Family Video Archive… Annice – Voice of the Dales

In the mid 1980s, Yorkshire Television made a documentary about a lady called Annice Sidwells, a talented operatic singer with a beautiful and special contralto voice. Annice lived in Settle, North Yorkshire, but the documentary was based around the unlikely story of how a singer from a small-town amateur operatic society made it big in the early days of wireless radio, travelling down to London to perform live on national radio. The romantic angle was added to the story when her boyfriend of the time came to take her home, away from the smog, back to Settle, and marry her.

The man was Matt Haygarth, my grandfather, who died at the age of 50 and I never met. Annice, my grandmother was a wonderful and special lady with an unrivalled joy for life, and I feel very lucky to have this film about her life!

Annice – Voice of the Dales from Dave Haygarth on Vimeo.

As told to Sylvia, her daughter:

ANNICE SIDWELLS: (Haygarth, then Holmes)

Born Crossflatts, Bingley, Yorkshire, 20th March, 1902. Moved to Skipton, Bold Ventura Street, as a child, and then to Toil Bar, Settle, Yorkshire, at about 4 years of age. Lived there a few months until 4, West View, was finished being built in High Hill Grove, Settle, then moved there with the family. Attended Settle National School and in 1914 remembers 3 of the male teachers going to war, and the brass band playing as the local men marched to the railway station to Dein the services. Miss Lay000k, one of the teachers, was crying teaching the class. Mr. W. Yates, one of the teachers who went to join up, was cousin Betty’s father. Left school at 13 years of age to be a confectioner at Duxbury’s for 1/6d. per week – an apprenticeship. Her parents bought the business (Sidwells of Cheapside, Settle) with £50. down payment (left to the family from an aunt of Annice’s at Bolton-le-Sands) and Rosie came from Keighley confectioners where she had been working, and Nellie left High School, and all 3 worked in the business, and paid off for it over the years. Then the property came up for sale, and all three sisters paid £100. and parents gave £300. and got a mortgage for £1,000 (total £1,600 for perm property). Brother John Sidwells (Audrey’s father) oame home from war in India in 1919/20, and joined the business, as his previous job in Kelbrook was offered only part-time on his return, and Annice’s father asked the three sisters if John could join into the business. He joined, and was paid £2. per week, and girls paid £1. per week. Profits were shared each year end.

Annice and Rosie made crumpets and muffins in the “top bake-house” (now demolished and incorporated in large bakehouse behind Sidwells shop) They delivered every day to the Giggleswick Grammar School, and also baked for Sir Water Morrison who lived at Malham Tarn House.

Annice was sent to London at the age of about 23 to have her lovely contralto voice trained by Helen Hensohell, who lived in Gloucester Terrace, and this was arranged through Alban Claughton, who at that time lived in Settle. Previous to that, she had received voice training from Miss Benson, who lived in Settle. Annice stayed with a friend who was attending the Royal College of Art in London, Miss C.1404.11 Graham, at 61, Redcliffe Road, Kensington (Fulham?) and was there for about 3 months, going to Miss Hensoholl’s home three or four times a week for lessons. Her father. only allowed her to go to London if his sister, who was housekeeper to a wealthy London family, saw to it that Annice was alright each day – Annice had to get in touch with her Aunt Annie daily! After about three months in London, Matthew Thompson Haygarth, her boy friend in Settle, came to London, and Annico met him off the train, and they went to Bond Street and he bought her a diamond and sapphire engagement ring, which he put on her finger in Westminster Abbey in Poets’ Corner. Annice then returned home to Settle, and married Matthew in June, 1928, at Settle Parish Church. They lived at The Harbour for about 1 year – rented – and then bought a house newly built – “Ash Lea”, High Hill Grove St., Settle. After about 21 years they moved to “Highfield”, Settle. Matthew died in Nov. 1952. Some years after Matthew’s death, Annice moved to “Lindeth Lea”, Silverdale, and later to “Mountain View”, Silverdale, wheh she married Fred Holmes.

Annice’s parents were Ellen Turner from Eldroth, and Williams Sidwells, who originally from Tamworth, Staffs, but came North to work in the signal on the railway. Worked in the box at the junction at Settle. His ancestors came from around Tamworth, and there are lots of Sidwells in the churchyard re – his predecessors.

  • Thank you so much for sending me this link and sharing this wonderful video. You should be proud to have known such a wonderful woman and to have her life documented so beautifully to share with your family and friends.

    Cheers from across the Pond,
    Lisa Drew (contralto)
    Minneapolis, MN USA

  • Anon

    What a touching story and a very compelling tale. Thank you for posting this. An enjoyable watch. I like the narrator.

  • mum

    I’m so glad you have blogged this wonderful story of your grandmother, my very lovely mother in law , whom I have been privileged to have known

  • mum

    Annice lives on in Lily!

  • Phil

    Well done Dave on getting this onto the web!

  • Marion Hemingway (nee Kitchener)

    I have seen the video of Annice and remember her and the family; especially daughter Sylvia who is my lifelong friend. I too sang in Settle in the same Opera Society with Annice and Jack Brassington. I remember playing Gianetta in Gondoliers when I was only 16 years of age. Annice played th Duchess of Plazaro and Jack played Marco. It fulfilled a childhood ambition of mine to sing with them as I remebered seeing them singing with the Society when I was very young. Subsequently I have been involved in singing throughout my life; music is indeed a great happy and social experience.

  • Katie Holmes

    Fabulous. What an amazing woman. Glad to see the music tradition is still such an important part of our lives inspired by Annice. Well done on getting this up here – fantastic to see xx