Goodbye, Mr Sowerby Bridge - Tributes to Leslie Godfrey

Leslie Godfrey
Leslie Godfrey

The man they called Mr Sowerby Bridge has died, aged 95.

Leslie Godfrey was a local councillor and served on many local committees and organisations for almost 60 years.

On the day of his funeral, later this month, his coffin will be decorated with three giant red rosettes and the words: “Goodbye, Mr Sowerby Bridge.”

Mr Godfrey’s wife, Edna, was also devoted to the town and its people. She, too, was a councillor who served on many local committees. The couple married in 1945 and had a son, Barry, a year later. The family lived at Willow Street, Bolton Brow, and then in Tennyson Avenue. Edna died in 1998.

Leslie Godfrey was born in Sowerby Bridge in June 1922 and attended the then Bolton Brow Secondary School, leaving at age 14. He began work at textile engineers William Bates and Company’s Bank Foundry.

A Labour man all his life, he became a member, then shop steward of the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers, eventually becoming president of the Sowerby Bridge and then Calderdale branches.

Mr Godfrey joined the Labour Party in 1936 and in 1959 fought and won his first election for the party in the town’s East ward, becoming a member of Sowerby Bridge Urban District Council.

For many years he was chairman of the council’s highways, planning and general services committee, a member of the further education committee and chairman of the town’s primary school governors.

As chairman of the council in 1967-’68 he and his councillor wife Edna were invited to a garden party at Buckingham Palace. In 1972, when Edna was council chairwoman, the couple made a second trip to the palace.

When Sowerby Bridge became part of the new Calder-dale district in 1974 Mr Godfrey helped to set up the successor Sowerby Bridge Neighbourhood Council.

Mr Godfrey was especially concerned about road safety. He was chairman of the town’s road safety committee for 30 years and a cycle proficiency trainer and examiner for 40 years. He was also chairman of the old people’s welfare committee and vice-chairman and then president of Sowerby Bridge Trades Council.

One of Mr Godfrey’s proudest achievements came in 1972, when he persuaded the Sowerby Bridge council to acquire the former Foundry Street Methodist Sunday School for £4,000 and convert it into a youth and community centre.

In 2012 Leslie and his wide circle of friends celebrated his 90th birthday at the centre. Its lounge is named after him.

In April 2010, to mark more than 50 years of service to his home town, Calderdale Council presented him with a citizenship award.

The citation reads in part: “The Council of Calderdale Metropolitan Borough wishes to applaud and acknowledge the contribution to the benefit of the community made by Leslie Godfrey for his outstanding service to the community of Sowerby Bridge for over 50 years.

“He has helped to improve the area and the lives of its residents.He has given his time voluntarily for the benefit of others and he is held in high regard by all who know him.”

Mr Godfrey’s funeral, being organised by his son, Barry, aged 71, will take place at St Paul’s Methodist Church, Sowerby Bridge on Friday March 9, at 11am, followed by cremation at Park Wood, Elland.

Mourners will then return to Mr Godfrey’s beloved Sowerby Bridge Youth and Community Centre in Foundry Street for refreshments.