Echoes of the past: The same street but with different names

Top of Police Road (now Lawson Road) at its junction with King Street
Top of Police Road (now Lawson Road) at its junction with King Street

They are both the same street, although they have different names. The older of the two is during the 1950s and the photographer is standing at the top of Police Street (now Lawson Road) at its junction with King Street.

The more up to date photograph was taken on the 12 August 1991 in Lawson Road and given the title ‘Brighouse in Bloom’ by the photographer.

Taken in 1991 on Lawson Road and given the title Brighouse in Bloom by the photographer

Taken in 1991 on Lawson Road and given the title Brighouse in Bloom by the photographer

Police Street was given that name because of the main town centre police station being half way down as we look at this image and was on the right handside. I recall speaking to an older police officer back in the 1970s who could remember working from that station and there was a brazier to keep the place warm. There was also a yard at the rear which was probably where prisoners had exercise and the senior officers and shift inspectors would hold shift parades during the summer.

This old police station dated back to c1864 and was the new station to replace the old ‘lock-up’ on what is now Elland Road, just off the roundabout from the town centre. There are a few old tales about the Elland Road lock-up and one of my favourites relates to escaped prisoners. Although I cannot confirm it is a true story but I could imagine at the time it could be.

With there being a lot of pubs in the town centre and just on its fringe, drunkenness and rowdyism was a problem for the local police. When it came to throwing out time and drinkers spilling into the streets. The police had their hands full, those who were arrested quite often for offences under the Licensing Act of 1872.

This act was a big one in terms of legal changes affecting public houses. A person could be arrested for being drunk in a public place and fined. Similarly if a person was drunk in charge of a cow, horse or other cattle or even a steam engine or a carriage.

But, that was not all, it was to get much worse there was now a restriction on the closing times in public houses. Midnight in towns and 11 o’clock in country areas, these hours or any variation could now be set by the local authority. Interestingly it also gave the boroughs the option of being completely dry by banning all alcohol.

One of the common practices by licensees was to water the beer down or even add a touch of salt. This would increase the thirst, and therefore sales went up and created more profits.

The rowdyism started when the police tried to enforce the closing times with near riots being reported in some towns. Brewers, pub landlords and the customers were using phrases such as, ‘it interfered with personal liberty’.

The rowdy drunken mob were arrested and taken to the lock-up, but on busy nights this was quite often full. With nowhere else to take the prisoners other than to Halifax, that could mean escorting the prisoners on foot.

On those cold wintery nights of the nineteenth century a walk to Halifax was something not to be hurried into. So it was not uncommon for some of those prisoners to ‘escape’. Leaving the police to guard the prisoners they had, no doubt from the comfort of sitting round a roaring brazier.

Something had to be done. This saw a new police station being built and once opened there were few reports of any prisoners escaping from the custody and comfort of the brazier at the new police station.

The Police Street station remained operational until it was decided that a new one should be built. The chosen site was on Bradford Road and it was opened in c1964. It was built so it could expand outwards, but not built to allow additional floors.

With its closure and all the remaining buildings gradually disappearing through demolition. It was decided to rename the street Lawson Road, after Gilbert Lawson.

Alderman Gilbert Lawson OBE who was one of only eleven people to made a Freeman of the Borough, Gilbert was awarded that distinction on the 6 April 1964. Gilbert was first elected to the council in 1929 and became an Alderman in 1937 and was a member until 1969 - he died on the 5 April 1977. Housing in Brighouse and Gilbert went hand in hand and he was widely respected for not allowing the building of high rise blocks of flats in the town.

With the demolition of the old buildings the 1991 photograph show the gardens that were part of the 1960s development of the town centre. New council buildings replaced the old nineteenth century properties. Brighouse even in this black and white photograph was now certainly in bloom. But like most things nothing is there forever...

The mother and child caught on camera that August day 25 years ago I wonder if they still live in Brighouse?