A summer’s day walk to the sound of music

Songs in church: St John in the Wilderness
Songs in church: St John in the Wilderness
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THERE was a time when on a fine summer Saturday afternoon you could not walk far into the country around Halifax without coming across music in some form provided by a party on an outing.

Any choir, band or musical society was sure to pause at least once, usually at their place of refreshment, and regale all within hearing distance.

A typical half-day excursion took place on June 1, 1878, when 50 members of the Halifax Musical Society spent a few hours in Cragg Vale. They went to Mytholmroyd by train and from there walked up the bank of the Erringden stream. A little distance up the valley they halted and sang a glee, Spring’s Delight, to the delight of other strollers in the vale.

They then proceeded to the Spa, an old spring whose water was said to have beneficial properties. Another glee was sung there and then the company ascended to a nearby hostlery, where a “welcome tea” awaited them. They sang again, which was the least expected of them following a meal.

Later the party visited the Church of St John in the Wilderness, Cragg Vale, where several pieces were sung, accompanied by the organ, before the party retraced its steps down the valley for home.

That Erringden spa was a popular rendezvous for long afterwards. Many a bottle was filled with the water and carried away.

Sometimes speakers on political and other contentious topics would hold forth to audiences ready to hand. Other hillside wells and springs whose waters were declared to contain iron oxide or other recommended ingredients were also patronised by picnic parties.

There was one at the Spa House Inn at Booth Dean, on the Rishworth moors, and the brew made there was said to have special properties acquired from the water.