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Our meetings until at least Christmas will be held via Zoom as we are not able to hold physical meetings.  Members will receive instructions via email about how to join the talks but if you have any questions please contact the membership secretary.

People who are not members of the society are welcome to attend our lectures. The cost is £3 payable by bank transfer or PayPal. To register and obtain full payment details email membership@hebdenbridgehistory.org.uk. Once we have received payment you will be sent a link to join the lecture.  Registration must be made before 3pm on the day of the lecture and places are limited.

Alternatively, you can get access to the whole programme of lectures for £12 by joining the society

History Programme: September 2020 – March 2021

Wednesday 23 September 2020

Women of Property? The role of women locally at the end of the 17th Century

David Cant

What part did women play in the changing society and expanding economy of the Upper Calder Valley?

By analysing original documents we can get a new look at life over three hundred years ago…. And your ancestors may have been involved!

David Cant is an active local historian with a particular interest in using original documents and in studying old buildings.

Wednesday 14 October 2020

The Low Moor Munitions Explosion of 1916

Mary Twentyman, Geoff Twentyman and Barbara Reardon

They said it was an accident waiting to happen…..

This presentation, prepared for the hundredth anniversary commemoration, attempts to reconstruct what really happened. Then you can make up your own mind.

Mary and Geoff Twentyman have run Low Moor Local History Group for 25 years and are regular speakers on local history topics. Mary and Barbara have been researching the Low Moor area of Bradford together for 12 years and the results of their efforts can be found on the website www.sblha.com

Wednesday 28 October 2020

Local History Society AGM

Our AGM will be a virtual meeting using Zoom. More details are on page 2 and the notice and reports are on pages 6 – 13 of the Autumn Newsletter.

Wednesday 11 November 2020

The Alan Petford Memorial Lecture
The Fieldens and their legacy in Todmorden

Anne Mealia

Lecture 2

There's hardly any aspect of life in nineteenth-century Todmorden that the Fielden family didn't influence: work, religion, education and even sport. They commissioned a number of very striking buildings by architect John Gibson. The Fieldens' influence is still felt in the town today. This talk explores the colourful characters that built up the Fielden enterprise from small-scale weaving, through radical politics and an unhappy marriage to untold wealth and success.

Anne Mealia is a professional genealogist and historical researcher who runs her own research business, Evergreen Ancestry. She carries out research for individuals, academics, and TV companies as well as teaching family history. She leads historical walks round Todmorden and the surrounding area and is on the Committee of Hebden Bridge Local History Society. Her own research interests include the Fieldens and the Dobroyd area of Todmorden.

Wednesday 25 November 2020

Laura Annie Wilson: Suffragette, Builder, Engineer

Laura WilsonAnne Kirker

Laura Annie Wilson was no ordinary woman. During her lifetime she was trade unionist, suffragette, indus-trialist and engineer, MBE, house builder and President of the Women's Engineer-ing Society: often at the same time! Hers was truly an extraordinary life.

Anne Kirker's interest in Laura Annie Wilson began in 2018, when the Calderdale Industrial Museum was asked to collaborate on an exhibition of her life to celebrate the centenary of women obtaining the vote and the foundation of the Woman's Engineering Society.

Anne has been studying aspects of local and family history for 25 years. She works as a guide for Calderdale Heritage Walks and volunteers for Calderdale Industrial Museum.

Wednesday 9 December 2020

Common Problems: The history of common land in northern England

Angus Winchester

Northern England contains the largest expanses of common land in the country, but this is only a fragment of the extent of the communally used land which existed before the wave of moorland enclosures in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Commons were an integral part of the rural economy, providing not only essential grazing for livestock but also fuel for the hearth, building materials and other resources. This lecture explores how past societies tried to achieve sustainable management of these shared resources on which they depended for their livelihood.

Angus Winchester is Emeritus Professor of History at Lancaster University. He has longstanding research interests in the history of upland landscapes and of common land in particular. His publications include The Harvest of the Hills: rural life in northern England and the Scottish Borders, 1400-1700 (Edinburgh University Press, 2000). He is currently working on a book on the history of common land in Britain.

Wednesday 13 January 2021

Journeys between the worlds

John Billingsley

Journeys between the worlds

The centralised system of mediaeval parishes meant a soul still had a long journey to take before it passed out of this world, to the nearest consecrated ground. Certain routes – corpseways – became established. They can be seen as ancestral trails for our communities, and are thick with folklore and custom – and can often still be traced today, many centuries after their origin. John looks at the characteristics of corpseways, and walks us through three that were oriented on Heptonstall.

John Billingsley is convenor of the Society's Folklore Section, author/editor of several books on folk tales, folk-magic and ritual protection marks, and editor of Northern Earth magazine.

Wednesday 27 January 2021

The History of Social Housing in Heptonstall

Mary Ellen

Heptonstall housing

2019 marked the 100th anniversary of British social housing, a revolution in house-building that remains as testament to a democratic drive to enable working-class people (especially those 'Heroes' returning from WWI) to live in healthy, affordable, family-friendly communities. Heptonstall has one such planned estate, whose history offers up some fascinating insights into modern housing and its inhabitants.

Dr Mary Ellen calls herself a cultural historian. She was Head of English at a Norfolk school before moving to Heptonstall. She has lived in the area for five years now and has immersed herself in its local history and landscape. She was a founding member of the Heptonstall Historical & Heritage Society and played Colonel Robert Bradshaw in last year's production of 'The Battle of Heptonstall'.

Wednesday 10 February 2021

Who built Hebden Bridge?

Michael Peel

This talk is designed to complement an exhibition planned by the Local History Society on the subject of "Who Built Hebden Bridge?" It will concentrate on the area known as "The Croft" between Commercial Street, New Road and Bridge Gate, which was an open field until the 1860s. It eventually encompassed many of the town's most important and iconic buildings including the Co-op Hall, Hope Chapel, the library, mills, pubs, clubs, a bank, a surgery, a wood yard, nurses home, police station, lodging houses, numerous shops and a reservoir!

Michael Peel has lived in the Calder Valley all his life, firstly at Blackshaw Head, Edge Hey Green and more recently in Sowerby Bridge. He was a senior reporter for the Hebden Bridge Times, the Todmorden News and the Halifax Courier for 40 years. He has had a life-long interest in local history and has been actively involved with Hebden Bridge Little Theatre since he was a teenager.

Wednesday 24 February 2021

John F Bateman

Britain's foremost reservoir engineer and local lad. The making of Hebden's earth embankment reservoirs.

Michael O'Grady

Britain's foremost reservoir engineer

John F Bateman, born 1810, from the Moravian settlement in Lower Wyke, Halifax, revolutionized Britain's reservoir infrastructure and the science of data around geography and rainfall, as well as establishing procedures for structural design and control of flow between and from linked reservoirs. Responsible for more than twice the reservoir projects than those of his nearest rivals, Batemen started in Manchester then established offices in London in order to consult world-wide.

The three Upper Calder Valley projects (Widdop, Walshaw Dean and Gorple) were all designed by Bateman. He enjoyed the common touch with contractors, engineers, landowners, industrialists and Parliamentary regulators alike, never losing sight of the needs of the people, while rising to pre-eminence in his field and in public life. There's a lot to tell about the water that comes out of Calderdale's taps.

Dr Michael O'Grady is a Senior Lecturer and Course Leader in Web and Digital Media in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Huddersfield. He is currently mixing his interest in local history, a past career in civil engineering and the day-job (digital visualisation) to investigate the processes and details of building the six reservoirs at Widdop, Walshaw Dean and Gorple valleys.

Wednesday 10 March 2021

Lloyd George, Spanish Flu, and the 1918 General Election in the Calder Valley

Alan Fowler

Celebrating our woodland heritage

In September 1918, Lloyd George fell ill in Manchester Town Hall, and spent a week in the Lord Mayor's Parlour. Despite his illness he managed to intervene in the major industrial dispute in the cotton industry. He returned to London for further recovery, to plot the end of the war and a general election. The latter posed a particular problem given the nature of his coalition.

The 1918 General Election saw the Labour Party leave the government and fight independently, while only a minority of Liberal candidates had Lloyd George's support, unlike a majority of Conservative candidates. The election in the Calder Valley was unusual in that when the Liberal candidate, Higham, got Lloyd George's support, much to the surprise of local Conservatives, the Conservative candidate, Simpson-Hinchcliffe, was forced to retire. Then a new candidate emerged. Major Barker was a 'soldiers candidate' though clearly an independent conservative. Labour also had a candidate for the first time: J W Ogden, a leading cotton trade unionist and President of the TUC in 1918.

The Calder Valley illustrates many of the key issues of the election but in an unusual context, as well as future trends.

Alan Fowler taught economic and social history at Manchester Polytechnic and Manchester Metropolitan University for 40 years. He has given many memorable talks to the Society.

Wednesday 24 March 2021

Sylvia Plath in Yorkshire

Heather Clark

Sylvia Plath

We often hear about Ted Hughes' links to Mytholmroyd and the Calder Valley, but Sylvia Plath also had local West Yorkshire links. These local places had an impact on her and feature memorably in her poetry.

Heather Clark is Professor of Contemporary Poetry at the University of Huddersfield and author of Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath (Knopf, 2020); Her Kind: The Boston Years of Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Adrienne Rich and Maxine Kumin (Knopf, under contract); The Grief of Influence: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes (Oxford University Press, 2011); and The Ulster Renaissance: Poetry in Belfast, 1962-1972 (Oxford University Press, 2006). She lives in America.


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Family History

The group runs a popular programme of workshops and drop-in sessions at the Birchcliffe Centre

Churn Milk Joan

Upper Calderdale's suitability for the preservation of local cultural tradition is nowhere shown as strongly as in its wealth of folk tales about places, many of which are still being passed on by word of mouth.

Midgley Moor

For some years now a small group of friends has been exploring the evidence for prehistoric activity in the South Pennines.