IT was a metal chest and inside was real treasure. An audio-cassette was taped to a box of colour slides. It was my first day sorting out the archives for Barnoldswick History Society, writes historian Alan Roberts.



THE label read: ‘Gisburn Road Infants School: slides and commentary for a television programme 1960’. The tape played, the colour slides had faded but were still viewable. Treasure indeed!

The headteacher sets the scene - ‘Our school built 50 years ago is in a town of 11,000 people, a town whose industry until the war when a large engineering firm [Rolls-Royce] moved into the district, was largely cotton manufacturing. Many skilled workers from all parts of the country have been attracted to this new employment.

Our children come mostly from good working-class homes in the town, but we also take in a number of farm children who live in the beautiful surrounding countryside. All of the parents are keenly interested in their children’s progress… and many visit us frequently and informally.

We try to organise our environment to cater for their whole personal development. We want them to be happy, well-adjusted, contributive and accepted members of the community… we try to provide a familiar, secure, attractive and friendly environment’ and make use of their ‘love of activity, curiosity and spontaneity’.

The presenter continues: ‘The classrooms in this school open onto a central hall which at all times… is used by groups of children pursuing a variety of interests.’ Here there is space for vigorous activity; they can experiment with clay, paint, bricks, sand, water and waste materials. They are inspired by their own ideas rather than their teacher’s.

According to one child ‘It is hundreds of years since Guy Fawkes lived in London. He is dead now of course. He was a bad man’.

And another ‘I had a hamster called Harry and I liked it very much, but on Saturday it died and we made a cross with his name on and that was the end of our little hamster’.

Stuart C wrote: ‘This is my story of bonfire night. On bonfire night there are a lot of fireworks and you can enjoy them farther off. Anyway, you should not stand too near or they will bang in your face and once there was a man called Guy Fawkes and he decided to blow up the Houses of Parliament to get a better king or queen and this happened on November 5th and that is how we have a bonfire."

From Alan W: "I am six years old and this is my news. It is snowing today. Winter is here November 16th. I love the snow. It makes me frozen. I like the snow. It is just right for building snowmen."

And finally - "On Wednesday we went to Grasmere and we looked around Wordsworth’s cottage and a museum and Wordsworth was a famous man. He got a hundred pounds a week and his maid got two shillings a week and their dinner and the maid got five pounds four shillings a year and Wordsworth got four thousand two hundred pounds a year and we looked at William Wordsworth’s grave. He was born in 1770 and he died in 1850 and we have had our tea there."

Unfortunately, no record can be found of a television programme made at Gisburn Road. It could have simply been a radio programme. It is certainly a professional piece of work: the production and commentary are of the highest quality.

There is also a doubt about the date. One of the slides shows a model the children have made of an American space rocket. This could have been in 1960, but it was probably later.

The colours used in the slide film have faded, but a few slides were taken on a different film stock where the colours are much more vibrant. Some relate to the programme, and others to the school’s Christmas celebrations. Three slides are stamped with dates in the mid-1960s.

We will meet six-year-old Alan in the next instalment. Alan’s book of aircraft features jet airliners which had been introduced at the end of the 1950s: the DC-8 and Boeing 707 so Alan can’t help us.

Can you help? Were you a pupil at Gisburn Road Infants School in the 1960s? There were between 200 and 280 pupils at any one time. It was a large school. Do you remember the cameras or perhaps microphones for the radio, and there was no doubt plenty of excitement in the school? If you do, please contact us.

Alternatively, why not come along to the next meeting of the history society which will be held in the OAP Centre in Frank Street. Entitled ‘Barnoldswick Snippets’ it will feature the entire audio tape with a supporting cast of over 100 slides. You never know who you might see.

And as it is coming up to Christmas, we thought you would like to see how little nativity plays have changed!