Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Postcards From Home : Kirklees, Calderdale


A popular pub quiz trivia question in these parts is "What is odd about the name of the Metropolitan Borough of Kirklees?". The answer is that it is named after Kirklees Hall - which is in fact in the neighbouring borough of Calderdale. For most of my life I have lived within an arrows-shot of Kirklees Hall and, I must confess, I have never actually seen it. This is as much a result of the privacy notices that surround the property and its adjacent grounds, as my lack of curiosity. I remember, as a youth, climbing over a few fences to visit Robin Hood's Grave, which is in the grounds, but I never caught sight of the Hall itself.

The Hall is Jacobean in origin - although most of the visible structure results from an eighteenth century rebuild by the architect, John Carr. It was built in the grounds of the twelfth century Kirklees Priory, where - legend suggests - Robin Hood met his death. Whilst lying on his deathbed he is supposed to have shot an arrow from the old Priory, and decreed that he should be buried wherever the arrow landed - hence the famous grave. Sad to say, the grave is a Victorian edifice, and most of the legend of Robin Hood is a romantic fantasy:  but it was still worth climbing a fence to see.

The Hall remained under the ownership of the Armytage family right up until the 1980s, when it was converted into luxury apartments. The Priory itself is long gone and commemorated these days by the name of the Three Nuns Inn.


The card was sent in August 1914, just a few weeks after the outbreak of World War 1 (although there is no mention of the conflict in the message). It was sent to a Mrs Margrave of 22 Cocker Street, Blackpool, from someone who signs themselves as :F". The message is as follows:-

Very pleased to hear you are having a good time, keep it up. By the way tell L that those postcards she sent me have evidently gone astray. Kind regards to all, F (Here with Walt tonight)

It is unclear as to where F (along with Walt) is tonight: it is more likely to be Brighouse than it is Kirklees Hall. Nevertheless, it could just be that the Hall was used for military training purposes during World War 1 (the grounds certainly were during World War 2), and possibly F and Walt were preparing to go to France and fight in the war. As with most old postcards, the lack of certainty just adds to the interest.


Monday, October 14, 2019

Rock Of Ages


"It is a matter of intense debate amongst mathematicians and theoretical particle physicists as to whether it is possible for any three dimensional object to have just three edges. It is clear that none of the participants involved in such discussions have ever been to Elland - for Elland has just three edges: Hullen Edge, Lower Edge and Upper Edge. The fact that Elland is unique in the known physical universe will come as no surprise to its inhabitants, most of whom have firmly held such a belief for as long as history has been recorded. It is, however, the uniqueness of just one of these three edges - Upper Edge - that concerns us here, and the special part of that uniqueness that is represented by the building that proudly sits at the summit of the long climb up from Elland township - the Rock Tavern"

That is the opening paragraph of "Rock Of Ages - A History Of The Rock Tavern, Elland", a book that Martin Williams and myself have been writing for the past couple of years. We have now worked our way through the history of the pub - from the tropical swamps of the Carboniferous Period right through to the mid 1980s - and we need to write the final chapter which covers the history of the pub during living memory. To do this, we are abandoning dusty census records and faded newspaper cuttings, and depending on the memories of real customers, past and present. 

Anyone with a memory to share or a story to tell is invited up to the pub on Saturday 19th October at 7.30pm, when there will be an opportunity to include these in the final chapter of the book we are hoping to publish at the beginning of 2020. There will be a pie and pea supper and friends old and new to meet. Martin and I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible on Saturday.


Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Sepia Saturday : Dark Satanic Mills


My mother worked in the mill, so did my father. My Auntie Annie, Aunty Miriam, and Auntie Amy all worked in the mill, as did my grandfather and great-grandfather. The mill - its noises, smells, heat, dirt and grease - forms the warp and weft of my family tree. Our Sepia Saturday theme image this week therefore has a very personal resonance for me. I am sure that I have shared this particular photograph before on at least one of the last 490 Sepia Saturdays, but I make no apologies, it is one of my favourite family photographs. 

As far as I can work out, the photograph must have been taken in the early 1930s, and it features both my mother and my Auntie Amy - my mother is standing at the front on the left in the photo and a slightly out of focus Aunty Amy is on the right. I am not sure which will it was that they worked in: by the time I came into the world fifteen or more years later, most of the mills were in the process of closing down and their names were like whispered memories.

Within a few years of this photograph being taken, my mother had left the mill to start trying for a family. My father had only spent a short time in the mill as a young lad before becoming a mechanic. My aunties and uncles also left the mill behind: although in some cases it left them with lasting illnesses and diseases as a legacy. The looms of Bradford fell silent and the world changed.

The mill is still central to my family history, however. I cannot pass one of those silent, brooding stone edifices without visualising generation after generation of my forebears, tramping through the dark, damp streets to start their daily shifts in the dark, satanic mills of Yorkshire.


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

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Monochrome Valley : Sensuous Concrete

Burdock Way, Halifax Under Construction, 1971 : Alan Burnett (B11/4b)
I have always thought that there is something sensuous about the lines of Burdock Way as it strides over the Hebble Valley. To achieve that with nothing but poured concrete and steel mesh is civil engineering at its best.

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

When Soot Still Fused With Stone


Dean Clough From North Bridge, Halifax (1971) : One of my photographs from the days when smoke came out of chimneys, when soot fused with stone, when carpets still rolled off looms.