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Tag Archives: Yorkshire

  • In & Around Rotherham From Old Photographs by Melvyn Jones and Michael Bentley

    Views of Rotherham - Clockwise from left to right: Clifton House, High Street, Clifton Park, Doncaster Gate; centre: the war memorial in Clifton Park. (In & Around Rotherham From Old Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

    Daniel Defoe writing about Rotherham in the 1720s rather dismissively wrote that there was ‘nothing of note except a fine stone bridge over the Don’. How wrong he was. Even then there was much to record in the town itself and in the surrounding settlements. In the intervening centuries it has only got more and more interesting.

    The Rotherham area has undergone profound change over the last century or so. There has been much demolition and re-building in the town centre. The town has grown outwards in all directions and the surrounding settlements, rural and industrial, have been transformed in many cases. Many working patterns and workplaces have disappeared, means of transport have changed out of all recognition and even how people used their leisure time in the early twentieth century shows some striking differences from today.

    Fortunately, in the latter years of the nineteenth century and during the first half of the twentieth century the town and its surrounding settlements were recorded on camera for posterity. This was done for a variety of reasons. Businesses wanted to record their activities, families wanted to record family events and the family photographic album came into existence. Local newspapers used photographs to record civic and other events taking place in their readership areas and of course, most importantly, the picture postcard came into existence.

    The picture postcard as we know it today came into existence in January 1902. From that date, what was to become until recent times, the standard-sized card – 5 ½ inches by 3 ½ inches - was allowed by the Post Office to have one side entirely devoted to an illustration in the form of a photograph, painting or engraving and the other side divided into two with room for a message on the left and the address on the right. With as many as five deliveries a day from Monday to Saturday and one on Sunday morning, postage costing only a halfpenny, cards posted locally were often being delivered on the same day as they were posted. Picture postcards became the standard way of communicating between places in the days before most people had a telephone. As a result photographic firms rushed to fill the booming market for postcards featuring photographs of local places and people. Everybody sent and received postcards. The Post Office dealt with 866 million postcards through the post in the year 1909 alone.

    Edwardian cyclists outside Wentworth Park. (In & Around Rotherham From Old Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

    The early postcards, studio photographs, other family photographs and the commercial photographs tell us so much about our local history. Looking into how the landscape, fashions and local industry changed to name but three obvious areas of interest. But there is so much more. No Street, group, event or subject was too small or obscure not to be recorded on camera. Just two contrasting examples illustrate the point.

    Going on local excursions received a big boost by the production of reasonably priced bicycles in the 1890s following the introduction of the safety cycle in the 1880s and the development of the air-filled tyre in 1888 by John Dunlop to replace the solid tyre. For the first time many ordinary people could get away from the towns and the mining and industrial settlements to the countryside. Cycling clubs grew up everywhere and cycling became a craze. Women for the first time could move from place to place for work and leisure. In 1896 the American writer Susan B. Anthony wrote that ‘the bicycle has done more for the emancipation of women than anything else in the world’. The photograph of cyclists reproduced here shows a local cycling club posing outside the gates to the park at Wentworth Woodhouse. Notice that all but one of the men and boys is wearing a tie. In Edwardian England you did not dress down to go out cycling, you dressed up!

    Christening of Viscount Milton, 1911. (In & Around Rotherham From Old Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

    In complete contrast is a most fascinating group of postcards produced by E. L. Scrivens, the Doncaster-based photographer connected with the christening of Peter, Viscount Milton at Wentworth Woodhouse in 1911. The christening was more like a coronation than a christening. This was because the 7th Earl and Countess Fitzwilliam had four daughters and it was feared that the earldom would go to another branch of the family. The relative who would inherit if there was no son was an uncle who was 70 years old.

    The christening ceremony took place in the private chapel in the mansion at one o’clock on 12 February. The Rotherham Advertiser reported that the scarf presented to the Earl’s ancestor at the Battle of Hastings for his ‘valour and service’ would be wrapped around the baby Peter. 7,000 invitations were sent out to official guests and in addition it was reported that between 50,000 and 100,000 of the general public would also attend. One hundred men from London were sent to erect marquees for thousands of the official guests and 300 waiters came to Wentworth from London by special train. Local tenants, the employees of the hunts that the Earl hunted with, the parishioners of Wentworth and local miners all presented engraved bowls.

    In the afternoon and evening there was a full round of festivities including bands, roundabouts, daylight fireworks and the roasting of an ox to provide beef sandwiches for the public. The event ended with a magnificent fireworks display. It was reputed to be the biggest private firework display for five years. It included portraits of the Earl and Countess, Niagara Falls and a British battleship attacking and sinking the ‘dreadnought’ of a continental power.

    Melvyn Jones and Michael Bentley's new book In & Around Rotherham From Old Photographs is available for purchase now.

  • Bradford in 50 Buildings by George Sheeran

    Bradford, a Wool City isn’t it?

    Bradford in 50 Buildings 1 Saltaire Mills, Saltaire, the 1853 building (Bradford in 50 Buildings, Amberley Publishing)

    Ask anyone what Bradford made its money from in the nineteenth century and there will be one answer – wool. ‘Wool city’, the capital of the wool industry, the richest city in Yorkshire with a millionaire on every corner, and all based on wool. Yet if this were true, why did William Cudworth, a journalist and historian working in Victorian Bradford, entitle his history of the rise of the industrial city, ‘Worstedopolis’?

    The first thing we need to clear up is the difference between woollen and worsted cloth. Wool yarns are made from short, hairy fibres and woollen cloth derives its strength partly from the tendency of these fibres to entangle and felt together. Those of us who are old enough to remember the woollen blankets of pre-duvet days will know what I mean – ‘The rough male kiss of blankets,’ as Rupert Brook put it.  Worsteds, on the other hand, are made from long-fibre wools which are combed straight before being spun into a strong, fine yarn.

    So what? I hear you say, It’s still wool. Yes it is, but in the early years of the nineteenth century some European and American textile manufacturers began to experiment with a cloth made with cotton warps (the threads that go up and down) and wool worsted wefts (the threads that go across), to produce a strong cloth that became known as ‘Orleans’.  But it had a major drawback. Being made of plant and animal fibres Orleans was difficult to dye, different fibres taking up dye at different rates.

     

     

    Bradford in 50 Buildings 3 Brigella Mills, the Briggs family, spinners of worsted and mohair yarns; manufacturers of umbrella coverings.

    Despite these technical difficulties Bradford manufacturers took up the challenge in the mid-1830s. They solved the dyeing problem, and Bradford was to become a centre of Orleans production. What is more, they were to introduce other animal hairs into the mixture such as Alpaca hair and mohair (the hair of the Angora goat), which replaced woollen wefts, and thus originated a new form of worsted. While fine wool worsteds had formerly been the preserve of the better-off, these new products were cheaper, hard-wearing, could be dyed in a range of colours and had a lustrous finish. Lustre cloths, as Orleans became known, were also ‘boardy’, that is, had a stiffness, and this was a stroke of either genius or luck, because it meant they were an ideal material for laying over crinoline hoops, the crinoline becoming fashionable from the 1850s.

    Between about 1850 and 1870 such lustre cloths became a fashion fabric and production boomed. It is said, for instance, that Saltaire Mills at Saltaire were producing 30,000 yards of alpaca-based lustre cloths a day at the height of their production. Elsewhere in Bradford, fortunes were made and business empires were built on this trade, the ‘Bradford trade’ as it was known, and mills big and small were built for spinning, dyeing and manufacturing lustre cloths. Yet much of this cloth did not have an ounce of wool in it.

    Bradford in 50 Buildings 4 The Wool Exchange, 1864-67 (Bradford in 50 Buildings, Amberley Publishing)

    Given this story of success, what could possibly go wrong? Well two things, actually.  Firstly, the crinoline was beginning to pass out of fashion by 1870 and lustre cloth along with it in favour of softer materials. Secondly, a trade recession halted the building of new factories and warehouses as international demand for Bradford goods slackened. The result was that numbers of Bradford firms went out of business; others diversified into linings or men’s suits and trousers, a more stable market; some went into more specialised products – umbrella coverings, for instance, which, because of the long-lasting qualities of the Bradford product, became known as ‘durables’.

    So here’s the secret of Victorian Bradford’s success – fashion and the specialised fabrics that went with it. And when the women’s dress goods market became a quagmire for some, expertise gained in producing mixed fibre worsteds was put to use in other areas. But let’s make no mistake: wool, yarns for export and wool textiles remained a vital part of Victorian Bradford’s economy. The point is it was an economy made up of a diversity of textiles and raw materials. When the town’s Wool Exchange opened in 1867, it became an international trading floor not just for wool, but for other fibres and hairs as well – and the most important such exchange in Britain. William Cudworth then reflected this in the title of his history: not ‘Wool City’, but ‘Worstedopolis’.

    9781445668482

    George Sheeran's new book Bradford in 50 Buildings is available for purchase now.

  • Yorkshire Rider Buses by Scott Poole

    Yorkshire Rider Buses 1 5155 was one of five low-height Northern Counties-bodied Leyland Olympians delivered during 1998, looking very smart in the Yorkshire Rider livery. (Yorkshire Rider Buses, Amberley Publishing)

    Scott Poole has taken several years in compiling notes and suitable pictures to bring a pictorial history of Yorkshire Rider buses into print. With help from noted and respected photographer Malcolm King and additional work from David Longbottom, all blended with Scott’s own archive of Yorkshire Bus pictures. It is hoped that this book with a brief history of the company with evoke memories for former employees, locals and bus enthusiasts.

    Yorkshire Rider can kind of trace its roots back to the halcyon days of the former Corporations of Bradford, Halifax, Huddersfield and Leeds, along with Todmorden. There are also many milestones and events which would improve transport around the West Yorkshire area. Huddersfield became the first municipal transport department to run electric trams from 1883. Bradford began operating its famous trolleybuses from June 1911, with the final examples running in late March 1972. Leeds employed many forward-thinking managers, resulting in four reserved tramways, new improved trams and the two 1953 Roe bodied Coronation cars. Halifax brought in the reliable and hardworking AEC regent and Leyland Titan double deckers to cope with the hilly enviros of the area.

    Yorkshire Rider Buses 2 During 1988, Yorkshire Rider was purchased by the management and employees, becoming the first former PTE operation to be sold. MCW Metrobus 7600 illustrates the fact of the new status at Otley. (Yorkshire Rider Buses, Amberley Publishing)

    As the new rear engine buses arrived the corporations were quite happy to continue with traditional front engine classic designs. But as the mid 1960’s arrived, Leeds, Halifax, Huddersfield and Bradford took many examples of the Daimler Fleetline and Leyland Atlantean chassis, with Alexander, Roe, Metro-Cammell and Weymann bodywork, with new brighter or improved liveries.

    However as 1969 arrived the classic British Electric Traction (BET) and Transport Holding Company (THC) were combined to form the National Bus Company (NBC) and by 1972 the traditional liveries gave way for us Yorkshire to the bland poppy red and white livery. West Yorkshire’s main municipal companies were casualties of the 1974 local government act, which saw the creation of the Metropolitan County Council and with it the West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (PTE). Following the newly created PTE and NBC, saw much needed integration of the local transport network, with new ideas injected into the crumbling rail network, countywide ticketing, new explorer and day dripper tickets, inter operator co-ordination.

     

    Yorkshire Rider Buses 3 Yorkshire Rider launched a new standard of service within the Halifax and Huddersfield region of the network. Flagship was brought about to improve service reliability, appearance, better customer relations and dedicated driving staff. (Yorkshire Rider Buses, Amberley Publishing)

    But as ever the dreams were shattered by the 1985 Transport Act or deregulation as it became better known, which saw companies split and new fresh competition rise into the streets of West Yorkshire. This is where the newly created Yorkshire Rider comes in, it was managed by former PTE staff and like every other operator had to bid for services the company wanted to run. Depots, buses and offices were kept or leased for a period of years, older buses were purchased to reduce the short fall of vehicles and a new brighter livery was introduced to the buses in late October 1986.

    Yorkshire Rider took control of the former PTE depots, apart from Middleton in Leeds and Longroyd Bridge in Huddersfield and many of the 992 new PTE buses, apart from fifty plus new Leyland Olympians and MCW Metrobuses because of lease agreement’s. Rider saw of competition in Leeds and Huddersfield, introduced the Flagship standard of service, brought in new Scania and Volvo buses and even purchased the remains of the former West Yorkshire Road Car company in 1989.

    Yorkshire Rider had absorbed the West Yorkshire buses and services into the fleet by March 1990, then it introduced the ‘Building on a great tradition’ former bus company liveries, as a nod to the past. It was in 1988 that Rider became the first of the former PTE’s to be brought out by management and employees, which saw the arrival of fifty new buses in the shape of Leyland Olympians and the final MCW Metrobuses for the company. As mentioned before Yorkshire Rider then turned to Scania for both double and single deck buses with a sprinkling of Volvo saloon chassis too.

    By April 1994, Yorkshire Rider was acquired by the Bristol based Badgerline company, who introduced the badger logo and with an influx of over eighty new midi and full-length saloons in 1994 a new bolder and darker livery, for buses in Leeds and Huddersfield. But this was short lived as from 1995 both Badgerline and Grampian Regional Transport, combined to form the FirstBus company.

    9781445669045

    Scott Poole's new book Yorkshire Rider Buses is available for purchase now.

  • The Woodhead Route by Anthony Dawson

    During a summer’s walk along the idyllic Longdendale today, the loudest noise you will probably hear will be bird song, the barking of a pet dog or happy children. Thirty-six years ago, it would have been very different: the foot path you are walking or cycling along was once part of the first railway line linking Manchester and Sheffield. The famous Woodhead Route. Silent for nearly four decades, the Woodhead Tunnels resounded to the rattle and hum of Class 76 and 77 electric locomotives, speeding passengers and goods on their way between the two cities – and all stops in between.

    The Woodhead Route 1 Woodhead station (built 1861) and the western portals of the Tunnel, c. 1900. (c. The Woodhead Route, Amberley Publishing)

    The Woodhead Route was conceived in 1830 by industrialists in Lancashire and Yorkshire, who engaged the famous George Stephenson to plan the route of their new railway. Despite the failure of the first scheme (1830-1831), a second scheme, with the backing of the influential Lord Wharncliffe and engineered by Stephenson’s rival Charles Blacker Vignoles was ultimately successful. Three miles long, and driven some 600 feet below ground level, the iconic Woodhead Tunnel took eight years to blast through solid millstone grit and shale – not helped by Vignoles being sacked as chief engineer and being replaced by Joseph Locke, a one time pupil of Stephenson. Finally opening in 1845 it was hailed as a wonder of the age. No sooner was the first one finished, when the Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire Railway ordered the construction of a second, parallel, bore to ease the bottle-neck caused by the original single-track tunnel. Working conditions for the navvies were deplorable; social reformer Edwin Chadwick estimating more men died or were wounded working on the tunnels than during one of Wellington’s battles in the Peninsular War! To enable electric trains to run through to Sheffield, British Railways blasted a third tunnel through the Pennine ridge. Silent now, the Woodhead Tunnels were once the scene of incredible noise and bustle as steam trains, and later electric locomotives on ‘merry go round’ coal trains slogged their way up Longdendale and through the tunnel.

    The Woodhead Route 2 A double-headed Sheffield-bound express plunges into the darkness of Woodhead 2 as it crosses a Manchester express exiting Woodhead 1. (c. The Woodhead Route, Amberley Publishing)

    It is not just the rugged, dramatic scenery of the Woodhead Route which continues to attract enthusiasts:  it was worked by unique 1.5KV DC electric locomotives, the EM1 and EM2. Designed by no lesser personage than Sir Nigel Gresley of the LNER, the prototype EMI ‘Tommy’ was built in 1941. Loaned to the Dutch Railways 1947-1952, where she gained her name, ‘Tommy’ was followed by a further 57 examples, only one of which made it to preservation as part of the National Collection at York.    To handle express passenger services, seven Co-Co EM2 locomotives were built, each one named after a figure in Greek mythology: Electra, Ariadne, Aurora, Diana, Juno, Minerva, Pandora. Names which will once again adorn the railway network; Direct Rail Services naming their new Class 88 bi-mode electro-diesel locomotives after three of the Woodhead Goddesses, Ariadne, Minerva and Pandora.  Of these three, only EM2 27001 Ariadne was preserved after service in the Netherlands and currently resides at the Museum of Science & Industry, Manchester. Wouldn’t it be nice for the two Ariadne’s to meet? I wonder what they’d talk about?

    9781445663944

    Anthony Dawson's new book The Woodhead Route is available for purchase now.

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