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.
There is something so familiar about this photograph, but it is the familiarity of a memory; something that takes the buildings, the hills, the chimneys and the spires and arranges them into familiar patterns. The hillside must be Beacon Hill, Halifax, but it is not the bold, brooding, in-your-face hill that you see to the north-east, but it’s gentler sibling that has been smoothed by a Calderdale glacier. The railway line is the one leading south from Halifax Station, but the track takes twists and turns that seem to go nowhere. My guess is that I must have been standing somewhere close to where the Eureka Museum now stands, but that might just be me trying to fit memories into a geographical framework.
When I was young, and adventurous, and rust-free, I could never resist the opportunities provided by a rainy night when it came to photographic patterns and reflections. I suspect that this is a fairly early photograph of mine, taken in the mid 1960s. I am fairly certain that it was taken in Commercial Street, Halifax from somewhere just outside the Post Office, looking towards Ward’s End. If I am right that is the illuminated sign of the old ABC Cinema towards the left of the picture and the sign of Ramsden’s Stone Trough Brewery in the centre background. The brewery was demolished in 1968, so my photograph obviously pre-dates that. As for the rest of it, you can spend an entertaining minute or so trying to pick out some of the other familiar sights from the darkness: now that I am old and rust-coated, that’s my idea of adventure.
I could never resist a dark rainy night. I must have taken this photo of Commercial Street in Halifax in the mid 1960s: if you look hard enough you can just make out the ABC cinema and Ramsden’s Brewery in the background.
Colour photographs used to be a luxury. Colour film was much more expensive than black and white film, and home processing was not a cheap option. Family pressure meant that I would have to load my camera with a colour film for holidays, but for when I was wandering around the streets of Halifax, Sheffield or Stoke, cheap monochrome film was the norm. Occasionally, however, I would return from holiday and there might have been a colour film, half-used, in the camera. So, equally occasionally, I would walk around whichever town or city I was living in, capturing it in colour. This photograph shows Infirmary Road and Penistone Road in Sheffield, taken, I think, from the vantage point of the Kelvin flats. The date must have been around the mid 1980s.
This is another photo of Burdock Way, Halifax, taken from the same film and shot at the same time – probably about 1990. The road, of course, is still there: what is interesting once again is what is framed between the concrete curves. Whilst there are still garages at the bottom of Boothtown Road, they no longer deal in Lada cars! Ladas are still being manufactured, but you would be lucky to spot one these days speeding along the concrete road that flies over Halifax.
Los Angeles has its iconic HOLLYWOOD sign, and for many years, Halifax had its equally iconic CRAWFORD-SWIFT sign painted on the side of its factory up on the hill at Claremount and overlooking the town. It might not have been celebrated on postcards or t-shirts, but it was part of the culture of a town which was proud of its industrial mix: from carpets to toffees and from machine tools to mortgages. My photograph is a comparatively late one for me, only about thirty years old, but it shows Crawford Swifts framed by the voluptuous concrete curves of Burdock Way.
This is another of my Halifax photographs from the late 1960s or the early 1970s. I’m not sure what caught my eye at the time: possibly the band playing in the rain, maybe the two men (teachers?) engaged in an earnest discussion. I’d like to think it was the Alfred Hitchcock figure with the hat on the extreme right of the photo. The band has just finished playing Funeral March Of A Marionette, the theme tune to Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Beware! my imagination is on the run again.