Founded in October 1973 at the instigation of Rev. P. Foster, at that time Vicar of St. John's Church, Facit. 17 people attended a meeting in the old Civic Hall, and a working party was set up to consider the aims and purpose of the Society. Meetings were first held every two months in the Green room in the Civic Hall, and then with membership increasing, from September 1976 in Whitworth Library.
One of the Society's members, Mr. W. Kearns, started collecting items for a future Museum and storing them in his garage, and in May 1977 a Showcase was obtained and put on display in Whitworth Library.
In March, 1980, Whitworth Council offered the Society an upstairs room in the Council Office building for use as a Museum. Although not totally suitable due to the restrictions on access, the offer was accepted, and over the following months members and friends began clearing out the room, decorating, acquiring Showcases, and moving all the items out of Bill Kearns' garage. This first Museum was officially opened by the then Mayor of Whitworth, Councillor Eileen Kershaw, in September, 1981.
Very soon this room became too cramped for our needs, and in August, 1982, the Committee agreed to rent a basement room in Market Street Methodist Chapel, which also had to be re-decorated. Everything was now moved here from the Council Offices, and these Museum premises were officially opened in March, 1983, by the Society's founder, Rev. Philip Foster.
Less than a year later, we learned that the Chapel was to be closed because the church members could no longer afford the upkeep, so the search was on for yet more premises!
Bill Kearns had noticed that the former Whitworth Urban District Council's Works Department premises on North Street had been empty since 1974, and we discovered that the building was now owned by Rossendale Council. During the following year, the Society negotiated with the Council officials, eventually agreeing a seven year Lease on part of this building. For legal reasons we also had to appoint four Trustees to act on the Society's behalf.
These new premises also contained a room large enough to hold the Society's regular meetings, because since 1976, these meetings had been held in Whitworth Library.
The Whitworth Historical Society and Museum, North Street, was officially opened on 1st June 1985 by Joan Douglas, who was the Founding Secretary and also a former Chairman of the Society. In attendance were the Mayor and Mayoress of Rossendale, Councillor and Mrs. Vincent Clegg, and the Mayoress of Whitworth, Mrs. Lois Grogan.
The Footpath Group
In 1981 the Whitworth Footpath Group was formed by two members of the Whitworth Historical Society, Alan Schofield and Joe Taylor, in response to many people in the valley who were trying to walk the footpaths, but came upon blocked stiles, gates etc. and didn't know how to overcome these problems.
Since then, walking fortnightly on Sunday afternoons, the footpath group has worked hard to re-open many of the footpaths in and around Whitworth which have been blocked illegally.