Wednesday, 30 September 2009
East Riddlesden Hall
This 17th century manor house is the nearest National Trust property to Saltaire. (The National Trust is a large UK charity which buys, restores and maintains historic old properties and areas of beautiful countryside and coast). East Riddlesden Hall was built in the 1600s, on the site of an older medieval dwelling, by a merchant and clothier, James Murgatroyd, and is furnished inside as it would have been in the 1600s. The part that you see in the picture is a later wing, built in 1692 by Edmund Starkie, James Murgatroyd's great-grandson, which was demolished in 1905, leaving only one wall standing. The Hall is supposed to be haunted by several ghosts, including the Grey Lady. Her husband is said to have discovered her with her lover, so he then punished her by starving her to death.
It does have quite a sombre air about it, because the stonework of the whole building has been blackened by pollution. Local mills and factories, and the coal-fires of houses, meant that urban areas of Britain were very smoky and polluted for 150 years from the start of the Industrial Revolution until laws were passed in the 1960s to control emissions. Even as a child I can remember 'smog' - a terrible black fog that came down sometimes, full of smoke and grit, so thick you couldn't see more than a few feet in front of you. Some of the buildings in Saltaire village are still black, though others have had the stonework cleaned.