A Drop in Time: The History of Central Hall, from 1890 - 2011

(Thanks go to KIVCA Communications Apprentice Dan Cox for researching and writing this piece)

December 18th, 1970: Mayor and Mayoress Greenwood are pictured besides members of Central Youth Club at an event to support Keighley Blind Home.

Central Hall began its life as a Methodist church which also supported a busy Sunday School community. Careful records such as minute and cash books were kept throughout the length of the church’s existence, which provide a fascinating insight into the life of the building and can now be found in the local studies department of Keighley Library. Also kept were records of the Sunday school’s treasury and records of the accounts of the Braithwaite Society, who used the hall from 1878 to 1896.

The Hall was taken over by the District Council a few years after a closure in 1944, and consequently used for a great many things such as a youth club and even a Judo club for youngsters and adults of the town alike. The hall closed again in October 2003 due to the building falling into disrepair and was taken on by KIVCA as a restoration project and to be new offices. The official handover from the Council to KIVCA took place in early 2011.

From Judo to Band Practice

Central Hall as it appeared before the process of refurbishment and modernisation.

When the hall was opened it was a beacon for many of the Primitive Methodists in Keighley at the time and provided a focal point for them to socialise and pray in a safe and uplifting environment. When the closure of the church came around in about 1944, the Methodists sold the building to what was becoming Bradford District Council who opened it as a general purpose centre for the town.

It was also sometimes used as a makeshift schoolroom, when the classes overpowered the teachers at the nearby school. Central Hall often rang out with the sounds of brass during this era, when it was the band practice venue for the orchestra of Keighley (and occasional night-time musical showcase for the youth of the town).

Over the years of council ownership, Central Hall also housed two other massively successful pastimes for kids, the Central Youth Club, and the Central Judo club, both of which were greatly loved by all inhabitants of Keighley at the time.

Clubs for all the Community

Members of Central Hall's former Judo Club pose for a photograph.

The Youth Club went on for many years and ran concurrently to the Judo Club. (Click here to see some historical cuttings from the era.) Former members of these societies express many happy memories, recalling that the building was always full of children from a variety of communities happily playing and mixing together.
Interviews with previous youth club workers have indicated that the children frequenting Central Hall had no issues with race or religion and just enjoyed meeting new people, no matter what they were like. The youth club was a place for youngsters of all ages to go on an evening to avoid getting into trouble - there was a small entrance fee but even by the standards of the day, it was cheap.

Central Hall's former Keighley Youth Club football team.

The Judo Club was run by a Mr. William Root, who also still runs the club today, although now they are based at Our Lady of Victories school on West Lane in Keighley. It was held two nights a week and from the beginning had some of the trustees’ families themselves involved in Judo. It has been running almost non-stop since the hall was bought by the council and Mr. Root has never stopped being involved. Being a volunteer for most of the clubs running and coming onto the hall committee a lot later than anyone else, he retired aged 65 and still kept up with the Judo club after that. To this day, despite his current age of 73, he still teaches Judo to the kids and adults of Keighley at Our Lady of Victories.

The Next Chapter

After the hall was deemed a hazard by the council, due to its age and dilapidation, it was closed down and everything that once went on in the hall ceased. After many years of the hall being unused, a deal between KIVCA to acquire the building from the council on a 99 year peppercorn lease and use lottery funding and council funding to cover most of the costs of regeneration and refit to the building to breathe new life into the building, allowing for KIVCA to move into Central Hall as new offices for the organisation were completed and the hall begun anew.

The best part of Central Hall’s history is that it’s still being written! If you or your business can make use of the facilities here, you too can become a part of the story and continue to ensure that it remains at the Heart of Keighley.

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Having read about Central Hall's history, you might want to return to this general summary of the building's activities in the modern day and age. You can also refer to our Latest News section for the most recent Hall happenings.

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