In 1966 I took a walk around Godley Road and Beacon Hill in Halifax, taking photographs looking down on the town from the hillside. Halifax was already in transition – the mills were falling and the tower blocks rising – and the new Burdock Way would shortly cut through this part of town.
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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 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.
South Lane climbs out of Elland up towards the top of Blackley, but loses interest in the task and peters out amongst some soulless brick factories. Back in the 1970s, when I took this photo, you could still look down on the power station and Gannex Mill. These days industrial units and new housing developments fill up some of the spaces.
One of my photographs from the late ’60s shows the cobbled lane leading from Woodside Road down to Old Lane and Dean Clough. The lane still exists, but these days it is lined by a canopy of trees – and grey has been replaced by green.