Years battling ‘demon drink’

Eastwood Rosebud Juvenile Temple, Todmorden, circa 1950
Eastwood Rosebud Juvenile Temple, Todmorden, circa 1950

The temperance cause, developing in the 1830s, should not be dismissed as a bunch of killjoys.

They believed in the potential of temperance work to save and improve people’s lives. Corinne McDonald, of the Halifax Antiquarian Society, presented an excellent talk to the Hebden Bridge Local History Society describing temperance activities in the Upper Calder Valley (UCV).

The earliest references found for the UCV were Hebden Bridge and Heptonstall Temperance Society 1842 and the Cross Lane Methodist Band of Hope 1859. Band of Hope started in Leeds in 1847.

Members pledged: “I promise to abstain from all intoxicating drinks and beverages and from tobacco.”

By 1865 there were so many that the Hebden Bridge Band of Hope Union was formed

Other groups took up the temperance cause and there was some rivalry.

In the 1880s, the Hebden Bridge and Todmorden branch of the Blue Ribbon Army caused a disturbance in Todmorden. They also turned down an offer of a joint meeting at Hebden Hall from the Hebden Bridge Women’s Temperance because it would be “contaminated by the women element”. Friendly Societies also supported temperance forming Juvenile Temples.

Meetings often took the form of a talk followed by entertainment such as music or lantern slides. There were many choirs and brass bands including a kazoo band and a concertina band. Parades were held and a periodical published. Ebenezer Chapel in Hebden Bridge displayed the Tableau-Vivants showing the decline of a family caused by “The Bottle”.

The earliest record of a Temperance Hall in our valley is 1861 - the Oddfellows Hall in Todmorden. In 1880 John Fielden built “The New Coffee Tavern”. It closed in 1913 and was bought by the Conservative Club.

Hebden Bridge had a Terminus Café and Temperance Hotel. The Hebden Bridge Cocoa & Coffee House, established in 1880, lasted eight years before running into financial difficulty.

With the advent of the Second World War activities were put on hold. Afterwards, temperance activities were very much reduced as other distractions took over and Hebden Bridge Band of Hope Union ceased in 1952. Hope UK still exists in this country but on a small scale.

Today it is hard to imagine how much the lives of local people were dominated by temperance movements.

The next meeting is on March 14, at 7.30pm in the Methodist Hall and is entitled “www West Wadsworth” by David Nortcliffe.