PEOPLE have always been interested in how the past has shaped the present.
Lately, and largely because we have much easier access to a vast body of materials and search techniques, interest in local history has burgeoned explosively.
The BBC’s genealogical programme Who Do You Think You Are? reflects this interest. It’s now approaching its eighth series and regularly attracts audiences of 6m.
“We’ve found that many people who have got into genealogical studies have then broadened their interest into wider social history issues,” said one of Huddersfield Local History Society’s founder members, Cyril Pearce.
West Riding local history talks have attracted 50-60 people, and the monthly ‘celebrity’ events have become so popular – with up to 90 attending – that the society has had to move its meeting place into Huddersfield Town Hall reception room.
The society was founded in the late 1970s and early 1980s and prime movers then were placenames and surnames expert Dr George Redmonds of Lepton, Jenny Stead, who now lives in Leeds, and Huddersfield university academic Cyril.
“The intention then was to have a society which encouraged local research, and indeed, we were called at the outset Huddersfield Local History Workshop,” said Cyril.
“Supporting each others’ research activities and sharing the results was part of the ethos. It was about taking possession of one’s own history.”
This, perhaps, is the key to local enthusiasm: prior to the arrival of local history societies and the birth of, or instance, the Colne Valley Museum, historical research was the domain of academia.
Now, local ‘untrained’ researchers’ work is gaining the respect it deserves.
But the society has also developed a social side, for lively and often humorous talks on a variety of subjects.
This draws people with an interest in any aspect of local history, from archaeology and geology to those who simply want to trace their own family’s mark in census and parish records.
David Griffiths is the society’s webmaster and publicity officer.
“We’re on the up, with growing membership, a full and varied programme of meetings through the winter months and a new website (www.huddersfieldhistory.org.uk),” said David.
The society’s most recent Saturday seminar, on aspects of World War One, was well-attended in October.
This meeting also saw the launch of the 72-page booklet Huddersfield In The 1820s, reviewed on this page.
Its author is Edward Law, a long-standing Huddersfield historian and society member.
Its next evening meeting is a talk on the latest discoveries at Slack Roman fort, by David Cockman, November 17, in the town hall reception room, 7.30pm.
Huddersfield In The 1820s is available, as are the society’s four most recent publications, from David Griffiths, 24 Sunnybank Road, Huddersfield HD3 3DE, £6 plus 95p p/p.