Faces behind Slaidburn Village Archive

a labour of love by two Upper Hodder Valley residents is creating a unique archive for future generations.

Tuesday, 30th August 2011, 9:22 am

Mrs Jenny Bradley and Mrs Helen Wallbank are the devoted archivists at what has until recent years been one of Slaidburn’s best-kept secrets – Slaidburn Village Archive.

They work tirelessly to collect, and archive all aspects of life in Slaidburn and the upper Hodder Valley.

“Rural deprivation and the breaking up of small hill farms are having a marked effect upon the culture of this once isolated community,” Mrs Bradley explained. “By gathering and recording the history of Slaidburn and the upper Hodder Valley, it is hoped this research will contribute towards a sense of place and belonging for our present community and become an important and valued resource for future generations.”

Retired primary school teacher Mrs Bradley (83), who was born in Slaidburn, started gathering the social and farming history centred around the villages of Slaidburn and the upper Hodder Valley 14 years ago.

This ongoing work began after she was invited to become archivist for Hodder Valley Agricultural Show.

From small beginnings the collection of photos and historical records about the life and traditions of Slaidburn and the Hodder Valley developed into an extensive archive, which is now registered as part of the National Museum Collection.

Since April 2004, it has been based in Slaidburn Heritage Centre at the invitation of the Heritage Trust for the North West at Barrowford.

“We’re really quite unique,” said Mrs Bradley. “I really don’t know of any other village archive.”

Throughout 2004 and 2005, several villagers assisted with filing and cataloguing of material. But as the volume of material increased, one of the young volunteers was appointed as a paid part-time assistant archivist.

In September 2005, independent charitable funding was obtained for three years and mother-of-two Mrs Wallbank was appointed. She subsequently brought her own additions to the collection, which included masses of information about the lost valley of Dalehead.

The valley of Dalehead and the village of Stocks-in-Bowland are no longer found on maps of the Forest of Bowland after much of the upper Hodder Valley was flooded by the construction of a dam in the 1920s and early 1930s to create Stocks Reservoir.

Both women became passionate about local history through the story of Dalehead as the reservoir intrinsically changed both of their lives. For Mrs Wallbank her husband’s grandfather came to work on the reservoir, so she would not have moved to the area without that connection, while for Mrs Bradley, her grandfather farmed at Dalehead and her mother attended the village school there.

Maintaining the archive is a full time job. Both women spend a lot of their spare time working from home to deal with requests for information via email. “Once you become involved with the archive, you can’t give it up!” The two women agreed.

“For local people, the growing benefits is in having a place to deposit family collections such as photos of farms, families, maps, farm documents, diaries, wills and family trees over the last century and beyond. All are copied and filed,” Mrs Bradley added.

“Logbooks and records of Upper Hodder Valley schools, some now closed, including Lane Ends School and Dalehead School, have been copied along with church and chapel registers. Also records of Hodder Valley events have been gathered, Whit Monday and May Queens from the 1900s, Hodder Valley Show, Remembrance Sunday and wartime are fully represented with a comprehensive history of Slaidburn Silver Band.”

The archive, which can be found on the first floor of the Heritage Centre, Church Street, is open most Wednesdays and Fridays, but it is worth checking by phone on 01200 446161 before visiting.