By Andy Hirst

A grieving family want people to remember their mum by helping a conservation project in the centre of Slaithwaite.

Susan French died on December 29 after suffering a series of serious illnesses and loved Slaithwaite where she had lived most of her life.

The 73-year-old’s funeral will be at Huddersfield Crematorium on Friday, February 3 and instead of flowers her family want people to donate to a scheme to restore an old millpond in the middle of Slaithwaite

The millpond is next to the Aldi supermarket but hidden from view and over the years all kinds of junk has been thrown in there and it’s become derelict and badly overgrown.

The millpond used to be connected to the River Colne to provide hydropower to mills and also helped to prevent flooding but that ended many decades ago.

A dedicated group of volunteers called the Friends of Slaithwaite Millpond have now started work to clear it and have plans to fully restore the millpond and reconnect it to the river.

Susan’s maiden name was Robinson and she was one of 12 children who grew up in Paddock. She went to Royds Hall Secondary Modern and then worked as a mender at John Crowther’s Mill in Milnsbridge.

After having her family she worked as an auxiliary nurse in casualty at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary for around 10 years and then worked in Boots in Huddersfield on the cosmetics counters before moving to do a similar role at Beatties department store in the Kingsgate Centre. After retiring she volunteered once a week in local charity shops.

Susan first lived in Slaithwaite from the 1970s to the mid-1980s and returned to the village in the mid-1990s when she married her second husband, Peter French.

Susan’s daughter Karen said: “They have loved walking through the Colne Valley and especially along Huddersfield Narrow Canal. Mum loved being outdoors and one of the things that made her happiest was walking with Peter. We don’t want to remember mum for her illness, but for her life.

“So, with that in mind, we wanted to help a Slaithwaite charity in her memory and know that one like the Friends of Slaithwaite Millpond will really benefit from anything we raise. They are working so hard to make such a big difference to a long derelict part of the village.”

The family set an initial target of £250 but that was quickly reached so they have now doubled it to £500. To donate, simply go to the GoFundMe page HERE.

Susan leaves three children, Karen, Amanda and Damien, four grandchildren, one step-grandson and two great grandchildren.

Slaithwaite millpond and the volunteers at work removing rubbish

Friends of Slaithwaite Millpond spokesman Keith Anderson said: “I never thought when Friends of Slaithwaite Millpond started that we would be honoured in such a way. This means more to me personally than anything that has happened to date. Not only is it heart-warming, it’s more than that. It’s an honour and a responsibility.”

The Friends of Slaithwaite Millpond have moved masses of rubbish from the pond and now need skips to shift it if any firms can help.

Otherwise they need £500 for the skips and tools required to deal with overgrown vegetation at the site. To donate to the Friends of Slaithwaite Millpond general fund HERE.

Keith said this was the start of the fundraising needed as the scheme moves forward.

He explained: “After the rubbish has been removed then it’s on to surveys and we need a fair few to give us complete understanding of the task at hand. Then it’s on to planters and trees so we can support, in a manageable way, the insect life that forms the foundation of the pond’s food chain.

“It’s a very long and daunting list but we’ll get there, I’m convinced of that.”

The Friends of Slaithwaite Millpond always need more volunteers to join the group which is supported by the Calder and Colne Rivers Trust, a charity dedicated to protecting local watercourses, habitats and biodiversity.

For more information on the group go to its website or Facebook at

  • Written by ANDY HIRST who runs his own Yorkshire freelance journalism agency AH! PR ( specialising in press releases, blogging, website content and copywriting.