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Article 1: The Establishment and Early History of Becks Worsted Mill to 1872

Becks Mill was the first steam-driven textile mill to be built in Silsden. This research paper traces the early history of the mill, from its founding in about 1837 until the year 1872. It investigates the stories of the men who had it built and the early problems that they faced. It goes on to trace the various manufacturers that operated out of the mill in the early years, including William Wright, Robert Heaton, and James Stocks.

Paper written 28/01/2013; last revised 21/12/2015

Paper 2: The history of Penny Peck Hall in the Becks, Silsden

Penny Peck Hall was the nickname for an early Victorian, classically styled, double-fronted villa, which now has the postal address 33, Keighley Road. Albert Square is built behind it. This research paper traces the history of the house from the time of its construction in 1838 until the 1930s. Also explored are the various fortunes of the people who lived there, through facts revealed in the deeds of the house, in census returns and in newspaper articles. Learn how the house became dived into two in the late nineteenth century; the smaller part being rented out.

Paper first written 3/11/2015; last revised 28/11/2016

Article 3: The Early History of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in Silsden

The canal opened for barge traffic to pass through Silsden on 8th April 1773. This is the story of the planning, building and operating of the canal up until the end of the nineteenth century, as it affected Silsden. The various problems associated with the construction and managing of the canal are considered. This research paper also examines the cargoes carried, particularly the importance of limestone and coal; as well as the transport of passengers.

Paper written 24/11/2014

Article 4: The life of James Pickard who founded the King’s Arms in Silsden

This research paper tells the fascinating story of James Pickard (1793-1875), variously maltster, local tax collector, and innkeeper. It is largely based on a fascinating, original, personal journal written by James in 1862. The paper traces his life story and also that of the King’s Arms from its founding in about 1825 until 1884.

Paper written 17/04/2015

Article 5: The Great Silsden Reservoir Controversy

This research paper examines the story of Bradford Corporation’s attempt to provide an adequate water supply for the city over the middle decades of the nineteenth century; and how that was to impact on Silsden. It charts the reasons for the vast engineering works that led both to a reservoir and an impressive water pipeline being built through the fields above Silsden. It follows the progress of the building programme to its conclusion and finally, it highlights an even more ambitious plan to construct two further reservoirs within Silsden Township, which created much local opposition.

Paper written 27/07/2015

Paper 6: John Phillip’s letter: The anguished outpouring of a young National School teacher living in Silsden in 1861

This research paper explores the views and stories expressed so eloquently in a letter written by an articulate and clearly very impressionable, young schoolteacher sent to work in Silsden’s National School. The young man puts into words his sense of isolation and abandonment in a culture that is alien to him. He vividly describes some of Silsden’s characters and customs. The paper speculates on John’s identity and also that of the local people he brings to life. It is a rare window into what it must have been like living in Silsden at the time.

Paper first written 23/11/2015

Paper 7: Some crimes and punishments in Silsden (1815 – 1860)

This research paper gives an introduction into how the criminal justice system evolved through the first half of the nineteenth century, with specific reference to crimes committed within the Silsden Township. Six crimes are explored in detail and the way prisoners were dealt with is discussed, including transportation. The assize courts are described and the various acts that saw the changing attitudes to dealing with convicted prisoners during this period in history are considered.

Paper first written 25/04/2016

Paper 8: Silsden’s Howden Hall Hostel in the 1940s

Using mostly newspaper reports printed after the end of World War Two, this research paper attempts to describe the building and day-to-day operation of the National Service Hostel built on land off Howden Road in Silsden. It provided accommodation for war workers, initially for the Royal Ordnance Factory in Steeton. The hostel opened in 1942 and went through a number of changes before being finally closed in the middle of the 1950s. Once the war was over, Howden Hall Hostel played a major role in housing ‘European Volunteer Workers’ brought over to revive local industry desperate for workers. The paper explores various issues surrounding the day-to-day lives of the hostellers and how they interacted with the local community.

Paper first written 25/07/2016

Paper 9: Some examples of historic, extreme weather events in Silsden

Using mostly original newspaper reports, this paper explores some of the significant weather events that have affected Silsden in the last two hundred years. It explains how the local topography and geology, together with the consequences of the human adaptation of the landscape, have all three been instrumental in affecting the nature of flooding events. Details are given of the storms of 1825, 1866, 1900 and 1922, all of which led to severe flooding. The problems associated with regular flooding are explored and the reasons for the Airedale Drainage Bill of 1861 discussed. In the twentieth century, the severe winters of 1947 and 1963 are described. The paper demonstrates that Silsden is no stranger to disruption caused by sudden flash flooding and harsh winters.

Paper 10: The rise and fall of the Ambler’s Victorian family business as shoe heel and toe cap manufacturers, Canal Works, Silsden

This paper draws on a range of historic documentation, including BMD records, court proceedings, and newspaper articles to explore the events that led to a successful Silsden business, built up in the 1880s, going bankrupt. It traces the history of the Amblers, as a manufacturing family, from their origins in Oldham and then Settle, to their arrival in Silsden in about 1876. Details concerning the family’s heel and top cap business at Canal Works in Silsden are explored. The dynamics of the various members of the family involved in the works are considered. The bankruptcy of the business, in 1893, is related in detail and the consequences that followed the collapse of the firm are discussed. The unexpected outcomes for Richard Ambler and his family, following the bankruptcy, are described. This is a story of the rise, fall, and redemption of a Victorian entrepreneur.


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