Monthly Archives: October 2020

Gas Lights And Atmosphere

I know I have featured this particular image from my negative archives before, but I like it, so I will wheel it out again. I took it almost fifty years ago and it is one of the street around Rhodes Street, which ran (and, indeed, still runs) between Gibbet Street and Hopwood Lane in Halifax. When I get bored with the lockdown and watching re-runs of Coronation Street, I sometimes play “Spot The Difference”. I’m not searching for differences in physical buildings, but rather differences in feel and atmosphere. In this particular photograph it is the absence of cars and plastic wheelie bins that seems to stand out. There are people there, but the black and white film merges them into the background. And, of course, there is the gas light: that great cast-iron, sculptured delight of a shape: a welcome addition to any photograph.

Abandon Hope

I read somewhere that the Vikings called their new discovery Greenland in full knowledge that it was anything but green, but in the hope that it might attract settlers. The same principles were obviously used by nineteenth century town developers who gave endless rows of smoke-black terraces names such as Paradise Street and Bellevue Road. Far more realistic where the developers of Halifax who gave Lower Hope Street its name. Given the fact that it was but an axe-blade away from the site of the Halifax Gibbet, the decline in hope may have had more deadly origins than merely a limitation of economic prospects.

My photograph must have been taken in the early 1970s when Lower Hope Street was on its way to becoming Lost Hope Street, and demolition was already underway. There are no houses there today, just a series of warehouses and factories, waiting anxiously for the promised economic reawakening: more in hope than expectation perhaps.

Acorn Autumn

If you go out for a walk in these parts, you can’t get very far without treading on a bed of acorns. It’s a little like walking on wooden marbles, and the sound of them crunching and snapping underfoot is reminiscent of the famous ladybird summer back in 1976. Just to check that it wasn’t my imagination, I Googled “why are there so many acorns this year?” and I was rewarded with a host of articles telling me that the phenomenon – it’s called a mast year – is quite rare. Then I checked the dates of the articles and discovered that they were from each of the last four years. This might mean that it isn’t as rare as the newspapers have suggested: or it might mean that these rare events have now become as common as … well as common as acorns. And that, might be a portent – but what could possibly be worse that what we are now living through? I see President Trump is up for election for another four years in a few days time …. it’s just a thought!

Goods Composition

North Bridge, Halifax used to have two stations: a passenger railway station on one side, and a goods station on the other. The goods station, which stood where North Bridge Leisure Centre was later built, was closed in 1960, but the buildings remained – in a somewhat dilapidated state – for a further fifteen or twenty years. I must have taken this photograph of one of the sheds in around 1969. There is no doubt a name for that semi-circular frame hanging from the cross-beam, and, no doubt, it had a purpose (someone is bound to write-in and tell me). All I know is that it made a good composition.

That Was, This Is …. Halifax

Looking through my negative archives, certain scenes keep recurring. One is this view of Bank Bottom in Halifax. I have photographs of it in rain and shine, with or without added bursts of industrial steam. At times the background of mill chimneys and church spires stand out like a fist of sore thumbs, at other times they fade into a misty backdrop. I must have taken this picture just over fifty years ago. That is, I think, ice clinging to the cobbles at the bottom of Southowram Bank. That is the mill I occasionally worked in on the left. Those are the railway arches which have an almost cathedral like feel to them. This is the Halifax of my youth.

Fitting A Square Church Into A Rectangular Hole

The early 1970s were critical years in terms of the preservation of the built heritage of Halifax. Not only was the future of a dilapidated Piece Hall being determined (see Faded Jewel), but right next door to that jewel in the crown was a diamond in the tiara – Square Congregational Church. Most of the body of this fine Victorian church had been destroyed in the late 1960s and early 1970s by an almost apocalyptic succession of fires and storms, but the fine spire remained. After taking my photographs of the Piece Hall in 1974 (ish), I must have wandered next door to take this photograph of a sorry-looking Square Church. The good news is that the tower was saved and today forms part of the Piece Hall collection of buildings.

TECHNICAL NOTE : How do you compress a tall thin photo of a tall thin church tower into something that can be displayed in a long thin Twitter Header? I tried a variety of approaches (it didn’t look right lying on its side) and, with the help of a smartphone App, eventually came up with a building, the likes of which no Halifax resident has ever seen!

In The Eye Of The Beholder

Whenever I tell friends and family that I find Huddersfield’s Queensgate Market beautiful, they look at me as though I have taken leave of my senses and forgotten to collect them from the Lost Property Department. Beauty may well be in the eye of the eccentric beholder, but, to me, there is something grand and monumental about it, as long as you take the trouble to lift your eyes and look at the ceiling, the window lights and the sculptured figures. The day when beauty is limited to buildings that have gathered enough dust for them to be old and revered, or have been constructed as carbon copies of ancient styles, will be a sad day for all of us.

Faded Jewel

These days we are used to saying that the Piece Hall is the jewel in the crown of Halifax (or Calderdale, or Yorkshire, or England, or Europe: depending on the degree of our xenophobia), but it was not all that long ago that the building was facing an uncertain future. Those with long enough memories might remember the building as a bustling wholesale fruit and vegetable market in the fifties and sixties, or as the home of market stalls in the eighties and nineties. In the early 1970s, however, when I took these two photographs, it was abandoned, tired and lost. Thanks goodness that it survived and was restored to the fine showcase that it is today.

Beacon Lights

I think this is the fourth in my Halifax At Night series which must date from the late 1960s. The location is fairly easy to pin down Рit is looking towards the junction of Northgate and Broad Street. You can just make out the imposing frontage of Northgate End Chapel hiding in the darkness on the left of the picture. Built in the 1870s on the site of a seventeenth century chapel, it was eventually closed in the late 1970s and demolished a couple of years later to make way for the new Bus Station. All the other brightly lit shops you can see in the photograph have also gone. I suspect I must have taken the photograph from the car park on top of Halifax Bowl. For me, the most intriguing aspect of the photo is the pattern of lights in the background which, I assume, are Beacon Hill Road and Southowram Bank.

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