Everything seemed simpler 100 years ago, there was less clutter. The mills were proportionate, their chimneys vertical, the houses in neat rows and the canal cut straight through the landscape.
This picture postcard of the area known as Brookfoot just to the west of Brighouse, is fairly typical of the first decade of the twentieth century. The colours are a little crude and the detail is less than pin-sharp. However, it provides a good representation of the lower Calder Valley when roads were still of secondary importance to the canal, and satanic mills seemed to sprout from the green meadows.
The message on the reverse of the card takes us to far more exotic parts of the world. On the face of it, it is a simple message between two friends (old school friends I suspect): Arthur Dodds who is living in Brighouse and D H Gawne who is resident in Bradfield College, near Reading. The message reads as follows:
November 11, 1910
I am trying some other rooms next week and after Monday my address will be c/o Mrs Reside, 3 Close Lea, Rastrick, Brighouse. Mr Ray Priestley is going with Scott’s Expedition. I have not seen the result of your match with Queen’s College. Hope you are well.
Yours, Arthur S Dodds
It is, of course, the reference to Ray Priestley (a mutual friend I assume) that is intriguing. Ray (Sir Raymond Edward Priestley) did indeed accompany Captain Scott on his ill-fated Antarctic Expedition of 1910-13. He was not a member of the polar party but he was part of the group that got stranded whilst exploring the coast of Victoria Land. He did, however, survive and went on to serve in the Signal Corps in the Great War. He later had a distinguished career in higher education serving as Vice Chancellor of both the University of Melbourne in Australia and the University of Birmingham in Britain. It’s funny where old picture postcards can take you.
Bull Green, Halifax in the 1950s. Little has changed as far as the built environment is concerned, but it is a different world revolving around the roundabout these days.
I suspect that this postcard dates from the 1950s, but as it was never postally used I have no proof of that. The Bull Green we see in the photograph is certainly the Bull Green that emerged from the redevelopment of the area in the early 1930s, and one suspects that the photograph was taken from the newly built Bull Green House. A similar photograph today wouldn’t be all that different: most of the buildings you can see have survived (other than the rather ornate bus shelter). The road layout is different as are the crossings, and you would have to be up very early in the morning to see so few cars on the road.
Some say that Bull Green got its name from a bull baiting arena; others say it was the site of an old cattle market – as was the adjacent Cow Green. Why there were two distinct markets, I do not know: some strange Methodist propriety perhaps?
Postcards From Home : Commercial Street, Halifax (1908)
When it came to buildings, the folk of West Yorkshire favoured banks and chapels; temples to the soul and to commerce; brass and bibles.
This fine building was erected in 1898 for the Halifax and Huddersfield Union Banking Company. To make way for it, part of Somerset House was demolished, but architectural vandalism can perhaps be excused if the vandals in question have decent taste. Today it hangs on as the premises of Lloyds Bank, but in an era of ATM’s and on-line banking who knows how long it will be before it becomes an empty and soulless shell.
The card was used in February 1908 for Bert to send his “kind regards” to Miss Fildes of Pendleton, Lancashire. The likely recipient of his regards was Jessie Fildes a twenty-five year old hand weaver. There is a record of a Jessie Fildes marrying a Albert Torkington in 1918, but whether this is the same Jessie and Bert, we may never know. It it nice to think, however, that those kind regards bore fruit.
Much of my early life seems to be in this old picture postcard. My father worked at the factory on the left; for a time I worked in the mill on the right. My school is on the horizon, my youth on the soot-coated streets around the market.
This old postcard features a view of North Bridge, Halifax which must have been taken in the first decade of the twentieth century. The building on the left of the photograph is still there but the one on the right, the old Grand Theatre, is long gone.
The theatre was built in 1889 on the site of the earlier Gaiety Theatre which burnt down in 1888. At the time the photograph was taken it was a popular venue for variety theatre and the kind of melodramas the Edwardians had a particular passion for. The show beings advertised was “Bootle’s Baby”, the synopsis of which was as follows: “A captain’s secret wife plants a baby on a friend and he weds her when the captain is killed!”
The theatre and its melodramas may be long gone, but the old bridge is still there, although a more modern flyover takes most of the traffic, thus sparing its old cast iron bones. The mill chimneys have also gone and the soot encrustation has been scraped from the walls of the remaining buildings.
The postcard was used in August 1905 and sent to Miss A Speechley os Kirk-Michael in the Isle Of Man. The message is as follows:-
Dear A, I am out again you see at such a lovely place, right out on the Moors outside Halifax. it reminds me of the Isle of man, am waiting for a letter from you. Yours love, E Beaumont (Mrs Smith, The Gleddings, Halifax)
I am tempted to think that the sender, E Beaumont, was employed as a domestic worker by Mrs Smith. I am not sure whether the Gleddings was the current building of that name (now a school) or a neighbouring house on Birdcage Lane. But there again, perhaps Mrs Smith was a captain’s secret wife …!
This old picture postcard was never used and therefore we don’t have a postmark to help us date it. It was published by a Halifax firm – Ryley’s of 27, Southgate – but I have been unable to trace when they were active in business. The photograph appears to have been taken at eight in the morning and there is little traffic about to help us with the dating process, other than a rather indistinct motorcycle of indeterminate vintage. This, however, is one of those rare occasions when we can proclaim “Saved by the Bank!”. On the corner of Crossley Street and Town Hall Street East in the picture, you can plainly make out the offices of the Union of London and Smiths Bank Limited. This particular conglomerate was formed in 1903 by the merger of the Union Bank of London and Smiths Bank, but was short lived; being acquired in 1918 by the National Provincial Bank, and being renamed the National Provincial and Union Bank of England. Banks – neither then nor now – have ever been shy about spending a bob or two to re-brand themselves, so we can assume that the old name plates were quickly taken down and replaced by new ones. We therefore have a time window: the rest is down to gut instincts based on design, printing process and the look of the streets. In conclusion, I suspect that we are looking at a photograph of Halifax Town Hall taken somewhere around 1912.