NOW here’s a fascinating fact: one of the last trolleybus routes in the UK was in March 1972 at Thornton.

Here’s another: in the mid-1800s there were more than 200 coal pits in the Thornton area, some so small they were known as bell pits.

And did you know that there are more than three quarters of a million bricks holding up 20 arches of Thornton railway viaduct?

For anyone living in the village, or indeed in Bradford, these facts will certainly be of interest, and are among others waiting to be discovered at Thornton Antiquarian Society Open Day.

The annual event, takes place on Saturday June 25th in the Methodist Church Hall, Headrow Court off Thornton Rd, and promises to hold something of interest to people of all ages.

Special focus this year will be on the women of Thornton, both collectively and individually.

Among those coming under the spotlight will be the women/children of the famous Bronte family and their servants when they lived in the village.

The event will look at the part that women played in the various aspects of life in Thornton during the 19th and 20th centuries.

“Economically this is important as women were predominantly employed in the mills of Thornton,” says society chairman Terry Miller. “Female dexterity was valued in the processing of yarn and wool at various manufacturing stages.”

They will look at home economics, whereby the women made the best of whatever income they received to feed and clothe their families and try to keep them healthy.

“Women were strongly represented in the social concerns of the day, such as the Temperance movement and their role in the fight against the evils of drink.

“Women took part in leisure activities through local events and participation in musical bodies such as bands.”

An often overlooked fact is the participation of women in sporting events and clubs - all-women cricket teams started in the Thornton Mills and were the foundation of cricket in the village.

Thornton Antiquarian Society came into being in 2002 as a reminiscing group. It became formalised when one of the founders and later chairman, Eddie North, gave it the name ‘antiquarian’.

“He felt that that covered all bases, from unearthing interesting facts to holding discussions,” says Terry. “Our mission is to preserve the history of Thornton in all areas - its people, places, buildings, changes over time, anything to do with the village.”

Thornton derives from Old English and means a thorn tree at a farm or settlement. It was mentioned in the Domesday Book of the 11th century, under the name Torenton, when it had been laid waste by William the Conqueror’s harrying of the North campaigns, punishment for an uprising against the Norman invaders of 1066.

Historically, there is much to learn about the village. “There used to be a spring well situated at the top of James Street. Anybody living ‘above the well’ were Hilltoppers - the area known as Hill Top - and below the well were Thorntonites: the two didn`t always mix,” says Terry.

Havelock Street and Springfield area off Market Street was originally known as New Halifax to reflect the number of mill textile workers who moved with their families from Halifax to work in the village mills in the mid-19th century.

John Rowlands the supervisor builder in charge of the viaduct construction was from Tenby in South Wales. He decided with his family to settle in Thornton and is buried in the Old Bell Chapel graveyard.

In more recent times Kellet Drive in Thornton was named in memory of Les Kellet, the famous Yorkshire wrestler who died in 2002. He was frequently seen on TV in the 1960s.

The society has amassed a collection of items from the village’s past, including photographs, school photographs, old press cuttings - many from the Telegraph & Argus - maps, drawings and other items.

“People find the school photographs fascinating,” says Terry, “There is always a lot of reminiscing at the open day and younger generations find out things from older ones.”

As in previous years the society’s collection of books and artefacts will be on display, including a superb model of Thornton Station, painstakingly constructed by Andrew Hodgson, a Bradfordian who emigrated to Australia. . He remembered visiting the site as the station was being dismantled in 1963 following the Beeching cuts.

The 60-strong society meets every week at 2pm in Thornton Community Centre in Market Street. Members also visit schools, community centres and older people’s groups to give talks about the village and its history.

The society welcomes new members to its weekly meetings and other activities which are socially enjoyable. “It is important that our group survives to preserve the history of Thornton for future generations of Thorntonians whose backgrounds will vary considerably from those of the past,” adds Terry.

*The open day takes place on Saturday June 25 in the Methodist Church Hall at Headrow Court off Thornton Road, staring at 11am and closing at 4pm. Refreshments available. Entry is free. Donations are welcome.

*Thornton Antiquarian Society meets each Wednesday afternoon at 2pm in the Community Centre, Market Street, Thornton.

*The society’s archive has been catalogued and stored through collaborative work with Thornton’s South Square centre in a special heritage project.

The archives are viewable at South Square on Wednesdays between 10am and 12 noon, or by arrangement, contact

*For more information about Thornton Antiquarian Society contact Terry Miller on 01274 881625 or email or secretary Christine Tidswell on 01274 416891.