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The Heritage

Focusing on the long but declining tradition of open air singing associated with the chapels and churches of the Holme Valley in West Yorkshire, Sing Holmfirth! celebrates the community spirit of public mass "sings" and "feasts", that were associated with seasonal festivals and important occasions.


Historian and archivist, Heather Norris Nicholson, provided historical background collecting memories, images and artefacts of former Feast Sings from local people to create a touring exhibition and accompanying leaflet, which you can find here.

Our findings include:

  • The first Sing was held in 1882 and was described as a ‘Musical Gathering’ .  It took place in Holmfirth Cricket Field on May 21st, there being two performances at 7 o’clock in the morning and 2.30pm in the afternoon. 

  • The first conductor was Mr JE Pearson and the orchestra leader Mr Hinchliffe Battye. 

  • At the first sing, 2,300 copies of the hymn programme were printed and sold at two pence each, boys being paid a commission of one pence for each dozen sold. 

  • People paid three pence each for admission to the field, or two pence if they bought their tickets before the event. 

  • Teas were available at The Free Church Schoolroom at five pence ha’penny for a plain tea and eleven pence for a sandwich tea. 

  • Special trains were run to bring people from surrounding areas and Mr Marshall, owner of the amusements fair, consented to donate one hour’s takings from his gondolas or swings. 

  • Collectors covered the district and a total of £84 was donated to The Huddersfield Royal Infirmary. 

  • In the first years six hymns and twelve Messiah Choruses were sung and three of the first hymns were included in the 1990 Centenary Programme.

After 1882

  • Up to 1889 The Sing was held in various locations but thence onwards in Victoria Park, apart from 1972-4 when it was in the cricket field. 

  • If it was wet it took place in the Wesleyan Chapel but after 1972 the indoor venue was changed to The Parish Church. 

  • Up to 1903 proceeds were donated to The Huddersfield Royal Infirmary, but since then have been distributed to various charitable organisations. 

  • The Sing was not held in the years 1888 to 1894 but, as records for these years are not available, the reasons why are not known.

  • The original platform was sold in 1901 for £4.12s.4d and, until 1903, platforms were hired from other districts at £1 per event.  A new plant form was bought in 1904 from JW Shaw for £32.10s.0d.  This was in use until 1968 but was discontinued after that owing to the prohibitive cost of erection and insurance. 

  • In 1947 The Holmfirth Competitive Musical Festival was formed and The Sing Committee was incorporated with that of The Musical Festival which from that date was responsible for the organisation of The Sing. 

  • Up to 1938 the Sing had to be held indoors only seven times but this proportion has been greatly exceeded in recent – an indication of our Summer weather!

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