Brighouse - a town that turns to the past to make the most of today
PUBLISHED: 00:15 16 September 2013 | UPDATED: 16:16 08 September 2017
Visit a town that turns to the past to make the most of today as Jenny Green reports
There’s nothing the people of Brighouse like to do more than put on a 1940s extravaganza and boost the local economy at the same time. ‘We just like dressing up,’ said Lesley Adams chair of the Brighouse Business Initiative. This year’s 1940s weekend attracted 100,000 people into the centre of the West Yorkshire town and plans are well underway for a Victorian era celebration just before Christmas.
‘It is a great way to be able to bring people together out on the streets of Brighouse,’ added Lesley who runs her florist Simply Flowers on Commercial Street. ‘I think the people of Brighouse have a feeling for the 1940s era. I suppose it all began with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee when the theme was the 1950s. Everyone had a fantastic time dressing up and it was a great event to watch. And of course there was the Olympic torch which brought people out on to the street too and we just took the idea for a 1940s weekend from there.
‘We knew it was popular elsewhere in Yorkshire and it just took off from there. You could liken the event to an important football match with coach loads of people arriving in the town centre.
‘And we are easy to get to – we’re just off the M62, got great train and bus links. Now we want to build on this success with other events that bring people together and give us all a sense of community and belonging.
‘The 1940s weekend introduced Brighouse as a destination to many people who would not have thought to visit us. Now we hope they will think of us the next time they want to go shopping and have a day out.’
The town’s first Victorian Market is planned for Saturday November 31st and Sunday December 1st with the opportunity to shop in good time for Christmas. And everyone will be wearing period costume. ‘Everyone will be dressing up again,’ said Lesley. ‘People will be making their own costumes or going on to e-Bay to find theirs. I’ve already got my black taffeta skirt, long coat and hat.
We’ll have a Christmas market with a lantern parade with the lanterns made by local school children as well as street entertainment including a fairground organ.’
As we go to print, 15,000 people were expected to arrive for the Brighouse Totally Local Summer Market, now one of the largest local produce markets in the region with 80 stalls. One of the organisers John Buxton of Ryecorn Wholefoods in Brighouse said: ‘It’s wonderful to see how far we’ve come since holding our first market last year with only 25 stalls to having one of the best local food producer markets in West Yorkshire. Visitors have really embraced the market and it’s been amazing to discover all the local small food producers on our doorstep, seeing them proudly display their products at our market.’ It seems Brighouse really does like a get together and we are all invited.
Brighouse is well known for the Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band (brighouseandrastrickbrassband.co.uk). It was formed more than 125 years ago with the help of public donations and the amateur band members still pride themselves on raising their own funds. They are noted for winning the first Brass Band World Championships as well as spending six weeks in the UK top 40 charts for their recording of The Floral Dance. Their 400-plus prizes and awards also include being the first Yorkshire band to win the All England Masters Brass Band Championships. The band performs all over the country as well as their native Brighouse.
Sport is big in Brighouse. Not only does the town support the Brighouse Rangers who are founder members of the Rugby Football League, but also Brighouse Town FC, the town’s main football club, the Brighouse Cricket Club and at least three golf clubs including Crow Nest Park, Lightcliffe Golf Club and Willow Valley Golf Club.
Wellhome Park, Brighouse’s showcase park, holds the prestigious Green Flag award. This means Wellholme Park, Bradford Road, is in the same elite ranking as Hyde Park in London, Hampstead Heath and Cheltenham Spa Gardens. The green flag award is given by the environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy, and recognises and rewards the best parks and green spaces across the country. Wellhome Park has amongst other things, a children’s play area, a skate park, tennis courts, bowling green, well tended flower beds and playing fields.
Brighouse’s canal basin is well used by barges. A walk along the towpath from the town centre brings you here quickly and easily and you’ll see some of the waterfront redevelopments which have taken place in the old industrial buildings that run the course of the canal. It’s a great place to feed the ducks, or just to sit and enjoy the space. If you’re lucky you’ll be able to watch a barge or two coming in or out of the locks.