Category Archives: Old Halifax

Brighouse And The End Of The American Civil War

Bethel Street, Brighouse c. 1966

The last of the four photographs from Brighouse back in the 1960s shows the busy pavements of Bethel Street with the unmistakable facade of the Prince of Wales Pub (now The Old Ship) in the background. The renaming of pubs is normally a retrograde process, but in the case of the Prince of Wales / Old Ship, there is an element of justification. The present building, which dates from 1926/27, occupies the site of a former public house called the Tap and Spile (as logical name for a pub as you could ever hope to find), but when it was rebuilt in 1927, it was re-named “The Prince of Wales”. Whether it was named in honour of the then Prince of Wales (who was later to become – albeit briefly – King Edward VIII) I am not sure. It didn’t become the Old Ship until early in the present century, although the rationale for the name dates back to the rebuilding in the 1920s. There has always been quite a fad for incorporating the timbers of old warships into public houses (the White Beare in Norwood Green provides a perfect 16th century example of this), and in the 1920s, the brewery were lucky enough to buy up some of the timbers of HMS Donegal, which had just been broken up in Portsmouth. The Donegal (built in 1858) had a pretty routine life as a ship of the line, transporting troops here and there and serving time as part of the Royal Navy’s Torpedo School, but she did have one moment of glory back in 1865 when she was undertaking coastguard duties off the Lancashire coast. Whilst there she was the scene of the last surrender of the American Civil War, when she took the surrender of the Confederate ship CSS Shenandoah. Quite why the last surrender of the American Civil War took place within what are now the timbers of a Brighouse pub is a tale worth telling only in the confines of a Brighouse pub with a good supply of beer to hand.

The View From The Other Side

Thornton Square, Brighouse c. 1966

What else is there to do? Once you have taken a photograph looking down Briggate in Brighouse, the obvious thing to do is to walk to the other end of the street and take a photograph looking up Briggate. As with so many of the photos I took over fifty years ago, it is the inconsequential details that fascinate the most: the bumper to bumper parking, the shape of the cars, the notice board outside what, I think, were the Council offices. When it comes down to it, social history is about detail and micro-memories.

Life Before Wilko

Briggate, Brighouse c. 1966

This is a photograph I took of Briggate in Brighouse over half a century ago. It seems like only yesterday, but the fact that the right hand side of the street no longer exists proves that it was a lot of yesterdays ago. This was Brighouse before Wilko, before Tesco, before one-way streets and climbing gyms.

Come Back Soon


This is a photograph I took in the 1960s of Commercial Street, Brighouse. Looking at it again as it emerges from the negative scanning machine, I am struck by the changes. Not the physical changes – the buildings are just about the same as they were fifty years ago; Brighouse has been lucky in that way. Sat here, however, in renewed lockdown, I would take the rain, I would take the old cars, the plastic rain hats and donkey jackets: I would take them all gladly, just to have again the crowded streets and carefree activity that was such a part of this scene from half a century ago.

Anti-Vaxxers Take To The Streets Of Wyke

I have been cranking up the random news generator again, and today it has taken me back to the 6th August 1887, and a report in the pages of the Brighouse Echo which, once again, proves that there is little new happening in the world. It tells the case of a certain Sam Kellet, a coal miner from Wyke, which is a village between Brighouse and Bradford. The bailiffs had turned up at his house in order to seize property to meet the unpaid fines which the magistrates had awarded against him for refusing to have his child vaccinated. The whole process of the seizure and sale of goods (“four chairs, two tables and a kitchen dresser”) was watched by a crowd of 50 to 60 people. Mr John Rushforth, of Brighouse, president of the Wyke Anti-Vaccination Society, “mounted a wall and addressed the crowd, vigorously condemning the laws relating to vaccination”.

In the 1880s, thousands of people through Britain took to the streets and mounted opposition to laws that had been introduced to make vaccination against smallpox compulsory. A century later, vaccination against the disease eventually led to its worldwide eradication. If, and when, we get a vaccine against COVID19, let us hope it is as successful, and that the efforts of the modern-day equivalents of Mssrs Kellet and Rushforth are as unsuccessful.

ANTI-VACCINATION AT WYKE – On Saturday morning excitement was caused at Wyke by the seizure and sale of certain household effects belonging to Sam Kellett, collier, Garden Fields, under a distress warrant, which had been issued in consequence of Kellet having neglected to comply with a magistrate’s order to have his child vaccinated. The services of Mr Jonathan Benson, auctioneer, Calverley, had been secured, and the sale of the goods “marked” was effected without hindrance from the crowd, which numbered about fifty and sixty persons, mostly women. The amount of fines and costs incurred by various processes of the Court amounted to 33s, and that sum was raised by the sale of four chairs, two tables, and a kitchen dresser. The dresser and a table were bought in on behalf of Kellett by Mr John Rushforth, of Brighouse, president of the Wyke Anti-Vaccination Society. Kellett himself bought in the chairs and the other table. Sales were to have been effected at two houses in the district, but one of the men paid in at the last moment. The sale was conducted amid a running commentary on the evils of vaccination, and Mr Rushforth afterwards mounted a wall and addressed the crowd, vigorously condemning the laws relating to vaccination.

If It Wasn’t For The Trees In-Between

This photograph must have been taken some time around 1972. Friends were visiting from “down south” and being shown Halifax – and where better to see it from than the top of Godley Bridge? Halifax was changing by then, new buildings were appearing on the skyline, and old mill chimneys were vanishing. My wife and I were passing the spot this photograph was taken from only yesterday, and I couldn’t resist trying to recreate it, although only one member of the original cast was available for the reunion. The spot is the same, and the view wouldn’t be all that dissimilar – if it wasn’t for the trees in-between.

On A Freshly Fallen Silent Shroud Of Snow

I have a feeling that this photograph was taken from a little further along Syke Lane, just outside Priestley Green. It was, however, 56 years ago, and it was in the middle of winter, and there was a freshly fallen silent shrewd of snow, so maybe I am imagining things. Now, it is a different century, it is summer and the forecast is for sun and blue skies. Lucy-dog wants a walk, but where shall we go? Why not! Let’s see if I can find those fields and that fence, let’s see if I can remember that song.

I Am Alone, Gazing From My Window To The Streets Below

My walk of 1964 has taken me into the centre of the lovely hamlet of Priestley Green, and, as always, my eye is drawn to the cottages that are known as “The Sisters”. Nobody quite seems to know why they are thus called, although we do know that they were built in 1630 by Samuel Sunderland of nearby Coley Hall. I am alone on my walk of 56 years ago, and I probably imagined myself living in this delightful spot, gazing out of those windows onto the streets below. There is a well outside the gate of these cottages, whose waters were supposed to posses magical powers for all who drank them. The power to travel back through time by more than fifty years perhaps.

In A Deep And Dark December

So my walk – in a deep and dark December (or possibly, January, or maybe February) – back in the winter of 1964/65, took me passed Coley Church and then down Northedge Lane towards Priestley Green. I still occasionally go down this lane, although I am not sure I would chance it in the snow these days. Just as lovely now, and a fair bit greener.

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