Echoes of the past: Old papers bring back memories

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Have you ever spent time looking through an old newspaper for something in particular?

There is a fascination with old newspapers, it is the same with old maps. I well recall back in the days I ran local history classes on the second week I would get to the class earlier than usual and set out maps I wanted the students to look at and examine. The largest map was dated 1900 and was about four metres square covering an area from Southowram to Northowram. It would be fair to say I could almost have gone to the centre cafe for the rest of the evening such was the interest in the maps.

Looking through the old newspaper you spend two or three minutes finding the bit you are looking for and then spend the next hour looking at everything else in the newspaper. Adverts, sport, births, deaths and marriages, the headlines and all the small bits of social news which are basically news items that makes the town tick week by week - which sadly is news not available anymore. I have collected a number of old newspapers over the years and can always spend a good hour going through each of them line by line.

Take 1907 for example the newspapers were full of doom and gloom when it seemed mills premises were burning down almost every month and reports of industrial accidents appeared almost every week.

Amongst all the bad news there were some good news reports for example J.C Collins the instructor of the Brighouse Church Gymnasium won the individual gymnastic championship of Yorkshire.

On March 2 the new Methodist New Connection Bethel Chapel (which is now the Central Methodist Church) was opened. The new spacious building was built at a cost of £10,000.

Miss Bryden the headmistress at Longroyde School was presented with a silver tea service, a gold brooch set with sapphires and diamonds following the announcement of her retirement after 22 years loyal service. She retired on the same day as Miss Sladdin who had been at the school for 15 years she was retiring to get married.

She was presented with a set of steel engravings by the scholars, teachers and members of the Education Committee.

Of course as many of you know the new Smith Art Gallery was opened by Princess Louise on May 22 1907.

The foundation stone for the new St George’s Church at Norwood Green was laid on June 1 by Mrs George Watkinson. At £1,000 the cost of this new church was considerably cheaper than the Bethel Chapel.

Amongst the more surprising events of that year was a beauty competition. On Saturday, May 25 a large crowd gathered at the Albert Theatre to watch this event. My research does not show what the eighteen entrants had to wear but I hardly think it would have been a swimming costume in that day not even one of the old woollen ones.

The competition was organised by the manager in conjunction with the touring group who were appearing in ‘Triumph of Truth’ at the Albert. When it actually came to the ‘beauties’ appearing on the stage only seven turned up. No doubt all the others in those early post Victorian days probably lost their nerve at the last minute. The judges were four men selected from the audience with a fifth being picked from the theatre staff.

The first round and the seven competitors were reduced to four. The final round saw the first prize being awarded to Miss Annie Carter of Manley Street who received a three guinea costume. The second prize went to a Miss Sykes who received a gold bangle valued at two pound ten shillings and the third prize going to a Miss Aspinall who received a rain proof coat valued at one pound ten shillings.

Winning beauty competitions was becoming a habit for the Carter family with Miss Carter’s younger sister having won the first prize in a similar competition the year before at Sunny Vale.

In November Alderman Alexander Oldfield Stocks J.P was elected Mayor and his wife proudly wore the Mayoress’ chain. Many photographs would have been taken of the Mayor and Mayoress at the countless functions they had to attend but few would have survived of the Mayoress photographed on her own in her finery and wearing her chain of office.

From this small example taken from 1907 it goes to show that old newspapers are a wonderful source for local history research.

The two featured photographs here are Alderman Alexander Oldfield Stocks J.P and his wife Mrs Grace Stocks, Mayor and Mayoress for 1907 to 1909.