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).