Golcar - a West Yorkshire village steeped in musical tradition and history

PUBLISHED: 19:24 13 December 2012 | UPDATED: 22:30 20 February 2013

Golcar - a West Yorkshire village steeped in musical tradition and history

Golcar - a West Yorkshire village steeped in musical tradition and history

A West Yorkshire village steeped in musical tradition and history is just waiting to be discovered, says Chris Titley. Photographs by Hannah Ali

Sitting on top of a steep hill next to a narrow cobbled street is one of the most remarkable, but least celebrated, museums in Yorkshire. It is the Colne Valley Museum on Cliffe Ash in Golcar. Step through its green, wooden door and you enter not so much a visitor attraction as a time capsule.

Housed inside weavers cottages dating back to the 1840s, the museum is a recreation of life at that time in Golcar, near Huddersfield.
Golcar village is a weavers village, thats why its here, explains Anne Lord, events co-ordinator at the museum.

LIFEGolcar village started in the beginning of the 1800s and the cottages were built with long lines of windows to let the light in for the weavers.
This row of cottages, like so many others, was scheduled for demolition in the 1960s. But public spirited locals rescued one so that our children know where they came from where the history of the valley developed.

By the start of the 1970s three cottages in the row had been secured for the museum. We first opened our doors to the public with just one room with the loom in, Anne said. We were entirely furnished by donations.

Were down a steep lane here and people were trundling mangels down it.

National acclaim was to follow. In 1972 the museum won the industrial archaeology competition on the BBBBC2 programme Chronicle. Suddenly a community heritage museum many had said would never work was welcoming 1,000 visitors during the Easter weekend after the show was broadcast. Finally, four years ago, the museum was able to buy the end cottage, which had been a fish and chip shop since 1911, making it complete.

Most weekdays, the volunteer-run museum is open for unique school trips.

The children come and knock at the kitchen door and Aunt Lizzie opens it and declaims, What on earth are you all doing here? And they have to have a story, like the wheels fallen off our wagon, said Anne.

They come in and we put them to work they do carding and spinning. They make their own dinner there are no sandwiches, they have to chop the carrots and onions, they make their own soup, they make their own bread, we have them cleaning the brasses, polishing the clogs.

To mark the Colne Valley Museums 40th anniversary they compiled a scrapbook. We got some fabulous quotes. I felt like a Victorian but I wouldnt want to do it every day! was one. Its an experience they get here. And they do remember it.

The volunteers often open the museum to the general public for craft demonstrations, including clog making in the Edwardian clog makers shop. And at this time of year they are especially busy. We have a Victorian Christmas Fair on the first two weekends in December, Anne said.

Were all dressed up, its all old fashioned games for 10 or 20 pence. Its for children. We have Santa Claus sitting by the open fire downstairs. Were making mince pies in the Victorian kitchen, as they would have been. The museum is decorated to suit the time we do it with greenery and candles. We thoroughly enjoy Christmas here.

Its also the Golcar Bands favourite time of the year. So says Ruth Lumb, flugel horn player and band secretary. She first encountered the band at the spring-time festival which unites the whole village, Golcar Lily Day. Its a real community band. Everyone cares about each other, said Ruth. Its not just music, its a nice place to be. We all want to do local engagements, like the Remembrance Parade and Golcar Lily Day. We like to be involved in the local scene. We want to be the village band.

There is some competition for that title, as there are loads of brass bands in Golcar, we have about four.


Theres even a big band, Manhattan Sound Ruths husband Andy plays trumpet in it. In fact musics a family affair. Already daughter Amber is enrolled in the training band shes six and a star percussionist and their three-year-old enjoys bashing the timpani too. Christmas, said Ruth, is lovely. Its very hectic. The bands favourite job of the year is in Huddersfield town centre for Mencap.


Weve a concert at Golcar Baptist Church, weve one at Providence Methodist Church, weve got one at Elim in central Huddersfield. Were scattered about all over for Christmas.


The village is a great place for a young family, Ruth said. For me the centre of Golcar is the library. My kids go to Rainbows and things like that. We have a great playgroup. Its lovely.


Golcar is also home to some distinctive businesses, like Renaissance 2 on Town End. As well as selling artworks and photographs of Golcar and the Colne Valley, owners Diane and Martin Sample have recently diversified into a range of pickles and chutneys under the brand Lily Pickles of Holmfirth.


Typically for this most local and community-minded place, most of the ingredients are locally sourced; the crab apples, for example, come from a tree found round the corner from the shop.


It seems like the village of Golcar is waiting to be discovered just like the Colne Valley Museum. As Anne Lord said: We still get people who come in for the first time bearing in mind weve been here since 1970 and say, Do you know, we only live down the road and weve never been!

Getting there
You can reach Golcar by following the A62 Manchester Road west of Huddersfield. First Group buses go from Huddersfield to Golcar

Where to park
Theres parking off Town End in the centre of the village

What to do
Visit the Colne Valley Museum on one of its open craft days, details on the website colnevalleymuseum.org.uk. Enjoy a concert by the Golcar Band, golcarband.co.uk. Or call in to the village on the Colne Valley Circular Walk

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