Calderdale Industrial Museum Gains Royal Recognition

The blood, sweat and tears put into rescuing one of Yorkshire’s premier attractions has earned Calderdale Industrial Museum Association the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.

The museum beside Halifax’s iconic Piece Hall, was boarded-up in 2000 and reopened officially in 2017, thanks to the strenuous efforts of local volunteers.They now have an additional cause for celebration, the association having agreed to lease the building from Calderdale Council until at least 2027.

“This national award and local agreement recognises the hard work put in by our members and supporters over many years, for which we are immensely grateful,” said association chairman, Tim Kirker. “Apart from the security which the lease provides, it will open up more opportunities for fund raising,” he said.

The museum aims to record, preserve and display the story of how Calderdale has developed from the industry of its past.

The museum wishes to thank Roger Harvey, Chairman of Harvey’s of Halifax, for his continuing support and nomination for the award.

It had been on course to attract more than 10,000 visitors annually but during the COVID lockdown volunteers have continued to beaver away behind the scenes.

Calderdale Industrial Museum Association was short-listed for the Museum and Heritage Volunteer Team of 2019 and named a 2020 Traveller’s Choice Winner by Tripadviser, having maintained for 18 months its position as the best rated attraction in Halifax.

It is now among Tripadviser’s top 10% of attractions worldwide!

According to the Queen’s Award Team: “The work your group does for the community was very much admired by the independent National Assessment Committee, chaired by Sir Martyn Lewis CBE. The Award in 2021 represents a tremendous achievement for your organisation and we hope that everyone involved, and particularly your volunteers, will feel immensely proud.

Calderdale Council leader, Cllr Tim Swift said the energy, commitment and enthusiasm of the volunteers had been exemplary. “They have worked tirelessly to raise funds, secure support and donations in both cash and direct help, and promote the case for the museum and its wider importance to Calderdale as a visitor attraction and as an important record of the area’s industrial heritage,” he said.

“We handed over the running of the museum to Calderdale Industrial Museum Association in 2016 and we continue to provide support to assist its plans and ambitions, and the museum’s operation. The industrial museum, along with other local cultural organisations, will play a major role in Calderdale’s revitalisation as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Another of the museum’s key backers, Christine Harris, Deputy Lieutenant West Yorkshire said “The museum is led by volunteers with an amazing range of skills who have engaged widely at community level across all age groups. Their stoic determination to rise above adversity is phenomenal complimented by passion, enthusiasm and a determination to succeed.”

The award will be presented at a date to be confirmed.

The museum in Square Road and the association which runs it provides a safe haven for many retired and often lonely or vulnerable people. Social services and charities refer clients including asylum seekers to help them integrate.

It includes a cafe and a meeting room where lectures are held on industrial history. A growing number of education modules have been tailored to the National Curriculum.

Sophie Shaw, science leader at Woodhouse Primary School, said: “We feel lucky to have such a fantastic museum in our area. We have been able to use our visits to inspire children, educate them and develop their ‘culture capital.’ The museum has since offered us the use of various resources and discussed the idea of volunteers visiting school to hold workshops such as science experiments.”

Among the machines and artefacts spread over four floors in the museum are some of the only surviving examples in the country

Bernard Wadsworth has been a volunteer at the museum since he attended an open day in 2013. He can now be seen repairing and restoring machinery on two or three days every week.

The former Halifax hosiery worker said he had always been interested in machinery and had become increasingly involved with other museum activities.

“I want visitors to see how these things made Halifax into a wealthy town where, in my life time, you could leave a job one day and start a new one the next,” he said.

Roger Swift and his wife, Pauline, have been actively involved for six years.

The former print engineer has family links to the museum – his father, Raymond, built some of the brick bases beneath many of the heavy machines and Roger has been helping to restore the waterwheel and fulling stocks, as well as doing a variety of other jobs.

“Halifax has such a wealth of industrial industry and I want the next generation to understand how that came about. The friendship and camaraderie here is very important.”

Derek Bird, of Keighley, spends a full day at the museum every week. He brings with him the skills he picked-up during a life time making machinery for the worsted industry.

He has produced plans for the new pre-industrial museum area which will show how raw wool is turned into worsted cloth and other staple goods.

“I like getting my hands on big iron machines and here at the museum you meet some very interesting people,” he said.

While spanners and hammers are important, there are many more jobs on reception, in the museum cafe, guiding visitors, setting up displays, painting and cleaning etc for which more volunteers are essential.

The museum boasts more than 200 members of which 130 are registered volunteers. They include accountants, textile operators, nurses, consultants, teachers, librarians, plumbers, electricians, directors, printers, H&S and insurance workers.

Among other things, the museum proudly records the history of the Mackintosh toffee factory, Percy Shaw’s reflecting road studs, Crossley Carpets, the Shibden Valley coal mines, Butlers, Stirk and Asquith machine tools and other world-beating engineering firms as well as the former Halifax Building Society.

A Brief History of cClderdale Industrial Museum.

1985 Calderdale Council opened the museum.

1987 Voted Best Museum of Industrial and Social History in UK

2000 Museum mothballed. Roof and burst pipes repaired.

2011 Calderdale Industrial Museum Association inaugural meeting.

2012 Volunteers start work and hold First Open Day.

2015 CIMA receives museum keys.

2017 Official opening.

2019 Museum gains Arts Council Accreditation.