Echoes of the past: Bonfire brings community together

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Those readers with a long memory in the Bailiff Bridge area may just recall twenty-one years ago and the night when Bailiff Bridge Club helped to organise a community bonfire.

This took place in the field that was once part of the tennis courts of the old Bailiff Bridge tennis club on Birkhouse Road and next to the bowling green.

The old courts have disappeared since being re-developed for housing in recent years.

The earliest record of a club in Bailiff Bridge dates back to the nineteenth century with Bailiffe Bridge Working Men’s Institute, note the different spellings.

Both spellings of Bailiff (e) are still in use in the village today at the school and the post office.

There are little to no records of this club and I have only ever seen one photograph and that was sent to me from America.

From its inception in 1866 it would appear that reading, writing and arithmetic were taught to adults and within two years it had 34 members.

The origins of the club may have grown out of the Mechanic’s Institute movement which saw the creation of educational establishments.

These were originally formed to provide adult education, particularly in technical subjects to working men.

These new institutes were often financed by local industrialists on the grounds that they would ultimately benefit from having more knowledgeable and skilled employees.

The Mechanics’ Institutes were used as libraries for the adult working class, and provided some with an alternative pastime to gambling and drinking in pubs. An institute was started in Brighouse as early as 1846 and built up quite an extensive library of its own.

By the mid nineteenth century nationally more than 700 institutes had been created.

The Bailiffe Bridge Working Men’s Club was opened by Sir Algernon Freeman Firth on December 19, 1908.

The finance to build and run the club was provided by Sir Algernon and his father Sir Thomas Freeman Firth.

It was opened for the benefit of the working men of the village - sorry no mention of ladies in those days.

The club was very successful and popular but lacked facilities that many other clubs in the area had.

At the turn of the century sport played a great part in the working man’s life, whether it was the rigors of rugby football or the more leisurely sport of bowls.

This photograph was taken during the construction of the new bowling green and when completed was formally opened on May 27 ,1911 by William Aykroyd JP, who was a director at Firth’s.

He paid for the construction of the new bowling green. In 1920 he was knighted as the first Baronet of Lightcliffe - Sir William Aykroyd JP.

The current and fifth baronet is Sir Henry Robert George Ackroyd.

Following the retirement of Sir Algernon Firth c1920 he and his wife moved to Skriven Park Hall, Knaresborough, when Sir William then became the chairman of T.F.Firth & Sons.

Thomas Freeman Firth was made the first baronet of Birstall with his son Algernon Freeman Firth becoming the second baronet.

On his death at Scriven Park Hall in November 1936 the baronetcy came to an end.

Please note the internet shows various different spellings for Sir William Aykroyd (Akroyd or Ackroyd).