Saturday, 29 April 2017

Monday, 3 April 2017

The wonder of Silsden's sunlit springtime woodlands

Above: the uplifting power of primroses never wanes. The plant's generic name, primula, is derived from two Latin words meaning 'first rose', and refers to its March early flowering.
Above: admired by Wordsworth, the lesser celandine carpets woodlands with a bold splash of gold. The petals close up in dull weather, unlike the unrelated greater celandine.
Above: the delicate flowers of wood anemones are wide open in sunny weather but close and droop if it is cloudy or dusk. 

Sunday, 2 April 2017

More memories of Aire View School in the 1950s/early 1960s
I am indebted to Jill Murray (nee Whitaker) for this collection of six photos of Jill's Aire View School classes from 1956 to 1961. Pictured above are children at the nursery, which was in Prince Street.
Above: 1957. Headmistress Miss Edith Clarke is seated centre left.The class teacher with her is Miss Little.
Above: 1958. This photograph was taken in the hall of the old Methodist chapel, which was used when pupil numbers were too large to be accommodated in the Elliott Street school. The parish church hall was also used. Jill thinks the teacher is Miss Tillotson.
Above: 1959. Pupils are pictured on the steps in the park, in the area which served as the playground for outdoor classes.
Above: 1960. Another photo on the steps in the playing fields. The teacher is Mrs Belton, whose son Andrew became a local GP (as reported in my post of March 3rd 2017).
Above: 1961. In front of the main school building.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

A Silsden specialism: seats and savvy sentimentsThis photograph of genial gents on the Clog Bridge seat in the late 1960s/early 1970s has been provided by Jill Murray (nee Whitaker). On the right is Fred Wellock, who was married to Jill's mum's Aunt Jane. Originally from Appletreewick, Fred worked variously as a farmer, a coalman, a gamekeeper (while living at Blackpots) and finally at Steeton bobbin mill. Jill remembers his favourite saying was: "A day out of Silsden is a day wasted."

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Friends of Silsden's Green Places: another spirited addition to community wellbeing

Above: Joyce Kilvington, Darren Edwards (left) and Tim Barker, of Silsden's Friends of Green Places, were hard at work in the rain on Sunday morning, March 19th, digging and tidying the shrubbery on Clog Bridge. The Friends, formed in August 2016, carried out a clean-up at the Howden Road Cemetery as their first project. They have received Bradford council and town council grants to help maintain and improve Silsden's publicly-owned green places. The initiative was sparked by Joyce after she read a Facebook post lamenting untidiness at the cemetery. The Friends now have 55 members.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Signs of the times: from Kirkgate and the Messiah in the 1950s to Tattoo City and Age Concern today

 Above: a 1950s view of the shops from the (Primitive) Methodist Church grounds to the Post Office. The shop with the cigarette advertising boards (Senior Service and Capstan) and chewing-gum dispenser was Marion's, which as well as being a tobacconist sold toys and sweets. The owner was Marion Ritchie (nee Hardcastle). Next door was the chemist Herbert J Clark (with sunblind) and then came the iconic ironmonger Waterhouse's (Esso Blue paraffin stockist). The next shop was Ernest Todd's gardening-supplies outlet. Beyond was Nancy Lund's ladies' outfitters and then the Post Office. The chapel notice board on the left advertises a production of Handel's Messiah, which was an integral part of Silsden's choral calendar for 100 years or so. 
Above: the Messiah soloists, civic dignitaries and worshippers in 1951. Seated are the soloists (left to right) Arthur Gardner (tenor), Ursula Tunnicliffe (soprano), Margaret Bottomley (contralto), Jim Bradley (trumpet), Alice Bradley (accompanist) and Alan Murgatroyd (baritone). The VIPs in the row behind the soloists include Silsden Urban District Council chairman Horace Fortune (fifth from left) and his wife, Nellie Fortune (sixth from left). The Messiah was first performed in Silsden in 1875 and became an annual tradition into the 1970s with united church choirs at its heart.
Above: the same retail parade in 2017. The chemist, now Rowlands Pharmacy (previously Mitchells), occupies two shops. Tattoo City has been established in Kirkgate for three years, occupying what in my 1950s photograph was Waterhouse's ironmongery. Only the Post Office, which opened by the beck bridge in 1907, has outlived all the changes over the years. That too is due to move -- to Twigg's newsagents -- in the near future. What on earth were the planners thinking when they allowed the bizarre top-floor addition to what is now at street level the Dale Eddison premises?  
Above: the tattooist at work. The popularity of the art is a truly modern phenomenon.
Above: intricate designs like this one on the thigh of a customer take hours to accomplish.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Hawber Cote: a pointer to pastoral pleasures but is it a suitable site for a school?

In my following post I refer to the forthcoming merger of the Aire View and Hothfield Street schools and the proposal to move the new primary school to purpose-built premises at Hawber Cote. It could be seen as a delightful rural setting for a school but access looks to be nigh impossible without major disturbances. Bradford council's favoured site is the fenced field bordering the bungalows in Hawber Cote Lane in my photograph above, taken from Hawber Lane, which is the route from Drabble House Farm to Swartha.
Above: the present farm (not public) access to the proposed site for the new primary school is through the gate at the top of Hawber Cote Lane.
Above: the road to and from Hawber Cote Lane is via Banklands Lane opposite the park. The junction is formed by Wayside Mews on the left, a new development, and Hawber Cote Lane on the right. 

Friday, 3 March 2017

Memories of the 1950s as schools prepare for an immense merger and a move to a controversial new site

Above and below: these two photographs have been kindly provided by Marian Barker (nee Phillips), whose family lived in Kent Avenue until moving away about 1960. The teacher in the Aire View School photograph above is Roy Stubbs. Marian, who now lives in Keighley, says she has nothing but happy memories of her Aire View school days.
The nursery school in Prince Street circa 1957. Marian's mum and dad were Leslie and Gladys Phillips and she had four brothers.   
Above: another Aire View class circa 1956. The teacher on the right is Mrs Belton, whose son Andrew became a local GP. 
Above: again from the 1950s, this Aire View class is pictured in the playground with Elliott Street to the left.
Look away now if you don't want to see where a new school might be built. Aire View School (founded in 1877) and Hothfield Street School, which opened in 1914, are to merge.The new primary school will move to purpose-built premises, which are due to be ready for occupation by 2019 with room for 600 pupils. Bradford council's favoured site is the Hawber Cote farmland near to Drabble House. There are already nightmares about traffic and access, not to mention the intrusion into a tranquil rural retreat. The school could be built on the fields bordering the bungalows roughly left of centre of my photograph above. 

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Passenger protection? Metro's got it covered

Above: a new shelter being installed by Metro at the busy Bridge Street bus stop on February 28th. Passengers at the outbound stop on the opposite side of the road have long been sheltered.

Monday, 27 February 2017

A wet welcome for the wee'uns

Above and below: the first lambs I have seen this season. Photographed in a field at Swartha on February 27th, the lambs were born during a particularly wet and soggy period. They belong to Silsden farmer David Gray, whose first lambs were born on February 22nd. His flock mainly comprises Texel and Beltex sheep.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Swartha scene among Hildred Harpin watercolours that have come to light

Above: Michael Purches holds a watercolour by Hildred Harpin, a noted painter, teacher, writer and priest, whose home was at Swartha from 1936 until at least the early 1960s. Michael has lived for nearly 50 years in the Swartha cottage that belonged to the artist, and the newly-purchased work looks towards the Nab from the back of Swartha Cottages. A textile designer, Michael worked locally for Stocks's, where he met his late wife Marian, but went into teaching after the mill closures of the 1970s. He joined Greenhead School in 1979 and became head of French until retiring in 2002.
Above: another Harpin painting. This view of the gable end of No. 6 Swartha Cottages looking towards Swartha Farm is dated 1944. It is one of six Harpin paintings collected over the years by Michael Purches, whose latest acquisition, with which he is pictured in the first photograph, was among 62 Harpins recently offered for sale online by Sulis Fine Art ( along with two works by Hildred's father, Edgar. Sulis bought the paintings at auction. It is not known why so many suddenly became available. Sulis was offering the unframed works for between £9 and £34. Nearly half were swiftly sold.
Above: Hildred 'Harry' Harpin pictured aged 80 at St Peter's Gate in Assisi. He died the same year the day after celebrating mass at the feast of St Francis. Born at Marsden, near Huddersfield, in 1907, Hildred was a graduate of the Royal College of Art. He taught art at Keighley Boys Grammar School and became acting principal of Keighley School of Art. He was elected to Silsden Urban District council in 1955. From a nonconformist family, he converted to catholicism in 1957 and studied for the priesthood at Beda College in Rome. He retired to Assisi to serve as a chaplain. Information about Hildred and other artists from the Bradford district can be viewed at, a website run by Colin Neville, of Silsden. Aspects of Swartha featured in my posts of January 22nd 2017 and February 7th 2015.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Please be seated. But you'll need astonishing stamina if you're trying to put the world to rights
Above: Silsden may have only a couple of centrally placed seats but they have been affectionately used and regarded for many years. Regular occupants of the beckside seat opposite the Red Lion in Kirkgate are (left to right) Doug Grainger, Brian Wood (with his border terrier Hamish) and Graham Clymo.
Above: this photograph by the late Will Baldwin was taken after the revamp of the scenic setting by Stakes Beck. The seat (not new) had been provided by Silsden Civic Society.
Above: this new seat in another Will Baldwin photograph (of his grandchildren) did not make it into recent times.
Above: for years the Elliott Street seat by the boatyard was a renowned meeting place for older residents to put the world to rights. Few indeed were the men who went out cap-less or tie-less.  

Above: this could almost have been a moment of women's local liberation -- occupying the blokes' bench. Probably this fearless foursome were awaiting the departure of a charabanc: coach outings in the 1950s-1970s traditionally left from Elliott Street. 
Above: the seat was a fixture beneath the Silsden Labour Party rooms, which had opened in January 1936 with a talk by Mr Lister Dawson on "the international situation". The poster on the building advertises the Labour Weekly newspaper with the slogan "Gets to the heart of matters that matter". One of the founders of the Labour Party in Silsden was nailmaker William Dawson of Tufton Street. Born in 1851, he did not learn to read until he was nearly 50 and then became absorbed in social and political history. Although a seat has survived the demolition of the building and the development of the boatyard, the modern bench is hardly ever used, having fallen victim to the constant stream of traffic and fumes at the junction with Keighley Road. This photograph was taken by the late Kevin Bower.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

New owners bring Homemade Heaven to Hills Bakery

Above: Sarah and James Morton are the new owners of Hills Bakery in Kirkgate. They are pictured with their sons Noah, seven, and Seth four. Working from home, Silsden-born Sarah, a member of the famous Lampkin families (her parents are Alan and Eileen), has built up a substantial reputation with her Homemade Heaven business, supplying shops, cafes, pubs and other catering outlets in the district.
Now she and James, a printer, are expanding the business by taking over Hills Bakery, which they will run together. They will retain the long-established and renowned Hills name and plan soon to install their own bakery on the premises, in order to underpin and develop their home-made credentials. Bread was last made at Hills some 25 years ago when production was moved to Ilkley. Sarah and James also intend to introduce a delicatessen section.    
Hills was started in 1969 by Paul and Wendy Harding-Hill, who bought Roy Biltcliffe's bakery at the top of Aire View as well as the Kirkgate business. They transferred the oven and equipment to the Kirkgate shop, and baked there until 1991 when they acquired The Loafer in Ilkley. In the 1980s, they also ran a baker's shop at the former Co-op in Dradishaw Road.
Above: Hills Bakery has been a mainstay presence in Kirkgate for nearly 50 years. This picture from a few decades ago is by courtesy of Silsden Camera Club. Paul and Wendy, who still live in Silsden, retired after selling the Kirkgate business in 2005 and helping the new owner for a couple of years. The shop has had four owners since the Hills, including now the Mortons, who have taken over from Jane Henry. Interestingly, Wendy Hill was a student at Keighley Technical School when Sarah's father was a prefect there.    
Above: Kirkgate in the early 1900s, before the house at the junction with Aire View became a shop. Later photographs of the Kirkgate shops between the Aire View and New Road junctions feature in my post of January 6th, 2013.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Former office manager takes on a pet project

Stephanie Calvert-Smith and her husband Patrick, who live in Silsden, have taken over the Dogsbody & Friends business in Kirkgate. It is a new venture for the couple. Silsden-born Stephanie has opted for a lifestyle change after 30 years working in offices, the last 15 as operations manager at Hallmark Cards in Bradford.
Stephanie will be full-time in the shop while Patrick will continue his job as a systems developer for medical equipment manufacturer DePuy International. The Kirkgate shop, which includes dog grooming, will operate as before. It had been run since 2008 by Emma and Andrew Stead, who are continuing their pet and grooming business in Skipton. The Kirkgate premises have been in retail use since the late 1800s and became a pet shop in 1957 -- see my post of December 7th, 2012.