Category Archives: News From Nowhere

The Lonely Ascent Of Mount Blackley

It was a glorious Spring day today and we were tempted outside. Wanting to respect the Government advice on social distancing and the avoidance of parks and beauty spots, we decided to attempt the ascent of Mount Blackley by taking the old footpath from South Lane in Elland to the top of the hill in Blackley. It was a long and arduous climb – and an even longer descent – but we managed to avoid the crowds without any difficulty. If we were attempting to avoid beauty spots, we failed miserably: the scenery was spectacular.

The old cobbled road and stepped path
The remnants of South Lane
Looking back at Elland from Blackley

Halifax Borough Market And Architectural Football

I was scanning some of my old negatives yesterday and came across this photograph of Halifax Borough market, which dates from around 1967 (say what you want about decimalisation, it provides invaluable help in dating old photographs).  Halifax’s indoor market was – and still is – one of the finest examples of these Victorian cast-iron framed markets in the country, with it’s fan-like windows and suspended gas heaters.

By complete coincidence, I was later browsing on YouTube and discovered, to my delight, that someone had posted an episode of the 1975 series “Nairn’s Journeys“, in which Halifax Borough Market has a starring role. Ian Nairn (1930-1983) was a British architectural critic and writer who was famous for his outspoken criticism of certain aspects of British town planning in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. In 1959 he published a book, “Outrage” which highlighted what he saw as the modern trend in unimaginative town planning. I was introduced to his ideas by my brother, Roger, who had one of the first copies of his book and was a great follower of his work. The “Nairn’s Journeys” series was a wonderful series in which he conducted “architectural football matches” between northern towns. One memorable episode was devoted to a contest between Huddersfield and Halifax.

If you have never seen the episode, I apologise for spoiling things by telling you that Halifax won the contest by five goals to two! Part of that victory was down to the splendid Halifax Borough Market, but most of it was brought about by the fact that “Halifax had managed to express itself“. The film is particularly fascinating for its praise for the modern architecture of Halifax – the, then, new Building Society HQ – and its footage of the Piece Hall during a time of transition (it was due to be turned into a car park!)

Thinking of that same architectural football context 45 years on, I am convinced that the outcome would be just as positive in Halifax’s favour. It continues to express itself as a town proud of its heritage but with an eye to the future.

Taking A Chance With A Seamstress

An advert in an old newspaper advertises sewing machines, and lists the machines available. It is 1870 and the machine age is beginning to make the transition from factory to home. The machines are ornate and their names are as cursively evocative as their shapes. You can choose between a Tudor and a Little American, a Princess and a Paragon. You can cast your eye over a Tom Hood or a Queen Mabb, or be tempted by a Cleopatra. You might want to take a chance with a Seamstress or blow your savings on a Wanzer. The present-day world of iPhone 11’s, Galaxy S10’s and Huawei Y6’s somehow just does not compare.

Letters Patent For Artistic Improvement

According to the scrawled date on the reverse of this Victorian Cabinet Card, it was taken somewhere around the 11th November 1889. The clothing and the photographic style fits well with this date, and we know that the studio – Brown, Barnes & Bell of Liverpool and London – were active at the time.

The reverse of the card has all the usual flourish of Victorian studio portraits, including an intriguing claim that the studio possessed “Letters patent for artistic improvements”

If only Mssrs Brown, Barnes or Bell had been lucky enough to be around 130 years later, they would have been able to take advantage of the multitude of mobile apps that can perform endless degrees of artistic improvement in this day and age. I conducted a small experiment on their behalf, which, I hope, the original sitter would have been pleased with. Let’s say it is the first portrait from the studio of Brown, Barnes, Bell & Burnett.

Letters From Almondbury

For years I have been fascinated by the decorative tiles in the entrance hall to Wesley Hall in Almondbury, near Huddersfield. They were, no doubt, a memorial to the founders of the church – now they are also a memorial to decorative style.

When, a few years ago, I first visited the Parish Hall at Almondbury Methodist Church near Huddersfield, I became captivated by the display on monographed tiles in the entrance hall. Each time I go – usually for their cricket club Christmas Fair and Coffee Morning, I fall in love with them again. Instead of trawling the stalls for Christmas baubles and cake, I can be happily found in the entrance hall, trying once again to capture the magnificence of these old tiles that must have been memorials to early sponsors of the church. Here is a sample of my efforts this year.

Rock Of Ages

“It is a matter of intense debate amongst mathematicians and theoretical particle physicists as to whether it is possible for any three dimensional object to have just three edges. It is clear that none of the participants involved in such discussions have ever been to Elland – for Elland has just three edges: Hullen Edge, Lower Edge and Upper Edge. The fact that Elland is unique in the known physical universe will come as no surprise to its inhabitants, most of whom have firmly held such a belief for as long as history has been recorded. It is, however, the uniqueness of just one of these three edges – Upper Edge – that concerns us here, and the special part of that uniqueness that is represented by the building that proudly sits at the summit of the long climb up from Elland township – the Rock Tavern”

That is the opening paragraph of “Rock Of Ages – A History Of The Rock Tavern, Elland“, a book that Martin Williams and myself have been writing for the past couple of years. We have now worked our way through the history of the pub – from the tropical swamps of the Carboniferous Period right through to the mid 1980s – and we need to write the final chapter which covers the history of the pub during living memory. To do this, we are abandoning dusty census records and faded newspaper cuttings, and depending on the memories of real customers, past and present. 

Anyone with a memory to share or a story to tell is invited up to the pub on Saturday 19th October at 7.30pm, when there will be an opportunity to include these in the final chapter of the book we are hoping to publish at the beginning of 2020. There will be a pie and pea supper and friends old and new to meet. Martin and I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible on Saturday.

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