West Yorkshire's Hopton is in harmony

PUBLISHED: 11:20 13 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:20 20 February 2013

Community spirit is strong between the Hopton villages near Mirfield, West Yorkshire, especially at Christmas says Amanda Griffiths

Upper and Lower Hopton may only be a stones throw away from one another but they are very different. Upper Hopton, surrounded by fields and hills is arguably the prettier of the two.

Lower Hopton still has a few shops and businesses along with two pubs and a school, while Upper Hopton lost most of its stores (apart from a new hairdressing salon which has recently opened) which would have once included post office, general store, butchers, cobblers, even a fish and chip shop a number of years ago.

However, it seems both villages are tip top when it comes to community spirit. The days may be gone when everyone knew each other and each others business, yet villagers still come together, especially as Christmas approaches.

Thats apparent in Upper Hopton, which has a thriving cricket club, ex-working mens club and Croft House, a mix of community centre and village institute which is used by a number of organisations including playgroups, yoga and art classes.

Nigel Richardson is secretary of Upper Hopton Club and an amateur historian to boot. Nigels family moved into the village before he was born and Nigel laughs about still being a comer-in but he says the villagers are a friendly lot. With a mix of older and newer residents, families and commuters, he says that the village is quieter than it used to be but that things are changing:

Recently the club and Croft House have been working together more closely, he says. At one time the new people in the village would have gone to Croft House, while the old villagers would have come to the club, now theyre mixing more and I think thats because the two are holding a number of events which everyone can join in with.

The harvest festival is just one example. Traditionally held at the club, this years event also helped raise some funds for neighbouring Croft House, yet the best example is probably Christmas carol singing. Villagers gather outside Croft House to sing carols while enjoying a glass of mulled wine and a mince pie, before heading up the road to the club for a few more carols and perhaps another warming drink or two.

Its a nice time, says Christine Breare at Croft House. A lot of the villagers come. In fact, we seem to have more and more each year. In terms of Christmas events weve already had a Christmas craft morning here and are selling copies of the Hopton in Bloom calendar as well.

We held a photographic competition for the calendar and had 200 plus people send in pictures for it. It shows Upper Hopton through the seasons, she explains. Croft House is the home to Upper Hopton Community Association. Christine says the organisation was started in 1980 at Croft House, which was given an extension in 1983.

Croft House was left to the village by Charles Sutcliffe in his will in 1949, she adds. Sutcliffe was a local landowner who lived up at Hopton Grove. He stipulated in his will that it should be let out for only a shilling so that it could be used by any of the villagers. We try to keep to that. Most of the charges for the village groups like yoga, playgroup and the art classes have nominal charges. We also hire the hall out for private parties and gatherings and these do have more commercial rates but theyre not over the top.

Croft House members are also regular attendees at the church next door, which Christine says is actually not as old as it looks. It was built I think in 1846, but built in a medieval style which is why people think it is older, she says.

The church of course is another central meeting point for festive events: They hold a crib service, a midnight mass and service on Christmas morning which are all packed, says Christine. There will also be a candlelit service in the week before Christmas.

Dedicated to St John the Evangelist, Upper Hoptons church well the daffodils in the church yard at least have featured on the front cover of an American motoring magazine and it was also the only church in the diocese to have commissioned a new stained glass window for the millennium.

The community association launched a design competition for the window which was won by Ann and Vince Seabourne, explains Christine. They gave up a lot of their free time on the 18 month project. It is based on local scenes, on different days you seem to be able to see different things. The daffodils are there because in spring a lot of people come to see them in the church yard and St John is the man with red hair depicted with head phones they wanted to make him relevant to today, she laughs, they were the most controversial part of the design!

The other great tradition of pantomime is also strong in both Lower and Upper Hopton with Hopton Pantomime Support Group which fundraises for Kirkwood Hospice.

A number of other events are planned, including a Santas grotto at Croft House on December 12th.

Im really looking forward to Christmas, says Janet Stevenson, supervisor of the play group at Croft House. Its my first with the playgroup and we have lots of activities planned. Well have a traditional tree and the children will be making Christmas cards. In the last week we also have our party which the parents can get involved in as well if they want.

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