Spen Valley in old picture postcards

Spen Valley in old picture postcards

:   Gillian Cookson
:   Yorkshire, West
:   United Kingdom
:   978-90-288-4624-1
:   80
:   EUR 16.95 Incl BTW *

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Fragmenten uit het boek 'Spen Valley in old picture postcards'

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This is not a new history of Spen Valley. Although it includes a considerable amount of previously unpublished new research, the book is really a pictorial record of the changing locallandscape. The format is very much dictated by the availability of interesting postcards. Some of the views will be familiar to readers, others show scenes which have changed considerably. My aim has been to find photographs which are not well-known to the public, rather than reproducing on es which have appeared in other publications and thus lost some of their interest. The fascinating panorama of Heckmondwike, for example, has not to my knowledge appeared in print before. The selection of postcards in this book will, I hope, also provide a record of some of Spen Valley's best buildings, many of which are now lost to us.

Any would-be historian of Spen Valley owes a tre-

mendous debt to Frank Peel, whose Spen Valley Past and Present, though published as long ago as 1893, is still the only reliable local history. Peel commissioned the Heckmondwike photographer J.J. Stead to produce the plates for his book. Several other of Stead's photographs were used as the basis for line drawings reproduced in Peel's history. Stead specialised in pictures of buildings, both interior and exterior, and his work has considerable artistic merit. His collection is now deposited with Kirklees Museums, who have kindly permitted some to be reproduced in this volume.

I have drawn heavily for information on Spen Valley Past and Present and upon Peel's earlier book, Nonconformity in Spen Valley (1891). No excuses need to be made for this as Peel's works are not available to the general reading public, other than as books of ref-

erenee in locallibraries. It has not been possible to cite full references here, but certain sourees should be mentioned as they have provided much valuable information and may be a useful starting point for anyone wishing to embark on further reading. As well as Peel, T.W. Thompson's The Spen Val/ey (1925) and H. Ashwell Cadman's Gomersal Past and Present (1930) are interesting, though not so well written or reliably researched. All these titles are long out of print. Colum Giles' Rural Houses of West Yorkshire 14001830 (1986) has been consulted on numerous occasions in the preparation of this baak, as has my own ou Cleckheaton (1987).

In choosing the postcards, I have tried to find ones which will interest long-time residents of Spen Valley, who may reeall some of the scenes which have now disappeared. Readers may notice a concentration on

Cleckheaton and Heckmondwike town centres; this is inevitable as they were much more photographed than the outlying areas. Hartshead, Birkenshawand Oakenshaw have been excluded as they are to some degree separate and have been covered in other publications.

My thanks are due to Kirklees Libraries and Museums, particularly to Dr. Stuart Davies and the staff of the Photographic Preservation Unit, for their help in finding and copying postcards, and to Margaret Roberts of Cleckheaton Library for her continuing help with my researches.

My grandfather , the late Edgar Beever, collected the views of Liversedge in this volume and the book is dedicated to his memory.

Gillian Cookson

1. Pigeon Cote, Cleckheaton.

This group of seventeenth century cottages stood at the bottom of Albion Street on the old market place, and was cleared in 1887 to make way for the Conservative Club. Another old house stood on this market square; it was called the Pear Tree after the large fruit tree which almast hid it with its branches. Cleckheaton's first indoor Methodist meetings took place at this house about the year 1800. John Houldsworth, who lived there, was a mainstay of Methodism and became alocal preacher.

2. Heckmondwike Panorama J.

The panorama of Heckmondwike was sketched by E. D. Brook in 1874 from a vantage point in Norristhorpe. The largest building in the town centre is the Co-op, before it was extended. Behind it to the right, with a circle of small windows, is the back of George Street Chapel. Claremont had not then been built. Further back, in the fields, is the spire of the cemetery chapel. The town's cemetery was consecrated in 1860, and Cemetery Road, which had been specially constructed to lead to it, was laid out building plots and gradually built up with villas. Firth's extensive carpet mills dominate the centre of this view.

3. Heckmondwike Panorama 2.

The 1848 railway line occupies the foreground of Brook's drawing; the second line and sidings were not then built. In the middle ground of this picture, High Street can be seen, climbing towards Upper Chapel and the Junction. Further to the right is Kilpin Hili, an early settlement of handloom weavers situated on an old pack-horse route. Not a single chimney drawn by Brook in 1874 stands today, and many of the mills have also disappeared. Brook's open fields now mostly contain housing estates.

4. Hightown.

Two of the many licensed premises in Hightown were the Woodman Inn and Liversedge Working Men's Club, which stood opposite Middle Hall. What is now called Halifax Road was an old paved packhorse route, along which grew up a number of inns. It was improved to form part of the Wakefield and Halifax road, an early tumpike of 1740-41. The age ofthe road is clear to anyone who looks atthe wealth of seventeenth and eighteenth century buildings along it. Placename evidence in Lower Hightown also points to medieval settlement - Haiks and Headlands are two indications of an open field system of farming.

5. Noah's Ark, Hightown.

This strange building was believed, even 100 years ago when the picture was taken, to be the oldest house in Liversedge. It is built on the style of a hall with cross wings. The nearest wing appears to have been timber framed, and the rest of the house built in stone. The central hall would be lit by the large mullioned window which can just be seen. By 1812, it had ceased to be a dwelling and was used as a warehouse by Abraham Jackson, a well-to-do Hightown currier . It still stood in 1925 when Thompson in The Spen Valley suggested that it could be the original Liversedge Place, seat ofthe de Liversedge family. It was near to The Shears in Lower Hightown.

6. Commill Lane, Liversedge.

Cornmill Lane has an ancient sound to it, yet it may be quite a modern name. The Ordnance Survey, mapping the area in about 1850, recorded it as Little Lane, and it petered out into a bridleway halfway between Liversedge Hall and the old manorial mill. This mill may well have been used partly for corn milling, but it is also important as one of the valley's earliest textile mills. It was recorded in the 1379 poll tax returns as a fulling mill, rented out to John and Thomas Walker. Fulling was carried out to give woollen cloth a felt-like finish by matting the warp and weft fibres together. Water-driven fulling stocks were used to pound the cloth. The process was also called milling or walking.

7. Old Hall, Heckmondwike.

This late medieval aisled house was encased in stone in the seventeenth century. It is famous as the boyhood home of the Unitarian and radical Dl. J oseph Priestley, discoverer of oxygen. Here it is seen in 1888 much as Priestley would have known it, manor house and working farm. The railway line of 1896-1900 sliced off one corner; later it was divided into three cottages and condemned to demolition. Saved in the nick of time by a listing order, its potential was spotted by a local architect who refurbished the Old Hall and converted it into a pub. It is now one of the few timber-framed houses in the north of England which is open to the public, and boasts a plaster ceiling of c1640 in the main bar.

8. Lower Blacup, Cleckheaton.

The surviving farm and cottages at Lower Blacup, still very much as pictured here in 1896, date from the seventeenth century, when the tenants were a Puritan family called Cordingley. Thomas Wright moved into Lower Blacup in 1766 and his autobiography records his elopement from there to Gretna Green with Lydia Birkhead from Brookhouses, Cleckheaton. The couple spent their married life at Lower Blacup but romance soon wore thin. Lydia had seven children, took to drink and died young. Part of the farm was used for weaving woollen cloth.

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