The Keighley Town Hall cellars have been the repository for records since the Council came into being, but it’s not been general knowledge that these records have remained in storage in the Town Hall cellars for many years, untouched since Bradford Metropolitan District Council took over in 1974. The History Society had been informed by Bradford Council staff that these archives had to be removed as soon as possible so that the storage area could be brought back into use with the implication being that some of the archive could be damaged, or even lost in the process if we didn’t act quickly.
We visited the archives for ourselves, fully expecting to see a few dozen books and files but were very pleasantly surprised to see over 1000 large leather bound ledgers and files, containing the whole history of Keighley Council activities. They include:
Poor Rate record books for Keighley; Haworth; Oakworth; Oxenhope and Stanbury.
Record of Keighley Sanctions to borrow
Sinking fund accounts
Keighley Corporation accounts
Council minutes books, several years worth, dating back to 1877
Road apportionment records
Water rate records
Gas rate records
Large linen backed maps
After the initial shock, we took the 1914 Stanbury Poor Rate book over to Keighley Library as a sample to show to staff, then came away to make plans to carry out what would effectively be a rescue mission. This would involve moving the whole archive to Russell Street storage rooms held by Keighley Town Council so that none of it was lost until a plan could be formulated to house the archive permanently, perhaps with grant funding assistance. We visited the cellars again and had carried out some indexing, when we were contacted by Library Staff informing us that they were going to take over the archive and were making plans to create space within the library archive rooms and cellars in order to keep it in Keighley. They will have to lose their main workroom and open up the cellar storage area, but they are confident that they able to take the whole archive.
Whilst it would have been a worthwhile experience to save and store this archive, we are happier with this outcome because it takes the pressure off us as a voluntary society and the archive will be staying in Keighley which is its rightful home. We would have struggled to make it available for anything like the 60 hours each week that the library is open. It will take many weeks or even months for the library staff to index and archive the whole archive, but we look forward to it becoming available to the general public and have offered our support to them in this endeavour. It will open up a whole new section of Keighley’s history to study and research.