Halifax in Calderdale, West Yorkshire (or better the West Riding of Yorkshire) is the place of my birth and although my emotional attachment to it is somewhat tenuous these days, it still has significance for me, and I’ve been glad to visit it several times since our move back to Leeds. One of its major attractions is the Piece Hall ……
“The Piece Hall was erected by the manufacturers (of woollen and worsted cloth) and is a large quadrangular building of freestone occupying an area of ten thousand square yards with a rustic basement storey and two upper storeys fronted with two interior colonnades which are spacious walks leading to arched rooms where goods in an unfinished state were deposited and exhibited for sale to the merchants every Saturday from ten to twelve o clock. This structure which was completed at an expense of £12,000 and opened on 1 January 1779 unites elegance convenience and security. It contains three hundred and fifteen separate rooms and is proof against fire.”
— Samuel Lewis, “A topographical dictionary of England” (1831)
It reopened recently after an extensive, £19 million, restoration and we took the opportunity to go and take a look at the transformation on a beautiful autumn day. The old stones and the 315 rooms are still there, the latter with a change of purpose and now housing a range of eating options and boutique-style shops….. although in truth many are empty as yet and many have variations on the theme of “coming soon” in their windows, so it is still something of a work in progress.
The dramatic change is in the great courtyard within the square of C18th building, which is now a wonderful conglomeration of paving, steps, stainless steel tubes, gradients and even water features which offers a huge range of opportunities to visitors of all ages and backgrounds. It wasn’t all that busy on the day we went, but even so the mix of ages, races and purposes was truly striking. I’ll include some images, a fairly random selection from those I developed, and add to them a recommendation to visit and an intention to return ourselves!
We remember driving through Beverley on the way home from Hornsea a couple of years ago, and so decided that we should spend a day there and take a good look. In addition we had seen advertising for a wildlife photographic exhibition in the town’s art gallery – and we made that our first stop after coffee.
The gallery is housed in a building which is part quite old and part very new and is called the “Treasure House”. The exhibition was very impressive indeed, some of the images really quite stunning. One aspect of it was the work of “young people”, some indeed as young as 10 years old. Great promise for the future – indeed great skill for the present! The information with each image spoke on occasion of great patience in waiting for the right moment, and sometimes (particularly in the “adult” section) of a very high level of technical ability and indeed kit. There was a considerable section of underwater photography the images in which were all quite fascinating. It’s on till April, and well worth a visit. Certainly inspiring – perhaps a little intimidating at times too!
A more than decent lunch and a stroll while making photographs of the market square and surrounding streets, and then eventually to the Minster, which is of course Beverley’s major claim to fame. It’s a very impressive building.
There are connections in and around the town with its agricultural heritage, which include the vital canal for transport and a couple of windmills. We didn’t have time to get to either of those sadly, but they constitute a more than adequate reason for a return visit. A few images follow ………
Salts Mill and the surrounding town of Saltaire are familiar enough to most people living in Leeds, and of course we’ve been here several times. The Mill itself is always interesting – and they serve a decent cup of coffee – even it it is something of a shrine to David Hockney. I appreciate his work (he says condescendingly) and I admire his advances with picture making technology, particularly his use of an iPad. I do confess though to finding it a touch the same, but maybe that says more about my inability to appreciate good art when I see it! I find the building itself fascinating, as of course is its heritage as an industrial venture on the grand scale. The noise of production must have been appalling, but Titus Salt seems to have done his level best to “do the right thing” for his employees, as is well documented.
After lunch in the “Victoria Tea Rooms we wandered (on what really was a bleak January day) a mile or so long the canal bank towards Shipley. Obviously some of these great looming mill buildings have been very creatively restored and are in good and purposive use, often as office buildings I think. Others have yet to be restored and so are perhaps more evocative of their past. Boats aren’t on the move much at this time of year, but there were several on moorings, at least a couple of which were worth a picture I felt.
We strolled around the part of the estate that Salt had built for his workers. Different grades of houses from fine looking detached to rather more snug terraces, presumably appropriate to the station in life of their original occupants. They have in common though that they look well designed and well built – odd little bits of detailing mark them out as having been put up with care. I hope that’s right! There’s certainly scope for individuality now as I guess they are all privately owned, albeit limited by the area’s status as a “World Heritage Site” – we rather enjoyed the very maritime looking collection in one front yard.
The United Reformed Church is a splendid looking building ….. and has in its grounds the mausoleum in which Titus and his family are buried. Thus its cupola is the last of the images which follow:
I freely confess to a growing affection for the centre of Leeds. It has a vibrancy and dynamic that I enjoy increasingly – as I’m sure do many city centres. There’s a great deal of building and development going on even in these straitened economic times and watching the new emerge in the midst of the old is, to my mind, quite fascinating.
The images from this “shoot” really fall into three distinct sections, which I’m going to reduce to two. The first group is really about infrastructure with an underlying theme which is about exploring the relationship between old and new. In the images that’s obviously simply a visual relationship, how much that reflects the relationship at other – civic, economic, even philosophical and so on – is less easy to judge, and may well lie beyond my interest anyway – this is just about pictures and doesn’t pretend to be anything else.
So Boar Lane first and then Millennium Square. It’s about shapes, angles, textures and lines an so by and large works best in monochrome. The exceptions are the gilded bits, and there are a number of those about! The owls in “4” and “6” stand puffed up and proud of their gilt status, and maybe reflect something of the city’s self image both current and hung over from its previous standing in the woollen industry which I guess is the source of many of its fine older buildings.