This is a scan of the first of six 35mm negatives I must have taken in about 1980: which to me sounds like only yesterday, but I am alarmed to realise is almost forty years ago! It was taken in that strange little segment of Halifax that is bounded by Prescott Street, Clare Road, Hunger Hill and South Parade. The building that dominates the shot is what is left of that fine eighteenth century house, Hope Hall, and what is now the home of the Albany Club.
Hope Hall was built in the 1760s by David Stansfield, a wealthy local cloth merchant. In the 1820s it was the home of Christopher Rawson – who was the somewhat dubious villain of the first series of Gentleman Jack – and one can half imagine Anne Lister stomping up the stone steps that gave access to what, at that time, would have been an imposing entrance. Now the front of the Hall has become the back and lost amongst cobbled streets and terraced houses.
Little has changed in the forty years since I took the photograph other than some of the soot has been power-washed off the stone and Clare Street has been closed to through traffic.
I have always thought that there is something sensuous about the lines of Burdock Way as it strides over the Hebble Valley. To achieve that with nothing but poured concrete and steel mesh is civil engineering at its best.
In reviewing my old negatives, it appears as if I spent a large part of my youth walking up and down Shaw Lane in Halifax. Here is a triptych of views from a strip of negatives shot in the 1970s. I am particularly fond of that final image – it sums up so much about the Halifax of my youth.
I grew up in the village of Northowram, a few miles north of Halifax, and I must have taken this photograph of the top end of the village about forty years ago. It shows the village, looking east from Howes Lane. What caught my eye when I scanned the negative a few days ago was the mill chimney in the very centre of the image, because I couldn’t recall either the mill or its imposing chimney in the centre of the village.
I solved the mystery when I eventually recognised the house I grew up in and remembered that there was a tall chimney to the side of the old Crown Brewery building on Bradford Road, where the tannery used to be. The brewery is long gone along with its various buildings and chimneys, and therefore it was difficult to confirm that this was the chimney in question. I went on-line to try and find information about a mill and its associated chimney, but the only two I could find mention of were well out of the village centre. I eventually found confirmation when a Google search threw up an old photograph of the brewery building with clear evidence of a large chimney next to it. Clearly my memory of the village of my youth is beginning to fade with age – and this was confirmed when I discovered that the old photograph that confirmed the presence of a chimney was one of my own!
According to my records – which are about as accurate as a Prime Minister’s promise – I took this photograph of Rhodes Street, Halifax in 1973. To me that sounds like only yesterday, but I suppose it is history. It is the year that I moved to London, and the walk down Gibbet Street might have been part of some farewell tour of the town of my youth. It would be twenty years before I moved back to the area – and a lot changed in that time.