Antiquarian Society: Times of temperance

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Corinne MacDonald of Halifax Antiquarian Society presented ‘Temperance in the Upper Calder Valley’ last week.

The temperance movement began in the 19th century and lasted for over 100 years, attempting to steer people away from the evils of alcohol!

The temperance reaction developed in the 1830s. Followers were not just killjoys, but believed in the potential of improving people’s lives.

The earliest references found for the Upper Calder Valley were Hebden Bridge and Heptonstall Temperance Society beginning in1842. The Hebden Bridge ‘Band of Hope Union’ was formed in 1865, and in Todmorden four years later.

Members pledged to abstain from all intoxicating drinks and tobacco. Friendly Societies and local Churches of all denominations supported temperance. The demon drink was considered the curse of society for over a century. Rallies were attended by thousands of supporters.

Corinne said that meetings comprised of talks followed by alternative entertainment, such as music or lantern slides.

In Upper Calder Valley there were associated choirs and brass bands including kazoos and concertina bands. Parades were popular and periodicals were published.

Ebenezer Chapel in Hebden Bridge displayed ‘Tableau-Vivants’, a series of cartoon-like sketches, showing drunkenness, family disintegration with wife-beating ending in murder, all resulting from alcohol abuse.

The first recorded Temperance Hall in our valley was the 1861 Oddfellows Hall in Todmorden.

Our ever-generous John Fielden built and funded The New Coffee Tavern in1880 which subsequently closed in 1913, thence becoming Todmorden Conservative Club. Hebden Bridge had a Temperance Hotel besides The Cocoa & Coffee House. Sobriety Hall was in Union Street, Todmorden.

The Rechabites Friendly Society was only admissible to teetotallers. During the 1880s there were 200,000 plus temperance members in the UK.

Corinne said young folk’s drinking rose during inter-war years. More posters warned about the perils of alcohol. The Second World War saw the decline of local temperance activities.

After the war, changing cultural habits continued the decline and Hebden Bridge Band of Hope Union ceased in 1952. Corinne added that the charity Hope UK still exists to help rehabilitate drug users.

The next meeting of Todmorden Antiquarians will be on Tuesday, March 10, at 7.30 pm in Todmorden Town Hall Court Room. The speaker will be Ian Stevenson on ‘Yorkshire Dialects and Yorkshire Origins. Visitors are most welcome.