Sunday, 22 January 2017

The changing face of Swartha and its picturesque wood
Above: the old and the new at Swartha, the delightful hamlet in Hawber Lane, where the late Kenneth Boothman's former farm has been strikingly developed in the last few years. There has been an agricultural settlement at Swartha for around 800 years. 
Above: this photograph was taken in May 2010 when the farm site was being cleared.
Above: Swartha's tranquil rural row of cottages is largely unchanged from yesteryear.
Above: it is difficult today to achieve an exact photographic comparison.
Above: this picture from the other end of the row of cottages offers an intriguing perspective. The mark on the reverse of this postcard is dated August 1942. The car just coming into view on the left looks to be of the 1920s/30s.
Above: Swartha Cottages, with Haw Farm to the left, are a handsome landmark farther along Hawber Lane.

Above: Swartha and its eponymous wood take their name from an Old English word meaning dark ravine. This setting was the subject of a postcard sent from Silsden in 1922. The footbridge spans Brunthwaite beck.
Above: the scene today. 
Above: in this postcard dated May 1917 the footbridge and the trees upstream were viewed from the path that leads out of the wood across a field to Town Head farm at High Brunthwaite. Most of the local woods were felled after being auctioned off by the Skipton Castle estate at the end of World War 2. Timber merchants were the principal buyers, profiting from the country's rebuilding programmes. Silsden Urban District Council failed to halt the "desecration" of Swartha Wood, which it described as one of the most beautiful places in the country.
Above: the view today. Other aspects of Swartha and Swartha Wood were featured in my posts of May 2014, July 2014 and February 2015.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

How Silsden Community Productions revived the art of plays and pantos

Above: Music-makers (left to right) Val Clarkson, Tony Hopkins, Lynnda Smith and Glen Berry took part in "A Christmas Carol" at Silsden Methodist Church in December 2008. The event marked the debut of Silsden Community Productions and the revival of local amateur theatre and home-grown entertainment after a gap of around 20 years. Directed by David Hardman and Sylvia Wass, to a script by Cathy Liddle, Charles Dickens's classic tale of redemption involved a cast and backstage workforce of around 100 local volunteers.

Above: Graham Mitchell was Scrooge. 

Above: Brian Turner as Charles Dickens narrated the production.

 Above: Pam Spencer was washerwoman Mrs Dilber.

Above: Alan Raine took the part of a charitable gentleman. Alan and several other players and helpers have regularly taken part in Silsden Community Productions' subsequent dramas. In 2015, SCP added pantos to their repertoire.
Above: "Right Up Our Street", a play based on real events and local characters, was Silsden Community Productions' second offering. Scripted  and produced by Cathy Liddle and directed by David Hardman, the production again involved a huge number of local people, aged from 8 to 80. It took place at the new Silsden Sports Club in Keighley Road in February 2010.
Above: In "Right Up Our Street" Steve Raine was PC Harold Henthorn, the controversial new village bobby of 1911, who is seen here with street children played by Adam Harper, Hannah Mayfield, Mollie Driver and Alex Robinson. 
Above: Ladies of the first village chapel (1826) were played by, left to right, Barbara Driver, Marion Campbell, Lynnda Smith, Frances La Via and Trish Coll. 
 Above: Colin Hyde was a character in the nail-making forge of the late 1860s.  
 Above: left to right, Theresa McClennon, Sylvia Wass and the much-missed Brenda Carey as members of the temperance group, Silsden Band of Hope (1912).
Above: Stars of the "Silsden in World War 1" scene included (left to right) Daniel Bloomer, Mark Kelk and Phil Swann.
Above: wounded WW1 heroes were portrayed by Philip Smith (standing) and David Harper.
Above: In the Victorian classroom scene, headmaster David Longbottom, played by Graham Mitchell, and teacher Miss Page (Sylvia Wass) are pictured with pupils played by Russell Parkinson, Abigail Towers, Robbie Wilson, Sally Clement, Faye Kelk, Ben Wilson, Laura Dale, Ellie Marklew and Tony Hopkins.
 Above: Silsden's characterful Feast Committee of 1890 was portrayed (left to right) by David Harper, Pam Spencer, John Peet, Brenda Carey, Ernest Dodding and Brian Turner.
Above: performer Trish Coll (left) is pictured with hair and make-up artists Ann Roberts (centre) and Deb Wilson.

And now for something completely differentAbove: David Hardman has been Silsden Community Productions' permanent director. He is pictured here with his leading lady in "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves", which was presented in 2015, the town's first panto for several years. The production was covered in my post of December 3rd 2015.

Above and below: Neil Whitaker has been a marvellously traditional dame in SCP's two pantos. He is pictured above with Ros Driver as the wicked witch in "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves" and below as Tracy, one of the ugly sisters, in the 2016 panto "Cinderella." With him is fellow ugly sister Sharon, played by Laurence Driver. "Cinderella" was the subject of my posts on December 3rd and November 30th 2016.  

Monday, 9 January 2017

Gilbert and Sullivan, concerts, plays and an Henpecked Club: nearly 100 years of home-grown mirth and merriment

Above: the cast of "Iolanthe", which was performed in 1922 by the St James' Church Amateur Musical and Dramatic Society. Seated fifth from left in the second row is Fred Dixon, who was the tallest man in Silsden and whose family gave their name to Dixon Green Farm in Horne Lane. "Iolanthe" was the third production of the St James' group, which had been formed in 1920, marking the arrival for real of local theatricals. The society's first production was "Pirates of Penzance", which raised money for local hospitals. Home-made entertainment in Silsden has a rich history. The emphasis in the 1800s had been on musical performances; the Brass Band (formed in the 1820s) and the Orchestral Society (1898) became nationally acknowledged. 
Above: "The Gondoliers" was the parish church offering in 1924.
 Above: HMS Pinafore was the choice in 1925.
Above: Edith Clark was one of the leading ladies in the St James' musicals. She later became headmistress of Aire View School.
 Above: the leading men included Herbert Wilson and Joe Tillotson.
The three Methodist chapels (Wesleyan, Primitive and Bethesda) all had lively concert groups. Miscellaneous entertainments called "At Homes" were a regular feature. Pictured above are the Primitive Methodists in 1926 with the choir in Oriental costume. 
Above: February 1930. A concert sketch was given at the Wesleyan church by these members of the Silsden Wesleyan Tennis Club. Left to right are Ronnie Bentley, E. Hyde, George Mackwell, Kenneth Ion, Leslie Barker and Cyril Read. Kenneth was killed in World War Two. A memorial window was presented by his family to Silsden Methodism but was not kept in the recent rebuilding of the church and is now prominently displayed at Keighley Central Hall.
Above: Primitive Methodist concert group members pose before a performance.
Above: Primitive Methodists are dressed for a performance in the early 1930s of "The Village Wedding". The play was performed a number of times from the 1920s until 1949.  
Above: married women of  the Primitive Methodist Chapel presented a comedy concert entitled "Trouble on t'Doorstep and Harvest Home Gathering" over three evenings in December 1937. Wearing the top hat on the right is Mrs J. J. Barker, whose husband was a well-known councillor and the dyeworks manager. 
Above: married men of the Wesley Place Methodists formed themselves into the "Henpecked Club" and gave an "excellent entertainment" in March 1939. Three of them dressed as women (Ronnie Bentley, Albert Hill and Norman Berry) and according to the Keighley News caused much amusement. Sketches included "Married Martyrs", "Two Beggars" and "My Turn Next".
Above: the Bethesda Players were active in the 1930s and 1940s. This photograph is almost certainly when they presented "Intrigue at Harmony Court" in November 1939 during an "At Homes" event. Principals include Winnie Bancroft (seated second from right), Maurice Chad (seated third from left), Sally Stephenson (standing on the left), Ursula Shuttleworth (standing third from left), Emily Cooper (standing fourth from left) and Clara Beecroft (standing fourth from right).

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Proud panto performers from the past

The current pantomime season across the country reminds us that Silsden has a long and distinguished tradition of community productions and concerts. Pantomimes were an integral part of the musical calendar and I am indebted to Janet Pawson for supplying the photographs above and below. The delightful dancers pictured above featured in the Sunday School panto Dick Whittington in February 1954. Left to right are: Anne Wolfenden, Muriel Helliwell, Sheila Hindle, Venetia Oates, Jean Broughton, Janet Lampkin, Sylvia Whittingham and Enid Broughton.
Above: these young riders were on stage in a Silsden panto of the early 1970s. The known names include Linda Tillotson and Melanie Catleugh (back row); Victoria Pawson (middle row); Alison Dale, Nicola Calvert, Julie Dowson and Judith Twigg (front row). Janet Pawson's father was Arthur Lampkin, who came to Silsden from London to work at the munitions factory at Steeton during the Second World War. Soon after, Arthur on his motorbike with his wife Violet riding pillion brought Janet and her brother, also called Arthur, in a sidecar to live in Silsden. Thus began the great Lampkin motorbiking dynasty. Janet and her husband Brian, who live in Gargrave, were well-known in Silsden: see my post of February 2016.