Tuesday, August 04, 2020

If It Wasn't For The Trees In-Between


This photograph must have been taken some time around 1972. Friends were visiting from "down south" and being shown Halifax - and where better to see it from than the top of Godley Bridge? Halifax was changing by then, new buildings were appearing on the skyline, and old mill chimneys were vanishing. My wife and I were passing the spot this photograph was taken from only yesterday, and I couldn't resist trying to recreate it, although only one member of the original cast was available for the reunion. The spot is the same, and the view wouldn't be all that dissimilar - if it wasn't for the trees in-between.


Monday, August 03, 2020

I Am Neither A Rock Nor An Island



The last two frames of the strip of negatives from the winter of 1964/65 reveal how I can be so sure of both the date and the place. They show the destination of my walk, which was to my brothers' new house in East Street, Lightcliffe. I may be neither a rock, nor an island (thank you Paul and Art for accompanying me in my walk), but at least at the end of my walk I can have the pleasure of watching Roger dig up rocks from his back yard.

I can remember the project well: he was clearing the yard to make room for the boat he was about to build there. By the Spring of 1965, the boat was well on the way to completion, and later that year it was starting its journey around the canals of northern Britain.

It was replaced by further boats, each of increasing size and complexity, and they would eventually take my brother and his family to the other side of the world. He will probably be reading this post from his island home in the West Indies: with memories of all those years ago .... and trying hard to remember what on earth snow is.

On A Freshly Fallen Silent Shroud Of Snow



I have a feeling that this photograph was taken from a little further along Syke Lane, just outside Priestley Green. It was, however, 56 years ago, and it was in the middle of winter, and there was a freshly fallen silent shrewd of snow, so maybe I am imagining things. Now, it is a different century, it is summer and the forecast is for sun and blue skies. Lucy-dog wants a walk, but where shall we go? Why not! Let’s see if I can find those fields and that fence, let’s see if I can remember that song.

I Am Alone, Gazing From My Window To The Streets Below



My walk of 1964 has taken me into the centre of the lovely hamlet of Priestley Green, and, as always, my eye is drawn to the cottages that are known as “The Sisters”. Nobody quite seems to know why they are thus called, although we do know that they were built in 1630 by Samuel Sunderland of nearby Coley Hall. I am alone on my walk of 56 years ago, and I probably imagined myself living in this delightful spot, gazing out of those windows onto the streets below. There is a well outside the gate of these cottages, whose waters were supposed to posses magical powers for all who drank them. The power to travel back through time by more than fifty years perhaps.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

In A Deep And Dark December


So my walk, in a deep and dark December (or possibly, January, or maybe February) back in the winter of 1964/65, took me down Northedge Lane towards Priestley Green, Halifax. I still often go down this lane today, although I am not sure I would chance it in the snow these days. Just as lovely now, and a fair bit greener.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Bay Watch


Having identified a direction of travel with this sequence of negatives featuring Sheffield in the early 1980s, it should be relatively simple to work out where I was when I took this photo. I've even managed to incorporate a road sign, just in case my memory might need some navigational help forty years down the line. I am still not sure where I am, however, and I need help in identifying those rather nice bay windows.

A Winter's Day



It is the winter of 1964/65. A Labour Government led by a youthful Harold Wilson has just been elected into power. Sir Stanley Matthews is about to play his last First Division game at the age of 50. The Kray twins have been arrested in the East End, Agatha Christie is still writing Miss Marple books and the long life of Winston Churchill draws to an end. It is snowing in West Yorkshire, and I set out on a walk from my home in Northowram. I head down the back lanes and catch a view of Coley Church over the snow-covered stone walls.

Lines


There are enough prominent buildings in the background of this photograph of Sheffield in the 1980s to enable a form of visual triangulation to be used to pin down its location. The problem would be stopping for long enough to set up your theodolite - even in a black and white photo, those look like double yellow lines.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Six Of The City


This is the first image from a strip of six negatives: shots I took in Sheffield in the early 1980s. I have a feeling that I may have taken this photo in the Trippet Lane area of the city, but my attempts to confirm this by checking Google Street View forty years later prove only that the entire city has changed beyond all recognition.


Friday, July 24, 2020

Looking Old


When I go through my old negatives looking for dating evidence, I normally focus on things such as car types, tv aerials, or even dustbin designs. Sometimes, however, a scene just "looks" old, and that is the case with this photograph of the view looking towards Shibden Valley from Beacon Hill. In fact, it looks so old, it makes me feel my age, with a couple of decades added on for good measure.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Malting Memories

One of my photographs from half a century ago taken, I think, from the appropriately named Gas Works Lane, in Elland. Many of the buildings, along with the gasometer, have now gone and the aroma of the maltings is just a distant memory.


Wednesday, July 22, 2020

On Baring My Soul


I've always quite fancied being a poet, but I am a little bit on the shy side. I've discovered the perfect solution: QR Code Poetry. You write your poem and turn it into a QR readable image. I can now bare my soul whilst hiding behind the bath towel of technology. Perfect.

Monday, July 20, 2020

A Question Of Religion


I am fairly certain that I was stood on the corner of Lister Lane and Rhodes Street in Halifax when I took this photograph some 55 years ago. If you squint in the right direction you can just about match up the curved corner stones with the current view on Google StreetView. My question, however, relates to the two religious establishments that can clearly be seen on my photo, but which have been replaced by houses and car parks on the current view. I have delved into the usual local history annals for clarification, and ended up with such a collection of saints and chapels, I have descended into a state of spiritual confusion. Someone out there, I am sure, will be able to provide me with some form of religious insight.


Friday, July 17, 2020

Nostalgic Sudoku


Here's a little challenge for you nostalgia lovers. I must have taken this photograph of Bull Green, Halifax in the 1960s, so you can have fun trying to spot all the shops you can remember. To make it that little more challenging, however, I took the photograph of a reflection of the scene in a car showroom window; so you are seeing everything in reverse. You may recognise DOOWNEERG, the well-known bookshop, or you may be drawn to SNIWEL (but only if you were a man, as women were still banned from there in the 1960s!). Try to work out what was where in this back-to-front world: think of it as a way of exercising your mind, a kind of nostalgic sudoku.  If you can't remember any of the shops, you can always occupy yourself by trying to work out why the cars are going the wrong way around the roundabout!

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Crime Scene


It is not often that you find yourself with a picture of a crime in progress, but this particular scan from my old negatives must be one such case. It shows Commercial Street in Halifax in the midst of redevelopment. I certainly do not take the view that all modern buildings in the town are concrete monstrosities, nor that all the old buildings are stone works of art, but this particular transformation can surely have few supporters. My photograph dates from the mid 1960s, the modern image is a Google StreetView grab.



Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Repeat Offenders




This view of St Thomas, Claremount, framed by the old Halifax Gas Works is another of the repeat offenders from my negative archives: it seems that I couldn't walk down Bank Bottom without taking such a shot. This was taken before the church spire was removed, which, I think, makes it mid 1960s. I have darker versions of the same scene - one for every mood.


Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Tuscany With Industry Grafted On


As I trawl through my negative archives, I keep finding scenes that I have photographed on multiple occasions. I have this particular view of Bank Bottom in Halifax either with steam or without it. The without steam option has a more stately feel to it - a bit like Tuscany with industry grafted on.


Monday, July 13, 2020

Concrete Artery


I think I must have taken this photograph in the 1980s, which makes it rather late in my black and white days. By then the Burdock Way overpass had become part of the very body of Halifax; a vital artery rather than a varicose vein. Key buildings had shifted their positions to benefit from its' fine concrete picture frames.

Thursday, July 09, 2020

O Lovely Peace


A sacred concert was given in the Wesleyan Church on Wednesday of last week be the St. Austell Male Quartette (Messrs. Blight, George, Varcoe, and Phillips). Their numerous quartettes were listened to with great attention. Messrs. George and Varcoe sang as a duet, "The Last Milestone"; Messrs. Blight and Phillips sang “O lovely peace." Mrs Harold White acted as accompanist, and sang "The Gift." Miss Jenkin recited “A day too late" and "The Martyrs" in a very able manner. Mr. C. H. White was the chairman. (Cornish Guardian 7 November 1913)

An old postcard that came from who knows where. A quartette of singers performing in November 1913. They sang "O Lovely Peace". Oh, if only they had known.

Plain John Wainhouse


John Edward Wainhouse did not do plain. Ask him to build a dyeworks chimney and you would finish up with a monumental tower; ask him to build a row of cottages and you would get spiral staircases and terraced balconies. His tower still stands proud, his terrace has seen better days. This was taken in 1972 when parts of it were still occupied and before the stone-cleaners came along.

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Cause And Effect



I am not quite sure where this was taken from, but it could well have been in the King Cross area of Halifax. Whilst the dirt was being blasted off the public buildings of the town in the early 1970s, many terraces still bore witness to their sooty past. This multitude of chimneys, bitumen-black, gave evidence to both cause and effect.

Monday, July 06, 2020

When Not Why


There are two possible questions to go with this particular scan from my collection of old negatives. The first is, should old buildings be cleaned? There is an argument which says that power-washing the dirt, soot and grime off these fine old Victorian stone buildings is the architectural equivalent of a face-lift: momentarily interesting but, in the long term, depressingly invasive. However, I am putting off such a debate for a sunnier day in order to concentrate on the second, slightly more prosaic, question: when was Halifax Town Hall stone cleaned? I have combed through the copious wisdom of Uncle Google without pinning an exact date down. The date may remain a mystery, but I am pretty certain of the time: five to eight in the morning (or, just possibly, in the evening!)

Sunday, July 05, 2020

Nineteen And A Quarter Miles



So why would anyone place a milepost on an obscure back road in Rastrick telling passers by that it was only nineteen and a quarter miles to Rochdale? Who would want to know that? You might want to know how many miles it was to Elland, but that piece of information has worn away. Further research shows that this was the end of the Rastrick Branch of the Huddersfield and New Hey Turnpike Trust which was established by Act of Parliament in 1806. And where exactly is New Hey? It's an equally obscure little suburb of Rochdale, exactly nineteen and a quarter miles away.

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Subtracting Detail



The grain of photographic film emulsions is a magical thing, it can take a pedestrian scene and transform it to a moody masterpiece. It doesn't achieve such a transformation by adding anything, but by subtracting. Subtracting detail, highlights, contrast; leaving just emotion.

Blackpool In October


Who would go to Blackpool in October, when there was a wind blowing and rain lashing down? Once there, who would possibly want to ride a donkey on the sands? Miriam Fieldhouse would. Photograph taken by Frank Fieldhouse, October 1951,

Man In A Flat Cap


A man in a flat cap, rushing passed the railings, trying to avoid the coming rain. Sheffield in the early 1980s. It was still a black and white world back then, but change was coming, and the man in the flat cap had about as much chance of avoiding it as he did avoiding the rain.

Friday, July 03, 2020

Carpeting The Calder Valley


The final shot from this strip of negatives places Clark Bridge Mills - at the time the headquarters of Homfray Carpets - at the centre of the action. Henry James Homfray may have been one of the lesser-known carpet barons of Halifax, but with mills in Sowerby Bridge, Luddendenfoot, Birstall and Halifax, he made a notable contribution to carpeting the entire Calder Valley. In 1952, Homfray Carpets were the first firm in the UK to produce tufted carpets (the Crossleys Brothers would probably have shuddered at the very thought of a tufted carpet), but this movement in the direction of the cheaper end of the floor covering market didn't save the firm. Faced with increasing debts, the firm was sold  to a wholly owned subsidiary, Riding Hall Carpets in 1966. Production of carpets at the mill came to an end in the 1970s, and it was eventually demolished in July 1980.

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Mill, Church, Gable And Hillside


We do gable ends well in Yorkshire. We're proud of them. Stick a little window in them, give them a bob or two's worth of lace curtains. Let them stand out like giant headstones. These were fifty years ago somewhere down Southowram Bank: within twisting distance of where yesterday's photograph was taken from. This photo says it all: mill, church, gable and hillside ... Halifax.

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

A Mug Of Tea Photo

The next shot on this strip of negatives is a mug of tea photo. Not a passing fancy you can digest with a single glance whilst you sip a mouthful of Lapsang souchong, not even a thoughtful perusal whilst you drink a cup of PG Tips. For this photo you need a mug full of Yorkshire Tea and a toasted teacake. You can loose yourself in it, go exploring in it, wander down memory lane and up Woolshops. You can see what's gone and view what's coming. To help you digest it better, I have cut it into four slices.





There you go, mash that mug of tea and settle yourself down. Can you spot the car park where Marks and Spencer is now? Can you follow the line of the railway where it doesn't go any more? Can you see the pub you had your first pint in, and the street you walked to work down? Can you see your Auntie Mabel and your Cousin George? Before you settle down too comfortably, is that a teacake I can smell burning in the toaster?

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Do Old Men Dream In Black And White?


I recall, many, many years ago, having a discussion with my brother, Roger, as to whether we dream in colour or black and white. I was a young lad taking photographs, with a budget that could not even imagine the expenses involved in colour photography. He was older, wiser and a "proper artist" with tubes of watercolour paint of every hue. "Of course we don't dream in black and white, black and white is a completely unnatural way of seeing the world brought about by the technical inability of you photographers".  The conversation took place sixty years ago and therefore I might not have remembered it word-for-word, but it went something like that. And no doubt, before the day is out, Roger will be correcting my faulty memory from the other side of the world.

We may not dream in black and white, but it is the palette of choice of my memory. I took this photograph fifty years ago on one of those little afterthought terraces up Southowram Bank in Halifax. Surely the grass must have been green, the stone brown and the sky blue: but I don't remember it like that.

There is an enthusiasm at the moment to colourise old photographs. To do so, you make judgements about the correct colours to introduce to a scene. Sky is usually blue, and there is a fair chance that grass is green. But when I was a young, the sky was usually a mucky grey colour, and the grass could be as black as coal or as white as an old man's beard. The world was monochrome .... and I still dream of it that way.

Monday, June 29, 2020

A Perspective On Age


Just for a change, I know precisely where I took this photograph from some forty-odd years ago. The houses are still there, pinned to the side of Southowram Bank with all the gravity-defying stubbornness that only a Yorkshire builder can demonstrate. It is Blaithroyd Lane, Halifax, and if you turn to Google Street View or the like, the houses are unchanged.  Trees, however, have invaded the hillside since this photograph was taken in the early 1970s, and the scale of the scene seems to have been transformed. You get the impression from this photograph that you could have watched a match at the Shay football ground from the back room window without the need of even a basic pair of binoculars. These days, the Shay seems a bus ride away. Perhaps it is the trees, maybe it was the lens I was using in my camera back then. More likely it is age-related perspective syndrome (ARPS) brought about by a surfeit of life.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

The Classic British Seaside


The classic British seaside: sands, sea, boats and buckets. It doesn't matter where it is or when it is. It can be a precious day snatched from the steam-filled clutches of a Victorian mill, or an escape from a Corona-driven lockdown. I have photographs of my Uncle Frank and Aunty Miriam sat on a beach during World War II watching bombers fly overhead. If the sun is even hinting at the possibility of coming out, then we British will head for the nearest coastline. We are lucky; for most of us they are far enough away to be a change, but near enough not to be a challenge. 

This is an old print from a cast-aside album. The photographer may have wanted to capture his (or her) Auntie Vi or little Ernest. What they actually captured was a small work of art, and the very essence of the classic British seaside.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Reflections On Beauty


Like anyone else, I can see the beauty in a natural landscape. Find me a photograph of craggy hills sweeping down to mirror-smooth lakes and I will swoon with the best of them. Get me a picture of ripe-rich grain swaying in an evening breeze against a bucolic green background, and I will pin it over my mantlepiece. But ....

But, I come from Halifax, and my West Yorkshire genes are programmed to find beauty in muck and grime. In the grey sky being reflected on stone cobbles. In black chimneys punctuating flat clouds. In mischievous curves creeping into twisted railway lines. 

A sack-load of art on the back of an old wagon parked in the shade of North Bridge, Halifax. I took this photograph fifty years ago. It's all been knocked down now and they have built a nice new Leisure Centre in its place. There are probably inspirational pictures inside the Leisure Centre of mountain paths and bright green fields.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Some Escape


This old photograph of mine dates from fifty years ago and it shows a mill fire escape somewhere in Halifax. The good old days, before all this health and safety nonsense, when your mill could catch fire at the drop of a fag end, and a swift exit down the fire escape would give you more thrills than a trip to a theme park; followed by a hundred foot plunge onto a stone cobbled lane. People weren't mollycoddled back then; their bodies weren't wrapped in cotton wool ..... just their lungs.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Where The Art Is


The French writer, Andre Gide, once said, "art is a collaboration between God and the artist, and the less the artist does the better.” (well Google says he said it).  Gide died in 1951 and therefore he missed out on smart phone apps. If he had lived on and managed to download a handful of camera apps for his iPhone, he might have considered amending his little homily to, "art is a collaboration between Apps and the artist, and the less the artist does the better". 

My recent experimentation with smartphone apps leads me to question much of the accepted narrative of art history. Were the likes of Gaugin, Van Gogh, and Monet artistic geniuses way ahead of their time, or did they have access to a Beta version of Adobe's new Photoshop Camera App? There are enough conspiracy theories going the rounds at the moment and I am reluctant to add to them - but I think we are due an explanation.
Street In Queensbury

Honeysuckle

Shepherds Thorn Lane

If It Wasn't For The Trees In-Between

This photograph must have been taken some time around 1972. Friends were visiting from "down south" and being shown Halifax - and ...