This is a scan of the first of six 35mm negatives I must have taken in about 1980: which to me sounds like only yesterday, but I am alarmed to realise is almost forty years ago! It was taken in that strange little segment of Halifax that is bounded by Prescott Street, Clare Road, Hunger Hill and South Parade. The building that dominates the shot is what is left of that fine eighteenth century house, Hope Hall, and what is now the home of the Albany Club.
Hope Hall was built in the 1760s by David Stansfield, a wealthy local cloth merchant. In the 1820s it was the home of Christopher Rawson – who was the somewhat dubious villain of the first series of Gentleman Jack – and one can half imagine Anne Lister stomping up the stone steps that gave access to what, at that time, would have been an imposing entrance. Now the front of the Hall has become the back and lost amongst cobbled streets and terraced houses.
Little has changed in the forty years since I took the photograph other than some of the soot has been power-washed off the stone and Clare Street has been closed to through traffic.
This is a scene which will be all too familiar for Halifax residents of this present age. After the long slog up Salterhebble Hill, and the inevitable wait at the hospital traffic lights, drivers heading for Halifax can now speed past the restaurant that used to be the Stafford Arms Inn, with no tram lines or pedestrians walking in the middle of the road to avoid. The Stafford Arms had been around for more than 160 years when it was eventually closed and converted into a restaurant in 2010. I remember it back in the 1960s, when it had the reputation of being a rather superior public house, (needless to say, I wasn’t a regular). Alas, it has now gone the way of so many pubs in West Yorkshire, and exists merely as a picture postcard memory.
The card was posted in September 1922 – although I strongly suspect that the photograph dates from at least ten years before that. It appears to have been sent by Mrs Cranford to a Miss King in Lincoln. The message is as follows:-
We got away for a few days. The weather is lovely. I was nearly killed last night climbing hills. This is just at the top where we live.
The hill in question is no doubt Salterhebble Hill, and I can well imagine that poor Mrs Cranford was nearly killed climbing it. When they first built the tramway system in Halifax, they feared that no conventional tramcar could cope with Salterhebble Hill, and for a time considered either a tramcar lift or an inclined plane. Both suggestions were eventually dismissed, and those feisty Edwardian engineers eventually managed to get a conventional tram to climb the hill. If, in this modern day and age, you leave the car behind and choose to walk up the hill, there will be no refreshing pint waiting to reward you at the Stafford Arms.
Looking at fine buildings in Halifax can be a bit like looking at paintings in the National Gallery, you get drawn by the famous and casually walk passed what would be excellent in other contexts. How can I have walked by Lord Street Chambers for seven decades without noticing them?
These two photographs are central to the story of my family because they feature my paternal grandfather, Enoch Burnett. Enoch died a few months after I was born in 1948, and therefore I never knew him, other than by the store of stories and anecdotes that have flowed down the family tree like some rich and thick syrup.
Born in Bradford in 1878, Enoch was the third of five children of John Burnett, a weaving overlooker in the Bradford woollen mills, and his wife Phoebe. Whilst the daughters, Ruth-Annie and Miriam, followed their father into the mills, the three sons seem to have had a different life journey planned for them. Israel, the eldest son, became an apprentice butcher and later owned a butchers shop in Bradford. The youngest son, Albert, became a carriage builder and involved in the early years of the motor trade. Enoch seemed to take a different path, one less planned, one less certain. The family story suggests that when he was in his early teens he ran away from home and joined a travelling fair. By the latter half of 1898, we know he is back in Bradford and working as a general labourer, and about to marry the local girl he has got pregnant, Harriet Ellen Maxfield. His first child, John Arthur, was born six months later.
According to the 1901 census he was recorded as a “mason’s labourer”, but with a growing family – his daughters Miriam and Annie-Elizabeth were born in 1901 and 1903 – he decided to branch out into business on his own account as a window cleaning contractor. For this he had a donkey and cart, and I am delighted that I have not one, but two, photographs from this period in his life where he poses proudly next to his donkey.
I think the first of the two photographs is the earlier one, and whilst the donkey is probably the same, the cart is more basic and without the extra bit of sign writing that provides an address – 50 Town End Great Horton, Bradford. According to the 1911 census he was then living at 28 Town End, so this first photograph probably dates from some time between 1906 (when the sign on the later cart claims the business was established) and 1917, when we know for certain that he had moved to 50 Town End.
The additional sign writing on the cart in the second photograph was probably added at the time he changed his address, and therefore this second photograph probably dates from just before or during the first part of the Great War. I have pictures of him taken in 1918 when he was on leave from the trenches of Flanders, and by then he had physically aged. These two photographs represent a golden period in Enoch’s life, when he ran his own business and tried to keep the local windows free from the soot and grime of industrial Bradford.
I have so many memories of the Plummet Line Hotel, you could probably fill the old Tap Room with them. Back in the 1960s the family of one of my first girlfriends ran the pub. I remember going to the folk club that used to meet in one of the upstairs rooms. Memories, memories, memories.
This card is yet another example of the popular “multi-view” cards that were produced during the early years of the twentieth century. Postcard publishers were fond of this approach, as it allowed them to republish existing images with the simple addition of a coat of arms or similar device. I think I have all seven of the individual views of famous Halifax locations within my postcard collection. The caption “The Rooks” is clearly a printing error, for the view is clearly that of the Rocks and Albert Promenade. The Orphanage is the current Crossley Heath School: it was known as the Crossley and Porter Orphanage until it changed its name to the Crossley And Porter Schools in 1918. The coat of arms depicted on the card is interesting: there are several versions of the Halifax coat of arms or town crest illustrated on the internet – none of which seem to feature this particular design.
The message on the reverse of this card is as follows:-
Dear Cousins, Very pleased to hear from you. Uncle’s address is 15 Lane Ends Terrace, Hipperholme. You must not be surprised if you see us anytime when you get settled as we shall not have as far to come. Mother sends her kind love. We have removed to Bramley Lane, Lightcliffe. With love Lucy. Send proper address at Sheffield.
The card was posted on the 8th August 1912 to Mrs Otter of the Wheatsheaf Inn, Bridge Street, Gainsborough.
There is a fascinating short description of the town of Halifax printed on the back of the postcard which tries to sum up the town in just fifty words. An interesting exercise would be to try and encapsulate Halifax now, at the start of the twenty-first century, in just fifty words.
HALIFAX BOARD OF GUARDIANS – Yesterday, an ordinary meeting of the Halifax Board of Guardians was held, presided over by Mr John Taylor, the chairman. The minutes and reports of the various committees were approved; and the number of paupers in the home was stated to be 391. The treasurer’s account showed a balance in the bank of £761 5s 10d. The number of outdoor recipients of relief was 2052, and their cost for the preceding week £163 6s 11d. In the corresponding week of last year the number was 2165, and the amount of relief £175 13s 1d. For the positions of master and matron of the Workhouse there have been fifty applications, and these had been reduced by a sub-committee to seven, who, it was resolved should be requested to attend before the Board at an adjourned meeting, to be held next Wednesday; second-class railway fare being allowed to those travelling. These seven are – Mr and Mrs Griffiths, Nantwich; Mr and Mrs Roach, Cheltenham; Mr and Mrs Hope, Kidderminster; Mr and Mrs Simmons, Truro; Mr and Mrs Glaister, North Aylesforth; Mr and Mrs Kirby, Loughborough; and Mr and Mrs Whelen, of Halifax.
Our random number generating time machine directs us this week to the year 1875, where we drop in on a meeting of the Halifax Board of Guardians. The workhouse was built in 1841 and occupied a site between Gibbet Street and Hanson Lane. 25 years after this report the workhouse changed its name to St John’s Hospital, but its main function of providing relief for the poor of the Borough continued right the way through until the introduction of the Welfare State in the 1940s. From 1948 until 1970 it was a hospital specialising in geriatric care, but I can still remember the reluctance of older people to be admitted to the building they still saw as the workhouse. Geriatric care was eventually moved to Northowram Hospital in 1970.
In addition to providing rudimentary shelter and work within the workhouse itself, the Board of Guardians were also responsible for what was known as “outdoor relief” – small weekly sums for families in need, living outside the workhouse. During the week in question, £163 had been spent of outdoor relief for the support of 2052 recipients; which works out at about 1/6d (8 pence) per person per week.
By searching the 1881 census records we can discover who was successful in being appointed as the master and matron of the workhouse: it was John and Annie Kirby of Loughborough.
The wonderful Halifax Industrial Museum has a loom set up for weaving the moquette fabrics that were used for the seats on buses and trams. The multicoloured threads stretch from the rack of bobbin holders to the loom itself, and the autumn sun illuminates a woollen prism.