Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Lost Pubs Of Brighouse : No. 6 The Thornhill Arms Inn, Rastrick

At one time or another there have been over 100 pubs, inns, beerhouses and taverns in the streets around Brighouse and Rastrick. Today, only a handful are left. Before time is called on too many more, I decided to go on a historical pub-crawl in search of the lost pubs of Brighouse.

No. 6 : The Thornhill Arms Inn, Rastrick

Very often, local history is a history of names. Each area, each parish, each township has its names; names that stretch back into antiquity like historical tendrils. This particular part of Yorkshire is no exception: the Sykes, the Holdsworths, the Berrys, and the Hansons populate graveyards like wild poppies in a meadow. And the names of the more prominent families - the landowners like the Savilles, the Armitages and the Thornhills - grace many an Inn sign in the streets and squares of West Yorkshire towns.

The Thornhill family was a particularly important one in the area south of Brighouse. The Thornhill estate used to own - and to a certain extent still does - many of the acres that sweep up the hillside from the Calder Valley in the direction of Fixby Hall - at one time one of the families great houses and these days the base of Huddersfield Golf Club. The family consolidated their hold on the area in 1365 when Richard de Thornhill married Margaret de Totehill, the daughter of another prominent landowning family. The importance of the family is ingrained on the local terrain : with its Thornhill Briggs, its Thornhill Road, and its handful of Thornhill Arms. 

The Thornhill Arms we are interested in today is the one that was once one of the most prominent locations in Rastrick, a building that still stands at the junction of Church Street, Ogden Road and Thornhill Road. It has not been a pub for some 75 years. Until recently it was a residential nursing home. Today it is empty and for sale.

Nobody can seem to agree when the Thornhill Arms was built. Some suggest it was opened in 1858, but there are records of a Thornhill Arms Inn in the area before that date. The 1850s were an important decade in the development of the pub, however, because by then the Thornhill Road which passes the pub had developed from being a private road owned by the Thornhill Estate into a major highway leading into the now rapidly developing town of Brighouse. Rastrick, a more ancient settlement than its upstart neighbour, was by then being dragged into the nineteenth century by the proximity of busy, industrial Brighouse, and the Thornhill Arms was been taken along for the ride. 

In the latter half of the nineteenth century, much of life in Rastrick revolved around the Thornhill Arms. It was here that the committees met, the societies ate, the singers sang and the politicians plotted. It was also here that, every six months, the local tenant farmers of the Thornhill Estate would gather to pay their rent, an occasion that was usually followed by a celebratory meal washed down by flagons of ale. The Thornhill Arms was a substantial building and there are several records reporting that well over 100 people would sit down for a meal. When the Oddfellows gathered in 1873, there may not have been that many eating, but the description of the occasion which appeared in the Huddersfield Daily Chronicle sums up the nature of the place.

"ODDFELLOWS' ANNIVERSARY AT RASTRICK - On New Year's day the lodge of the Independent Order of Oddfellows held at the house of Mr James Smith, the Thornhill Arms Inn, Rastrick, celebrated their anniversary at that house. Sixty of the brethren partook of an excellent and substantial dinner well served by Mrs Smith. In the evening the wives and sweethearts of the members to the same number partook of a first-rate knife and fork tea at the same house, and after the removal of the tables they joined the sterner sex, and a very comfortable evening was passed with singing, recitations, and other pleasantries, including dancing to the strains of a quadrille band."

James Smith was the celebrated landlord of the Thornhill Arms between 1867 and 1881. He was also a local farmer and, some records suggest, a butcher as well. His wife Ellen is often recorded as serving memorable dinners and suppers for local gatherings, and it is clear that the family were well placed to monopolise the entire supply chain of the feasts.

As with so many local pubs, business in the twentieth century was a continuing struggle. By then, both Brighouse and Rastrick had its supply of public halls and municipal buildings and such inns as the Thornhill Arms were being reduced to little more than drinking venues in competition with an abundance of local beerhouses and taverns.  In 1938, the Thornhill Arms Inn closed for the last time and now the building stands empty. But as I passed it this morning to take the above photograph, I am sure I could still hear the echo of the strains of the quadrille band.

Monday, October 28, 2013

When The Sun Goes Off, The Scanner Goes On

This weekend saw the end of British Summer Time (to those unfamiliar with the concept, it is a form of climatic flagellation we British subject ourselves to each year which guarantees that when things are turning cold and dark they turn even colder and darker). It also brought storms and driving rain which managed to drive out every last tactile memory of the Spanish sun. Any bird with half an ounce of sense has flown south for the summer and Amy has curled up into a tight ball of fur and left a note to ask us to wake her in the Spring.

For me, when the sun goes off the scanner comes on and I resume the process of rescanning my old negatives from the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. My main problem with this is that I can never remember where I have got to. Perhaps I have published this scan before, although I doubt whether I have. I am almost sure it was taken in Elland, but I am having difficulty narrowing down exactly where. Part of the problem is that Elland has changed so much : matching the particular pattern of mills and chimneys with Google Street view scenes is almost impossible. 

If you click and enlarge and squint, you might just make out a pub on the bottom corner of the road. For me, pub signs provide a grid reference that is both fairly accurate and potentially quite refreshing. I suspect that might by The Drop on Elland Lane: but don't worry about it. I have all the long, dark, wet days ahead to puzzle over the conundrum and I might just need to find my heavy raincoat and venture outside to carry out some research.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Sepia Saturday 200 : The Curious Case Of The Milliners' Wedding

For Sepia Saturday 200 we are revisiting our previous Sepia Saturday posts and choosing just one to illustrate our Sepia Saturday contributions over the years. My choice takes me back to the very beginning of Sepia Saturday and provides some background to a photograph which will be familiar to all Sepia Saturday readers - the photograph that has appeared at the head of our blog for the last three and a half years. So here is the curious case of the milliners' wedding.


Irrespective of anything else, this is just a gorgeous photograph. Again it came out of one of those boxes of old photographs which are handed down. There are no firm details as to who the subjects of the photograph are other than a scribbled note in pencil on the back which states "Harry's Father". I must confess that the handwriting looks suspiciously like mine and therefore it appears that at some stage, I half identified the happy couple and then abandoned them to a fate of dust and scratches at the bottom of a old cardboard box. For this I feel guilty and I am therefore determined to make some amends. I need to track down the details and release them to the waiting world. It will be like one of those wedding reports you see in the local paper. The difference will be that it will be a little late in appearing (as it turns out, 108 years late).

The Harry was the clue, for as regular readers of the Blog will know, I had an Uncle Harry. He was married to my fathers' sister and was therefore not a direct blood relative of mine. Luckily, amongst the various documents I have accumulated over the years, I have a copy of his birth certificate. He was born in 1903 and his parents were Abraham Moore and Alice Moore (formally Rotheray). So the chances are that this could be a photograph of Abraham and Alices' wedding. The one problem with this is that they all look a little too affluent . Abraham is listed on the birth certificate as being a "Piece Taker In" which sounds as though it is a run-of-the-mill textile process. Could a Piece Taker In have afforded those magnificent hats or attracted a girl from a family that could. The census records suggest that Alice's father was a "Butter Factor" : once again not likely to be able to afford all those ribbons and bows.

The crowning piece of evidence was in the 1891 census records. By now Alice is 16 and her occupation is listed as being a "Milliner Apprentice". We therefore have a possible solution - the hats were stock in trade, borrowed for the big day from the brides' workplace. Whatever the explanation, it does seem likely that it was the wedding of Abraham and Alice which took place in the Spring of 1900. So, a little late in the day, we can finally publish the picture, and the report :

"The wedding took place on Saturday 23rd April 1900 of Abraham, son of Smith and Margaret Moore of Percy Street, Horton, Bradford and Alice, eldest daughter of Thomas and Lydia Rotheray of Smiddles Lane Bowling, Bradford. The bride wore a dress of starched white silk ....."

You can see all the sepia favourites which have been published to celebrate Sepia Saturday 200 by visiting the Sepia Saturday Blog and following the links.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Marking The Passage Of Time In Grimsby

We have this system on the NHS where you can choose which surgeon in which hospital you want to carry out any elective surgery you are having (and, yes, people in America, you don't have to pay!). For my finger surgery, I finished up going to Grimsby and Scunthorpe, where, for me, the best surgeon offering the best treatment was working. It is years since I've been to Grimsby and it was just a shame that I didn't have time to wonder around the fish docks there. At an earlier stage of my life I used to go there often, to walk the atmospheric streets, soak up the unmistakable aroma of fresh fish, and dodge the great ice-filled carts of fish heads and tails being pushed around by off-white coated workers. For some reason I gravitated there on birthdays and in the 1980s I marked the passage of time on the cobbled streets of the town. As I walked I would sometimes sing Jacques Brel to myself, those magnificent lyrics from his song Amsterdam.
In the port of Amsterdam
There's a sailor who sings
Of the dreams that he brings
From the wide open sea
In the port of Amsterdam
Where the sailors all meet
There's a sailor who eats
Only fishheads and tails
He will show you his teeth
That have rotted too soon
That can swallow the moon
That can haul up the sails.
The words are not enough, you need the music as well: the speeding, stormy, tempestuous music. Here is Scott Walkers' brilliant interpretation.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Message To Sepians Emeritus

If you have followed my blog for any period of time you will have noticed that posts entitled "Sepia Saturday" have peppered my output like grains of salt atop a finely fried egg. Many of my fellow bloggers also contribute to Sepia Saturday each week and many more of my on-line friends have contributed to it at one time or another over the last four years. It is to this latter group - those Sepians Emeritus - that this post is directed. This Saturday, the 26th October 2013, Sepia Saturday celebrates its' 200th edition and to mark the occasion we are asking everyone who has ever taken part to re-post one of their own favourite contributions from the last four years. We will then gather together all these contributions into a small book which will be available on a non-profit, publish-on-demand basis. So if you have ever participated in Sepia Saturday, and even if you are not currently participating, why not search through your blog archives and find your favourite Sepia Saturday post (your own post, not that of someone else). Then all you have to do is to re-post it in time for this weekend and link it to the Sepia Saturday Blog. Full details of all you need to do are available on this weeks call notice. Help us celebrate a sepia anniversary and join in with Sepia Saturday 200.

Monday, October 21, 2013

An Ethereal Suggestion Of The Prehistoric

Back from a week of heat and sun in Spain and back to a land of endless rain-sodden mists. It is not exactly cold, but it is miserable. I prefer to remember last week. This picture was taken on Saturday when we went down to San Pedro del Pinatar on the great Mar Menor lagoon. There were flamingos feeding in the salt lakes creating wonderful reflections in the still waters.

Just taking the reflection you are left with a rather ethereal suggestion of something almost prehistoric. I suspect it would make a rather good blog header.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Strengthened By The Sun

In order to enhance my recuperation from major surgery (OK, the straightening of my little finger) I have decided to go to Spain for the week. I will be back next weekend, my fingers strengthened by the sun and ready to pound the computer keys well into the next decade.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Subject Of Lecture : Hell

It would be an exaggeration to claim that life since my finger-straightening operation had been "hell", but life when you can't use your computer because of a ridiculous finger-splint has certainly not been heavenly. I return to hospital on Thursday for a new splint, and hopefully after that I will be able to leave it off for longer periods of time. Soon I should be able to pound the keyboard again and be able to reply personally to all your good will messages. Until then, let me leave you with a short announcement that I found in the Bradford Observer of the 7th October 1875 (I have been amusing myself during my inactivity by reading old newspapers). What I love about this announcement is not what it tells us, but what it doesn't. What was in the letter? And how did it connect up with the subject of his lecture on Sunday. Perhaps we shall never know.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Sent From My iPhone

Sent from my iPhone

I've had the operation. now I'm home and trying to recover. I have a rather large splint on my right hand which means that it is very difficult to type or do anything meaningful with the computer. this particular blog entry is being made by speaking into my iPhone and getting it to work out what I'm saying and translate it into written text. if only this kind of technology had being available during my deaf years, I would have been a much happier person. within the coming days hopefully I'll be able to wear the splint less and less and consequently be able to type my posts as normal. once things get easier I'll be back and let you know all about it.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

The Confessions Of A Calculating Team Player

I've never been much of a team player. Not through want of trying - I favour the all-for-one and one-for-all ethos as much as the next cog in the wheel - it's just that I have rarely been picked for a team. I have always been one of the left-overs, the sad collection of less than perfect specimens left after the two team captains have selected their teams: destined to see service amongst those who only stand and wait, or run the touch line, or go off on a lone cross country walk.

In all my 65 years I have only ever been a member of four teams. For the first three, my participation was limited to only one game and my most recent run as a team player - as part of the Rock Tavern Domino Team - looks fated to follow a similar trajectory. 

My sad record started when I was picked for my Junior School football team and was placed in goals as it didn't look like I could run far. We lost the match 10-0 and my services were never called on again for any team throughout my school career. During my teenage years I abandoned the physical arena in favour of the intellectual one and joined Halifax Chess Club. After a few weeks I was asked if I would be prepared to play in the team and I enthusiastically agreed. My disappointment at been allocated to the lowest "board" was more than made up by discovering that we were playing the Polish team, and I was rather proud of making an international fixture on my first outing. I later discovered that we were playing the Halifax Polish Ex-Serviceman's Club and my game was against the barman. Despite the fact that he had to keep breaking off from the match to pull pints, he still managed to defeat me in 12 moves. As with the football, my services were never called upon again.

During my time as a college lecturer in Doncaster, I was once asked to turn out for the staff team in a staff versus student hockey match. The fixture took place on a very foggy day on the playing fields just behind the college. During the first half I managed to avoid contact with either the ball (which was rather hard) or any of the opposing players (who has scores to settle with regards the marking of a recent economics essay). During the second half the fog came down even more and I wandered around on the wing isolated not only from the rest of the team, but also from the rest of humanity. It was only much, much later that someone had the decency to come out in search of me to let me know the match had been abandoned at half time. As with football, as with chess, I was never called upon again.

My latest manifestation of a team player has been as a member of the Rock Tavern Domino Team (the Manchester United of the Brighouse Pubs and Clubs Domino League). Due to holiday absences, the call went out last week and I responded. And it was a George Best of a performance, a Robin Van Persie of an inauguration. I won my two matches by a substantial margin and looked set to wipe out my sad history as a team player. With the confidence of a Suffolk Punch carthorse, last night I turned out for my second game - against Thornhill Working Men's Club. I lost both at straight dominos and at 5s and 3s. I fear my days in the team are numbered due to my inability to calculate the divisibility of the total number of visible pips by both five and three, I have managed to find an iPad App to improve my performance, but I fear it might already be too late. As with the football, the chess, and the hockey, I fear that I will never be called upon again.

Not Seeing The Moores For The Trees

This family photograph from the 1930s perfectly captures a marriage of style and elegance. It also captures a marriage between two people, b...