I have just added a new vintage postcard to my collection which shows “St Luke’s Hospital and Salterhebble Hill, Halifax” The card was posted in May 1917, but I suspect that the photograph dates from at least a decade before that. St Luke’s Hospital was the original name for what later became Halifax General Hospital, and more recently Calderdale Royal Hospital. During the First World War it became a military hospital, and this particular card clearly dates from that period. The sender of the card, Will, must have been one of the soldiers recovering from injury or illness; his relationship with the recipient – Eve James of Tivoli Road, Cheltenham – we can only guess at. The message is, as follows:-
1/5/17 : Dear Eve, Just a card to say I am going on all right. I will try and get a better card of the place. You can see where I am with the ink. Nice weather now. Went up around the town yesterday. Well, good bye. Will
The scene depicted on the card – a view looking towards the, then, new hospital from Siddal – is one which will still be familiar to those who regularly travel south from Halifax. Whilst many of the buildings that lined the road have vanished over the years, the general layout is instantly recognisable. In recent years, many a Halifax citizen has spent endless hours in traffic queues on the hill whilst a major road improvement scheme has been undertaken. If you look carefully at the image on the card you can see that these roadworks may have been going on for longer that we can collectively remember – quite clearly the road is being dug up for one reason or another. This may be associated with the challenge of extending the Halifax tram network down (and up) Salterhebble Hill in the early years of the twentieth century. Initially it was thought that the hill was just too steep for a conventional tram system, and various types of lifts and inclined planes were investigated. Such suggestions were eventually dismissed, and those feisty Edwardian engineers eventually managed to get a conventional tram to climb the hill.
Before filing the postcard away, I couldn’t resist messing with the image a little and came up with this rather pleasing interpretation of the view. It probably doesn’t fulfil Will’s promise to “get a better card of the place” but it is a little more pleasing than a view of the endless lane closures and contraflows that populate the hill these days.