Thursday, 8 October 2009

Haworth Through Time

Susan Goodacres writes:

Few English villages can have been as well documented and photographed as Haworth, a place with more significant connotations than most of the others. A recent publication is the latest in a series which uses the old pictures next to the new ones to show how things have changed, and not always for the better. The title is
Haworth Through Time, and it is by Steven Wood and photographer Ian Palmer.

Its brief introduction puts the causes of the many changes into a nutshell. It is explained, for example, that the first development of Main Street was brought about by the making of the Blue Bell turnpike through Haworth in 1755, and that the reason for the large number of non-conformist chapels in the Haworth area is because one of the charismatic leaders of the evangelical revival, William Grimshaw, was the local minister. The major nineteenth century expansions were caused by the opening of the branch railway from Keighley in 1867, which also made it necessary to alter the road system in the lower part of the village.

A point sometimes missed by students of the Brontës and by some scholars as well, is that Haworth was until well into the twentieth century a hectic, industrialised part of Yorkshire, and a generally unhealthy place for those people packed into small rooms where they lived, worked hard and died, apart from the folk up at the Parsonage. It was not at the far end of beyond. Many industries and the quarries have of course collapsed now, and at one time the railway itself was closed – until it was reopened by a preservation society.

Today, so many people have cars, and Haworth is a healthy and desirable place for commuters and families to put down roots. Main Street is full of little shops and cafés geared to the tourist trade, and a good place to stroll along, even though it is not yet a pedestrian precinct, and cars can often be observed going unnecessarily fast along it.

The cars were a problem for Ian Palmer too – he had to put up with their obscuring of many views of course, and apparently had to dodge one or two while pointing his camera, and no doubt holding in one hand the old photograph so that the new one could be taken from the same vantage point. One surprising thing to note in the new colour images is the number of trees. They appear to have multiplied. For example, in a view entitled
Haworth from Brow, the increase in the numbers of houses for mill workers dating from the late nineteenth century can be clearly seen, and they are now accompanied by large numbers of verdant trunks and branches. In the old photo, Ivy Bank Mill with a smoking chimney is visible on the left. The chimney has gone, of course, along with thousands of others across Yorkshire, mainly demolished in the 1960s, and the background landscape looks windswept and bare. Ivy Bank mill is now a burnt out ruin.

A view of
Church Street and Changegate from the Church Tower taken at the time of the Great War shows huddled buildings (usually described as ‘slums’) and a lack of modern roads. These can be seen in the up-to-date view. An old photo dating from 1960 of Acton Street shows a row of houses now demolished where once lived Old Jack Kay, who was known as the village wise man. Did every village have one of these? Old Jack could foretell and even control the weather, so it was said, and defeat the evil created by witches. Not many people come into the old or the new photos, but an exception is Smithy in the Fold, c1900, in which four well-built men can be seen posing casually – blacksmiths Abraham Scarborough and his son Herbert, along with two other smiths. Their smithy is now a garage.

And the most photographed building in Haworth has to be there as well, naturally – a well-known sepia image of the Parsonage from about 186o is set above a present-day view with tall trees in the foreground.

There are more than 180 photographs in this book, which is published by Amberley Publishing at £12.99.

ISBN 978-1-8468-509-3

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