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!
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.
North Bridge, Halifax used to have two stations: a passenger railway station on one side, and a goods station on the other. The goods station, which stood where North Bridge Leisure Centre was later built, was closed in 1960, but the buildings remained – in a somewhat dilapidated state – for a further fifteen or twenty years. I must have taken this photograph of one of the sheds in around 1969. There is no doubt a name for that semi-circular frame hanging from the cross-beam, and, no doubt, it had a purpose (someone is bound to write-in and tell me). All I know is that it made a good composition.
Looking through my negative archives, certain scenes keep recurring. One is this view of Bank Bottom in Halifax. I have photographs of it in rain and shine, with or without added bursts of industrial steam. At times the background of mill chimneys and church spires stand out like a fist of sore thumbs, at other times they fade into a misty backdrop. I must have taken this picture just over fifty years ago. That is, I think, ice clinging to the cobbles at the bottom of Southowram Bank. That is the mill I occasionally worked in on the left. Those are the railway arches which have an almost cathedral like feel to them. This is the Halifax of my youth.
The early 1970s were critical years in terms of the preservation of the built heritage of Halifax. Not only was the future of a dilapidated Piece Hall being determined (see Faded Jewel), but right next door to that jewel in the crown was a diamond in the tiara – Square Congregational Church. Most of the body of this fine Victorian church had been destroyed in the late 1960s and early 1970s by an almost apocalyptic succession of fires and storms, but the fine spire remained. After taking my photographs of the Piece Hall in 1974 (ish), I must have wandered next door to take this photograph of a sorry-looking Square Church. The good news is that the tower was saved and today forms part of the Piece Hall collection of buildings.
TECHNICAL NOTE : How do you compress a tall thin photo of a tall thin church tower into something that can be displayed in a long thin Twitter Header? I tried a variety of approaches (it didn’t look right lying on its side) and, with the help of a smartphone App, eventually came up with a building, the likes of which no Halifax resident has ever seen!
These days we are used to saying that the Piece Hall is the jewel in the crown of Halifax (or Calderdale, or Yorkshire, or England, or Europe: depending on the degree of our xenophobia), but it was not all that long ago that the building was facing an uncertain future. Those with long enough memories might remember the building as a bustling wholesale fruit and vegetable market in the fifties and sixties, or as the home of market stalls in the eighties and nineties. In the early 1970s, however, when I took these two photographs, it was abandoned, tired and lost. Thanks goodness that it survived and was restored to the fine showcase that it is today.
This old image has gone through quite a journey. It was far from perfect when it started life, 55 years or so ago: the focus was suspect and the composition could have been improved by some selective demolition work. At an early stage in its life it got converted from a negative into a positive slide – I can’t remember why I did that, let alone how I did it – and then it was abandoned to gather dust and scratches. I’ve tried to revive it a little, but as many a Hollywood star will tell you, cosmetic surgery has its limitations.
We are left with a slightly faded memory of what North Bridge used to be like, back in the days when big wagons went over it and trains went under it. These were the days before Burdock, the days when St Thomas had a spire, and when Beacon Hill was treeless.
I took this photograph – looking towards Waterhouse Street from Orange Street, Halifax – one dark, rainy night over half a century ago. In some ways, not a lot has changed over those five and a half decades – the bowling alley on the left is now a hotel, the roundabout is gone, and the Odeon cinema has become a Mecca Bingo Hall – but many of the buildings remain the same. In other ways, so much has changed, for this is the Halifax of my childhood and youth. The Odeon cinema, in particular, is a pantheon of memories. As a child, I would attend the Saturday morning Cinema Club there – two, four, six. eight, who do we appreciate, O D E O N, Odeon! – when you would get a cartoon, and educational documentary, and a main feature for something like sixpence. As a youth, I dated, for a time, one of the cinema usherettes; and could often be found on the back row, having a kiss, a cuddle and a Mivvi ice-cream. Far better memories than any bingo prize.
Looking back at this photograph I must have taken sometime around 1968, it has a staged feeling to it, as though it has been carefully posed as an album cover for a Champion Jack Dupree LP. It wasn’t staged, however, nor were the colour tampered with. This was Halifax as it was, caught midway between old railway lines and new flyovers, cooling towers and leisure centres, scrapyards and supermarkets.