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  • Interviews and Storytelling: Linden Vardy

    [TRACK 1]

    This interview suffered through equipment failure, so had to begin again in mid-flow, as it could be called. Therefore, there may be some reference to the earlier conversation. No photo available.

    TW:

    We were talking about the building.  How old did you think it was?

     

    LINDEN VARDY:

    I really don’t know.  I’d say 1600, give or take a few….just going on the date of the other old buildings that’s been in Midgehole; it is fairly unique but I haven’t a clue what it was originally.

     

    TW:

    Do you think it might have been built for the mills so that people could have a social club or do you think that’s

     

    LV:

    I don’t think that would be t’original intention for it, I mean it might even have been somewhere….it could even have been a staging post for the….there’s a packhorse track you see, runs down past – it’s part of t’Calderdale Way – might even have been a staging point for t’people who were with the packhorses, you know, it might actually have been a place of refreshment for years….well hundreds of years….might have been, I really don’t know.

     

    TW:

    So it was 1907 that they joined

     

    LV:

    The CIU

     

    TW:

    Yeah.  What is the CIU?

     

    LV:

    It’s a club and institute union, I think all the Working Men’s Clubs in the country, well, all over…CIU affiliated…..there’s thousands of them join this CIU and it’s like a…..like a union of clubs and institutes, and they sort legislation out and things…

     

    TW:

    What’s the advantage of being in it then?

     

    LV:

    You may well ask, probably not a lot!  There might have been at one time but I don’t think there is now, but it’s certainly…..I just don’t understand, I’ve never sort of gone into it, it’s known as a Friendly Society apparently, and it gets away – we don’t have to pay tax because everything’s for the…..for the members

     

    TW:

    It’s like a charity in a way?

     

    LV:

    Yeah I suppose so really, yeah…..a co-operative would be probably nearer t’point than that, yeah, but you couldn’t just…..you couldn’t just open up a licensed club selling beer without some body like the CIU to be part of

     

    TW:

    Was that because of paying tax or

     

    LV:

    Yeah probably for tax and things, as I say I really don’t know, I haven’t gone into t’legal side of it, but I mean all the……well all the Working Men’s Clubs locally were in the CIU but there’s more and more of ‘em dropping out now…

     

    TW:

    Right.  So what other old buildings were there in Midgehole?

     

    LV: 

    Well that’s fairly old is the one just at the side of the bridge, New Bridge Hall and Hob Cote  over the other side of the river… the original Ivy House which has fallen down a long time since, it’s got a bungalow built on the site…..oh, and the Lane Ends – they’re old buildings to which, you know, I can’t just remember, I’m sure it’s 1550 or something that Hob Cote goes back to, so as I say there were buildings around here at that sort of time.

     

    TW:

    Do you think they were farm buildings or are they associated with the mills?

     

    LV:

    Well……I don’t know really….no I don’t think any of them were really…..the Lane Ends could have been a farm building….but Hob Cote is just…well it’s a row of three terraced houses, but…..they’re too old to be part of the mill because the mill was built after that, honestly I don’t really know; none of them’s farm buildings anyway, and I don’t know if any of the old buildings were associated with the mill or any other mills.

     

    TW:

    Well they were here before New Mill and Gibson Mill, they were here a long time before

     

    LV:

    Oh yeah, yeah, because I mean it were just to do with the Industrial Revolution weren’t it really that mills would get built, you know, so you’d be talking…..when  would you be talking…..oh it would be….the mill up t’side of the road were built in 1840, you know, which was only yesterday really [laughing] and the other mills would be….round about the same sort of time, Gibson Mill included

     

    TW:

    Way back they were gonna turn this valley into a huge reservoir weren’t they?

     

    LV:

    Yeah but higher up……the dam were going to be higher up, a lot higher up, up above Gibson Mill

     

    TW:

    Oh really?  That high up?

     

    LV:

    Yeah, oh it wouldn’t have been flooded here, well unless the dam burst [laughing]

     

    TW:

    Oh right.  Do you know whereabouts?

     

    LV:

    Somebody did say…..about half a mile past Gibson Mill I think is where the dam wall were going to come across, but I’m not a hundred per cent sure

     

    TW:

    So would it be all Blake Dean and

     

    LV:

    Oh Blake Dean would have been, yeah, Blake Dean would be gone, and it’d have nearly…..it’d have nearly filled it up apparently about up to the Ridge pub 

     

    TW:

    That high up?

     

    LV:

    Yeah, apparently it was one hell of a wall. You know, a barrage.

     

    TW:

    So….the Lady Royd School, was it just for people who lived on the Saville Estate?

     

    LV:

    Yes I’m fairly sure that nobody from down the bottom went there, yeah, if you were in the Saville Estate, yeah, well in fact everything through the Lodge gates was Saville Estate

     

    TW:

    Did you go there when you were young, or were you allowed in?

     

    LV:

    Lady Royd?

     

    TW: 

    Well into the….past the Lodge gates

     

    LV:

    Oh yeah, yeah, because…..well I mean I’ve always had a lot of friends who lived on the Saville farms that were part of the estate you see, they were two separate things really…….there was the…..well there was Shackleton, it were all part of t’same thing really, but the farms were let and then there were Lord Saville who had the moors for shooting, so yeah, he were financing both of ‘em really, but it were……you know, there were lots of reasons why you could go but it wouldn’t have been appreciated wandering round the moors [laughing]

     

    TW:

    So they’ve always done shooting up there, for like hundreds of years?

     

    LV:

    Yeah, yeah……I’m not sure, but I think it’s….it’s about a hundred and fifty years, because as long as they’ve been doing grouse shooting, because they’d only just…..they’d only just tumbled to driving grouse, you know, with beaters and driving ‘em over t’butts…..they must have tumbled to that, well I guess the Victorian times wouldn’t it?  Yeah I’m sure it would, Victorian times really, but before that…well he owned the land and I don’t know what…..I don’t know what he’d do with it, just graze sheep I suppose, but it’s…..I think it’s about a hundred and fifty years since they started driving grouse.

     

    TW:

    Did you used to do beating?

     

    LV:

    I did when I were younger, yeah

     

    TW:

    How many people would be in the line?

     

    LV:

    Oh a lot……thirty or forty perhaps….and still are when it comes to that yeah, thirty or forty I’d say

     

    TW:

    So….what, about four or five thousand grouse up there do you think?

     

    LV:

    Oh…..as I say they were shot…..they must have shot six thousand, six or seven thousand this last season and there didn’t appear to be any less about than what there was before they started; obviously there was, there were seven thousand less, but it hadn’t made a….it didn’t seem to have made a…..it hadn’t decimated the population, put it that way, but anyway they’d have stopped if it were decimating the population because you want to keep the breeding stock on don’t you?

     

    TW:

    Do they keep them in pens?

     

    LV:

    No they’re kept…they’re purely a hundred per cent wild; there’s nothing they can do with grouse….you know with pheasants they can rear them and hatch their eggs in incubators and then let the poults as they call ‘em, let ‘em go and they go back to the wild, but with grouse, they just can’t…..they just can’t do anything with ‘em, they’re just a hundred per cent wild.  They do get lots of care in that the predators and the…..they put grit out for ‘em, medicated grit because they get a…..they get a worm called stronga…strongyles…or strongletes….(Ed. Strongyle) some bloody thing, some worm that they get which makes ‘em really weak – they put medicated grit out to keep the worm….try and control the worm, which they seem to be doing.  It’s very expensive apparently you know, as I say, there’s nothing they can do to help grouse other than keep predators, keep predators out of the way and, you know, that’s all you can do really

     

    TW:

    Why don’t they do pheasants then, as well?

     

    LV:

    He just isn’t interested – oh there are lots of pheasants but they just go…..they’re just natural wild pheasants really, they aren’t doing anything to promote ‘em… I say Richard Bannister, he’s a grouse shooter, you know, and pheasants aren’t really his…. barra 

     

    TW:

    And he just brings his visitors to shoot

     

    LV:

    To shoot grouse, yeah….it’s supposed to be the pinnacle of sporting prowess in this country, is driven grouse, you know, they can go seventy or eighty mile an hour with the wind behind ‘em, [laughing] they’re just bullets

     

    TW:

    He owns Boundary Mills you say?

     

    LV:

    He owns Boundary Mill, yeah

     

    TW:

    At Colne

     

    LV:

    At Colne, yeah, well they have one or two up and down the country.  He’s a nice fella.

     

    TW:

    Right.  So your parents worked in the diner but why didn’t you go into that then?

     

    LV:

    Well I wasn’t really interested, I mean I really….I really wanted to be a motor mechanic but there just wasn’t any jobs around and an electrical apprenticeship turned up and I thought ‘that sounds like it might be alright’ I thought mistakenly

     

    TW:

    So you did your apprenticeship then you just did other jobs?

     

    LV:

    Oh aye, then anything else.  Once I’d got it under me belt I were glad to get out of the job you know

     

    TW:

    There’s been of benefit in the end though

     

    LV:

    Oh it has yeah, yeah, oh it’s been alright, I’m glad I did it, I’m glad it happened, I’m glad I did it now really

     

    TW:

    Because if you raised your kids on your own, because you had to be near

     

    LV:

    Well yeah, I were gonna say, I could just please myself, I didn’t…..sort of took the kids to school at nine o’clock and then went off to whatever job I were doing, or not doing…..and it just…..well it just worked out right – I could make me own hours you see, whereas if I hadn’t have had a trade I’d have been….I’d have been struggling really

     

    TW:

    So you live in the house you were born in and your parents were there – how far back does it go in your family, that house?

     

    LV:

    Well just as long as me parents have been there – me parents have been there…..I don’t really know….cos they rented it at first…..probably t’mid thirties, probably t’mid 1930s, I’m guessing actually because I can’t actually remember when we did go there, but I know they bought in 1958 for two hundred and twenty five pounds….

     

    TW:

    That’s very good

     

    LV:

    Yeah

     

    TW:

    That was a lot of money then mind

     

    LV:

    Well yeah, it would have equated to…..to reckon it up and I know I’m fairly accurate, my dad would have been taking ten, twelve pounds home because he was a foreman fustian cutter round at the mill there, so he were taking….and me mum were working in the mill as well, she were part-time so if you take it that me dad were taking ten pound a week home, actually twenty two and a half weeks of his life would buy the house – you try and buy a house now for twenty two and a half weeks – you’d have to be a bloody footballer wouldn’t you or something

     

    TW:

    To be able to afford

     

    LV:

    Yeah you know, I mean it’s…

     

    TW:

    Are they from around here, your parents?

     

    LV:

    Yeah, yeah, me dad were born around here and me mother were from Mytholmroyd.

     

    TW:

    So your dad was a fustian cutter?  Have you still got any of his old tools, his old cutting knife or anything like that?

     

    LV:

    No, well at the time that he was……..I don’t know if me dad had ever…..those knives, those great big long knives – there’s supposed to be one in the square which is…..they didn’t use those in my lifetime, they had a machine for doing it, you know, it were a machine with circular knives that cut the ribs in the corduroy.  Sometimes these circular knives would miss a little bit and they’d use something similar to those knives, but they were only just for…..there might be six inches that had missed so they’d just run a knife down and open it up, but it were…..no they didn’t……I don’t actually know if me dad had ever used those knives because that would have been a laborious job, boring grooves in corduroy

     

    TW:

    Hundreds of ‘em

     

    LV:

    Hundreds of ‘em yeah, only you’d just get ‘em coming through a machine – not going all that fast – but certainly a lot faster than what you could……no, he just didn’t have any…his tool were a machine

     

    TW:

    So they didn’t do just dyeing there, they did finishing as well?

     

    LV:

    Yeah, they got…..well I suppose we did everything other than weaving

     

    TW:

    Oh right

     

    LV:

    It used to come……woven but then they’d to……to get those lines in - they cut the lines – it’s smooth is corduroy when it’s woven but they run the knife up the grooves to give it that ridged effect, well yeah, so it would just come as smooth cloth, grey I think they called it….greys…..grey cloth anyway, you know I mean it would go out dyed, well I presume when it went out it were ready for being made up into trousers or whatever

     

    TW:

    Did they do moleskin as well?

     

    LV:

    I don’t think they did actually, surprisingly….no I don’t think they did….you see it were part of a Manchester outfit were this ‘English Velvet’ but we had quite a few mill owners about, it weren’t just you know, that wasn’t the one mill standing on its own, t’were part of a group and it may well have been perhaps the Manchester lot looked after the moleskin, no I think it were just corduroy…..

     

    TW:

    Right……

     

    LV:

    I’ll go and get a pint

     

    TW:

    I’ll put the pause on…………you said earlier about how lots of people used to come to the Crags but they all walked but now people just come in cars

     

    LV:

    Mainly

     

    TW:

    So that’s a big change isn’t it?  What other things have changed, like in your lifetime, not just in Midgehole, but in Hebden as well?

     

    LV:

    Oh well…..well Hebden Bridge has only, in my opinion, changed for the worst….

     

    TW:

    Why is that?

     

    LV:

    Well it were……well there were bags of available housing…..at reasonable money, you know, people could afford……you know, if somebody decided they were going to get married when they were say eighteen year old which is not good you know, but it never even crossed through their mind to – ‘well where are we going to live?’ because, you know, they knew they’d just be able to rent somewhere for….probably the equivalent of twenty pound a week - nowadays, you know, it’d be something like ten pence a week or something, but of course they pulled ‘em all down and it were….I mean it were far better when it were….when it were a dismal little mill town, somehow it’s just turned into like a West Riding theme park now [laughing]

     

    TW:

    Well do you think it’s the people then, because it was a working town, everybody worked here and lived here, and now it’s like people who live here, they work somewhere else

     

    LV:

    It’s a dormitory isn’t it?  A dormitory area, yeah

     

    TW:

    Do you think that changes the character?

     

    LV:

    Well it does really, but I mean it were probably inevitable, probably…….well if the mills had closed down then obviously……mind you it could have been the local people living here and going off working somewhere else instead, no I just don’t use Hebden Bridge full stop.  It’s off  my……it has to be an emergency before I actually even buy anything from any of the shops you know, I’d sooner just carry on and go to Sowerby Bridge…….or turn left and go to Keighley, in fact if I just want a little bit of something like…. A tin of peas for the sake of argument, I go to Old Town Post Office – at least you can park outside, you know, you haven’t got to run the gauntlet of not being able to park anywhere

     

    TW:

    Yeah that’s true….is there a well behind your house, or any of the houses on that terrace?

     

    LV:

    No.  I suspect……you see they were built in 1898 actually they were built, and I think when they were built they actually had piped water into ‘em

     

    TW:

    Really?

     

    LV:

    Spring water, yeah, just spring water from……there’s no sign of a well anywhere behind, you know, it’s…..as I say I think it’d be piped water full stop you know, from when they were built…….but I…..the houses down by the river used to be just water out of a well……yeah when I think that’s the only well I know of round here, but there’s one at the side of the road going on there, but that’d just be for horses and things that were passing, you know……no as far as I know and I weren’t around in 1898 [laughing] but I think it were piped water from the word go.

     

    TW:

    I was just curious because….I was doing a bit of reading about New Mill and the one lower down, which I can’t remember what it’s called now, the one just a bit lower

     

    LV:

    Oh……Lower Mill

     

    TW:

    That’s it, yeah, and they were talking about how they…..they did get some of their water from…..I mean they got it from the River Hebden, but it was all…..the dye works, bits of it were fed by……things coming off the hillside like springs and they channelled some of it into it

     

    LV:

    Oh……this weir – there’s a weir outside The Blue Pig here, to raise the level of the water and that were for water that went across the field in a goit they call ‘em like….stream….that went to t’mill at Lower Mill.  There were a dam behind it and then they had actually a water wheel at Lower Mill, but as I say it’s just across here is where the water came off from this run, and then New Bridge…..New Mill….New Bridge Mill?

     

    TW:

    Yeah I think it is

     

    LV:

    New Bridge Mill I think it’s called, New Bridge Mill, that run would take it all down further up the Crags, that’s where they got their water from, via the river, you know, and they had another of these goits coming down

     

    TW:

    Oh where did the dye works get their water from?

     

    LV:

    Up Middle Dean which is up the Hardcastle Crags valley; it’s the one that goes up….

     

    TW:

    Crimsworth

     

    LV:

    Crimsworth, yeah, well that’s Crimsworth Beck isn’t it, the little river that just joins on, well there’s some dams up there

     

    TW:

    Oh are there?

     

    LV:

    That were fed from the river again [laughing] and that’s where they get their water from and it’s piped all the way down…actually when you think about it….the last dam will be….a half or three quarters of a mile of the mill…..and there are some dams, there are some dams actually that have never really been used, even when I were a kid, and I presume…..they could have been for Lower Mill, I don’t actually know

     

    TW:

    Would they be for Lee Mill do you think?

     

    LV:

    Oh no, no they weren’t for Lee Mill, no cos they’re on t’wrong side of t’river really, you’d not be able to get the water across….no they’d either be for Lower Mill or…..it’s funny – I’ll ask the farmer down there, cos he….he might know, do you know I’ve never really thought about it.  There are some dams up in the wood behind the farm in Midgehole, but they could – they could be for…the mill at the side of the road, or they could be for Lower Mill, I’ve never really thought about it actually…..they were disused anyway, but I mean they were for one of the two, only little dams anyway

     

    TW:

    Well you said English Velvet clothes in the sixties and it’s carried on till just this year, you know, denim and other things like that, what are they gonna do with it now?

     

    LV:

    Got no idea…..don’t know

     

    TW:

    I’ve heard they might turn it into flats or something like that

     

    LV:

    Well that were one of…..that’s one of the thoughts isn’t it, but I mean it’s got a….there’s a hoarding…..there’s a hoarding outside saying To Let, May Sell, so I don’t know, I mean To Let, you presume that means to let it for commercial purposes again, I really don’t know…..it’s in the lap of the Gods [laughing]

     

    TW:

    Yeah!  Right……so……do you think other people who live up at Midgehole have the same kind of attitude that you do, that they’re separated from Hebden and they don’t want a lot to do with it, do you think?

     

    LV:

    Yeah, that’s possible really because……I don’t….yeah…..funnily enough, I mean, I think that’s probably true……I’ve never really thought of it before but I mean I must admit I don’t hear of anybody talk about doing shopping down in Hebden Bridge, cos I say if you’re going shopping you’ve got to have…..well some means of transport, well I can carry t’bags, but everybody up here has some sort of transport, but by t’time you’ve started your car up and gone down into Hebden Bridge, well if you go to Lidl at Sowerby Bridge, say, which is where I tend to go, you’ve like another ten minutes past Hebden Bridge and you can park in the car park, there’s no problems, you go in and do your shopping, well it’d probably take you about ten minutes to find somewhere to park in Hebden Bridge, if you could find anywhere to park in Hebden Bridge, oh of course there’s the Co-op isn’t there, I might go to t’Co-op but I don’t…..I don’t think a lot of local people do this walking around Hebden Bridge going into cafés and, in fact I’m bloody sure they don’t [laughing] you know, perhaps somebody who lives…..perhaps somebody who lives down in Hebden Bridge might, but I don’t

     

    TW:

    Well I must admit, I mean I live fairly close to the centre of Hebden, but I do my shopping in Tod

     

    LV:

    Well, yeah

     

    TW:

    Because they’ve got a Lidl’s there

     

    LV:

    And it’s a proper little town is Tod – Hebden Bridge isn’t.  There are a few meaningful shops in Hebden, sorry in Todmorden – very little, very little in Hebden Bridge really, I mean there’s Bonsall’s

     

    TW:

    That’s about it really

     

    LV:

    Well I were gonna say, I can’t really……in fact I don’t even know what there is to be quite honest, because as I say I just don’t….I just don’t bother

     

    TW:

    Right, just pause that for a second…..what do you know about Tom Bell’s cave then?

     

    LV:

    Well…….it seems to me to be hardly…..hardly practical that…..Tom Bell were a highwayman and he used to escape from….don’t know, the excise men or whatever, and he could go from up by Cosy Corner up near the Scout place…..but I’ve been down the cave

     

    TW:

    Have you been to the end of it, because I’ve been in it but not to the end?

     

    LV:

    Oh no…..it must be….it must be a mile

     

    TW:

    Do you think it’s that big?

     

    LV:

    Well it’s suppose to…..t’idea was that he was supposed to go in there and then come out at Mytholm…..I don’t think it…..you know…..round here we do not have the sort of…occasionally there’ll be a pot hole that’s caused by an erosion of water, and stalactites and stalagmites, we don’t get that, but if we do get a little bit of a cave round here it’ll be old rocks that have fallen together, you know, just sort of…..not eroded away, just general loose rocks, well you will not get I’m sure……nobody…..nobody has ever been through…..you can only go so far and it peters out, I mean we used to go….forty foot into it and it were a bit frightening really because we were kids and there were a bit of a drop down, about six or eight foot, and then you went on a bit but……I think it’s just…I think it’s a bit similar to crocodiles in the sewers of New York is this Tom Bell’s cave, [laughing] it’s a good old story like, but t’general idea were that he used to escape…..well presumably coming from that end…..he could get into this cave and he’d come through and he finished up, and he’d evaded whoever were pursuing him, and I do not believe that ever…..that cave went a mile underground from here to, well I’m saying a mile, it’s probably further than that actually isn’t it

     

    TW:

    Well straight through the ground, it’s a straight line or thereabouts, it might be…..it wouldn’t be all that far really, it would go under Heptonstall wouldn’t it?

     

    LV:

    It would have to go under Heptonstall, yeah, but it’s….it’s

     

    TW:

    It’ll be, yeah, it’ll be a mile, yeah

     

    LV:

    Actually it probably is, it probably is only a mile, but yeah, I were thinking it might be longer, but actually, but it’s a fair

     

    TW:

    So when you were down there then when you were a little lad, did you have like torches and things like that?

    LV:

    Oh it’d be candles, I think…

     

    TW:

    Oh right

     

    LV:

    They blew out – we didn’t go so far [laughing] oh we didn’t go so far, you couldn’t get, you just couldn’t get so far

     

    TW:

    But could you now?

     

    LV:

    No, it just petered out, it just dropped, you know, there just wasn’t anywhere

     

    TW:

    Do you think there was a fall inside that blocked it off?

     

    LV:

    Well I mean there could have been, but….yeah but I’ve never heard of anybody going in any appreciable distance neither from what’s supposed to be the other side neither,

     

    TW:

    They reckon it comes out at Hell Hole

     

    LV:

    That’s right, yeah, Hell Hole rocks, yeah, which is just, which is just under, well it’s above the Eaves estate at Mytholm isn’t it?  I mean it’s….as I say you don’t….there are little bits of caves that you get up in the…up in the woods up here, but honestly I mean there’s one, well the longest one would be perhaps….thirty feet….in fact it wouldn’t be that actually….it’d probably be like diagonally across this place, and here again it’s the old thing that you get around here, is the loose of rocks, and it just so happens that there were rocks all fallen together, that just happened to leave a void that you could, you could get through, but it weren’t like something that’s been eroded by water and were nice round, like a proper cave, know what I mean, it were just a…..passageway through tumbled rocks [laughing] to actually….the odds of there being one on that sort of length….the rocks had just fallen, but just coincidentally, just left room for people – for somebody to get…..I’m sure it’d never have gone through….. well, that’s my view.

     

    TW:

    This place, it’s run by volunteers now isn’t it?

     

    LV:

    Yeah, yeah.

     

    TW:

    How long’s that been going on for?

     

    LV:

    ………it must be twenty years now……..to be honest I’ve never actually thought about it….what’s twenty years go back to – ’81……no is it buggery, it’s back to ’91 isn’t it, twenty years…..it’s probably more than twenty years……

     

    TW:

    So you opened up last week didn’t you?

     

    LV:

    Yeah, yeah, I do it very little.  I don’t do it half as much - I did quite a bit at one time, in fact I once….well once me and this other bloke ran it for a month….we were….I don’t know if we ever actually had a steward after that you see, I were trying to…..I were trying to think…….wait a bit…..early 1980s……and the steward had left……and me and this guy ran it initially for a month to sort out what we were going to do, but I don’t know if we ever had a steward after that you know, so that’d be t’early eighties, so that’d be thirty years……..oh no we did, no we did have……we did have stewards after that…….I think if you say twenty years you’d probably be nearer t’mark, yeah.

     

    TW:

    Right  Cos you don’t really find that often these days do you?  Places where people give lots of time for free to run it

     

    LV:

    No [laughing]

     

    TW:

    Mind you it keeps the price of beer down.

     

    LV:

    It does, yeah, you see a lot of it as well really is……..if a lot do it, it’s fairly convenient, fairly convenient for everybody, it’s…..I mean people tend to do it…..well they do it a little bit different now than what they did right at the beginning.   They used to have…..you’d have a given night that you’d say you’d do, well you weren’t told to do it, you’d say you’d do it……well when I were doing it regular I used to do Sunday night and Tuesday night, but I used to come down playing cards on Sunday night and Tuesday night, so it fitted in – I’d have been down anyway – now if for some reason I couldn’t come on the Sunday night, I’d make arrangements for somebody or perhaps swap, say somebody who were doing Thursday night, I’d swap with ‘em you know, and it were…and you’d actually come and open up and lock up, there were nobody else involved, now it’s got a bit…..got a bit more messy now……somebody’ll open up and they’ll do an hour or two then somebody’ll take over from ‘em, you know, but it’s a lot better if somebody has a given night, and does it week in week out, and if they can’t do it, comes to some arrangement with somebody else and swap, that’s a lot better way of doing it, it doesn’t need any arranging really, it’s just fair and it were in tablets of stone virtually.

     

    TW:

    Right.  Well, I think maybe we’ll call that a day, but because….well no, what were you gonna say?

     

    LV:

    No what I were gonna say…..I mean I don’t mind having a talk to you again another time if you think of anything….well if that hasn’t….if we’ve missed out on a lot

     

    TW:

    Well this, I know this bit’s worked fine.  I’m not sure if that first bit did; I’ll have to listen back to it to see if it actually recorded or not, so if so then I might come back to you, because I wanted to talk to you about like, you know, characters and then different kinds of people that you’ve known over the years, that sort of thing…..cos that would be quite interesting [the next thing?] but I don’t want you to sort of libel anybody or anything like that [laughing]

     

    LV:

    Is it still on?

     

    TW:

    Yes it still is, yeah

     

    LV:

    Right well I’d better not libel anybody then!   No I wouldn’t……no, but I don’t think anything….I don’t think there were ever anything…..I wouldn’t say there were ever anything illegal happened here, but something illegal happened here every night because I mean there were licensing…..licensing laws’d be…..well half past ten during the week and eleven o’clock at weekend, and

     

    TW:

    But most pubs around here did that didn’t they?

     

    LV:

    Yeah, I were gonna say, it were, you know, I mean…..it were well known for being…..well, well-known for being an after-time place, like you said it, everywhere did really, in fact…..in fact they were in a minority, the pubs that didn’t [laughing]……but no, it’s been a fairly law-abiding place, apart from….apart from licensing law wise, I don’t think there’s ever been a lot of rogues coming here…..

     

    TW:

    Right……what I’m gonna do is I’m gonna ask you that first question again in case I missed that, and when I’ve recorded I’ll edit it back to the beginning so

     

    LV:

    Well I hope you’re gonna edit it out because I might, I might say something completely different than what I said first time! [laughing]…..no, where are we?

     

    TW:

    Your full name and where and when you were born.

     

    LV:

    I’m James Linden Vardy, I were born in 1944, 17th of November, in fact I’ll try December – put that in – at 4 Crimsworth Terrace, yeah.

     

    TW:

    Right, okay, that’s fine that. Is there anything else that I haven’t asked about that you might want to mention?

     

    LV:

    Well not really, I mean there’d be lots of little bits of things I could mention – it’s very hard really to…..there’s all sort of things…..I respond really better to questions don’t I, I suppose…..there’s all sorts of – all sorts of things used to happen here, well, no, actually to be quite honest very little happened here, being honest, but there was all sorts of different characters that came here that were sort of….sort of, you know, a fair old cross section of…..cross section you know, from……Detective Inspector, a policeman, Police Constables…..butchers, just a fair old cross section……oh you know Russell Dean who we were you know, just talking about earlier, he had a very thriving business, you know, he used to come in with a poacher…..I don’t think he…..in his later years he wouldn’t have been poaching but he’d have certainly done a bit in his younger years, you know, and Russell’d be going round with him, seeing all the old techniques and stuff, you know, they wouldn’t be….

     

    TW:

    Did you ever poach then?

     

    LV:

    No, because I had……I’d permission to go shooting on quite a few of the farms…..well all the farmers’ land around here, I didn’t need to – I’d have to walk an awfully long way to be poaching if you know what I mean, because I’d got permission everywhere so it took the fun out of it all really [laughing] but no, it were……and really……there were rabbits, the occasional hare, very occasional hare, no pheasants, there were never any pheasants round here; these herons that are flying around all over, well nobody would shoot them anyway, but I mean, these herons that are….there were never any of them when I were a kid.  There’s a lot more, it’s obviously a lot cleaner than what it were, the river … and things… but no,  I can’t honestly say really…..that I ever have poached, actually funnily enough I might have done, cos I was trying…..sometimes when you go up…..if I went for a walk and went up the Crimsworth valley, now then I didn’t have permission to shoot on the fields just up underneath Pecket Well, and I would get onto ‘em sometimes on t’way to work, you know, so I probably would – if there were rabbits about I probably would shoot a rabbit in one of them fields, but where I had permission to shoot I’d only be fifty yards off, but you know, I suppose technically it’d be poaching, but……yeah, so I have been a poacher, and that’s good, that’s good, yeah, yeah [laughing]….there’ll be some farmer up there listening to this, and he’ll think ‘oh that’s who it was in 1964’ [laughing]….that’s who that little red-faced beggar were!

     

    [END OF TRACK ONE]

    Read more

  • Interviews and Storytelling: Adrian Fellows

    [TRACK 1]

    TW:

    It’s Tony Wright, it’s the 16th of May 2011 and I’m talking to Adrian at his home in Hebden Bridge. Can you tell me your full name and where and when you were born?

    ADRIAN FELLOWS: My full name’s Adrian Neville Fellows and I was born in Pune, India on July 21st 1949.

    TW:

    Were your parents in the military or the diplomatic service?

    AF: Yeah, my father was in the Royal Air Force and he was seconded to the Royal India Air Force after the Second World War to train the.....the Indian pilots to fly and navigate; he was a navigator.

    TW:

    How long did you live there for?

    AF: Only for a very short period.....my parents I think were down there in ’47, late ’47. I was born in ’49 and we came back in....I think early ’51......I wasn’t there for very long.

    TW:

    But where did you come back to?

    AF: We came back initially to, for a very short period, to Preston where my grandparents had a large pub, ‘The Farmers Arms’ which used to face the old market in Preston. I think the façade is still there but the pub’s not there. From there my father got a job at a paper mill in Ramsbottom, just on the Lancashire side of the Pennines and we moved....we moved to there I think in......’52ish.

    TW:

    But did you spend your youth there?

    AF: Yep, I spent my childhood there, at St Joseph’s Primary School in Ramsbottom and then on to Cardinal Langley Grammar School in Middleton and I lived in Ramsbottom till I went to university.

    TW:

    Where did you go to university?

    AF: I went to university in Leeds.....I can’t remember what year it was.....I think it

    1

    was’67.....yeah, it was ’67....I was there for....five years and did two degrees there....BSc Combined Microbiology and Food Science and M Phil.....left university and then I started working for myself......honestly by accident really. I lived in Rochdale for eighteen months and then we came to Hebden Bridge because my wife got a job at Hebden Bridge Library.

    TW:

    Right. So you came here in the early seventies

    AF: Yes.....’73...’74 I think

    TW:

    What was Hebden like at that time?

    AF: Very different in many ways to what it is now....there was still a strong residual textile industry, particularly the sewing shops which were still fairly active and a number of the mills which were still operating....Redmans, Sutcliffe-Melbourne.....and a couple of others. It was before the stone cleaning period – just before the stone cleaning period, so it was a very dark, black town compared to the......the wonderful colours of the stone that we see nowadays. In some ways it was a bleaker place, particularly the main drive from Mytholm through to.....the railway station was a lot more dourer than it looks nowadays. You had the impression of entering a dark canyon; you didn’t come out the other side really until you got to Mytholmroyd.

    TW:

    How did you find the local people at that time?

    AF: I found the local people to be excellent individuals, which was what really attracted me to the place as much as the wonderful locality and topography. I think at that time we’d got perhaps a more typically Yorkshire cross-section of people, and particularly in the pubs which were very lively at that time, and down at ‘The Blue Pig’ you could meet up and talk to a very broad cross-section of people, from people who worked in the sewing shops and the mills to solicitors or.....whatever. There were a lot of people who were involved in demolition in those days and so there were characters around the town. A lot of them had moved from other places which were being demolished; they were very interesting people.....I was very comfortable with the local people. I mean Ramsbottom in many ways was very similar. I’d been brought up in a similar town which had very much a textile background and had gone into steep decline; a lot of Hebden Bridge was showing signs of maybe.....altering its character and coming out of that decline, but I liked the people there. Having said that, I felt it was a town that had a philosophy which for me was summed up in the two phrases.....’it’ll be reet’ which covered ninety five per cent of those issues in life which you shouldn’t really apply yourself too much effort and aggravation to. And ’you have it to do’ which applied to the other five per cent that you

    2

    really just put your head down in the Yorkshire fashion and you made damned sure you got it sorted....I found people were very good.

    TW:

    Right. When did you come to live in this house that you’re at now?

    AF: Hang on, initially I gave you an earlier date....I think.....Cecilia was born in ’79......and she was.....actually it must have been 1980 when we came here I think. If my wife was here she’d be able to tell you exactly

    TW:

    So it’s an old farm is it?

    AF: Yeah, this house is......1 Slater Bank and originally this was Slater Bank Farm which as far as we can establish at one time was the only building on this hillside beside Hollins Cottages down.....just three hundred yards away, and owned most of what was then farmland up to Greenwood Lee......and then at some time or other it was.....I think in the mid nineteenth century it was converted gradually into a school

    TW:

    A church school?

    AF: No it was a private school known as Moss’s Academy

    TW:

    Oh really?

    AF: Which my wife’s doing a bit of research into it.....I think the Historical Society have a bit more information. It was run by a gentleman called Abraham Moss who I think Moss Lane is named after, and as far as we can establish its speciality if you like was children of parents who were in the Colonial Services

    TW:

    Oh really?

    AF: Hilary found some school rolls with parents who were stationed in India; one was in Kentucky for some reason or other......and others

    TW:

    So children from like far and wide would come here to go to this school, so they weren’t

    3

    local people as such?

    AF: As far as we can establish, we don’t know a huge amount about it, but yeah, they came from far and wide.....the school seemed to continue from far and wide, and the two houses behind were built on in two stages as annexes to the farmhouse when more space was required for the school, then latterly I think.....yeah round about the time of the First World War, this actually became the dormitory for the school and the school itself moved down to the bottom of Moss Lane, I think in the building that is now the Masonic Lodge or Ashley House, one of those two buildings was the school. This is a very interesting building; it was not in very good condition when we moved in, needed most things doing. Fortunately there were grants and we managed to get the last re-roofing grant in Hebden Bridge, which we posted as we left for holiday which was a very good thing. We moved here with the intention of probably not staying very long and looking for somewhere else, but we got very attached to the spot. It’s convenient, warm and sheltered and we are very handy both for the town and for getting off onto the footpath network and the countryside beyond.

    TW:

    So when was it actually built? Do you know what date?

    AF: Yeah, my wife has researched this, and it was built originally in 1740 or 1741.

    TW:

    Right. Well the other thing I wanted to talk about really was your association with the Midgehole Working Men’s Club, otherwise known as The Blue Pig. How did you become involved there? Were you just a customer for a long time?

    AF: My involvement with The Blue Pig....it pretty much started immediately I arrived in Hebden Bridge. My wife worked with a lady called Marilyn Fletcher at the library, and her husband Gordon Fletcher lived on Midgehole Road. He was on the committee at that time at The Blue Pig and I even think while we were still living in Rochdale we’d have come over and gone to the club a couple of times with them, and when we moved over here......well we actually lived on Keighley Road first of all, just below the entrance to Midgehole Road so that was a very convenient place to go for a drink. Nutclough House was slightly nearer, but we went to the club and I was, from a very early stage, you know, we’d been here probably not a year, and I was persuaded to join the committee, and I’ve been on the committee ever since, and I became President I think in 1989 after Eric Varley, the previous President, died unfortunately because he’d probably just retired......and I’ve remained involved.....I’ve remained President to the present day. We’ve tried to maintain the character of the club and allow it to evolve rather than introducing any revolutionary change and it think that’s generally been appreciated.......the nature of the club’s changed somewhat; obviously the legislative changes have made a big difference – drink driving made a big difference, it was on its

    4

    own at the end of a road. More recently the smoking ban has had less impact perhaps than we thought it would have done, and changing lifestyles. When I first joined the club the members were made up predominantly of the locals who lived in Midgehole – the farmers and gamekeepers from the surrounding area, and people within the immediate area of Hebden Bridge who had known the club for a long time, so I was the new boy. The membership’s now.....much more disparate and reflects I think the changes that have gone on in the town itself. And we have to remember that it was in a very industrial situation when it was established. The club’s been in the CIU for.....well we had our centenary in 2007, so they were 104 years in the CIU. We’re not quite sure how long it existed before it joined the CIU, but it’s been around for a long time, and obviously at that time there were four working mills in the immediate vicinity of the club, so it was clearly very different then. It’s now run entirely by volunteers and has been for the last I would think twenty years or so, maybe not quite that long, and I think that also has been tremendously beneficial; it’s cemented its role as a community club, even though now some of the houses from which we drew our membership are now holiday lets and you know, weekend cottages, so you don’t see quite the immediate concentration of people who lived in the immediate vicinity, and it’s changed from being a club that was busiest in the evening to two busier sessions over the weekend lunchtimes and afternoons. But at a time when pubs and clubs are closing, fortunately The Blue Pig is thriving, so I think it will be here for a while.

    TW:

    How did it get the name ‘The Blue Pig’?

    AF: [laughing] I think the true answer is we don’t really know. The most likely explanation seems that....going back to the very early days of the club, I understand......this could probably be verified....before the Liberal Party adopted yellow as its colour, the Liberal/Whig party were actually the Blue Party rather than the Tory Party, and Working Men’s Clubs were often referred to as pigs for some reason or other, and those that had a Liberal leaning were referred to as Blue Pigs. I’ve not come across any completely convincing evidence for that, although there is supposedly a cottage in Walsden called Blue Pig Cottage which apparently was a club itself in the distant past but no longer is a club, so that’s one possible explanation. A more colourful explanation is that the building is a white-washed building and is very visible from the tops and would have been more visible, you know, at a time when there were fewer trees in the valley. From photographs you can see that was the case, certainly right up to between the wars, and in those days when you white-washed a building you used Reckitt’s dolly blue to offset the yellowing of the white-wash and it was said that one year they overdid it, and instead of coming out white, the building came out blue and one of the old farmers looking down from the tops at Pecket said ‘what the bloody hell have you done with that – that looks like a blue pig down there!’ so that’s another possible explanation. The most lurid is that a farmer lost a pig and it was found trapped under the weir, having been trapped in the river for many many days and it was obviously blue and distended, and that association stuck with the building, but I think that’s the least likely.

    5

    TW: [laughing] I see, right. So you don’t know exactly when it began really?

    AF: We don’t, no.

    TW:

    Do you think it was built for New Bridge Mill or sort of the workers there?

    AF: I think it would have been associated with the mill, although the building’s never been to my knowledge dated. It wasn’t listed when they did the listings around here in the early eighties, but it’s a very old type of building and possible even pre-dated the mill because if you actually were to crawl up in the roof space you’d find that the roof timbers are actually simply.....rough cut trees, they’re not dressed timber, and single storey buildings of that type are not common around here, so I suspect the building is of some antiquity, maybe pre-dated the mill but I mean I think its use as a club must certainly be associated with the workers from the mill. I mean it was said there is a strong Chapel element around the Calder Valley and the Pennines generally in the nineteenth century. We’ve got Heptonstall and the Wesley connection; it’s said that some of the mill workers’ wives were very strongly of a Methodist tendency and wouldn’t tolerate drinking in the house and that the men wanted somewhere to drink, and there was nowhere in the immediate vicinity, and either mill made the room available or they leased the building in some way, and it started off in that way......the site I think was only actually bought by the club round about the time of the First World War.....

    TW:

    Did they buy it off? Are there records for that?

    AF: There are – it was bought when all of that land along that side of that river was sold off at auction in a series of parcels, and it was bought then.

    TW:

    So, you say there’s been a lot of volunteers running it now for the last twenty years about. Before that was there like paid staff and it was a viable sort of business?

    AF: Yeah before that it ran on a traditional CIU club's line with a committee and a paid steward.....which we had many, but it’s not purely the economics of it, if we could afford a steward now it would mean putting the price of beer up, but the geographic position of the club makes it difficult for a steward to be coming there and back; it’s not ideal, so the plan is to run it on a voluntary basis as long as we can get a decent core set of volunteers, which we have at the moment.

    TW:

    6

    So was there a financial problem you know, twenty or thirty years ago that made this volunteer thing come about?

    AF: I mean over the years, like most businesses, the club’s had times when it’s thrived and times when it’s been on harder times, and I mean there was a big change in the nature of drinking at the club and many of the pubs around here when the drink driving legislation was introduced; that made a huge difference, whereas when I first came to Hebden Bridge you would maybe on a Friday night struggle to park your car in the car park down there because there would be so many cars down there, and the club would stay open, as many of the pubs round here did, well outside what was the legal licensing hours, which was pretty much a feature of the Upper Calder Valley I think. Places decided on their own licensing hours and providing they kept their noses clean they didn’t get a lot of trouble from the police. There’d be the occasional visit from the new sergeant or a new inspector, and then things would quieten down again, but after that, after drink driving came in particularly, you were going along a dead-end cul-de-sac road, trade dropped off very significantly. Also at that time I would say, you know, the demographics of the club - when I joined – I was twenty six I think when I joined and I’d probably be the youngest, certainly the youngest committee member, and not long after quite a number of the regular older members stepped off or were unable to come to the club for reasons, and yeah, for.....I would say for a period of four or five....you tend to forget the years......the club was really just about washing its face financially. It was never in any serious problem because it never had any big brewery loans or anything, we always avoided doing that.....some bigger clubs have had to close for that purpose, but we did support the club financially, three or four of us; four of us I think at one time did give the club a short-term loan, just to avoid it going over its overdraft limit at the time, and that’s, I’m trying to think when that was, me, Tommy Jones, Donald Rigg and Derek Greenwood, so.....Derek’s dead, Tommy’s dead....it must have been twenty years ago I suppose, twenty odd years ago. It’s sometimes very difficult to decide when these things actually did occur.....but since then the club’s done very well. We’ve never had any support from Calderdale Council which I think’s a bit unfortunate because you’re probably aware there are one or two of the residents in the area, one in particular, who moved in much later than the club, who have done their best....if they’d had their way they’d have had the pub closed, and unfortunately one of the Councillors continues to support one vexatious individual over the wishes of its constituents, but.....we’ve not rolled over and I think the status quo will remain as it is. It remains to be seen – the implications of the change in the Licensing Act, the 2003 Licensing Act, are kind of still unravelling, so obviously clubs have much less protection than they had under the old legislation. Whether that will have a long-term impact I don’t know, certainly CIU membership generally is decreasing, but part of that’s down to their own dinosaur attitude I would think; to issues like women members. We were featured in the local press, I think some considerable time ago, because we were actually one, if not the first, club in the country to decide ‘well we’d better give full rights to women members’ and it just happened to be on the same day that the MCC decided to extend its ban on women members, which Eileen picked up, so we were featured in the paper [laughing]. On the whole we try to keep a low profile though.

    7

    TW:

    I noticed that you have sort of quite irregular hours don’t you? Is that because of the volunteer staff?

    AF: It’s pretty much determined yeah by the availability of volunteers, yeah. As I say there has been a change; the club’s in a very attractive situation and we’ve got probably as many people who’d like to drink outside in the spring and summer months as there are who’d like to drink inside the rest of the year, but people have perhaps a greater demand on their time now......and getting volunteers who not only, you know, will run the bar, but would do the cellar work and fetching the stock into the club, I mean these are all tasks that do require time, and it isn’t easy. The club’s financially very successful at the moment, but if I have a concern, it’s that, again, the demographics are once again moving to the fact that the people that are most actively involved are in the grumpy old men category. There are one or two members who might complain about the grumpy old men, but it’s the grumpy old men who are doing all the work, so we shall so what transpires. It is a small club and you know, the loss of one or two people can make quite a difference to the balance of activity. We lost a huge local character in Dennis Edmondson; he’s been dead a couple of years now......Dennis was instrumental in many ways in helping the club start to thrive, because when he was originally invalided out and then retired - he’s always been a stalwart of the club - but it became his full-time hobby then, and Dennis was pretty much ever-present, so it was for a while effectively open seven days a week, and that did mean that for a time as people were passing, the door was open. I think the awareness of the club at that time increased and you know, the club owes a debt of thanks to Dennis for that, but interestingly enough, when we tried to sort the hours out immediately after the introduction of the 2003 Licensing Act when all clubs were given till one o’clock I think it was, and we weren’t for some reason or other – well, there was an objection from one resident supported by another and we decided that we had to fight that, although the hour was inconsequential to us and the club was opposed by Calderdale Council, and we lost the court case which cost the club about twelve thousand pounds......and the town itself, and the people who knew the club were I think askance at the unfairness of this, and a lot of people joined post that event and supported the club, and the membership went from round about a hundred and eighty to the present four hundred in a very short period, and the fine was drunk in about eighteen months so we were back to status quo. [laughing]

    TW:

    Is there a limit to membership?

    AF: There isn’t a legal limit to membership, but the building is quite small. We’ve put a fairly arbitrary limit of about four hundred – I think it is four hundred at the moment – as being the amount we could manage. There is an administrative burden in looking after the membership, keeping the membership informed and you know, issuing the membership cards and one thing and the other; there again that’s a task that’s done by a

    8

    volunteer, that’s done by Trevor Snell. There isn’t a lot of point in us having six or seven hundred members; the building only takes seventy five internally.

    TW:

    Do you think that The Blue Pig – it was a focus for working men having somewhere to go outside of the home and the workplace, and now is it more of like a community centre where various types of age groups and people.....and people from different areas who kind of, it’s a focus for people to join up to kind of have a community spirit?

    AF: Yeah I think there is......a broader community represented at the club now, I mean it was very much the community hub of Midgehole, Walshaw, Shackleton, Heptonstall when I joined and now it embraces much more the top of the Calder Valley. There are a lot of members from Mytholmroyd for instance.....from Hebden Bridge, Mytholmroyd, also a significant number of regular members who are walkers from maybe Oxenhope, Norland, Rochdale, and they support. Our present club Secretary joined as a walker; frequently walking through the area, he actually lives in Shaw near Oldham, and has very kindly taken over the job and so.....yeah, I think it is a community, very much a community, but a wider community than it was. We still make sure the club’s a-political and we don’t have any particular theme; we’re not supporting a football club or anything else of that nature, and we’ve also made sure....we’ve not wanted to have bandits in the club or TV in the club.....it’s been a place for social intercourse and above all, drinking good beer.

    TW:

    So on a regular basis then, how many people do you think kind of come and go in a week, in let’s say decent weather?

    AF: I mean in decent weather, over the week or the weekend, the average would be round about a hundred and fifty, two hundred people will go in over the Friday, Saturday, Sunday.....not so many on a Wednesday or Tuesday, sorry, Monday or Tuesday – quite a few come down on a Wednesday; it’s quite a popular day for walkers to pop across. Thursday we have committee meetings and there is an Investment Club that meets on a Thursday and.....yeah, other groups do use the club. The Midgehole Residents’ Association uses the club now; the Hardcastle Crags Preservation Society, they use the club and other parties do.....we have to.....part of our grumpy old men reputation is.....you know, there are a number of people who would like to use the club for functions like wedding receptions and the like, but it’s very difficult to operate it as a venue when you’ve got volunteer staff and to date most of those we’ve had to turn down.....

    TW:

    If you had the staff would you take it up?

    AF: If we had the staff I think we could consider it, and if it was an actively involved member

    9

    who could look after the thing, luckily he could provide his own staffing support then, like we’d do, my own eldest daughter’s wedding reception was held down there in a marquee in the car park, and that was a beautiful occasion, and one can understand....we’ve had one other wedding reception down there as well. And in fact, there was a humanist service, if you like, the wedding and the reception took place there, and also we’ve held one or two receptions for people who’ve had their wedding at Gibson Mill there, because Gibson Mill is licensed for weddings, but we don’t see ourselves as a venue at this moment in time.

    TW:

    I’m curious because I’ve been told by a number of people that there was quite a large drinking culture shall we say in the valley, you know, through the fifties, sixties, seventies and into the eighties really, and I wonder if any of your experiences at ‘The Blue Pig’ could reflect any of that?

    AF: Oh I think so; I think the Calder Valley was a very hard drinking part of the world. As I said before, it had a reputation of pretty much sorting its own licensing. The famous pubs on the tops, many of which aren’t operating now, that were absolutely packed out into the early hours of the morning....Sourhall as it was called, it was the Dog and Partridge but everybody called it Sourhall.....Top Brink......Top Shoulder at Blackshaw Head which is now closed....t’Skip on a much smaller scale, and other pubs, and one of my earliest experiences of that was when we were invited to a wedding reception at The Grove in Brearley which was a very good, fairly hard drinking reception, probably just before drink driving came in.....at about one o’clock as the thing was winding down we said to the host ‘we’ll be going’... ‘no, we’ve hardly started yet – we’re going up to t’Top Brink now [laughing]. We said ignorantly, “we’ll never get in at this time". A convoy of cars set off from The Grove to the Top Brink and.....the doors were open if you like, and the place was bopping – it was packed out and nobody batted an eyelid at half past one as another twenty or thirty people who were not really well known to the pub just walked in.....t’same with Sourhall – the lanes around Sourhall and the car park itself used to be choked with cars.....people didn’t seem to bother in those days if you sort of scraped a little as you were leaving, but The Blue Pig also was.....I mean on a Friday night The Blue Pig was always packed, and very much like an old style pub where you’d put your chalk on the dartboard and you might be waiting an hour to get a game, and there was a piano at that time and there was great competition for whose turn it was to play on the piano. I wouldn’t call it a fight, but one of the very few squabbles I remember down there was ‘it’s actually my turn to play on the piano’ rather than....that didn’t involve me because I didn’t play the piano, but we had a pianist who came over from Oxenhope.....Benny Mitchell from a farm, he used to play, Dennis used to play.....and one or two other people used to play regularly, just on a Friday night, just the old sing- song basis. People would drink a lot down there but we were always orderly, we always prided ourselves on being an orderly house, in fact we tried not to succumb to the tendency for bad language to be permissible......and I think we’re known for that, but it’s never been a place where there’s ever been any trouble, but a love of drinking. We’ve had support from Taylor’s over the years, you know, we had Taylor’s beer when Taylor’s

    10

    brewery just had its own twenty three pubs and half a dozen outlets; now Taylor’s probably.....maybe the most famous beer in the country and we still have that connection with Taylor’s and we’ve had a very good relationship with them.

    TW:

    You get guest beers now though as well don’t you?

    AF: Yes, we get a lot of guest beers now and we’re known as a place with excellent beer, and because of the low overheads, with not employing staff, we can sell that beer at - or supply our members with - we don’t really sell beer....we can supply our members with beer at a very reasonable price which will may become increasingly important to people, with the way things are going.

    TW:

    Do you think part of this large membership – I know you said you had a lot of support because of the court case – but do you think it’s because the beer’s so cheap and kept well – do you think that has increased your membership?

    AF: Oh yeah, I think it certainly has, but.....

    TW:

    Do long-standing members get annoyed then, when fly-by-nights shall we say, come in because there’s some cheap beer going?

    AF: Well, yes they do, and that’s one of the reasons we try and police the membership quite carefully because the reason that the beer is cheap is because volunteers are working for nothing and many of the members are also helping out when they can, for it to become a place where people thought ‘oh it’s a nice day, the beer’s cheap at Midgehole – we’ll go to Midgehole’ I think is unfair on the members who are putting the effort in. Equally we try and maintain a hospitable establishment, particularly to walkers and tourists in the area. Just at the moment there are two Americans staying in the Lodge I think, and they clearly have never seen the like of the place, so we wouldn’t throw them out because they’re not members; they seem very taken with it, and it’s very nice when that occurs. We’ve had over the years members who on that basis have requested to join, from Australia, probably half a dozen or more from America, Cyprus, South Africa, Ireland obviously.....

    TW:

    So presumably not to support the club, but because they think it’s just a good place really?

    AF: Yeah, they think it’s a unique one-off with a particular ambience you know.....I think

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    people .....it can at times look a bit scruffy and down at heel; that’s a balance we try and strike is somewhere between having it too smart and looking absolutely....it’s due for a coat of paint now, but we try not to make it look too flash, not that we ever could, but the club is financially very sound at the moment and yeah, we could put gold taps in the ladies if we wanted to [laughing] but we’ve no real intention of doing that. Yeah, it’s a very good place and I think it’s such a beautiful walk to the club, the place itself is a very attractive environment and you know, the simple pleasures of a good affordable pint and some company, I think people still find, and I think we’ve demonstrated that that’s still enough for many people on many occasions.

    TW:

    Right. Well I must admit I think it’s a wonderful place to go. I’m not a member mind! [laughing] I have to wait till March.

    AF: It’s closed this year [laughing]

    TW:

    Right....so have you got a sort of future vision of where the club might go?

    AF: Not really. I think, as I said, we tend to let if evolve rather than be too prescriptive as to how it’s going to go, and it is small enough that if.....an active group of people, probably need not be more than three or four, if they wanted to....at least put a hand on the tiller, then it could change direction. I think, that we certainly in my lifetime and I think the lifetime of the active membership, we would resist things like satellite TV and bandits and the like......I would like it to get back to having a more thriving evening trade than it has at the moment, but again, whereas it’s pleasant walking down the hill – very pleasant walking down there on a Friday and Sunday lunchtime, you know, to go down there on a freezing February Monday night is.....you’re either going to drive or you’re going.....in that case you can’t have much to drink, or you’re going to walk, and it’s not quite so pleasant, and that’s where we’ve lost the sort of core who are within a very short walking distance. We used to open on Monday nights when we had two darts teams and we had a home and away match during the winter months; that was quite an important night for the club in those days, but in pubs, the darts and games culture’s faded away a great deal compared to what it used to be. I think we’ll let it evolve and.....see how it goes.

    TW:

    Would the music......the live music be a good idea to bring back?

    AF: Yes.....it is, I mean obviously we’re very small, so there wouldn’t be a lot of point in putting heavily amplified rock bands on, but we do have light music from time to time, and one of our members at the moment, whose name I’ve forgotten, has started these ambient music sessions where it’s music that people want to hear, but the whole idea is that the music is not...... so intrusive as to stop conversation. We’ve had two or three of

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    those, and I’ve only been to one myself but I believe they’ve been quite successful. We’ve had single entertainers play down there – Ricky, one of our members, who’s a professional – semi-professional club singer, he sings and that’s always been very successful. We now have our beer festival in August and that’s a bit of an event, and we usually have some entertainment on.....you know, I think the more participation in terms of organising that kind of event I think would be a good thing. The counter-balance to that is many CIU clubs have knocked themselves into serious trouble because they spent far too much on entertainment and on the price of turns.

    TW:

    I mean you have the beer festival in August and you always have the Bonfire Night event don’t you as well?

    AF: We do. Bonfire Night used to be the biggest single revenue-raising night of the year. Again, if we go back significant numbers of years ago, we had a barbecue, bonfire......that has become more difficult with the increased emphasis of health and safety and it’s very difficult to hold the event and conduct the risk assessments that are now required, and the dialogue with the insurance company that they require; we do still hold the bonfire but it’s a very much smaller event than it’s been in the past. That’s unfortunately a trend in life which is not something I’m in sympathy with, but people took a lot more personal responsibility I think than they do nowadays.....with the safety elves everywhere [laughing].....the elf and safeties

    TW:

    Are there any other sort of major events that you do throughout the year besides those two?

    AF: Not really major events, I mean, New Year’s become quite a significant event, although at one time you could go down there on New Year and there’d be maybe three or four people in, but since the Millennium particularly, that’s been quite a busy night......and there are member organised events that have....one or two have kind of almost become established in the calendar.....at Father’s Day there’s a pig race in the river where people go up to the bridge and throw various forms of blue pig into the river, and the first one past the club wins, and Melanie, she’s organised that for the last three years; it’s not universally popular but it’s established itself in the calendar. That’s probably about it; we don’t......we’re not big on formal events.

    TW:

    Right. Well the only other thing to ask really is.....is there anything that you’d like to say that I haven’t actually asked about?

    AF: No.....I don’t think there is......I mean I think as somebody who’s worked in manufacturing as I did, it’s a great shame that the town has lost its manufacturing heart.

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    I think that.....I know it’s a corny thing to say, but having a hard core of people who did proper jobs, I think gave the town a certain character, and the fact that there are no jobs here really, well not easily accessible jobs, and the fact that the property prices have grown disproportionately to the jobs that are available have made it difficult for the children of that generation of people to afford to live in Hebden Bridge, and I think that that kind of almost gives a disconnect to the way the town has developed. I think that aspect is...

    TW:

    A kind of a gap between generations because young people have to move away?

    AF: Young people have had to move away, yeah, as you have in many sort of, if you like, attractive villages in the Dales where houses get swept up by tourists, off-cumdens, which I’m still one, but I think it is sad that the next generation can’t afford to live where its parents lived if it wants to, either for opportunity reasons or for cost, or a combination of the two, and that gives rise to something of a disconnect in the town, neither good nor bad really I suppose, but it’s a fact of life. Hebden Bridge has its image now of the fourth funkiest town in the world, and these other accolades, but I think it was still a very attractive place to live when it was a working town.

    TW:

    Okay, well thank you very much, and thank you for talking to me.

    AF: It’s okay, a pleasure. Thank you for thinking my contribution was worthwhile!

    [END OF TRACK 1]

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About Us

Wild Rose Heritage and Arts is a community group which takes it's name from the area in which we are located - the valley ("den") of the wild rose ("Heb") -  Hebden Bridge which is in Calderdale, West Yorkshire.

Get in touch

Pennine Heritage Ltd.
The Birchcliffe Centre
Hebden Bridge
HX7 8DG

Phone: 01422 844450
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