Echoes of the past - Brighouse Bridge

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Huddersfield Road with not a motor vehicle in sight – this bridge was modernised and widened in 1905.

The next time or maybe it will be the first time you walk over the bridge, have a look at the plaque on each of the lamp standards.

There is one plaque missing due to safety work being done to the bridge in the 1990s and it was taken off.

The old plaque was replaced with a new one to illustrate the new safety work done.

The old one was put in a skip with the inevitable consequences likely to follow. But thankfully it was rescued and has since been put in a place of safe keeping where it remains today.

The building on the right has an interesting frontage which appears to be only fastened to the structure behind it by the angled supports.

For many years this was Barber’s decorating premises and I believe it was Cliffe End Post Office.

Today it is the home of the tailoring alterations business J.W Ellison & Company.

Between this building and Gooder Lane there was a variety of businesses serving that small area of business premises and private dwellings.

There were two confectioner shops which were no doubt kept very busy with the business trade from local workers.

Other businesses included a butcher, hairdressers, Godfrey’s builders, and the Great Northern railway booking office and as you got to the corner of Gooder Lane you were then in sight of the huge works occupied by Thomas Bottomley’s Railway Sawmills, a company at that time being the largest timber merchants in the borough.

The sawmills started life in 1836 in an area of the town centre called Ball Flash – this is the section of Bradford Road between the Civic Hall and Lloyds Bank.

It moved to the Gooder Lane/Cliffe Road site in 1864 and was developed into not only a major supplier of timber but the company expanded into both joinery services and building work.

The business was for many years run by Thomas’s son Councillor James Bottomley who was on the first Brighouse Borough Council in 1893.

This company supplied timber for almost all the major buildings in the town ranging from the town hall to almost all the large mills and many of the chapels in and around Brighouse. Seeing horse driven carts loaded with timber was almost an hourly sight passing over this bridge.

On Friday January 29, 1909, on the left hand side of the bridge the buildings formed part of Calder Bank Mill, the silk spinning business of John Cheetham and Sons Ltd.

Whilst Calder Bank Mill was not one of the largest mills in Brighouse, although half of it was five storeys high at one end and four storeys at the other.

It had thirteen windows high and eight across but it still managed to employ just over three hundred local people.

On that Friday there was a huge fire that destroyed the mill and was estimated to have caused in excess of £25,000 worth of damage.

The cause of the fire was said to have been caused by overheating in a drying room. Whilst this mill was insured many others that suffered the same fate were not.

The irony of this incident was that John Cheetham had only the week before established a water system in the mill and had started asking his work force for volunteers to form a volunteer fire department specifically for this mill.