Thursday, 11 September 2014

Controversial new look

for historic corner

Above: much to the astonishment of many locals, this steel barrier has been installed at Silsden's most photographed and iconic quarter.  
Supporters say the barrier will form a gate in the Stakes Beck wall and will be closed in torrential rain to prevent the beck flooding into St John Street and to protect the picturesque cottages, which are in the conservation area. The structure is due to be shrouded by shrubs and other screening. Opponents say the barrier is an eyesore and an unnecessary intrusion into a picture-postcard site rich in heritage.
The barrier bears the name of Silsden Town Council and states "Built by M. O'Dwyer". It has been installed by local experts working voluntarily under the leadership of town councillor Michael O'Dwyer as a member of the Silsden Environmental Group. The group and Silsden Youth Council have been awarded public funds of up to £3,500 for materials and to clear the beck of flow-obstructing rubbish.
Above: an early 19th century painting. The bridge was originally a packhorse bridge and the cottages became well-known because they were occupied by the Flesher family, founders of Silsden Methodism. They came from Otley around 1802.
 Above: Flesher Bridge drawn by local artist W. H. Lambert. John Flesher eventually began his preaching career in the barn, which still stands, behind the cottage nearest the bridge. His father ran a school at this cottage.
 Above: circa 1870. This is believed to be the earliest photograph of the beck and cottages. Over the years, the cottages have also housed a grocery, an early post office and Silsden’s first doctor, Thomas Wilson. An ancient right of way fords the beck linking Kirkgate (Towngate as it was originally known) with St John Street. This crossed into Mitchell Lane and from there to Brunthwaite. That is why there is a gap in the wall at each side of the beck.
Above: probably a turn-of-the-century view with the hump-backed bridge replaced by a level wooden structure.
Above: just a few years later -- before the installation in 1914 of the first telephone box outside the post office (on the left).
Above: around the 1940s before the post-war floral features further enhanced this idyllic setting. Photograph from the late Kevin Bower's collection.
Above: the late 1950s with Mitchell Lane between the cottages.
Above: stepping stones were briefly a feature around the early 1960s by when the floral containers were in place.
Above: a health and safety nightmare? Photograph from the late Kevin Bower's collection.
 Above: who needs mobile phones or tablets or x-boxes? Photograph from the late Kevin Bower's collection.
Above: the scene in 1965.
Above: in this 1960s picture, the wall on the left by the bridge has been renewed.
Above: about the same time the wooden-sided bridge was replaced with the present stone structure.
Above: St John Street looking towards the old Primitive Methodist Church. The street was originally known as Caleb Street after old resident Caleb Cockshott. The building on the left at the time of the photograph was a grocery branch of the Silsden Co-op.
Above: St John Street today where a hair and beauty salon has recently replaced a carpet shop.
Above: Stakes Beck from Clog Bridge in the days when the vista was dominated by the old Primitive Methodist Church. Photograph from the late Kevin Bower's collection.
Above: verdant growth along the beck sides in the 1960s.

Above: the view today from Clog Bridge.