Thursday, October 22, 2020

That is, This Is .... Halifax


Looking through my negative archives, certain scenes keep recurring. One is this view of Bank Bottom in Halifax. I have photographs of it in rain and shine, with or without added bursts of industrial steam. At times the background of mill chimneys and church spires stand out like a fist of sore thumbs, at other times they fade into a misty backdrop. I must have taken this picture just over fifty years ago. That is, I think, ice clinging to the cobbles at the bottom of Southowram Bank. That is the mill I occasionally worked in on the left. Those are the railway arches which have an almost cathedral like feel to them. This is the Halifax of my youth.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Beacon Lights

I think this is the fourth in my Halifax At Night series which must date from the late 1960s. The location is fairly easy to pin down - it is looking towards the junction of Northgate and Broad Street. You can just make out the imposing frontage of Northgate End Chapel hiding in the darkness on the left of the picture. Built in the 1870s on the site of a seventeenth century chapel, it was eventually closed in the late 1970s and demolished a couple of years later to make way for the new Bus Station. All the other brightly lit shops you can see in the photograph have also gone. I suspect I must have taken the photograph from the car park on top of Halifax Bowl. For me, the most intriguing aspect of the photo is the pattern of lights in the background which, I assume, are Beacon Hill Road and Southowram Bank.

Friday, October 09, 2020

A Message To Gasophelists


Some people collect stamps, some collect books; others collect pictures of gas works. In no way is this meant as any type of criticism: in a world beset by lunatic Presidents, cultivating an interest in old gas works seems a particularly sensible way of passing the time. I frequently, however, receive emails from people asking whether I have any photographs of old gas works or gasometers in my photographic archives. I must confess that I have lost details of many of these correspondents from over the years, so this is in the way of a public announcement - I have found some.

I am not sure what the collective noun for photographs of gas works is - a therm of pictures, perhaps - but this little group of photographs of Halifax Gas Works must date from the late 1960s. Beacon Hill can clearly be seen in the background of two of them, along with the old railway viaduct that used to carry the line to North Bridge and on to Queensbury and Bradford. To all collectors out there - all you Gasophelists, you know who you are - enjoy!

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

The Downfall Of Parliament

Today's dip into my photographic archive reveals an event of almost historical significance - the downfall of Parliament. To be strictly accurate, and a little less dramatic, it is the demolition of Parliament Street in Halifax, which must have taken place in the late 1960s or early 1970s. The modern digital economy, however, is driven by click-statistics, and there is nothing guaranteed to get those computers clicking like a dramatic headline. It's just a pity that the image content didn't quite allow "Look what's she's doing while Parliament falls", but you can't have everything.

Parliament Street was located between Pellon Lane and Gibbet Street (I've marked it in yellow on the map), but not a trace of it survives. Now it's all warehouses and steel fences - there are no memorials to the spot where Parliament once stood.

Monday, October 05, 2020

The Gaumont Grandeur Of Halifax

To me it is, and has always been, the Gaumont Cinema. It’s had other names and been other things, but even today I would probably still refer to it as the Gaumont. The surprising thing is that it has only had that name for a comparatively short period of its 107 year history; for just twelve years from 1948 until 1960. The other surprising thing is that it ceased being a cinema so early - by 1962, shortly before I took this photograph, it had become a bingo hall. Whatever its name and whatever its function, it remains a striking building. It is now Grade II listed, and the Historic England listing citation contains the following description:-

“Prominently sited, the cinema was designed as a major contribution to the grandeur of Halifax town centre and forms an architectural group with the listed Civic Theatre, the former Victoria Hall of 1901. The principal and right-hand facades of the cinema are rich examples of the Edwardian Baroque style. The architect, obviously well versed in this vocabulary, created dignified facades which are also eye-catching and festive enough to express the new entertainment medium”. 
Grade II Listing Citation, Historic England (Oct 2000)

Friday, October 02, 2020

Transported By A Slogan

Images can be evocative: they can conjure up feelings and emotions with the skill of a practiced magician - but so too can phrases. This is another of my "night shots" from the mid to late 1960s: neither the darkness nor the passage of five decades can hide the magnificent frontage of the Lloyds Bank building. It is, however, the neon advertising sign of the Anglo-American Chewing Gum Company that transports me back in time, back to when George Street was the height of '60s sophistication, back to when Halifax was third cousin to downtown Los Angeles.

Thursday, October 01, 2020

AB With FT

AB With FT (April 1988)

Before digital time stamps were invented, you had to rely on more indirect means to date photographs. Thanks to a newspaper headline about the launch of the Serious Fraud Office, I can confidently say that this photograph of me was taken in April 1988. I seem rather relaxed, sat in one of my parent's over-floral chairs, pipe in mouth, FT in hand, and, no doubt, my mother busy making me a mug of tea in the kitchen. This was eighteen months before the birth of Alexander: my hair has yet to turn grey and the biggest problem seems to be the state of the British economy. I was forty years old, living in Sheffield, working in Doncaster. Although my hearing had started to decline, I could still manage with a hearing aid (it will have been in my, hidden, right ear). The photograph was taken in Oaklands Avenue, Northowram - the house I grew up in. At some stage, I had captioned this image: "AB with FT" - it seems quite appropriate.

The Days Before Burdock

This old image has gone through quite a journey. It was far from perfect when it started life, 55 years or so ago: the focus was suspect and the composition could have been improved by some selective demolition work. At an early stage in its life it got converted from a negative into a positive slide - I can't remember why I did that, let alone how I did it - and then it was abandoned to gather dust and scratches. I've tried to revive it a little, but as many a Hollywood star will tell you, cosmetic surgery has its limitations. 

We are left with a slightly faded memory of what North Bridge used to be like, back in the days when big wagons went over it and trains went under it. These were the days before Burdock, the days when St Thomas had a spire, and when Beacon Hill was treeless.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Basin Street Blues

A determination to catch the last of the late summer sun took me to Brighouse Canal Basin yesterday, and a determination to scan my way through all my old photographs also took me to the same place - albeit fifty-three years earlier.

The canal basin was looking glorious in the sunshine. A few late flowers added to the colour provided by the moored barges, whilst the leaves on the trees were taking their cue from the stone-browns of the old mills and warehouses. Old fools such as me, spend too much of our lives complaining about all that has been lost, without acknowledging the positive aspects of planning and architectural developments over the last half century.  The Brighouse Basin of my youth was a sad and forgotten place, as lacking in colour as the monochrome prints of it that survive.

By chance, one such print worked its way to the top of my scanning pile yesterday. I think the photograph was taken in the basin, and I think I was the photographer, and I suspect that it may have been sometime around 1967. My brother - who is pictured along with my father woking on the conversion to his boat Brookfoot - will no doubt read this post on his far-off Caribbean island and correct me on the dates and locations as necessary. He won't be able to correct the description because it is written on the back of the print in his own hand, and it reads as follows:  "Fixing the longitudinal members in position with "Gripfast". My father is also shown in this photograph lending a hand". It seems that the photograph may have been submitted for publication as part of an article my brother was writing on his conversion of the old Yorkshire Keel barge. If that was the case, and if it was my photograph, I am obviously due some royalties, even after this lengthy period of time. You know where to send the money to, Roger!

Monday, September 28, 2020

Two, Four, Six, Eight


I took this photograph - looking towards Waterhouse Street from Orange Street, Halifax - one dark, rainy night over half a century ago. In some ways, not a lot has changed over those five and a half decades - the bowling alley on the left is now a hotel, the roundabout is gone, and the Odeon cinema has become a Mecca Bingo Hall - but many of the buildings remain the same. In other ways, so much has changed, for this is the Halifax of my childhood and youth. The Odeon cinema, in particular, is a pantheon of memories. As a child, I would attend the Saturday morning Cinema Club there - two, four, six. eight, who do we appreciate, O D E O N, Odeon! - when you would get a cartoon, and educational documentary, and a main feature for something like sixpence. As a youth, I dated, for a time, one of the cinema usherettes; and could often be found on the back row, having a kiss, a cuddle and a Mivvi ice-cream. Far better memories than any bingo prize.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Harry Moore, Sammy Davis Junior, And Me


I'm a great believer in pointlessness. To have the luxury of allowing your mind to wander down thought paths with the freedom and irrelevance of a distracted fruit fly is one of the great joys of life. It may have curtailed my academic achievements as a youth, but it enriches my old age. The other day I was pointlessly scanning some old 35mm colour slides - photographs I took in the 1960s - when I came across this photograph of my Uncle Harry. I have written about Uncle Harry in his youth before - don't ask me where, pointlessness is a soul mate of chaos - but this is a photograph of Harry Moore in his sixties. In his youth, Harry had, for a time, been a professional entertainer, touring the country with a seaside entertainment group, the Silhouette Concert Party, like a character out of a J B Priestley novel. In his thirties, he had settled down, married my fathers' sister, and taken a job as a clerk in a coal merchant's office in Bradford.

Entertainment was in his soul, however, and he continued to play in the pubs and clubs of West Yorkshire on a part-time basis. For a long period, in the 1960s, he was part of the resident backing group at the Engineers Club in Bradford: Harry and Jeff - Harry on the piano, and Jeff on drums.

That was the start of my pointless meanderings and before too long I was searching through the archives of The Stage (newspaper archives are a Mecca for pointless people), looking for references to him. I tracked him down eventually in a copy of The Stage from the 7th September 1961. There he is listed under "Calls For Next Week" as appearing at the Bradford Engineers Club. He shares the page with the likes of Harry Seacombe, Sammy Davis Jr, Anthony Newley, Charlie Drake and Bruce Forsyth (all of whom, it has to be admitted, were not lucky enough to make it to the Bradford Engineers).

So far, so good; but this is where pointlessness steps in again, because once you have downloaded a sixty year old copy of The Stage, it would be criminal not to wander off down its columns, reading this, that, and the other. Did you know, for example, the Australian stage version of Suzie Wong lost £32,000 in the first nine months of 1961 alone? Can you believe that Elvis Presley had turned down £89,000 for a 40 minute performance at the Earlswood Jazz Festival?

The list goes on ... there are 20 pages in this one issue of the newspaper. If I am supposed to be meeting you later on today, or even sometime this weekend, forget it. I am distracted. I am lost in my own pointlessness.

Footfall Replacing Fishermen

During the early 1980s, I would occasionally go to meetings in Hull, and, determined to make the best of my visits, I would explore the city which was, quite literally, at the end of the line from where I was living in Sheffield. At that time, the docks still crept into the city centre like reminders of a vibrant seafaring past. Soon they would be filled with shiny shopping centres - footfall replacing fishermen - which were more colourful but spoiled some of the views of the fine buildings of the city.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Halifax As It Was



Looking back at this photograph I must have taken sometime around 1968, it has a staged feeling to it, as though it has been carefully posed as an album cover for a Champion Jack Dupree LP. It wasn't staged, however, nor were the colour tampered with. This was Halifax as it was, caught midway between old railway lines and new flyovers, cooling towers and leisure centres, scrapyards and supermarkets.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Bowling Along Through Halifax

The ability of old photographs to spark memories never ceases to amaze me. I tracked down this old colour slide yesterday after someone, quite rightly, pointed out that what was set on top of the bowling alley in Broad Street, Halifax in the 1960s, was not a bowl, as I had stated, but a bowling pin. In my defence, I have to say that it was not my memory, but my nomenclature that was at fault. I knew I had taken a photograph of the building along with its pin at some stage in the 1960s, and I eventually tracked it down. 

When I looked closely at the photograph, however, it was the bus stop that really set my brain synapses firing. I’d forgotten all about that bus stop. It was the stop that I would run to if I arrived at the bus station (just out of picture on the left) as my bus was leaving. If you were swift – and back then I was swift – you could make it to the next stop in Broad Street before the bus did. If, once again, you were a little too late, you could always try for the near-impossible and sprint on to North Bridge to see if you could catch the bus up there. Whether you made it or not, it was better exercise that a half hour on the bowling lanes.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Commercial Adventures In Halifax

When I was young, and adventurous, and rust-free, I could never resist the opportunities provided by a rainy night when it came to photographic patterns and reflections. I suspect that this is a fairly early photograph of mine, taken in the mid 1960s. I am fairly certain that it was taken in Commercial Street, Halifax from somewhere just outside the Post Office, looking towards Ward’s End. If I am right that is the illuminated sign of the old ABC Cinema towards the left of the picture and the sign of Ramsden’s Stone Trough Brewery in the centre background. The brewery was demolished in 1968, so my photograph obviously pre-dates that. As for the rest of it, you can spend an entertaining minute or so trying to pick out some of the other familiar sights from the darkness: now that I am old and rust-coated, that’s my idea of adventure.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Time After Time


My negatives are cut into strips of six, and, over the years, the individual strips have been moved so many times, they no longer have a logical sequence. Whilst each shot within the six is, obviously, related in time and place to those adjacent, the same cannot be said for the 700 or so individual strips. A few months ago, I scanned a strip of negatives that started with a photograph of Halifax Town Hall been stone-cleaned. The time on the Town Hall clock on that photograph was five minutes top eight. Today, I came across another strip of negatives, the last of which, is another photograph of the town hall being stone cleaned. This time, the time of the town hall clock is six minutes to eight. We have a sequence!

Anglo Works (But Not Like It Used To)


Another foggy, snow-covered day in Sheffield in the early 1980s (did I only ever venture out with my camera when there was Snow on the ground?). Even I don't need help with the location of this particular photograph: whilst there have been so many changes to this part of the city, the buildings shown on both sides of Trippet Lane still exist today (although their functions have inevitably changed). I am not sure why people seem to be wandering around all over the place: maybe it is the ice on the roads, maybe it was one of the things we did back in the 80s.

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

A Sign Of The Times



Los Angeles has its iconic HOLLYWOOD sign, and for many years, Halifax had its equally iconic CRAWFORD-SWIFT sign painted on the side of its factory up on the hill at Claremount and overlooking the town. It might not have been celebrated on postcards or t-shirts, but it was part of the culture of a town which was proud of its industrial mix: from carpets to toffees and from machine tools to mortgages. My photograph is a comparatively late one for me, only about thirty years old, but it shows Crawford Swifts framed by the voluptuous concrete curves of Burdock Way.

Friday, September 04, 2020

Donkey Hill, Halifax


This cobbled way which runs from Old Lane up to Woodside in Halifax, is popularly known as Donkey Hill, although you will probably have difficulty finding that name used on any official map. Countless generations of Halifax folk have memories of sledging down the steep hill as children in winters, and early morning walks to work as adults. It still exists, although now it is heavily overgrown and rubbish-strewn. I took these two photographs back in the late 1960s - or possibly early 70s - when the mills were still weaving and the barren Beacon Hill still cast a shadow over the monochrome town.

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

The Great Wall Of Northowram


This is another of my photographs taken in Howes Lane, Northowram around fifty years or so ago. This time it is looking towards the head of Shibden Valley, in the direction of Ambler Thorn. The photograph captures one of the great walls of Northowram, a huge stone structure built to enclose a raised field. No doubt there are sound historical reasons for someone having built this monumental edifice: the ancient burial tombs of the legendary Pharaohs of Northowram and Shelf, perhaps!

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

Repetitive Overspill


As I trawl through my old photographs I frequently discover the same scene captured again and again - at different times, in different seasons and different years. Often this is not a conscious thing: at the time I can't remember having taking the same photograph before - it is only half a century later I discover the repetitive nature of my photography. This scene of Halifax and the Shibden Valley taken from the top of Howes Lane in Northowram, is one such photo. It appears that I could never resist the sight of industrial Halifax ready to spill out of the lip of its cauldron into Shibden's green valley without taking a photograph. This is from the 1960s, before St Thomas lost its spire.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Memories, Thick And Fast

This certainly isn't my best photograph from the 1960s - there's a bit of camera shake, the developing was more miss than hit, and it was a dark, wet, misty day to start out with. But what it lacks in photographic quality, it makes up in part with atmosphere. As I look at it now, the memories come thick and fast: policemen in long white coats; Marks and Spencers at the top of town; the Co-op arcade; upstairs cafes; Stylo and John Temple! It doesn't matter of the photograph isn't all that clear - neither are my memories.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Old Photo, Old Bank, Old Friends


The last shot in this particular sequence of negatives from fifty years ago focuses on people rather than places; but still has a fair amount to tell us about changes to Halifax over the last half century. I think I must have taken this picture from Old Bank, which was the cobbled road that ran from Back Bottom to Beacon Hill Road. I tried walking up there a couple of years ago and it was a matter of trying to find the remains of the road which were almost completely overgrown. If you walk up the old road today you are still rewarded with a fine view of Halifax. Fifty years ago, I was rewarded with a fine view of my future wife and one of our oldest and closest friends.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Rainbow Ripples In The Old Mill Stream


I posted one of my old photographs, of Fletchers' Mill in Halifax, to the Old Halifax Facebook Group yesterday. It's an image I have featured on this Blog before, but it was new to the Old Halifax Group. Several people wrote in with memories of the mill. Someone in particular mentioned that the waste dyes from the dye works used to pollute the Hebble Brook which ran alongside the mill.

The next shot on the strip of negatives I was scanning had a more focussed view of the river. These, however, were monochrome days, and thus there was little chance of seeing the rainbow ripples in the old mill stream.

These are, however, Photoshop days, and therefore with a little creative work with digital paintbrushes, the colourful past can be brought back to life! Realism, however, is neither intended nor achieved!

Friday, August 21, 2020

Rainy Days And Mondays

Here is another of my photographs of Sheffield taken back in the 1980s. The common feature of so many of these seems to be that they were taken on rainy days and Mondays, but there were still shops on the streets, cars on the roads and shoppers going about their business. This is Surrey Street, with the Town Hall on the left. 

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Colouring The Family Tree

These days, cars can drive themselves down motorways, computers can land aeroplanes, and algorithms can determine future accademic success.... and nifty little smartphone apps can add colour to your dead grandmothers' face. The technology is there, but should we use it just because it is available? I must confess, I can't decide: in some ways it is nice to see my grandmother Kate Beanland with a bit of colour in her cheeks, but maybe by adding colour we subtract history.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Greetings From Elland


When you go to Paris, you take a photograph of the Eiffel Tower, in New York it's the Statue of Liberty .... and when you visit Elland it has to be the Calder Valley from Hullen Edge. I must have taken this photograph in the late 1970s: the bypass looks as though it is still a fresh scar on the landscape. It's winter, it's wet, and the river was just as incapable of knowing its place, as it is these days. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

A Lazy S


Whenever I look at my old photographs of Halifax from the sixties and seventies, I am reminded of just how much it was a period of change for the town. Roads were being built whilst others were being demolished, chimneys were coming down whilst tower blocks were going up. And the trees were coming back: after being ground down by the soot of the industrial revolution for two centuries, they were beginning to repopulate the hills.

This third photograph taken from the top of Beacon Hill seems to sum all that change up. The road up to Southowram seems to snake like a lazy s: the old is being swept away by the new.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Where Houses Weren't And Mills Were

Here is the second of the photographs taken from the top of Beacon Hill, Halifax in the early 1970s. My camera has swung around, so now I am looking in the direction of The Shay and Savile Park. You can just make out the three graces - St Jude's Church, Crossley Heath and Wainhouse Tower - on the near horizon. Just as with the last of these photographs taken from my "1970s drone" you can focus in on particular areas and see how things have changed in the last half century or so. You can see where houses weren't and where mills and factories still were. You can see that the Building Society headquarters has made it through the historical cut, but Eureka hasn't. It is the kind of picture you could set an exam on, write a book about or compose a sonnet to.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Another Snowy Night In Sheffield

Another set of photographs from the early 1980s in Sheffield. Perhaps it was always snowing in winter in Sheffield forty years ago, but more likely these photographs were taken on the same night as the ones I featured a couple of weeks ago. The weather may have been bad, but it didn't stop people going out and about, getting their Christmas shopping done.

This was a world before on-line shopping, a world when familiar high-street names seemed as solid as the concrete boxes they inhabited. It was a world of crowded buses and glaring lightbulbs - a world long before LED's and lockdown distancing.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Back On Top Of Beacon Hill

Looking back at my old photographs, it would appear that I spent much of my youth stood on top of Beacon Hill, Halifax! If it were true, such behaviour can be partly justified by the fact that the top of Beacon Hill was the nearest we had to drones fifty years ago. From there, you could look down on the town in all its glory – and as a lover of Halifax, I would happily defend the choice of the word “glory” with anyone over a pint or two. Words can’t really do it justice, so instead just look at the mills and the towers, the bridges and the spires. Who needs Florence when Halifax is only a couple of miles from the M62?

Saturday, August 08, 2020

A Trolleybus Through Time

I know a trolleybus is not a tram, but beggars can't be choosers in the world of old photographs. This week's Sepia Saturday challenge photo features an electric tramway in Wellington, New Zealand. The best I can come up with, in terms of a match, is this photograph of a trolleybus in Derby. 

The photograph is the work of the legendary Uncle Frank - collector of bus tickets, recorder of TV adverts, and avid caption writer on the back of photographs - and therefore we know that it was taken in Osmaston Road, Derby. It is dated 1941, which may provide some clues as to what Frank Fieldhouse was doing in Derby at the time. Osmaston Road is in the neighbourhood of the various Rolls Royce factories, which, during the war were heavily involved in aircraft production. Frank was a machine operator and was no doubt involved in one aspect or another of wartime production.

Electric tramways in Wellington, New Zealand seem an awful long way away, at the moment. It would take more than a tram or a trolley bus to get us there. But at least we can travel through time back to the streets of Derby 80 years ago - without any need of face coverings or social distancing.

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.

That is, This Is .... Halifax

  Looking through my negative archives, certain scenes keep recurring. One is this view of Bank Bottom in Halifax. I have photographs of it ...