Back in the early twentieth century, when picture postcards were all the rage, the subjects reflected what people saw as important, what they were proud of, what – to them – represented their home towns and villages. There were, of course, many pictures of celebrity music hall stars and vacuous views of pretty nothingness; but there were also grand public buildings – town halls, churches, and museums. There was a municipal pride that seems to have sadly evaporated as the twentieth century gave way to the twenty-first.
So if you were writing to a Belgium beauty from Edwardian Halifax, what better image to send her than one of the finely proportioned Bankfield Museum. The subtext doesn’t seem to say, “look at the fine homes the rich and famous can live in“, but, “look at what we can create together when we are proud of our collective history“.
I grew up in the village of Northowram, a few miles north of Halifax, and I must have taken this photograph of the top end of the village about forty years ago. It shows the village, looking east from Howes Lane. What caught my eye when I scanned the negative a few days ago was the mill chimney in the very centre of the image, because I couldn’t recall either the mill or its imposing chimney in the centre of the village.
I solved the mystery when I eventually recognised the house I grew up in and remembered that there was a tall chimney to the side of the old Crown Brewery building on Bradford Road, where the tannery used to be. The brewery is long gone along with its various buildings and chimneys, and therefore it was difficult to confirm that this was the chimney in question. I went on-line to try and find information about a mill and its associated chimney, but the only two I could find mention of were well out of the village centre. I eventually found confirmation when a Google search threw up an old photograph of the brewery building with clear evidence of a large chimney next to it. Clearly my memory of the village of my youth is beginning to fade with age – and this was confirmed when I discovered that the old photograph that confirmed the presence of a chimney was one of my own!
It took me a few moments to fit the scene depicted in this 1908 postcard of Hall End, Halifax, into my late twentieth century perceptions of the town. “Hall End” was not a description I was immediately familiar with, nor were the buildings in the centre of the scene. The rather grand building which is centre-left in this view is so typically Halifax, however, it didn’t take me too long to recognise the point at which Silver Street and Crown Street converge. The grand building was the home of the Halifax Commercial Banking Company – it later became Lloyds Bank – and today it is known as “The Old Bank” and it is occupied by a variety of retail and commercial ventures.
Those buildings in the centre – Nicholson’s the glovers, and Lonsdales, the piano seller – were eventually demolished in the 1920s and replaced by another grandiose bank building which was built for the National Provincial Bank, and is now the home of the NatWest. The building on the right is still there today, whilst the one on the left was demolished in the late twentieth century to make way for a couple of concrete boxes, as part of a scheme to punish the town for being too architecturally interesting.
The card was sent by Amy and Phyllis to their friend, the splendidly-named Edith Don Leo (surely there is a genealogical tale behind that name well worth researching!). The message reads as follows:-
Dear Edith, We were pleased to receive your P.C. We are all well and hope you are the same. On Good Friday our shop will be closed after ten A.M. so if the weather is nice we may pay you a visit, that is if you will be at home. I will have some fun with you if we come. Love from Amy & Phyllis.
I hope they managed to get to Batley to see Edith. I hope the weather was nice on that Good Friday and I hope they all had lots of fun. I certainly had fun taking a trip around Hall End one hundred and ten years later.