Huddersfield

Wednesday, April 29th 2017

Huddersfield is a town in West Yorkshire, just to the north of the Peak District National Park (see here for a Google Map). One can think of it as occupying one corner of a triangle whose other corners are held by Leeds and Sheffield. By rail, it is just under 3 hours away from King’s Cross or Euston.

There has been a settlement in the area of Huddersfield since ancient times but the first mention of it in writing is in the the Doomsday Book where it appears as Oderesfelt and Odresfeld. According to a plausible etymology, this indicates a feld (a field or stretch of open land) held by an Anglo-Saxon farmer called Oderer or Odhere. How the name subsequently acquired its initial ‘h’ is a matter for speculation.

Farmland it might once have been but that was before the Industrial Revolution turned fields into factories and country air into smoke and grime. The smoke and grime have largely gone from Huddersfield but they have left behind a legacy of fine Victorian buildings, many of which have been listed as historically and aesthetically important by Historic England.

Huddersfield Station
Huddersfield Station

We encountered the first of these as soon as we stepped off the train: Huddersfield Station. This imposing building, seemingly modelled on a classical Greek temple, was built in 1846-50 to a design by James Pigott Pritchett (1789-1868). With six Corinthian columns across the front and two more at the sides, it was clearly intended to impress and to advertise the wealth of the town. It is Grade I listed.

Harold Wilson memorial sculpture
Harold Wilson memorial sculpture
Ian Walters, unveiled 1999

In front of the station, in St George’s Square, stands a sculpture. By Ian Walters and unveiled in 1999, it shows a famous son of Huddersfield, Harold Wilson, Prime Minister 1964-70 and 1974-60, later Lord Wilson of Rievaulx, striding energetically forward, feeling in his pocket, perhaps, for his trademark pipe and tobacco.

Estate Buildings
Estate Buildings

This is one of the largest structures that we encountered. I thought at first that it must be the town hall but it is not. The Gothic style edifice was built between 1861 and 1874 (different sources give slightly different dates) and was designed by William Henry Crossland (1835-1908) of Huddersfield. It was commissioned by the Ramsden family, owners of Huddersfield Manor and major property owners, as their estates office. Today it is known as the Ramsden Estate Buildings or simply the Estate Buildings. Originally serving as office accommodation it has now been converted to residential use. The narrowness of Railway Street doesn’t lend itself to capturing the whole of this building in a single frame and the above is a composite of several photos, leading to a small amount of perspective distortion.

Westgate House
Westgate House

This unusual corner building is the result of two episodes of construction. It was originally founded in the mid-19th century (my sources are not more precise) but underwent rebuilding in 1923 with a steel frame and bronze cladding. Despite its mongrel nature, however, it has achieved a Grade II listing.

The street in which Westgate House resides is itself called Westgate. In this context, the word ‘gate’ means, not a gate in our modern sense, but a street. Another example in Huddersfield is Kirkgate. The use of ‘gate’ rather than ‘street’ derives from when the northern parts of England were dominated by Viking settlers.

The Royal Swan
The Royal Swan

The Royal Swan has a long history behind it but its future is in doubt. Even before it closed, the building had been partly given over to other businesses, reflecting the decline in the pub trade. The forerunner of this pub existed by no later than 1822. However, it was then called The Swan with Two Necks and occupied a site next to the current one upon which then stood a larger pub called The Victoria Tavern. It seems that the Swan did well, so well that it took over the site of its neighbour and renamed itself The Royal Swan. It present appearance dates from rebuilding in 1932.

The name ‘Swan with Two Necks’ may seem rather odd. It has been suggested that ‘necks’ should really be ‘nicks’, referring to the tradition by which owners of flocks of swans marked the birds belonging to them by making nicks in their beaks.

The Byram Arcade
The Byram Arcade

In any town with a strong Victorian legacy, there is the hope of finding one or more shopping arcades, those elegant forerunners of the modern shopping centre. Huddersfield has several arcades but none is finer than this one, called Byram Arcade. This three-storey precinct, crammed with shops, seems very lively and popular. It was created by William Crossland, architect of the above mentioned Estate Buildings and built 1881-2. The name comes from the country seat of the Ramsden family whose crest appears above the entrance.

Kirkgate Buildings
Kirkgate Buildings

Victorian in age but Queen Anne in style is the elegant Kirkgate Buildings, built in the 1880s, again by Crossland.

Kirkgate Buildings, detail
Kirkgate Buildings, detail

This close-up shows examples of the decorative detail, less flamboyant than some Victorian Gothic designs but intricate and finely worked.

Parish Church of St Peter
Parish Church of St Peter

This is the only church I ‘collected’ on this trip and we didn’t visit the interior. Perhaps we should have as it is Grade II* listed. As usual, there are claims that there has been a church here since ancient times but this one, dedicated to St Peter, was built by James Pigott Pritchett in 1834-6, right on the eve of the Victorian era. If ever we return to Huddersfield, perhaps we’ll take a look inside.

Palace Studios, once the Palace Theatre
Palace Studios, once the Palace Theatre

Theatres. like pubs, are finding it difficult to survive in the modern world and many have been demolished or made to serve other purposes. Huddersfield’s Palace Theatre is a typical example. It opened as a music hall in 1909 thrived in various roles until 1936 when a fire – an all too common scourge of theatres – destroyed the interior. The theatre was rebuilt and opened again in 1937. I believe the façade was made ‘reminiscent’ of the original, rather than being an exact copy of it. Declining fortunes meant that in 1969 it turned into a bingo hall. 1997 saw another change of fortune with the old Palace becoming the Chicago Rock Cafe and nightclub. The second decade of the 21st century brought further change. The Palace Theatre is now the Palace Studios, an accommodation block for students.

The Mechanics Institution
The Mechanics Institution

Mechanics Institutions sought to bring the benefits of education to young men, both to help them in the future work and to provide educated and skilled workers for industry. As such they were often supported by local industry. Classes began in Huddersfield in ad hoc accommodation but as numbers of students increased a purpose built centre was planned. The foundation stone was laid in 1859 and the institution opened its doors in 1861. This building was superseded in the 1890s by the Huddersfield Technical College and this building was occupied by the Friendly and Trades Club. Who inhabits it now, I do  not know.

Huddersfield Open Market
Huddersfield Open Market

Markets have been held in Huddersfield since early times though a charter was not granted until 1671, by Charles II. This one is called the Huddersfield Open Market despite sheltering cosily under a Victorian iron and glass canopy. A plaque on the outside gives a succinct history of the market: Built 1888, Restored 1980, Project awarded Civic Trust Commendation 1983, Repainted 1998, Refurbished 2008.

Inside the market
Inside the market

We found the market quite busy and lively with a wide range of goods on sale. We even had lunch in one of the market cafes.

Northumberland Street Post Office
Northumberland Street Post Office

This fine old 1914-vintage Post Office remains in use, unlike so many of its ilk, and is supported by the local population. Let’s hope it will survive for years to come. The only shadow of trouble concerns the two light-wells either side of the entrance. These have been accumulating rubbish for years – to complaints by the neighbours – but it seems that it is no one’s job to remove it. If this problems continues, then it will become a matter for archaeologists rather than cleaners…

Views along King Street
Views along King Street

These views show King Street in the heart of the shopping area which includes the large Packhorse Shopping Centre.

Huddersfield Library and Art Gallery
Huddersfield Library and Art Gallery

This blocky but quite pleasantly styled building is the Huddersfield Library and Art Gallery, designed by E.H. Ashburner, whose principal work it seems to be. It was built in 1937 and is Grade II listed.

Library sculptures
Library sculptures
James Woodford, c1937

Before the entrance sit two allegorical figures sculpted by James Woodford. Historic England describes them as ‘free-standing statues in classical style with modernist influence flanking entrance steps, representing Spirits of Literature and Art’, though in the absence of any labelling, I am unable to say which figure represents which noun.

Huddersfield Town Hall
Huddersfield Town Hall

In 1974, the Kirklees Metropolitan Borough was created and it absorbed a number of towns including Huddersfield. Much of the administration of Huddersfield has been taken over by Kirklees with its own borough offices. While some council functions remain in the town hall, principally the register office, the building has largely been converted into a venue for weddings and live entertainments. It was designed by John Henry Abbey (1831-80) and built in two stages in 1875 and 1881.

The Commercial Hotel
The Commercial Hotel

Standing on the corner of New Street and High Street, the Commercial Hotel has a plain, no-nonsense Georgian air about it. This early 19th century pub, sometimes known as the Jug & Bottle, is Grade II listed. What is no longer apparent is that the building once included a tobacconist’s shop with its entrance on the corner and windows looking onto both streets. In later times, when tobacco felt into disfavour and the then owners vacated the premises, the tobacco shop was erased by rebuilding that corner of the pub. No sign that the shop ever existed can now be seen.

4 and 6 High Street
4 and 6 High Street

This building caught my attention with its dramatic air, its obvious quality and the fact that it doesn’t seem to be treated with the dignity that it deserves. It doesn’t even have a name, being generally referred to (even by Historic England) as ‘4 and 6 High Street’. It could do with a clean but, on the other hand, the dirt does bring out the decorative features which cleaning would render bland. All that I could discover about it is that it was built in the mid-19th century as a commercial property and that it is Grade II listed. Even the architect’s name seems unknown. It is a fine little building and it and its architect deserve more recognition than they are currently receiving.

The Lion Buildings
The Lion Buildings

Because it is near the station, the above building was one of the first we saw on reaching Huddersfield. However, owing the the layout of the streets, the various photos I took of it did not satisfy me. It was only when we were returning to the station that I found angle from which I could capture the whole building albeit in pieces which I have here stitched together. It is called the Lion Buildings, and sometimes the Lion Arcade, and it is much larger than may be apparent from the picture. It was designed by James Pigott Pritchett (responsible also for the station and St Peter’s Church) and was completed in 1854, comprising shops, offices and storerooms. It is Grade II* listed. The original white lion was made by John Seeley but began to  crumble as a result of weathering and pollution and was replaced in 1978 by a fibreglass replica.

Waiting for the train to London
Waiting for the train to London

And so we came to the station once more, to take our scheduled train back to London. Though not as famous as some of its near neighbours such as Sheffield and Leeds, Huddersfield had proved well worth visiting and had kept us busy exploring it treasures. Even so, we could not see everything and had to neglect items just as deserving as those we photographed. A return visit seems called for!

Copyright 2017 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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Some pictures of Basildon

Sunday, April 28th 2017

As it was Sunday and we had spent the morning shopping, we needed to find somewhere nearby, or at least, easy to get to, for our afternoon ramble. Tigger chose Basildon, mainly, I think, because we had never been there.

Basildon is in the county of Essex and is fairly near to Southend-on-Sea. It’s easy enough to find on the map if you want to do so. The name is about the most interesting feature of Basildon. It is thought to be composed of the Anglo-Saxon personal name Boerthal with the addition of dun, meaning a hill, thus Boerthal’s Hill. We can never be sure that this is the correct derivation but it seems plausible to me.

Basildon, I suppose, is neither better nor worse than hundreds of towns the length and breadth of Britain. The people who live there probably like it but I found in it nothing of interest. Possible we missed the best bits and I am being unjust but I doubt it. We took a few photos as we went about and a selection of mine appear below.

Basildon Station
Basildon Station

Basildon can be reached by a 30-minute train ride  from Fenchurch Street. Basildon Station, as you can see, is rather small and of understated appearance.

Market Square
Market Square

We wandered hither and thither without any fixed plan though I subsequently discovered that the town publishes a Heritage Trail Map (PDF file). Would this have made a difference to our trip? No, I don’t think so.

St Martin's Square
St Martin’s Square

One thing I can say in favour of Basildon is that a large part of the central area is pedestrianized. This is a policy I approve of and wish more towns would adopt. Vehicular traffic has been favoured for too long, to the detriment of our health and convenience, and it is time the balance was restored.

The Basildon Centre
The Basildon Centre

The Basildon Centre is Basildon Council’s main administrative building and also has rooms and conference facilities for hire. It forms part of the new town centre developed in the 1950s.

St Martin's Bell Tower
St Martin’s Bell Tower

The bell tower of the Church of St Martin of Tours is adjacent to the church but separate from it. The tower was opened by the Queen on March 12th 1999. It contains a peal of eight bells (one dating from the 15th century) which originally belonged to the Church of St Nicholas in Coventry. (See here for more details.)

Church of St Martin of Tours
Church of St Martin of Tours

The Church of St Martin of Tours was built in the 1960s and its styling is perfectly consistent with that date.

Sculpture of Christ
Sculpture of Christ
T.B. Huxley-Jones, c1968

Rendered even more eye-catching by the plainness of the walls, above the entrance hangs a fibreglass sculpture of Christ. It is by T.B. Huxley-Jones (1908-68) and when unveiled was expected to cause controversy. Some 50 years later, however, it no longer seems as avant-garde as once it might have done.

Church interior
Church interior

The church was quite busy with people milling around engaging in various activities but they were happy to let us in to look around and take photos.

Stained glass window

Stained glass window, side chapel
Stained glass windows

The church is decorated with a set of modern-style stained-glass windows, of which the two above are samples, the upper in the main church and the lower in a side chapel. They were designed by Joseph Nuttgens.

Unascribed sculpture
Unascribed sculpture

Continuing on, we found this sculpture in a nearby street. I know neither the name of the sculptor nor the title of the work, if any. Was it always free-standing or did it once form part of a larger structure? I have no idea.

Mother and Child Fountain
Mother and Child Fountain
Maurice Lambert, c1960

The Mother and Child, by Maurice Lambert, is a sculpture that forms part of a fountain but the fountain is not working at present. The poses of the figures seem to me rather awkward and unlikely but I hear that it is very popular with the townsfolk.

East Square
East Square

Superman in mufti paying a visit to East Square, possibly on his way to the nail bar.

Man Aspires
Man Aspires
A.J. Poole, 1957

This oh-so-1950s sculpture graces the side of Freedom House. It is by A.J.Poole (1926-2009). For a long time, the sculptor’s own title  for the work was unknown and it was called the Treble Clef. More recently, the sculptor’s daughter has vouchsafed that the artist called it Man Aspires.

Sculptures with strings or wires stretching across them seem to have been a fad of the middle decades of the 20th century, now happily relegated to the past though not before some quite famous sculptors tried the genre. For example, see this work by no less an artist than Barbara Hepworth.

East Walk
East Walk

East Walk forms part of the Eastgate shopping centre that opened in 1985. Its launch was accompanied by all the usual superlatives and I suppose it is a good place to go either on a shopping spree or when trying to buy some special item. Unless you have some such special purpose in mind, though, it is a pretty dull haunt of the usual retail suspects. I left Basildon without any regrets and don’t expect to return.

The Railway Squirrel
The Railway Squirrel

While on the station platform waiting for the train back to London, we spied a squirrel running along the track. My reflex was to worry that he might be run over by the train. Having watched him for a while, though, I could see that he was perfectly familiar with the lie of the land and was in no danger. Animals are often cleverer and more competent than we give them credit for.

Copyright 2017 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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Brooklands

Thursday, April 27th 2017

Brooklands in its heyday was probably the world’s most famous motor race track. It was also the world’s first purpose-built motor race track. Today it is a museum and can be visited.

Brooklands was built by a local landowner, Hugh Locke King, on his estate near Weybridge in Surrey. It was 2.75 miles long, 100ft wide and was banked to allow the curves to be taken at high speed. The first official race took place on July 6th 1907. Facilities also included an aerodrome and by 1918, Brooklands had become a major aircraft manufacturing centre.

Racing at Brooklands was halted during the First World War and resumed in 1920. When the Second World War was declared in 1939, however, racing was once again stopped, this time permanently. Having secured funding, the Brooklands Museum plans to restore the final mile-long finishing stretch to its original state and bring it back into use.

Arriving at Weybridge
Arriving at Weybridge

The journey to Brooklands took us first to Weybridge (Surrey) which we reached by train from Waterloo. As this map shows, Brooklands is about half a mile from  the station, as the crow flies. By road it is longer. We looked around for buses to take us there but ended up making our way there on foot. The entrance is at the western end of the complex where you pass through a wooden building comprising the ticket desk and the inevitable museum shop.

Getting an antique motor cycle to run
Getting an antique motor cycle to run

This is by no means a static museum where you file politely past the exhibits in their glass cases. There is a lot of activity and people in nicely soiled overalls doing things with engines. We came upon this group of enthusiasts trying to start an ancient motor cycle and then ride it.

Racing teams and motor businesses established themselves at Brooklands and many of the sheds are still in place with the names of their famous owners emblazoned on them.

Malcol Campbell's workshops
Malcolm Campbell’s workshops

Pictured above, for example, are the (restored) workshops of Sir Malcolm Campbell (1885-1948), racing driver and journalist, who achieved many speed records on both land and water in vehicles that all bore the name Bluebird.

Brooklands Clubhouse
Brooklands Clubhouse

This rather handsome building is called the Clubhouse. It contains offices, displays of memorabilia and welcome facilities such as toilets and a cafe where we gratefully took tea.

Display of cars
Display of cars

There is much to see, including cars…

Display of motorcycles
Display of motorcycles

motorcycles…

R.G.J. Nash Collection of Cycles
R.G.J. Nash Collection of Cycles

and even pedal cycles. This display features the R.G.J. Nash Collection of Cycles. There is so much to see, in fact, that unless you are deeply interested in vehicles of every sort (and perhaps even if you are), it is likely to become difficult to pay attention to all the exhibits.

Bust of Sir Malcolm Campbell
Bust of Sir Malcolm Campbell

I concentrated on those items that particularly attracted my attention.

RAC Patrol Motorcycle
RAC Patrol Motorcycle

These included this motorcycle and sidecar combination belonging to the Royal Automobile Club, better known as the RAC. The RAC was founded in 1897 and in years past, motorcycle patrols run by the RAC and the AA (founded 1905) were a common sight on British roads. Their role was to help members who were in difficulty, typically because of mechanical problems. The patrolmen would even salute members (indicated by the appropriate badge affixed to the vehicle) encountered en route.

1930s Austin Sevens
1930s Austin Sevens

I similarly noticed this handsome pair of 1930s vintage Austin Sevens, one of the most popular cars in its day. From left to right they are an Austin Seven Sports (1934) and an Austin Seven Speedy (1935).

Working on a car
Working on a car

I spotted this group of three gentlemen giving some TLC to one of the exhibits. It is care and attention like this that helps keep museums lively places to visit.

Concorde
Concorde

We also visited the aircraft hangars, starting with the Brooklands Concorde. This exhibit features in various events as this Web page explains. The museum also owns the last remaining Concorde Simulator, that was used for training Concorde flight crews.

Wellington Bomber 'R for Robert'
Wellington Bomber ‘R for Robert’

Wellingtons were the main allied bombers of the Second World War. This one, known as ‘R for Robert’ had been lost until it was rediscovered in 1978 at a depth of 60 metres (197 feet) in Loch Ness. Its finders had actually been looking of ‘Nessie’, the so called Loch Ness Monster! Since then, funding has been obtained, firstly to recover the aircraft and then to begin the work of restoration. More information on ‘R for Robert’ here.

VC10 interior
VC10 interior

We had a look inside a Vickers VC10, in its day one of the most popular passenger aircraft, so much so that the Sultan of Oman bought one for his personal use and adapted it accordingly. Yes, that aircraft is also in the museum’s collection. (See here.)

Sopwith F.1 Camel (replica)
Sopwith F.1 Camel (replica)

Before leaving the aircraft section, we had a look at some of the historic aeroplanes, most of which had fascinating stories attached to them. Not least was the famed Sopwith Camel, though this one is in fact a modern reproduction. The Sopwith Camel became legendary both for the awkwardness of its handling, which caused the deaths of a number of pilots, and for its formidable manoeuvrability and destructive prowess when flown by an expert. The Camel was first made in 1917, during the First World War, as a fighter plane. Its armaments consisted of twin machine guns synchronized to fire through the propeller. This is a replica of B7270 of 209 Squadron, RAF, which was piloted by Captain Roy Brown when he shot down the ‘Red Baron’, Manfred von Richthofen. (More details here.)

London Bus Museum, General View
London Bus Museum, General View

Conveniently sited just next door to the Brooklands Museum is the London Bus Museum. Londoners, and the inhabitants of any city, no doubt, entertain a love-hate relationships with the bus. When the services run to time and the buses are not crowded, they provide a convenient way to get around and see the sights. In rush hours, or when the traffic is disrupted for some reason, bus travel may become less than wonderful… Quite apart from that, the development of the omnibus and the various forms it has taken throughout its relatively short history are fascinating and the bus museum will provide surprises for even the most apathetic visitor. In a phrase: the London Bus Museum is well worth a visit.

'Knifeboard' Horse Bus c1875 
‘Knifeboard’ Horse Bus c1875

I must admit to being particularly fond of horse-drawn buses, an enthusiasm enhanced by a ride on a horse bus in Antwerp in 2011 (see Bruges 2011 – Day 2). This horse bus is the oldest vehicle in the bus museum. It continued in use for some decades even after the introduction of motor buses.

A curiosity is the advert on the side. This reads ‘DOOF SEGDIR’. It doesn’t take long to realize that this is ‘RIDGES FOOD’ spelt backwards. (Ridge’s Food was a food preparation ‘For Infants Invalids & The Aged’. See this advertisement.) Why is it the wrong way round? One theory is that it was written thus so that shoppers would see it the right way round when reflected in shop windows. I am sceptical of this.

Ridges advertisement in mirror image
Ridges advertisement in mirror image

The above mirror image is surely no more readable than the original version. If they had meant it to be seen in reflection, Ridges would have reversed the letters as well, as is done with the words ƎƆI⅃Oꟼ and ƎƆИA⅃UᙠMA intended to be seen in vehicle drivers’ rear view mirrors. I am inclined to think it was a rather bold way of grabbing people’s attention with a puzzle.

1925 Dennis 4-ton bus – D142 1925 Dennis 4-ton bus – D142
1925 Dennis 4-ton bus – D142

Inevitably, motor buses improved in reliability and horse buses and trams gradually disappeared from London’s streets. Open-top buses are these days not very popular but once they were the norm as this 1925 motor double-decker shows. What now appears quaint to us would once have been a common sight along the busy streets.

For us it was time to leave the museums and find our way back to the railway station. For the return leg, however, we found a bus stop and waited patiently there until a bus arrived and carried us smoothly into Weybridge. We felt we had done enough walking for one day!

Copyright 2017 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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