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

Remembrance Day in Keighley

As everywhere today, people came together to mark the day that World War One ended on the 11th day of the 11th month at 11am in 1918. It’s a day marked by towns and villages all over the country as a day for communities, families and individuals to remember the great loss of life that war brings, not least the lives of service and military personnel.

Keighley Local Studies Library hosted a family history morning session for local people to trace the members of their families who have served in the war and on the Home Front through the archives available and we were fortunate enough to get the help of the Queen’s Award winning volunteers the Men of Worth, led by Andy Wade and Ian Walkden, who as always gave of their helpful best. Library staff also displayed the many library books on local and family history specific to the session and copies of original records from the unique library archive collection held in Keighley.

It was a successful morning and we hope that everyone gained a better knowledge of their own families’ history and of the local history of the Keighley area as affected by war. Keighley’s Town Mayor, Councillor Luke Maunsell and Consort, Debbie Maunsell, also visited and this added to the occasion. Events like this particularly emphasise the value of local archives to the community as a whole and of the essential contribution they make to the wider bank of knowledge that is our national history as it unfolds. We are all inevitably touched by national and international affairs and 2022 has proved no small exception.

Andy Wade also took the opportunity to present to Keighley Library a copy of the Oakworth Roll of Honour 1914-1919 and 2014-2019.

Many thanks to everyone who attended.

Armistice Day in Keighley Local Studies – 11th November 2022

Keighley Local  Studies Library has a unique and quite extensive archive of World War 1 and WW2 records. These include national and local memorabilia and archives. The Keighley War hospital records are particularly interesting and of national importance as they are a rarity. They include the Dr Scatterty collection which has a Patients’ register, archive BK39, that contains 13,214 names of servicemen who were treated at the local Morton War Hospital. The register also records the names of German prisoners of war who were being held locally and who required treatment from time to time, notably from the influenza epidemic.

The Queen’s Award winning Men of Worth Project are documenting the men and women of Keighley and the Worth Valley who served the country in wartime and volunteers have done a lot of research into Keighley Library’s unique collection. Volunteers have also been working hard to transcribe and digitise the Patient Register.

On the 11 November, we hope to combine the two archives and, with the award winning assistance of Men of Worth volunteers, we hope to be able to help local people trace the service men and women in their families from Keighley and the Worth valley area. It is a short session this year and will be broken by the two minutes’ silence in Keighley’s Town Hall square. Please join us if you can.

Keighley Local Studies Library Celebrates Libraries’ Week with Local Crime Fiction

On Saturday 8th October, Keighley Library will be bursting with activity, not least Keighley Local Studies with a major investigation into local crime fiction, past and present.

At 11 am, please join us as local literary super sleuths and authors, Ann Dinsdale (Principal Curator of Haworth Parsonage) and Sharon Wright (journalist, speaker and author) thrash out the mysterious twists, turns and crimes in the life of the Revd. Austin Lee who was one of Keighley Library’s most borrowed crime authors in the 1950s with a curious fascination for Haworth and the Brontës.

In the afternoon at 2pm, dust down for finger prints with the popular crime author Frances Brody, whose Kate Shackleton mysteries reach their 13th challenge, this time set in the grounds of the mysterious Milner Field and Saltaire Village. Find out what inspires crime story writing that is set in  Yorkshire locations and investigate the creative impulse, as well as the challenges of local history research for fiction.

Both events are free but seats are limited so please telephone us on 01535 618215 to book a seat.

Keighley Library will also be hosting events for the Keighley Arts and Film Festival with a Create, Connect and Make Festival and the popular local history speaker, Irene Lofthouse, will be taking a walk around Keighley: Past and Present. Details for this to be released in the press and on social media.

Play resumes for Keighley Library’s Heritage Day

The first Heritage Day in Keighley Library was held on Saturday 10th September. Everyone seemed shocked at the sad news of the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the general mood felt was that by holding and attending the event, we were following an example set for 70 years of continued service even in difficult times.

For Keighley Library, Keighley Local Studies in particular, the day had some important successes, in large part because this was the first “Heritage Day” of events held at the library since Covid and in fact it became clear as the day progressed that we had achieved a return to the popularity enjoyed pre Covid, a popularity that we hope to build on and increase into the future.

All the heritage stands reported busy times during the day. Colin Neville from Not Just Hockney, who has another new book out on popular local artist Joseph Pighills, had interest as well as sales. https://www.notjusthockney.info/

Airedale and Wharfedale Family History Society were very happy with their reception and one fortunate member of the public even had a large portion of their own family tree discovered. https://awfhs.org/

Keighley & District Local History Society had several displays covering trams, the train and bus stations, pubs, historic buildings and businesses. They also created some items honouring Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Staffed by Joyce and Melissa, the day is reported to have been amongst the most successful yet, with plenty of interest and several people making offers of donations and assistance. www.keighleyhistory.org.uk

As ever, the Queen’s Award winning Men of Worth volunteer project, that is at the forefront of digital archiving, reported movingly of families seeing photographs of grandparents who had served in the wars for the very first time.

The Patients’ Register was on display from Keighley’s War Hospital at Morton and volunteers have been busily transcribing and digitising their fragile pages. Please come into the library to see the book and further information on this project on Keighley Library’s ground floor. andy@menofworth.org.uk

Andy Wade and Ian Walkden of MoW reported a great turnout and were busy for most of the day. Their volunteers have now been researching service women in the wars for some time and there were some interesting biographies on display, with an appeal for any further details of women in Keighley and the Worth Valley area who served. We hope to write further pieces on the Men of Worth and about some new projects that they are pursuing in October as we come up to Remembrance Day. Thanks to their volunteers Kat Hyde and Laura Goodchild.

Ex professional footballer, Keighley’s own Mike Hellawell’s talk had received a red card before it even started by having to be suddenly sent off the Local Studies’ pitch to be relocated to the Lending library area on the ground floor due to a broken lift. Inconvenience of seating rearrangements and some noise aside, the event went very well with an audience of over 100 people who, despite the changes, managed to enjoy the afternoon. Mike’s question and answer session at the end was particularly lively as Mike had been a popular local cricket player as well as footballer and had also run his own grocery shop in Keighley. There were a lot of questions and funny banter from Mike’s contemporaries and friends in the audience that gave us a glimpse of Keighley and local society in the past.

The sense of Keighley in the late 20th century was enhanced by David Kirkley’s very popular (even days after) photograph display of some local schools’ sports teams of the past and by the library’s own displays of Keighley in the 1950s, Keighley Galas in the Past and of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s coronation times.

The refreshments and a Spot the Ball competition managed to raise £65 for Keighley’s Lord Mayor’s charity Dementia Keighley. Thanks must go again to the Keighley Lions for the competition prize and to Morrisons’ Supermarket for their kind donation of refreshments to the Friends of Keighley Library who manned the tea and coffee pots with their usual professional calm and efficiency. A big thank you to Julie Evans and Lynn Hibbert for that and also to Denise Wilson for collecting for Dementia Keighley. https://dementiafriendlykeighley.org.uk/

Keighley Library staff can now look forward again hopefully, to even more successful Heritage Days. Thanks to all for coming at a difficult time. Please come again next year. We shall leave you with some more thanks again to local star Mike Hellawell written in our Visitors’ Book and echoed by all the library staff.

“Really enjoyable, and a pleasure to meet a local international footballer! ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone!’” Shaun Roberts

“Great stuff from Mike about the old days. Lots of fun.” Jean Mitchell

“Fabulous talk. Very entertaining! Catherine Kelly

“In the same room as a legend.” M. Hibbert, Burnley Fan since 1962

“Let’s have lots more of these talks and bring back the music sessions, we all loved.” Mrs Prett

“A popular speaker with lots of friends in Keighley.” Ronnie

Keighley Local Studies

Friends of Keighley Library           https://www.facebook.com/friendsofkeighleylibrary/    

Keighley Lions                                    https://lionsdistrict105n.org/keighley/

Heritage Day at Keighley Library

Keighley Library will be hosting Heritage Day again on Saturday 10th September after a two-year pandemic break so please come along from 10.00am.

Wharfedale & Airedale Family History Society will be on hand to help you with your family history and Keighley & District Local History Society will be exhibiting some of their photo archive collection.

The award winning Men of Worth Project will also be there to help you with any enquires and showing off their work including The Morton Banks War Hospital records project.

Volunteers have been working hard to transcribe and digitise the Patient Register from the First World War. The original War Hospital Register is archived at Keighley Library (BK39) and contains 13,214 names of servicemen who were treated there. It also contains the names of German prisoners of war who were being held locally and required treatment from time to time, notably from the influenza epidemic.

There will also be a display on the Women of Worth with compelling documentation on the roles of local women in wartime.

Come and see old photos of 1950s Keighley including school photos from David Kirkley’s collection and of Gala Days gone by. 

Along with the amazing and interactive Heritage Open Day events the library has planned, there will also be a couple of rare artefacts on display to promote an exciting and forthcoming “Pink Floyd in Keighley” library exhibition.

And if that isn’t enough to tempt you at 2.00pm local footballing (legend/ star/) Mike Hellawell will be talking about his career and life growing up in 1950s Keighley. Going from playing non-league to playing top flight football for QPR, Birmingham City, Sunderland and Huddersfield Town, gaining two England Caps. 

The talk is free but seating is limited so booking is advisable, contact Keighley Local Studies Library on (01535 618215).

Reminiscences and Writings of a once Keighley News roving reporter

It is not that often that an enquirer of Keighley Local Studies Library on a Keighley history subject, comes ‘right back atcha’ with a casual, “I am researching an autobiographical work coming out soon” but occasionally they do. Don Chapman enquired earlier this year about Keighley baths and his new book that includes sketches of the Keighley he came to know and love, surprisingly as an in-comer from Oxford and its University, is published now and in due course will be in Keighley Library.

When he became a graduate trainee with the Bradford and District Newspaper Company in 1956, it was the landlord of his first digs in Keighley who took the tops off the bath taps. He went to the public baths down the road fearing the worst. Hence the title of his tongue in cheek memoir featuring some of the wackier articles he wrote in a 40-year career in journalism, A Tenpenny Dip in Paradise and other flights of fancy. In it, Don Chapman hopes that he has captured some of the “banter and bonhomie I shared with my colleagues at the Keighley News”, that he remembers most fondly.

Just a few of his Keighley memories are quoted here:

“I’m not sure I even knew where Keighley was when the Westminster Press told me I would be starting my career as a graduate trainee reporter there in September, 1956. Before I took up the post, I decided I’d better take a look.

I arrived by train from Oxford shortly after 2pm. The hotel at the bottom of Cavendish Street had stopped serving lunch and everywhere else was shut. It was early closing day. Eventually I stumbled on a workmen’s café and a satisfying plate of bacon and eggs, served with a large mug of Yorkshire tea, somewhere in the back-street.”

“I quickly grew to love Keighley. The flowers in the front windows of those who hadn’t got gardens. The washing in the streets between the back-to-back houses. The rich array of cakes and savouries in the bakery shop.”

“The war years and the period before them had left their mark on the town. Sooner or later, chaps I met in the pub would start rueing the privations of the 1930s Depression: an economic downturn Lord Nuffield’s Cowley car factories had protected Oxford from.

Although premier Harold Macmillan was telling people they’d never had it so good, many in Keighley were still struggling. At the Mechanics Institute Saturday night hop, on more than one occasion the manager said to me: ‘See that couple there, Don, they’re on their honeymoon!’”

The book is out now and available online and from bookshops. It will also be in Keighley Library soon.

Gina Birdsall
Keighley Local Studies

Left to right: Don Chapman (bottle of Taylor’s Yorkshire Ale in hand!), Peter Cook (Yorkshire Post), Eric Lund (Keighley News reporter), Jack Broadley, Keighley News reporters: Eric Walker, Brian Smith, David Waterhouse and holding my hand Trevor Atkins.

Local Studies are open as normal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrating the Yorkshire Dialect

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tickets can be bought through Eventbrite at:


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