Kids these days! They’re surgically attached to their mobile phones. Never off them. You can’t have a good old fashioned conversation with them any more, because they are glued to their phones. Now, when I was a lad ……
I received through the post today, a copy of Lilliput Magazine from October 1947 (has anyone else noted that postal deliveries are slower than normal these days!). Within it, is this wonderful cartoon that sums the telephone situation up perfectly.
This rather beautiful studio photograph that somehow found its way into my collection must date from the early years of the twentieth century. There is something about the look and dress of the woman that hints more towards Great War munition worker than Victorian housewife. There is an indented studio name near the bottom of the print that seems to be J. Lister, Crossgates, but I can find no record of such a studio.
It is a sight you don’t see much any more – demolition on a large scale. These days it’s more discreet: hidden behind scaffolding and plastic sheets. This was Elland back in the early 1970s, when the demolition teams left open wounds: cobbled streets without a purpose; bare chimneys pointing the where heaven used to be.
They loved churches and chapels in these parts. In the nineteenth century, every street corner or half-empty plot became potentially sacred ground – if it hadn’t been occupied by a beerhouse already. The churches and chapels they built were often grand affairs, signalling piety without recourse to subtlety. And when the praying stopped, other uses for the stone-built citadels had to be found. This fine nineteenth century Congregational church at Bridge End in Brighouse, first of all became a sports club. And when the sporting stopped, it became apartments.
Being limited in the distance you can travel allows you to discover beauty close to home. All too often we are fooled into the belief that grand sights have to be paid for with mindless travel over great distances. Only if you have sat crumpled up on a noisy plane for eight hours can you expect to see sublime nature at its best. As we are discovering, this isn’t the case. Beauty is alive and living a short walk away down the road.
Very often, local history is a history of names. Each area, each parish, each township has its names; names that stretch back into antiquity like historical tendrils. This particular part of Yorkshire is no exception: the Sykes, the Holdsworths, the Berrys, and the Hansons populate graveyards like wild poppies in a meadow. And the names of the more prominent families – the landowners like the Savilles, the Armitages and the Thornhills – grace many an Inn sign in the streets and squares of West Yorkshire towns.
The Thornhill family was a particularly important one in the area south of Brighouse. The Thornhill estate used to own – and to a certain extent still does – many of the acres that sweep up the hillside from the Calder Valley in the direction of Fixby Hall – at one time one of the families great houses and these days the base of Huddersfield Golf Club. The family consolidated their hold on the area in 1365 when Richard de Thornhill married Margaret de Totehill, the daughter of another prominent landowning family. The importance of the family is ingrained on the local terrain : with its Thornhill Briggs, its Thornhill Road, and its handful of Thornhill Arms.
The Thornhill Arms we are interested in today is the one that was once one of the most prominent locations in Rastrick, a building that still stands at the junction of Church Street, Ogden Road and Thornhill Road. It has not been a pub for some 75 years. Until recently it was a residential nursing home. Today it is empty and for sale.
Nobody can seem to agree when the Thornhill Arms was built. Some suggest it was opened in 1858, but there are records of a Thornhill Arms Inn in the area before that date. The 1850s were an important decade in the development of the pub, however, because by then the Thornhill Road which passes the pub had developed from being a private road owned by the Thornhill Estate into a major highway leading into the now rapidly developing town of Brighouse. Rastrick, a more ancient settlement than its upstart neighbour, was by then being dragged into the nineteenth century by the proximity of busy, industrial Brighouse, and the Thornhill Arms was been taken along for the ride.
In the latter half of the nineteenth century, much of life in Rastrick revolved around the Thornhill Arms. It was here that the committees met, the societies ate, the singers sang and the politicians plotted. It was also here that, every six months, the local tenant farmers of the Thornhill Estate would gather to pay their rent, an occasion that was usually followed by a celebratory meal washed down by flagons of ale. The Thornhill Arms was a substantial building and there are several records reporting that well over 100 people would sit down for a meal. When the Oddfellows gathered in 1873, there may not have been that many eating, but the description of the occasion which appeared in the Huddersfield Daily Chronicle sums up the nature of the place.
“ODDFELLOWS’ ANNIVERSARY AT RASTRICK – On New Year’s day the lodge of the Independent Order of Oddfellows held at the house of Mr James Smith, the Thornhill Arms Inn, Rastrick, celebrated their anniversary at that house. Sixty of the brethren partook of an excellent and substantial dinner well served by Mrs Smith. In the evening the wives and sweethearts of the members to the same number partook of a first-rate knife and fork tea at the same house, and after the removal of the tables they joined the sterner sex, and a very comfortable evening was passed with singing, recitations, and other pleasantries, including dancing to the strains of a quadrille band.”
James Smith was the celebrated landlord of the Thornhill Arms between 1867 and 1881. He was also a local farmer and, some records suggest, a butcher as well. His wife Ellen is often recorded as serving memorable dinners and suppers for local gatherings, and it is clear that the family were well placed to monopolise the entire supply chain of the feasts.
As with so many local pubs, business in the twentieth century was a continuing struggle. By then, both Brighouse and Rastrick had its supply of public halls and municipal buildings and such inns as the Thornhill Arms were being reduced to little more than drinking venues in competition with an abundance of local beerhouses and taverns. In 1938, the Thornhill Arms Inn closed for the last time and now the building stands empty. But as I passed it this morning to take the above photograph, I am sure I could still hear the echo of the strains of the quadrille band.
What’s in a name? As far as the history of local pubs is concerned, the answer is all too often a story. Take, for example, the Joiners Arms (my apologies to the Apostrophe Protection Society but there was little call for such frippery amongst nineteenth century signwriters). If you live in the Brighouse area and you are not familiar with the Joiners Arms, don’t worry; you would have to be of a fair vintage to have a working knowledge of it as it closed down in 1932. The building still exists, however, huddled up close to the Dusty Miller on the Halifax Road in Hove Edge, a few miles to the north of Brighouse.
These days, Hove Edge is a bit of an afterthought, but there were times when it was one of the four quarters that made up Hipperholme township : along with Hipperholme itself, Norwood Green, and little baby Brighouse. Romans buried coins in Hove Edge (or Hoofedge as they fondly called it), quarrymen quarried stone there, and highwaymen on black horses hid there – but that is another name, another pub and another story. So let us return to our joiner.
According to the 1841 census there was a joiner called Jonas Bell living in Hove Edge. Living in the same cottage was a younger man, also a joiner, called Joseph Crowther. Jonas was 50, which was a good age back in the 1840s; an age when the body begins to slow down, an age when heaving a plank of wood becomes more and more of a challenge. Old Jonas needed to diversify and, luckily for him, this need coincided with that great process of liberalisation of the licensing laws which meant that almost anyone could open up a beerhouse anywhere. Hove Edge was full of so many thirsty stone quarriers that on a cold night they couldn’t all fit into the Dusty Miller (or the Old Pond, or the Black Horse, or the Broad Oak), so Jonas became a beerseller. By the time of the 1851 census, Jonas is listed as the publican of the appropriately named “Joiners Arms”, and Joseph Crowther has bought the cottage next door and got married. Pulling pints was obviously less stressful than pulling planks, and Jonas was still listed as the Publican of the Joiners Arms in 1861 by which time he was over 70 years old and his neighbours’ daughter, Lizzie Crowther, had moved in to help him.
But things never stay the same, and ten years later Jonas the Joiner is gone – transported to heaven in a fine oak coffin lined with burr walnut one hopes – and so is his old pal and neighbour, Joseph Crowther. But the connection is not broken, because Joseph’s widow, Mary Crowther, has moved in and taken over the running of the pub. Keeping order amongst a room full of heavy drinkers could be quite a challenge in the rough and tumble of nineteenth century working class life, and poor Mary discovered this to her cost in 1875. To the cost of £1 8s 6d to be precise, the amount she was fined at the West Riding Court in Halifax for permitting drunkenness in her beerhouse.
The pub lived on into the twentieth century, but when Mary Crowther left in the 1880s, all connections to the original joiners were lost. And in 1932, the pub itself was lost as it ceased trading. For a time, the building got a new lease of life as the village post office, but the decline in local post offices didn’t lag too far behind the decline in local pubs, and that also closed down. Now the building is a private house: neatly presented, cheerfully painted, and with a canopy of solar panels nailed to the roof. One can’t help wondering whether it was a joiner who fitted them.