This event last Sunday has no particular interest beyond the annual Wesleyan Sunday School anniversary, which was a great success, and at which they got the handsome sum of £10. Fifty years ago this bright and joyous time of the year, where all is so gay and fair, was celebrated otherwise at and near the Slaithwaite Baths. All the roads leading there were thronged with a jocund throng of ardent youths from Lockwood, Crosland, Meltham, Scammonden, Out lane, Stainland, and all the other villages, in the now happy and prosperous valley, but then in a state of lethargy and decay. They had no pretty little May Queen to crown as in many other parts of dear old England. When this joyous season of the year is seized upon to rejoice at the arrival of spring, with all its young hopes and greater possibilities — longer days, brighter weather, warmer sunshine, and all the fresh flowers springing wanton to be pressed and nursed out of the cold and bleak winter just past — in such a moment whose pulse will not beat stronger, whose heart is not warmer, and whose joy is not greater? Then let us rejoice that the happy season has come round again to rouse the enthusiasm of youth, and to give another chance of a sweeter existence and a further spell of life. True, in the old days they were not so refined as now. Our schools have had a look in to improve matters, and if our churches would have less hates and more of the Sermon on the Mount, they would have greater congregations, and more good would be done both for this life and that which is to come. In some things life’s rough ways in the past could teach us something, and that was to be real, honest, and true, to be what we seemed to be. One cannot commend all the things done fifty years ago. Our duty is to record them, showing the changes that life has gone through, like seasons of the year.
Just imagine a bright May morning so long ago, when all the roads (as stated above) were crowded with a vast throng making their way to the Slaithwaite Baths. Every cock bird from each district went to show his paces, drink of the water from the pump, and gallantly help the young maidens with their cans to catch the spa water, and carry it home to make that splendid tea which no other water can equal. The Slaithwaite Old Band would be playing on a neighbouring hill, making pleasant music, which happily resounded through the valley and delighted the hearts of all. But all the sweetness did not stop here. A young spark from Marsden would challenge another from Golcar, and then there would unfortunately be a battle, all for the love of the thing. Then a race run to see which village was fastest, or which of its representatives could jump furthest.
What is it that youth will not do? The present generation may learn by these things the spirit of rivalry and a desire to excel, and this is why it is well to record them here and now. The Baths then were the home of the few privileged people, and all the workers could do in those days was to get as near the gates as possible on the memorable first Sunday in May to celebrate the event in their own way. The better-class subscribers had a grand dance on the third Wednesday, a privileged tea, a. lovely band made up of harp, violin, and cornet, and the bowling green was a festive scene of youth and beauty of what might be called the “better-to-do” of Slaithwaite; but the poor had no home there. Now, by the wisdom of the best men in the place, who have worked a lifetime, and who deserve all honour for all time, these Baths have been secured free to the people, where the rich and poor can meet on common ground and enjoy the beauty of the season in one of the most lovely nooks in the Colne Valley — not only this, but the rest of the inhabitants of the district are all free, and all join while you may. Go listen to the band, and watch the rivulets as they play down by the river bank on the bright and sunny day of what it is to be hoped will be a warmer summer than has been experienced for several years.
Slaithwaite Notes: Past and Present (1905) by John Sugden