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!


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...