Monthly Archives: June 2019

Creativity Is An Act Of Defiance

I was walking through Elsecar yesterday when I spotted a pencil that had been left on a wall. It looked as though it had been left there intentionally, rather than accidentally dropped, and when I examined it I discovered a printed legend on the main body of the wooden shaft: “Creativity is an act of defiance”! Whether this was just some random abandonment, or the start of a new counter-culture, I do not know, but ex-pit villages in South Yorkshire have had more than their fair share of cultural resurrections. I decided that the rules required me to create something with the pencil, and then abandon it in a similar fashion, for somebody else to carry this act of cultural defiance forward. I apologise for my efforts, I am no artist (I have a brother for that kind of thing), but defiance does not recognise accepted conventions. I will abandon the pencil later today – so be on the look out.

From Novels To Nuptials To Turkey Red Twill

Belle Vue is a building that many Halifax people of a certain age will be familiar with, as it used to be the Central Library – although tucked away up Lister Lane it was not very central. Now it is an up-market wedding venue: from novels to nuptials!

Belle Vue  was built in 1857 as a home for Sir Francis Crossley and it was designed by the architect George Henry Stokes – the assistant to, and son-in-law of, Sir Joseph Paxton (of Crystal Palace fame).  It became the home of Halifax Central Library in 1889, and remained so until 1983, when it then moved to the centre of Halifax. The Halifax War Memorial was also originally situated in the grounds, until it too was moved in 1988.

The Belle Vue postcard was used in November 1913 as a kind of early on-line shopping order. “Please get me half a yard of Turkey Red Twill for my quilt”, writes Lucy
The card was sent to Mrs Hartland of Margate Street in Sowerby Bridge, and the message reads as follows:-Dear M, When you are out shopping some time will you please get me half a yard of Turkey Red Twill for my quilt. I have used up all I have so far as I know now we shall be coming home on Sunday. Love to both, Lucy.

Turkey Red was a dyeing process used of cotton cloth and yarn and producing rich vibrant colours. It was particularly popular in the nineteenth century and Turkey Red cloth was produced widely in Scotland. I did manage to find an advert for some genuine 100 year old Turkey Red Twill on eBay, so if Lucy would like to drop me a postcard, I can order her some.

The Girl With The Awfully Big Hat

This tiny photograph was pasted onto the back page of the postcard album of my mother’s uncle, Fowler Beanland. It was only when the print was scanned and cleaned up that I begun to fully appreciate it for the charming portrait that it was: a picture of a little girl with an awfully big hat. Given that it had pride of place in Fowler’s album, the chances were that it was a family member – but which one? Fowler never married and had no children of his own, but there were a good many nieces who could potentially fit the bill. I have never been very good with faces, but even to me there seemed something vaguely familiar about that slightly quizzical look.  

Luckily, these days, most photographic programmes come with some form of facial recognition software, and therefore I was able to submit the girl with the awfully big hat to Adobe Lightroom for a considered judgement, and Lightroom quickly came up with a very definite suggestion. The young girl is Amy Beanland, my mother’s sister, and favourite niece of Fowler Beanland.

Amy was very much a woman of the twentieth century. She was born in Keighley in 1904 – which means this photograph must have been taken in about 1909 – and eventually died in 2001 in Scarborough. Between these two dates she managed three husbands and a lifetime of experience. The girl with an awfully big hat had an awfully full life.

The Iconic R

The iconic “R” – the trademark of Ramsden’s Brewery – still graces many a pub window in the Halifax area. The setting sunlight illuminating its stained glass presence had an almost mystical significance for many acolytes of Old Tom and Stone Trough Ales. Ramsden’s Brewery and its beers are long gone, but the R still adorns many an inn and tavern: – in this case, the incomparable Rock Tavern in Upper Edge, Elland. 

Look Into Their Faces And See History

I have no idea who Mr George Day of Fairbury, Illinois was, or how the photograph of him and – I assume – his wife came into my possession. But now they are mine and I am prepared to share them with the world. They are fine figures, serious subjects, people who do not smile lightly. Look into their faces and see a different age, see history.

Monochrome Valley

This is an illustration from a book I have yet to write, which – in my own mind, at least – is entitled “Monochrome Valley“.  It shows Bank Bottom in Halifax in the early 1970s. Square Church spire and  Halifax Parish Church fight to be seen through the industrial smoke. I have a feeling that I took this photograph from the loading bay of Riding Hall Carpets, where I was working at the time.

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