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Echoes of the past: Forgotten community groups of Brighouse

Left to right are: Hilary Kaye, Jackie Dilley (social secretary), Eileen Metcalfe (treasurer), Marlene Travis (vice chairperson), Janet Gee (vice president), Dorothy France (secretary), Jean Vint and seated right is Joyce Wormold (chairperson).
Left to right are: Hilary Kaye, Jackie Dilley (social secretary), Eileen Metcalfe (treasurer), Marlene Travis (vice chairperson), Janet Gee (vice president), Dorothy France (secretary), Jean Vint and seated right is Joyce Wormold (chairperson).

Having been speaking to different groups for almost forty years throughout the county, sadly many of those organisations I was invited to in the early days have now all faded into the history books.

Darby and Joan clubs were popular organisations that older married couples would attend. Gradually the membership changed where many widows and widowers would attend. These and similar organisations were good for some older people who would perhaps otherwise have had little social interaction.

I recall visiting a number of their meetings to give a talk on crime prevention, and on other occasions to talk about some aspect of local history. You were always certain of a warm welcome and a nice cup of tea after the presentation.

Another organisation I was often invited to were the Townswomen’s Guilds, but sadly with the changing times many of these have now closed down. I am often told that people tend not to be ‘joiners’ these days and if the club does see some ‘new blood’ at one of its meetings the chances of them accepting what I often refer to as a ‘top table’ job is practically unheard of. I have attended some organisations regularly over the years, then I have discovered the group have decided to close down because they could not find anyone willing to be a chairperson, secretary, treasurer or even just as a committee member.

Looking back at the history of the T & G we have to go back to pre 1928 – in other words before women got the vote. The Suffragettes fought so long and hard for the right to vote and have long since become part of our national history, chaining themselves to railings, hunger strikes and the death of Emily Davison in May 1913. When she stepped in front of the King’s horse at the Epsom Derby of that year that was to help to change things so that women had full voting rights.

Alongside this very visible proactive group there were many other women who were fighting for the right but in a much quieter way - these ladies were the Suffragists.

It was through two of these ladies - Eva Hubback and Margery Corbett Ashby - who identified the need to create an organisation aimed at ordinary women living in the nation’s towns and cities. It was through this idea that was to lead to the formation of the Townswomen’s Guilds movement.

The key date for establishing what were referred to as urban guilds was 1929, when local guilds were formed for women to meet and learn about citizenship and how to use the newly acquired vote. The first Guild was opened in Hayward’s Heath. Guilds were able to meet and help others locally by forming Federations.

While there are not as many Guilds as there once was it is still one of the county’s leading women’s groups. There are nearly 700 Guilds throughout England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man.

Townswomen are encouraged to have ideas and views, develop new skills, campaign on various issues, support each other, make new friends and above all have fun. In 2019 the organisation will celebrate its 90th birthday. For information about this national organisation, please have a look at its website: www.townswomen.org.uk.

In this photograph are the committee members of the Brighouse Townswomen’s Guild, a local branch like many others that has now sadly faded into the history books.

The committee members from left to right are: Hilary Kaye, Jackie Dilley (social secretary), Eileen Metcalfe (treasurer), Marlene Travis (vice chairperson), Janet Gee (vice president), Dorothy France (secretary), Jean Vint and seated right is Joyce Wormold (chairperson).