What better way to end the year than with this fine old picture postcard of Shrogg’s Park in Halifax. I had assumed that the two prominent spires in the background were the Town Hall and Square Church, but now I am not too sure.
In order to confirm the identity of the spires, I took a walk the other day through Shroggs Park and tried to discover the location of the original photograph, and, more importantly, the line of sight. The layout of the park has changed and the circular pond appears to have long gone, and, as always, the trees now crowd-out the scene. The best I could come up with was the photograph below, but the Town Hall and Square Church are not at all visible; although you can just make out the spire of All Soul’s Church on the horizon. That would be a more appropriate landmark, as both the park and All Soul’s Church were built by Colonel Edward Ackroyd.
My postcard was sent in 1904, back in the days when addresses were short and to the point. It is from Addie to Mary Drake, and is an early twentieth century equivalent to those Facebook messages you get every time it is someone’s birthday.
“Dear Mary, Wishing you many happy returns of the day, if not too late, with love to all, Addie”
One is forced to ask: “How many Facebook birthday greetings will be remembered, recorded and reprinted 115 years after the were sent?”
For my News From Nowhere Christmas Card this year, I have chosen a vintage postcard of a snow-covered Halifax Parish Church, which forms part of my Postcards From Homeseries. I am having some difficulty in pinning down the precise date of the photograph – the postcard had not been used, which removes one means of dating it – but from the style of the card, I would guess sometime in the 1920s or 1930s.
Work on the Church of St John The Baptist in Halifax was started as early as the 12th century and largely completed by 1438. In 2009 it was made one of the three Minster Churches of West Yorkshire (the others being Dewsbury and Leeds).
At some stage, somebody made the brave decision not to clean up the stone work on the church; and so, even today, in a very physical way, the church tells the story of the hard work and industry that has always been a part of life in the parish.
All that remains is for me to wish everyone a Very Happy Christmas and a Peaceful New Year.
According to the scrawled date on the reverse of this Victorian Cabinet Card, it was taken somewhere around the 11th November 1889. The clothing and the photographic style fits well with this date, and we know that the studio – Brown, Barnes & Bell of Liverpool and London – were active at the time.
The reverse of the card has all the usual flourish of Victorian studio portraits, including an intriguing claim that the studio possessed “Letters patent for artistic improvements”
If only Mssrs Brown, Barnes or Bell had been lucky enough to be around 130 years later, they would have been able to take advantage of the multitude of mobile apps that can perform endless degrees of artistic improvement in this day and age. I conducted a small experiment on their behalf, which, I hope, the original sitter would have been pleased with. Let’s say it is the first portrait from the studio of Brown, Barnes, Bell & Burnett.
For years I have been fascinated by the decorative tiles in the entrance hall to Wesley Hall in Almondbury, near Huddersfield. They were, no doubt, a memorial to the founders of the church – now they are also a memorial to decorative style.
When, a few years ago, I first visited the Parish Hall at Almondbury Methodist Church near Huddersfield, I became captivated by the display on monographed tiles in the entrance hall. Each time I go – usually for their cricket club Christmas Fair and Coffee Morning, I fall in love with them again. Instead of trawling the stalls for Christmas baubles and cake, I can be happily found in the entrance hall, trying once again to capture the magnificence of these old tiles that must have been memorials to early sponsors of the church. Here is a sample of my efforts this year.
This old picture is not exactly from nowhere, but from an album of photographs taken in India in the 1930s. What stories could be told by these nine men?
The album belonged to my wife’s Uncle Jim, who served in the British Army in India in the 1930s. As far as I can make out, however, Jim was not one of the nine men featured in the photograph. I am not sure when the photograph was taken, nor can I explain why at least two of the company look decidedly worse for wear. At their best, photographs can be objects in themselves, without the need for a backstory or a list of dramatic personae. This, I like to think, is one such photograph.
During a regular scanning session of my old negatives, I came across this 35mm negative from the late 1960s – and I suspected that it had been taken in Brighouse Canal Basin. In order to confirm my suspicions, I took a walk there this morning and took a series of shots of the canal basin fifty years on. Everything has changed but the basic shape and structure of the canal and locks. So much of what has happened over the last fifty years can be seen in the changes between these two photographs: the gas works and mill chimneys are gone, the pleasure craft moorings and waterside bar restaurants have arrived.
Whilst walking around the moorings I was reminded of an incident that occurred there some 55 years ago. My brother had a canal barge that was moored in the canal basin, and my father and I were visiting him one evening. His was the only boat in the basin – the scene was just as bleak and empty as in that old negative of mine. All of a sudden we heard an almighty splash, and as we emerged from his boat we saw a car slowly sinking below the dark waters of the canal. Assuming there must have been a driver in the car, my brother was on the point of diving into the water to see if he could rescue anyone, when my father – a Yorkshireman of the old school – warned him that by doing so he would ruin a perfectly good pair of trousers! Our debate was curtailed by the sight of the driver emerging from below the surface of the water, and we managed to drag him out of the canal from the comparative safety of the towpath, without risking our health and our trousers.
The water is much cleaner these days and there wasn’t a sinking car nor a suicidal driver to be seen.