Radical Valleys

Past Present Future

World War 1914 

Iraq War 2003

Patriotism and pacifism: Valley radicals resist the call for war!

·       Rob Walker  will look at the intense anti-war debate before World War War I in Huddersfield and surrounding valleys


·       Martin Jones will explore the role played by the Stop the War Coalition in 2003

Michael Gove has recently reminded us that to win a war you have to convince people that it is right to fight – even if it happened a hundred years ago!

Radical Valleys aims to not just look at history, but also to encourage people to draw lessons and consider parallels with our own age.

Don’t miss it – a lively, informative and interesting discussion is guaranteed!

7.30 pm, Monday,  24thFebruary

@ the Red and Green Club, 42 Bankwell Road, Milnsbridge,  Huddersfield HD3 4LU

Contact radicalvalleys@hotmail.co.uk  or Richard Murgatroyd 01484 641445 for more details

Radical Valleys Conference – a brief Interim report.

The day conference was a great success !  The intimate and historic nature of the venue helped – the former Socialist Club at Milnsbridge, with its canal side setting and view of the dilapidated Milnsbridge House in the background.  This once splendid country seat was formerly the home of Joseph Radcliffe JP, the notorious persecutor of the Luddites, and into its chambers in late 1812 many Luddite suspects were hauled and interrogated. Against this poignant reminder the talk on the Luddites by Richard Holland of the Luddite Bicentenary Blog had added relevance.  Richard not only succinctly outlined the rise of the movement in the area but also presented for the first time his findings on the scale of direct action by the Luddites in the West Riding.  Set out in chronological order it is startling evidence of the extent of Luddite activity and a refutation of those who try to belittle the impact of the movement.
The impending centenary of another struggle was also marked by a presentation of the findings Cyril Pearce has made in the course of the painstaking compilation of his database of Conscientious Objectors. Focusing on the local area he showed the distribution of the COs and a breakdown of the motivations in terms of religion and politics. (See the page ‘The White Feather’ for some of Cyril’s other work so far).
The role of trade unions was discussed by John Halstead, who using both local historical examples and current events questioned just how progressive they were when it came to social transformation.  John has spent many years teaching trade unionist day release students, including Anarchist miner David Douglas, so he has a rare insight into how unions operate.
The sadly perennial topic of Fascism was discussed by Dylan Murphy, based on his research into the Communist party in the Huddersfield area in the 1930’s.  The impact on the Aid for Spain movement and the support for the International Brigade was described as examples of international solidarity in action.  This has a relevance for us locally since the Huddersfield Local History Society is working with the Basque Children of 37 Society to have the stay of the Basque refugees in Almondbury Old Clergy House commemorated.
I haven’t received reports of the other talks, so will hold fire on them until I do so.  Apologies to the  other speakers for this ommision. Any views and (non-cake related) comments on the conference will be gratefully received.

Radical Valleys and the Importance of Roots

by Prof. Paul Salveson. mbe

(This article will appear in ‘Chartist’ November issue, price £2  available form  http://www.chartist.org.uk or from Prof. Paul Salveson MBE
90a Radcliffe Road
Huddersfield HD7 4EZ

Labour history’ is one of those terms which sound depressingly old-fashioned, conjuring up images of earnest chaps debating the rights and wrongs of obscure strikes in 1891. The subject seems to have virtually disappeared off the university curriculum, replaced by more modern-sounding subjects.  And there’s little doubt that the traditional approach towards ‘labour history’ had its faults. Some of it tended to be more a catalogue of heroic struggles, usually ending in failure. Far too much of it was focused on strikes, yet the vast majority of working class people would spend their entire working lives without ever taking industrial action. A pity that the nuances of everyday working class life tended to be ignored, or – in the case of ‘deferential’ behaviour – despised.

Elm Ing Mill, Milnsbridge, during demolition.

Elm Ing Mill, Milnsbridge, during demolition.

There are the beginnings of a revival in radical history which focuses on the lives of working class people in a way which isn’t patronising or based on hero worship. The Working Class Movement Library in Salford, set up by that remarkable couple Ruth and Eddie Frow, continues to provide an important service not just to the left but to the local community in Greater Manchester. And just down the road there’s the People’s History Museum in a superb new building offering a wide range of facilities and excellent temporary as well as permanent exhibitions.
Here in the Colne Valley there are the stirrings of a radical grassroots-based approach to our local history. On Saturday November 2nd the newly-formed ‘Radical Valleys Network’ is holding a one day conference at the Red and Green Club in Milnsbridge which explores ‘the radical history of the Colne and Holme Valleys’. This was Victor Grayson’s former stamping ground, where he was elected as MP in 1907 on a programme which he described as ‘revolutionary socialist’.
The two valleys look very different today. Milnsbridge itself once had dozens of mills producing the world’s finest worsted cloth. Now only a handful  survive, still turning out high quality woollens but employing just a few dozen people.  A key aim of the event is to look at our past history and help us move forward in the future. There are workshops on:
•    The fight for democracy
•    Resistance to war and imperialism
•    Working class culture
•    Protest and people’s power
•    The environment and co-operation
Each of these themes has relevance to what is happening today. The valleys had a strong co-operative tradition and that is being revived through a number of independent worker and community co-operatives. The Red and Green Club itself is an example; there’s a superb bakery and a popular local grocers run as co-operatives. The strong choral and brass band tradition is still very much alive, complemented by new musical forms. Huddersfield and the valleys was a hotbed of Chartism in the 1840s and today there’s interest in extending local democracy to a grassroots community level.
The new radical culture which is emerging in the Colne Valley is not based on any one political party. As I alluded in the last ‘Points and Crossings’, the Red and Green Club is about bringing different strands of the left together to develop areas of common agreement instead of the traditional sectarian approach of accentuating differences. And that’s another area where history has a few lessons for us. Victor Grayson’s 1907 election campaign was notable for the breadth of its support. Even though women didn’t have the vote, suffragists flocked to the West Riding to help in his campaign – which had ‘votes for women’ at its heart. Anarchists from Merseyside came across to deliver leaflets and Marxists from the SDF joined forces with ethical socialists from the ILP to ‘support Victor’.
Grayson was elected in a victory which shook Britain. The right-wing press feared it was the start of a bloody revolution, but it didn’t quite work out that way. Grayson had many faults and part of a radical historical approach is to be honest about his failings – hero worship is dangerous and invariably disappoints. But the bigger lesson is that the left and progressives can and should work together. In the run-up to the great TUC demonstration in Manchester on September 30th, a social at the Red and Green Club brought together a modern-day coalition of Labour, Co-op, Green, Left Unity, SWP, anarchist and non-aligned socialists. It’s important that we learn from our history that we can achieve much more through united action than doing our own separate thing. Naïve? Maybe, but it’s worth a try. It’s about patiently building relationships and recognising differences but finding the common ground. A serious approach to left history should be looking at examples where that worked in the past.  Chartism is a good place to start, with the sadly neglected co-operative movement another. A sensitive approach to our history can guide us towards a new sort of politics which is inclusive, democratic and radical.

Radical Valleys day Conference ,

Saturday 2 November 2013

at the Red and Green Club,

Bankwell Road


Radical Valleys History Conference –Booking Form

9.30am -4.30pm  Saturday 2nd November

Red and Green Club, Bankwell Road, Milnsbridge,  Huddersfield HD3 4LUA

This event is designed as a  forum for discussion rather than as a traditional academic conference. All the sessions will focus on the historical experience of communities and radical movements within the Holme and Colne Valleys. We would like everyone attending the conference to select one of the three themes for the day.  The programme has been designed to provide extensive opportunity for debate following input from our presenters. For more detail regarding the presentations within each theme look at the attached programme for the day. Please select the theme that you wish to participate in from the form below.



Email address



Please select from the options below the theme that you would like to participate in.


Please indicate which you wish to join

People’s Power –The struggle for democracy


People’s Struggle- organisation and protest


Think Global and Act Local: 


Conference Fee

The conference fee is £12 for waged and pensioners who wish to pay, but it is free for students and the unwaged.  If you feel that you are eligible to pay the conference fee please return the form enclosing a cheque made payable to Radical Valleys.  If you qualify to attend the conference for free, or if it is after 27th October, please return the completed form by email.  A programme for the day is attached to give details of the speakers for each theme and an overview of the day.  The conference fee includes refreshments at break times and lunch (including a vegetarian option).  The Red and Green Club will provide a lunch time bar if you require further liquid fortification.

Paying or free?

Please indicate

Cheque enclosed






Return Form to:

By Post:

Rob Walker, Radical Valleys, 29 Chapel Hill, Linthwaite, Huddersfield, HD75NJ

By email:


Radical Valleys Conference 2nd November 2013

The Structure of the Day


Registration and Refreshments


Introduction to the Conference   Paul Salveson/Cyril Pearce


People’s Power –The struggle for democracy

People’s Struggle- organisation and protest

Think Global and Act Local

10.15 -11.15

The struggle for political representation –Edgar Holroyd-Doveton

Luddism –Richard Holland

Conscientious objectors, The response to World War I- Cyril Pearce-




Radical Liberalism– Andrew Marchington

Working class organisation and struggle- Alan Brooke

Resistance to fascism in the 1930’s-Dylan Murphy




Socialism and the Clarion Movement-Paul Salveson

Trade Unionism-John Halstead

The community response to environmental challenges-Various local activists



Hester Dunlop/Richard Murgatroyd


Rob Walker/Alan Brooke


Rob Vincent/Vicky Minton


Break-Display og group discussion responses


Plenary Discussion –Hester Dunlop

Richard Murgatroyd- What next?

 For details and bookings  Contact Rob Walker :   radicalvalleys@hotmail.co.uk


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