Farsley is a small town situated in between Leeds and Bradford, about seven miles to the west of Leeds City Centre. The current population of the area, along with Calverly nearby, is around about 23,000. The town was formerly part of the Municipal Borough of Pudsey but officially became part of the City of Leeds in 1974.
Over the years, it has provided a home to artists and sportspeople, mill-workers and industrialists, church-men and criminals, along with many others. There is evidence of settlement in Farsley as far back as the Domesday Book but it was during the Industrial Revolution that the town had its boom years. Local families like the Hainsworths and the Gaunts built numerous mills in the 1900s, which brought them wealth and provided jobs for many. The weaving of cloth remained the main source of employment for local people until well into the 20th Century.
The textiles industry has sadly been in decline for many years now but a number of the old industrial buildings have found new roles to play in the life of the town. Sunny Bank Mills, whose main entrance is on Town Street, is now a thriving business park, providing office space to numerous local enterprises. It is also a busy hub for artists, with its own shop and gallery.
We began work in Farsley in the Summer of 2015 and, over the course of a year, we explored the town in a range of ways. We ran a stall at Farsley Festival, interviewed local residents, documented the shops and high street with photographer Lizzie Coombes, delved around in the archives at Leeds City Library and designed a Farsley Monopoly set with children at Farsley Farfield Primary School. All of this activity has led to some amazing conversations, during which we’ve heard all sorts of different stories – some funny, some sad, some strange, some inspirational – a mixed bag of local folklore, historical anecdote and personal recollection.
Photos by Lizzie Coombes
One of the outcomes of our work in Farsley was a colouring book. We chose thirty of the stories we were told and coupled each one with a black and white illustration as a way of sharing back the material that we gathered. Then, in September 2016, we performed a show at Sunny Bank Mills as part of their Heritage weekend. The show was called (The Story is Not) Set in Stone. In preparation for the weekend we spent some time in Farsley, asking local people what they thought about the town. We included some of these answers in the show, and they are included below.
34) 3rd February
Fish Shop: “The parsley cake? Oh. That’s our healthy option. Like parsley & fish & potatoes all mixed up.” “And then deep fried?” “Yeah.”