Friday, July 19, 2019

From Shroggs Park Through The Mill

If there is a nineteenth century park or public building in Halifax, there is a fair chance that it was set out or erected by one of the Crossley Brothers. If not, it will be a near certainty that it was the work of Colonel Edward Ackroyd. Their names are woven into the very fabric of the town - in buildings streets and public spaces. Shroggs Park, was the work of Colonel Edward Ackroyd: built on a piece of waste ground overlooking the Wheatley Valley in 1872. Ackroyd was a fascinating character and his contribution to the area was considerable - note to whoever may be listening: if you want a good follow-up to Gentleman Jack, you could do worse than make a TV series about Edward Ackroyd - and Shroggs Park is one of many of his legacies that has lasted well into the twenty-first century.

Nobody seems to be quite sure of the origins - or indeed the eventual fate - of the cannons that appear in this 1910 photograph, but from the way they have been stationed, the town is well protected from invaders from both east and west.

The card was posted in June 1910 to a Miss Cissie Servant in Jordanhill, Glasgow, and reads as follows:-

My Dear Cissie, I am having a delightful time of it, and getting good weather. Have been through the mill today. It was most interesting. Love to all, Jeannie. Leaving here Thursday

One can only assume that Jeannie had "been through the mill" in a literal sense rather than an idiomatic one. Could it, perhaps, have been one of the mills of Colonel Ackroyd?

Thursday, July 18, 2019

The Midget Gem That Is Lily Brayton

This midget gem dropped through my letter box yesterday, along with a dozen or so more old vintage postcards (is there a word for people who are addicted to buying useless ephemera on eBay?) I have never come across a "Midget Post Card" before, but they appear to have been popular for a short period during the height of the postcard craze of the early twentieth century, They weigh-in (so to speak) at a featherweight three and a half inch by two and three quarters, and the reverse side already appears overcrowded once a stamp and an address have been added.

There is, however, something about the shape which is quite satisfying - especially when it provides a frame for one of the great beauties of the Edwardian era, Lily Brayton. Lily was born in Lancashire in 1876, the daughter of a local doctor. Acting must have been in the family somewhere, because both her and her sister went on this stage, and in 1898 she married the Australian actor, director and writer, Oscar Asche. They became the celebrity couple of their era: if it had been a century later, Lily and Oscar would have TV programmes made about their lives and millions of followers on Facebook and Twitter. Because it was the start of the twentieth century, Lily had her image on hundreds of picture postcards.

This particular tiny postcard was sent to Mrs Hailes of the Royal Marine Barracks in Stonehouse, Plymouth in July 1904. The message is short and to the point (they had to be on midget postcards - a little like Twitter you were restricted in the number of characters you could use! "Train leaves Millbay at 2.20pm. We shall be delighted to have the children for the night, EH."

You can make of that what you will. Alternatively, you can look into the eyes of the midget gem that is Lily Brayton.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Looking Down On Elland

South Lane climbs out of Elland up towards the top of Blackley, but loses interest in the task and peters out amongst some soulless brick factories. Back in the 1970s, when I took this photo, you could still look down on the power station and Gannex Mill. These days industrial units and new housing developments fill up some of the spaces.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

A Walk In West View Park

I must confess I was only vaguely aware of the existence of West View Park before I came across this vintage postcard. I have a cousin who used to walk his dog there, and I suspect that I have passed the entrance when going somewhere else. Now I want to visit the park, I want to walk the paths, look down the valley, see how it has changed over 100 years.

West View Park was laid out in the 1890s on the site of a moorland quarry in Highroad Well, Halifax. The conversion was financed by two local industrialists, Henry Charles McCrea, a mill owner who was also responsible for giving Albert Promenade to the town, and Enoch Robinson, a worsted spinner and future Mayor of Halifax. It was opened in 1896 and presented to the town of Halifax.

The card was sent in either 1914 or 1918 - the postmark is a little unclear. The message reads as follows:-

Dear Sarah Ann, Do not stay in expecting me this week as Mrs Dickenson has written telling me she is coming to see me one afternoon this week, so that means that my spare afternoon will be gone as I must be in when she comes. Love from Mary.  We shall be pleased to see you at anytime.

Thanks for the card Mary, I won't stay in this week. I think I might go for a walk in the park instead.

Monday, July 08, 2019

Monochrome Valley : Ring Them Bells

The Ring O'Bells, located next to Halifax Minster, supposedly dates back to either the 13th or the 15th century; although that is "dates back" in the sense that an inn has been around here since those distant times. The current manifestation was, in fact, built in 1720; which is quite old enough for most respectable people. At one time it was known as "The Sign Of The Church", but changed its name to the more fashionable "Ring O'Bells" probably in the 19th century. Church and Inn often had a symbiotic relationship, and the "Ring O'Bells" was a popular name for pubs in the Calder Valley - similar named establishments could be visited in Mytholmroyd, Rastrick, Elland, Brighouse and Boothtown.

When I took these two photographs in the 1960s, the old inn was showing its age. These days, however, it is all whitewashed walls, brass lights and canvas awnings. Nevertheless, it is still possible to sit within its stone-cooled rooms, drink a pleasant pint, and listen to the sound of the church bells.

Sunday, July 07, 2019

A True Friend Is One That Gets Lost


This is another vintage card from the postcard album of Fowler Beanland. "A  true friend is a sure anchor" is the early twentieth century equivalent of those trite quotations you see on Facebook or etched into all plaques to hang on the kitchen wall. The flags featured on the card are, on the right, the union flag, and on the left, the Royal Standard of the United Kingdom. The two hands are joined across a globe, signifying, perhaps, friendships between different parts of the, then, British Empire.

The card was posted to Fowler Beanland in October 1907, and despite the somewhat truncated address, seems to have reached Fowler in Longtown, Cumbria. It comes from his brother, Arther, and reads - as far as I can decipher it - as follows:

My Dear Bro. Yours duly to hand and we (ken?) you have plenty of relation who are all alive at Clayton and all in good health an presents hoping you are the same. We had a P.P.C. from our Eliza last week and were glad to hear that all is well at home. I had thought of coming up on 13th but got to I.O.M. The children send you the best of love. Yours Arthur.

This is a somewhat curious message, written in an unusual style. Arthur Beanland (1864-1944) was the eldest of the Beanland children, and here he is writing to his brother Fowler (1872-1959), the third eldest. His younger brother, Albert (1875-1948), was my maternal grandfather, and the Eliza (1880-1942) mentioned in the card is their youngest sister. At the time of this postcard, Arthur was living in Clayton, just outside Bradford, whilst Fowler was living in Longtown - 115 miles to the north - and Eliza was, I think, living in Keighley, from where the family originated. A few years before this card was sent, Arthur and Fowler - along with their father - were in business together, but that business went bankrupt at the turn of the century.

The final part of the message, is perhaps the most curious. It appears to suggest that Arthur was thinking of travelling north on the 13th to see Fowler but finished up in the Isle of Man instead! This would appear to be a significant feat of mis-navigation, even for the geographically challenged Beanlands.

Friday, July 05, 2019

Sepia Saturday 477 : Miriam And The Javelin

Our Sepia Saturday theme image this week shows a line of cars in Vancouver, Canada in 1942. In fact they are cars seized by the Canadian Government from Japanese-Canadian citizens during the course of the Second World War. The car which features in my post this week has also been seized - in this case by the one and only Miriam Fieldhouse. The car in question is a Jowett Javelin, made at the Jowett car factory in Bradford - the factory where her husband, Frank, worked. The aerodynamic looking Javelin was produced from 1947 until 1953 and during that period it achieved success in the field of motor sports - winning its class in the 1947 Monte Carlo Rally. Sadly, it had only been temporarily seized by Miriam - after this 1950 photo opportunity it was returned to the factory car park. 

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

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

The Rocks And Hoards Of Halifax


If Halifax has anything, it has plenty of rocks. They build the steep valley sides, they support the heather-clad moors, they have provided the stone that has built the houses, and the coal that has powered the mills. To isolate just a few of these rocks, christen them as "The Rocks", and then stroll in their shade on a Sunday afternoon might seem an odd thing to do, but Halifax folk have always rejoiced in their oddness. This particular postcard dates from the second decade of the twentieth century and is captioned "New Promenade, The Rocks, Halifax". The new promenade in question is hardly likely to be the famous Albert Promenade that skirts the top of the valley and allows you to look down at The Rocks and the Calder Valley, because that had been around since 1861. It appears to be a new pathway cut through the rocks that is being celebrated. This might seem like an odd subject for a picture postcard, but as we have already agreed, Halifax folk like to celebrate their oddness.

The postcard was sent to Mrs Otten of 44 Berkeley Street, Crosby, Scunthorpe and came from "her loving niece, Emily". The message reads as follows:

My Dear Uncle and Aunt, Mother thanks you very much for your good wishes for her birthday. We are very sorry to hear of Harrie's accident. How very unfortunate for her and you too, as it will have been very hard for you all. Please give our best love to her and we hope with care she will soon be all right again. We are glad to hear you are all well, we are all the same. With our kind love to you and all. Your loving niece, Emily

There is a certain style to the writing, which is a little unusual for the age, when postcard messages tended to be brief and full of the kind of text message speak of their day - "Hope yours ok t'morrow be home 4ish ..."

The postcard appears to date from around the time one of the most famous finds in Halifax archaeological history was made within the very rocks pictured on the card. In May 1915, a group of schoolgirls from the nearby Crossley Orphanage discovered the "Skircoat Hoard" - a collection of some 1075 bronze Roman coins. these were later presented to Halifax Corporation for display, but I can find no record of where they are now. I am sure that someone will write in and tell me.

Monday, July 01, 2019

Green Clough

One of my photographs from the late '60s shows the cobbled lane leading from Woodside Road down to Old Lane and Dean Clough. The lane still exists, but these days it is lined by a canopy of trees - and grey has been replaced by green.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Creativity Is An Act Of Defiance

I was walking through Elsecar yesterday when I spotted a pencil that had been left on a wall. It looked as though it had been left there intentionally, rather than accidentally dropped, and when I examined it I discovered a printed legend on the main body of the wooden shaft: "Creativity is an act of defiance"! Whether this was just some random abandonment, or the start of a new counter-culture, I do not know, but ex-pit villages in South Yorkshire have had more than their fair share of cultural resurrections. I decided that the rules required me to create something with the pencil, and then abandon it in a similar fashion, for somebody else to carry this act of cultural defiance forward. I apologise for my efforts, I am no artist (I have a brother for that kind of thing), but defiance does not recognise accepted conventions. I will abandon the pencil later today - so be on the look out.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

From Novels To Nuptials To Turkey Red Twill

Belle Vue is a building that many Halifax people of a certain age will be familiar with, as it used to be the Central Library - although tucked away up Lister Lane it was not very central. Now it is an up-market wedding venue: from novels to nuptials!

Belle Vue  was built in 1857 as a home for Sir Francis Crossley and it was designed by the architect George Henry Stokes - the assistant to, and son-in-law of, Sir Joseph Paxton (of Crystal Palace fame).  It became the home of Halifax Central Library in 1889, and remained so until 1983, when it then moved to the centre of Halifax. The Halifax War Memorial was also originally situated in the grounds, until it too was moved in 1988.

The Belle Vue postcard was used in November 1913 as a kind of early on-line shopping order. "Please get me half a yard of Turkey Red Twill for my quilt", writes Lucy

The card was sent to Mrs Hartland of Margate Street in Sowerby Bridge, and the message reads as follows:-
Dear M, When you are out shopping some time will you please get me half a yard of Turkey Red Twill for my quilt. I have used up all I have so far as I know now we shall be coming home on Sunday. Love to both, Lucy.

Turkey Red was a dyeing process used of cotton cloth and yarn and producing rich vibrant colours. It was particularly popular in the nineteenth century and Turkey Red cloth was produced widely in Scotland. I did manage to find an advert for some genuine 100 year old Turkey Red Twill on eBay, so if Lucy would like to drop me a postcard, I can order her some.

Monday, June 24, 2019

The Girl With The Awfully Big Hat

An old photo, not much bigger than a postage stamp, pasted to the cover of an old album. But who is the girl with the awfully big hat? Facial recognition rides to the rescue.

The tiny photograph was pasted onto the back page of the postcard album of my mother's uncle, Fowler Beanland. It was only when the print was scanned and cleaned up that I begun to fully appreciate it for the charming portrait that it was: a picture of a little girl with an awfully big hat. Given that it had pride of place in Fowler's album, the chances were that it was a family member - but which one? Fowler never married and had no children of his own, but there were a good many nieces who could potentially fit the bill. I have never been very good with faces, but even to me there seemed something vaguely familiar about that slightly quizzical look.  

Luckily, these days, most photographic programmes come with some form of facial recognition software, and therefore I was able to submit the girl with the awfully big hat to Adobe Lightroom for a considered judgement, and Lightroom quickly came up with a very definite suggestion. The young girl is Amy Beanland, my mother's sister, and favourite niece of Fowler Beanland.

Amy was very much a woman of the twentieth century. She was born in Keighley in 1904 - which means this photograph must have been taken in about 1909 - and eventually died in 2001 in Scarborough. Between these two dates she managed three husbands and a lifetime of experience. The girl with an awfully big hat had an awfully full life.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Sepia Saturday : Up On The Rails

The common feature in these three photographs is, of course, the railings. Our Sepia Saturday theme image dates from 1910 and shows three young men taking a break from the "Bleach Room" where they work. They relax on some metal railings next to a river. The other two photographs feature my Auntie Miriam, and date from a holiday she and her husband, Frank, took in the Isle of Man in 1947. Frank was always the complete captioner, and therefore we know that both photographs were taken in Port St Mary which is on the south of the island. The first is titled "Chapel Bay" whilst the second one has the title "The Two Bays".  Given the post-war date, Miriam was lucky to find any metal railings to lean against - so many items of public metalwork had been acquired by the Government during the war to melt down into aircraft parts!

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

Friday, June 21, 2019

Here's One For You, Roger

I am putting my house in order, sorting out my affairs, scanning my life. My approach is a random one: scanning whatever happens to come to hand. What came to hand today was a colour slide from, I suspect, 1967. It shows my brother Roger, his wife Norma, and their daughter, my niece, Diana, walking through a typical West Yorkshire landscape.

Monochrome Valley

This is an illustration from a book I have yet to write, which - in my own mind, at least - is entitled "Monochrome Valley".  It shows Bank Bottom in Halifax in the early 1970s. Square Church spire and  Halifax Parish Church fight to be seen through the industrial smoke. I have a feeling that I took this photograph from the loading bay of Riding Hall Carpets, where I was working at the time.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

News From Nowhere : 19th June 2019

This is a new scan of a photograph I took over 50 years ago, and it shows the Halifax Charity Gala parade in 1965 passing the old Ramsden’s Stone Trough Brewery building (RIP) at Ward’s End, with the ever-present Victoria Theatre in the mid-distance.


This is a somewhat colourful picture postcard of the Victoria Hall in Halifax which dates from the first decade of the 20th century. Such cards were hand-coloured, and one can suppose that the colourful imagination of the colourist got the better of them on this occasion.

The card was sent to Mr G H Smith of Nettleton Street in Ossett. I have been able to trace Harvey Smith in the 1911 census (he was a rag merchant not the famous equestrian rider of sixty years later), but I can't find a G H Smith at that address. The closest match is one Harold Smith who would have been just ten years old when the card was posted, and thus more likely to have been addressed as Master G H Smith. People were forced to grow up quickly back in those days, however; Harold Smith went on to fight in the Great War during which he was awarded the Romanian Military Medal for Distinguished Service! That, no doubt, is another story.


Fowler's postcard collection features a fair number of picture postcards of Rochdale - where his sister seems to have been living - but this one was posted in the Lancashire town of Oldham and comes from his cousins, J&M Clifford. Given the fact that we know their names, their address and that they are cousins of Fowler Beanland, you would imagine that it would be relatively easy to connect them to the Beanland family tree, but I haven't managed to do it yet.

The message on the reverse of the card is as follows:-

7, Broadbent St, Watershead, Oldham. January 1906
Dear Cousin, Just a line to say we are just alive. Your cousin Mary has been ill seven weeks with Rheumatic, she is rather better now, that is the reason why I have not written you before, hope you are quite well as we remain your afc cousins, J&M Clifford.

Friday, June 14, 2019

News From Nowhere 14 June 2019

This News From Nowhere blog has been appearing for thirteen years now, and every so often I like to change one or two things. The changes are usually short-lived, and I normally revert to the tried and trusted format after a week or two. However, a change is better than a rest, so for the next week or so I will be experimenting with a slightly different approach. I can't accurately describe the new approach yet, because I haven't worked out what it will be ... but here goes!


We went to Bradford yesterday to waste a bit of time, do a little shopping, and look at some lovely buildings. There is such a grandeur to the Victorian buildings that adorn so many northern towns and cities, a beauty that can only be fully appreciated whilst aimlessly wandering the streets and looking upwards. I was able to marry the building-watching with the shopping, when we visited Waterstones book shop, which is situated within the monumentally beautiful Wool Exchange building, and I bought a copy of George Sheeran's "Bradford in 50 Buildings". This book is destined to be the stimulus for many more visits to the city of my birth, especially as the selection of buildings is not limited to the "great and the good" of the city centre. The four images above are not from the book, but from my own aimless wanderings.


This postcard dates from the first decade of the twentieth century and shows the familiar frontage of, what was, Heath Grammar School, on Free Schools Lane, Halifax. Although the school dates back to the 16th century, the building as depicted on this postcard will only have been thirty or so years old when the photograph was taken. Constructed in 1878-9, it was purposely designed to reflect the Elizabethan origins of the school itself. Heath Grammar School merged with the nearby Crossley And Porter School in the 1980s and classes eventually moved to the larger site at the top of Saville Park. The building, which is Grade II listed, is now used for a variety of education-related purposes including both primary and adult education.


My interest in vintage postcards started sixty or more years ago when, as a child, I would be taken to visit my mother's Uncle Fowler. Whilst the grown-ups talked, I would look through the album of old picture postcards he had. When he died, the album came to my mother, who - knowing my interest in it - passed it on to me. Those old postcards, collected by Fowler in the early 1900s, became the core of what became a larger collection, as I added postcards I would find in second-hand shops over the years. It is time, I think, to try and bring the collection back together in digital form. Fowler is pictured above - a photograph that was stuck in the back of the album. The postcards were in no particular order in the album, nor will they be in this digital collection.


For much of the time that Fowler Beanland was collecting old postcards - the first decade of the twentieth century - he was living in Longtown, Cumbria. He had moved there following the failure of the short-lived business he had established with his father and elder brother in his home town of Keighley. He was a spindle-maker and iron-turner by trade, and he may well have been employed in that capacity in the Longtown area.

The card had been sent to Fowler at his address in Longtown (48 Swan Street) and it came from someone else in the same town. The message - even when turned around by 180 degrees - is curious in the extreme.
"You was doing it fine on Sunday thought no one ___ you, 
A Looker On"
What the missing word is, I have no idea!


In the past, I have featured quite a few Victorian photographs from the studio of Edward Gregson, but Gregson's wasn't the only photographic studio in Halifax. In the second half of the nineteenth century, photographic studios were appearing all over the country, in every village, and in every part of every town: they were the nail bars or the Turkish barbers of their time. The firm of Davis and Sons was established in 1882 on Silver Street, moving, a few years later, to Cornmarket. This little Carte de Visite is a great example of their work - it's a photograph any photographer would be happy to produce in this modern day.


It is my birthday today, so it is a perfect excuse for a birthday selfie. This photograph - and no, it is not a selfie - must have been taken almost sixty years ago, and I am pictured on the brow of the appropriately named Lunevale, which was the ferry that ran from Fleetwood to Knott End. it was all a very long time ago.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Dark Forgotten Mills

A strip of medium format negatives dating from the 1980s is the next to go on my scanning machine. I took these photographs whilst on a walk down Shaw Lane in Halifax, at a time of transition for the town. The last of the mills that had been at the heart of the economic and social life of the town for the previous one hundred and fifty years were closing down and there was an almost desolate feel to parts of the town: streets were empty, building abandoned - almost as if life had moved out and moved on. The soot - that preserved footprint of the industrial revolution - still coated the stone walls and chimneys of the dark forgotten mills.

Thirty or forty years on, the buildings still stand but they have a new vibrancy about them. What were industrial graveyards are now art spaces, dance studios, and retail units. Life has returned and reclaimed the infrastructure.