A determination to catch the last of the late summer sun took me to Brighouse Canal Basin yesterday, and a determination to scan my way through all my old photographs also took me to the same place – albeit fifty-three years earlier.
The canal basin was looking glorious in the sunshine. A few late flowers added to the colour provided by the moored barges, whilst the leaves on the trees were taking their cue from the stone-browns of the old mills and warehouses. Old fools such as me, spend too much of our lives complaining about all that has been lost, without acknowledging the positive aspects of planning and architectural developments over the last half century. The Brighouse Basin of my youth was a sad and forgotten place, as lacking in colour as the monochrome prints of it that survive.
By chance, one such print worked its way to the top of my scanning pile yesterday. I think the photograph was taken in the basin, and I think I was the photographer, and I suspect that it may have been sometime around 1967. My brother – who is pictured along with my father woking on the conversion to his boat Brookfoot – will no doubt read this post on his far-off Caribbean island and correct me on the dates and locations as necessary. He won’t be able to correct the description because it is written on the back of the print in his own hand, and it reads as follows: “Fixing the longitudinal members in position with “Gripfast”. My father is also shown in this photograph lending a hand“. It seems that the photograph may have been submitted for publication as part of an article my brother was writing on his conversion of the old Yorkshire Keel barge. If that was the case, and if it was my photograph, I am obviously due some royalties, even after this lengthy period of time. You know where to send the money to, Roger!
This is a picture I must have taken in the mid to late 1960s. It shows the Crispin Service Station on Winding Road, Halifax. It is no use going looking for it now because it is long gone and it is the buildings that stood here before that I am primarily interested in. As is often the case, the historic thread is represented by the name rather than the building: this is the site of the famous Saint Crispin Inn.
Nobody seems to know when the first Saint Crispin Inn was built (St Crispin was the patron saint of shoemakers) but even in the nineteenth century it was being referred to as “an ancient inn”. In the early eighteen hundreds it became a popular meeting place of local radicals and republicans, men that at the time were often known as “Tom Painers” for their support of the radical and libertarian views of the political philosopher, Tom Paine. It was from the Crispin Inn that a group of men set off in March 1812 to march to Cartwright’s mill in Liversedge to destroy the shearing frames which, they believed, were putting them out of work.
The Crispin Inn was demolished in 1844 and immediately replaced by a new inn which, perversely, was called the Old Crispin Inn. That inn survived until a few years before my photograph was taken when it too was demolished and replaced by the Mobil Service Station. When they pulled the Old Crispin Inn down, they removed the interior to Shibden Hall Museum where it can be seen to this day. When they pulled the service station down, they did no such thing.
I took this photograph – looking towards Waterhouse Street from Orange Street, Halifax – one dark, rainy night over half a century ago. In some ways, not a lot has changed over those five and a half decades – the bowling alley on the left is now a hotel, the roundabout is gone, and the Odeon cinema has become a Mecca Bingo Hall – but many of the buildings remain the same. In other ways, so much has changed, for this is the Halifax of my childhood and youth. The Odeon cinema, in particular, is a pantheon of memories. As a child, I would attend the Saturday morning Cinema Club there – two, four, six. eight, who do we appreciate, O D E O N, Odeon! – when you would get a cartoon, and educational documentary, and a main feature for something like sixpence. As a youth, I dated, for a time, one of the cinema usherettes; and could often be found on the back row, having a kiss, a cuddle and a Mivvi ice-cream. Far better memories than any bingo prize.
During the early 1980s, I would occasionally go to meetings in Hull, and, determined to make the best of my visits, I would explore the city which was, quite literally, at the end of the line from where I was living in Sheffield. At that time, the docks still crept into the city centre like reminders of a vibrant seafaring past. Soon they would be filled with shiny shopping centres – footfall replacing fishermen – which were more colourful but spoiled some of the views of the fine buildings of the city.
This is a series of photographs taken in Elland, Yorkshire, sometime in the 1970s or 1980s. Looking at the individual photographs, I can almost trace the route I took through the bottom end of the town. It was part of Elland that had been recently detached from the rest of the town by the building of the new link road, and it seemed that, rather like a severed stem, it had been left to the withering process of industrial decline. Mill yards were empty of workers and mill chimneys were devoid of smoke. The sign pointing to the town centre seemed to have lost its way, not sure of where the centre was. Forty years later, you get the impression, that it is still not sure.
Looking back at this photograph I must have taken sometime around 1968, it has a staged feeling to it, as though it has been carefully posed as an album cover for a Champion Jack Dupree LP. It wasn’t staged, however, nor were the colour tampered with. This was Halifax as it was, caught midway between old railway lines and new flyovers, cooling towers and leisure centres, scrapyards and supermarkets.
This is Elland in the 1970s. The harsh straight lines of lampposts and mill chimneys stand out in sharp contrast from the curve of Upper Edge in the background. One of the mills is now long-gone, the other has been converted into apartments. The lampposts are still there – and so is the hill.
It was a different world, a different time. What is now seen as an architectural icon, was then simply a place of work. Where now you can find good books, rare objects, and visual and culinary delights; then you could find Maris Pipers, Cox’s Pippens and Hawke’s Champagne Rhubarb. Feet now fall on stone where once wagons crowded in through narrow gates.
It’s one of those photographs full of movement, full of buildings, full of memories, and full of history. From the various visual clues and by searching what is left of my memory, I can conclude that I must have taken this photograph in the mid 1960s, for the sake of argument, let us say 1966. For those familiar with Halifax – either then or now – you can unpick the photo like a reverse jigsaw puzzle. You could buy a suit from The Daily Tailors and empty the wallet you had bought in Walco. The soot still clung to the stone and the streets somehow seemed wider. The shop fronts are less flashy, and the net curtains still hang at half mast. You can search for faces and see the history of a generation captured in pixels.