Echoes of the past: Road of progress is clearly mapped by this photograph

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This aerial photograph illustrates many of the major changes that have taken place in and around the main arterial road through the town centre since it was taken in September 1976.

The Huddersfield Road and then on to Bradford Road run from top to bottom and as yet the bypass is far from completed with just the section behind the council offices looking anything like it does today.

The large block of mill buildings to the right hand side is a clear illustration of how big the Victoria Mill complex was. It could be said that in the nineteenth century this was the heart of the town’s industrial strength. With the exception of the large multi-storey mill in the foreground which today is the Mill Royd apartments it is all that stands as an illustration of this areas once industrial might with everything else having been swept aside in the name of progress.

It is difficult to imagine how many hundreds of people those mill buildings employed from the first quarter of the 19th century when Samuel Baines the entrepreneur started his business. It was also here that the town’s silk business was started and thrived employing hundreds of people. That was until the introduction of artificial silk and silk weavers had to then go from town to town seeking work. I know that my great-grandfather went as far as Castleton near Rochdale with many other Brighouse silk workers to find some of the few jobs that were left in what was becoming a dying industry.

At the bottom the photograph on the right hand side is the Prince of Wales mill on Birds Royd Lane which was built for Ormerod Brothers. It was destroy by a fire on April 20 1984 and the site over a period of time was redeveloped. On the opposite side of the road which has the appearance of being waste land and that too has been redeveloped as the railway station car park and a number of new buildings have been built on the site.

Since 1976 whilst many things have changed - it was only a few years before that Brighouse opened its Hillards supermarket. Looking through the history books it was the same John Wesley Hillard who opened one of his first shops in Brighouse and that was on Commercial Street before the First World War.

When Hillards was opened in the early 70s I recall many town centre shoppers were saying that the town was now made up of the Co-op at one end and Hillards at the other. With many believing that it was likely to have a detrimental effect on trade for all those shops between the two. When Sainsbury’s opened it was widely thought that it will make the town centre shopping experience more triangular than just having the two major stores at either end of the centre. Little did they know that as the years went by the Co-op would close and Hillards would be sold out to Tesco.

I have no doubt that Brighouse town centre will continue to evolve and further changes will take place. Hopefully those changes will be outwards and you never know one day the shopping experience might just extend out as far as Mill Royd Street.