Friday, January 02, 2009

North Street Then And Now

So where was I before all that New Year Resolution stuff got in the way? Did I ever tell you about my Great Uncle Fowler? He had a wonderful postcard collection which he must have put together around the turn of the twentieth century. For some reason I inherited it and it keeps me happy and occupied in my old age. Browsing through it over the Christmas holidays I came  across the above postcard which shows North Street, Keighley. The message on the back gives no clue to the date. The postcard is from my grandfather, Albert Beanland, to his brother Fowler Beanland and the message makes mention of getting excited about a football match which ended in a draw. 
The picture gives a few more clues as to the date. North Street was one of the main thoroughfares of Keighley and was originally laid out in the eighteenth century. However it was not until the 1890s that many of the grand buildings that line the street in the view above  were built. The prominent building with the tower in the centre of the picture was the Keighley Mechanics Institute which played a central role in the history of the town. Whilst the Institute was opened in 1870, the clock tower wasn't added until 1892. The Temperance Hall - which can just be made out on the opposite site of North Street - was built in 1896, providing another time clue. In the foreground on the right are Burlington Buildings which were erected in 1891, whilst the buildings on the left date from a few years earlier. North Street was widened in 1901 and the broad pavement on the left became part of the road, so we know the photograph predates that change. So the best guess would be about 1898.
So what has become of North Street? I wasn't sure how much had changed over the last 110 years, so this morning I set off for Keighley to check out the changes. The following photograph reproduces - as far as possible without getting run over by standing in the middle of the main road - the image in the postcard. With the exception of the Mechanics Institute tower - which was destroyed by fire in 1962 - little seems to have changed as far as the fabric of the buildings is concerned. Some of the uses have changed however, for example the Temperance Institute is now a Wetherspoons pub called The Livery Room!
The exercise of tracking down the changes has been fascinating. I can hardly wait to turn over the next of Uncle Fowlers' postcards and see where the scene leads me to.

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