Thursday, 3 August 2017

HILLS, HALIFAX AND PIECES OF CLOTH

View from Halifax Rail Station showing Halifax Flour Society building and entrance to tunnel.
With the trees and hills beyond, and a frilly wooden canopy over the platforms,
Halifax railway station has a delightful 'country' atmosphere to it
which is quite out of keeping with the rest of the town.
I realise I've not been listening. When you ask 'Why have you moved to Halifax?' I've been telling you why I left Dorset - which is quite different.

That we (me and my friends: Esther, Ming, Worthing and Didcott) have landed up in Halifax is nearly by chance. We were looking for a place with more 'culture' immediately on hand and with greater opportunities for employment. We wanted all sorts of new experiences on a modest budget, better transport links to other parts of the UK and to the rest of the world.

Small towns to the north of Manchester were an inspired first choice (we reckoned). Hills and countryside and open air yet with access to theatres, universities, museums, galleries and a fantastic library, a railway with frequent trains and a good bus service. The arrival of the BBC in Salford suggested an influx of interesting people and a property market in which one could hope the value of a house would rise. From there we worked outwards . . . all along the Calder Valley till we arrived at Halifax - which is closer to Leeds than to Manchester but that's what happens with journeys. You aim for one place and land up in another! . . . And all the while knowing nothing about Halifax except that it has a building society.

Nestle factory from Halifax Rail Station.
The steep hills and ravines of Halifax mean there are always hills which cannot be built on.
So for all that there are few gardens, there are masses and masses of trees.
Some friends, surprised at our choice of new home readily recited 'Hull, Hell and Halifax' - the insinuation being that Hull and Halifax and Hell are all pretty awful places to live; and that most people would prefer to live anywhere but in any of them - especially if one could live in Dorset instead. One friend who lived in Halifax for a while but moved away spoke of being overwhelmed by the decadence of the area - an odd word to use. He wasn't talking about immoral excess but physical decay. I'm glad he said - 'decadence'. It's starker; stronger than dilapidation. It suggests there's something wrong needing to be put right. An opportunity for change rather than a slide into nothingness.

Halifax Piece Hall on opening day, 1st August 2017
During the morning of the opening of the restored Piece Hall in Halifax.
By late afternoon, more than seventeen thousand people had come to see it
and to visit some of the first of the 315 small shops and cafes.
(I think it's 315!)
Having listed what we were looking for, and having eliminated places nearer Manchester for being too expensive or with houses too small or for the countryside being too flat (or too hilly) we alighted on Halifax. And one of the reasons we thought it might be an exciting place to come is that it seems to have a very interesting town council - one brave enough and imaginative enough to be investing millions into restoring a massive 'Piece Hall' (a 'piece hall' is where hand weavers in the seventeenth century went to sell their 'pieces' of cloth) so they could open it to traders of the modern kind who need small shops rather than huge retail spaces. And they are building a large and brand new library next to it and have found the money to transform and refurbish its adjoining arts centre and theatre and to anticipate that huge outdoor events will take place in the parade ground sized courtyard in the middle.

A first-aider on duty outside the medical room, late in the day at the Piece Hall.
Note the lights set into the ground in the courtyard below and the hills beyond.
So when we set off on the morning of August 1st 2017 to hear the bell ring for the opening of trade I had almost as much resting on the event as the organisers themselves. I've been telling everyont this is the place you should come if you want to witness a cultural renaissance. Would fifty people turn up or five hundred? I don't know what the final tally was but by late afternoon there had been more than seventeen thousand visitors. The bustle and interest was tremendous. I asked a woman standing next to me, leaning over one of the stone balustrades in the lower gallery, whether she was surprised by the turnout. 'Not at all!' she said. "We want to see what we've got for our money.'

15 comments:

ADRIAN said...

Glad you are seeing the positive side of life.

Flighty said...

Good post and pictures. It's a town that I don't think I've ever been to, or even through, so look forward to future posts. xx

Countryside Tales said...

It sounds an interesting time in an interestingly different place. Your thoughts are always interesting to read, too.

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Adrian. Definitely feeling positive. Not regretting it for a moment. Really.

Hello Mike. Because it's all so different from what I'm used to, I'm feeling like an explorer reporting back to base!

Countryside Tales - yes, extremely interesting and on-the-brink-ish. Although Manchester is further away than Leeds, some commute times are the same (about 40mins). There are trains which goes to London in three hours with no changes (and others which take longer). And Leeds is bidding for part of Channel 4 to relocate there. Positioned as it is, Halifax (poised between Leeds and Manchester) with a council that wants to promote the arts, it could become THE place to be and that you'll all want to come and join me. (Or it could all turn out to be a bubble which will burst and sink.) But whatever happens I'll have an allotment on a fantastic site with no waiting list!

Come Away With Me said...

I wonder, is the air around that Nestle factory chocolate scented? It seems you've chosen a place to live that is full of promise of exciting things in the future. That Piece Hall project, for example. I'm excited for you.

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Come Away With Me - I couldn't smell chocolate from Nestle but McVities has a cake factory in another part of town and when I went by the smell of Jamaica Ginger Cake filled the air. It was delicious (though perhaps would be overwhelming if one lived next door!).

Tim said...

Hi Lucy! Congratulations on your move. I've never heard the phrase Hull, Hell and Halifax before - which is odd because I grew up in Scunthorpe just across the river from Hull and we always try to have a laugh at their expense (although to be fair Hull does have it's nice points too!)
I've always really liked the photos I've seen of Halifax and I like that Halifax and the surrounding area is being shown more on TV these days.
I do hope that you're happy and settled. All the best, Tim

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Tim. Halifax is being used for TV soaps / dramas and Hull is getting much coverage as the City of Culture. Things change! But the Hull, Hell and Halifax thing is to do with the forms of punishment given for petty crimes in previous centuries. I'll come back to that in another post.
Probably not quite settled yet but happy to be here.

Pat Tillett said...

It sounds to me like you have the right attitude. It sounds like you are off to a great start. There is clearly some history in that area, and a lot of greenery. Really nice photos!

dunch said...

Hi Lucy
I am certain you will enjoy Halifax, I know the area well, lived for a period over the border in Lancashire in Clivger near Burnley.
Enjoy

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Pat. One starts by looking at pavements and eventually notices there are hills beyond the ends of the streets.

Hello Dunch. I'm glad to be in Halifax and am encouraged by your certainty. Might easily have moved to Corneholme. Looked at some houses there too. (And glad you have found this blog!)

maryom said...

Hi, glad to have found you in your new home. It certainly seems a leap from Dorset!

VP said...

I thought of you when I saw Piece Hall on TV last week. It looks like it's been transported to Yorkshire from Italy. Marvellous.

Lady Fi said...

Lovely shots of the station! It's quite grand.

Caroline Gill said...

Good to reconnect, Lucy! Thank you for the comment on my blog. May Halifax bring much joy - not an area I know so it will be exciting to see what you discover...