Month: September 2021

100 years of movies in Hebden Bridge

If I’d have looked out of my living room window any day between 1912 and 1921 I would have found myself looking directly onto The Royal Electric Theatre. In 1921 the ‘new’ picture house opened just a few hundred yards away and this cinema is currently celebrating its 100th year – the only cinema in England to have achieved that milestone.

‘In the late 1960s, when many of the mills had closed, the Picture House nearly suffered the fate of so many town cinemas and was very close to becoming a carpet warehouse. It was saved for the town by the actions of the then Hebden Royd Urban District Council who purchased the Picture House from its private owners for the sum of about £6,000. The cinema passed into Calderdale Councils control with local government reorganisation in 1973, and CMBC oversaw a subsequent refurbishment in 1978, removing half of the seats and leaving the current 492 seats with their often praised generous legroom.’ (From the cinema’s website).

I read that there was on open day at the Picture House yesterday and so off I went. It took me exactly 2 minutes – and most of that time was spent waiting to cross the road! First order of the day was to witness a demonstration of one of the old projection devices which currently has pride of place at the back of the stalls. The current projectionist explained that there would have been 2 such contraptions originally. It actually looks like something from a sci fi movie!

Next we were treated to a 1924 silent movie of Hebden Bridge band Carnival film. The local brass band had a stellar reputation (see my blog about my ancestor Stott Gibson who played in it:

but they were in financial difficulties. Travelling to far venues for competitions was costly so a carnival was planned. Pathe film company would film the event, hopefully including many of the crowd watching the parade. The parade itself was over a mile in length, and there was a fancy dress competition at the end of the day. Money would be raised by people attending a viewing of the movie at the cinema, hoping to see themselves on camera. The venture was so successful that it was repeated the following year. Though only 12 minutes long the movie gives a wonderful insight into people’s everyday life – their sense of fun, their eagerness to dress up in crazy outfits (the spectators as well as those entering the fancy dress competition), their ‘normal’ daily clothes, transportation, and a sense of fun that was being mirrored as I watched by the Pink Pride Picnic that was taking place in the park just outside.

After the movie there was a Q and A with Ben Burrows, the composer of the music that he been written to accompany the silent film. The Treske Ensemble had recorded the music in London. A pity about the rather large spelling error on the banner behind him. Diana Monahan from the local history society had done research into the carnival and had mapped out the route that the floats had taken.

A corner of the cinema had been given over to a wonderful model of the original electric theatre and I chatted with its maker, Ray Barnes.

He had chosen that particular scale because it’s used in model railways and so he was able to purchase the figurines, but he had to repaint them with appropriate attire. The projection box was upstairs at the front of the building. People in the expensive seats – 3d – entered at the front. Those bound for the cheap seats went in through a side entrance.

It was designed by Henry Cockcroft, a Hebden Bridge architect who had been responsible for designing the trestle bridge at Blake Dean from which one of my ancestors fell (see blog about Ada Harwood:

Then, to my surprise, Ray took off the roof of the model and I saw its interior, with many people enjoying a film. The men’s toilet was outside, but there was a ladies’ toilet inside the cinema and he’d even recreated this, with a woman going about her business!!! What a wonderful Lockdown project Ray had created.

You can watch the 1924 silent film for free via the Yorkshire Film Archives

The Streets in the Sky

‘Nestled above the hustle and bustle of Halifax Borough Market are two secret streets that are so well hidden that you may not even know about them.’ How many times have I walked around the stalls of the market and not known that above me were two streets with houses – and even a hotel!

These streets are some of Halifax’s most unique houses that run alongside the roof of the market and also look out onto the streets of the town. They used to be home to the market workers, who could then access their stalls below from their own homes. The street of terraced houses was also home to an old Victorian hotel above the high roof of the market.

The tour was part of the Halifax cultural exhibition and the guide was a man who had lived and breathed the markets of Calderdale for over 40 years. He even lives in a house perched high above the market stalls, and accessed, as he was careful to point out, by 47 steps! Talk about living on the job! He oversees Hebden Bridge, Todmorden, Brighouse, Elland and Halifax Markets. He explained how the Halifax Market is being revamped, with ideas for evening openings and even a small live performance venue being incorporated. Under his supervision Elland market has grown from just a couple of stalls to over 20. However, it looks as if Sowerby bridge market is definitely on its last legs.

Access to the streets was by a simple door adjacent to the large original historic gates into the Victorian market. A market has been in Halifax since the 1200s when it first gained a charter. There are hopes that the houses in the sky can eventually be restored and reoccupied. Two of them currently hold small offices but the rest have been empty since the 1990s but the decor was SO 60s. The colours were utterly amazing. It was wonderful and so totally unexpected. We were able to go and explore two of the houses. One was a 5 bedroomed affair.

Textiles in Halifax Minster

While at Dean Clough last week I picked up information about the upcoming Halifax Heritage Festival. There were lots of interesting events and exhibitions and the first one I attended was an organ recital in Halifax minster. I arrived early to view the exhibition put on by the Piecemakers of Elland. The 21 individually designed panels reflect the mythology, folklore and distinctive features of the native trees of Great Britain as depicted in the Celtic Ogham, an ancient alphabet and calendar including trees such as the Oak, Apple, Willow and Ash.

The Piecemakers Artistic Lead, Annie Lancaster said: “Each panel depicts one tree featuring the letter and number of the tree plus details relating to mythology, history, botany, pharmacology and religion of that tree and also highlights the importance of bees in pollination.” One panel was devoted to Heather so naturally that took a lot of my attention. The details of the workmanship and the creativity of the design of the panels was inspiring. I’ve been working on many of my own fabric panels during lockdown so it fascinating to see what other people have been working on.