A new history book for the Upper Calder Valley offers a fascinating look into how the non-conformists of one Yorkshire valley helped shape the modern world.
Former Hebden Bridge Times and Yorkshire Post reporter Amy Binns, of Heptonstall, has researched the way the way travelling preachers in the Upper Calder Valley inspired a movement that led to a wave of chapel building as well as successful campaigns for trade unions, education for all and the vote. Ms Binns started the project while helping her local Methodist chapel at Heptonstall prepare for its 250th anniversary.
Amy told us: “I knew very little about the history of the dissenters, but the more I found out the more fascinated I was. The movement started with the Quakers and other dissenters saying they didn’t want to pray the way the Government said they should, but they ended up as champions of all the liberties we take for granted now.”
“Universal education started with the Sunday Schools, their pulpits were used to campaign for workers’ rights and universal suffrage. They really gave us so much.”
“It’s also been great fun digging through dusty scrapbooks and cupboards in chapel vestries. Chapel life seemed to be filled with so much humour and it still jumps off the pages of their posters and histories a century later.”
“Raising money was always a challenge, and I’ve found lots of original material from bazaars and teas of every kind. One group of young men at a Hebden Bridge Baptist Chapel advertised a sandwich tea and entertainment, and included a warning that any ladies attempting to help or assist at their event would be fined!”
“The ladies in particular loved to put on shows of everything from ‘animated statuary’ to ‘A Pageant of Noble Women’. Some of the humour was quite bawdy – they wrote their own songs and didn’t spare the men’s blushes.”
“And of course there are plenty of anecdotes about some of the more ‘verbally-challenged’ preachers.”
The book, which includes more than 100 illustrations sourced from local residents and archives, as well as three maps showing some of the remaining buildings, is available in bookshops and newsagents locally or via Amazon.