My father worked at Mackintosh’s in Halifax. Every so often, he would bring a bag of what were known as “Throw-Outs” home; misshapen chocolates which were sold off cheap to the factory workers. Whilst this meant a plentiful supply of chocolates for me as a child, you soon got fed up of orange creams and strawberry delights. What I never got fed up of, however, were the colourful cellophane wrappers that encased each of the famous Quality Street selection. You could hold these up to the world and transform the view: skies could become purple and grass blue. You could even hold them up in front of your black and white television and imagine what colour TV might be like if it ever was invented. And for me, these cellophane filters provided an introduction to the wonders of Photoshop.
Category Archives: Scanned Negatives
This is a photograph of George Square in Halifax, taken – as far as I can remember – in the mid 1960s. You don’t get to see much, just a few neon signs and fuzzy shop windows, but you don’t need to see much to spark a memory. This is Halifax’s answer to Times Square or Piccadilly Circus: a tobacconist and a pram shop. You might not be able to hear it, but there is a soundtrack playing in the background to this picture: something suitably smokey and jazzy. The rain is falling, and you are on your way home from the pictures; heading for the bus stop hoping to make the last bus home. Neon memories.
I must have taken this photograph of Horton Street in Halifax, and the fine spire of Square Church, sometime in the mid to late 1960s. It was at a time when Halifax was still at the shabby end of the shabby-chic continuum. In order to advertise his credentials, the decorator who inhabited the upper parts of this corner building had done his best to add some colour to the scene. The shop part of the building seems to be dedicated to a window display of sacks of potatoes. The building is long gone, as distant a memory as the soot on the church spire: Halifax decorations of the past, both of them.
I must have taken this photograph in the mid 1970s: it shows Commercial Street in Halifax, looking towards Wards End and the, then, new headquarters of the Halifax Building Society. There is a sharp contrast in architectural styles: on one side of Commercial Street are the late Victorian facades of shops and commercial premises, whilst facing them is the unmistakeable 1930s cinema style of the Regal/ABC picture house. At the end of the street stands the newly built bank headquarters, like some strutting monster from a science fiction film. The contrast is a welcome one: the town isn’t a Victorian theme park, styles and shapes cohabit in harmony – that’s the real charm of Halifax.
For more than a century a wool merchant has dominated the junction of King Street and Mulcture Hall Road in Halifax. For most of that time the building was the premises of the wool merchant business of H Holdsworth, but more recently it has been the home of the Wool Merchant Hotel. Whether trade or tourism, textiles or hospitality, the building stands proud, like some Calderdale Coliseum.
My photograph was taken in 1970 and for comparison there is also a current screen grab from Google Streetview. If you are bored in lockdown with nothing to do, you can always play a game of Spot The Difference between the two images. I don’t want to spoil things for you, but to start out with there is the colour of the stone and the hillside covered in trees. That is only a start, if you look carefully enough you can easily come up with a substantial list. That’s change for you!
This is the last of this particular batch of photographs from fifty or so years ago, taken in the Rhodes Street area of Halifax. Like the other four, it shows the area around Gibbet Street in Halifax shortly before redevelopment.
Looking back at these five photographs, it shows a different Halifax, one caught in the process of transition. I wondered whether it was the monochrome images that made it seem slightly dream-like and unreal so I set the colourising algorithms to work to see what they could come up with.
The result was even more unreal as it seems to have given poor old Rhodes Street a carpet of turf. And were the skies ever blue back in those dim and distant days? The more I look at it, however, the more I like it. It isn’t true, but memories rarely are. The old home town may not look the same, but it’s good to touch the green, green grass of …. Rhodes Street!
As I continue my exploration of the area around Rhodes Street, Halifax – time travel by courtesy of a series of photographs I took almost fifty years ago – I find faith on Rhodes Street. Before too much celebration is embarked upon for the salvation of my lost soul, let me add that the faith in question was pinned to the notice board of Rhodes Street Methodist Church. In this case, faith in the structural solidity of the church was misplaced, as it was demolished shortly after my photograph was taken.
The second photograph gives an idea of the scale of the building – and a reminder of what has been lost to the built environment of this part of Halifax.
I know I have featured this particular image from my negative archives before, but I like it, so I will wheel it out again. I took it almost fifty years ago and it is one of the street around Rhodes Street, which ran (and, indeed, still runs) between Gibbet Street and Hopwood Lane in Halifax. When I get bored with the lockdown and watching re-runs of Coronation Street, I sometimes play “Spot The Difference”. I’m not searching for differences in physical buildings, but rather differences in feel and atmosphere. In this particular photograph it is the absence of cars and plastic wheelie bins that seems to stand out. There are people there, but the black and white film merges them into the background. And, of course, there is the gas light: that great cast-iron, sculptured delight of a shape: a welcome addition to any photograph.
I read somewhere that the Vikings called their new discovery Greenland in full knowledge that it was anything but green, but in the hope that it might attract settlers. The same principles were obviously used by nineteenth century town developers who gave endless rows of smoke-black terraces names such as Paradise Street and Bellevue Road. Far more realistic where the developers of Halifax who gave Lower Hope Street its name. Given the fact that it was but an axe-blade away from the site of the Halifax Gibbet, the decline in hope may have had more deadly origins than merely a limitation of economic prospects.
My photograph must have been taken in the early 1970s when Lower Hope Street was on its way to becoming Lost Hope Street, and demolition was already underway. There are no houses there today, just a series of warehouses and factories, waiting anxiously for the promised economic reawakening: more in hope than expectation perhaps.