Thursday, March 21, 2019

Postcards From Home : Halifax From Beacon Hill


Much of my early life seems to be in this old picture postcard. My father worked at the factory on the left; for a time I worked in the mill on the right. My school is on the horizon, my youth in the soot-coated streets around the market.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

The Fat Tummy Of Princess Alix


This rather chubby baby was the first photograph in one of my parent's photograph albums. Theoretically it should be either me or my brother, but it looks nothing like Roger, and I have never been that fat. I tried facial recognition: Lightroom suggested it was my son whilst Google suggested that it was Princess Alix of Hesse, the wife of Tsar Nicholas II (both suggestions highlight the limitations of facial recognition technology). I asked my wife who it might be: she simply smiled and said "I would recognise your fat little tummy anywhere!".

Friday, March 08, 2019

Five From Brighouse : 5. With Alfred Hitchcock in Brighouse


I am ending this short tour of Brighouse back in the 1960s with a return to the market. There is, however, something slightly odd about this final negative scan. Looking carefully at the young chap towards the right of the group of market shoppers, I have the distinct impression that it might be me. But if it is, who took the photograph? I am sure that I was responsible for the rest of the shots on this particular strip of film, but did I have a sturdy tripod and time delay, or an accommodating assistant? However it was done it appears that, like Alfred Hitchcock, I have made a guest appearance in one of my own films.

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Five From Brighouse : 4. No Waiting This Side


It is still 1966 and we have moved back from Brighouse Market onto Commercial Street. There are no yellow lines and no parking meters, but be careful, there is no waiting on this side today.

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Five From Brighouse : 3. A Time Of Ajax And Omo


We are still in Brighouse, still in the old open air market. We are still in the time of Ajax and Omo; we are still in the land of plastic rain hats and eggs piled high on trays. It is raining, which is surprising, because it never rained when I was young.

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Five From Brighouse : 2. Clean And Bright And Full Of Life

Brighouse Market 1966 (Alan Burnett)
All sorts of things are evocative of a time, but in this particular case it is the Geest banana boxes and the advert for Worthington beers. They are as dated as the view itself. The Worthington jingle went thus: "What about a Worthington? Britain's finest beer; What about a Worthington? It makes you want to cheer; It's clean and bright and full of life ..." The final line has been lost in history, but you can make it up without too much effort.

Monday, March 04, 2019

Five From Brighouse : 1. 1960s Headscarves


My old 35mm negatives are cut into strips of five or six. This week I am focussing on a strip of five negatives from the mid 1960s - at a guess 1966. All five photographs were taken in Brighouse - the majority of them within Brighouse Street Market. The styles of the coats, the size of the bags and the cut of the headscarves; all proclaim the 1960s.

Postcards From Home : Halifax Town Hall - Saved By The Banks


This old picture postcard was never used and therefore we don't have a postmark to help us date it. It was published by a Halifax firm - Ryley's of 27, Southgate - but I have been unable to trace when they were active in business. The photograph appears to have been taken at eight in the morning and there is little traffic about to help us with the dating process, other than a rather indistinct motorcycle of indeterminate vintage. This, however, is one of those rare occasions when we can proclaim "Saved by the Bank!". On the corner of Crossley Street and Town Hall Street East in the picture, you can plainly make out the offices of the Union of London and Smiths Bank Limited. This particular conglomerate was formed in 1903 by the merger of the Union Bank of London and Smiths Bank, but was short lived; being acquired in 1918 by the National Provincial Bank, and being renamed the National Provincial and Union Bank of England. Banks - neither then nor now - have ever been shy about spending a bob or two to re-brand themselves, so we can assume that the old name plates were quickly taken down and replaced by new ones. We therefore have a time window: the rest is down to gut instincts based on design, printing process and the look of the streets. In conclusion, I suspect that we are looking at a photograph of Halifax Town Hall taken somewhere around 1912.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Postcards From Home : The First Tram In Space


This is another old view of a road I knew so well. I used to walk down from school and then take a short cut from Clover Hill Road to Well Head and then the Bus Station for the bus home. There won't have been tram lines there in my school days, but somehow the memories all get jumbled up. My school days seem so long ago, and yet I can remember seeing a newspaper billboard outside the newsagents shop here (where the Swiss Cafe was, I think), announcing the first man in space. Ot maybe, the first tram in space.


The reverse of the card is, as always, interesting in its own right. Written in December 1909, it is a thank you note for presents which will have been sent for Christmas. Addressed to "Captain Pacey", it starts, "Dear Sister"; so I strongly suspect we are dealing with a member of the Salvation Army. There was a Salvation Army Maternity Hospital in Hackney around the time of this postcard, so perhaps that is a clue. But there again, Captain Pacey may have been the pilot of the intergalactic spaceship that regularly left from the Swiss Cottage Cafe in Halifax for the dark side of the moon.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Sepia Saturday 458 : Einstein Goes To Cannes


Our Sepia Saturday theme image this week features a 1910 photograph of a wine merchant's shop in France. I have to admit, there was a temptation to follow an alcoholic theme, but this is the morning after the night before at the pub, so I will stay clear of all alcoholic references and go to France instead. Rather than go back 100 years, I am going back just over fifty, to the summer of 1962, and a great family adventure when we headed abroad for the first time for a camping holiday in France.

My main photograph show my parents - Albert and Gladys - trying to cool off in the shade of a palm tree. I still cannot work out why they decided to go to France, it was a most un-Albertish thing to do (my Father would consider a trip to Dewsbury as being akin to a wild adventure). To go to a country where they didn't speak Yorkshire, to eat foreign food, and - worst of all - to drive on the wrong side of the road, was behaviour which was most out of character.



I was about fourteen at the time and I still remember the trip well. When we eventually arrived in the South of France, my poor father ventured out into the sun and finished up with severe sunburn, and he had to spend the rest of the holiday in the shade. My mother was slightly more careful. limiting herself to the occasional paddle in the warm waters of the Mediterranean.


Looking back at these photographs now, and taking into account that fifty years separates the theme image from my photos, and the same period separates my photos from today: what is fascinating is the warping of time. The old French wine merchant's shop seems like history: a different world, long, long ago. My photos from the south of France seem like only yesterday. Is this to do with Einstein's theory of light and time - or is it simply that I am getting old?

To see more posts based on this Sepia Saturday theme image, go to the Sepia Saturday Blog and follow the links



Friday, February 22, 2019

Random News : Hope For The Sick In Bradford

Bradford Telegraph : 22 February 1906

Our random number generated time machine may be a little shaky this week because it is suffering from a dose of electro-vibration. We are back in 1906 and attending the Medical-Electro Vibration Institute in Manningham, Bradford, and they are about to cure us of all our aches, pains and ailments. They offer a "free consultation and examination by the X-Rays high tell to a certainty what your ailment is"! And that ailment could be: "Rheumatism, Gout, Stomach Diseases, Indigestion, Flatulency, Sluggish Liver, Lumbago, Sciatica, Infantile Paralysis, Locomotor Ataxy, Bronchitis, Heart Disease, Nervous Disease, Consumption, Asthma, Deafness, Neuralgia, Sprains, Venritis, Synovitis, Varicose Veins .... and that well known disease recognised by quack doctors the world over, "etc". I don't know about you, but I have just done a quick check of that list and I suspect I suffer from at least 80% of them.

And what a range of treatments they have available: - Non-Electrical vibration, Electrical Vibration, the Static Spray, static Breeze Cathaporic and ozone inhalation treatment, the Electric Wave, Lynden Jar and Start Treatment, Treatment by the Violent Antinlight as used in cases of Consumption, Cancer, Lupus and various Skin Diseases. And to top it all off, "Psychological Medicine is used in mental derangement and habits"

Mr J Chance of 15, Bridge Street, Halifax went to the Institute with a knee that he had been unable to bend for 20 years, and after a course of perfectly painless treatment he was amazed to find that he could bend the said knee.  Why, indeed, should we continue to suffer?

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Postcards From Home : An Edwardian Tweet About Halifax Post Office


The building that was Halifax Post Office, but now appears to be in a state of suspended urban animation, is featured on this lovely old postcard that was sent in 1903. When the card was sent, the building was less than twenty years old, and it was something the town was obviously proud of. It was a Camelot Castle of a Post Office with little towers and cupolas, bulls eye windows and coping stones built to cope with anything a northern industrial town could throw at them. It was designed by the architect Henry Tanner whilst he was serving as Surveyor at the Leeds Office of Public Works and opened in 1887. A contemporary newspaper report says that it "is a spacious building and has capital frontages to Commercial Street and Old Cock Yard". The cost of the building was £10,000, exclusive of the cost of the site.

The very first picture postcards did not have divided backs where you could write both a message and the address of the recipient; the reverse of the card was the exclusive province of a name and address - any message had to be compressed into the space surrounding the picture on the obverse side. It was a little like an early form of Twitter - the art was to compress your news and views into a few precious words.


As far as I can make out, the message on this particular card is as follows:-

My Dear Erica,  Thank you for your P.P.C. Have you got the results of each separate subject, if so I should very much like to know, for I have failed in drawing, but I have quite satisfied teachers at school and think father is pleased. He has given me a thick gold curl bracelet. From Mary H Mitchell.
I have done best at school and I am in S.A.E. I hope You have done best at your school.

There are a lot of words there, too many for a modern day Tweet, but the idea of writing small and curving the message around the edges of the card is a good one. Perhaps I will try it with my next Tweet!

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Two Brothers, Two Townscapes


A couple of weeks ago I met up with my brother, Roger, for the first time in nine years. I had to travel halfway across the world to find him on the Caribbean island of Dominica, but once we were together our conversation soon turned to Halifax, the place we both call home. We also talked about the various project we were both involved with at the moment, and I happened to mention that I had been rescanning many of the photographs of Halifax I took some fifty years ago. By coincidence, Roger - who is a very successful artist and sculptor - had also been thinking about the Halifax of our youth, and was working on a book of his drawings, sketches and paintings from that period which he plans to call Townscapes. He has kindly allowed me to reproduce one of the sketches of Dean Clough and North Bridge that will feature in the book.


His sketch sent me searching through my negative archives and I discovered a photograph I must have taken forty or so years ago of the same bridges and the same buildings. Perhaps I should work on a companion volume to Townscapes!

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Memories Of Cliff House, San Francisco


I found this postcard amongst a job lot I bought on eBay, all of which were supposed to be of West Yorkshire. I am not complaining, however, the beauty of job lots is the surprises they throw up and the serendipity that brings them to your door. The building which is featured on this old postcard - the Cliff House, San Francisco - is a very familiar one indeed. Six years ago we stayed for a couple of weeks in San Francisco in an apartment that was within walking distance of Cliff House. Of an evening we would walk up the hill to the bar and restaurant there, order a selection of excellent craft beers, listen to some good live jazz, and watch the waves on the Pacific Ocean. The postcard was, for me, dripping with memories of one of the best holidays I have ever had.


The message on the reverse of the card is not without interest itself. Although the stamp has been removed from the card, enough of the postmark is left to know it was sent in 1921. It was addressed to George Pink of The Limes, Newark on Trent, England and it was sent by the evocatively named, Lulu Cooper. The message appears to be as follows:-

"... feeling the coal strike, our language on the subject is unprintable. It doesn't seem possible that your boys are grown up and doing University courses - how time flies. I hope you and Auntie are keeping well. With love from Lulu Cooper"

It is possible that this is the second part of a message that was started on an earlier postcard: it would explain the somewhat abrupt opening line. I assume the "coal strike" in question was the long-running strike by the miners of West Virginia which led to the "Battle of Blair Mountain", where some 10,000 miners were opposed by 3,000 police and strikebreakers.  By the time the battle was over, one million rounds of ammunition had been fired and up to 100 people were dead. Such were the difficult times, it may have been that Lulu Cooper had been referring to the miners' strike in the UK, although why that should have brought about an outburst of unprintable language in San Francisco is unclear.

I will leave the coal strike alone, and concentrate on the happy memories of those wonderful evenings back in the summer of 2013 - good music, good beer, good company and views to remember for a very long time.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Stop 'n Snap 'n Ride

George Hotel, Huddersfield

Like many people who take photographs, I can be pretty annoying to walk around with, due to an inability to walk in a straight line from A to B without stopping to take photos at A1, A2, A3 etc. It is not too bad if I am by myself, as long as I leave myself plenty of time to stop 'n snap. So yesterday, when I needed to catch a train from Huddersfield to Penistone, I left myself time enough to try and capture some of the grandeur of Huddersfield in the winter sunshine.

Huddersfield Railway Station and Statue Of Harold Wilson
Huddersfield Railway Station
I had intended to keep snapping away as the train rattled its way from Huddersfield south towards Barnsley and Sheffield, but the sheer beauty of the scenery got in the way. No blink of my smartphone lens could hope to capture what was on view through the carriage window, as the train snaked it's way through villages that probably don't exist in real life. The journey took thirty minutes and cost my something around £6.  The railway companies are missing a trick; anyone with blood in their veins and a functioning imagination would happily pay twice as much to experience what must be one of the Great Railway Journeys of the World. Alas, I couldn't bring myself to take any photographs once I was on the train, so you will just have to imagine what it was like. Or make your way to Huddersfield and experience the journey yourself!

Monday, February 11, 2019

Walking Confidently Through The Twenties




We do know a little about the where and the when – and perhaps even a clue as to the who – from the message on the reverse of the card. It was posted from Margate in Kent during May 1926 and addressed to Mrs Dwerick of the Dial in Kemsing , Kent. The message is the kind of simple report of family events of the kind that these days would be consigned to Facebook for all the world to read.

Many thanks for the P.C. Am so glad you have had such a nice week. I took the boys out yesterday – they both look splendid and thoroughly enjoyed themselves paddling etc. I said thew should go for a row, but we could not find a “boat man”. They had an enormous tea. Much love, Helen.


One interesting little historic sidelight is that the postcard was sent either during or just after the General Strike of 1926 (the exact date on the postmark is unclear). Perhaps this is why the children were not able to find a “boat man”. The man striding confidently in the main photograph does not have the look of a striking worker. Perhaps for Helen and her friends and family, the poverty and misery of the Great Depression passed them by. Perhaps they walked confidently through the twenties.

Friday, February 08, 2019

Sepia Saturday 456 : At Camp With Monkey Matthews


Our Sepia Saturday theme image this week features a tent, a man and a cooking pot. My contribution features a tent, two men and a bucket.

The two men in question are - on the left - my father, Albert Burnett, and on the right a friend of his who went by the unforgettable name of "Monkey Matthews". The picture will have been taken somewhere in the Yorkshire Dales and the date will have been around 1931, when my father was twenty years old.

Why my father and Monkey Matthews were in a tent, I have no idea, but I have another photograph from what must have been the same camping trip that features my grandfather, Enoch Burnett, and my Auntie Miriam, in addition to the aforementioned pair.  Just why my father is wearing a distinctive bandage around his head is a mystery which will never be solved.


To see other Sepia Saturday contributions go to the Sepia Saturday Blog and follow the links

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Random History : Giving Way To The Enjoyment Of The Conservative Ball



This week, our random-number-driven time machine takes us back to the year 1893 and to Huddersfield, where someone has been giving way to the enjoyment of the Conservative Ball. It resulted in ten bob fine plus expenses! Serves him right is all I can say.





OBSTRUCTING A POLICE OFFICER AT THE CONSERVATIVE BALL : Joseph Crow Taylor, innkeeper, Crosland Moor, was charged with having, on the 26th inst., obstructed a police-officer whilst he was in the execution of his duty. Defendant did not appear. The Chief Constable (Mr. Ward) said that on the morning, which would be stated by the officer, in accordance with orders, the officer went to the Town Hall, where the Conservative Ball was being held, to see that proper order was being kept and that the sale of drink had been stopped at the hour fixed by the license. The officer was met by the defendant, who said he should not go up. He said he should, and the defendant used bad language, and tried to prevent him going up. This was not the first time that sort of thing had occurred at balls. The defendant had been to see him and said he was very sorry, and that he had given way to the enjoyment of the evening more than he should have done, and that, perhaps. caused him to do what he did. But it was his (Mr. Ward's) duty to protect his men, and to see that the orders of the magistrates were carried out. Police-sergeant Jagger proved time facts as stated by Mr. Ward, and the Bench inflicted a fine of 10s. and the expenses.

Huddersfield Daily Examiner : Monday 6 February 1893 

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Postcards From Home : Siddal's Comet


My relationship with Siddal is somewhat akin to the relationship between the earth and Halley's Comet. Very occasionally we are in close proximity: as a teenager I sought out a pub there that was reputed to have a liberal interpretation of the licensing laws, and many years later my brother lived there for a few months. Most of the time, however, I gaze at Siddal across the firmament and take sightings of it from more familiar regions such as Southowram and Salterhebble.

Therefore, when I recently came into possession of this old Real Photographic postcard of Siddal, I had to turn to Google maps to try and identify the exact location, and because many of the buildings no longer exist, a little bit of detective work was also called for. I am now reasonably confident in asserting that it is a view of Lower Siddal from the delightfully named "Bottoms", and that the fine school building (centre, right) is the old Siddal Junior School that has now been replaced by a new housing development. At the bottom of the picture you can just make out one of the locks on the old Halifax Branch Canal which connected the town to the Calder and Hebble Navigation at Salterhebble. The canal is long gone, and any attempt to capture a similar view today would be impossible due to the abundant growth of post-industrial vegetation.

Monday, February 04, 2019

Back Home



Here we are, back again. And it wasn't Mablethorpe, but somewhere a little more sunny. Exotic beaches and tropical cocktails are all very well, but they can't hold a candle to the fifty shades of grey that you can find on a soot-coated wall of a Yorkshire mill. The Caribbean Sea may be azure blue and full of technicolour fish, but in this scan of one of my photos from fifty years ago, the Hebble Brook shines like silver and is full of masonry bricks and life. I can happily holiday in paradise, but I need to live in Halifax.

Hebble Book and Dean Clough, Halifax. AB Negative (c.1970) (A41)

Monday, January 14, 2019

Gone To Mablethorpe, Back Soon?


That's it! I've had enough of the grey skies and drizzle-caked streets of West Yorkshire for a while. It's time for a break: time for the sun, time for the sea, time for something different. So if nothing emerges from my various blogs and social media streams over the next couple of weeks, worry not. I've exited Brexit.  I've packed my case and gone in search of exotic new places and equally exotic old relatives. Possibly Mablethorpe promenade, possibly not.

Friday, January 11, 2019

A Trip Through The Stratosphere To Southend (Sepia Saturday 452)

The Sepia Saturday theme this week focuses on means of transport and has a photograph from the 1950s  that seems to look back to an earlier age. My submission is a photograph from the 1930s that looks to the future.


My photograph features the unmistakable features of Frank Fieldhouse ("Uncle Frank"), and thanks to his obsessive caption-writing, I can tell you that he is pictured in front of the Stratosphere Rocket ride at the Kursaal Amusement Park in Southend in August 1938. The Kursaal (a German word meaning "place of healthy amusement") is famous for being the first purpose-built amusement park in the world, and from the late nineteenth century until the 1980s it provided a series of attractions for visitors: from ghost trains to motorcycle riders, from roller coasters to rock concerts.

Our Sepia Saturday theme image this week features a 1959 photograph from the National Library of Ireland, which shows a group of railway workers repairing a line after an accident. Although it is a relatively late photograph (in Sepia Saturday terms), there is something slightly old-fashioned about it. By contrast, my 1938 photograph looks forward to an age when you could flag down a rocket ship and whizz through the stratosphere to Southend.

To see more Sepia Saturday posts, go to the Sepia Saturday Blog and follow the link.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Postcards From Home : What Is Picturesque About Halifax?

Here's a challenge for you! If you had to put together a postcard featuring five views of Halifax and entitled "Picturesque Halifax", which views would you choose? Probably not the ones featured on this vintage postcard from 100 years ago.


This vintage postcard from Lillywhite's of Halifax probably dates from the First World War - there is a "Passed For Publication" stamp on the reverse - and is intended to act as a showcase for "Picturesque Halifax". The choice of the five views is a little odd however: whilst Ogden Water might still make the cut, the waterfall on the River Hebble at Weatley is a little underwhelming, and Cote Hill is nothing more than ordinary. Wainhouse Tower is interesting but perhaps not picturesque and People's Park is .... well, its People's Park. It is easy to be critical, however, and not quite as easy to suggest alternatives. Once the winter weather has gone, I will try and come up with five twenty-first century alternative examples of "Picturesque Halifax", and in the meantime I would welcome any suggestions as to what should be included.


The postcard seems to have been sent, but not as a postcard but as an inclusion in a letter or parcel. It has been sent by Jack (whoever he was) to someone called Joe, or Jos, or even Joo in May 1918. It appears that Jack is a collector of "crest china" (small china pieces incorporating a coat of arms), and is a little particular in his specific requirements (he is not keen on the basket). Even though the china is not the exact shape that Jack wants he is prepared to accept it for the time being. And even though the five views of picturesque Halifax are not the ones I want, I am prepared to accept them for the moment.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

A Telephone Call Interrupts A Night At Huddersfield's Microscopical Soiree

My random-driven time machine sends me off to a meeting of the Huddersfield Literary And Scientific Society in 1879, but whilst I am looking at a wood spider through a microscope, a telephone call teaches me a lesson about history.

Huddersfield Chronicle : 9 January 1879

This description of a meeting of the Huddersfield Literary and Scientific Society's "Microscopical Soiree" is taken from a copy of the Huddersfield Chronicle of the 9th January 1879 - 140 years ago. Old newspaper articles can paint pictures just as well as any art school graduate, and as you read through the list of microscopic treats on offer - spores of a truffle, trout's ova, section through a coal miners' lung - you begin to picture a body of frock-coated, heavy bearded Victorian gents fussing over the specimens and speculating about the future of mankind. The youngsters are deriving considerable amusement from Mr Wood's patent atmospheric stereoscope, and the women - one presumes - are at home supervising the scullery maid.

But history has a habit of catching you out and challenging your perceptions, because in walks Mr Dammann and what has he got with him but a telephone! Logic tells me he has somehow got lost in the time warp that exists near Ainley Top and arrived fifty years too early. Old newspapers, however, never lie .... unlike their modern counterparts!


Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Random Access Memories : A Marine, A Car, And Half A Dog



A caption on the reverse of this photograph claims it was taken at the Marine Hotel in Barmouth in 1928. Other than that, I know nothing about it. We have, however, a marine, a car, two fashionable ladies and half a dog. What more could you possibly require in order to write a cracking who-done-it?






Monday, January 07, 2019

Postcards From Home : Southgate Setts


Picture postcards from the first decade of the twentieth century are relatively common: that was when postcards were the text messages of their day, and picture postcard collecting was the hobby of choice. By the 1920s new picture postcards were becoming harder to find. 

​This wonderful colour photograph of Southgate in Halifax dates from that time - a time when motor vehicles were beginning to replace horse and carts on the streets of our towns and cities. If you view the same scene today, few of the buildings have structurally changed, but the canvas awnings have gone along with the old cobbled setts. The majestic Halifax Town Hall (designed by Charles and Edward Barry and opened in 1863) can be seen in the centre of the photograph.


"Dear Mary, Arrived safe 2.30, just been down to Halifax. I have got a terrible headache but I hope it is better by morning. Millie is looking very well again. Love to all, Mother"

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Transcending Silver Salts in Hebden Bridge


A good vintage photograph is one in which the personality of the subject being photographed somehow transcends the chemical process of silver salts and hypo fixer, and flows straight off the pasteboard card. This photograph of an unknown woman from the Hebden Bridge studio of Crossley Westerman is one such photograph. Westerman established his "Electric and Daylight Studio" in Hebden Bridge in 1892, and quickly acquired a reputation for high quality portrait work. His daughter Ada eventually ran the studio and shop and in 1921 she employed a young apprentice photographer, a local girl, Alice Longstaff. Alice became a very accomplished photographer, and during a long career (she took over the studio in 1936 and ran it until her death in 1992) she produced a extensive collection of work. The story of Alice Longstaff is told in a book, "Alice's Album" by Issy Shannon and Frank Woolrych, and there are many examples of the work of both Crossley Westerman and Alice Longstaff on-line. This particular photograph is probably too early to be the work of Alice Longstaff, but whoever took it, it is a piece of work to be proud of.