Recording the fascinating history of Mirfield

PUBLISHED: 17:58 12 December 2012 | UPDATED: 22:29 20 February 2013

Recording the fascinating history of Mirfield

Recording the fascinating history of Mirfield

A lot of hard work has gone into recording the fascinating history of one West Yorkshire town, as Chris Titley discovers

Getting there
Mirfield is west of Dewsbury off the A644 Huddersfield Road, which can be reached from junction 25 of the M62. Regular trains from Leeds call at the town

Where to park
The Station Road car park has 71 spaces, and the Queen Street car park 40 spaces

What to do
Browse the independent shops in the town centre. Follow the town trail around the historic landmarks its found on the Mirfield Memories website:

Frances Stott has happy memories of growing up in Mirfield. I can remember sledging in the field opposite, which is now filled with houses, and going up and playing on the farm at the top of the lane, she said.

Also Commem Day that the community used to do. It was great, counting coaches and seeing where they came from. More formally known as Commemoration Day, this was an event organised by the religious order Community of the Resurrection in Mirfield. We used to have services and a play in the Quarry Theatre and there were coaches from miles around, said Frances.

Eric Ellis was also born in the town. When I grew up, the first thing they taught us at junior school was that they call it a straggling village, which apparently is somewhere a little bit too large to be a village but not big enough to be a town, he said. There were clumps of houses and loads of fields in between. Now its so built up that most of the fields have disappeared.

Frances and Eric share a love of the history of this proud West Yorkshire town. Although her career as a librarian took her over the Pennines to settle in Oldham, Frances still visits her home town once a week.

Now shes written and published a book, Mirfield, telling the story of the town in 360 pages and featuring 1,100 images. The book builds on her two previous histories, and is raising money for four good causes: Yorkshire Cancer Research, the British Heart Foundation, Kirkwood Hospice and Diabetes UK.

While the Main Street has changed relatively little down the years, many other aspects of Mirfield are very different today, Frances discovered. We used to have four railway stations and railway engine sheds. All weve got now is one railway station in Mirfield. Its certainly not as splendiferous building that it used to be. We also used to have the woollen mills, theres no wool spun in Mirfield now.

The biggest change is the lack of a textile industry. Also the lack of the original wooden barge-building companies there were three companies in Mirfield building the broad beam barges. Theyve gone now.

Visitors to Mirfield looking for its visible history should head to the parish church of St Mary, built in 1869, where youve still got the old parish church tower next to it, said Frances.

Youve also got the mound of the motte and bailey castle which you can see now because theyve cleared all the vegetation from it. Two hundred yards away theres the old black and white timbered rectory.

Mirfield may not be associated with many celebrities, but those it does claim are big names one a former Prime Minister, another a Hollywood star. Lord Asquith was there at one point for a short period of his life. His parents lived in Mirfield, they moved from Morley. He went to the Moravian School, explained Frances.

The film star is Shakespeare and Star Trek actor Patrick Stewart. Hes chancellor of Huddersfield University, he keeps coming back to Mirfield and the area. He was on Who Do You Think You Are? recently talking about Mirfield.

While Frances published a book on Mirfield history, Eric created a website, Mirfield Memories. It started off because we had a coronation souvenir with all the names of the schoolchildren in, my wifes mother had kept it safe, he said. I put it up online. Then I had some school photos, so it started with those. I thought we needed a bit more adding to it so I began looking back into Mirfield. Through his research he was amazed to find that one of the towns mills was taken over by a company making doors for Lancaster bombers during the war.

Visitors wanting to get a feel for the towns longevity can follow the town trail on Erics website, which includes references to the lively areas of Upper and Lower Hopton. It goes right back to the Domesday Book in 1086, does Mirfield, he said. The historys all dotted about you, but unless its pointed out you probably wouldnt realise it.

He describes Mirfield as a friendly place. His annual grammar school reunions have grown from a group of six to 89 people, all keen to catch up with their former schoolmates.

It also has some long-established family businesses. Ramsdens butchers in the middle of town, has been there as long as I know. Jacksons shoe shop, thats been there for years. In fact Alan Jackson was in my class at school.

Joining these firms is Darren Smith Homes, run by Darren and his brother Nigel for the last 30 years. They were born in Mirfield and most of the houses they build are in the town.

Mirfield people are welcoming and enjoy great facilities and amenities, not only served by the commuter links but by the array of town centre shops and boutiques, health and beauty spas, sports facilities and lush countryside, said Darren.

It has a real sense of community spirit and is a great example of a friendly and welcoming Yorkshire town.
He is hopeful Mirfield can thrive into the future.

We would like to see Mirfield flourish with the continued investment of quality local businesses into the town to further enhance the solid foundations which already exist in our great community.
This will help secure employment for the younger people of the town ensuring that Mirfield can further prosper.

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