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Monday, 30 April 2012

Rainbows in the rain

I've had more 'people' photos on my blog in the last few days than I have in the previous year!  Here are some more familiar faces - those of our local dance team 'Rainbow Morris'. They dance in the North-West tradition, named after the north-west of England where the dances originate.  They dance with clogs, bells, garlands and hankies and the decorated 'sticks' they are using in my photo came originally from Salts Mill; they were used in the cloth weaving process when the mill was still working.

The dancers brought some colour and music to the centre of Saltaire last Sunday, as part of the World Heritage Celebrations, cheering up what was unfortunately a rather wet and dismal day (month!)  The stone slabs outside Shipley College (the old factory schools) provide a good base for the clacking of the clogs, which is part of the tradition.

For photos of Rainbow Morris dancing at previous events, please click the 'dance' label below.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

More Steampunk style

Adele and Rosie

More Steampunk style at Saltaire's World Heritage Celebrations  - I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.  I thought it was great that it wasn't only young folks - whole families were involved, and I spotted several silver Steampunks!

Amanda and Dennis

An elegant couple - though the dog wasn't joining in, apparently!


Saturday, 28 April 2012

Saltaire's US connection

Just a quick mention of an interesting 'pop-up blog' currently featured on the Saltaire Village Website.... Two members of our local History Club (Dave Shaw and David King) are visiting Dayton, Tennessee, USA, to research the Salt family's connection to the Dayton Coal and Iron Co in which they had an interest in the 1870s and 1880s.  The two Davids are writing a blog about their trip and it's making interesting reading.  Do have a look.

Steampunk style

The World Heritage Celebrations in Saltaire last weekend certainly included some lively happenings.  One trend that I don't think the village has seen before was Steampunk.  It's not something I've come across before - and I'm not sure that I'm much the wiser even now! - but it did look lots of fun.

Caroline's (the social club) hosted a Steampunk gathering, with a concert on Friday night by the British Steampunk band BB Black Dog.  On Saturday there were groups of Steampunks out and about around Saltaire, very happy to pose for photos.

For a full explanation of what Steampunk is, please see here.  In a nutshell, it's a science fiction/fantasy genre including elements of Victorian technology (the steam) and with a creative or rebellious aspect (the punk).  It is first and foremost a literary genre (ie: written fiction) with spin-offs into games, music and  design/style.  It seems almost anything can be 'steampunked': clothes, jewellery, furniture, objects.  I guess more people are familiar with the 'goths' genre - and this seems to be a similar thing but with the link to Victorian technology.  All in all, it was rather fascinating, especially seeing the creative costumes and props.  Some of them looked more obviously 'Victorian/Edwardian' than others but they were all really creative.  As I say, those involved seemed to be having fun and making everyone else smile.  I think it fits well with Saltaire - there is an obvious link to the village's history but it's edgy, creative and modern too.  I hope they make it a regular event.

Friday, 27 April 2012

The White Lady

'Human statues' are increasingly common in our city centres and at events, but this lady is the first one I've seen in Saltaire.  Being a statue, she didn't seem to talk so I unfortunately didn't get her name or any details.  She had the most amazing ability to remain still, even when people (me!) were poking camera lenses in her direction or making comments.  But when you threw coins into her basket she executed the most graceful low curtsey.  She was a fun addition to the general air of celebration and discovery in Saltaire on Saturday.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Who's the star attraction?

Following on from yesterday's post.... I think this little scene confirms without doubt that the boatman on 'Pearl Barley' is Duncan Davis ('ex top London photographer').  (Later: I have had my hunch confirmed by an email from Elland's boatman, Adrian - thanks.)   The guy is most certainly a photographer and seemed happy to turn the tables, being as interested in what was going on on the towpath as those on the towpath were in him and his boat.  In fact, I've discovered that he is an extremely talented photographer, with a stunning array of published work on a variety of topics - see here for books he has published, including a documentary record of his travels on the boat.

His pub, The Black Bull at Frosterley, is definitely on my must-visit list now.  It sounds really quirky - must be the only pub anywhere that boasts its own peal of bells!   For a flavour of it, see the website, or these You-Tube videos, showing the pub and the bell-ringing...  [Go on, you know you like being distracted from what you should be doing!]

As for the lady.... tune in tomorrow....

[If you want distracting even more, there's a set of horseboating photos on my other blog now.]

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

'Pearl Barley'

I am fascinated by canal boats, especially the colourful narrowboats with traditional paintings.  In the photo above, the horse-drawn boat 'Elland' is on the left and the narrowboat on the right is a beautiful boat called 'Pearl Barley', which they were using to power 'Elland' when it wasn't being towed by the horse.  This is also a traditional 'under the cloths' boat, similar to 'Elland', that would have been used to transport goods. These narrowboats were not, I think, built for the Leeds-Liverpool Canal (most of the traditional boats here were wider barges - see old picture on my blog on Sunday)) but they nevertheless give a good flavour of the days when canals were serious working waterways.

(Later note:  I am reliably informed that Pearl Barley is actually relatively new, built in the 1990s... Nevertheless it (she?) is beautiful and, I think, built with great attention to the traditional detail).

I didn't get chance to talk to the boatman but a Google search suggests that he is the owner, Duncan Davis, who sounds a colourful character himself.... his family run The Black Bull Inn in Frosterley, in County Durham (website worth a look!)  He is described as 'a dyed-in-the-wool Geordie (ie: native of Tyneside in NE England), folksinger, church bell-ringer and ex top London photographer'.  Wish I'd had a chat now!

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Boatmen's ganseys

The boatman, Adrian Lovett, (above) on 'Elland' (the horse-drawn boat) was wearing a lovely traditional boatman's gansey, as was Mike Clarke (below) who is the Founder and President of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal Society.  The Society was set up in 1998 to help promote the canal, to encourage greater understanding and appreciation of the canal's history and environment and to ensure that its traditions and heritage are recorded and continued.  Both men have a wealth of knowledge and a huge enthusiasm for sharing and teaching.  They were a delight to talk to.

Mike was telling me about these ganseys.  They were worn with dark blue corduroy trousers and were knitted in dark blue oiled wool, making them shower-proof and very warm in winter.  They were often knitted by the boatmen's wives, who lived in canalside cottages, many of them over in Burscough in Lancashire.  They were similar in style to guernseys, the traditional fishermen's sweater.  Knitted without a seam, on five needles, they would have been very heavy to knit.  You can download* a knitting pattern for the gansey Mike is wearing, adapted to knit in pieces to make it easier.  The pattern is based on a gansey knitted in the 1930s by a woman in Bootle in Lancashire, which is now displayed in the Nationals Waterways Museum in Gloucester, and which is considered to be typical of this canal's style.

* Google 'gansey knitting pattern' and look for a PDF file at Mike's website: www.mikeclarke.myzen.co.uk

Monday, 23 April 2012

Horse boating

Yesterday's photo brought to life..... When the first sections of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal were opened in the early 1770s, the idea of using horses to tow boats (instead of men hauling them) was relatively new.  The canals were built with towing paths and so horse-drawn boats became a common sight. The last boat horse on the Leeds-Liverpool Canal retired in the 1960s. 

It was a true delight to see this rare visit of the horse-drawn narrowboat 'Elland' to Saltaire, as part of the World Heritage celebrations.  The horse, called Bilbo Baggins, was harnessed up in the centre of Saltaire and pulled the boat right up to and through Hirst Wood Lock, where the boat had room to turn round before returning to the village.  It moved faster than you might think.  I had a bit of a job keeping up with it and trying to take photos - was thrilled with this one, as there were lots of people on the towpath also trying to take photos!

'Elland' is travelling along the Leeds-Liverpool Canal throughout April to July - the first such trip for over 60 years! So there are other opportunities to see it, including at the Skipton Waterways Festival May 4-7... see the Horseboating Society website for details.

I am told that most of the boatmen on this canal did not live permanently on board their boats.  They usually had their own houses with stabling for the horses.  In fact the cottages at Jane Hills (which I've shown on my blog here) were occupied by boating families for many years and the horses were grazed right where the orthodontics factory now is (see Saturday's post)!

(I have posted a full set of photos on my other blog: 'Seeking the Quiet Eye')

Sunday, 22 April 2012

World Heritage Weekend

This is just a trailer... I am busy enjoying this weekend's celebration of Saltaire's UNESCO World Heritage Site status - and putting together some blog posts so you too can share the festivities.

I loved this old photo of a horse-drawn canal boat on the Leeds-Liverpool canal, which is the poster for this year's special Weekend.  The Canal, of course, runs through Saltaire and was one of the reasons Sir Titus Salt chose this site for his new mill and village.

As the programme says: 'There are 936 World Heritage Sites across the world.  Some are natural such as the Jurassic coast in Devon, others man-made such as the Sphinx in Egypt.  Saltaire is in very good company!'   In many ways, this blog is the product of the World Heritage movement.  In 2009 I visited the World Heritage Site of Masada on the shore of Israel's Dead Sea and I was awe-struck by the history and beauty of the place.  It was only when I returned home that the realisation fully struck me that I live in a World Heritage Site - and I was, at that time, just taking it all for granted.  So I resolved to find out more about Saltaire and its history - and that led to me starting this blog, to record what I was noticing and learning and as a way of sharing that. Worth celebrating?  I think so....

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Bright, white, modern..

Another place I pass on my commute.... The new orthodontics factory, Ortho-Care (UK) Ltd, is open and functioning now.  You will recall I have shown a couple of photos of it during the construction (see here and here).  I think it looks marginally more attractive from this view but it still doesn't (to me) fit its surroundings.  It is very bright, white and modern - looks somehow more like a building you might find in a coastal location than near the heart of historic Saltaire.  As John (By Stargoose and Hanglands) observed in a comment on an earlier post, let's hope the teeth they make are not as large and white as the building!

Incidentally, I have just noticed that I have passed the 1000 mark for blog posts - this is number 1002.   That's 1000+ days of fun and friendship.  Thanks to all my readers, those I know about and those I don't, for journeying with me.  There are all sorts of interesting spin-offs.  Someone recently contacted me about a much earlier post about Saltaire's now-demolished washhouse and public baths.  Thanks to the knowledgeable and helpful folk at the History Club and elsewhere, without whose writings I would not have nearly so much to share, there has been a very interesting email correspondence going on about the baths - proof that even in a well-documented place like Saltaire there are still new avenues to explore.

Friday, 20 April 2012

That view again...

Regular readers of my blog will recognise this view as I have shown it several times before.  It's another of the lovely vistas that I am treated to on my commute to work.  I'm fascinated by how this scene changes throughout the year and according to the different weathers and lights.  This week it has been bright in the early sunshine and the reflections are very crisp in the still waters of the canal.  I have been especially noticing the three chimneys - all different.  (The one furthest away is Salts Mill).

To see other pictures taken at more or less the same spot please click the label 'that view' below.

This is one for Weekend Reflections.  To see the other entries in the theme please click here.

Thursday, 19 April 2012


Well, would you believe it!  I only happened to notice this VR (Victorian) postbox a couple of weeks ago and was about to post it on my blog - intending to ask my local readers if they knew where it was... Despite Saltaire's Victorian origins, none of the postboxes in the village, to my knowledge, are Victorian so I was delighted to see this example not far away.

I passed it again yesterday and was shocked to find it has been ruined.  I am not sure what happened.  There are no marks on the wall, and nothing to suggest a car collided with it.  Methinks the most likely explanation is metal thieves, who seemingly will pinch anything they can see.  Completely mindless, they seem to have no respect for other people's property, or for history, or for the consequences of their actions.  It does make me angry!

So that's another little piece of local history that has disappeared.  For the uninitiated, it is in the wall at the top of Belmont Terrace in Shipley, quite close to St Paul's Church... Well, it was!

Wednesday, 18 April 2012


Another fabulous tree that I pass most days on my walk to work.  It really does seem an unusually vibrant green this year - and again the colour comes mainly from its flowers/blossom rather than the emerging leaves.  I think it's a sycamore (though I may have that wrong).  You may recognise the mill in the background as I have shown it before on my blog.  It's the Victoria Mills complex, now converted into loft-style apartments.  Click the Victoria Mills label below for more info about it.

A reminder too that this weekend 20-22 April is World Heritage Weekend and Saltaire is hosting a varied programme of events.  See the Saltaire Village website for full details and a programme.  I hope to be able to report on it later!

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Spring commute

I often think I must have one of the most pleasant commutes to work possible (in an urban area at least).  It's a 15 minute walk, with three possible routes - along the main road (slightly quicker), through Salts Mill yard (often interesting) or along the canal (soothing but distracting!)  At the moment, the mornings are usually very bright but quite chilly.  I do think the colours the Spring wears are lovely.  Bright greens and yellows look so cheery against a pure blue sky.  Some of the trees seem particularly vibrant this year.  I think these bright yellow-green explosions are flowers/pollen rather than new leaves, though I am not 100% sure.  They seem to me to be more noticeable than I remember in previous springs - or maybe I'm just walking round with my eyes open this year.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Guess what I was going to call this one....

before I thought better of it.... (Three windows, of course!)

This is in the open piazza area in front of Dean Clough Mills, Halifax.  I found the stone spheres just begged to be photographed, though the lighting was rather dull and flat on the day I visited.  You wouldn't want strong sunshine for this subject but it could have done with a bit more light.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Blue mood


Part of Dean Clough Mills in Halifax.... Not much more to say about this one.  I just liked the shapes and angles.  Dean Clough is such a huge site that it's a difficult place to sum up in one or two photos.  It isn't as obviously attractive as Salts Mill... someone once said the sprawling complex 'could easily be mistaken for an engineering works in what used to be the German Democratic Republic'. (Probably an insult to the ex-GDR, I think!) It sits in a narrow valley near the centre of the town and lacks the ornate architecture and attractive setting of Salts Mill.  But nonetheless it is an imposing building and a massive success story for Halifax.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Dean Clough Mills

It's not only Bradford that has a legacy of huge old mill buildings. The complex known as Dean Clough Mills is in Halifax but it has two interesting associations with Salts Mill in Saltaire.

Formerly the world's largest carpet factory, it was owned by the Crossley family - and Titus Salt Jnr married Catherine Crossley in 1866, thus linking the two textile dynasties.

The second link is through Jonathan Silver, who bought Saltaire's empty and degenerating Salts Mill in 1987.  Early in his entrepreneurial career, Jonathan built up a chain of men's clothing boutiques.  He sold it in the late 1970s, having by then opened another shop selling pictures and furniture.  Through buying cloth, he had met and become friendly with Ernest Hall, a textile manufacturer.  They went into partnership, buying property and in 1983 they bought the empty Dean Clough Mills in Halifax. They initially opened a bar in the mill and sold and let parts of the buildings to other companies. Whilst they both had vision, they were very different characters and it was soon apparent that the business partnership was not working, so Ernest Hall bought Jonathan Silver out in 1984.  The Silver family, seeking change, then set off on a three-year round-the-world adventure.  It was on their return from this trip that Jonathan bought Salts Mill, no doubt encouraged by his experience of the regeneration of Dean Clough.

Dean Clough is another success story.  It now houses many different businesses, has nine exhibition galleries, a shop, a theatre, a cookery school, restaurant, hotel, conference facilities and a café-bar.  It's a renowned jazz venue and hosts a rolling programme of concerts, plays and exhibitions.  It doesn't have the same personality as Salts Mill, being a much more utilitarian building, and there is no surrounding village (though the Crossleys were enlightened employers and built some almshouses for former employees).  But nevertheless it's an interesting place to visit - though it proved difficult to photograph!

Thursday, 12 April 2012

The cygnet that hadn't yet learned....

Photo © Roy Pritchard, used with permission

The cygnet that hadn't yet learned NOT to pose for a camera....  

Taken in the vicinity of Bingley's Five Rise Locks - but I must say straight away that this isn't one of my photos.  It was taken by a good friend of mine a couple of summers ago.  I thought it was delightful and it made me laugh.  Those who've been following my blog for a while will have heard me opine that swans will never pose for my camera.  They turn their backs, plunge their heads in the water, swim in the opposite direction or lunge at the camera!  By contrast, this little cygnet swam right up and fixed her beady eye on her reflection in the lens.  No doubt mum would have had a few words of advice later!

Incidentally, what impressed me most was the sanguine way in which my friend was dangling his brand-new Nikon at arm's length over the water... a braver soul than I!

Seeing ducklings on other people's blogs in the last few days reminds me to try and get down to the canal to see if we have any yet.  I've been so busy I haven't been out for a walk for ages.  They say there are bluebells out too - which is two or three weeks earlier than usual, I think.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Standing proud

The distinctive outline of Sir Titus Salt's statue in Roberts Park, Saltaire.  The statue was erected in 1903 to commemorate the centenary of Salt's birth and the 50th anniversary of the opening of Salts Mill.  To see the detail of the statue, click here.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Not quite Switzerland..

This was Saltaire early one morning last week.  It's very unusual for us to get snow as late as April, when the trees are greening up.  We had a sprinkling even in the valley, but the heavier fall up on Hope Hill took a few days to melt away.  It looked quite pretty behind the mill.  Not quite Switzerland but still pretty.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible....

Happy Easter!  We're making progress with the decorating, but it all needs three coats of paint. And I'm full of cold too... It will be good to get back to normal soon.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Ball, bench and box

I'm going to be taking a few days out from blogging over Easter, as my intention is do some decorating whilst I have a few days off work.  The weather forecast isn't great - cold and damp - so it's not going to entice me out, I don't think, and my sitting room desperately needs a makeover.  I've had a kind offer of help.  Decorating is always easier to tackle when there's more than one of you (and it means I won't have to stand on a ladder!) So, away we go!

This photo is one that hasn't fitted anywhere so far - another of those where I saw shapes and textures that I liked and could play about with a bit.  I leave you with it.... Have a happy Easter break (those of you who celebrate it) and a lovely weekend.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Red splash

A more arty, edgy composition showing Lister's Mill chimney alongside some of the modern glass and steel structures that have been added as part of Urban Splash's transformation of the Victorian mill buildings.  The chimney is a massive 255 feet (78m) high, with a very ornate top.  The mill complex sits on top of a hill and so the chimney is a landmark for miles around.

Saltaire's Salts Mill chimney is a similar size, though it sits low down in the valley so it is not a landmark in the same way.  It also lacks a fancy top, as that had to be dismantled in the 70s for safety reasons.  (I'm pretty sure that nowadays they would have made efforts to restore it, not dismantle it.  I still meet older local people who remember it and are really quite cross at its loss!)

Urban Splash are gradually transforming Lister's Mill into very smart apartments. Consequently you can't get into the complex now unless you live there.  Their website has more photos from inside the compound and inside the apartments - worth a look if you didn't peek at it yesterday!

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Lister's Mill, Manningham

You're used to seeing the huge bulk of Salts Mill, Saltaire, from all angles on this blog.  There is, however, an even bigger mill in Manningham in Bradford called Lister's Mill.  In its heyday it was the largest silk mill in the world, employing 11000 workers.  Built by Samuel Cunliffe Lister in 1873, in Italianate style (like Salts Mill), it replaced an earlier mill that was destroyed by fire.  It manufactured high quality silks and velvet, including the velvet robes for King George V's coronation and new velvet curtains for Gerald Ford in the White House.  In WWII it made parachute silk.

Unlike Saltaire, it is simply a mill complex and has no associated 'company village', so it is not as interesting or as well-placed for tourism. Nevertheless it has always been a dominant feature on Bradford's skyline and is a place that the city is justifiably proud of.

Lister's Mill struggled on as a business into the early 1990s but then had to close.  There were many suggestions for using the buildings but the sheer size proved problematic.  Local people campaigned very hard to save them and they are now Grade II listed.  Eventually they were bought by a company called Urban Splash and are being converted into luxury apartments, in phases.  Sadly, the private use means you can't get into the complex to look round (though there are some great photos and videos on Urban Splash's website).  It's hard to appreciate the sheer grandeur of the mills from the perimeter.  In many ways you get more of an idea of the size from a long way away; the huge mill chimney, sitting right on top of a hill, is visible for miles.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Botanical Garden, Lister Park

The Botanical Garden is my favourite bit of Bradford's Lister Park.  Designed by Samuel Margerison in 1903, replanted in 1952 and extensively restored in 2002, it was originally planned to represent every family of plants in British flora. There is also a geological trail with different types of rock from throughout the Yorkshire region and a miniature replica of Thornton Force, a waterfall at Ingleton in North Yorkshire.  Whether you're interested in the plant specimens or not, it is a pleasant circular walk alongside the streams and there is always some colour and interest in the planting.

As for our bizarre weather, it was really warm and sunny when I took this last week - and now they're forecasting snow again!

Monday, 2 April 2012


Back to Lister Park (see last Friday's post) and here's another view of Cartwright Hall, Bradford's civic art gallery, from the Mughal Water Gardens.  These gardens are designed in the style of Mughal pleasure gardens found in the Indian sub-continent, with pools, fountains and canals in a rectilinear pattern within a walled enclosure.  Apparently the Bradford garden, developed in 2001, was the first of its type to be built in the north of England.   Although it is not a slavish copy, it harks back to the traditional style, suggesting harmony and tranquillity and appealing to the senses of sight, smell and sound.  It is lovely to hear the gentle sound of the water splashing - though I imagine that sound would be even more refreshing in a hot sub-tropical climate.  If you look closely you might be able to see a rainbow at the base of the fountain.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Pictures from the exhibition: History in stone


My exhibition in the Half Moon Café has come to an end - and I did sell a couple of pictures, which was gratifying, though that was by no means my primary objective.  Thanks to all who visited and to all who have made kind comments about the photos (including here on my blog).  Perhaps the nicest thing I heard was from some friends who asked the local street sweeper/neighbourhood warden for directions to the Café.  He told them how to get there and then added: "There are some lovely photos on show in there at the moment." Aw....

It seems that people either love this photo of the mill chimney or hate it.  Personally, I like it - but then I would, wouldn't I! (It was born of an attempt to explore Layers and Blending modes in Photoshop.)

Saltaire's mill, houses and public buildings are constructed of locally quarried sandstone, mellow and honey-coloured.  It seems to me that history is etched into the stones; they tell so many stories.  In this image I wanted to suggest something of the awesome size of Salts Mill and its massive chimney.  I also wanted to refer to its soot-blackened past.  Many of Saltaire's houses still have blackened stone, caused by years of air pollution from the mill chimneys and the coal fires that all the houses originally had.  'Clean Air' legislation in the 1950s made a huge difference to air quality and subsequently most of the public buildings and some of the houses were cleaned up by sand-blasting the stonework.  (The contrast is very noticeable in this picture.)