Characters aplenty in changing times

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Roger Birch visited Todmorden Antiquarians last week with local photographs of Todmorden since the second world war.

Chairman Dorothy Parker, who went to Junior School with Roger, welcomed members and the many visitors attracted to seeing local events on camera over the past decades.

Introducing the evening Roger said there were not many photographs taken in the 1940s and 1950s because of difficulty obtaining film after WW2. He attributed the first section of Mayoral and Civic pictures to Enoch Horsfall.

Many people remembered Enoch.

He was a leading, life long member of Todmorden Photographic Society. Enoch worked as Caretaker of Todmorden Town Hall, and lived there in the upper flat. He recorded the life of Mayors attending Civic Ceremonies with his camera from 1941.

Roger showed pictures of these ceremonial events in chronological order.

They included photographs of “War Weapons Week” when Todmordians raised huge amounts of money towards war efforts. The Mayor of 1942, Frank Spendlove, was pictured with a severe looking Matron at Todmorden Workhouse at Christmas. Another shot showed the staff of Rowntrees who had been evacuated from York to premises in Strine Street, Walsden.

The Todmorden Victory Gala was celebrated in June 1943 with local girls dressed to represent Britannia, Peace and Prosperity.

The next month we saw happy folk on a merry-go-round in Centre Vale Park during “Holidays at Home Week”.

The post war Mayors attended many formal functions. A platform was erected by the Town Hall side wall for marching past occasions. We saw Alfred King, Frank Morris, John Cockcroft, Francis Knighton, Josiah Holstead and many more of the Mayors. Their wives wore classic smart clothes-some with fur stoles.

When Winston Churchill visited Todmorden in 1945 the photograph portrayed crowds cheering, but a couple of railwaymen jeering from atop the viaduct across Burnley Road!

Roger showed Dr John Cockcroft, our Nobel Prize Winner, receiving Freedom of the Borough in 1946.

That same year Sam Tonkiss became Editor of the Todmorden News; in later life Sam became well known for his bronze sculptures.

Moving into the 1950s Roger’s set of images included a Carnival with an Army tank recruiting for the Korean War, the Festival of Britain, the annual Todmorden Show, and proclamation of Queen Elizabeth to the throne. The Coronation brought some amazing shop decorations along with many street parties. A photograph which showed Todmorden Town Hall in scaffolding in 1952 created much amusement in the Court Room!

For the last part of the evening, Roger showed us the many changes to Todmorden buildings in the past 60 years. We saw Bridge Street Methodist Church being demolished with no sign of surrounding hoardings, safety scaffolding, or precautions to keep the general public at bay!

Roger showed Roomfield School and York Street Chapel before they were felled, and the streets of back to back terraced houses where we now park cars in Bramsche Square.

Following our recent “Shop Workshop” it was most helpful to see again the multitude of small shops which closely packed our three central roads in the past.

Interestingly, Roger also showed the spaces left after certain properties were demolished, mostly in the early 1970s. In 1971 the 75th anniversary of Todmorden Borough saw a week of festivities with a mock Space Ship brought into the town as a focal point.

We are most grateful to Roger for his collection of photographs reflecting the history of people and places in Todmorden, and depicting town events which have shaped this community.

l The next meeting of Todmorden Antiquarian Society will be on Tuesday, February 22 at 7.15 pm in the Town Hall Court Room. The speaker will be our own member, Malcolm Heywood, on “What The Papers Said”. Visitors are welcome.