Then and now in Brighouse

Bradford Road and Martin Street Brighouse 1972
Bradford Road and Martin Street Brighouse 1972

There are just over 40 years between these two then and now photographs.

It was in the early 1970s that work on the new bypass in Brighouse started and carved a line through the town centre and demolishing everything in its way.

Martin Street brighouse

Martin Street brighouse

The street on the right is Martin Street and leads up to St Joseph’s Catholic Church. Taking you back to the 19th century it was here where a large crowd had gathered and were determined to burn the church down. Held back by the local police until the police line broke then it was one almighty rough and rumble between the two sides. To use the modern expression when it was over it was probably a 2-2 draw. The church survived and still thrives today. Although a little blood was spilt on both sides thankfully there were no serious injuries.

Why did that happen? It was in May 1882 following the assassination of the local MP Lord Frederick Cavendish in Phoenix Park, Dublin.

On the present day photograph Martin Street is still there but everything from that point to the George Hotel was demolished for the new bypass. The tall building in the centre of the older photograph is the Oddfellows Hall which was built in 1850 and used as what was then the first building that was able to hold a concert. In later years it was the home of the Brighouse and Rastrick Band and their rehearsal rooms.

Some readers may also recall it was the venue for concerts that had otherwise been rained off at Wellholme Park. I remember playing there many times on a Sunday evening having been washed out at the park. The audience at the park had long since gone home so it was usually your mum and dad and maybe your gran who made up the audience.

With the announcement of the new bypass Brighouse and Rastrick had to move and found their new home at the Rydings Hall in Church Lane which pupils of the old St Martin’s School will remember as the Parish Hall where many of the school larger events were held.

Living along side his neighbours Harry and Gladys Haigh, Elsie and Arthur Priestley was James and Sarah Hickman. This was a handy place to live for James (Jim as he was widely known amongst his many friends both in and out of the brass band world) because for many years he was the bandmaster at the Brighouse and Rastrick Band and the bandroom was literally on his doorstep. While he was a fine cornet player in his younger days he is still remembered throughout the band world more for his band training at B&R and in his later years for his excellent work he did with Clifton and Lightcliffe Band.

The first laundrette in Brighouse was at one of the single storey shops next to Martin Street. Bendix a name some may remember was a first in town. It opened in a blaze of glory with a famous showbiz duo doing the honours at the grand opening. It is reported that over 600 people mainly children attended this opening because it was the children’s favourite who came Sooty and Harry Corbett.

From the old bandroom and R.S.Bainbridge’s ground floor newsagents shop to the Martin Street junction it is a walking distance of probably no more than 300 yards and even in that short distance there is a wealth of history.