The Stream At Shibden

This old picture postcard is a recent arrival in my collection, and it’s a welcome one because I have known this stream all my life. My familiarity with it is of little help when it comes to naming it, and it is noticeable that even this old postcard dodges the issue by simply describing it as “The Stream, Shibden”. Most would agree that it starts life in the upper reaches of the Shibden Valley, near Ambler Thorne and Queensbury, and for the first part of its journey to merge with the River Calder at Brookfoot, it is known as the Shibden Brook. At some point, its name changes to the Red Beck, and the most popular theory is that this name change takes place as it goes under the A58 at Stump Cross.

When I was a kid, my friends and I would play alongside its banks as it made its way through Shibden Park. Later, I would walk along its banks as both it and I would pay a visit to the Shibden Mill Inn. Later still I would walk my dog on the lanes that ran alongside its lower stretches in Walterclough Valley. I must confess, in all the years I have known the stream, I have yet to see any artist transpose its features to canvas – although I strongly suspect I will receive an e-mail within the next few days from my brother in Dominica, to tell me he has done so several times!

The card was sent in September 1922 by J Mitchill to Mrs Powell, Craven House, Church Street, Boston Spa, Nr Leeds. The message reads as follows: “Dear Mrs Powell, Just a P.C. hoping you are all well. Excuse me being in such a hurry to write this. Regards from A.C. Send you another card next week. Yours very truly, J Mitchill” There is a degree of formality about the language used in the message which might lead us to question the degree of familiarity between the sender and the recipient of the card. They may not have been lifelong friends, but that is a claim I feel I can make about this lovely “little stream”, whatever you choose to call it.

UPDATE

And, indeed, within less than 24 hours, my brother had emailed me from the other side of the world to say that he had painted the Shibden Brook on a number of occasions and that he had featured one of those paintings on his own Blog that day. I’ve reproduced the painting above. There is a strange resemblance in the colours, the lines and the shapes between the original postcard and the 1992 painting. It’s the same friend, as seen through different eyes.

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