21 May, a small group of FOBALs (Friends of Bradford Archives and Local Studies) and library staff were very fortunate indeed and saw the Brotherton Library at Leeds University and the archives of the Special Collections.  Wow! The library is a Grade II listed Beaux-Arts building, opened in 1936. The reading room was apparently modelled on the British Museum reading-room, in the round, but “just that little bit bigger”, our tour guide said with a twinkle in her eye. It has some Art Deco fittings including a large central light that is impressively lowered when the large surrounding windows fail to supply sufficient illumination, it’s almost Orwellian.  The actual collections are equally admirable, containing rare medieval gems, such as an illuminated medieval rolled manuscript on the history of the world in Anglo-French. Local materials include Brontë manuscripts and surprisingly, Bradford and Keighley mill records as well Independent Labour Party minutes from Bradford in 1893. Our excellent guide, Laura Wilson, Galleries, Learning and Assistant Engagement Manager (GLEAM) for the Special Collections at the Brotherton was appointed to enhance public access and promote the collections to the wider public and has already seen a great improvement in visitor figures since 2016.

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Images from Opening Souvenir Booklet,  6th  1936, from the Brigg collection (BK10), Keighley Local Studies Library.

The Library owes its outstanding library of books and manuscripts to Lord Brotherton of Wakefield (1856-1930) and subsequently his family. Edward Allen Brotherton was actually born in Manchester. He left school at 15, worked in a hardware store and also a chemical laboratory and in the evening studied chemistry at Owens College, Manchester. He obtained a post in a chemical works in Wakefield and, by 1878, had become a partner in the firm of Dyson Bros. and Brotherton,  manufacturers of ammonium sulphate and based in Wakefield.  By 1902, it had become the largest private chemical company in the country as Brotherton & Co.  Edward Brotherton was mayor of Wakefield (1902-3) and Leeds (1913-14) and sat as MP for Wakefield as a coalition Unionist, from 1902 -1910, 1918-1922. He made a number of large donations to the University of Leeds, including the funding for a new library for which he laid the foundation stone in 1930, and at which, he announced the donation of his book and manuscript collection. Brotherton’s bibliographic interests began in 1922 through his niece by marriage, Dorothy Una Ratcliffe, Yorkshire poet (1887-1967). The present collection continues to be supported by his family and consists of some 35,000 books, 400 manuscripts, 4000 deeds and 30,000 letters and it continues to grow.

The Special Collections department has undergone a major refurbishment with top of the range, interactive and illuminating display cases to showcase this wonderful collection outside the constraints of the archive search room. There is a Treasures gallery to display, for example, Shakespeare’s First Folio or the miniature story books of the Brontës and a second gallery space with 2 exhibition changes each year, exploring a range of collection themes. This also represents a  renewed commitment to the original aims of Lord Brotherton to give everyone equal access to the beauty and knowledge to be found in the study of local and national heritage collections. The collection’s greatest strength is in English literature from the 17th century to the present but there are also mediaeval manuscript books of hours, early books in maths and science, papers of the transvestite adventurer the Chevalier d’Eon and of the regicide Henry Marten, as well as the Liddle collection of first-hand accounts of WW1 and WW2 experiences and a West Riding textiles and business collection, the Quaker archive collection and Feminist Archive North. The Brotherton also holds a Russian archive collection of papers of Russian émigrés to the West, since the 1917 Revolution, and papers of British people living and working in Russia before the Revolution. The current exhibitions looks at the culture of Romany Gypsies: Rights and Romance: Representing Gypsy Lives, items on the Great War and Cooks and their Books. There is also a case displaying samples of the library’s collection of manuscripts of Branwell Brontë that includes letters, pen and ink drawings and Angrian manuscripts.

Amongst the local materials that were brought out especially for our visit was a WW1 hospital register from Becket Park war hospital that contained photographs, names of patients, their injuries and even a column in their own hand on what they would like to do to the Kaiser which made for interesting reading – amongst some rather gory suggestions, one soldier wrote that he should simply be handed over to the women of England! Interestingly, the collection of textile records includes those of Bradford and Keighley mills, we were shown records of Bankcroft Mill, Oxenhope detailing conditions at the mill. The online catalogue for special collections of the Brotherton Library is searchable and you can get a fair idea of holdings by looking under location of individual mill or business, though the catalogue is still not yet fully comprehensive. Access to archives for study is by a period of notice and appointment, with careful handling on receipt in the search room.

Last of all we had a quick look in the Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery in the same building that holds regular displays from the University Art collection and is also free to access, including works by Walter Sickert, Stanley Spencer and Jacob Epstein.

Although we were naturally impressed by the quality of the archives and their display and presentation to the public, we were also confident that our records held throughout Bradford libraries’ and museums’ collections and, from our particular point of view,  Keighley Local Studies Library archives, were in many ways their equal in terms of important local heritage. Keighley Library alone has its own collection of local textile mill records and local author manuscripts, including published works by Dorothy Una Ratcliffe. It also has a very fine WW1 collection, the locally renowned mill owning and philanthropist Brigg family records, an early 20th century poster collection, the Lord and Lady Snowden library and the important Brontë Library. In the future it is hoped that though space for more elaborate displays is at a premium, Keighley Library will be able to provide digital access to its records to reach an even wider audience.

The visit to the Brotherton Library was a memorable one, very informative and really enjoyable and for all of us I think, one that will be repeated in the future outside work.  Our thanks must go to our colleagues who generously covered that afternoon for us, to FOBALS (Friends of Bradford Archives and Local Studies) who organised this visit and to the staff at the Brotherton, especially Laura Wilson for her lively tour and expertise.

For further details, please check out the following: for the Oxford English Dictionary entry for Lord Brotherton, including photograph  and for Dorothy Una Ratcliffe