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Growing up in Sowerby

Hebden Bridge History Society meeting report.
Speaker: Jean Illingworth

Monday, 16 February 2015

Jean Illingworth's love for and fascination with her home town of Sowerby was at the heart of her talk to the Hebden Bridge History Society. It is mentioned in the Domesday Book, but its history probably dates back much further, with local stories maintaining that Roman troops marched down the main street. It was part of the forest of Sowerby providing hunting grounds for aristocrats, and was a centre of the civil war, with locally encamped Roundheads involved in skirmishes with the Royalists in Halifax.


Sowerby Town from tower looking west

Much has changed, not least within Jean's own lifetime. She spoke of the significant buildings that were lost, including alms houses, pubs, post office, farms and chapels that were demolished when new corporation housing was built. But some fine buildings remain, including St Peter's Church, with a magnificent interior including Giuseppe Cortese plasterwork, fine Corinthian columns and beautiful stained glass.

Sowerby's rich social life used to revolve round the many churches, chapels and Sunday schools and there were many local characters whose names endure. One was the Whig MP known as John 'Almighty' Whiteley, from his habit of preaching in the upstairs room of the Star Inn (Rushcart). His portrait used to hang in the pub, looking down with his stern gaze. Thought mysteriously lost, it turned up on an Antiques Roadshow in Sussex.

Jean spoke with passion about her 'free' childhood in the countryside around Sowerby, and has recorded her stories in a book 'Growing up in Sowerby' which stimulated such a response that she put together the new stories in a second book 'Sowerby Tales.' She also advised her enthusiastic audience to look out for the annual heritage open days which offer an opportunity to look round St Peter's Church. There are also guided walks in the area, when Jean can point out the features that make Sowerby such a fascinating place.

The next meeting of the Hebden Bridge History Society on Wednesday 25th February goes back into pre-history, when David Shepherd looks at life 'Long ago, but not that far away'. Meetings are open to all, and start at the Methodist Hall at 7.30. Details on www.hebdenbridgehistory.org.uk

With thanks to Sheila Graham for this report

Previously, on the HebWeb

Patterns in the Landscape: the evolution of settlement and enclosure in the Upper Calder Valley (5 February 2015)

Wakefield Court Rolls for Family History: Sylvia Thomas (18 Jan 2015)

Happy Birthday Stoodley Pike: by Nick Wilding (16 Dec 2014)

Wills, Inventories and Economic Activity in the Parish of Halifax at the end of the 17th Century: Alan Petford (30 Nov 2014)

Local History Society Archive explored - Following the 65th AGM, members of Hebden Bridge Local History Society were treated to a sample of some of the treasures to be found in the Society's archive. (19 Nov 2014)

Views from two communities on the outbreak of war in 1914 - Mike Crawford, Wolfgang Hombach and Nick Wilding (27 Oct 2014)

The Listed Buildings of the Hebden Bridge area with Peter Thornborrow. (14 Oct 2014)

Valley of a Hundred Chapels by Amy Binns (29 Sept 2014)

History Group Study Day report: Power and Potability (11 Sept 2014)

Whose land is it anyway? How parliamentary enclosure shaped the landscape of the Calder Valley: speaker, Sheila Graham. Read more (6 April 2014)

Yorkshire Life between the Wars: speaker, Ian Dewhirst. Read more (20 March 2014)

Industrialisation and the Calder Valley: Communities in a unique landscape - Talk by Dr Stephen Caunce Read more (3 March 2014)

Quarrying in Calderdale: George Bowers gave a talk on the history of stone quarries in our local area. Read more (15 Feb)

Calder Valley Buildings of the Seventeenth Century: the craftsmen and their patrons Read more (27 Jan)See Small Ads (12 March)

Some thoughts on historic buildings and their repairs by Alan Gardner


More history reports in the HebWeb History Section

Hebden Bridge Local History Society

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