Echoes of the past: Where did Mill Lane get its name from?

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The clue to what these men are doing are the fishing rods some of them are carrying and the one strapped to the pedal cycle.

They are members of the Brighouse Angling Club gathered outside the Royal Hotel during the 1960s.

But it is the building in the background with the first floor hoist at the top of Mill Lane I draw your attention to. The building changed very little from when Alfred Shepherd started his wood carving business at these premises. To when the area was demolished as part of the new town centre re-development scheme of the late 1960s early 70s.

Let us begin by asking, where did Mill Lane get its name from? For the answer we have to go back to 1860 when Sir George Armytage of Kirklees Hall offered for sale 40 plots of land to be sold at public auction. I have one of the auction catalogues for that sale and it quite clearly states that the land was to be sold for the purpose of building mill premises in the area we now call Mill Lane and the adjoining streets.

Some of the proposed street names are also shown; Arthur Street, George Street and whilst these two have survived to the present day. Mill Street and Harriette Street never materialised, instead we have Phoenix Street and Grove Street respectively. Appropriate names after two large mills built on those streets

But what of Alfred Shepherd? He was an architectural and cabinet wood carver, fret cutter and cabinet maker. In 1873 he was in partnership with Jones and Winterburn but in 1876 he established his own business as a wood carver. In 1894 he extended his business into cabinet making and gradually both sides of his business grew steadily.

You can see in this photograph the larger ground floor window - that was the window to his showroom. His workshop was extensive and was situated at the back of the building. For the age he had all the latest wood working machinery, which included circular and band saws.

Alfred Shepherd was known throughout the district as being a craftsman and was employed to carry out commissions for some of the high profile business men in the town.

One of his commissions was at Bonegate House in Bradford Road, the home of Mr Walter Sugden. He was a partner in the silk spinning business of Henry Stott, sons and Sugden who operated from the Owler Ings Mill. This mill was employing over 200 people in 1890 and operated 800 spindles.

Alfred Shepherd was commissioned to create a set of artistic panels for the billiard room at Bonegate House. He was also commissioned to do work for the church at Hanging Heaton, near Dewsbury. With other commissions in private houses notably in Howarth and being mentioned at a prestigious exhibition in Manchester. Alfred Shepherd was one of Brighouse’s artistic craftsmen. In 1901 he and his wife lived in Camm Street, his wife died in 1904, she was one of the oldest members of the Brighouse Choral Society.

The workshop and retail showroom in Mill Lane was later occupied by another company of wood carvers; Balmforth and Turner. However, their partnership was dissolved in 1909.