5 things you didn’t know about Horsforth
10:29 27 January 2017
Joan Russell Photography
It’s the home of champions, a wizard actor and has a terrific community spirit. Tony Greenway checks out a few facts you may not know about Horsforth but should.
Horsforth doesn’t shout about itself. It doesn’t let off fireworks. It doesn’t pull publicity stunts. You get the feeling that it hasn’t got time for all of that silly ‘Look at us, aren’t we wonderful!?’ public relations nonsense that infects other places and gives them ideas above their station (naming no names, of course). It just quietly gets on with the business of being... well... Horsforth.
Everyone has heard of the place, it is, after all, a famous part of Leeds that’s home to Leeds Trinity University and includes the Horsforth Campus of Leeds City College. So I’m sure that, when you drive into town, there must be a big sign saying ‘Horsforth’ but I didn’t see one. In fact, never having been before, I plugged H-O-R-S-F-O-R-T-H into my satnav, which then proceeded to take me somewhere else entirely. ‘Destination on the right-hand side,’ it kept saying, despite me shouting ‘We’re still on the A65!’ over and over again.
Yes, Horsforth is so low-key, even my satnav didn’t know where it was (although perhaps I need a better satnav).
When I finally saw an attractive looking high street, I pulled over to obtain directions from a human. ‘Where’s Horsforth?’ I asked a passer-by. ‘You’re in it,’ he said. And I was, too. And very nice it is, with a great buzz about it and a pleasing village vibe. Here are five things I discovered about the Leeds suburb that I’d like to share with you.
Home of Olympians and a wizard
Those Olympians are the Brownlee Brothers, Alistair and Jonathan. In case you need reminding, they are world-beating duatheletes and triathletes who were born and brought up in Horsforth. Jonathan won bronze at the 2012 Olympics and silver at last year’s Rio Games while Alistair won gold at both.
There are a couple of places named after the Brownlees: the The Brownlee Stone Centre in the high street (also named after David Stone MBE, a gold medal winning paralympian) and the Brownlee Arms on Long Row. (Hang on: is that proof that Horsforth does shout about itself from time to time? No, it’s just proud of its own.) Other famous Horsforthians include Neville Longbottom, aka Harry Potter actor, Matthew Lewis and Hollywood favourite, Malcolm McDowell.
It’s full of community spirit
While it is big (nearly 19,000 people according to the last census in 2011), there is a small, friendly, village feel to the place and a great community spirit. There’s evidence of this on the high street where a project is run for people with learning disabilities, mental health needs or other support needs by an organisation called Creative Support. This includes a bright and comfy café, called the Courtyard Café, which is full of squashy sofas and art for sale on the walls plus a creative space called Creativities Courtyard, which runs arts and crafts workshops. There’s also some supported living accommodation on site. ‘We make produce to sell, such as cakes and soups and teach practical skills, such a coffee-making,’ says Kaldip Chaggar-Brown, cafe and creatives co-ordinator. ‘In the creative space we run sessions on everything from gardening and ceramics to woodwork and textiles.’
Art produced in the sessions is for sale, so the shop is open to the public when workshops aren’t being held. The locals regularly donate items for up-cycling or to be used in the artwork. Creative Support have been in Horsforth for four years and Kaldip can’t praise it highly enough. ‘People here are very generous,’ she says. ‘For example, when we asked for a card stand to display our homemade cards, we got three! We love our community.’ Find out more at creativesupport.co.uk.
Its own museum
Horsforth Museum runs exhibitions featuring ‘all aspects of life in and around Horsforth’. You have to choose your times wisely, though, it only opens at weekends, and is now closed until the end of March. Outside the museum is a stone commemorating Horsforth’s part in raising money (£241,000, to be precise) to adopt the HMS Aubrietia which, in 1941, along with HMS Bulldog and HMS Broadway, attacked the German U-Boat U11O in the North Atlantic.
This in turn led to the discovery of a working Enigma coding machine, which ultimately led to the defeat of the German navy and victory in the Atlantic.
Green space and farmers’ market
Horsforth’s renovated Hall Park on Hall Lane, is a large community park with a bandstand and a beautiful Japanese garden, a playground and a cricket pitch. In summer, there’s a programme of entertainment events, too.
The farmers’ market, selling organic vegetables, meat, deli produce, fresh fish, eggs, cakes and chocolates, appears in the St Margaret’s C of E Primary School car park in the town on the first Saturday of every month.
Craig Ogden is playing here
Craig Ogden is an Australian classical guitarist, ‘one of the world’s finest guitarists’ according to Classic FM, who is also head of guitar at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester and visiting lecturer at London’s Royal College of Music.
In January Craig played venues such as Bridgewater Hall in Manchester and St David’s Hall in Cardiff. Now he’s playing a charity concert at The Grove Church in Horsforth (where he’s appeared twice before) on February 19th at 3pm, and tickets are just £10 (£8 in advance). You’d be advised to get one, if you still can.