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Friday, 30 April 2010

St George's Day Parade

Last Sunday, the nearest to St George's Day, saw the annual parade of local 'uniformed groups' (which means Cubs, Scouts, Guides - and as seen here, Sea Scouts.) I wasn't aware it was happening and was just setting off from home for a walk when I saw the parade passing down Victoria Road through the centre of Saltaire. In the interests of reportage, I ran to catch them up - hence the rather less than flattering rear view! But using this picture also gives me chance to show you the scaffold and sheeting that has suddenly mushroomed up around Saltaire United Reformed Church. It rather spoils its impact.... It's all part of the ongoing renovation and restoration work, starting with repairing the canopy in front of the tower, replacing rotten timbers, making it watertight and resetting the steps. It's sad that people making a special trip to visit Saltaire won't get to see the church in its full glory for some time to come. Never mind, there are other gems to see in the village, and you can still view the inside of the church.

Incidentally, there's a bit of a campaign to get England to celebrate St George's Day more lavishly, but unlike the Scots, Welsh and Irish we don't seem all that bothered about our Patron Saint.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Homage to a rusty fence

I was only away from Saltaire just over a week but I keep noticing things that have changed in my absence - both in the natural world (the trees have burst forth leaves and blossom in glorious adandon) and in the man-made environment. Saltaire's church is suddenly shrouded in scaffolding and screening (not a good look!).

But more shocking to me has been the removal of The Fence. This was an old corrugated iron structure that separated one of the local cricket fields from the canal towpath - perhaps for safety reasons? (to stop people rolling down the hill?) or possibly - rumour has it - that at one time the cricket club used to charge spectators to watch their matches, so it stopped non-paying voyeurs. Whatever the reason, it was an ugly old fence, but I was incredibly inspired by the colours - rust and lichen - and regularly used to stop to take photos of it in different lights. People must have thought me mad! And now it's gone! I must admit the view has improved, as its removal has really opened up the area - but where will I get inspiration now?

Anyway, I felt I should post a photo, as a mark of respect for my old friend, gone to the final scrapyard. If I was a talented poet like Martin H at Square Sunshine, I'd write an Ode to it! If you'd like to see it in its former glory, it snakes its orange way through the middle of this photo (view it large).

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Journey's End

Day Five - journey's end at last - in the very attractive village of Warkworth. Built on a loop in the River Coquet, the village is dominated by Warkworth Castle, with its medieval (14th century) keep, towering walls and gatehouse. The castle belonged to the Percy family for a large part of its history. The first Earl of Northumberland's son, 'Harry Hotspur', became a legendary figure. Shakespeare's Henry IV Part II begins at Warkworth Castle: "this worm-eaten hold of ragged stone, where Hotspur's father, old Northumberland, lies crafty-sick." These days the castle, reflected so beautifully in the river, has a lovely air of tranquillity that belies its colourful past.

And so we packed up our boots and headed home...but I always feel I leave a little of myself behind in the fresh air and wonderful space of this part of England. I'm grateful for the beautiful weather we had. (Nothing short of miraculous, some would say! - not a drop of rain for five whole days, though it did rain the day we came home.) No blisters, no injuries, lots of photos and some lovely memories of a wonderful time with friends. Aren't holidays great?

Ah well, back to Saltaire tomorrow, folks....Hope you enjoyed the vacation.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Saddle Rock & Dunstanburgh

Day Four's walking, mostly along the beach, was from Seahouses via Beadnell to Craster, an attractive little fishing village with another small harbour. (Craster is famous for its smoked fish - kippers and salmon.) These beaches are some of the best - long stretches of golden sand with outcrops of rock that give lovely rockpools. The rock formation above is known as Saddle Rock - a folded limestone outcrop, buckled by the intrusion of molten dolerite (locally called whinstone). It was at about this point that I nearly got felled by a flying golfball. The cry of "Fore!" made me reconsider the shot I was about to bag, of an orange flag against the outline of Dunstanburgh Castle! Northumberland must be heaven for golfers (those prepared to put up with a bit of wind, anyway.)

And here is Dunstanburgh Castle - an impressive ruin that from a distance looks a bit like teeth! Built in 1313 by Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, it was a status symbol rather than a strategic castle, to demonstrate the Earl's opposition to King Edward II. The Earl's rebellion was defeated and he was executed in 1322. The castle was strengthened and improved by John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster in the late 1300s and during the Wars of the Roses it was captured twice by the Yorkists. After that, the castle fell to ruin - but what remains has survived for nearly 700 years! It's now in the care of English Heritage.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Seahouses harbour

And so on to Seahouses, which is a lovely little seaside town with proper amenities like good fish and chip shops and pubs, ice cream and gift shops. It has an attractive harbour, which gave me an hour of deep enjoyment, wandering around with my camera in the evening light. You can take boat trips from here to the Farne Islands to see the birds and seals. Seahouses also has a RNLI Lifeboat. I always used to love looking around lifeboat stations as a child and marvelling at the heroic stories - they usually have pictures and newspaper cuttings on display about their rescues. I find it astonishing that the lifeboats are crewed by volunteers - what heroes!

I took far too many photos that evening. (Thank heavens for digital!) The colours were glorious and it was all so tempting.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Bamburgh Castle

(Best viewed large)
The third day's walking, from Belford to Seahouses, was, I think, my favourite. It took us through the Nature Reserve at Budle Bay, and then on to Bamburgh, a small village with a magnificent castle. (You could spend a week simply visiting all the amazing castles in Northumberland - Lindisfarne, Bamburgh, Alnwick, Dunstanburgh, Warkworth.) Bamburgh was once the capital of the ancient kingdom of Northumbria. There has been a castle here since 547, initially a wooden one, and the present structure incorporates a Norman keep dating from 1164. Some of the castle is still inhabited (it has belonged to the Armstrong family since 1894) as well as being a major tourist attraction and wedding venue.

The village itself is attractive (one of its coffee shops provided a welcome stop for us!). St Aidan's Church has a memorial to Grace Darling, daughter of the Longstone lighthouse keeper on the Farne Islands, who, in 1838, helped rescue nine people from the wreck of the SS Forfarshire in a terrible storm, using only a coble (a large rowing boat). It's an interesting story and she became a celebrated Victorian heroine, much sentimentalised.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

The Great Britain III

Our second day's walking in Northumberland took us another 13 or so miles from Holy Island to Belford, which is a village slightly inland. We were following St Cuthbert's Way, a way-marked path that goes past St Cuthbert's Cave, one of the places where it's said that the monks rested with St Cuthbert's bones when they were fleeing the Vikings.

We had to cross the busy A1 road, as well as the main Edinburgh to London East Coast rail line (which involved protracted chats by phone with a signalman!) As we were walking towards the line, we more or less bumped into this steam train. On searching the web I have discovered it was a Railway Touring Company tour - the Great Britain III - on its way from Edinburgh to York and then London. At this point the loco was the Princess Elizabeth 46201. And that, not being a train buff, is all I know. But I do like to see steam trains and so it was a serendipitous moment.

(For those who like trains, a click on the pic will make it bigger.)

Friday, 23 April 2010


Not me sailing...I was walking...but I can still feel the wind in my hair. The Northumbrian coastline has marvellous long sandy beaches, with hardly a body on them. (If you could guarantee the weather, I suppose they'd be covered in sun-loungers, so there is something to be said for British summers).

Thursday, 22 April 2010

St Cuthbert

There's much more to Holy Island than the castle and the sea. The village of Lindisfarne itself is very attractive and good for exploring (not to mention eating the fudge and tasting the Lindisfarne mead!) The island and surrounding bay is also a National Nature Reserve: a wintering ground for pale-bellied brent geese, eider ducks and all manner of waders and other birds.

But this tiny island was also the place where, during the Dark Ages after the Roman occupation, Celtic Christianity took root and spread throughout the north of England. In 635 AD, the Irish monk St Aidan came from the Scottish island of Iona and founded a Benedictine monastery on Lindisfarne, at the invitation of the Anglo-Saxon Christian King Oswald at the nearby castle of Bamburgh. The monks worked as missionaries, spreading the gospel throughout pagan Northumbria. It was one of the great seats of Christian learning and was where the Lindisfarne Gospels - beautifully illuminated manuscripts now in the British Library - were written.
In 665, St Cuthbert became the abbey's Prior, before living as a hermit for ten years on the island called Inner Farne, and then becoming Bishop of Northumbria. He died on Inner Farne and was buried at Lindisfarne. Many healing miracles were claimed and his relics became venerated. In 875, Vikings attacked the island and some of the monks escaped with the body of St Cuthbert, which was eventually reburied in Durham. His shrine is now part of the great Norman cathedral there.

(You will note that I've been putting into practice what I learned this week on my course - 3D frames! I think it's not bad for a first attempt...)

PS I have just learned through Bob's Durham Daily Photo blog that the sculpture is "The Journey" by Fenwick Lawson. This is made in elm and there is a similar work cast in bronze in Durham's Millennium Square. Thanks Bob!

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

The Holy Island of Lindisfarne

Day One's walking was Berwick on Tweed to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne (about 13 miles). We deliberately made an early start and did some fairly determined walking to arrive at Holy Island's causeway before the tide covered it over. You can get stuck if you're not careful - and we didn't fancy 4 or 5 hours sitting watching the tide come in and out! Anyway, we made it in good time and were rewarded by a fabulous sunny afternoon to explore the island. I've been several times before and it has to be one of my favourite places of all. It's beautiful and very unspoiled. I just blissed out, wandering around with my camera. The photo shows a fishing boat coming into the lagoon harbour, with Lindisfarne Castle in the background. That's now run by the National Trust and has an interesting history - it's a Tudor (1550) fort that had a makeover into a private house by Edward Lutyens in 1903. There's also a small walled garden designed by Gertrude Jekyll, but I didn't get as far as that on this trip.

We stayed at the Lindisfarne Hotel on Holy Island - a lovely place, where we received a very warm welcome. I highly recommend it. (I had a four-poster bed....all to myself!)

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

I'm back!

Well, I'm back! (If you didn't miss me all last week, it's because of Blogger's auto-publishing feature, ensuring a photo a day got posted in absentia. I'm looking forward to catching up on everyone else's posts that I've missed.)

I have been walking the Northumberland Coastal Path with a group of friends. It's been a great week, with fantastic weather, ideal for walking - cool but mostly bright and not a drop of rain. The scenery in Northumberland is stunning and the walking was good. The walk was about 55 miles in total over 5 days - not too demanding, and I survived without blisters, so that was a relief. Even though it's nowhere near Saltaire (it's something like 130 miles north), I shall post a few photos, just because Northumberland is such a lovely part of England and many people aren't familiar with it.

We started our walk in Berwick upon Tweed, which is an ancient port and fortified town, right on the border of Scotland and England. It has inevitably had a turbulent history, but is now a peaceful old place, surrounded by magnificent thick walls and with plenty to explore. My first photo shows the old houses on the Quay Walls. Berwick sits on the north shore of the River Tweed and has three bridges - the oldest, shown above, was built in 1624 to replace an earlier wooden bridge. We enjoyed a lovely evening meal at 1 Sallyport. Sadly we weren't staying there, but at the Castle Hotel which doesn't seem to have changed much since LS Lowry, the artist, stayed there!

Monday, 19 April 2010

Spring flowers

It's that time of year when even a non-gardener like me begins to think that the pots and tubs in the yard could do with some colour. I saw these colourful spring flowers for sale outside a florist's shop. I would have bought some but for the fact that I had a train ride and a bus ride to get home, so they would most likely have got squashed.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Magic Number 3

Next door to Shimu on Victoria Road, Saltaire is the shop intriguingly named Magic Number 3. This started life as a delicatessen and café that sold wonderful arty things on the side. Now the shop specialises in stylish, ethical, fairly traded clothing and accessories - including Eloise Grey tweeds made from organic tweeds woven on the Scottish island of Mull. Accessories include shoes, bags, hats and scarves made from organic fibres and recycled materials - even belts made from recycled fire hoses!

At first glance the clothing looks very 'trendy', aimed perhaps at the younger generations, but in fact the high-quality clothing is beautifully styled and there are many pieces suitable for oldies like me! The shop also stocks a natural skincare range and a good selection of arts and crafts, many sourced locally. They currently have distinctive prints by artist/printmaker Clare Caulfield, and paintings by David Starley - both Saltaire residents; as well as constantly changing displays of ceramics, jewellery, photographs, and cards.

It's well-worth a browse - and a great place to hunt for a special gift for a discerning friend or relative.

(And by the way, Salts Walks, the guided walks round Saltaire, start from outside Magic Number 3 .... more about those soon).

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Shimu reflection

'Shimu' Oriental Furniture and Accessories has a shop in the middle of the terrace on Victoria Road, Saltaire (see yesterday's photo). I must confess that oriental artefacts are not really my kind of thing (and I'm not certain that they'd sit very well in a Victorian terrace in Saltaire, though no doubt some people would have the creative flair to carry that off). But the shop does display some beautifully crafted and interesting things in the window.

Even more interesting to me (!) is the fact that the shop window is in just the right place to reflect the long south frontage of Salts Mill and its huge chimney. So I stand by the window and play that game that I used to play as a child, altering the focus of my eyes from near to far and back again. It's like a kind of hologram - now I see Salts Mill, now I see a green horse. Try it!

Friday, 16 April 2010

Victoria Road shops

I took this photo of Saltaire's Victoria Road shops recently, on a sunny - but freezing cold - early Spring day, (though those with good eyesight may spot that they still have their Christmas trees outside!) Directly opposite Salts Mill and just beside the railway station, this parade was always designed as shops, as part of the overall village plan. Though the businesses change hands from time to time and there are few shops now (with the exception of the newsagent's and bakery) that really cater for the local community, nevertheless the terrace still forms an attractive focal point in the village. And judging by the numbers of visitors (ie: cars!) even on a cold blustery day, people enjoy visiting Saltaire and browsing round the Mill and shops. You can really only see this view when the trees and shrubs are bare. I like the symmetry of the buildings, with the three storey bit set in the middle of the lower roofline... and of course those distinctive rounded windows.

The 1871 census records several trades on Victoria Road: grocers (2 or 3), draper (clothes & fabric), milliner (hats), general dealer, fruit merchant, butcher, chemist & postmaster, boot & shoe maker. So you could get most things you needed in those days. And there were lots of other stores scattered through the village.

See here, here and here for a closer look at some of the modern businesses.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Spring reflections

Blue sky and forsythia blossom reflected in the Leeds-Liverpool canal, in the centre of Saltaire. You can see the Victoria Road bridge and, behind it, part of Salts Mill - in fact, the wing where Sir Titus Salt had his private quarters, right at the heart of things.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Hospital door

Salts Hospital, Saltaire (see yesterday's photo), which is now converted into apartments, has this rather splendid door at what was originally the main entrance. With the rounded arched top so characteristic of Saltaire's architecture and the name and date set into the glass, it is a fine example of the grand design found throughout the village. Exquisite detailing and intricate motifs abound in Saltaire, with elegantly crafted examples of stonemasonry on even the most functional of buildings.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Salts Hospital unmasked

Salts Hospital sits at one corner of Alexandra Square, next to the almshouses. My earlier photograph of it showed it shrouded in scaffolding, having some repair work done. Opened in 1868, the hospital was originally just a two-storey building. It was intended as a six-bedded casualty ward to deal with accidents at Salts Mill, but it developed into a cottage hospital for the whole community. Saltaire had a sickness benefit scheme into which workers could apparently pay 1 shilling a month. The company paid a third of this and the Scheme paid out 8 shillings a week if you were ill. In 1909 the hospital was extended to three floors and sixteen beds, with further extensions added in the 1920s.

It eventually became a residential home for elderly folk, before being sold to a developer and turned into apartments about ten years ago. I had a look round the 'show-homes' when they were being sold (a minor pastime of mine!). They were kitted out with very modern kitchens and some had mezzanine floors, taking advantage of the very high Victorian ceilings. It's in a convenient spot, about five minutes walk from the railway station but there must be a few drawbacks to living there... car-parking (which is a problem all over Saltaire) and the trees, which must block out a lot of light in the summer. And the busy crossroads, where there are frequent accidents... they must get used to the sound of crashing metal!

Monday, 12 April 2010

Alexandra Square, Saltaire

I mentioned the Almshouses in Saltaire a while ago. There are 45 cottages, built in 1868 around a square at the top of Victoria Road. They were originally intended as a sanctuary for the aged and infirm, but management of them proved problematic over the years. Some are now privately owned and the rest, managed by a Housing Trust for Bradford Council, are still let mostly to elderly tenants and those with mobility needs. Local historian Roger Clarke has written a very interesting history of the Almshouses, available to read on the Saltaire Village Society website (Saltaire Journal Vol. 1 No 3).

The square has what must once have been a rather attractive formal garden. It's dominated now by the trees that have overgrown the space, and other plants have a hard time of it. I think it is at its most picturesque at this time of year. The weeping willow trees have a soft haze of green and there are a few daffodils out. It's also easier to appreciate the Venetian Gothic architecture of the buildings, most of which are one-storey cottages, interspersed with two-storey houses.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Election fever

All Britain is drowning in election propaganda. I can't decide who to vote for - they all seem to be rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic as far as I can see. I am glad to live in a democracy - and so I shall use my vote - but I often wish there was a good alternative to the adversarial politics of parliament. The real issues seem to get lost in the need to come out on top and the consequent name-calling and petty arguing.

I took this photograph outside the railway station in the noble Yorkshire town of Huddersfield, a few miles south of Saltaire, when I visited it a couple of weekends ago. (The Victorians had grand ideas and were very proud of their railways - can you tell?!) The statue is of a former politician, Harold Wilson (1916-1995), born in Huddersfield, who was Labour Prime Minister from 1964-70 and 1974-76. He has two claims to fame as far as I'm concerned...He shook my hand! (as he was chancellor of Bradford University at the time I received my degree). And he had the vision for The Open University, founded to give adults who had missed out on tertiary education a chance to gain a degree through part-time study and distance learning, and which is still going strong.

Coincidentally, Alan had a marvellous story about the 1974 election this week on his News From Nowhere blog - do read it.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Ice cream boat

Ah...Easter school holidays, a bit of sunshine, blossom suddenly bursting out...must be time for an ice-cream. Well, how fortunate - the ice-cream boat has sailed into town! I have not noticed this in years before, but it looked to be doing a good trade as I passed by on my way home from work. They were selling ice-cream, drinks and cakes. This is generally quite a busy spot in Saltaire, at the entrance to Roberts Park and at the point where you can get down from Victoria Road onto the canal towpath. The boat was called "Arr Gee Bargies" or something similar. It is a wide-bodied barge rather than the traditional narrow-boat.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Unexpected visitor

Always carry your camera, they say - and I was glad I had mine with me yesterday, even though it was only my compact. Everyone in the office was hugely excited to notice this fox asleep in the shrubbery. It was right by the main entrance and the steps where everyone walks in from the car-park - but it seemed completely unfazed by people walking past. Even when I went quite close to take its picture, it just opened one eye, as if to say "leave me alone, can't you see I'm sleeping?" I think it was enjoying basking in the first warm sunshine we've had for months. It really does feel like Spring, all of a sudden. Hooray!

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Cubist Post Box

Here's another of the many treasures to be found in the 1853 Gallery in Salts Mill, Saltaire: this wonderful pillar box red cube is actually a post box. It was made up to a design sketched by David Hockney in 1992, and was used for just one month as an actual post box in Salts Mill. That year, David Hockney designed a special commemorative stamp marking the European Single Market. The stamp was launched by the Royal Mail in Salts Mill and all letters posted in this box for one month were hand franked as a special issue to mark the event.

The inset shows the stamp itself, a special edition envelope with a picture of Salts Mill and Hockney's sketch for the post box. Probably the only time you could buy a Hockney print for 24p!

If you're in the market for a Hockney print now, there is a sale of some of his etchings (Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm) in the Victoria Hall from today until 10 April. Just think, you could not only be the proud owner of an original Hockney, but you'd have licence to use that immortal chat-up line: "Come up and see my etchings..."!

There's also chance to apply to be a volunteer steward for the BBC Antiques Roadshow, to be filmed in the Victoria Hall on 29 April, if anyone is interested!

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

The messenger of spring

This is an old photo of mine, but it was taken at exactly this time of year - April 7th. I like it as it looks so full of the promise of spring - and that's what we need round here! The photo shows the Great Barn at East Riddlesden Hall. I showed a picture of its interior on 31 October - it's a magnificent medieval oak-framed building, dating back to the 16th century. East Riddlesden Hall itself is a 17th century manor house, reputed to be haunted. It's the nearest National Trust property to Saltaire, situated just a few miles up the Aire valley towards Keighley. It's not very big but it has attractive gardens and is a lovely place to visit, particularly in the spring or autumn.

The flowers sprinkled across the grass are Lesser Celandines... the messenger of spring. In one of my favourite books, C S Lewis's 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe', when Aslan comes to Narnia the whole wood passes in a few hours from January to May. The children notice 'wonderful things happening. Coming suddenly round a corner into a glade of silver birch trees Edmund saw the ground covered in all directions with little yellow flowers - celandines.'

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

And now for something completely different...

A different view of Saltaire...
I've spent the holiday weekend catching up on coursework for my photography course, rather than being out taking photos or blogging... I seem to have rather too much to do at the moment!
I've got to get ahead of myself, because I'm taking a week out for a holiday soon. I want to prepare some blog photos to publish themselves whilst I'm away. (After the year is up in June, I might be gentler on myself, but it's a matter of honour to post a photo everyday for a year, to fulfil the challenge I set myself last year).

I don't wish to upset the purists among you, but
I thought today I'd use one of the images I've been playing about with over the weekend. It's a montage of four photos - two of the great man (Sir Titus Salt) himself, one of his mill and one nice sky - with a lot of work in Photoshop. I don't think I've got the text quite right - it should be bigger I think. Anyway, I don't think I'll be giving up my day job and going into graphics - and nor will I be forsaking 'proper' photography for heavily Photoshopped images. But it is useful to learn about the various techniques and what is possible. I didn't know anything about layers before I started the course and now I am quite happily skipping about merging images and doing all sorts of fancy things!

Monday, 5 April 2010

Flowers at the foot of the cross

A couple of hours of wonderful Easter hymns (and the Hallelujah Chorus as promised) at St Peter's Church last night was balm to my soul. And then I feasted my eyes on the beautiful arrangements of spring flowers on all the window ledges. As someone who can't even arrange daffs artfully in a straight vase (!) I am quite envious of people who can make cut flowers look so amazing (though, to be honest, I'd still rather see 'a host of golden daffodils' dancing in the breeze outside). In a few days the whole place will smell of lilies too, as there were many of them, donated in memory of loved ones. I adore the heady scent of lilies. I have said before that it's one of the things I love about Salts Mill, as they always have huge bowlfuls of lilies in the 1853 Gallery.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Christ the King

This seemed like a good image to use on Easter Sunday. I wish you all a very happy Easter, full of joy and blessings. Christ is risen!

It's a detail of the large East Window of St. Peter's Church, Shipley, showing the risen Christ in his splendour. I do like it ...even though it depicts a very white Anglo-Saxon Christ and even though I'm always inappropriately amused by thinking that his halo looks like a lifebelt. Though, come to think of it, perhaps that's relevant symbolism.

I shall be attending church this evening to participate in a good Easter tradition - I'm not really sure how it started, but we always sing the Hallelujah Chorus (from Handel's Messiah) at the Easter Sunday evening service. We do have a choir, which is boosted for the occasion by some other skilled singers from among the congregation. But everyone joins in - even those of us that can't read music and haven't much of a voice. And, perhaps surprisingly, it always sounds amazing and makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.. (Only rivalled as a musical experience by the trumpeter who plays The Last Post on Remembrance Sunday.)

For more information about the church and its windows, please see my posts of
22, 23 & 24 February.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Monochrome Weekend: Piece Hall Dome

This is the dome on the roof of the magnificent Piece Hall in Halifax (see previous two posts), opened in 1779. The dome was installed in 1782 when another entrance was added to the west side of the Georgian building to cope with the crowds. It has a weather vane featuring a captive sheep - the Golden Fleece - and a cupola containing the Piece Hall bell. The bell was rung at the start of trading at 10 am and again at the end at 11.55 am (a bit like the Stock Exchange!). Anyone selling a piece of cloth before 10 am or after noon got fined 1 shilling.

Halifax is some 10 miles from Saltaire, but its history is deeply interwoven ('scuse the pun!) with that of Saltaire because of the woollen trade. Halifax is also home to Dean Clough Mills, which gives another strong link to Saltaire. Jonathan Silver, Salts Mill's entrepreneurial 'rescuer' was one of the partners in the regeneration of Dean Clough in the early 1980s. That experience provided a springboard in many ways for his vision for Salts Mill, which he bought in 1987.

For more Monochrome Weekend images, please click this link.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Piece Hall Gate

This is one of the massive gates to the Piece Hall in Halifax (see yesterday's photo). The gates date from 1871. By 1868, when the Piece Hall's original purpose as a market for worsted cloth traders had been overtaken by industrialisation, the Piece Hall was handed over to Halifax Corporation (local council). In 1871 it became the city's wholesale fish, game, fruit and vegetable market. (The Piece Hall website has an interesting history of the building, downloadable from the site.)

The south entrance was widened to allow access by large vehicles and these cast iron gates were installed, showing the Halifax coat of arms. It has a Latin text. I think it reads "Nisi Dominus custodierit civitatem" - my Latin isn't great (failed O level!) but I believe that translates roughly as "Unless the Lord watches over the City". The head is that of John the Baptist. Legend says his head was buried here after execution! (Why?) I can't quite read or understand the other words - nalea fax? or halea fax? I think that must be "Halifax", which is said to mean Holy Face. There's the inevitable sheep and a flag of St George, by the looks of it.
Any more ideas?

Whatever the exact symbolism, they are impressive gates. They are within the archway, so I wasn't able to stand far enough back for my camera lens to take in the whole. In the unlikely event that I progress to a DSLR, I'll go back with a wide-angle lens!

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Halifax Piece Hall

A week or two ago (March 8) I said I'd visit the Piece Hall in Halifax, when I had chance. Well... mission accomplished. Here it is. You may remember I said that the Yorkshire Pennine area was the centre of the worsted handloom weaving trade in the late 18th century. Several towns built Cloth or Piece Halls: markets where the cottage weavers could sell their 'pieces' of cloth. But only the one in Halifax remains.

The weavers in Calderdale specialised in a type of hard-wearing cloth called 'kersey', and the medieval kersey market was held near the parish church in Halifax. The first cloth hall was built in 1555 by the Lord of the Manor of Halifax, who took a tax of one penny for each piece of cloth sold. The magnificent Georgian Piece Hall was opened on New Year's Day 1779. Its size and splendour demonstrated the importance of the woollen kersey trade to the area. It was designed by Thomas Bradley, a local man (he was only 22) who became chief engineer of the Calder & Hebble Navigation (canal). Built around a quadrangle, it has 315 small rooms which were owned either by individual clothiers or shared by several traders. Those who could not afford the £28 4s subscription could sell their cloth in the central courtyard. The site slopes, so one of the sides has two levels and the opposite side has three; each level differs in the style of its columns and archways.

The 19th century industrialisation of the wool worsted trade rendered redundant the original purpose of the Piece Hall, and it became a general market instead. The building still survives as small rooms - shops, cafés and galleries - with a central market area, but is a bit run-down these days. There are plans to restore and improve it, and an application for Heritage Lottery funding is being prepared. If that is successful, the Piece Hall will be closed from 2012 to 2014 for extensive renovations.
The church spire behind is all that remains of the Square Congregational Church, destroyed by fire in 1971. It is now home to a breeding pair of peregrine falcons, which can be sometimes be seen flying over the area.