Few people wander around the Birds Royd Lane area of Brighouse these days unless they work in one of the industrial units or unless they took a wrong turning whilst searching for somewhere better. There are a few houses left, but not many. One or two old stone-built mills and warehouses appear to have been forgotten in the push towards sterile modern industrial units with over-sized car parks and under-sized architectural ambitions. But just one or two. The rest is corrugated steel and breezeblock. It is easy to forget that this part of Brighouse was once a place where factories, mills, foundries, dye-works and breweries fought for space with row upon row of smoke-encrusted back-to-back houses. And where there were houses and work and life, there were, of course, pubs. In the last quarter of the nineteenth century you could have called for a pint in the Dyers’ Arms, or the Sportsman, or the Woodman, or the Railway Hotel, …..or the Vulcan Inn.
By the end of the nineteenth century, the Sportsman and the Dyers had gone and by the end of the twentieth century the rest had followed. One of the buildings, however, remains in place, although it ceased to be a pub in 1926 and that is – that was – the Vulcan Inn on the corner of Foundry Street and Vulcan Street. It now provides a home for a sewing and knitting shop and a music rehearsal room, but you can still make out the shape of the pub that was, and you can still see the carved initials “B&B 1869” on the stone pediment. This, no doubt, will be the initials of the brewers, Brook and Booth, whose brewery stood across the street.
The Red Cross Brewery was a grand affair, perhaps the foremost of the band of Brighouse breweries. The brewery was based around a large courtyard within which all the usual departments of the brewing industry could be found. The main fermenting room was located in a six storey tower, and there were cool cellars capable of holding 1,000 barrels. During the last half of the nineteenth century, the brewery passed through a variety of owners and in the twentieth century it was acquired by the Halifax brewer, Samuel Webster. Brewing ceased on the site not too long after the Vulcan stopped serving pints, although the brewery was not as successful in leaving a physical footprint on the land – all trace of it is now long gone.
One of the occupational hazards of writing about times gone by is the danger of sanitised nostalgia. In areas such as this, the nineteenth century was a hard and cruel era. The following article in the Huddersfield Chronicle in October 1876 illustrates the point perfectly.
“CHILD KILLED – On Monday morning Edward Moore, aged three or four years, son of Mr Moore, brewer at Messrs. Booth and Ogden’s Brewery, Birds Royd, Rastrick, was running across the road to his home near the brewery, when he went too close to the wheels of a cart conveying coals to the brewery, and was knocked down, one of the wheels passed over the child’s head and crushed out its brains so it died on the spot. The body was carried to Mr Moore’s house, and Dr Brown was sent for to certify the cause of death for it was impossible to do more. On Tuesday morning an inquest was held on the remains at the Railway Hotel, before Mr Wm Barstow, coroner, when the facts reported were given in evidence and the jury returned a verdict of “Accidental death” no blame attaching to any one”
Perhaps there is something to be said for those modern industrial estates built far away from the people’s houses.