Saddleworth Museum volunteers keep local history alive

NESTLED on the banks of the Huddersfield Canal in Uppermill, the 157-year old Saddleworth Museum is the treasure trove of local history.

Built in 1862, the museum takes up residence in what is believed to be the old steam room of the former Victoria Mill, which churned out textiles and woollen cloth during the Industrial Revolution.

The mill was saved from demolition in 1959 by Roger Tanner MBE DL, who purchased the property with the intention of turning it into a museum.

He accomplished his mission within three years, after extensive works to preserve and enhance the building, and in 1962 Saddleworth Museum opened its doors to the public.

Its mission is to inspire and foster interest in the history of Saddleworth through the display and interpretation of its collections, displays and workshops.

What better way to do that, as well as celebrate the founder, than through one of the current exquisite exhibitions – the 1908 wedding dress of Alice S Bradbury, Roger’s mother.

Volunteers by Alice Bradbury’s wedding dress

The handmade dress is a gown of Empire cream Liberty satin, trimmed with Carrick Macross lace, with a delicate chiffon veil and is remarkably well preserved for a dress that is 111 years old.

The intricate Edwardian gown was worn by Alice, a resident of Uppermill, for her marriage to John E. Tanner of Greenfield at the Parish Church of Saddleworth (St Chad’s).

The display at the museum was only made possible after a special mannequin with an 18 inch waist was found to bear the petite dress!

In stark contrast a few rooms away is a display of funeral attire and accessories, but just as intricate in design to satisfy the elaborate mourning rituals of the Victorian era.

These displays and many others are carefully planned and set out by a dedicated team of volunteers who work tirelessly to preserve the many artefacts in the museum’s possession.

Among the volunteers are Eileen Shaw, Carol Middlewood, Meg Todd, Sue Frost and Geraldine Dick, who maintain the extensive archive of artefacts, photos, deeds and parish records, with some dating back to the 1500s.

They have been on special courses to learn how best to store and display artefacts in order to avoid issues such as moth damage and general degradation of the items.

And they plan a careful schedule so collections are regularly rotated to minimise wear and tear caused by light and other external factors.

“There is a lot of thought and care that has to go into everything,” they said. “And we also enjoy working on things together and have made some really good friends.”

In September 2015, the museum underwent an extensive £1.25 million renovation, thanks to a grant from the Heritage Lottery fund and re-opened one year later with its future secure for years to come.

It remains a staple of the community and a popular attraction for locals and tourists alike, as well as welcoming visits from schools, charities and local groups.

The self-sufficient museum relies on the generosity of donations from the public to keep its doors open, with every penny going into the upkeep of the building and its collections.

If you would like to donate to the Saddleworth Museum, or if you’re interested in becoming a volunteer, contact the team on 01457 874093 or visit the website:

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