WHETHER it’s tracing family history, looking at changes in the landscape or finding out about events in history - a group of local people can help.

With its extensive archive and personal knowledge of members, Keighley & District Local History Society can assist anyone interested in the social history of the town and its local area.

The society was formed in 2004 following the centenary of Keighley Carnegie Library.

It was felt that such a group, dedicated to local history, would benefit the town and help to preserve and strengthen its varied and interesting heritage.

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“The society was established to give people a feeling of place and identity,” says its chairman Joyce Newton. “It is about the past and how it translates to the future. When we hold events one of the things we do is display our many ‘then and now’ pictures which are very popular.

“We look at how we can use history to fit into what is happening today, how we have got to where we are and why we have this and that - it is very interesting and there is always something new to discover.”

Members hail not only from across the district but from as far afield as Australia and the USA. “They keep in contact via email,” says Joyce, “We receive enquiries about all sorts of things, such as tracing family trees and queries from authors looking to find out background about the district during a particular era.


“We even get people contacting us looking to find a nice place to stay when they visit.”

The society has a strong online presence - “to spark the interest of young people” - and its Facebook group has 639 members.

The society is in possession of many wonderful photographs, maps, books and other documents relating to the area. These include the first of a type of trolley bus - the Straker Clough - that was unique to Keighley. “It still exists and is currently the ‘new’ restoration project at Keighley Bus Museum,” says Joyce.

A photograph of a train derailment shows a 1925 incident that blocked the main line, with the Scotch Express having to be diverted for ten hours.

There is an evocative image of women on a works day trip to Blackpool, a vellum deed dated 1694 relating to land at Utley belonging to the Clapham family, and a marvellous picture of mums and toddlers celebrating Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation in June 1953, part of the Brown family collection.

“People donate material to our archives or let us copy items,” says Joyce. “We did not start out as a group that collected archives but people began bringing them to us. Now we have a lot.” The archive is stored at Keighley Civic Centre.

The society’s digital collection of photographs and images is hosted on the online platform Flickr. There are more than 6,000 images of people, places, events and objects in this archive, which is accessible to anyone and is the main way in which the society shares access to the collection. The images are collected into ‘albums’ relating to the subject matter or the person who took the pictures or who donated the images or items.

“Our members can help people to identify old pictures they have come across when cleaning out drawers or the loft,” says Joyce. “We try and find out who, what and where. If we get stuck on anything we make a print or display it at a slide show and ask people if they can recognise the scene.

“Things like that get people talking. Our meetings bring back so many memories for people who attend.”

Some visual archive material could be useful to anyone working with dementia patients. “If anyone wants to get in touch we can speak to them,” says Joyce.

The society holds monthly talks on a variety of subjects. Talks have included ‘Start/Heart of Keighley’ about the history of the Church Green area of the town, the ‘Reliable Series’ of postcards, published by William Ritchie & Sons in the early 20th century and, more recently, ‘Peaceful Women’, when local author and historian Irene Lofthouse brought bring to life the stories of local women who campaigned for peace during WW1 and for social justice following the end of the war. This month’s speaker - tonight - is Haworth historian Steven Wood giving the talk ‘Old Haworth in photographs’. The free talks are open to everyone.

While the group concentrates mainly on the districts covered by the pre-1974 Keighley Borough Council, it can spread to include other areas that have at times been linked or administered from the town. “We have contact with neighbouring local history societies too,” she says. Members can assist schools in the district, when pupils research a particular event or period.

The society hopes to attract more younger members. “People of all ages were involved in the First World War Centenary and we would like to build on that and get more people interested,” says Joyce. “We try to be a front door for anyone wanting to explore local history.” Keeping such material from the past is vital, she adds. “If we don’t preserve and share, it could end up lost forever.”