Sunday, May 31, 2020

Sheer Beauty

A stem of grass seeds plucked from the side of the road. Living within a quarter of a mile of one of the busiest motorways in the country, existing within inches of a noisy main road. Walked on, peed on, kicked, pinched and scattered. Sheer beauty.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Time And Not Place

I am not quite sure where the next image on the negative strip was taken, but it must have been somewhere between Coley (Image 1) and Hipperholme (Image 3). Half demolished buildings, slag heaps, silhouetted chimneys: it's an image of time rather than place. Hopefully someone will be able to pin down the location: all suggestions will be gratefully received.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

The Feel Of History

My negative scanning moves on to a new strip of negatives, one with just three negatives on it. It dates, I think, from the mid to late 1960s, and all three photographs are from the area around Halifax.

I am almost certain that the first shows the tower of Coley Church, brooding in the background, slightly aloof then - and now - from everything that goes on around it. I think, but can't be certain, that the building with the carts is Sowood House at the bottom of Coley Lane. You could probably take exactly the same scene in 2020 and little will have structurally changed: the house still stands, the church tower can still be seen in the background. You could turn the digital image into monochrome, you could apply every Photoshop ageing filter in your package: you could scratch it, add dust to it, tire it, and fade it. And yet, you would not be able to make it feel as old as this image. Quite clearly, it was taken in my lifetime (I took it!), but it is another age, it has the feel of history.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

One Of The Grandest Views

The final shot in this particular strip of six negatives, and all the climbing and scaling of hillside and stone steps is worthwhile. The view from the top of Godley Bank, when you suddenly catch sight of that carpet of industry and activity that is Halifax, must be one of the grandest views of the north of England. Even better when seen from the top of a bus. Again, this must date from around 1967: a year or two before those houses to the right of the road were demolished.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Halifax's Answer To A Triumphal Arch

Anyone who has been following the progress of my scans for the last few days will know where I had arrived at by the end of this strip of negatives from the late 1960s. It is Halifax's answer to a triumphal arch: built by the Borough Engineer in 1900 out of stone and cast iron; a monument to the power of hard work and industry. It is the stone steps leading up to Godley Bridge.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

God And Industry

A hundred yards or so after taking yesterday's photograph, I must have turned again towards Halifax and taken this next one in the series. It captures the old railway sidings at North Bridge particularly well, along with Smith's Wire Works. Monuments to both God and industry vie for control of the skyline.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Grand Scenes

This has always been one of my favourite photographs from the late 1960s. I strongly suspect that the back yard I took this from no longer exists: indeed, nor does the house, nor does the street. And the view no longer exists. Gone are the cooling towers, the gasometers, and the chimneys, and all you would see if you stood there today, would be a lot of trees. This is a different Halifax of fifty or so years ago: a little lost, a lot dirtier; but full of grand scenes.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Venetian Chimneys

Following on from yesterday's virtual day at the seaside, today we are back in Halifax, and where better than down behind Halifax Gas Works. I have always thought there was something vaguely Venetian about Halifax. Canaletto would have felt at home here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Exotic Bridlington

It is easy to get the impression that, during the 1960s and 70s, I did little other than take photographs of rainy days in Halifax. Occasionally, however, I escaped to the sun, and, as I scan my way through my negatives, I will find shots from some exotic location or other. These example are from Bridlington and, I think, date from the mid 1970s. It was a time when boat rides on the Bridlington Queen followed by a game of Bingo (where the prize was a 50 pence food voucher) constituted an exciting day out. It was a time when social distancing referred to the space you would leave between your deck chair and the next one.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Stepping Back

Stepping back slightly from yesterday's photograph, this gives a better idea of where the snicket was - and still is. Again, this was taken in the 1980s, a time of transition for this part of Halifax. Old Lane seems to justify its name, the various mills seem to be in search of a new future.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Snicket Revisited

I took this photo 40 years ago. I have taken the same scene many times over the years; and so have many other photographers far better than me. The most famous version is Bill Brandt's 1937 "Snicket In Halifax", which forms part of the collection of the New York Museum of Modern Art. A classic image of a classic town.

Bill Brandt : Snicket in Halifax 1937

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

News From Nowhere : 13 May - The Look Of Faded History


With nothing much to do other than read old newspapers, I found this article in a copy of the local Brighouse News from exactly 140 years ago. It was a report by the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Britton, on efforts being taken to combat the outbreak of scarlet fever (Scarlatina) in the town. Reading through the list of measures – social distancing, quarantining, closing schools, limiting funeral ceremonies, even gratuitous disinfectants – you are suddenly reminded that little is new in this world. Granted, we have yet to see the reintroduction of “Nuisance Inspectors”, but it is probably just a matter of time. All I need to do now is to find a copy of the newspaper from a year later to see whether things will ever return to normal.

Precautions Adopted: I now come to a very important part of this report, viz. - the precautions already adopted to put a stop to, and limit the spread of, the disease. I may say that everything has been done by your authority, and by your officers, with one exception, and that is “isolation”, to which I shall refer later on. Bills of "Precautions" have been twice distributed from house to house, and have also been posted in the district. The masters and mistresses of the various schools have been visited, and requested to exercise the greatest caution not to admit children from infected houses. All cases of which we have had any information, and also all suspected cases, have been regularly and systematically visited by your nuisance inspector, in many cases daily, and by myself at intervals of a few days. Not only have the cases been visited themselves, but careful inquiries have been made in the immediate neighbourhood of any cases, in order to ascertain if any more could be heard of. This has been done both at the inspector's daily rounds, and also at my occasional visits. At these visits to infected houses, the occupants have been cautioned about admitting friends into their houses, and especially children; if they have had any children who remained well, they have been requested to keep them away from school, and not to allow them to mix with other children. They have been supplied with disinfectants gratuitously, and shown how to use them; they have been instructed to use every care in disposing of the slops and secreta from the houses; to observe thorough cleanliness, and to admit as much fresh air as possible into their houses. In cases of death, they have been requested to bury early, to avoid funeral teas, and not to allow children and friends in, to see the corpse; to make a thorough cleansing of house and contents afterwards, as well as after every case of recovery. This is a thing. I am happy to say, that the public generally do.


A high resolution scan of the fallen blossom from the Camellia bush in the back garden. For weeks I have watched the bright pink fading into brown, and now most of the life seems to have gone from it. It leaves, however, a kind of beauty that can rival the boastful loudness of its prime.


The wonderful thing about Victorian Carte de Visite portraits is the measured looks of the sitters. No Facebook smiles or Instagram lips, just the hint of a smile. This excellent example was available for 50 pence in an Antiques Centre and originated in the Blackpool studios of H Wiggins.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

News From Nowhere : 12 May - Flowers, Places & Valleys


The second of my flowers scans features a bloom that was plucked from my garden this morning. I am not sure what the common English name for it is, but I have included the Latin name for all you horticulturalists out there.


I know where this is. It’s familiar. I feel as though I’ve walked down this road, wandered along this canal towpath. In truth, I must have – I took the photograph. It was 35 years ago, and therefore I can be forgiven for forgetting the grid reference or the street name. It left, however, an imprint on my mind; a set of shapes and lines which can be awakened after three and a half decades. I look at the photograph, an alarm goes off somewhere in the distance, and I say to myself – I know where this is.


I took this photograph a couple of days ago whilst walking in Greetland. It shows the view across some fields towards Wainhouse Tower and Crossley Heath school in the distance. It’s a lovely sight, as fine a view as you could find anywhere in this land. What you can’t see, however, is what I love most of all about this place I call home. Behind the first set of trees and before the second, there is a valley. Not some piddling little thing, but a monumental valley carved by glaciers many thousands of years ago. A valley with roads, railway lines, rivers and canals. A valley with houses, factories, offices and workshops. A valley with life and love. We hide these things well in these parts.

Wednesday, May 06, 2020

Dark Days And Wet Cobbles

Halifax Piece Hall back in the 1970s and 80s: in transition between low carrots and high culture. Half full stalls and half empty walkways: dark days and wet cobbles. Everything is so much brighter now, the scale is so much grander.

Monday, May 04, 2020

Scan To Survive

What else is there to do during lockdown than visit the past? Therefore, I scan to survive; and the strip of negatives that took the journey across the scanner today included a set of photos shot in a typically West Yorkshire field some fifty years ago.

In the first photograph the field divide is a typically Yorkshire dry stone wall. In the next two shots it is something even more distinctive of the area around Halifax, Elland and Southowram, where stone quarries provided a constant crop of high quality flag stones during the eighteenth and nineteenth century. These great stone slabs were like ancient monoliths, dominating the skyline. Many have vanished over the last half century - they must have quite an intrinsic value in their own right - but a few still remain, although they have been partly lost in the post-industrial growth of trees and shrubs.

Escaping from my lockdown yesterday, for a precious hour in the fresh air, I found this surviving example in a lane about a quarter of a mile from where I live.

Black Friar

For a time, during the late 1970s, I had a job leading parties of foreign visitors on tours of historic London pubs. One of my favourite sto...