The Funders View
This project was part of the South Pennines LEADER Community Energy Management Project. This project saw energy audits undertaken on community buildings across the South Pennines with subsequent advice given to building managers on reducing energy consumption and costs. Following an audit at Blackshaw Head Chapel (pdf) and Action Team applied for a small grant to undertake some of the recommendations of the audit. Community buildings such as this one play a vital role in every community. The project has helped to improve the sustainability of the building in terms of it energy consumption and therefore its future financial viability.
Where is the Project?
Blackshaw Head is a small South Pennine village, on the moorland fringe, high above Hebden Bridge in the Calder Valley. Standing more than 1000 feet above sea level, it lies at one end of a very ancient trail, ‘The Long Causeway’ leading over the moors to Lancashire. Since the route was first travelled, maybe even as far back as the Bronze Age times, this has been a stop-off place for travellers, here the trail splits and either drops down to Mytholm in the valley bottom or continues over high ground towards Heptonstall. Modern day travellers on the Pennine Way pass very close by.
The Chapel as it is locally known, stands on the very spot where the trail splits. Built almost 200 years ago by the Methodists of Heptonstall for the villagers of Blackshaw Head, it is an imposing stone building, two stories high, originally serving as a place of worship and a school. It saved Blackshaw locals a six mile round trip to Chapel, but more importantly it was a school and offered the only opportunity for local children to have any kind of education. It was sixty years before other schools were built in the area. . Historical records show that in 1843 there were 240 scholars at the Chapel, it was a popular place.
During the intervening years subsistence farming and domestic weaving in the uplands gave way to mill-based spinning and weaving run by water powered machinery on the steep sided valleys. This is turn gave way to coal-fired, steam engines in mills on the valley bottom, canals and railways. As work patterns changed so the villages on the ‘Tops’ shrank and workers moved downhill.
The Project’s Story
Eventually, almost 30 years ago, in the face of declining congregations The Chapel was on the brink of closure. A successful, ‘Save the Chapel’ campaign led to a gradual restoration and renovation of the building, but more importantly after the closure of the pub, it became a hub around which the whole village has gathered. The local community has revitalised around it.
The Chapel is still used for worship on the upper floor, however the congregation is made up of Methodists, Catholics, Anglicans and in fact anyone with any type of spiritual leanings is encouraged to join in too.
Downstairs in the old school rooms, there is a café style meeting place, with chairs, tables and a fully equipped kitchen. The rooms are used on a daily basis and there are servings of coffee, lunches and afternoon teas on different days of the week.
Sian Hughes, a Hebden Bridge mother who brought both her young children to the toddler group at Blackshaw, explains, “this chapel has a reputation for homemade cakes and a really friendly atmosphere, I brought my children here for pre-school play groups and sing songs, I loved the fact that the children and the elderly ladies from the craft club, mixed together. My children loved the ladies and I am pretty sure it was reciprocated, they are always so welcoming” She added, “to be honest, I did used to worry a bit about the calor gas and electric heaters which we used to have dotted about the place. Since the installation of the new insulation and double glazing, the place is so much warmer we’ve dispensed with the extra heaters and it leave lots more space for the children to run about safely.”
Dorothy Sutcliffe who runs the weekly Craft Workshop at the Chapel cheerfully boasts, “We produce some lovely work. There are some really talented artists and handicraft workers, you would be surprised who comes along. We are aged from 30 to 85 and sometimes the children have a go too. I have to say that with the insulation and the double glazing the building is much more pleasant, those calor gas heaters created a damp problem in themselves.”
Judging by the notice board the Chapel is used almost every day and by a wide range of people, there are the usual community groups you might expect to see in any village hall and then there are some unique and ambitious groups too; the Blackshaw Food Network, who aim to encourage and promote locally produced food, BOG Blackshaw Optimistic Gardeners, AKA Gardeners with Altitude, who recently played host inside the Chapel to BBC Radio 4s, Gardeners Question Time. There are Parish council and fete meetings, beetle drives and quizzes as well as the Blackshaw (neighbourhood) Watch meetings, Local History evenings and BEAT Blackshaw Environmental Action Group, who hold regular village clean ups, balsam control days, birdwatching walks and talks and have a successful track record in supporting and promoting domestic renewable energy schemes. Blackshaw Head Community Rooms have nurtured a well-deserved reputation for having a friendly and welcoming atmosphere and as a result the building is thronging with life.
The Project's Vital Statistics
Population Benefiting : About 1,000 residents of the area, however people come from surrounding towns and villages because of the friendly reputation. So I estimate 2500 people use the building.
Businesses benefiting : 1 The New Delight Pub in Colden - social evenings often transfer
Villages supported : 7 - Blackshaw Head, Colden, Charlestown, Heptonstall, Mytholm, Hebden Bridge, Mereclough,
Sustainability : The building is more environmentally and financial viable into the future.
Project Output and Outcomes : Insulation and double glazing installed to reduce energy consumption and improve the usage of the building by community groups.