Tag Archives: Halifax

Tuscany With Industry Grafted On

As I trawl through my negative archives, I keep finding scenes that I have photographed on multiple occasions. I have this particular view of Bank Bottom in Halifax either with steam or without it. The without steam option has a more stately feel to it – a bit like Tuscany with industry grafted on.

Concrete Artery

I think I must have taken this photograph in the 1980s, which makes it rather late in my black and white days. By then the Burdock Way overpass had become part of the very body of Halifax; a vital artery rather than a varicose vein. Key buildings had shifted their positions to benefit from its’ fine concrete picture frames.

When Not Why

There are two possible questions to go with this particular scan from my collection of old negatives. The first is, should old buildings be cleaned? There is an argument which says that power-washing the dirt, soot and grime off these fine old Victorian stone buildings is the architectural equivalent of a face-lift: momentarily interesting but, in the long term, depressingly invasive. However, I am putting off such a debate for a sunnier day in order to concentrate on the second, slightly more prosaic, question: when was Halifax Town Hall stone cleaned? I have combed through the copious wisdom of Uncle Google without pinning an exact date down. The date may remain a mystery, but I am pretty certain of the time: five to eight in the morning (or, just possibly, in the evening!)

Carpeting The Calder Valley

The final shot from this strip of negatives places Clark Bridge Mills – at the time the headquarters of Homfray Carpets – at the centre of the action. Henry James Homfray may have been one of the lesser-known carpet barons of Halifax, but with mills in Sowerby Bridge, Luddendenfoot, Birstall and Halifax, he made a notable contribution to carpeting the entire Calder Valley. In 1952, Homfray Carpets were the first firm in the UK to produce tufted carpets (the Crossleys Brothers would probably have shuddered at the very thought of a tufted carpet), but this movement in the direction of the cheaper end of the floor covering market didn’t save the firm. Faced with increasing debts, the firm was sold  to a wholly owned subsidiary, Riding Hall Carpets in 1966. Production of carpets at the mill came to an end in the 1970s, and it was eventually demolished in July 1980.

Mill, Church, Gable And Hillside

We do gable ends well in Yorkshire. We’re proud of them. Stick a little window in them, give them a bob or two’s worth of lace curtains. Let them stand out like giant headstones. These were fifty years ago somewhere down Southowram Bank: within twisting distance of where yesterday’s photograph was taken from. This photo says it all: mill, church, gable and hillside … Halifax.

Reflections On Beauty

Like anyone else, I can see the beauty in a natural landscape. Find me a photograph of craggy hills sweeping down to mirror-smooth lakes and I will swoon with the best of them. Get me a picture of ripe-rich grain swaying in an evening breeze against a bucolic green background, and I will pin it over my mantlepiece. But ….

But, I come from Halifax, and my West Yorkshire genes are programmed to find beauty in muck and grime. In the grey sky being reflected on stone cobbles. In black chimneys punctuating flat clouds. In mischievous curves creeping into twisted railway lines. 

A sack-load of art on the back of an old wagon parked in the shade of North Bridge, Halifax. I took this photograph fifty years ago. It’s all been knocked down now and they have built a nice new Leisure Centre in its place. There are probably inspirational pictures inside the Leisure Centre of mountain paths and bright green fields.

Some Escape

This old photograph of mine dates from fifty years ago and it shows a mill fire escape somewhere in Halifax. The good old days, before all this health and safety nonsense, when your mill could catch fire at the drop of a fag end, and a swift exit down the fire escape would give you more thrills than a trip to a theme park; followed by a hundred foot plunge onto a stone cobbled lane. People weren’t mollycoddled back then; their bodies weren’t wrapped in cotton wool ….. just their lungs.

Go To Gaol

At some stage in the late 1960s, large sections of the bottom end of Halifax were demolished. These were the streets that ran from Market Street, down to the appropriately named Winding Road. They are etched into my youthful memory – longer, grander, greater than they undoubtedly were – but their names are largely lost to me. This is one such street. That is Halifax Town Hall in the background, and I have a feeling that it might by Gaol Lane, but I turn to my fellow Haligonians of a certain age for either confirmation or correction.

Salt, Pepper And Hillside

I must have taken this photograph in the late 1960s or early 70s. The two Halifax cooling towers – affectionately known as Salt and Pepper – were demolished in 1974. The first attempt to blow them up was remarkably unsuccessful, and a giant wrecking ball had to be brought in to complete the job. Between the two towers you get a slice of the hillside leading up to Claremount. It appears that it costs almost twice as much to pull them down as it did to build them in the first place. There is some deep quasi-philosophical lesson in there, somewhere, but it’s too early in the morning to find it.

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