Friday, February 05, 2016

On A Charabanc Trip To Obscurity

This is another of Rock Tavern Jack's photographs which we have both examined in great detail in order to find a clue as to its location - but with no success. It is obviously a loaded charabanc about to set off an an outing to the seaside or a race meeting or some such venue. The date is probably the first two - or at a push three - decades of the twentieth century. It is almost certainly a pub trip, and that is the pub just behind the "chara" : but the pub signage is too indistinct to read. The chances are that the pub will have been somewhere in the Halifax area as that is where Jack's family come from.

I am reproducing the image here for a couple of reasons. First of all it might be that somebody can possibly identify the scene. I have checked through Stephen Gee's excellent two volume history of Halifax Pubs to see if I can recognise the building but I can't. The last time I featured one of Jack's photos, Stephen was able to provide background information and we may be lucky again.

The second reason is just that it is a magnificent photograph. Look at that line of Yorkshire faces - as iconic and as memorable as anything you would find on Mount Rushmore. And look at that charabanc - the Suffolk Punch of motorised transport. It is eighty or ninety years since charabancs were seen on English roads. Their demise is rather sad: the modern-day hen-night stretch limo could not hold candle to these magnificent motorised beasts. It would appear that their journey to obscurity has reached the terminus - in 2011 Collins Dictionary finally removed "charabanc" from its lists.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Half Time Scores : Still Open And Serving 2, Closed And Forgotten 2

I am still in the pub - but a different pub in a different place at a different time. I was scanning some old negatives today - as one does on a cold rainy day - and I came across this strip of five monochrome negatives I must have shot in the mid 1970s (1975 is my best guess).  Our friend Jane had just moved to Eynsham in Oxfordshire and we were visiting for the weekend and the first thing to do on visiting a new village is to walk around taking pictures of all the pubs (40 years and I have not changed at all). I suspect that there is a companion strip of negatives to this somewhere as there were more than five pubs in the village - but the five represented here provide a good overview of what has happened to village pubs over the last forty years.

As far as I can discover, the Jolly Sportsman and the Swan are still going strong - providing real ale and decent food for villagers and visitors alike. The Evenlode is still open but now it is a restaurant and carvery that mainly caters for the passing trade. The Railway Inn closed shortly after this photograph was taken - the victim of a bad fire caused by a hay wagon that caught fire. The Star is also gone, converted into a housing redevelopment six years ago.

So the score so far is two all (we will ignore the Evenlode for the moment - to the half serious drinker, restaurants don't count) as far as open and closed is concerned. We will call in a half-time score in case I find the second negative strip which records the other pubs of the village.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

A Tale Of Ripe Beer And A Neighbourly Alderman

The Shibden Mill Inn is a delightful pub, set in glorious West Yorkshire countryside. It is a place where you can get a splendid meal, but it is also somewhere where they are just as happy to serve you a pint of real ale and a bag of peanuts. Most hours of the day and night, 365 days a year, rain or shine, you will find a welcome at the foot of Blake Hill. And so it has been for over three hundred years.....

Click Image To Enlarge
This intriguing story comes from the local Halifax Courier and Guardian of 77 years ago and illustrates how the laws on drinking have changed over the last half century. It is a report of a police prosecution of the landlord of the Shibden Mill Inn, Jonathan Whitworth, for serving alcohol outside licensing hours, and of a customer, Harry Rawson, for consuming a glass of beer a few minutes after closing time on Christmas Eve 1938.

You can read the story and marvel at the degree of fuss which is made about such a minor incident. You can ponder on the motives of the two policemen who obviously had nothing better to do than to stand in a pub yard at quarter to midnight on Christmas Eve in the hope of trapping some recalcitrant imbiber with beer froth stuck to his upper lip. You can marvel at the evidence - presented with all the seriousness of a murder trial - whether the handle of the beer glass was turned in the direction of the customer or the landlord, and whether the ripeness of the beer was the cause of the lasting head. You can sit back and enjoy the defence put forward by Harry Rawson: the fact that he had witnesses prepared to swear  that he had not touched the demon drink for months and his wonderful doctors' note saying that he "was not to touch beer at certain times of the year".

Ridiculous as the case undoubtedly was, I was glad to see the outcome of the trial that was heard in front of Alderman Leach and Alderman Stirk. They dismissed both cases with Alderman Leach commenting - no doubt with a twinkle in his eye - that he thought it was foolish of the Landlord to leave glasses lying around.  When I was young, the same Alderman Leach lived next door but one to me. By then he was very old, but he was a splendid chap who retained that very same twinkle in his eye.

Monday, February 01, 2016

The Sweet Caress Of A Buffalo Chewing Puppy Dog

It's always the same with January: in like a lion of good intentions and out like a lamb of distractions. From the giddy heights of the first day of 2016,  I surveyed a carefully crafted campaign of meaningful blogposts - as regimented as a Brigade of Guards and as regular as a packet of Pomfret Cakes. And within a few short weeks, I find myself once again having to pen an apology for blogging absence. On this occasion the culprit is obvious - it is a small chocolate-coloured bouncy parcel that is beginning to answer to the name of Lucy.

She operates according to a remarkably manic timetable, dashing around the world at high speed, driven by an obsession to chew at anything that crosses her path. And then, without any real warning she will crash into a deep sleep, that offers you, her guardian, the hope of grabbing a few moments of normality - the chance to make a pot of tea, put your trousers on or plan a blog post - before all such hopes are buried under a renewed mountain of puppy-chews, half-digested copies of the Guardian, and other things too gruesome to relate.

On the few occasions I have managed to find a puppy-free moment I have been lost in a good book,  which - ever since the onset of the digital age when you have an almost unlimited supply of literature at your downloadable finger-tips - seems to be an increasingly rare pleasure (there is an inverse square law waiting to be written here).

The book in question is the wonderful "Sweet Caress" by William Boyd which relates the life of a fictional twentieth century photographer called Amory Clay. Interspersed with a excellent story-line are both photographs that supposedly come from her camera, and descriptions of the nature of the photographic process that will resonate with anyone who has ever picked up a half-serious camera. 

Any book that can overpower the demands of an eight week old puppy must be a compelling read - Sweet Caress is a book I can heartily recommend.

That might sound like an advertisement, but it is not. This, however, is. Lucy is not fed on Spratt's Dog Cake - in line with any self-respecting twenty-first century mollycoddled pooch she is fed a scientific-formulated, veterinary-planned,  vitamin and mineral enriched kibble. I am tempted, however, to see if I can still acquire a bag of Spratt's, which in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century always claimed that it was produced with the extract of American Buffalo meat. 

I have managed to occupy the few minutes that Lucy has been asleep by reading a brief history of Spratt's Dog Foods, and whilst not quite of Boydian dimensions, it is a fascinating story. Did you know, for example, that they were the fist company to erect a billboard in London, or that during the course of World War 1 they produced 1,256,976,708 dog biscuits for the British Army?

But the Lusitania now stirs, demanding exercise, distraction, play and something to chew on. Do you fancy a little bit of baked buffalo meat Lucy?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The First Of Many Journeys

A car stands outside a back street shop. This is such an unusual sight that a crowd gathers and everyone is keen to be included in the photograph. This is a moment that will be remembered a long time; the day a car came to Halifax, or was it Elland, or maybe Brighouse.

A boy sits in the car radiating excitement. A girl sits alongside him, confident in the fact that this will be the first of many such journeys.

Once again, thanks to Rock Tavern Jack for the load of this old photograph.

Monday, January 25, 2016

A More Detailed Explanation Of Why I Never Got Around To Completing My Sepia Saturday Post This Weekend

I never got around to completing my Sepia Saturday post this week. There is a reason for this .....

Ever since Amy, our Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier died in May we have been trying to decide whether to get another dog or not. We have discussed it, compiled lists about it, thought about it ourselves, read books about it and consulted the odd oracle or two. It was all a waste of time, quite obviously, because the only decision we had to make was "when" rather than "whether". We eventually decided what type of dog we wanted and on New Years Day went to see some very young puppies out near the Lincolnshire coast. We fell in love with one of the puppies immediately (well, we fell in love with all of them but there are limits), and yesterday we drove over to collect her. Say hello to Lucy.

The plan was quite simple: we would drive over to collect her in the morning (X and H where somehow persuaded to come with us!), settle here down in one of the crates or dens or boxes we have been busily acquiring over recent works, and then get on with our normal lives. Which just goes to show how silly you can be. All plans to write my Sepia Saturday blogpost, eat a meal, watch War and Peace, or sleep have been progressively abandoned over the last 24 hours as we gradually remember what it is like to have a puppy in the house.

I am only able to write this because she is grabbing 40 winks after a full half-days play (and it is nearly 9.00am). Life as an Aged Parent of an eight week old chocolate-brown Miniature Labradoodle is certainly going to be challenging and no doubt exhausting in equal measures. But Issy and I wouldn't miss it for the world.

The Sepia Saturday theme image had a group of people posing in front of a house. One of the children was holding a puppy. Now what image could I have possibly used for that theme?

Saturday, January 23, 2016

A Moment In Time - A Moment In War

This is a photograph of some American troops taken during World War Two. I don't know exactly where it was taken, when it was taken or, indeed, who was responsible for capturing this moment in time. It came to me via that most modern of commercial conduits - eBay: a service which allows you to buy dollops of history for loose change. The very anonymity of the image provides you with a sort of freedom to explore - there is no one face you are connected to, there is no known tragedy to taint your investigation.

Cropping changes the context, creating a more focused image. Whilst the first image is about wartime logistics, the second is about wartime troops.

And the third is about people, people caught in a moment of time. A moment of war.

In case you are wondering where my Sepia Saturday contribution is this week, it will appear late on Sepia Sunday, for reasons that will become apparent then.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Sepia Saturday 313 : Fear Not But Trust In Providence (And A Decent Lifeboat)

Our Sepia Saturday theme image this week features two children who were Titanic orphans: along with their father they were passengers on the Titanic and whilst they were saved their father perished in the tragedy. It started me thinking about the dangers of the sea and that led me to another of the vintage postcards from the collection of my Great-Uncle, Fowler Beanland. The postcard features an illustration of a ship's pilot and a young girl, along with the first verse of a ballad written by the nineteenth century poet and songwriter, Thomas Haynes Bayly. The Pilot is the kind of ballad that gave the nineteenth century a bad reputation: a sticky concoction of melodrama and sentimentality. Brace yourself, here is the ballad in full:-

"Oh! Pilot! 'tis a fearful night, there's danger on the deep,
I'll come and pace the deck with thee, I do not dare to sleep."
"Go down," the sailor cried, "go down, this is no place for thee;
Fear not! but trust in Providence, wherever thou mayst be."

"Ah! Pilot, dangers often met, we all are apt to slight,
And thou hast known these raging waves, but to subdue their might",
"It is not apathy," he cried, "that gives this strength to me,
Fear not but trust in Providence, wherever thou mayst be.

On such a night the sea engulfed my father's lifeless form;
My only brother's boat went down, in just so wild a storm;
And such, perhaps, may be my fate, but still I say to thee,
Fear not but trust in Providence, wherever thou mayst be." 

You have to admit, it is hardly Bob Dylan! I tried to find a musical rendition of the song on YouTube in the hope that it might grow on me when I heard it sung, but nobody has dared to share one yet. Perhaps those two young children who feature in our theme image, feared not but trusted in Providence, who knows. But if they had placed their trust in the White Star Line providing sufficient lifeboats, that trust had been clearly misplaced.

I have just remembered that I have recently booked a Baltic cruise for the summer, so I am off to source a copy of the music so that I can learn to sing it. Just the thing for the passenger talent contest. 

See what other Sepians are up to this weekend by visiting the Sepia Saturday Blog, wherever thou mayst be.

Friday, January 15, 2016

50 Brighouse Lads March Over The Bridge

The sun shone again today so I was able to walk down into Brighouse and take this photograph of the River Calder. Everything looks quite peaceful but the houses and businesses that line the river are still coming to terms with the effects of the disastrous flooding of three weeks ago. Both the coach firm and the climbing gym were badly affected when the river burst its banks and cleaning up and drying out is still taking place. Whilst the bridge that can be seen in the distance is still open (unlike Elland Bridge a couple of miles upstream which will have to be completely rebuilt) it is currently undergoing investigations by structural engineers because of a worrying crack that has developed (although this seems to have pre-dated the floods).

I decided to point my new mobile phone "Layers of History App" at the bridge and see what it came up with. It provided me with a report of a town council meeting which took place in May 1939 which showed that the town councillors of the day had foresight if nothing else. As far as I know, Rastrick Bridge was never widened nor was a new road built. If Bradford Road bridge does have to be closed, we may come to regret that Alderman' Clay's warning was not heeded.

NEW ROAD PROJECT. Moving the minutes of the Highways Committee, Ald. H. T. Clay said he considered the present minutes among the most important ever brought by the committee. There was a resolution that cottages on the Rastrick side of Rastrick Bridge should be bought. This would enable a new road to be brought down when the bridge was widened and thus provide an alternative route over the river if Brighouse Bridge were at any time under repair. 

Among other matters in the minutes was one to include the built-up area in the centre of the town in the townplanning scheme to be considered shortly The minutes were passed. The Mayor told the Council that today officials were to call in the district to find out whether steel air raid shelters would be required. He appealed to the public to give all the help they could to officials. 

Fifty Brighouse boys are to be provided with a week’s camp at Ilkley at the expense of the Brighouse Rotary Club. The Rotary Club's offer was accepted in the minutes of the Education Committee. 

The information of the fifty Brighouse boys marching off to a week's camp in Ilkley is a bonus and yet another example of why this splendid App is a must for all lovers of useless and inconsequential information.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Burnett's Patented Layers Of History App

I had an idea for an App yesterday. It came to me as I was aimlessly wandering down Sharrow Vale Road in Sheffield trying to fight off the cold and occupy myself whilst the GLW was looking in shops. Passing the splendid Lescar Hotel and cursing fate which meant that I was driving and thus unable to sample it's beery comforts, I started to ponder on the fact that buildings are layered in history. And the layers are rather like layers of paint on an old wardrobe: you can scrape layers off and discover the ones hidden below. The wondrous App of my invention would allow you to do this - you would simply point your mobile phone at a building (which would be identified by GPS which would then initiate a database search etc etc) and the layers would be revealed. Here is what happened when I pointed my phone at the Lescar Hotel.

TUESDAY.—Before the Stipendiary Magistrate. 
Charles Jackson, carter, Brincliffe Hill, was charged with stealing £20, the property of Arthur Collins, the landlord of the Lescar Hotel, Sharrow Vale Road. Mr. A. Muir Wilson appeared for the prosecution, Mr W. E.Clegg defended.
On November 13 the money was in cash box in the prosecutor's bedroom and at night was found to be missing, the room having been broken into. During the evening the prisoner, a friend named Needham, a man who is unknown, were in the house, and adjourned to the clubroom upstairs. Prisoner offered to pay for a quart for anybody who would play a "lively rough tune" Beer was supplied, and as the waiter was coming downstairs he turned round and saw the prisoner trying the door of the landlord's bedroom. Not long afterwards the stranger disappeared, and Needham went out with the prisoner, who was called away by a message - which proved to be false - that his daughter was ill. They joined the stranger, who had sent the message, and the three walked away together. The Stipendiary said there was a good deal of suspicion, but evidence was not sufficient to justify him committing the prisoner for trial, and he would be discharged.

Take your eye away from the screen of your mobile phone for a second and glance up at the pub. That must be the landlord's bedroom up there, on the left - the one with the burglar alarm next to it. How fascinating you say to yourself, pleased as punch that you invested a few pounds in purchasing Burnett's Patented Layers Of History App.