Friday, July 12, 2013

UK2013: Halifax

If you've seen the film 'Brassed Off', you'll remember there's a scene in which the brass band of the story plays a contest in the town of Halifax. The bands are shown in an open air value that looks amazing, and it turns out that Halifax is not too far from Diane's house, so I expressed an interest in going to see the place.

We got another bus out from Hebden Bridge which took us along the valley and up the side of the hills, through several smaller towns and eventually out into Halifax town centre, by which there is a bus station. Typical of British central bus stations; lots of bus stalls, a slightly shabby kiosk and waiting room, and some very welcome bathrooms which were functional if not pristine.

The weather had turned very grey and dismal; from the snow we'd had in the morning in Haworth, it had turned to more drizzly rain which made itself noticed in fits and starts. The kind of weather that does nothing to showcase a new town, but you can't win them all.

However, Halifax more than made up for the conditions, with some really quite splendid buildings and solid looking streets. Here's a few of them:

This first one is the tower of the City Hall; there was more to this off to the right but the street was too narrow to get a shot of the whole thing.

These next two illustrate the ornamental features on street corner buildings.

Here's a street further up into town; the architectural style continues all over town. Halifax was very prosperous over the years, although it's not as big of a town as I expected, for some reason. Don't ask me why I thought that.

This is currently a branch of Lloyds TSB Bank, but I suspect the building had a previous function. It has an incredibly ornate arch and doorway.

This is the Victoria Theatre, with an interesting dome on the roof, there.

Here is the old Theatre Royal, sadly looking like it is no longer in use.

Not sure about this, but I liked the wooden beam construction.

This church is long since ruined, although it is fenced off to prevent further damage.

I like the design of this window frame. It would have been nice to see what the original glass looked like.

Halifax's prosperity came mainly from the woollen industry, from the 1500s onward. In 1779, the Piece Hall was opened. This is a massive walled courtyard with 300 rooms serviced by covered walkways, built for the sole purpose of selling pieces of woollen cloth. It is also the building I referred to earlier, where the film scene was made.

Detail of the bottom half of the right hand door seen in the shot above. The panel is repeated on the top half. That's the town coat of arms in the middle.

Here you can see the ruined church spire rising behind the walls of Piece Hall.

A vantage point from the top floor allows a view across the courtyard. There are many shops here, arts and crafts and specialist gift shops, but most were closed unfortunately, as many things seemed to be on a Monday in Yorkshire.

Looking along the walkway. This was a bookshop; although it was closed, many books were available outside, I think on an honor system although I could be mistaken.

Halfway along the walkway, looking into the courtyard again. You can see the ground rises half way across the courtyard, meaning there's only two floors on one side of the building. On the right hand side of the far corner, there is a really great sweet shop, too. The black thing on the far left of the picture is a stage.

We went into a little museum that taught some of the history of this place. It had intriguing images of the Hall in full swing, with cloth laid out, awnings sprung out from the walls, market stalls and traders all doing their business. I am sure it would have been a sight to behold. More recently, there were garages and buildings erected in the middle of the Hall, where the cobblestone area is now. There was even talk of demolishing the Hall entirely; I am very glad they did not! Nothing stays the same except change however; there were also plans on display for a proposed modernisation and park-like improvements they want to do in here soon.

Another shot of the taller end, showing the three different pillar styles on the walkways.

Down on the ground floor, tucked into the corner before the ground rises, and many of the shops here have these pretty arched windows.

This is Halifax Minster. It is a huge black church at the bottom of the hill, stained by years of smoke from mill chimneys I guess. It dates back to 1438, so it's had a few years to accumulate grime. We couldn't get inside, so I'll have to show only a few exterior details.

A sundial on the south side. Not doing much business today.

One of those fabulous carved wooden doors, with some pretty ironwork over the window above.

A small side door. I still wonder what you find if you go through these doors.

And to finish, some good quality proper gargoyes. This is not a delicate church, it is big and solid and full of individuality. And you can't beat a decent set of gargoyles.

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