Friday, January 31, 2020

The Summer Of '68 (A Sepia Saturday Post)

Our Sepia Saturday theme image this week could be made to measure for the two photos I am going to share. Although I chose the theme image, its connection to two old photographs I took some 52 years ago didn't occur to me until the other day when I was trawling through my collection of old colour slides looking for an image to post. The theme image comes from the Flickr Commons collection of the Belgian organisation Liberas, which is devoted to preserving and managing the heritage of liberal organisations in that country. The actual image features a canal barge in the Belgian town of Ghent in 1897.



Jump forward 71 years and move north-east by fifty kilometres and you will get to Bruges in the summer of 1968. My photograph features my niece, Diana, two of my friends, Dave Hebblethwaite and Darrel Oldfield, on my brothers barge, Brookfoot, which was moored on a canal in the beautiful city of Bruges. If 1967 was the Summer of Love, then 1968 was the famous Summer of Discontent, People throughout Europe were protesting on the streets and calling for a new solidarity between workers and students, friendship between all European people, and the creation of a new society. Darrel, Dave and myself had left our native West Yorkshire, and, carrying a banner proclaiming that "Workers Unity Wins", we had started hitchhiking around Europe, seeing the sites, meeting up with other groups of students, and luxuriating in our youthful freedom.


My brother, his wife and daughter, were on a different European mission. They had recently sailed their flat-bottomed Yorkshire barge across the English Channel, and had embarked on a tour of the canal system of Northern Europe. Our paths crossed in Bruges, and we stayed on the barge for a couple of nights. Following the meeting which is preserved in these two old photographs, Darrel, Dave and myself continued our journey around Belgium and Holland and then returned home to go our separate ways to University, and to whatever life had in store for us. My brother and his family continued sailing through the canals of Europe and then swapped canal boats for sailing boats and headed for the Caribbean. We are all still waiting a new society, and - on this day when the UK officially leaves the European Union - I fear that it might be further away than ever.


THIS IS A SEPIA SATURDAY POST. TO SEE OTHER POSTS ON THIS SAME THEME, GO TO THE SEPIA SATURDAY BLOG AND FOLLOW THE LINKS

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Oh Pity The Poor Reporters



The Brighouse News of Saturday 2 July 1870 contains a lengthy report of the meeting of the Brighouse Local Board. Local Boards were the precursors to Urban District Councils, and were charged with supervising the provision of such services as water supply, drainage, sewers and gas lighting. Their remit was particularly concerned with public health: they had been established in an attempt to counter the growing threat from disease in the rapidly expanding urban areas of the country. 

The June meeting of the Brighouse Local Board seems to have been a fairly dull affair: various sub-committees had been established; there were lengthy debates about people getting access to water stop taps who shouldn't have access to them; the case of how much to charge someone who wanted water for his garden but not his house was debated at length; and complaints about water being supplied to Clifton without the express permission - and payment to - the Halifax Waterworks Committee were heard. The Local Board then met with a deputation from the Brighouse Temperance Society, and there was a lively debate about the evils of public houses and the dangers of drink being available to the working classes. The meeting didn't end until a report from the Cemetery Committee had been heard, by which time most members of the Board and the officials attending the meeting were probably in great need of refreshments of one kind or another.

Directly under this report of the Board meeting there is a short item of correspondence which reads as follows:-

BRIGHOUSE LOCAL BOARD
To the Editor of the Brighouse News
SIR, Amid the innumerable demands for money for all sorts of things, can you spare me a corner in which to plead for funds for so small an object as paying the members of your Local Board by day; as I am sure the little business they have to do (if worth doing at all) will be better done in business hours, than at midnight, and the change would not only benefit them, but would give the reporters an opportunity of going home by
DAYLIGHT

You have to admire the reporters who managed to sneak this item into the columns of the paper. Who says the Victorians didn't have a sense of humour!



Friday, January 17, 2020

Towards The Sepia Sea


This little faded photograph worked its way to the top of my "To Scan" pile. The couple sitting on the left are instantly recognisable - my uncle and aunt, Harry and Annie Moore. The photo appears to have been taken in one of those British seaside spa resorts that were fashionable in the 1930s, with their mock Greek columns and potted palms. Over the years, it has faded into those warm brown sepia tones that radiate photographic antiquity. The crimping to the edges of the photo are another sure sign of the times: an era when photographs were intended to be stuck in albums for posterity.

A better camera and a more seasoned photographer might have cropped the shot and concentrated on the two smiling holiday couples. Whilst they are interesting in themselves - their contrived happiness, their relaxed style - it is the extraneous detail that is fascinating. One is tempted to follow the couples walking along the promenade towards the sepia sea.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Postcards From Home : Park Pride


Old picture postcards provide us with a fine indication of what people saw as important about the area in which they lived or they were visiting. On some occasions they would reflect great industrial or commercial achievement: tall mills, railway viaducts that put mother nature in her place, or busy street scenes full of shops, hotels and lines of horses and carriages. On other occasions they would highlight natural wonders: plunging gorges, tall mountains and ever-winding rivers. There was always an element of local pride in the displayed photographs, and because this was an era of vibrant local government, it was civic pride that was on display. That is why so many of these classic postcards of the first two decades of the twentieth century feature local parks.

This example features three photographs of two of the finest parks in Halifax: Akroyd Park and People's Park. The origin of both can be traced to two of the foremost textile families of the town: - the Akroyd's and the Crossley's. Bankfield Museum and the surrounding Akroyd Park were the former home of Colonel Edward Akroyd (1810-1887): mill-owner, reformer, Member of Parliament, and the prime mover behind a host of schemes to improve the lives of working people. Shortly before  his death - and after he had retired to the seaside - Halifax Town Council bought the Bankfield estate for £6,000, using the mansion to house the town museum and the grounds to form a public park.


This was not the town's first park, by any means. Akroyd had already been one of the prime movers behind the creation of Shroggs Park, and Henry Charles McCrea had given both West View Park and Albert Promenade to the town. But perhaps Halifax's most famous park was the gift of another of these textile titans - Sir Francis Crossley and his creation People's Park.


Crossley, never one to avoid a religiously uplifting story, later wrote about how the idea of the park came to him, during a visit to Canada and the USA in 1855. He wrote about the time that he and his party visited the White Mountains in the State of Maine, in the following terms:-

"I remember that when we arrived at the hotel at White Mountains, the ladies sat down to a cup of tea, but I preferred to take a walk alone. It was a beautiful spot. The sun was just then reclining his head behind Mount Washington, with all that glorious drapery of an American sunset, of which we know nothing in this country. I felt that I should like to be walking with my God on this earth! I said, 'What shall I render to my Lord for all His benefits to me?' I was led further to repeat that question which Paul asked under other circumstances, 'Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?' The answer came immediately. It was this: 'It is true thou canst not bring the many thousands thou hast left in thy native country to see this beautiful scenery; but thou canst create beautiful scenes for them. It is possible on a suitable spot so to arrange art and nature, that they shall be within the walk of every working man in Halifax; that he shall go and take his stroll there after he has done his hard day's toil, and be able to get home again without being tired.'"

Francis Crossley kept this moment of divine intervention in the forefront of his mind and on his return to Halifax immediately set about realising it. He hired the most famous landscape designer of his day – Sir Joseph Paxton, who, a few years earlier had designed the iconic Crystal Palace – to lay out a park in Halifax and on the 14th August 1857, a day declared a public holiday in Halifax, the People’s Park was opened.

This particular postcard which features these three views of Halifax parks was sent in 1915 by an unknown visitor to the town. In the brief message on the reverse of the card she mentions the parks - "the parks are nice here". Brief as it is, it is a fitting memorial to the town and the parks it was so proud of.




Saturday, January 11, 2020

In Defence Of Josh Matthewson




ALLEGED FRAUD ON A RAILWAY - On Saturday, at the West Riding Court, Halifax, Josh Matthewman, of Huddersfield, was charged with having travelled from the latter place to Brighouse, on the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, in a second-class carriage, he having a third-class ticket. It appeared that defendant was put into the carriage by the officials at Huddersfield, and at Brighouse, when he was remonstrated with by a porter, he said he did not know that he was riding in a class superior to the one for which he had paid. He, however, offered to pay the difference, which was three half-pence, and the case was dismissed.

It is never too late to correct a miscarriage of justice. 145 years after this report appeared in the Bradford Observer, I would like to protest on behalf of Josh Matthewson for the way in which he was dragged in front of the courts, like a common criminal, for "riding in a class superior to the one for which he had paid". He was put in the wrong carriage when he boarded the train in Huddersfield, he explained his innocence when he was remonstrated with by a porter in Brighouse: and yet is name is paraded across the pages of the popular press and left on public view for almost a century and a half. During his life, Mr Matthewman may have rescued stray puppy dogs, raised children who changed the world, endowed homes for the poor and downtrodden: but all he is remembered for is his missing three half-pence ticket. What a perfect example of what was petty about the petty session courts.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Raw Future On Parade In Victory Year

S E P I A    S A T U R D A Y    5 0 2


At some stage, I came into possession of these three photographs of school groups from, I suspect, the same school. One of the photographs includes a date: two children holding a slate with "Victory Year, 1919" written on it. The first and second photographs were obviously taken in the same classroom, and the third one is probably the same school at the same time. I have no idea who any of the children are, but that doesn't matter. It was Victory Year, and there was so much raw future gathered together. Hindsight tells us that Victory Year was soon followed by decades of economic depression and warfare, but the children gathered together knew nothing of what was to come. Their futures were in front of them.



This post is in response to the prompt for Sepia Saturday 502 which features a group of children from about the same period as these three photographs. 

To see more Sepia Saturday posts in response to this prompt, go to the Sepia Saturday Blog and follow the prompts.

Thursday, January 09, 2020

My Mother, The Bathroom


Not many people have a picture of their mother dressed as a bathroom! All I know about this delightful photograph is that it was taken in 1928 when my mother, Gladys, was just seventeen years old. I recall her telling me that the occasion was a fancy dress competition and the design of this rather unique costume was all her own idea. Whether she won the competition or not, I have no idea: it doesn't matter. The photograph is a prize in itself.


Wednesday, January 08, 2020

With Halifax As A Backdrop


On a regular trawl through my old negatives, I came across one of my favourite photographs from almost fifty years ago. It shows two young girls with the familiar sights of 1970s Halifax as a backdrop. Those two young girls from all those years ago are still part of my life: I married the one on the right, and the one on the left is still one of our closest friends.

What is just as fascinating as the two subjects of this photograph is the backdrop. This is the Halifax of fifty years ago: a busy place full of industrial buildings and warehouses. The railway line still snakes its way to North Bridge Station and the cooling towers still overpower more familiar landmarks.

I can zoom in on that backdrop and - in my mind - walk down Winding Road to meet my father at the factory gate at Albion Mills. I can still smell the smoke in the air, I can still hear the trains rattle past. I can still imagine that I can stride up Southowram Bank and take photographs of two girls, with Halifax as a backdrop.


Tuesday, January 07, 2020

A Walk Along A Windy Promenade


During the first decade of the twentieth century, when picture postcard collecting became the height of fashion, postcards would often be only loosely based on photographs. The photographic image would be simplified, artificially coloured, pixelated, corrected and prepared for the printing presses; and this would sometimes result in images that were only distant relatives of the original scene. Over 100 years later, this trend has returned in the form of smart-phone photographic Apps that can bend reality with the ease of a circus strongman bending string. 

A perfect example is provided by this early twentieth century "photograph" of the famed Halifax beauty-spot, Albert Promenade and The Rocks. The strange obelisk structure on the left of the picture is supposed to be Wainhouse Tower, although it never looked quite like this. The Rocks clearly didn't have enough natural striations for the publisher, and therefore some additional ones have been scratched on the photographic plate. The lines of the buildings have been cleaned up, the industrial fog has been dissipated ..... and Albert has somehow lost his "l" along the way.

Albert Promenade was built by Henry Charles McCrea, a fascinating character whom we have met before. He was born in Dublin in 1810 and found his way over to Halifax where he originally worked for John Holdsworth in his textile business. He eventually split with Holdsworth and started his own textile business, and went on to become Mayor of the town and benefactor of numerous local schemes to "improve" the town. Albert Promenade was built to allow local people to view the natural rock formations that line the Calder Valley in the Skircoat and Saville Park area of the town.

McCrea became something of a serial promenade-builder, as soon as he had finished Albert Promenade in 1861, he transferred his attention to the far more exotic location of the seafront at Blackpool, where he was the Chairman of the company that built the North Pier, the first purpose-built pier-promenade in the country. He was also behind the move to introduce electric trams in Blackpool - and the North Pier and the trams remain in the Lancashire resort to this day as a kind of structural memorial. Equally, Albert Promenade still provides fine views over an ever-changing Calder Valley.


The card was posted to Miss Ethel Gazeley of Castle Street, Luton in August 1907 by her friend Nellie. The message is: "We came here on Sat morning with Harry, it was ever so windy. Don't forget u owe me 3". What will have been owed was no doubt three postcards - the postcard collecting hobby was driven by friends exchanging them through the penny post.

As I write this, there are several warnings of high winds in the area. If I were to visit Albert Promenade, like Nellie, I would find it "ever so windy" there.



Friday, January 03, 2020

A Bath, Some Militia, And An Ode To Japan Blacking

As we enter the year 2020, everything in the news is far too depressing to dwell upon. I am therefore taking refuge in the news of the past - if for no other reason, than to confirm that things were just as depressing in the past.


Today I am returning 200 years to the 3 January 1820, and my newspaper of choice is the splendidly named Leeds Intelligencer And Yorkshire General Advertiser.


Let us start with a look at education (for the privileged classes) two hundred years ago; and an announcement from Mrs Wilks of Parsonage House, Thornhill, near Wakefield. Mrs Wilks "takes a limited number of young ladies into her house for the purpose of instruction". Yorkshire parents will have been pleased to learn that they "may rely on every attention being paid to (their daughters) health, morals and general improvement". The pricing structure looks a little complicated - there appears to be a flat rate for accommodation, extra for tuition, not to mention an additional fifteen shillings a quarter for washing (although whether that is for the child or their clothes isn't stated). The most delightful sentence in the entire announcement is undoubtedly the penultimate one: - "The Young Ladies are accommodated with Cold and Warm Baths"!


Page two contains a piece that possibly deserves a three-year PhD thesis. It is a public announcement from the officers of the Halifax Regiment of the Local Militia which regrets that the Commanding Officer of Regiment has resigned his commission at a time when "sedition and disloyalty are so notoriously abroad". Context is everything in understanding this somewhat strange announcement by the Halifax militia officers: the battle of Waterloo was less than five years in the past, and the massacre at Peterloo took place only the previous August. The officers proclaim in their statement that "until it is formally intimated to us, that our services, as a body, are no longer needed, we shall be found at our post, ready for such service, as we may consistently be called upon to perform". Before we all give the Halifax officers a resounding cheer, it must be remembered that the perceived enemy at the gates was not a foreign army, but the impoverished and disenfranchised English working man and woman.


Let us finish on a more light-hearted note, with an advertisement from Richard Turner, the manufacturer of "Real Japan Blacking". Japan blacking was a varnish used to coat iron and steel and was very popular in the early nineteenth century. At a time of the year when we have all had a surfeit of mindless television commercial jingles, it is worth remember that the genre is not all that new. All together now ....

"Turner, it is to thee we owe
This all resplendent beauteous glow"




Wednesday, January 01, 2020

On Two Wheels Through The Thirties



My parents, Albert and Gladys Burnett, spent much of the 1930s on two wheels. They started on a tandem, and then at some point they progressed to a motorbike. At times they flirted with three wheels, but such experiments were short-lived. Once, my father bought a Morgan Super Sports three wheeled car - it had the look of the progeny of a drunken mismatch between a sports car and a motor cycle - but had to sell it after a couple of days when the back wheel got caught in a tram line in Bull Green, Halifax. Following this incident, my mother refused to get into the vehicle ever again, and it was returned to the dealers. Decades later, Albert's face would still cloud over whenever we drove around Bull Green roundabout, the site of the death of a young man's dreams. When he was in his seventies, I bought him a plastic model of a Morgan Super Sports - by then they had gained quite a classic car cult status - and he displayed it proudly on the sideboard, close to the re-corked bottle of QC Sherry, next to the tasteful china desk lamp in the shape of a semi-naked native beauty.



The point when they switched from muscle-power to petrol power, can be best identified by their clothing. Their cycling outfits were quite distinctive and featured matching jackets, shorts and rather fetching cloth hats. Such outfits, no doubt, provided them with the physical freedom to peddle their way up some of the more challenging climbs of the Yorkshire Dales. Although Gladys looks energetically engaged in providing the necessary motive power for their tandem, in some of the photographs that remain from this period, photographs can, perhaps, be deceptive. My father would always claim that she would sit at the back of the tandem with her feet off the peddles and let him do all the necessary work. Indeed, on one occasion, at some traffic lights on the Harrogate Road, she dismounted to look in a shop window whilst the lights were at red. My father didn't notice her absence, and when the lights changed, he set off and peddled on for a further mile before realising that she was missing. He returned to the traffic lights to find my abandoned mother in tears by the side of the road.



They must have made the change from tandem to motorbike at about the time they got married - in 1936. Sat astride a powerful motor bike - in my fathers' case, in this photograph, a Royal Enfield - necessitated clothing of a more protective nature. The colourful linen of the early part of the decade gave way to darkened leather, and the lone excursions of the courting couple were replaced by group adventures to more distant places. And to the sound of a high-powered two stroke engine, they motored on towards the nineteen forties.





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 ...