The last shot in this particular sequence of negatives from fifty years ago focuses on people rather than places; but still has a fair amount to tell us about changes to Halifax over the last half century. I think I must have taken this picture from Old Bank, which was the cobbled road that ran from Back Bottom to Beacon Hill Road. I tried walking up there a couple of years ago and it was a matter of trying to find the remains of the road which were almost completely overgrown. If you walk up the old road today you are still rewarded with a fine view of Halifax. Fifty years ago, I was rewarded with a fine view of my future wife and one of our oldest and closest friends.
Category Archives: Scanned Negatives
I posted one of my old photographs, of Fletchers’ Mill in Halifax, to the Old Halifax Facebook Group yesterday. It’s an image I have featured on this Blog before, but it was new to the Old Halifax Group. Several people wrote in with memories of the mill. Someone in particular mentioned that the waste dyes from the dye works used to pollute the Hebble Brook which ran alongside the mill.
The next shot on the strip of negatives I was scanning had a more focussed view of the river. These, however, were monochrome days, and thus there was little chance of seeing the rainbow ripples in the old mill stream.
These are, however, Photoshop days, and therefore with a little creative work with digital paintbrushes, the colourful past can be brought back to life! Realism, however, is neither intended nor achieved!
This is a photograph of Old Lane in Halifax I took almost fifty years ago. I was following the footsteps of the great photographer Bill Brandt, who had walked the same streets in Halifax thirty years before that. This remains one of my favourite photographs of Dean Clough – the simplicity of the shapes are in sharp contrast to the complexity of the history.
More photographs of Sheffield from the 1980s. Looking back at these old photographs of mine, I can’t help but try to identify what has changed, not so much in terms of buildings, but in terms of the feel and the atmosphere. These grainy black and white images are responsible for a lot of the perceived change: just as our real memories fade, our photographic memories loose colour and definition. Although there are plenty of people on the streets – despite the weather – there is also an element of emptiness – the scenes have been drained of objects, leaving only the dirty snow drifts, the misty lines of buildings and the unmistakeable shape of 1980s cars. We can also pick up detailed clues to change: shops that have long gone, services for machines that no longer exist. The photographs are full of steel city snow mixed with a generous helping of grainy nostalgia.
Here is another of my photographs of Sheffield taken back in the 1980s. The common feature of so many of these seems to be that they were taken on rainy days and Mondays, but there were still shops on the streets, cars on the roads and shoppers going about their business. This is Surrey Street, with the Town Hall on the left.
When you go to Paris, you take a photograph of the Eiffel Tower, in New York it’s the Statue of Liberty …. and when you visit Elland it has to be the Calder Valley from Hullen Edge. I must have taken this photograph in the late 1970s: the bypass looks as though it is still a fresh scar on the landscape. It’s winter, it’s wet, and the river was just as incapable of knowing its place, as it is these days.
Even with photographs taken fifty years ago, I am normally pretty good at remembering roughly where they were taken. Perhaps I can’t always pin down the actual street corner or the back alley, but, in most cases, when I clicked the camera shutter release, some form of medieval GPS geotagged the image in my mind. And if I need help with a street or a district, all I need do is post the image to one of the many “Old Town” Facebook Groups, and someone is bound to have lived there or met their husband at the Fish and Chip shop on the corner. This particular image, however, has defeated me. I have a feeling that I might have taken it in North Staffordshire (which would mean sometime between 1969 and 1973), but other than that, I have no recollection. The medieval GPS was obviously not working on that particular day.
Whenever I look at my old photographs of Halifax from the sixties and seventies, I am reminded of just how much it was a period of change for the town. Roads were being built whilst others were being demolished, chimneys were coming down whilst tower blocks were going up. And the trees were coming back: after being ground down by the soot of the industrial revolution for two centuries, they were beginning to repopulate the hills.
This third photograph taken from the top of Beacon Hill seems to sum all that change up. The road up to Southowram seems to snake like a lazy s: the old is being swept away by the new.
Here is the second of the photographs taken from the top of Beacon Hill, Halifax in the early 1970s. My camera has swung around, so now I am looking in the direction of The Shay and Savile Park. You can just make out the three graces – St Jude’s Church, Crossley Heath and Wainhouse Tower – on the near horizon. Just as with the last of these photographs taken from my “1970s drone” you can focus in on particular areas and see how things have changed in the last half century or so. You can see where houses weren’t and where mills and factories still were. You can see that the Building Society headquarters has made it through the historical cut, but Eureka hasn’t. It is the kind of picture you could set an exam on, write a book about or compose a sonnet to.