Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Postcards From Home : Seven Views Of Halifax


This card is yet another example of the popular "multi-view" cards that were produced during the early years of the twentieth century. Postcard publishers were fond of this approach, as it allowed them to republish existing images with the simple addition of a coat of arms or similar device. I think I have all seven of the individual views of famous Halifax locations within my postcard collection. The caption "The Rooks" is clearly a printing error, for the view is clearly that of the Rocks and Albert Promenade. The Orphanage is the current Crossley Heath School: it was known as the Crossley and Porter Orphanage until it changed its name to the Crossley And Porter Schools in 1918. The coat of arms depicted on the card is interesting: there are several versions of the Halifax coat of arms or town crest illustrated on the internet - none of which seem to feature this particular design.



The message on the reverse of this card is as follows:-
Dear Cousins, Very pleased to hear from you. Uncle's address is 15 Lane Ends Terrace, Hipperholme. You must not be surprised if you see us anytime when you get settled as we shall not have as far to come. Mother sends her kind love. We have removed to Bramley Lane, Lightcliffe. With love Lucy. Send proper address at Sheffield.
The card was posted on the 8th August 1912 to Mrs Otter of the Wheatsheaf Inn, Bridge Street, Gainsborough.


There is a fascinating short description of the town of Halifax printed on the back of the postcard which tries to sum up the town in just fifty words. An interesting exercise would be to try and encapsulate Halifax now, at the start of the twenty-first century, in just fifty words.


Monday, October 21, 2019

Random History : Mr & Mrs Kirby Get The Job


HALIFAX BOARD OF GUARDIANS - Yesterday, an ordinary meeting of the Halifax Board of Guardians was held, presided over by Mr John Taylor, the chairman. The minutes and reports of the various committees were approved; and the number of paupers in the home was stated to be 391. The treasurer's account showed a balance in the bank of £761 5s 10d. The number of outdoor recipients of relief was 2052, and their cost for the preceding week £163 6s 11d. In the corresponding week of last year the number was 2165, and the amount of relief £175 13s 1d. For the positions of master and matron of the Workhouse there have been fifty applications, and these had been reduced by a sub-committee to seven, who, it was resolved should be requested to attend before the Board at an adjourned meeting, to be held next Wednesday; second-class railway fare being allowed to those travelling. These seven are - Mr and Mrs Griffiths, Nantwich; Mr and Mrs Roach, Cheltenham; Mr and Mrs Hope, Kidderminster; Mr and Mrs Simmons, Truro; Mr and Mrs Glaister, North Aylesforth; Mr and Mrs Kirby, Loughborough; and Mr and Mrs Whelen, of Halifax

Our random number generating time machine directs us this week to the year 1875, where we drop in on a meeting of the Halifax Board of Guardians. The workhouse was built in 1841 and occupied a site between Gibbet Street and Hanson Lane. 25 years after this report the workhouse changed its name to St John's Hospital, but its main function of providing relief for the poor of the Borough continued right the way through until the introduction of the Welfare State in the 1940s. From 1948 until 1970 it was a hospital specialising in geriatric care, but I can still remember the reluctance of older people to be admitted to the building they still saw as the workhouse. Geriatric care was eventually moved to Northowram Hospital in 1970.

In addition to providing rudimentary shelter and work within the workhouse itself, the Board of Guardians were also responsible for what was known as "outdoor relief" - small weekly sums for families in need, living outside the workhouse. During the week in question, £163 had been spent of outdoor relief for the support of 2052 recipients; which works out at about 1/6d (8 pence) per person per week.

By searching the 1881 census records we can discover who was successful in being appointed as the master and matron of the workhouse: it was John and Annie Kirby of Loughborough.


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.

Monday, September 30, 2019

The Blue Skies And Mustard Streets Of Brighouse


There is a modern passion for "colourising" old monochrome photographs and films, and when this is skilfully done, it can provide a more accurate link to the past. Reproducing scenes in various shades of grey was simply a short interlude in our visual history - imposed by the technical limitations of early photographic techniques. Neither the cave painters of Lascaux nor the old masters of the Renaissance would have dreamt of limiting their palettes to black and white. When we close our eyes and conjure up a scene, we conjure with reds, and blues, and greens.

The early manufacturers of picture postcards refused to be limited by the photographic processes that were available to them at the turn of the twentieth century. Using the monochrome outlines provided by their cameras, they applied colour with bravado rather than accuracy, tinting and colourising the streets of our towns and cities.


This early twentieth century postcard of Commercial Street in Brighouse is a particularly good example of the tinter's art, with its too blue sky and its mustard coloured streets. The buildings are real enough, however, and a walk down Commercial Street today would reveal most of these nineteenth century shops still in place: although the original owners have long left the scene. Thomas Clayton's Central Mart was Brighouse's equivalent of a department store, where you could buy everything from knicker elastic to linoleum. Think of it as an Amazon of the High Street.


The message on the reverse of the card is satisfyingly prosaic.
Dear Friends, We arrived home about 9 o'clock on Sat having spent a very pleasant time in Skipton. Father is a lot better and going about his work as usual, we hope that at some future time we may be able to spend a few more days with you, we always feel so much better after coming. With the best of love to you. From Mr and Mrs Turner.

The card was addressed to Mr and Mrs Whitlock in Morecambe, and we can surmise that the Turners had just returned from a holiday by the sea. No doubt whilst they were away, they bought many postcards of Morecambe to send to their friends back home; and the same postcard colourists had done a similar justice to the blue skies and mustard coloured sands of Morecambe Bay.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Storm Clouds Over Livorno


Extract From A Holiday Diary:
We arrived early in the morning at Livorno to be greeted with a storm of epic proportions. It was rather like the God Vulcan tossing thunderbolts at his mate Jupiter, whilst Persephone had a screaming fit because someone had trod on her toe. Nero and Augustus would have cringed in the cabins of their trireme, we - seasoned travellers that we are - calmly went for our breakfast.

Monday, September 02, 2019

Drama In Elsecar


We are out and about and a long way from home over the next week or so. On this first day, however, we are just down the road at the Elsecar Heritage Centre. Wherever we finish up, there can be few more dramatic scenes than storm clouds over Elsecar.