After publishing one of my old vintage postcards of Brookfoot – which is little more than a bend in the river a mile or so west of Brighouse – on a Facebook local history site, I started a trawl through my collection to see if I had any more postcards featuring the same spot. I was delighted – and somewhat surprised – to discover I had three: a Brookfoot triptych! During the great postcard boom years, local photographers and publishers were combing the glens and bends of the country, looking for subject matter, and even tiny hamlets like Brookfoot had their five minutes of pictorial fame. Or, in the case of Brookfoot, fifteen minutes!
Tag Archives: Vintage Postcards
This is an old picture postcard featuring Crown Street in Halifax at the beginning of the twentieth century. Although it dates from an age of horse carriages and gas lights, it is a scene which will be familiar to all those who know the town. Most of the buildings featured in the view are still there; and although the striped awnings and crowded shop windows may have been replaced by neon lights and plastic signs, the shape of the architecture is unchanged.
The card was posted in July 1904, at the height of the great postcard collecting craze of the early twentieth century. The message is a direct ancestor of so many text messages of 100 years or more later : “I am at Halifax. I will write again Tuesday night. From Ernest“. The message is of little interest to us today, but the image it was scrawled on the back of, provides us with a direct line to our past.
Old picture postcards provide us with a fine indication of what people saw as important about the area in which they lived or they were visiting. On some occasions they would reflect great industrial or commercial achievement: tall mills, railway viaducts that put mother nature in her place, or busy street scenes full of shops, hotels and lines of horses and carriages. On other occasions they would highlight natural wonders: plunging gorges, tall mountains and ever-winding rivers. There was always an element of local pride in the displayed photographs, and because this was an era of vibrant local government, it was civic pride that was on display. That is why so many of these classic postcards of the first two decades of the twentieth century feature local parks.
This example features three photographs of two of the finest parks in Halifax: Akroyd Park and People’s Park. The origin of both can be traced to two of the foremost textile families of the town: – the Akroyd’s and the Crossley’s. Bankfield Museum and the surrounding Akroyd Park were the former home of Colonel Edward Akroyd (1810-1887): mill-owner, reformer, Member of Parliament, and the prime mover behind a host of schemes to improve the lives of working people. Shortly before his death – and after he had retired to the seaside – Halifax Town Council bought the Bankfield estate for £6,000, using the mansion to house the town museum and the grounds to form a public park.
This was not the town’s first park, by any means. Akroyd had already been one of the prime movers behind the creation of Shroggs Park, and Henry Charles McCrea had given both West View Park and Albert Promenade to the town. But perhaps Halifax’s most famous park was the gift of another of these textile titans – Sir Francis Crossley and his creation People’s Park.
Crossley, never one to avoid a religiously uplifting story, later wrote about how the idea of the park came to him, during a visit to Canada and the USA in 1855. He wrote about the time that he and his party visited the White Mountains in the State of Maine, in the following terms:-
“I remember that when we arrived at the hotel at White Mountains, the ladies sat down to a cup of tea, but I preferred to take a walk alone. It was a beautiful spot. The sun was just then reclining his head behind Mount Washington, with all that glorious drapery of an American sunset, of which we know nothing in this country. I felt that I should like to be walking with my God on this earth! I said, ‘What shall I render to my Lord for all His benefits to me?’ I was led further to repeat that question which Paul asked under other circumstances, ‘Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?’ The answer came immediately. It was this: ‘It is true thou canst not bring the many thousands thou hast left in thy native country to see this beautiful scenery; but thou canst create beautiful scenes for them. It is possible on a suitable spot so to arrange art and nature, that they shall be within the walk of every working man in Halifax; that he shall go and take his stroll there after he has done his hard day’s toil, and be able to get home again without being tired.'”
Francis Crossley kept this moment of divine intervention in the forefront of his mind and on his return to Halifax immediately set about realising it. He hired the most famous landscape designer of his day – Sir Joseph Paxton, who, a few years earlier had designed the iconic Crystal Palace – to lay out a park in Halifax and on the 14th August 1857, a day declared a public holiday in Halifax, the People’s Park was opened.
This particular postcard which features these three views of Halifax parks was sent in 1915 by an unknown visitor to the town. In the brief message on the reverse of the card she mentions the parks – “the parks are nice here”. Brief as it is, it is a fitting memorial to the town and the parks it was so proud of.
For my News From Nowhere Christmas Card this year, I have chosen a vintage postcard of a snow-covered Halifax Parish Church, which forms part of my Postcards From Homeseries. I am having some difficulty in pinning down the precise date of the photograph – the postcard had not been used, which removes one means of dating it – but from the style of the card, I would guess sometime in the 1920s or 1930s.
Work on the Church of St John The Baptist in Halifax was started as early as the 12th century and largely completed by 1438. In 2009 it was made one of the three Minster Churches of West Yorkshire (the others being Dewsbury and Leeds).
At some stage, somebody made the brave decision not to clean up the stone work on the church; and so, even today, in a very physical way, the church tells the story of the hard work and industry that has always been a part of life in the parish.
All that remains is for me to wish everyone a Very Happy Christmas and a Peaceful New Year.
This 1904 postcard shows a view that will still be familiar to any Halifax resident: the grand facade of the Old Market Arcade, looking towards Market Street and the Woolshops area. The buildings at the bottom of Old Market have changed since this photograph was taken – and are changing again – but the gloroious building that dominates this scene is still just as magnificent today as it was at the beginning of the last century. The shop at the bottom of Old Market was that of Eagland Bray & Son, grocer and provisioner. Eagland Bray established the firm sixty years before this photograph was taken, and during his life he was a prominent town councillor and pillar of the Wesleyan church. The shop on the top corner of Old Market was that of Gibson Dixon, chemist, druggist, and mineral water manufacturer. We should never take for granted the pleasure and delight of being able to walk by, and shop in, these same magnificent buildings today.
A vintage postcard of North Bridge, in Halifax, back in the days when it was the main route out of town to the north. Back then, the buildings hugged the side of the road at both ends of the bridge, and it did not have to live under the concrete shadow of the Burdock Way overpass. People streamed over the bridge, as did trams and horses and carts, on their way to Boothtown, Northowram, Southowram and beyond. The building on the right of the picture is the old Grand Theatre, now sadly gone, but when I started crossing the bridge on a daily basis in the late 1950s, it was still just about there. The buildings on the left still survive, but look lost and a little lonely these days. Practically all of what you can see on the far side of the bridge, was swept away in the construction of Burdock Way and its associated roads and roundabout some fifty years ago. I can just about remember the area as a patchwork of shops, mills, pubs and streets of terraced houses.
This particular postcard was posted in 1913, although the photograph probably dates from ten years earlier. The card was sent to Alice and Edith Nutter from their friend Gladys, and is full for the inconsequential chatter that is now the stuff of text messages. Undoubtedly, text messages are cheaper and quicker to reach their destination. But who will look at a text message in one hundred years time and see a picture of Halifax that no longer exists?
This is a scene which will be all too familiar for Halifax residents of this present age. After the long slog up Salterhebble Hill, and the inevitable wait at the hospital traffic lights, drivers heading for Halifax can now speed past the restaurant that used to be the Stafford Arms Inn, with no tram lines or pedestrians walking in the middle of the road to avoid. The Stafford Arms had been around for more than 160 years when it was eventually closed and converted into a restaurant in 2010. I remember it back in the 1960s, when it had the reputation of being a rather superior public house, (needless to say, I wasn’t a regular). Alas, it has now gone the way of so many pubs in West Yorkshire, and exists merely as a picture postcard memory.
The card was posted in September 1922 – although I strongly suspect that the photograph dates from at least ten years before that. It appears to have been sent by Mrs Cranford to a Miss King in Lincoln. The message is as follows:-
We got away for a few days. The weather is lovely. I was nearly killed last night climbing hills. This is just at the top where we live.
The hill in question is no doubt Salterhebble Hill, and I can well imagine that poor Mrs Cranford was nearly killed climbing it. When they first built the tramway system in Halifax, they feared that no conventional tramcar could cope with Salterhebble Hill, and for a time considered either a tramcar lift or an inclined plane. Both suggestions were eventually dismissed, and those feisty Edwardian engineers eventually managed to get a conventional tram to climb the hill. If, in this modern day and age, you leave the car behind and choose to walk up the hill, there will be no refreshing pint waiting to reward you at the Stafford Arms.