Tag Archives: Keighley

85. Quill the Hedgehog and the Keighley Detectives: John Waddington-Feather’s Yorkshire writings

Meet Quill the Hedgehog!  In a series of books by Yorkshire author John Waddington-Feather, Quill and his animal friends have many adventures fighting the wicked plans of alleycat Mungo Brown and his Wastelander rats.

Front cover of Quill's Adventures in Kangarooland by John Waddington-Feather

John first created Quill during the 1960s to express concern about the environment: Mungo and co destroy and pollute the lands they take from the woodland creatures.  In Quill’s Adventures in Grozzieland, Mungo takes over the fungus folk and plans to blot out the sun!  This volume was nominated for the Carnegie Medal in 1989.

The Quill stories are partly inspired by the fate of Yorkshire’s West Riding countryside during the rapid urbanisation of the 19th century, the downside of the wool industry boom.  In a recent email, John observed that a chapter in Quill’s Adventures in the Great Beyond was inspired by an oil painting of Keighley in Cliffe Castle Museum (itself once a mill-owner’s mansion).   The painting shows the first industrial chimneys appearing in a rural scene; within a few decades Keighley was a “dirty, smoke-ridden mill and engineering town of over 40,000 people. Slums appeared overnight and the rivers and streams around the town polluted”.  This image from the cover of Great Beyond shows Quill and Horatio the cat confronted by the changed landscape of their home.


Quill is just part of the story.  John Waddington-Feather is a prolific author, a schoolteacher (now retired) and an Anglican priest.  Born in Keighley in 1933, he attended Keighley Boys’ Grammar School and graduated in English at Leeds University in 1954.  John has been based in Shrewsbury for many years, where he has been a visitor and assistant chaplain at the prison. He retains strong connections with Yorkshire: former Chair of the J.B. Priestley Society and now one of its Vice-Presidents, John has a scholarly interest in Yorkshire dialect (e.g. John Hartley) and literature.

Front cover of Ira and the Cycling Club Lion by John Waddington-Feather, showing image of Keighley Cycling Club

Front cover of Ira and the Cycling Club Lion by John Waddington-Feather, showing image of Keighley Cycling Club

John’s Yorkshire heritage can be seen throughout his writings.  Witness the Blake Hartley series, which features detectives Blake Hartley and Ibrahim Khan investigating crimes around Keighworth (i.e. Keighley) and the Dales while dealing with their difficult boss.  Bodies found in the graveyard or on the allotment lead the pair into deadly webs of international crime, money-laundering and terrorism …

John also writes for the stage, including two light-hearted plays in verse, Garlic Lane and Easy Street.  These are based on his childhood memories, as many of  his short stories and essays (some collected in the above book).  Yorkshire features again in two historical romances set around the Second World War: Illingworth House and Chance-Child.

Many of John’s writings also reflect his Christian faith and his experiences as a priest: he has written many hymns, songs and poems and edits the Poetry Church series on Christian poetry.  His play The Lollipop Man was based on his experiences of working with homeless people.

Special Collections staff are working with John to develop an archive of his work and interests, including typescripts, correspondence and of course the books.   Much of the archive is born-digital, reflecting John’s early adoption of new technology such as selling his books online via his website.  Now he’s finding new audiences via the Kindle e-reader!   The Blake Hartley mysteries  are proving particularly popular; the Quill titles are now being added.


69. “A STATELY MANSION, substantially built of STONE, in a pleasing style of ARCHITECTURE”: auction plan and description of Sir Isaac Holden’s Oakworth House.

Detail of plan of Oakworth House Estate, showing mansion and glasshouses (HOL 3/2/2)

Detail of plan of Oakworth House Estate, showing mansion and glasshouses (HOL 3/2/2)

“An elegant edifice … most elaborate and sumptuous” Keighley Past and Present (1879, p.236).

“I trust your Chateau is making progress at Oakworth” Jonathan Holden in a letter to Isaac Holden 1876 (Holden-Illingworth Letters p.513)

This week, documents which give a vivid picture of a lost wonder of Bradford: a plan and draft description of the Oakworth House Estate written for the Sale by Public Auction at the Temperance Hall Keighley on 20 July 1898.

Letter heading for Oakworth House, used by Sir Isaac Holden and others throughout the Holden Papers

Letterhead for Oakworth House, Keighley, with Holden crest

Located in the village of Oakworth, just outside Keighley, Oakworth House was a large Italianate villa, designed for Sir Isaac Holden by Bradford architect George Smith.  It replaced a smaller house built by Jonas Sugden, brother of Isaac’s wife Sarah.  On the edge of the moors, with clean and bracing air, Oakworth village was becoming popular with well-off Bradfordians seeking to live outside the pollution of the city; it was easily commutable from 1867 thanks to Oakworth Station of Railway Children fame – though, typically, Sir Isaac tended to walk to his Alston factory, on Thornton Road, about 9 or 10 miles depending on the route.

Oakworth House took ten years (1864-1874) to complete and cost £80,000.  Sir Isaac took a close personal interest in all aspects of its design, sparing no expense to include every luxury and convenience: electric and gas light, telegraph, telephone and innovative heating and ventilation systems.  It had a Central Hall, Drawing Room, Dining Room, Library, Morning Room, Study, Billiard Room, eight bedrooms, two bathrooms, servants’ quarters, offices and cellars: the auctioneer’s description gives dimensions and details of elements such as the splendid oak panelling.

Oakworth House, Keighley, photograph from The Holden-Illingworth letters, date & photographer unknown

Oakworth House, Keighley, photograph from The Holden-Illingworth letters, date & photographer unknown

Many of the features of Oakworth House reflected Sir Isaac’s beliefs about health: the value of fresh fruit, exercise and very hot daily baths.  Hence a Turkish Bath was fitted in the house, while the grounds contained a unique Winter Garden  and many other Glass Houses (Peach House, Vineries, Fig House, Tomato Houses …).  French and Italian craftsmen created magical caves, grottoes and mosaic paths in the extensive woods.

Oakworth House, Keighley

Oakworth House, Keighley, by Poulton and Sons (mislabelled Oakworth Hall, which is an 18th century building still in existence).

After Sir Isaac’s death in 1897 (in his 91st year – a lifespan possibly thanks to his healthy lifestyle!), the House was left empty.  Sadly this wonderful building burned down in 1909.  Later his family presented the grounds of Oakworth House to the local Council as a public park in his memory; Holden Park was opened by his grandson Francis Illingworth in 1925.  It is still open to the public, who can delight in what remains of Sir Isaac’s magnificent mansion: the portico, summerhouse, caves, grottoes, mosaics, paths.

Holden Park in 2009 showing the portico and some of the rockeries.  Photo from Tim Green's flickr stream under CC BY 2.0

Holden Park in 2009 showing the portico and some of the rockeries. Photo from Tim Green’s flickr stream under CC BY 2.0.

Sources: plan and description archive reference HOL 3/2/2.  This account is based on many published and unpublished sources, including the Holden Papers and The Holden-Illingworth letters.