Echoes of the past: Brighouse before the car arrived

Commercial Street looking towards King Street, pre 1914
Commercial Street looking towards King Street, pre 1914

Judging from this pre 1914 image of Commercial Street looking towards King Street the biggest change from today is the absence of motorised vehicles. Whilst the cyclists appear to be keeping to their own side of the road, the pedestrians seem to be pleasing themselves.

When the motor car arrived in Brighouse in sufficient numbers, the town centre policeman would be employed carrying out point duty on this crossroads. The policeman would arrive at his given time to carry out the traffic duty. His first action would be to hang his cape on a nail that was on the George Corner.

Quite often in the warmer weather the same town beat officer would hang his cape on the same nail and then patrol the town centre for a couple of hours. He would then make his way back to his cape where he would find it just where he left it. If the weather was really bad it would be a common sight to see the policeman standing on an orange box, with white gloves, directing the traffic.

Structurally little else has changed on this photograph compared with today. The George Hotel is still there, the White Swan has gone but the building still stands, now as the home of Lloyds Bank. On the opposite corner is the Central Cafe which would later be transformed into the Tate’s Corner, the drapers and clothiers. It then became part of the Brighouse Co-op, as the menswear department. I am sure many readers will remember these familiar names of staff in this department: Jack Bray, Clifford Sutcliffe and in later years John Jolley. Time does did not stand still following the demise of the Co-op M&Co arrived soon after which brought a breath of new life into that corner once again.

One of the big differences from those pre First World War days of visiting the town centre was no one was in a hurry. Unlike today when everyone is in a hurry. A favourite saying you often hear today seems to be ‘I haven’t time, I’m busy‘. It is almost a competition to see who can be the busiest.