Thursday, 8 February 2018

The path less travelled


From Saltaire, I can walk east or west along the canal towpath. More often than not, I choose west, which quickly takes me into fields, woods and wild places. Just occasionally, when I fancy a change, I'll turn east towards Shipley. The walk is much less pretty, cutting through downtown Shipley and skirting some old mills and industrial units. It does eventually reach wilder and more attractive parts, but only after a fair old trek.

Nevertheless, the option is not without interest, especially when I haven't been that way for a while. Beyond Saltaire and Salts Wharf, one of the first points of intrigue is this little old cottage: Gallows Bridge Cottage. It dates back to 1834, though it has been extensively renovated. I read that it may once have been the home of a 'lengthsman', someone who patrolled and cared for a designated length of the canal. The footbridge beyond is Gallows Bridge, which was built around the same time as the cottage. There has always been a bridge here, protecting an ancient right of way, since this part of the canal was completed in 1774.  I'm not sure what the 'gallows' in the name refers to... something even more ancient - and deadly, perhaps? You might think the cottage an idyllic place to live, but it is a bit isolated as indicated by the several CCTV cameras and alarm.


A few hundred yards further on, you pass Junction Bridge, a typical single-arched canal bridge dated 1774. It's held together in parts by concrete but you can still see the old, worn, stone setts across the middle. The building beyond is Junction House, sadly now very derelict. It was once a warehouse, boatmen's lodgings and had a canal toll-house attached. There's some interesting information about this whole area HERE, which is an extensive assessment of the area for conservation purposes. The 'junction' referred to is that between the now defunct Bradford canal, which  branched off here, and the main Leeds-Liverpool Canal.

The conservation document is not complimentary about the newish flats and town houses in the development alongside the canal (on the left below), which it calls an 'unsympathetic inward-facing modern development'. The buildings on the right of Junction Bridge are Junction Mills and Dockfield Mills, once worsted mills, still used as commercial premises.


7 comments:

  1. The development left stands on what used to be Ramsey's boatyard where many Shipley wooden canal barges were built. As a boy I well recall thumping up the cut with 40 tons of coal aboard. In 1958 Dockfield Mill was very busy. It was summer and the weaving girls on the first floor came to the open windows waving and calling to us as we thundered by......lovely days ......

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  2. So interesting! And I love Peter's comment -- really brings the place to life.

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  3. Such fascinating history and an interesting area to walk. That old bridge is lovely, but I would never be able to walk on that uneven surface without some help!

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  4. One definitely does not associate the word gallows with anything positive. I do like the old cottage.

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  5. The cottage looks nice and well protected. They must have had some troubles in the past.

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  6. It doesn't matter which way you walk you manage to make pleasing photographs.

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  7. Another interesting and informative walk with you. I think the conservationists are a bit too snarky about the modern development. Not everything is going to be suitable as the set for a BBC Victorian drama.

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