We hear a lot these days about the changing nature of town and city centres, but the centre of gravity of our conurbations has never been static. I took this photograph over fifty years ago from the waste land at the bottom of Woolshops in Halifax. Widespread demolition had already swept through the narrow streets, terraces and workshops of – what was traditionally – the heart of the town, leaving vacant lots and uninterrupted lines of sight to the town abattoir. The retail footfall rarely got down this far back in those days, preferring the wider prospects of Commercial Street and the like. And then things changed: development came, new stores and car parks were built, and the abattoir and cart would more likely to be the name of a rather select bar than a description of what could be found outside.
Category Archives: Home
This is a photograph I took 55 years ago, looking over Halifax from – I think – Bradford Old Road. This is not just Halifax, this is my youth. Part the smoke fuelled clouds and you can see my school, the streets I walked down, and the parks I played in. Walk up the hill and look north and you could probably see the village I grew up in. The washing on the line, the spires and the chimneys, the black and the grey – they are all part of my youth, my Halifax.
Geologists sometimes date rocks by reference to seismic events, mass extinctions and the like. I tend to do the same with my old photographs. This photo of Halifax Borough Market fits into the pre-decimal period which means I must have taken it over 50 years ago.
The line went from Halifax Station to North Bridge Station via the Gas Works. At one time it carried people and goods to exotic places like Ovenden and Queensbury. It was closed in the 1950s and, thirty years later, the solid stone structure was demolished. It had become a bridge too far.
These days you can get Artificial Intelligence to add colour to old black and white photos, but if you tried it with my picture from 50+ years ago, it would never get it right. It would make the grass green when, in fact, it was a dirty seaweed colour, the stone would be rich and warm when, in fact, it had been chocked to death by the soot from countless mill chimneys. Monochrome suits that age of Halifax better.
Halifax in the 1970s. Carpet mills rub sticky shoulders with toffee factories, and there isn’t a nail bar in sight. The colourful Quality Street images were for tin lids: these streets were cobbled in stone and sweat.
It’s a grainy old photograph of a bus stop in Halifax. When I took it fifty-odd years ago, I’m not sure what I thought I was taking. In retrospect (one of the most powerful lenses available to any photographer) I captured a slice of social history. There is something about the confident walk of the cigarette-smoking pedestrian. Something about home.
The second picture in my “Home” collection is this photograph of Bank Bottom, Halifax, which I took somewhere around 1970. Square Church spire is framed by the old Riding Hall Carpet Mill and the Halifax Gas Works. If you would like to see this picture in person, it is currently on view as part of the excellent Showcase Exhibition at Dean Clough, Halifax.