Margaret’s look at village life - then and now

Margaret Usher, with her book she has written, 'Rastrick, Then and Now'.
Margaret Usher, with her book she has written, 'Rastrick, Then and Now'.

Margaret Usher admits that when she first moved into the area in 2003 it took her a while to work out where Brighouse ended and Rastrick began.

But the former teacher and businesswoman, who has a keen interest in local history, is now so at home in Rastrick that she has written a history of the village.

Memorabilia roadshow for Rastrick Library centenary, Crowtrees Lane, Rastrick. Pictured are John Harrison, John Sheppard, Charles Squire, Margaret Usher, Alan Flux, Jean Ogden and Liz Phillips

Memorabilia roadshow for Rastrick Library centenary, Crowtrees Lane, Rastrick. Pictured are John Harrison, John Sheppard, Charles Squire, Margaret Usher, Alan Flux, Jean Ogden and Liz Phillips

Her book ‘Rastrick Then and Now’ was written to mark the centenary of Rastrick Library and is a celebration in words and pictures of village life.

The book grew out of the local history group at Rastrick Library, formed two years ago, with many village residents contributing photographs from their collections and Bob Dunn supplying the modern images to help readers make the comparison between ‘then and now’.

“Of course I soon came to realise that the River Calder marked the boundary between Rastrick and Brighouse,” said Margaret, “but Rastrick is a quite an unusual place geographically. It climbs up a steep hill with a number of quarries at the top which provided many jobs at one time.”

The book looks at the buildings, streets and public spaces of Rastrick - as they were then and as they are now. Pubs, schools, churches, shops and mills are included as well as trams, trains, trolley buses and wagons.

As well as charting the rapid expansion of Rastrick through the 19th century, the book also records the high days and holidays celebrated by the growing population.

Long before the introduction of the NHS, for example, Rastrick was raising funds to support Huddersfield Infirmary by holding a gala and festival in the summer. Round Hill was often the focal point for community celebrations with bonfires being lit there in 1911 and 1935 to mark the Coronation and later the Jubilee of King George V.

“Rastrick has a long history and has its own distinct character but, compared say to Clifton or Lightcliffe, there had been no cohesive effort to record it.

“At one time Rastrick was more important than Brighouse - that all changed with the coming of the canal and the railway through Brighouse.

“Rastrick had a skilled workforce with the mills providing work for hundreds of people. Brighouse and Rastrick were known for their silk spinning mills and the skill of the people who worked in them.”

As Rastrick grew, so did the number of shops, pubs, churches, chapels, schools and clubs.

“People who lived in Rastrick would not have needed to go outside the village unless they wanted to. The Co-operative movement was very strong in Rastrick and the shops were similar to general stores that sold virtually everything!

“People worked hard and a lot of the jobs were quite tough but they also knew how to enjoy themselves on high days and holidays.”

As Margaret explains, the book grew out of the research conducted by the local history book - and it’s an ongoing process. “The old photographs in the book were one of the starting points in the early stages of our research. “But it is not meant to be a definitive book - we hope it will provoke memories and persuade everyone to look in their attics, cellars and hidey-holes for more photos that they would be willing to share with Rastrick Local History Group.

“It is important that the history of our village is preserved.”

Rastrick Then and Now costs £7.99. It is available from Just Books and Kershaw’s Garden Centre in Brighouse, Church Street newsagents in Rastrick, Fred Wade’s in Halifax and other outlets.