What else is there to do? Once you have taken a photograph looking down Briggate in Brighouse, the obvious thing to do is to walk to the other end of the street and take a photograph looking up Briggate. As with so many of the photos I took over fifty years ago, it is the inconsequential details that fascinate the most: the bumper to bumper parking, the shape of the cars, the notice board outside what, I think, were the Council offices. When it comes down to it, social history is about detail and micro-memories.
Monthly Archives: August 2020
This is a photograph I took of Briggate in Brighouse over half a century ago. It seems like only yesterday, but the fact that the right hand side of the street no longer exists proves that it was a lot of yesterdays ago. This was Brighouse before Wilko, before Tesco, before one-way streets and climbing gyms.
With the iron grill of travel restrictions falling faster than the time it takes to flick through a glossy travel brochure, one is left wondering where to go for that little romantic break. Versailles is iffy, Venice is to be avoided and Athens is a risk too far. So what better way to spend a summers’ afternoon than to visit the caryatids of Ossett? Ossett Town Hall (conveniently situated ‘twixt Wakefield and Dewsbury), it’s magnificent stone carvings, along with the war memorial and market square, most be on anyone’s list of the ten greatest tourist destinations in the world. Social distancing wasn’t an issue – there weren’t that many folk about – and the locals speak in a way that will make you feel at home.
This is a photograph I took in the 1960s of Commercial Street, Brighouse. Looking at it again as it emerges from the negative scanning machine, I am struck by the changes. Not the physical changes – the buildings are just about the same as they were fifty years ago; Brighouse has been lucky in that way. Sat here, however, in renewed lockdown, I would take the rain, I would take the old cars, the plastic rain hats and donkey jackets: I would take them all gladly, just to have again the crowded streets and carefree activity that was such a part of this scene from half a century ago.
A series of five photographs from a recently scanned strip of negatives. They date from my time living in Sheffield in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Something about the grain of the images and the grittiness of the off-white snow seems to fit in with my memory of the times. There really should be a soundtrack to the slideshow: something by Johnny Hodges perhaps – slow, smokey, slightly aloof. No doubt there is a way of adding such a track to this blogpost; I will experiment, but first I need to warm up, it’s cold out there tonight!
I have been cranking up the random news generator again, and today it has taken me back to the 6th August 1887, and a report in the pages of the Brighouse Echo which, once again, proves that there is little new happening in the world. It tells the case of a certain Sam Kellet, a coal miner from Wyke, which is a village between Brighouse and Bradford. The bailiffs had turned up at his house in order to seize property to meet the unpaid fines which the magistrates had awarded against him for refusing to have his child vaccinated. The whole process of the seizure and sale of goods (“four chairs, two tables and a kitchen dresser”) was watched by a crowd of 50 to 60 people. Mr John Rushforth, of Brighouse, president of the Wyke Anti-Vaccination Society, “mounted a wall and addressed the crowd, vigorously condemning the laws relating to vaccination”.
In the 1880s, thousands of people through Britain took to the streets and mounted opposition to laws that had been introduced to make vaccination against smallpox compulsory. A century later, vaccination against the disease eventually led to its worldwide eradication. If, and when, we get a vaccine against COVID19, let us hope it is as successful, and that the efforts of the modern-day equivalents of Mssrs Kellet and Rushforth are as unsuccessful.
ANTI-VACCINATION AT WYKE – On Saturday morning excitement was caused at Wyke by the seizure and sale of certain household effects belonging to Sam Kellett, collier, Garden Fields, under a distress warrant, which had been issued in consequence of Kellet having neglected to comply with a magistrate’s order to have his child vaccinated. The services of Mr Jonathan Benson, auctioneer, Calverley, had been secured, and the sale of the goods “marked” was effected without hindrance from the crowd, which numbered about fifty and sixty persons, mostly women. The amount of fines and costs incurred by various processes of the Court amounted to 33s, and that sum was raised by the sale of four chairs, two tables, and a kitchen dresser. The dresser and a table were bought in on behalf of Kellett by Mr John Rushforth, of Brighouse, president of the Wyke Anti-Vaccination Society. Kellett himself bought in the chairs and the other table. Sales were to have been effected at two houses in the district, but one of the men paid in at the last moment. The sale was conducted amid a running commentary on the evils of vaccination, and Mr Rushforth afterwards mounted a wall and addressed the crowd, vigorously condemning the laws relating to vaccination.
I took these two photographs when I was living in Sheffield in the early 1980s. In trying to work out where they were taken from, there are some obvious clues. With the help of maps and archives, I was able to pin down where the Morning Star Patent Flour mill was, and I was able to identify the church (Holy Trinity, Wicker, now the New Testament Church of God). There were, however, two separate railway lines visible in the first of the two photos, and try as I might, I could not come up with a line of sight that would include all these combinations. The solution came, I think, when I realised that I must have been using a telephoto lens, and I must have been stood on the top of the Kelvin Flats in Upperthorpe. The high-rise flats have been gone for more than a quarter of a century now, so such views of layer upon layer of Sheffield are no longer available.
You know what it’s like. It’s late. You’ve been scanning some old family photographs. You’re tired, but not quite ready for bed just yet. And anyway, there are a still a couple of millimetres of that 10 year old Laphroaig left in the glass. It would be a shame to rush it. It’s important to have some alcohol gel on the inside, as well as the outside, in these difficult times. So you start messing. There is that photo of your mother, father and brother in all its sepia dullness. Why don’t we give my mother a nice coloured coat? And wouldn’t my father look good in a red check shirt? And as for little Roger, bless him, why not a yellow raincoat?
In the cold light of the following morning, you know that the original is more authentic, you know that some of the colours look a bit silly. But, what the hell! It’s about time that someone put some colour into the family tree. Now, it’s just a matter of waiting for my brother to email me to point out that the coat was green, not yellow!
I took this photograph of the stone steps leading up the side of Godley Bridge in Halifax only yesterday. It was just after I had taken a picture of Beacon Hill and discovered that the What3Words geotag for that location was “submit.steep.spots”. When I looked at my photo of the steps later, I so wanted the geotag to be “steps.stone.shadows”. Alas, those three words have been allocated to a hillside in Villa De Vallecas, a few miles south-east of the Spanish capital, Madrid. It’s a pity: I bet they don’t have any stone steps there. The geotag for the Godley Bridge steps turns out to be “intelligible.spare.taking”. I’m still trying to find some meaning in that!