SKIPTON in the summer of 1961 like many other industrial towns in the North of England had its two-week-long annual holidays.

Day excursions during the first week were good, considering the weather, and it was felt they would be even better during the second week. The Wednesday had been the wettest day of the year when 1.43 inches of rain fell, and this was July! There had been just 12 minutes of sunshine and none at all on Monday.

Ledgard and Wynn on the High Street in Skipton optimistically advertised their fine selection of garden hammocks, shelters, chairs and stools ‘for the people staying at home’. A contented couple and their dog were shown relaxing on their crazy-paved patio: he was enjoying a healthy glass of wine and a less than healthy cigarette. At Appletreewick Saturday’s barbecue had been postponed due to the waterlogged field.

The Northern Horticultural Society Gardens at Harlow Car [sic] offered a ‘rich profusion of colour’ while the extensive rose garden had never looked better, and entry was free.

Adventurous ‘West Cravenites’ had plans to visit Canada, Germany, Capri or Norway. This was 1961 and the Craven Herald reported about someone who had boldly gone where no man had gone before: Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space. Skipton’s own Roger Pethybridge an Oxford graduate who spoke six languages including Russian had been invited to meet Major Gagarin at a trade fair in London.

The pages of the Craven Herald were dotted with motoring offences. At Ingleton, an apprentice fitter from Chorley was found to be driving a van with jagged, rusty tears in its bodywork and an ineffective handbrake; Walter T. of Darlington was fined a pound for throwing his fish-and-chip paper into a field at close to midnight. Michael L. of Bentham was fined £3 for crossing the double white lines on the A65. Sadly, there had also been a double fatality on the A59 near Broughton.

The first motorway had opened three years before, and plans were afoot to expand the network. There was a proposal to build a motorway from Worsley in Salford through to the A1, the Great North Road, halfway between Leeds and Selby. This would become the M62, but it would be more than ten years before it was open throughout. The motorway would reduce congestion and decrease journey times, but there was no mention of making roads safer.

The first diesel-electric locomotive to pull one of the principal expresses on the Settle and Carlisle line had left Citadel station situated just outside the city walls and headed south at 5.15 in the morning. Diesel locomotives would take charge of the regular expresses from London to Glasgow and Edinburgh which passed through Skipton and the Dales every day. Taking nine hours to travel from London to Scotland, this was not the fastest route, but it did provide direct access to Scotland from Leeds and the East Midlands. You could also travel on the romantically-named Waverley route into Edinburgh.

Importantly the trains were cleaner, and presented a vision of the future for the travelling public.

Robin Higgins, a young Barnoldswick schoolboy had passed his eleven-plus examinations but chose to travel by train to grammar school in Keighley rather than the much closer Ermysted's. Already obsessed with railways he enjoyed the extra journey time each day. He would later record the last days of the Barnoldswick to Earby branch line as the dirty, but not so old, steam locomotives rattled their way across the fields. The photographs make it clear why the new diesels were so popular at the time.

Dr Hunter, the public health officer for Barnoldswick published his annual report.

There were 3,906 dwelling houses in Barnoldswick. 163 of these were back to back. Thirty-five houses were not connected to the town’s direct water supply. Excluding the outlying farms, there were nineteen pail closets in the town which were emptied every week. They could not be converted to water closets because there were no available sewers.

There were 683 wastewater closets, but these were sometimes as smelly and uninviting as the pail closets they were designed to replace. The good news was that 44 wastewater closets had recently been replaced.

Just three new houses had been built in 1960. There had been no slum clearance.

There were 76 factories in Barnoldswick including fifteen cotton, one light-woollen, two silk and one clothing manufacturers, not forgetting the six millwrights, the clogger, the cheese maker and ten motor garages.

The Victorian era had run its course, and new technology was on the way. There was television. The children could watch Robin Hood (with his band of men) or Captain Pugwash, and Juke Box Jury already occupied the Saturday teatime slot. At Slater’s on the High Street in Skipton you could rent a Murphy TV set for the princely sum of eight shillings a week (reducing to just four shillings for a seventeen inch), or you could part-exchange your old set. Rent, second-hand or brand new - the electronic age had arrived.

Thanks to Barnoldswick History Society for its help in the preparation of this article.