Saturday, 14 February 2015

Thornber Brow: a popular and picturesque

picnic spot for more than 150 years

Above: the bridge over Hayhills Beck at Thornber Brow is modern but otherwise the scene has changed little since the 1800s when families came here for weekend picnics and for Sunday School celebrations and services. In 1884, religious leaders held a united open-air service and an estimated 1,500 villagers gathered in the beckside field to sing hymns such as "Shall We Gather at the River?"
Above: Hayhills is among the several becks that rise on Silsden Moor. It flows through Brow wood near the reservoir, eventually joining Stakes Beck and thence into the River Aire. Thornber Brow is named after a 19th century local farming family. They owned the land as well as the old tannery which used to be at the North Street junction with Bolton Road.
Above: as well as being a much-used picnic area, the bridge and beck served as an al fresco location for family photographs. This impressive line-up is from the late Neil Cathey's collection. The sole gentleman is Albert Boyes, whose wife, Susie, is fourth from the left. She is holding a dog. Between her and her husband are Miss Minnie Bradley (on the left) and Mrs Eleanor Wadsworth. On Mrs Boyes' right is Mrs Hanson Bradley. The names of the next three women are not known. On the left in the foreground is another Mrs Wadsworth, who became Mrs Birkbeck. The photograph is undated. 
Above: also from the late Neil Cathey's collection, this photograph has no details. Perhaps the two couples here are with a chaperone, as would have been the order of the day.
Above: another striking view of the pastoral scene. This photograph, from another source and also without details, is later than the Neil Cathey pictures -- hemlines have moved up to reveal ankles.
Above and below: two more illustrations of the Brow bridge's popularity as a place to pose. These two photographs are from the late Neil Cathey's collection. Both are without names and dates.

Above: the sign by the stile into the field from Breakmoor Avenue suggests that, after 150 years of enjoyment, picnics by the beck are now frowned upon.