Lottery cash to revive ‘Battle for Walkley’

Bill Bevan (seated), history projrect manager, and historian Hugh Waterhouse, take a look at a section of the stained glass window at Walkley Community Centre in Fir Road, Walkley.
Bill Bevan (seated), history projrect manager, and historian Hugh Waterhouse, take a look at a section of the stained glass window at Walkley Community Centre in Fir Road, Walkley.

THE ‘Battle for Walkley’ - when residents fought off plans to demolish swathes of terraced houses in the late 60s and early 70s - is to be relived as part of a lottery-backed project to be launched next week.

Residents will also discover what Walkley was like in 1908, when Walkley Reform Club was built in Fir Street, and members went on to fight in the First World War.

Ten stained-glass memorial windows, incorporating images of local men who were killed, will be restored to their former glory thanks to the centre receiving £59,900 from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

‘Walkley Ways, Walkley Wars’ will be led by community volunteers, encouraging local people to take part in oral history interviews, share memories, help with exhibitions or just learn about Walkley’s past. Children will be involved through local primary schools and Walkley Library.

In particular, residents will be asked for their memories of the ‘Battle for Walkley’ when much of the area, from Carr Road to Cundy Street, was almost demolished for slum clearance.

After four years of campaigning, an action group persuaded the council to backtrack on wholesale clearance, offering grants instead to improve many of the properties.

Soon afterwards, the group approached the Appleyard Trust to reuse the empty buildings of the Reform Club as a community centre.

With the help of lottery cash, the centre team will collect memories and old photographs to reflect life in Walkley during the 1960s and 70s, including those of people whose homes were not spared demolition.

Rick Allan, who chairs the community centre, said the grant will help residents “discover the suburb’s rich and sometimes turbulent past, as well as the centre’s place in that past as the former Walkley Reform Club.

“As the centenary of World War One approaches. it is fitting we can conserve the memorials to Reform Club members who died in the war and research their Walkley lives before they went to fight. We can also celebrate the success of the Walkley Action Group, who helped reopen the club premises as the centre once Walkley was saved.”

Fiona Spiers, head of HLF Yorkshire and the Humber, said the project will “enable people of all ages to capture, celebrate, and commemorate the achievements and great sacrifices the past and present residents of Walkley have made”.

The project will be launched at the community centre on November 30 at 7.30pm. It includes talks by Geoff Green of Walkley Action Group and Narendra Bajaria, the council officer who led the improvements scheme.