From generation to generation, people pass on their own ways of doing things to families, friends, colleagues and anyone they spend time with. These fragments of their culture can include all sorts of information - how to dress, games and rhymes, customs to keep around the house or community, what seasonal festivals to observe and how, sayings and expressions and much more.

This body of acquired knowledge can be thought of as cultural tradition, and varies from place to place, helping to foster a sense of identity from family to village to school or larger unit, such as a country. It is more widely known under the name of folklore.

John Billingsley collates the folklore side of local history for the society. The Folklore Section covers the everyday customs and expressions of local people as well as the stories they tell and the customs they observe. We would invite anyone to share folkloric memories or documentary material on the folklore of our area, either for publication here or for inclusion in our expanding database. Please contact John through the Society Secretary.

John has been involved with local folklore for thirty years, as a speaker and writer, and as a tutor for Bradford University’s Lifelong Learning Department. He also leads guided walks with strong folkloric content for Calderdale Heritage Walks and is the author and editor of several books, as well as the ‘new antiquarian’ magazine, Northern Earth ( Readers wishing to follow up local folklore may find the titles below of interest:

  • A Stony Gaze: Investigating Celtic and other stone heads. Capall Bann 1998
  • Charming Calderdale. Signs and customs used to protect the home folk-magically. Northern Earth 2020
  • Folk Tales from Calderdale. Place legends and their context. Northern Earth, 2007
  • Hood, Head & Hag: Further folk tales from Calderdale. Special focus on Robin Hood, the severed head motif and witchcraft. Northern Earth, 2011
  • West Yorkshire Folk Tales. History Press, 2010
  • The Mixenden Treasure: A true tale of magic in 16th-century W Yorkshire. Northern Earth, 2009

Below are articles, including photographs, that offer a flavour of the stories that are still told in Calderdale communities in the surrounding areas.