Monday, 3 November 2014

Mills, mayhem and tolls: a quarter-mile stretch

of Keighley Road steeped in history

Above: Silsden's oldest fish and chip shop has been run for the last 18 years by Philip and Jean Done, who took over from Barry Henderson. They had previously worked at Omeda at Steeton and bought Bridge Fisheries in Keighley Road when the factory, a large employer, folded. The chippy has withstood the closure of nearby mills, whose workers were valuable customers.  
Above: Bridge Fisheries is the town's oldest surviving chippy. It has been in business since at least the late 1800s/early 1900s. The former Briggate fish and chip shop, shown in one of my recent posts, was founded around 1908. Apart from the smartness, today's frontage of the Keighley Road premises is little changed compared with the early days of the 20th century (below). 
Above: at one time the chippy included a small restaurant. In 1904 proprietor Tom Summerscales complained that police were harassing him if they found customers there after 10pm while only a few months previously he had been staying open fuss-free until midnight. Other shops were open late as usual and he demanded the same privilege. Eventually a compromise closing time of 11pm was reached.
Above: the Old Corn Mill. The earliest building recorded in Silsden is the water-powered corn mill, which according to historian Tom Steel was granted by Cecilia de Romille to the prior and canons of Embsay in 1122. The original corn-mill buildings, fed by Silsden beck, have been reconstructed over the centuries but the West Yorkshire Archaeological Advisory Service says the general layout of the water courses may be of considerable antiquity. 
Above: this 1950s/1960s photograph from the late Kevin Bower's collection shows the Old Corn Mill before alterations which lowered the roof line.
Above: what is now called Corn Mill House occupies the site of the original corn mill. The premises, with the historic water wheel in situ, were for many years the HQ of Herbert Wass, builders and plumbers merchants. Herbert Wass revived corn-milling in 1905 but switched to the building trade 20 years later. This photograph from the late Kevin Bower's collection shows an ivy-free frontage of Corn Mill House, which is a late 19th century building. 
Above: by the early 1970s, Corn Mill House was covered in ivy. Green Shield stamps (a loyalty scheme which ran from 1958 to 1991) could be earned when motorists filled up with National petrol. The Triumph Herald has an H registration, which was for vehicles new in 1969. The view has a wistful charm about it compared with the bravado we see today (below).
Above: Herbert Wass gave way to building-supplies group Naylor Myers, which more recently became Myers. The new storage building is a 2014 development. 
Above: today the forecourt roof of the Jet petrol station dominates the view. In a 2006 appraisal, it was stated that development which had taken over the area between Keighley Road, the town's main industrial area, and the beck "is not always complementary to the character of the conservation area but testifies to the needs of modern living."
Above: a further major change is on the way with the building of an Aldi food store ("spend a little, live a lot") adjacent to the Habasit factory. 
Above: the telephone exchange on the west side of Keighley Road marks the start of the district known as "The Becks," which contributed greatly to Silsden's colourful heritage, although much of the housing, built to house mill workers, was demolished in the 1960s. The telephone exchange occupies the site of the old police station (below).
Above: the police station was built in the 19th century and was the scene of a famous riot in April 1911, when an angry mob protested at the arrest and imprisonment of a young Silsdener alleged to have assaulted an unpopular constable. The picture shows the police station the morning after the attack. All the windows were smashed.The incident made national news. The prisoner was Ben Hodgson, who became the first Silsden soldier to be killed in the First World War. Photograph by courtesy of Silsden Camera Club. 
Above: this single-storey property fronting Keighley Road was the toll bar, which stood at the end of John Square. The toll bar, or turnpike, was built in 1826 when the road from Steeton to Addingham through Silsden was built. Tolls were abolished in 1850. John Square along with James Square and James Place formed an E-shaped block of mill workers' "two up and two down" houses on the south side of Becks Mill. Unfit by modern standards, the housing was demolished in the early 1960s.
Above: houses built for workers at the mill, the high elevation of which can be seen to the right. Photograph by courtesy of Silsden Camera Club.
Above: Becks Mill was Silsden's first steam-powered textile mill. It was built on this site in 1837/1838 by three local men, Joshua Fletcher, James Gill and Henry Mitchell, to manufacture worsted cloth. Wool combing and hand-loom weaving had been part of local life for centuries. Becks Mill was rented to a succession of tenants and about the 1860s/1870s the main manufacturer was James Stocks, whose family were associated with the mill until it closed more than 100 years later. Photograph by courtesy of Silsden Camera Club.

Above: another view of what had become Stocks' mill. Photograph by courtesy of Silsden Camera Club.
Above: these Keighley Road houses (now demolished) on the north side of the mill abutted Thanet Square. The picture was taken in 1974. 
Above: Thanet Square, pictured here in 1972, formed with Walker's Place, Mill Banks and Albert Square an integral part of The Becks community north of the mill. Thanet Square was demolished in the 1970s but the other three streets are still in place with the houses modernised. They are in the conservation area.
Above: this tobacconist and sweet shop was at the Keighley Road end of Thanet Square. In the early days of The Becks, Joshua Fletcher, one of the founders of the mill, lived modestly in this cottage, where he kept a small general shop, according to Silsden Primitive Methodism, a collection of records and reminiscences edited by the Rev W. J. Robson and published in 1910.
Above: demolition of the huge mill fronting Keighley Road revealed the old two-storey building, which before it too was demolished had various textile occupants, latterly including Belmont Silks.
Above: the unusual three-storey building on the left, at the junction with Walker's Place, was once a Co-op grocery as can be seen in the photograph below.
Above: the Co-op grocery pictured more than 100 years ago. In recent times, an aquatic-supplies shop occupied the ground floor before being converted to residential use. Corn Mill House can be seen on the opposite side of the road. Photograph from the late Kevin Bower's collection.
Above: possibly the manager outside the Co-op.The St John Ambulance kiosk alongside the shop held supplies. First-aid classes commenced in Silsden in 1898. This Co-op venue closed around the early 1960s. Photograph from the late Kevin Bower's collection.
Above: the Grouse started as a beer shop, which grew into an inn to serve the new mill workers of The Becks. Attempts to make a go of it as a smart bar and restaurant after the Grouse closed as a pub have not succeeded and there are now plans to convert the premises and build houses on the car park at the rear.
Above: the Grouse around 1910 with licensees Fred and Clara Dewhirst on the steps.
Above: an annual charity pram race used to start at the Grouse. This was the 1973 send-off. The gathering includes Eric Robinson (right), the last chairman of Silsden Urban District Council, MP Joan Hall (next to Councillor Robinson), Bert Wigglesworth (third from right), chairman of the Licensed Victuallers Association and licensee of the Bridge pub, Meg Wigglesworth (left) and Councillor J. J. Barker (centre in glasses), a former UDC chairman.
Above: Mill Banks. The single-storey building with the red door was once a nail-making forge and is one of only three known surviving structures from the local industry. The other two are in Stirling Street. The first mention of nail-making in Silsden was in 1761. At its peak in the mid-19th century, the industry employed more than 100 people. But as a domestic or semi-domestic enterprise it was overtaken by mass-production methods and ceased in Silsden in 1919. The vacant land in front of Mill Banks was once the site of the Oddfellows Hall (pictured below on the left).
Above: the impressive hall built by the Society of Oddfellows in 1851 was taken over by the Roman Catholic Church. The lower floors were converted into five cottages and worship took place on the top floor. In 1956 a visiting bishop described it as "by far the ugliest and most deplorable church in the whole of the West Riding." The building was demolished in 1962. The Oddfellows were a mutual-help organisation formed to provide sick pay for workers. The above photograph from the late Kevin Bower's collection shows a Silsden Motor Omnibus Company vehicle en route to Steeton in about 1907.
Above: Albert Square, which used to comprise three terraces, was among the housing built to rent to mill workers as Silsden's textile production took off. By the beginning of the 20th century Silsden was one of the busiest places in the West Riding.
Above: No. 33 Keighley Road has an 1838 date stone, the same time that Becks Mill opened. The house, which curiously was known as Pennypeck Hall, fronts Albert Square, the entrance to which is alongside.
Above: a yesteryear photograph of No. 33 Keighley Road from the late Kevin Bower's collection.
Above: now a warehouse and offices, the Bethesda Church opened in 1871 on what was a farming croft. The caretaker was allowed to operate a nail-making forge at the rear of the building to boost his wages. The Bethesda closed when Silsden's three Methodist chapels united in 1956 to form the present church in Kirkgate.
 Above: the Bethesda in its chapel days.
Above: No. 41 Keighley Road is now an office but in the past has been a shop (see picture below). The entrance to Sykes Lane between the terraces affords informative views of the industrial past. The setts and small workshops give Sykes Lane a distinct atmosphere. The lane has medieval origins and was a route to early field systems as well as being the way to Silsden from the Aire Valley via a ford and footbridge on the river.
Above: Mrs Janet Smith (nee Wade) sold tobacco, sweets, groceries and even bicycle parts at No. 41 Keighley Road. She was born in Albert Square and ran the shop with her stepson, Alan, until just before the outbreak of the Second World War. The photograph, which is from the late Kevin Bower's collection, is dated around 1916/17.