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.
The ability of old photographs to spark memories never ceases to amaze me. I tracked down this old colour slide yesterday after someone, quite rightly, pointed out that what was set on top of the bowling alley in Broad Street, Halifax in the 1960s, was not a bowl, as I had stated, but a bowling pin. In my defence, I have to say that it was not my memory, but my nomenclature that was at fault. I knew I had taken a photograph of the building along with its pin at some stage in the 1960s, and I eventually tracked it down.
When I looked closely at the photograph, however, it was the bus stop that really set my brain synapses firing. I’d forgotten all about that bus stop. It was the stop that I would run to if I arrived at the bus station (just out of picture on the left) as my bus was leaving. If you were swift – and back then I was swift – you could make it to the next stop in Broad Street before the bus did. If, once again, you were a little too late, you could always try for the near-impossible and sprint on to North Bridge to see if you could catch the bus up there. Whether you made it or not, it was better exercise that a half hour on the bowling lanes.
There is something so familiar about this photograph, but it is the familiarity of a memory; something that takes the buildings, the hills, the chimneys and the spires and arranges them into familiar patterns. The hillside must be Beacon Hill, Halifax, but it is not the bold, brooding, in-your-face hill that you see to the north-east, but it’s gentler sibling that has been smoothed by a Calderdale glacier. The railway line is the one leading south from Halifax Station, but the track takes twists and turns that seem to go nowhere. My guess is that I must have been standing somewhere close to where the Eureka Museum now stands, but that might just be me trying to fit memories into a geographical framework.
When I was young, and adventurous, and rust-free, I could never resist the opportunities provided by a rainy night when it came to photographic patterns and reflections. I suspect that this is a fairly early photograph of mine, taken in the mid 1960s. I am fairly certain that it was taken in Commercial Street, Halifax from somewhere just outside the Post Office, looking towards Ward’s End. If I am right that is the illuminated sign of the old ABC Cinema towards the left of the picture and the sign of Ramsden’s Stone Trough Brewery in the centre background. The brewery was demolished in 1968, so my photograph obviously pre-dates that. As for the rest of it, you can spend an entertaining minute or so trying to pick out some of the other familiar sights from the darkness: now that I am old and rust-coated, that’s my idea of adventure.
I could never resist a dark rainy night. I must have taken this photo of Commercial Street in Halifax in the mid 1960s: if you look hard enough you can just make out the ABC cinema and Ramsden’s Brewery in the background.
Now Lowry is hung upon the wall
Beside the greatest of them all
And even the Mona Lisa takes a bow
This tired old man with hair like snow
Told northern folk it’s time to go
The fever came and the good lord mopped his brow
And he left us matchstalk men and matchstalk cat’s & dog’s
He left kids on the corner of the street
That were sparking clogs
Now he takes his brush and he waits outside then pearly gates
To paint his matchstalk men and matchstalk cat’s & dog’s
MATCHSTALK MEN & MATCHSTALK CATS & DOGS Burke/Coleman 1978
My negatives are cut into strips of six, and, over the years, the individual strips have been moved so many times, they no longer have a logical sequence. Whilst each shot within the six is, obviously, related in time and place to those adjacent, the same cannot be said for the 700 or so individual strips. A few months ago, I scanned a strip of negatives that started with a photograph of Halifax Town Hall been stone-cleaned. The time on the Town Hall clock on that photograph was five minutes top eight. Today, I came across another strip of negatives, the last of which, is another photograph of the town hall being stone cleaned. This time, the time of the town hall clock is six minutes to eight. We have a sequence!
Another foggy, snow-covered day in Sheffield in the early 1980s (did I only ever venture out with my camera when there was Snow on the ground?). Even I don’t need help with the location of this particular photograph: whilst there have been so many changes to this part of the city, the buildings shown on both sides of Trippet Lane still exist today (although their functions have inevitably changed). I am not sure why people seem to be wandering around all over the place: maybe it is the ice on the roads, maybe it was one of the things we did back in the 80s.