Tuesday, March 28, 2023

The Halifax Court


The 1851 Great Exhibition Of The Works Of Industry Of All Nations was an attempt to celebrate the advances in science, technology and manufacturing in the new, Victorian era. The exhibition, which was housed in the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, featured areas devoted not only to different fields of science and manufacturing, but also to individual towns and cities. Amongst them was Halifax’s own contribution to the exhibition - The Halifax Court.

The Illustrated London News of the 5th July 1851, includes a detailed description of “the Halifax Court” along with an illustration of the type of goods on display. “The show of goods from Halifax is not large, but it fairly enough represents the industry of the town” …. which …. “dyes yards for all Yorkshire and makes a vast quantity of other articles”. The main exhibitor was clearly James Akroyd, but other Halifax firms had goods on display including William Brown and Hoadley and Pridie (table-cloths); Holdsworth’s (wollen-hangings); and Baraclough & Sons (table covers and printers’ blankets)..

The article concludes with a rather flattering description of the town in the mid-nineteenth century:-

Clothworking first found a place at Halifax in the commencement of the fifteenth century, and, aided by water communication with both Hull and Liverpool, it has risen rapidly since the introduction of the power-loom and the use of mixed fabrics. The town, which is almost entirely built of stone, is prettily situated on a gradually rising ground, in the midst of a group of hills, and the scenery of the neighbourhood is varied and beautiful. The population of Halifax, in 1801, was 63,434; and 1841, 130,743.”

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Photographic History At Its Seductive Best


This has always been one of my favourite Found Photographs - a tiny two inch print of unknown origin with the name Ethel Johnston written on the back. It could have jumped out of William Boyd's fabulous "Sweet Caress" - photographic history at its seductive best.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Foresight And Tramlines - Shelter From The Coming Storm


SHELTERS FOR AN EMERGENCY : Coun E Wrigglesworth of Hill Side, Park Field, Triangle (who attracted wide notice when he built his own house of concrete blocks some years ago) is now erecting a concrete shelter, which will be of use in case of emergency. The roof will be reinforced with old tram lines.

This is a curious little story from the local newspaper; the story of a man who sets about building himself a concrete shelter, "which will be of use in case of emergency". The story only becomes interesting when you notice the date of publication - 25 March 1939. The prescient gentleman in question was Councillor E Wrigglesworth of the Sowerby Bridge Urban District Council. As far as I have been able to ascertain, he survived the war - thanks to his foresight and those tramlines.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

It Is Doubtful How Long Peace May Be Preserved.

The chance discovery of an illustration in an old newspaper, brings to light a troubled time in the history of Halifax. The illustration - Scene at North Bridge, Halifax - appeared in the Illustrated London News of the 27th August 1842, and it shows thousand of protestors on North Bridge coming under attack by armed troops during the so-called “Plug Riots”. The accompanying article describes how 10,000 to 15,000 Chartists descended on the town on the weekend of the 15th and 16th August with the intention of shutting down local mills in support of a General Strike by removing the “plugs” from the boilers that drove the textile machines. The response of the authorities was to call in the troops who, following the reading of the Riot Act, set about clearing the streets “at the point of the bayonet”. In the days that followed, protesters were arrested and meetings broken up.

The Chartists were protesting against the rejection by Parliament of the People’s Charter, which had been signed by over three million people, and called for universal suffrage, secret ballots and other electoral reforms. For a time it appeared as if the country was on the verge of revolution, and riots were reported in a number of northern towns and cities.

The police and armed forces eventually brought an end to the protests and peace returned to North Bridge. However, universal suffrage had to wait a further eighty-six years before it came to Britain.

HALIFAX: This town has been the scene of much rioting daring the last week, which has only been quelled by the soldiers clearing the streets at the point of the bayonet. The magistrates had taken every precaution to preserve the peace, by ordering a troop of Lancers and Hussars from Leeds, in addition to which they had the assistance of part of the 61st Regiment of Infantry, and a considerable number of special constables. The concourse of people, which has been computed at not less than from 15,000 to 20,000, came from the neighbourhood of Bradford, Hebden Bridge, Todmorden, and there were some women who even walked from Oldham, and appeared quite hearty in their novel undertaking. There were at least 5,000 from Hebden Bridge; and they entered the town singing the hundredth psalm, the women forming the middle portion of the procession. On the arrival of the procession from the neighbourhood of Bradford, at about eleven o’clock, the Riot Act was read by George Pollard, Esq , and it was read again on the arrival of the Todmorden men. The mob, numbering from 12,000 to 15,000 persons, some of them most ferocious looking, directed their malice first at the mill of Messrs John Akroyd and Son, the Shed Mill, at Haley Hill. They entered the weaving place of Messrs. Akroyd. The number of men and women who marched to Mr. Akroyd’s mill could not be less than 10,000, covering, as they did, the whole line of road from the North Bridge to Haley Hill. They arrived at this mill shortly after twelve, and the work-people being at dinner, the turn-outs were saved the trouble of clearing the premises, hut two of their number demanded an interview with Mr. Ackroyd, at which they insisted that the plugs should be drawn out of the boilers, Mr. Akroyd, thinking probably that opposition would be unavailing, not only agreed this modest request, but he also permitted one of his workmen to assist the deputation in their labour of mischief.

Saturday Evening: Our accounts from the neighbouring districts go to show that the insurrection is nearly at an end. The police and military are everywhere capturing many rioters. This town has resumed its wonted appearance ; business has been still further resumed, and all promises fairly for the whole of the mills recommencing on Monday. Three more rioters have been captured by the authorities of Northowram. The following public notice has just been issued to the mill-owners of Halifax and the neighbourhood; - “The magistrates earnestly exhort those mill-owners who have not already set their mills to work to do so immediately, and to furnish their workmen with arms ; also to give them instructions to apprehend all persons that are seen skulking about their premises, and instantly to seize any man who may bring an order to turn out their people ; and should any one attempt to touch the plugs of their boilers, and the party should be too numerous to be apprehended, then to give such person or persons notice, that if he or they do not instantly desist, the consequences will be fatal, as they had received orders from their masters which they were determined to enforce, to protect their property at all hazards.”

Sunday. —We are evidently becoming much excited here, and it is doubtful how long peace may be preserved. Yesterday morning large placards of a stirring character were posted through the town, announcing great meeting to take place on Monday, on a piece of waste ground near the Asylum. The police pulled the bills down wherever they could do so, and, from amongst other places, they pulled one from the wall of the Christian Chartist Church, Newhall Street, and took one or two men into custody for carrying boards about, the streets with the same bill. The parties were conveyed to the office of Mr. Burgess, chief commissioner of police, and in short time after Mr. C. Sturge attended to give bail for the men. Mr. O’Neill also attended to complain of the police for having torn the bills from his chapel; when a consultation ensued between the commissioner and some other of the authorities, and the parties were discharged forthwith, with caution not to go about the streets with the bills. In a short time after four neatly-attired women, two very young and rather handsome, and two middle-aged women, belonging to the Christian Chartist body, came out into the streets, each carrying a board with the objectionable placard. They walked up New Street, and into Paradise Street, where they, with a man, who was in front of them, were taken up by the police, and conveyed to the station in Crooked Lane. They were soon after removed to the police station, where, after a consultation of the magistrates, they were discharged, with a promise that they would not appear again in the streets with the placards. The remainder of the day and night passed over quietly, although in the utmost uncertainty. There was a great number of persons walking about the streets until a late hour. This morning a meeting of Chartists was to have been held near the Vulcan Foundry, but the police prevented the assemblage. No violence occurred on either side. The authorities have issued caution in reference to a great meeting announced for to-morrow, it will not be allowed to take place. The intelligence from Dudley is not favourable. Precautions have been deemed necessary there, and the magistrates have issued notice of preventing all public meetings.

Monday, Ten o’Clock, p.m. : Notwithstanding the injunction of the magistrates to the contrary, and the dispersion of the morning assembly, small meetings have been held in various parts of the town; but there is an overwhelming military force, and the authorities have been sitting throughout the day. An effort was made by the physical force Chartists to hold a meeting near the railway station to-night. It was attended by about 400 persons, but was effectually dispersed by three policemen.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Magical Moments In The Digital Developing Dish


When I fell in love with photography sixty years ago, one of the great delights was that magic moment when a print would slowly emerge in the darkroom developing dish. The closest to it these days is seeing a digital image emerge following the application of some complex filtering process. 

This print started life as a tiny, faded sepia image of a paddle steamer at sea off the coast of Herne bay in 1925. Interesting, but not necessarily stunning. Tidy the image up, get rid of the scratches and the blotches, add some colour - and what emerges from the digital developing dish was something quite different, something a little magical.

Monday, March 13, 2023

DAYS : Snow, Light And From Mary With Love


Weighed Down By The Weather: Occasionally the weather likes to remind you that, whatever plans you have, whatever places you need to go, it can over-rule the lot. It might be March but the snow fell with a vengeance and coated the ground, the trees, and even the washing line.

As well as there being a light at the end of the tunnel, sometimes there is a light on the way over the bridge as well! Make of that what you will.

On the reverse of this small photograph was written "From Mary With Love" I have no idea who Mary was, but the outfit is somewhat reminiscent to those wore by munition workers during World War 1.

First Cousin To A Forgotten Memory

The advent of artificial intelligence driven photographic software means that we can now all play around with colouring the past. Such experiments have differing levels of success: sometimes we get a stunning insight into the real beauty of great-auntie Gertie, other times we give our grandfathers purple beards and pink dungarees! Such artificial colourisation is nothing new, however, many of the picture postcards from well over one hundred years ago had colour added long after the original monochrome photograph was taken.

This picture postcard of Southgate in Halifax - which I have just added to my collection - is a good example of the genre. A&G Taylor’s patented “orthochrome” process created orange buildings and bright yellow signposts where such things never existed in reality. The end result was pictorially pleasing and the kind of thing that would have been snapped-up by Edwardian shoppers anxious to send a message through the post.

It is not just the somewhat crude colourisation, other aspects of many of these early postcard scenes share features with the array of photographic filters available on smart-phones these days. The result is a distant relative to an impressionist painting and the first cousin to a forgotten memory.

Like all such old postcards, the message on the reverse is like a lost page of a novel that was never written:-

We were in Banbury yesterday, but very sorry but could not get time to come and see you as we didn’t get in before three and mother wanted to see little Willie so we went over there. Florrie and I will be in Thursday again. Hope you are well. I will bring your tablets in with me as I am going up to see the Dr today. In haste, with love from Lily. Hope you are well.

You could start digging to discover who all these characters were, but let’s just leave them back in the world of 1914. It was soon to become a world that would generate very different memories indeed.

Monday, March 06, 2023

DAYS : Chairs, Bikes And Steep Streets (4-6 March 2023)


Taken about 40 years ago in Weston Park, Sheffield. Take a seat, move it about, make a pattern.

Delivery Boy. Found Photo. This is possibly one of the children of William G Pannett, baker and confectioner, of Horsham, Sussex.

Sheffield should be twinned with San Francisco. Sheffield has the trams and the hills: and the streets that challenge both gravity and the effectiveness of brakes.

Cleaning Up The Town Hall

In dating pictures of old Halifax, there are certain events that – rather like the destruction of the dinosaurs in geological times – mark the changeover between major epochs. One such event was the stone cleaning of Halifax Town Hall, bringing about its transition from soot-black to golden-stone, in 1972.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Enoch In Colour


You can say that it is somehow wrong to add colour to old sepia photographs. That, however, is what time has been doing for 100 years - sepia being as artificial as a photoshopped smile.

An Ingbirchworth Walk

A rare combination of blue skies and time to kill saw me take a walk around the lovely reservoir at Ingbirchworth – just over the border in South Yorkshire. I’ve always been slightly fascinated by Ingbirchworth, whose name always seems to me to have been formulated by a Committee. In fact, the meaning seems to be “meadow by the birch enclosure”, but the idea of an awkward compromise after a far too lengthy naming committee meeting, is a far more satisfactory explanation of its origin.

I am in danger of perhaps upsetting the good citizens of the village in saying that there isn’t much to the place other than a pub (which was closed on the day of my visit) and the nineteenth century reservoir. The latter provides a scenic and pleasant two mile walk around its circumference.

The reservoir seems to be surrounded by wind farm, which is something that will send many a country purist into palpitations, but I didn’t mind at all – these modern windmills can provide striking patterns as well as green power.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Messing About On Water Lane

If there is one thing I love doing, it is messing about with old images. Give me a half-decent computer, a reasonably warm desk to work on, and the occasional cup of tea, and I can occupy myself for a decade or two. There is no rational plan, no great scheme, no fixed objective: it is messing about in its truest sense.

Take, for example, Water Street, in Halifax back in 1939. This particular MAP (Messing About Project) started life as a rather poor quality newspaper image from the Halifax Courier and Guardian of Saturday 22nd April 1939. It was there simply as an image of Halifax at the time, and was captioned “Caddy Field From Water Lane Looking Towards Southowram” It is a still recognisable scene to anyone who has wandered along the streets of Halifax in more recent times.

To find and copy the image would be fun, but it is the messing about which provides me with real enjoyment. I won’t bore you with a list of the various filters and dodges used to create the finished image – if truth be told I can’t remember most of what I did. I like the result, however: I like creating pictures from the past.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Looking Inside .... To Find An Elephant In The Room

The wonderful thing about old 35mm negatives is that they come in strips. I used to always process my own, and cut them into strips of six negatives for storage, and this has preserved a degree of continuity when it comes to the relationship between individual photographs, half a century or more down the line. Thus I can take this particular strip of negatives, which were taken about 50 years ago, and almost follow my route as I walked from Halifax Station, past the Town Hall, and on towards North Bridge and its’ railway sheds. After yesterdays’ photograph of the exterior of the wagon shed, I obviously stepped inside the deserted building for my next shot, and this is the one that is featured above.

This theory has its limitations, however, because then we get to the final shot on this strip of negatives, and to the elephant in the room. After half a century, I have no idea where it was taken – where I went to next after exploring the underside of North Bridge. But wherever it was, it was inhabited by elephants! Southowram perhaps!

Railway Shed, Halifax

This is a scan from the same strip of negatives I have been featuring this week. Based on clues from its neighbouring shots, it must have been taken in Halifax around 1972. It is clearly an old railway siding, and it could have been in one of two possible locations: either the railway sheds which were then in the process of demolition in the shadows of North Bridge, or the old railway station buildings – some of which still exist – near the junction of South Parade and Water Lane. This is now called Discovery Road (it leads to the back of the Eureka Museum), and I would be delighted to discover whether the photograph was taken there or at North Bridge.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

The Stream At Shibden

This old picture postcard is a recent arrival in my collection, and it’s a welcome one because I have known this stream all my life. My familiarity with it is of little help when it comes to naming it, and it is noticeable that even this old postcard dodges the issue by simply describing it as “The Stream, Shibden”. Most would agree that it starts life in the upper reaches of the Shibden Valley, near Ambler Thorne and Queensbury, and for the first part of its journey to merge with the River Calder at Brookfoot, it is known as the Shibden Brook. At some point, its name changes to the Red Beck, and the most popular theory is that this name change takes place as it goes under the A58 at Stump Cross.

When I was a kid, my friends and I would play alongside its banks as it made its way through Shibden Park. Later, I would walk along its banks as both it and I would pay a visit to the Shibden Mill Inn. Later still I would walk my dog on the lanes that ran alongside its lower stretches in Walterclough Valley. I must confess, in all the years I have known the stream, I have yet to see any artist transpose its features to canvas – although I strongly suspect I will receive an e-mail within the next few days from my brother in Dominica, to tell me he has done so several times!

The card was sent in September 1922 by J Mitchill to Mrs Powell, Craven House, Church Street, Boston Spa, Nr Leeds. The message reads as follows: “Dear Mrs Powell, Just a P.C. hoping you are all well. Excuse me being in such a hurry to write this. Regards from A.C. Send you another card next week. Yours very truly, J Mitchill” There is a degree of formality about the language used in the message which might lead us to question the degree of familiarity between the sender and the recipient of the card. They may not have been lifelong friends, but that is a claim I feel I can make about this lovely “little stream”, whatever you choose to call it.


And, indeed, within less than 24 hours, my brother had emailed me from the other side of the world to say that he had painted the Shibden Brook on a number of occasions and that he had featured one of those paintings on his 
own Blog that day. I’ve reproduced the painting above. There is a strange resemblance in the colours, the lines and the shapes between the original postcard and the 1992 painting. It’s the same friend, as seen through different eyes.

Tuesday, January 03, 2023

Memory Maps Of Halifax


They should call old photographs “memory-maps” because that is what a half-decent old photograph is. You should be able to sit down with a cup of tea and a magnifying glass and, in your mind, walk down streets that are long gone and look at buildings that are equally long-demolished. Take, for example, these photograph of mine from around 1971 when Burdock Way was still under construction. I will leave you to wander around them yourself, and reacquaint yourselves with your own favourite spots. However, you might want to spend a little time wandering up the slopes of a treeless Beacon Hill, gazing at the grand Square Church before it became just a spire, winding your way down Winding Road when shops and warehouses still lined the street, before calling in at the Cock of the North Brewery to taste their latest brew. And if you would like to check-out how Halifax was changing fifty years ago, you could also stop off and watch the work in progress constructing the new Halifax Building Society headquarters. 

The third shot on the negative strip provides the clue to where I was when I took the photographs – at the top of a block of flats!

3 January 2023 : Willow Tit Willow


The Halifax Court

  The 1851 Great Exhibition Of The Works Of Industry Of All Nations was an attempt to celebrate the advances in science, technology and manu...