Tuesday, December 13, 2022

From Ward's End To Hardcastle Craggs


I've recently acquired this picture postcard of Ward's End in Halifax. Although it is new to me, it is anything but new - having been posted the best part of one hundred years ago. The photograph on the front of the card is probably a good ten years older than that; dating from an age when tramcars outnumbered motor cars, and horse and carriages could still be seen in the distance. The original photo was somewhat faded, relatively grubby, and lacking in contrast, but a little restoration work brought it into focus, and a dusting of colour helped to bring a bit of life to the scene.

The scene should be recognisable for most current Halifax dwellers, the old Picture House building is still standing (now a nightclub with a new name every season) and most of the buildings on the left of the street are still standing. The large building on the right - the old Palace-Hippodrome Theatre - is sadly long gone, replaced by a lump of concrete.

The card was sent to Master Harold Holt, who, it appears was on holiday with his parents in Southport at the time. It comes from Elsie and Hilda, who, I suppose, could be aunts.

It is not the easiest message to make out, but I think I have most of the words, which are, as follows:-

Dear Annie, Albert & Harold,
We are glad to hear that you are enjoying yourselves, as we are. Today we are at Auntie Clara's where I am writing this. We have been washing. Yesterday we were ------ at Hardcastle Craggs. From Elsie and Hilda.

Hardcastle Craggs are a local beauty spot, so the lost word may be "walking", or possibly "working" or even "washing". You can cycle through the various possibilities and create a back-story for each. It's as good a way of passing the time as most others.

Steam, Snow And Wortley


A day out with the family at Wortley Top Forge, near Sheffield. There were steam engines of every kind and a steam train that everyone could ride on. There was snow on the ground, ice on the lake and clouds of steam. There was even Santa Claus for the children.

Blue skies and white frost and a rusted tractor.

Large iron wheels turned by large iron engines.

Wheels, levers, shafts and snow.

Iron rails, iron railings, iron skies and steamy clouds.

Enthusiasm kept warm by a thick fleece.

Thursday, December 08, 2022

Reflections Of Bull Green

Yet another of my photographs of Bull Green back in the 1960s. This one presents a bit of a challenge, however, because Bull Green and all its shops are seen as reflections in a car showroom window. 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!

Tuesday, December 06, 2022

The Crown, The Bull, And The Griffin

I must have acquired this postcard of Bull Green in Halifax at some stage over the last fifty years. It's almost recent enough, and I'm almost old enough, to make me think I might have bought it new. Whatever its provenance, it hasn't been used, which somehow strips it of half its potential interest. There are no intriguing messages on the back, and no postmarks to date it: all we have is the picture. Luckily, the picture is a history lesson in itself, and well worth half a pint of anybody's time.

Peel away the somewhat unnatural colours and the frighteningly empty streets, and what you are left with is a study of three pubs - the Crown and Anchor, the Bull's Head, and the Griffin Hotel. These three provided constant reference points during my youth: I would walk passed them and catch the bus outside them on my journeys to and from school, and (a little later) I would explore them as a barely legal customer. They were like compass points around Bull Green (with perhaps the Plummet Line being the fourth point on the compass): as constant as any northern star.

The buildings still exist, and all three still serve the odd drink or two, although such drinks might not be recognisable to the seasoned drinkers of my youth. The Crown and Anchor has gone through several name changes since this photograph was taken and its most recent manifestation is a bar called Koko's. The Bull's Head equally has been known as most things over the last thirty years, most recently as a "Party Bar" called Origin. The Griffin eventually became a bar called "Bow Legged With Brass". 

So, there we have it. The traffic got busier, the buildings slightly shabbier, and the Crown, The Bull and the Griffin became Koko's, Origin and Bow-Legged!

Shelves Of Memories


Flicking through a copy of the Halifax Courier of the 13th December 1913, as one does, my attention is captured by an advert from Greenwoods, the Halifax booksellers. It's partly the design of the advert - the illustration and the typeface in finest art nouveau style. It's partly the tag-line "Established 1890 - Therefore in three reigns, namely; Victoria the Good, Edward the Peacemaker, George the Waker-Up of England", which makes me wonder how you would continue the sequence - "Edward the Abdicator, George The Smoker etc etc". It is mainly, however, the flood of memories of being in the bookshop, now long gone, and the delights that lay in wait whenever you went in. The property is still there, so I know it wasn't a particularly large shop, but my memory tells me it was vast - Halifax's answer to Blackwell's in Oxford or Foyles in London. But don't disturb me, leave me be and let my browse those shelves full of memories that no trip down the Amazon could ever replicate.

Monday, December 05, 2022

Impressions Of Halifax


Over time, photographs fade and turn themselves into impressions. I took this photograph from the car park on top of the Halifax Bowl getting on for 60 years ago. The Brunswick Bowl is long gone, as, I am sure, is the car. 

The photograph dates back to the mid 1960s: a time when Halifax was trying to reinvent itself as a modern trans-Atlantic town, complete with bowling alleys, high-rise flats, coffee bars and neon lights. Halifax, after all, was the home of Anglo-American Chewing Gum, so where better to build a concrete bowling alley complete with an oversized plastic bowling pin. The photograph has faded over time, so all that is left is an impression of the Halifax of my youth.

Saturday, December 03, 2022

Faces Fixed With Seriousness


For twelve years now, Sepia Saturday has been providing a digital meeting place for lovers of old photographs. Each week, a theme image is either followed, adapted or ignored by participants. Sepia Saturday is a bit like that: the old photos don't need to be in sepia nor do they need to be shared on Saturday. This week the theme image shows an unsmiling Victorian family, and my own contribution features an unsmiling Victorian lady.

When did people start smiling for photographs? Look on Facegram or Instabook and you are bombarded with smiling faces, but flick through a Victorian photographic album and faces fixed with seriousness is the order of the day. Perhaps it was a necessary response to the slow shutter speeds of the early cameras - it is easier to hold a fixed frown than it is a fleeting smile. Maybe it is that photographs in those days were special things; rare artefacts that would be handed down through the generations, and you wouldn't want your great-grand nephew's second cousin to think you were a flighty lightweight. Perhaps it was that they were just miserable!

We will never know. Nor will we ever know who this unsmiling lady was. She was a member of our family - perhaps shew was my second cousin's great-grand aunt - as here portrait was lodged in the family archives (a.k.a. the old shoe box kept at the back of the wardrobe).  Whoever she was, I have but one message - cheer up, love!


Wednesday, November 23, 2022

An Arctic Refuge


I've always followed the general rule in life that states that if something looks like it won't be there for long, take a photograph of it. It is a lot easier to follow such a rule in the era of digital photography than it was in the days when films, not to mention developing and printing, represented a significant outlay. I must have taken the above photograph about fifty years ago, and I am so pleased that I did so, because not long after I took it, these particular houses were demolished. The row of houses were in Arctic Parade, Great Horton, Bradford, and it was at No 11 (the house on the right) that my grandfather, Enoch Burnett, lived and my father grew up.

I am not sure when these houses on Arctic Parade were built, the name seems to suggest that period of the mid nineteenth century when Arctic exploration was the space travel of the time. A quick search for Arctic parade in the records brought up an interesting article which, if nothing else, shows that the road existed in 1861.

I assume that by the time my father was growing up on Arctic Parade, in the 1920s, the Female Refuge had long gone: certainly no mention was ever made of it in the family stories. I would have liked to know more about growing up in this part of Bradford 100 years ago, but so much of the history has died with a generation which, is now, long gone. But at least I have the photograph.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

The Theatre Will Be Well Aired


Christmas is a time for good cheer, festive gatherings, and seasonal entertainment treats: and what better Christmas treat could you imagine than a concert by the Lancashire Bell Ringers! This is the prospect that was on offer to the citizens of Halifax back in 1843, when "lovers of music and novelty" were "earnestly solicited to pay a visit and spare themselves regret which the must otherwise experience", to the Theatre in Halifax to see this "musical entertainment of a strictly moral nature". "The Theatre" - it needed no other name, it was the only one in Halifax at the time - stood on the spot where the Theatre Royal was later built. 

The Lancashire Bell Ringers - seven men with a total of forty-two bells, conducted by the violinist Mr H Johnson - were all the rage at the time, and in the year following their Halifax Christmas gig they embarked upon a tour of America. The citizens of Halifax must have loved it - it would have been a bit like seeing the Beatles before they became world famous, with the added advantage that people of all denominations, however fastidious, might properly pay them a visit.

Bearing in mind the screaming fans, the blaring music, the hedonistic atmosphere, the management were at pains to point out that "the theatre will be well aired"!

Illustration : The Illustrated London News, May 1843

Monday, November 21, 2022

A Pocket Exhibition of Elland

One hundred years ago, picture postcards were the equivalent of Facebook, Twitter or the like. If you had a quick message or greeting to send to a friend, pick up a postcard, string together a couple of sentences, and pop a penny stamp on the back.Because some of these postcards have been saved - kept in drawers, put in albums - they have survived and taken on a new life as pocket exhibitions of economic and social history.

Take, for example, this postcard from Elland, which was sent to Miss Ursula Prestwich in July 1927. It might not be the best example of a "picture" postcard as most of the card is taken up with a generic illustration of a bunch of heather, and Elland is relegated to a small illustration of Huddersfield Road. The card, however, dates from the 1920s and by then the great postcard boom of twenty years earlier was over, and the variety and number of postcards available was diminishing.

One might also question the absence of a stamp - this postcard has not been sent through the post. The explanation is probably that it was included with another letter or within a parcel. The message is timeless, and could just as easily be a text message or Facebook post today:-

Elland, July 23 1927.  My dear Ursula, I hope you are having a good time and that you had a nice journey. Roger has been very good, but he had rather a bad night last night. With love and kisses from M and (Roger)

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Berlin, 1983 (I Think)

I hid from the rain today by delving into the endless files of unsorted and unscanned photographs I have amassed in some 65 years of photography. The strip of four 35mm colour negatives that found itself on the top of the pile provided an entertaining diversion and a pleasant trip down memory lane, although it took me a little while before I could identify which country that particular lane was located in. Eventually a distinctive u Bahn sign led me to Berlin and a short trip I took there in the early 1980s. I was doing some work for an EU organisation called CEDEFOP (The European Centre For The Development Of Vocational Training) and I was visiting their HQ which, at the time, was located in what was then, West Berlin. I can't pin the exact date down, my best guess will be around 1983. I flew to West Berlin, which means it was before I was prevented from flying with my progressive deafness. Equally it was before 1993 when CEDEFOP's headquarters was moved to Thessaloniki in Greece. I was able to track down at least one of the churches that appear in my photographs - the modernistic brick building is the Kirche am Hohenzollernplatz. There must be more negatives from that trip somewhere within my negative files: my exploration of the city - forty years after visiting it - will have to wait until they appear.

Here Comes Christmas - Spend-Tide Is At Hand


There is a common cry you hear at this time of the year, a nostalgic-fuelled bemoaning of the ever-increasing commercialisation of Christmas. So often this goes hand-in-hand with the observation that 21st century retail conglomerates launch their seasonal grab of our scarce resources earlier and earlier each year. It is worth spending a moment or two reading this advert from the Halifax Industrial Society that appeared in the Halifax Daily Courier and Guardian exactly 90 years ago today - on the 17th November 1932. 

"There is a tide in the affairs of man", proclaims the copywriter with a Shakespearian flourish, only to go on to say "Spend-Time is at Hand!". By the 17th of November, shoppers were being urged to stock up on "every ingredient for a Happy Xmas", a list that included Silver-Seal Margarine at 8d per lb, orange peel at 9d per lb, not to mention Sutox Shredded Suet at 10d per lb. 

The children's Christmas stockings were not safe from this advertising onslaught, either. "The Toyland of the Town" would be located on the ground floor of the Northgate store. "The "Early Bird" Proverb is particularly applicable this Yuletide", warns the advert, "owing to a scarcity of certain items".

And why not crown your Christmas shopping expedition by ordering a sack of "Best Yorkshire Coal" - a bargain at just 1/11d. I've ordered a couple of sacks already - you can never plan too early for Christmas.

Saturday, November 05, 2022

Probably Not

This is the result of an experiment to see whether a truly bad photograph can be made interesting. First take a truly bad photograph, which I did whilst driving around a roundabout as a passenger in a car. Without thought of composition or content, I just pressed the shutter button. Next set to with cropping, adjustments, filters and whatever you can find in your digital kitbag and see what you can come up with. Interesting? Probably not, but it was worth the experiment.

Monday, October 10, 2022

Halifax Before The Earth Moved


This started as another of those "where was I standing when I took this" mysteries. The photograph dates from the 1970s, and the quest for my vantage point wasn't helped by the dubious quality of the old negative. Clearly that is Halifax in the distance and there are enough stone-spires and brick-blocks visible to begin to construct lines of sight. However much I tried, however, I couldn't get things to fit together. My best guess was that I was standing somewhere near Hullen Edge, above Elland, but there are chimneys where there shouldn't be and empty gaps where there should be things. Perhaps I took the photograph before the movement of the tectonic plates associated with the Great Elland Earthquake.

I soon lost interest in trying to work out where I was standing fifty years ago - I have difficulty remembering where I was standing yesterday - and concentrated instead of adding one or two filters and a touch of colour. I quite like the resulting image - it has a slightly mythical quality about it - quite fitting for Halifax before the earth moved.

Five Miserable Men From Ovenden


This is an Edwardian studio Cabinet Card featuring five unknown men. On the reverse is a studio stamp which reads “B Collier, Photographer, Ovenden, Nr Halifax” I have not been able to find any record of such a photographer in any of the lists of Victorian and Edwardian studios, nor in census records, but that is not particularly unusual. During the last decade and of 19th and first decade of the 20th century, photographic studios were a bit like men's barbers and vape shops today - they would appear and disappear as quick as a studio flash. The five men in question don't look pleased with life, but maybe they had nothing to be pleased about. A very different picture to preserve for posterity compared with the smiley selfies of 100 years later.

Monday, October 03, 2022

Tuesday 4 October 2022


Smartphone Apps often supply you with a range of decorative frames to dress up your photos and present them to their best advantage. Trees provide a similar service to anyone who cares to walk the hills that overlook Halifax. Chimneys, church spires, and even blocks of concrete flats seem to sprout from the verdant valley landscape below.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Aimlessly Wandering


For some time now, I seem to have been aimlessly wandering around my various blogs and social media streams in search of order, purpose, and direction. After lengthy consideration I have come to the conclusion that it is aimlessly wandering that I enjoy, and that order and purpose are foreign countries I neither have, nor want, directions to. So here is a walk I took around Halifax a couple of days ago.

Sunday, August 07, 2022

Annie Burnett And The Dead Fox Marker

This is a photograph of my Auntie Annie - Annie Elizabeth Burnett who, in October 1933, became Annie Moore. My guess is that this particular photograph was taken before she married and could potentially date from somewhere in the late 1920s. She was born in 1903, and therefore she would have been 25 years old in 1928, perhaps about the time the photograph was taken. To try and pin down the date more accurately, we need to turn to those old standbys of photographic dating - cars, clothes, aerials and dustbins. We can quickly get rid of two of these markers - there are no cars in the photograph and no rooftops to check for TV aerials or satellite dishes (although the photograph is clearly too early for either). Dustbins are also a more recent marker - try taking a similar photograph in Britain today without an enormous wheelie-bin cluttering up the composition - so that can be dismissed as well. And that leaves clothes.

You could write a book on popular clothing styles over the years and their value in dating old photographs - and if you have, by any chance, written such a book, let me know and I will buy a copy - and the dress Auntie Annie is wearing could feature as one of the illustrations. Not only is there that magnificent dress, but also the poor dead fox she is holding in her right hand. The dress is clearly from the 1920s, but you can build in a degree of delay for such fashions to spread to the back streets of Little Horizon in Bradford. My guess would be 1928 or 1929, a time when she was already dating - or "courting" as they said in those days - the man she would marry four or five years later. It was also a time when her future husband, Harry, was trying his hand at becoming a professional entertainer, and had started touring the country as part of a professional Concert Party.

It was another twenty years before I came along - and another thirty before my memories of Annie became firmly established - and by then the dress will have been long gone. But I do remember the poor dead fox, stored on the top of the wardrobe in the little bedroom I used to sleep in when I stayed with them. Staring down at me, paws all limp, reduced to becoming a historical marker in an old photograph.

This is a Sepia Saturday post. For other interpretations of this week's theme image, go to the Sepia Saturday website and follow the links.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Driving Down The Lanes Of Nostalgia With A Shot Of Redex


As soon as the scan of this old negative of mine emerged from the digital equivalent of the developing solution, I knew there was something wrong. Not wrong, perhaps, as we all know that photographs and Prime Ministers can never lie, but something not quite right, something different. The photograph is of the Newlands Filling Station in the village of Northowram, near Halifax. I must have taken it sometime around 1980 as the old Crown Brewery building had been demolished and the newer carpet and furniture showroom had not been constructed. It was a view I was very familiar with as I spent most of my childhood living opposite the garage, down Oaklands Avenue. I used to walk between the garage and the old brewery on my way to the village school. My first ever job was at the petrol station, doing what the Americans so evocatively describe as "pumping gas".  It was the 1960s when I worked there and I remember the price of a gallon of petrol reaching five shillings (25p) - a challenge to cash hungry motorists but a blessing to petrol pump attendants who had to calculate prices and change. For those wishing to saunter down the inflationary lanes of nostalgia, the current price of petrol is £7.50 per gallon. 

Looking at the photograph transported me back over half a century: to the clinging smell of petrol, to those white uniform coats, to the shot of Redex in the petrol tank. And then, the penny dropped (to those still sauntering down the inflationary lanes of nostalgia, the .4 of a new pence dropped) - when I worked there, it was a BP filling station not a Shell one. Such things mattered, in those days, people would have a brand loyalty when filling their cars with petrol. They would argue that they went better on BP as compared to Shell, they would go further on Esso as compared to Mobil, and they would go faster on National Benzole compared to Jet. Such brand loyalties were reinforced by massive advertising campaigns, not to mention promotional toys, beer glasses and Green Shield Stamps.

No doubt, sometime after I had left the village, it changed from being a BP garage to a Shell garage. It also started selling second-hand cars, which it never did in my day. It's all history now. The petrol station has been replaced by a housing development - I wonder if they can still catch the faint aroma of four star petrol when the wind is in a certain direction? - the furniture showroom that replaced the brewery has itself been replaced by a supermarket ... and petrol has become faceless, nameless and very expensive.

Documentary evidence of my days working at the BP Filling Station

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...