Working to bring heritage to life

David Armitage (left) and volunteer group chairman Lyndon Shearman at Calderdale Industrial Museum, Halifax.
David Armitage (left) and volunteer group chairman Lyndon Shearman at Calderdale Industrial Museum, Halifax.

AN enthusiastic group of volunteers are rolling up their sleeves in a bid to bring a piece of Calderdale’s industrial heritage out of mothballs.

One of them is Clifton man David Armitage whose engineering background is proving useful to the hard-working team which is attempting to get Calderdale Industrial Museum reopened to the public.

Volunteer David Armitage works on an Asquith radial drill at Calderdale Industrial Museum, Halifax.

Volunteer David Armitage works on an Asquith radial drill at Calderdale Industrial Museum, Halifax.

David, aged 73, decided to get involved after a chance meeting with the museum’s former curator George Drake two years ago.

“George took me round and I was saddened to see the museum locked up but also amazed at the excellent condition of the building and the exhibits. I realised it would not take an awful lot to get it open again - just hard work and enthusiasm. Things are really beginning to gain momentum now.”

Calderdale Industrial Museum, housed in a rare example of a brick building in Halifax, was closed in 2000 due to rising costs and falling visitor numbers.

But, prompted by a revival of interest in Britain’s industrial heritage and ‘green’ technologies as well as the Piece Hall’s successful restoration bid, enthusiasts now believe there is a realistic chance of getting the museum open again.

Calderdale Industrial Museum, Halifax.'Holdsworth Moquette Loom from Shaw Lodge Mills, Halifax.

Calderdale Industrial Museum, Halifax.'Holdsworth Moquette Loom from Shaw Lodge Mills, Halifax.

David spends one morning a week with his sleeves rolled up helping to clean and restore the wealth of engines, looms, lathes and machinery which tell the fascinating story of Calderdale’s rapid development as an industrial powerhouse.

“We had an open day in June and there was such a lot of interest in what we are trying to do here,” said David.

“It showed to us that there is a lot of affection for the museum and interest in getting it reopened.

“Halifax and Brighouse made such an important contribution to the wealth not just of the area but the whole country. In the spheres of textiles, engineering, machine tool production, banking and confectionary the area was an innovator and some companies were world leaders.”

Lyndon Shearman, of Elland, is chairman of the Calderdale Industrial Museum Association.

He said: “To some people we may appear as a bunch of old fogeys talking about old times! But we all think it’s heartbreaking to see the museum shut up and believe there is a real groundswell of feeling for getting it open.

“There is much to do but the goal of having a vibrant industrial museum which celebrates Calderdale’s unique industrial heritage will be worth all the effort. In its heyday the museum was well-used for school visits and it played an important educational role.

“We believe it could still have an educational function for children and young people and, more than that, it could help teach people about ‘old-fashioned’ technology, such as water power which is beginning to be used again.”

The association already has nearly 100 members and around 20 volunteers meet weekly to work on restoring the exhibits.

The museum will again be open to the public for Heritage Weekend on September 8 and 9 from 10am to 4pm.

Jeff Wilkinson of Calderdale Museums Service said Calderdale’s industrial heritage was part of the collective mekory of the area.

“The Industrial Museum is not just for Halifax or Calderdale - it is part of the West Riding’s collection. It’s important that we remember the fantastic diversity of industry this area was once famous for.”

l For more information contact Lyndon Shearman on 01422 610977.