Obituary: Tribute to former Calderdale town mayor and well-known businessman Peter Cockcroft

Tributes have been paid to a former mayor of Todmorden and well-known businessman and volunteer.
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Peter Cockcroft spent all his working – and retired – life in Todmorden and was devoted to both its business and community life.

He was the first mayor Todmorden Town Council when it was formed in 1974 and was responsible for building the only new textile mill in north east Lancashire in the 1970s.

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He was active in several societies – from the Todmorden Players and Rotary to the Blind Society – and personified a long-standing family tradition of civic responsibility, recognised in the christening of a ‘Cockcroft Room’ in Todmorden Town Hall in 2016.

Peter Cockcroft was a well-known businessman and volunteer in TodmordenPeter Cockcroft was a well-known businessman and volunteer in Todmorden
Peter Cockcroft was a well-known businessman and volunteer in Todmorden

Peter was born in 1937 and was the second son of Jennie and Leo Cockcroft, who were both of families heavily involved in the Todmorden textile industry.

Jennie was the grand daughter of Caleb Hoyle – the first mayor of the Borough of Todmorden – and Leo was the son of John Arthur Cockcroft, who owned Birks Mill from 1900 and whose eldest son was Sir John Cockcroft, the nuclear physicist.

He chose to follow the family footsteps in the textile business and studied a textile degree at the University of Manchester Institute of Technology where he was president of the students’ union and won the Observer/NUS national debating championship.

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Peter joined John Cockcroft and Sons in 1960 and married Susan Crabtree, also from Todmorden, the following year.

By 1970, he had established a new company – Heatherdale Fabrics – and it was the success of this venture which led to the construction of a new factory on a site at Woodhouse in 1975.

Initially successful, this investment coincided with a dramatic increase in the price of energy, a sharp increase in interest rates, and a weakening market. The company was obliged to cease trading in 1979.

Peter went on to set up travel agencies in Todmorden and Littleborough, and enjoyed sharing the experience of so many as the travel revolution exploded.

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But he was keen to return to the world of textiles and by 1985 he was working as the UK agent of Pieters Textiles of Belgium, ultimately selling a million square metres per year with a wide variety of designs.

In these busy years, Peter managed to combine his work programme with other activities – most notably with Rotary where he served twice as president.

He was also a volunteer for Todmorden Blind Society and became its chairman in 2014 for five years, a century after his grandmother Lizzie Hoyle had joined the initial committee in 1914.

His brother Laurence said: “Quite outside these spheres, Peter had an ever enquiring mind and was exceptionally well informed on American politics, sometimes catching up with congressional debates in the early hours and certain to buy (and read) the latest set of White House memoirs.

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"None of this diminished his love of family, his daughter Heather and her husband Jonathan, and their two sons, Jacob and Alex.

"He combined a wide view of the world with a commitment to Todmorden, family and long standing friends which touched all who knew him.”