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


2 January 2023 : Dance Me To The End Of Love


1 January 2023 : Computers In The Park


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...