Silsden Local History Group

A look into times past in Cobbydale

Welcome to Silsden History Group

Silsden Town

Kirkgate in the 1930's. Kirgate was the mediaeval heart of the village.

Brunthwaite

Little changed today. It is a conservation area in it's own right.

Swartha

The aquaduct built in the 1850s for Bradford's water supply crosses the Swartha Beck.

Holden and Howden Park

Howden Park was once an enclosed private hunting park belonging to the Lords of Skipton Castle.

Crossmoor and Silsden Moor

Most of the out lying farms of Silsden Township  including Hole farm were tenancies of Skipton Castle until 1947.

We hope you can find everything you need about the history of our town. Silsden History Group is focused on researching the history of the town and Cobbydale 
We hope to see you again! Check back later for new updates. There's much more to come!



A Time-Line for Silsden


N.B. The provenance of the following dates and details is not always certain. If you have an accurate primary source of evidence that

         disputes what is written below, then please let us know so that a correction can be made.


1700s


1712 The parish church of St James The Great is built as a chapel-of-ease in a farmer’s barn. Until this date, Kildwick Church was the mother church for Silsden.


1761 William West recorded as first nail-maker working in Silsden, having reputedly brought the trade from the Midlands. This local industry rapidly grows, with forges springing up throughout the district, and decline does not set in for well over 100 years.


1769 Work begins on the Silsden stretch of Leeds and Liverpool Canal. Navvies from all over the country bring trade and colour to the village but at least one local hostelry is closed down because of riotous behaviour.


1773 The first boats pass along the newly opened canal through Silsden, both freight and passengers. The Leeds and Liverpool Canal was not to be finally completed until 1816.


Late 18th/Early 19th century: The present graceful stone bridge over the River Aire is built.


1800s


1801 Silsden’s population recorded as 1,300. Most engaged in agriculture, wool combing or nail-making.


1801 First ‘national’ newspaper  sold in Silsden is the Leeds Mercury. Six local wool combers form a co-operative to buy it weekly, each contributing a penny. A seventh ‘honorary member’ is brought in as he is the only one who can read.


1808  Methodism arrives officially at Silsden with the setting up of a Wesleyan group, which first meets at a house in Howden.


1813  Thanks to a local farmer who donates a piece of land, Wesleyan Methodists open their first purpose built chapel in Highfield Lane, which becomes known as The Wannocks. In 1871 they move to a much grander and more spacious new building in Wesley Place (now the RC Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel).


1816  The present St James’ Church is built, replacing the chapel-of-ease. Opening of the canal through to Liverpool.


1820  The National School is opened by St James’ Church. First headmaster is John Wade of Schoolmaster Place Farm.


1820s  First musical concerts are held. The venue is the Red Lion Inn where landlord William Weatherhead is a keen musician.


1821 Another branch of Methodism, the Primitives, open their first chapel on Feather Hill (which becomes known as Chapel Street) on Christmas Day. The chapel seats 200 people. Fifty years later the Primitives move to much larger premises in Kirkgate, with seating for 700.


1825 One of the worst ever storms of rain and hail hits Craven, sweeping down a mill at Cringles and two cottages, three blacksmiths shops and two bridges in Silsden. Almost every house flooded.


1826 The Silsden section of the Blackburn to Addingham Turnpike Road is completed (ie Bolton Road via Cringles to Addingham). Kirkgate (formerly Towngate) and the newly opened road (Bolton Road) become the main thoroughfare through the village.


1830 Three Silsden men (Jonas Wade, Joseph Bland and Edward Barker) are among the first villagers to be  transported to Australia as convicts. They were sentenced to death for burglary at the corn mill, tenanted  by Mr T. Fox, but their sentences were ‘commuted’ to transportation instead.


1830 Clog Bridge is built.


1830s  The first Silsden Band is launched, with brass and reed instruments.  It splits into two bands at the end of the 1840s ; several of the brass bandsmen join and play for the Lancashire Militia. The Silsden Brass Band, initially known as Silsden Military Band, then becomes one of the most celebrated in the North.


1832  The first Friendly Societies in Silsden come into being: The Royal Ancient Order of Foresters and also the St James Friendly Society (later merging into the Oddfellows, who build their own hall in Keighley Road in 1851). Workers pay 3d a week to ‘insure’ themselves in times of sickness. The same year sees the start of the Earl of Thanet Lodge, with similar welfare aims. This group build their own lodge and adjoining houses in Kirkgate in 1847.


1837 A lock-up prison is built and opened “by public subscription”. It stands at what is now the bottom of New Road. The building is demolished in 1871.


1838  Silsden’s first mill with power looms is built in Keighley Road by Joshua Fletcher, Henry Mitchell and James Gill, initially employing eight weavers. Other mills soon follow and bring the eventual demise of the local handloom industry.


1840 Nailmakers from Silsden launch a branch of the Chartist Movement which is lobbying for political reform, including votes for all men and not just for landowners.


1841 Silsden gets its first ‘qualified’doctor with the arrival of Dr Thomas Driver.


1841 Chartist Rooms are opened in Silsden. On Christmas Eve, chartists collect signatures of villagers for a petition - “they gave their signatures almost to a man.”


1843 Celebrated German violinist Mr C.F. Hoffman performs at the Red Lion to a full house, probably the first concert here by a professional musician.


1844 A huge public meeting is held in Silsden to support the Ten Hour Factory Bill movement and sends a petition to Parliament.


1847  The railway arrives at Silsden and Steeton, the first station opening in August.


1854 Silsden’s first mill strike takes place when weavers at Becks Mill object to the introduction of two -loom working instead of one.  Effigies of the manager and owners of Becks Mill are paraded around the village and afterwards burnt, but the strike ends in failure for the workers.


1858 Bolton Road Day School opens. Within a few years it was to rival both the National School and the several ‘dame schools’ in the village.


1858 Tragedy strikes during the building of a water pipeline, part of the Bradford Corporation waterworks scheme that included the building of Silsden Reservoir; two men and a child are killed in a huge boiler explosion at Lower Marchup, where the new water pipe was being tunnelled under Cringles.


1859 Mayor of Bradford’s official visit to the almost completed Reservoir and the Swartha Viaduct.


1859 First public meeting  held to discuss a Mechanics Institute for the village which would encourage literary and cultural pastimes. The project does not get underway for another 24 years.


1860 Villagers hold a mass protest meeting to express fears that the Reservoir’s banks will burst and that water will pour down the hill and swallow Silsden.


1860  Club Day begins, organised by several of the friendly societies as a form of community get-together in the middle of summer (Eventually this event develops into Silsden Feast).  Parades of brass bands, assorted characters and drunken revelry are its main characteristics.


1860  Clog-making begins at the Thomas Green smithy in Sykes Lane; an industry which remains in the village for over 90 years.


1863 A Local Board of Health is set up. This is Silsden’s first stage of local government; eventually it will be succeeded by a Local Board and then the Urban District Council. The Board of Health appoints an inspector of nuisances, Mr Robert Hargar.


1866  Another terrifying flood hits Silsden, ravaging farm land, tearing down walls and hedges and bringing tragedy. A young man called William Widdop leaves his Howden farm to rescue sheep in the lower ings but his dog returns without him. His body is not found until later.


1867  Hundreds of villagers build a fire in the main street and burn effigies of local worthies. Police intervene and come under storm of abuse and stone throwing. One man appears in court for assaulting a constable.


1869  Gas comes to Silsden. The first street lamps are lit on Thursday 21 October “to the delight of the young and the astonishment of the old”. 


1871 Another Methodist chapel - the Bethesda (or United Methodists)- opens in Keighley Road. Supporters, who have split from the Wesleyan tradition, have been meeting for worship since 1830 in Peter Horne’s garrett in what is now Nicholson Square. The Bethesda becomes the centre of community life for villagers on the canal side of town.


1871 Silsden Permanent Benefit Building Society is launched in March.


1873  Villagers, angry at the price of coal, hold a public meeting to set up a Silsden Co-operative Society. Three hundred people take out shares in the first six months and two years later they open the first small grocery store. By 1879 the Coop has 406 members.


1874  A Silsden School Board comes into being to oversee and encourage local education.


1875  First village performance of Handel’s Messiah is given at the Wesleyan Church, becoming an annual tradition which endures for over 100 years, with united church choirs at the heart. (One tradition well worth reviving today!)


1877  The School Board opens Elliott Street School (now known as Aire View School)  with infant and junior departments. The Bolton Road School remains in use for older pupils.


1877  The notorious case of Silsden’s inebriated Vicar reaches all the national newspapers


1878  Silsden Cricket Club is launched. Several grounds are used, including Howden Road and The Wyveries at the top of Elliott Street, before play starts at the present ground in 1889.


c1880  The Silsden tradition of ‘mumming’ (dressing in clothes of the opposite sex and visiting streets and houses to sweep in the New Year) is established. The tradition lasts until the end of the 1920s, although it is mainly practised by women. Mummers often escorted by the brass or quadrille band.


1881  Population has  grown to 3,329.


1881 Silsden  Fire Brigade is created when the Local Board instructs the Surveyor to “organise a fire brigade and keep it in constant practice.”


1882  The Local Board asks Police Sergeant Morley to act on “nuisances caused by people congregating on the street corners of Silsden, particularly on Sundays”.


1883  Silsden’s first football team is put together by local doctor John Purcell, an Irishman and sports enthusiast. The team plays to rugby rules but converts to soccer in 1903.


1884 Silsden Mechanics Institute is opened on the site of an old farmhouse and orchard near to the parish church. It includes a library, a conversation room, and space for draughts and chess.  

1885  Silsden Conservative Association launches. Their club rooms at Road End are built in 1899.


1893  Silsden Ramblers are founded by Mr Alfred Wilkinson. Forty years later, at the age of 70, he joins the group’s 20 mile anniversary walk around Malhamdale.


1893 Silsden Liberal Club opens in ‘Shed Side’.


1895  Silsden Local Board becomes Silsden Council. First ever chairman is Charles Weatherhead, from the Red Lion family.


1896  Silsden Orchestral Society begins. First rehearsals held in the back of a grocery shop owned by Charles Weatherhead. 


1897  The Girls Friendly Society begins at St James and is active in the village for over 70 years.


1900s


1901  Death of Silsden’s last funeral bidder Thomas Nixon.


1902 Silsden’s first police station opens in Keighley Road.


1903  Last ‘court leet’ is held at the Kings Arms. Because Silsden has never had a resident lord-of-the-manor but was a part of the Skipton Castle Estate, court leets had been held for at least seven centuries, for the collection of rent money, general governance and the provision of a local constable.


1906  First company set up to run a motor bus between Silsden and Steeton Railway Station. Previous to this, all local transport was horse drawn.


1908  First Silsden Charity Carnival (later to be known as the Gala) processes through the village.


1909 A branch of the Independent Labour Party is formed in Silsden, with its own rooms in Aire View.


1911 Villagers riot in protest at the actions of an officious new police constable and the arrest of a very popular young man. Considerable damage is caused to the police station and police hide under desks. 


1911 Population of village now recorded as 4,960.


1912  Silsden’s first and only cinema, The Picture Palace, opens , with a seven day a week programme. It survives for 47 years until the lure of television brings its closure in 1959.


1912 The recently formed Silsden Golf Club opens its club house in Brunthwaite.


1912   On Christmas Day around 200 children flock to the Wesleyan Church where a free Christmas meal and entertainment is provided for those who would otherwise have no festive season. It is  another measure of the continuing poverty  in the village; the 200 youngsters are just the tip of the iceberg.


1914  Hothfield Street School opens for children over ten, replacing the Bolton Road School.


1914  Silsden gets its first small recreation ground in a field at Sykes Lane, following a road tragedy involving a small boy. Two swings are provided; it also becomes a popular spot for the local game of knur and spell.


1914  War is declared. Silsden Carnival continues as usual a week later. First Silsden soldier sent straight to the front is Harry Rawson.


1915  Funeral at Parish Church of first Silsden soldier killed in action, Ben Hodgson. Silent crowds line the street.  Villagers now meeting every day in the Town Hall to make ‘comforts’ for men on the Western Front.


1915  First Belgian war  refugees arrive in Silsden and are accommodated by local families.


1918  When war ends, 106 young men with Silsden connections (home and work) have lost their lives. They include three Faulkner brothers from Bridge Street. Another Faulkner brother, suffering from grief and shell-shock, is committed to Menston Asylum where he remains until his death in 1971. Two Bancroft brothers also among those killed.


1919  Silsden Agricultural Society is founded and plans its first show.


1920 Silsden Parish Church Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society stages its first production: The Pirates of Penzance.


1921  War memorial unveiled at Road End.. The ceremony is performed by the children of fallen local soldiers.


1921 Lord Hothfield offers  the cricket and soccer clubs the chance to buy the Keighley Road  sports ground, which they have rented for more than 30 years. A huge fund-raising programme begins and the ground is finally owned by the community in 1930.


1922 A building in Greengate known as The Lodge becomes a Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Club for returned war veterans. This eventually becomes the British Legion, who move into purpose built headquarters in Bridge Street in 1928 (now the SunnyBank Club).


1928  Mr and Mrs John Bancroft, who lost two sons in the Great War and with another three sons who served, are guests at the official opening of the Menin Gate in Ypres. 


1930  Dedication of Silsden New Cemetery in Howden Road.


1934  Silsden’s first park - The Playing Fields-  opened by the Princess Royal on land formerly known as the Shooting Croft. Tennis, bowls, a paddling pool and play equipment prove very popular. A bandstand is provided in memory of bandmaster and conductor Edward Newton.


1939 The Second World War is declared.