Westhoughton History Group


Westhoughton Local History Group aims to provide something for everyone who is interested in the history and development of Westhoughton through the centuries.

The Group has grown steadily since it was established in 2005 and fortnightly meetings upstairs in Westhoughton Library now attract over 70 members.

Some are content to come and listen to presentations, whilst others are actively researching the history of the town.  Current research is concentrating on Westhoughton in the wake of World War 1 with an exhibition planned to open on Saturday morning, 10th November.

A number of publications have already been produced and details of these can be found on this website.

The History Group has also created the following websites :-

www.pretoria.org.uk - dedicated to the Pretoria Pit Disaster when 344 men and boys died following an underground explosion on 21 December 1910. The site includes press reports of the accident and contributions from relatives who lost grandparents at the time. The History Group also produced a dvd to commemorate the centenary.

www.theluddites.org.uk  - dedicated to the burning of the Westhoughton Mill by the Luddites in 1812.

Contact : ted.wisedale@sky.com

Site updated 11 January 2019

‘Westhoughton’s War’ profiled in major Armistice Centenary exhibition

In common with innumerable communities and organisations throughout the land, for many months, members of Westhoughton Local History Group have been working earnestly on a project designed to commemorate in appropriate fashion the centenary of one of the most significant events in British history – the 1918 Armistice.

Central to the plans of the flourishing heritage group is a major exhibition entitled ‘Westhoughton in the Wake of World War I’, which, in many respects, will evoke echoes of a similarly-themed exhibition in 2014, namely ‘Westhoughton at War’, which commemorated the centenary of the outbreak of hostilities, and proved hugely popular and memorable.

However, whilst the 2018 exhibition will again pay tribute to the 221 men from Westhoughton known to have lost their lives in The Great War, further research in the meantime has resulted in a substantial list of names of men from the town who also served their country, but were fortunate to survive, and continued to play a part in the life of Westhoughton in post-war years. A number of these have been identified as having been Prisoners of War, with a segment of the exhibition devoted to this poignant aspect. Within the ‘Remembrance’ element of the exhibition, many of the town’s war memorials – including the central cenotaph – are also featured.

But when discussing the format of the sequel to the 2014 exhibition, the Group’s committee members felt it would be of interest to expand the scope, and to profile aspects of life in the town following the cessation of hostilities, and through the tough times of the 1920s. Accordingly, the title of the exhibition was carefully chosen, to reflect the fact that several segments of the exhibition feature insights into daily life in Westhoughton from the end of the war, through to the 1926 General Strike.

These elements comprise portraits of the industrial and commercial, housing, employment, religious, political, sporting, cultural and leisure-time activities during the years in focus.

A particularly novel aspect of the exhibition is a visual/textual ‘reconstruction’ of Market Street, the town’s principal shopping thoroughfare, as it was a century ago, and today’s citizens visiting the exhibition may be particularly fascinated and amused by the collages of contemporary advertisements placed by local traders in days long gone.

Another noteworthy aspect of the group’s Armistice commemorations is the publication of a souvenir card, based on a superb and evocative water-colour collage of World War I scenes, painted by the group’s in-house artist, Tom Newton MBE, whose manifold images have vividly enhanced so many aspects of the organisation’s projects over the years.

The opening two days of the exhibition will be Saturday, November 10th and Sunday, November 11th, during the course of which the displays can be viewed in Westhoughton’s Carnegie Hall, within the town hall complex. After that, the exhibition will be transferred to the upper level of Westhoughton Library, where it will remain in-situ until the end of the year, and can be viewed during all scheduled library opening hours. Admission to the exhibition will be free throughout.

Whilst the doors will be open from 10am to 3pm on Saturday, November 10th, the formal opening ceremony will take place at 11am, and will be performed by one of Westhoughton’s best-known and much-loved citizens, namely Mr Wilf Dillon BEM. Now aged 96, Mr Dillon is still very active in a number of the town’s community groups, and he is also a noted veteran of World War II.

By happy coincidence, Mr Dillon is also the subject of a recently-published personality profile, the third in a new series introduced by the group, under the title of ‘Keawyed Characters’.

Sunday opening hours on the first weekend are from 11am to 2pm, when it is hoped that many people visiting the town centre for the Armistice centenary commemorations will take the opportunity to visit the exhibition in the town hall following the memorial service at the Cenotaph.

(Westhoughton Local History Group meets on the first and third Thursdays of every month, on the upper level of Westhoughton Library, from 10am to 12 noon. A wide range of activities includes talks on a diversity of subjects by in-house and guest speakers, a regular schedule of excursions to places of interest, walks, quizzes and an active publishing programme.)