Tag Archives: History

20 Images : 2. On Finding A New Motor Hearse Up My Back Passage

The great garage clear-out brought to light a crumbling old copy of the Halifax Courier and Guardian dated the 4th February 1922. The big news of the day was not the economic and political crisis that Britain was going through, nor was it the developing Irish Civil War: it was the delivery of a new motor hearse to the Halifax undertakers, Messrs J Marsh & Co.

Halifax Courier & Guardian  4 February 1922

Random Times :Riding Off Into The Shipley Sunset In A Bentley

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“Random History” is what happens when you mix together a newspaper archive, a random number generator and a man with too much time on his hands. Today our random-driven time machine takes us back to SATURDAY 21 JULY 1934, and the West Yorkshire town of Shipley.
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The front page of the Shipley Times and Express seems to be totally dominated by a speech from the local Member of Parliament, J Horace Lockwood, to the Annual Garden Fete at the Windhill Conservative Club. The speech is a lengthy one and about as interesting as a mouldy corned-beef sandwich. I have the full text, and I will happily provide it to anyone who can come up with a good reason for wanting to read it.
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To understand the degree of inappropriateness of the MPs words, you need to see them in the context of the economic and social situation of the times. Britain remained in the grips of the Great Depression, and unemployment in many northern towns was still in the realms of 30%. Poverty was widespread, housing conditions were appalling, and any social benefits available were based on the cruel system  of “the means test”. Singing the praises of the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Neville Chamberlain, Mr Lockwood told his Conservative audience: “He has tried to make our national income greater than our national expenditure and because of that we have comfort, financial safety, safety of property and of persons.”
Large parts of his speech are self-congratulatory and contain warnings about lies and half-truths from opponents and the press alike: the words almost have a Trumpian feel about them. No MP works harder for his constituents, he declares. Criticism was acceptable, he said, “but continual back biting, under-hand methods, and the sayings of untruths or, worse still, half truths, was a very difficult thing to combat“. It is unclear what the criticism and half-truths were, but it is interesting to note that within twelve months of the speech, he had been deselected by the local Conservative Party and went on to come fourth in the 1935 General Election in Shipley, standing as an independent Conservative.
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1811-008Leaving politics aside, 1934 was a good year to buy a motor car – if you were lucky enough to be able to afford one. Appleyard’s of Leeds were advertising  1933 Morris cars from as little as £110, and as an added bonus, every car was fitted with four new Dunlop tyres! But if you really wanted a bargain, you could turn to the second-hand cars being sold by local garages, and, in particular, the 1929 4.5 litre Bentley which was on sale for just £350 (taking inflation into account that is equivalent of around £17,500 today). It is interesting to note that a similar 1929 Bentley 4.5 litre car was sold at auction last year for about £750,000 (which is the equivalent of a lot of money today).
I have not been able to discover what Mr Lockwood did after losing his seat in the 1935 elections – perhaps he bought a second-hand Bentley and rode off into the political sunset.

Pigeons In Ruperra

The Duke At Ruperra

This is an intriguing little photograph (just six by four centimetres) from a tiny album of photographs I bought on what we in Yorkshire call t’internet. All the photographs date from 1931 and 1932 and were taken in and around Ruperra Castle in Wales. At the time, the castle was owned by Evan Morgan, 4th Baron and 2nd Viscount Tredegar who was a noted eccentric and poet who had interests in the occult. He also had a circle of famous friends from the world of the arts and entertainment – including Aldious Huxley, Lord Alfred Douglas, Augustus John, Nancy Cunard and H.G. Wells. At the time of this photograph (April 30 1931) Morgan used Ruperra Castle for weekend gatherings of his “set”. I have no idea who the man featured in the photograph is, but the picture is captioned, “Duke, Ruperra”.

During World War II, Morgan joined M15 where he was given the suitably eccentric task of monitoring the flight of carrier pigeons. He seemingly let slip departmental secrets to two Girl Guides (you couldn’t make this up!) and he was court-martialed out of the service.

Mechanical History

Stainland Mechanics Institute

During the 19th Century there was a great tradition of building Mechanic’s Institutes in the towns and villages of the industrial north of England. Not only were these centres for adult education, cultural enrichment, and political debate; they were also fine buildings in their own right. A small number still pursue their original function, but most have been converted for other uses.

Stainland Mechanics Institute

I walked passed the one in Stainland, near Halifax, a couple of days ago. It is an outstanding building which is now appears to be used for accommodation.

That’s History For You

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It started as the Wheatsheaf, way back when. The current building is part of Halifax Borough Market and dates from the 1890s, but it seems that a Wheatsheaf pub was on Market Street before that. In the 1970s, the pub name was changed to The William Deighton, in memory of the excise officer murdered by the Cragg Vale Coiners back in the middle of the eighteenth century. Twenty years later it was renamed again: becoming the Portman and Pickles in celebration of two famous Halifax born actors. Having developed a fine line in names that evoked local history, all that was abandoned in 2012 when the name was changed again to The Jubilee, to commemorate some royal jubilee or another. It seems a bit of a shame – there are countless jubilees, but there was only one William Deighton.

Two of the men convicted of murdering William Deighton were executed at Tyburn in York in 1775 and later their bodies were brought to Beacon Hill in Halifax and hung there in chains. It is said that their bodies were so arranged that their lifeless fingers were pointing towards Bull Close Lane, the site of the murder. If the Wheatsheaf / William Deighton / Portman & Pickles / Jubilee had been standing then, you could have seen the lifeless bodies hanging on Beacon Hill from the upstairs window. Now that’s history for you!

Random History : A Dying Man And A Missing Girl

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Historical events are not random: each follows from a series of previous events and leads to a range of future events. Causes and consequences hold history together like the threads of a spiders’ web. Sometimes, however, the best way to examine these limitless connections is to jump into history at random: one day, one year, one newspaper – selected by a random number generator.

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DAILY HERALD : 14 NOVEMBER 1933

1806.309Nothing changes: disarmament talks are going nowhere, trade wars are rife, there’s a war in Afghanistan, daylight robbery and old people killed by speeding cars! But there is one story that you don’t see every week – a Hollywood starlet being divorced by her husband because he “does not want her to be tied to a dying man!”
Ahh – if only it were true. It turns out that Judith Allen was the one doing the divorcing whilst her husband of a few months was recovering from a heart attack in hospital. She had already been seen out on a date with Gary Cooper. Sonnenberg, in fact, survived another nine years (and another marriage) and died of illness whilst serving in the American Navy during the Second World War.
Judith Allen lived a long life (1911-1996) and married a couple more times after leaving poor Gus Sonnenberg in his hospital bed. She starred in a number of not very well known films during the 1930s, including one entitled “The Port Of Missing Girls”. By some unfortunate coincidence, Judith Allen shares the front page of the Daily Herald with a story of a young woman, Mrs Madeleine Buxton, who went missing from a ship en route to the port of Southampton.
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