Tag Archives: Brighouse

A Brookfoot Triptych

After publishing one of my old vintage postcards of Brookfoot – which is little more than a bend in the river a mile or so west of Brighouse – on a Facebook local history site, I started a trawl through my collection to see if I had any more postcards featuring the same spot. I was delighted – and somewhat surprised – to discover I had three: a Brookfoot triptych! During the great postcard boom years, local photographers and publishers were combing the glens and bends of the country, looking for subject matter, and even tiny hamlets like Brookfoot had their five minutes of pictorial fame. Or, in the case of Brookfoot, fifteen minutes!

Taken from the lake between the river and the canal, looking north towards Brighouse Wood Lane.
A similar view but turning slightly eastwards – that is Brighouse in the background.
Looking the other way, west towards Elland.

Slate-Grey In Brighouse

These are strange times: there seems so much to do in the world and yet we are assured that our best contribution is to stay at home. So what else is there to do other than to turn to the past and set out on a virtual voyage of exploration. By walking in the footsteps I took 55 years ago, I can still safely wander down crowded streets and see sights that are no longer visible. The following six photographs come from a strip of 35mm negatives I shot sometime in the mid to late 1960s around the town of Brighouse in West Yorkshire. I have featured each of these shots on the Brighouse History Facebook Group, and members have helped me identify the exact location I must have used. Some of the buildings are still there, some have substantially changed, some have gone altogether. Looking at these photographs, there is a greyness about the town that seems to fit with the time they were taken. I like to think that Brighouse is a much more vibrant and colourful place these days.

Looking towards Brighouse from the west; taken from Elland Road.
A similar shot with the camera rotated slightly.
A busy Commercial Street in the centre of town
The old recreation ground at Wellholme Park, Brighouse
Looking down on Brighouse from the north, with St James Church on the right
The mill complex at Bailiff Bridge, to the north of Brighouse

Oh Pity The Poor Reporters

The Brighouse News of Saturday 2 July 1870 contains a lengthy report of the meeting of the Brighouse Local Board. Local Boards were the precursors to Urban District Councils, and were charged with supervising the provision of such services as water supply, drainage, sewers and gas lighting. Their remit was particularly concerned with public health: they had been established in an attempt to counter the growing threat from disease in the rapidly expanding urban areas of the country. 

The June meeting of the Brighouse Local Board seems to have been a fairly dull affair: various sub-committees had been established; there were lengthy debates about people getting access to water stop taps who shouldn’t have access to them; the case of how much to charge someone who wanted water for his garden but not his house was debated at length; and complaints about water being supplied to Clifton without the express permission – and payment to – the Halifax Waterworks Committee were heard. The Local Board then met with a deputation from the Brighouse Temperance Society, and there was a lively debate about the evils of public houses and the dangers of drink being available to the working classes. The meeting didn’t end until a report from the Cemetery Committee had been heard, by which time most members of the Board and the officials attending the meeting were probably in great need of refreshments of one kind or another.

Directly under this report of the Board meeting there is a short item of correspondence which reads as follows:-

BRIGHOUSE LOCAL BOARD To the Editor of the Brighouse News SIR, Amid the innumerable demands for money for all sorts of things, can you spare me a corner in which to plead for funds for so small an object as paying the members of your Local Board by day; as I am sure the little business they have to do (if worth doing at all) will be better done in business hours, than at midnight, and the change would not only benefit them, but would give the reporters an opportunity of going home by DAYLIGHT

You have to admire the reporters who managed to sneak this item into the columns of the paper. Who says the Victorians didn’t have a sense of humour!

Brighouse Basin Street Blues

During a regular scanning session of my old negatives, I came across this 35mm negative from the late 1960s – and I suspected that it had been taken in Brighouse Canal Basin. In order to confirm my suspicions, I took a walk there this morning and took a series of shots of the canal basin fifty years on. Everything has changed but the basic shape and structure of the canal and locks. So much of what has happened over the last fifty years can be seen in the changes between these two photographs: the gas works and mill chimneys are gone, the pleasure craft moorings and waterside bar restaurants have arrived.

Whilst walking around the moorings I was reminded of an incident that occurred there some 55 years ago. My brother had a canal barge that was moored in the canal basin, and my father and I were visiting him one evening. His was the only boat in the basin – the scene was just as bleak and empty as in that old negative of mine. All of a sudden we heard an almighty splash, and as we emerged from his boat we saw a car slowly sinking below the dark waters of the canal. Assuming there must have been a driver in the car, my brother was on the point of diving into the water to see if he could rescue anyone, when my father – a Yorkshireman of the old school – warned him that by doing so he would ruin a perfectly good pair of trousers! Our debate was curtailed by the sight of the driver emerging from below the surface of the water, and we managed to drag him out of the canal from the comparative safety of the towpath, without risking our health and our trousers. 

The water is much cleaner these days and there wasn’t a sinking car nor a suicidal driver to be seen.

Two Gentlemen Of Brighouse

If Shakespeare had been around in the days of Brexit, he might have written a play called Two Gentlemen Of Brighouse, in which two friends, Herbert and Wilfred, travelled to Bradford in pursuit of the same girl, Ethel. This lovely little Victorian photo from the studio of the Brighouse photographer, Martin Manley, would have made a perfect illustration for such a play.

The career of Martin Manley traces the rise and fall of the Victorian studio photography craze. Born in Brighouse in 1850, he was the son of a family of moderate means who owned land and houses in the Bonegate area of the town. In the 1871 census, he is listed as “living from income derived from homes and land“, but by 1881 he is listed as being a photographer. This little Carte de Visite must date from the 1880s or 1890s and he is now listing himself as an “Artist in Photography, Miniature and Portrait Painter Etc“. By the time of the 1901 census the boom years for Victorian studio photographers are beginning to fade, and Manley is now listed as an “optician and photographer“, and ten years later all reference to photography are dropped.

Irrespective of his career path, Martin Manley appears to have remained a keen photographer all his life. He was one of the founder members of the Brighouse Photographic Society, and as early as 1874 there are newspaper reports of him exhibiting his photographs of members of the Royal Family and “famous views of London” at local gatherings.

The Blue Skies And Mustard Streets Of Brighouse

There is a modern passion for “colourising” old monochrome photographs and films, and when this is skilfully done, it can provide a more accurate link to the past. Reproducing scenes in various shades of grey was simply a short interlude in our visual history – imposed by the technical limitations of early photographic techniques. Neither the cave painters of Lascaux nor the old masters of the Renaissance would have dreamt of limiting their palettes to black and white. When we close our eyes and conjure up a scene, we conjure with reds, and blues, and greens.

The early manufacturers of picture postcards refused to be limited by the photographic processes that were available to them at the turn of the twentieth century. Using the monochrome outlines provided by their cameras, they applied colour with bravado rather than accuracy, tinting and colourising the streets of our towns and cities.

This early twentieth century postcard of Commercial Street in Brighouse is a particularly good example of the tinter’s art, with its too blue sky and its mustard coloured streets. The buildings are real enough, however, and a walk down Commercial Street today would reveal most of these nineteenth century shops still in place: although the original owners have long left the scene. Thomas Clayton’s Central Mart was Brighouse’s equivalent of a department store, where you could buy everything from knicker elastic to linoleum. Think of it as an Amazon of the High Street.

The message on the reverse of the card is satisfyingly prosaic.

Dear Friends, We arrived home about 9 o’clock on Sat having spent a very pleasant time in Skipton. Father is a lot better and going about his work as usual, we hope that at some future time we may be able to spend a few more days with you, we always feel so much better after coming. With the best of love to you. From Mr and Mrs Turner.

The card was addressed to Mr and Mrs Whitlock in Morecambe, and we can surmise that the Turners had just returned from a holiday by the sea. No doubt whilst they were away, they bought many postcards of Morecambe to send to their friends back home; and the same postcard colourists had done a similar justice to the blue skies and mustard coloured sands of Morecambe Bay.

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