Echoes of the past: The tale of a Bailiff Bridge telephone kiosk

The story relates to an old telephone kiosk at the bottom of Mayfield Grove, thirty metres from the Bradford boundary
The story relates to an old telephone kiosk at the bottom of Mayfield Grove, thirty metres from the Bradford boundary

It would be over forty years ago when I was a police officer in Bailiff Bridge that someone asked me, ‘Where’s fountain gone lad…’.

‘Fountain, I thought, what on earth is he talking about’.... Then I realised the question referred to the old drinking fountain which had stood in Bailiff Bridge for more years than most could remember. In fact almost everyone had just taken it for granted, it was there and always had been. When I was asked question I had to admit that I hadn’t really noticed it had gone.

This was one of those occasions when something you see on a daily basis disappears, but in your mind’s eye you still see a mental image of it. It is not until someone actually points out that it is not there anymore that you then realise it is missing.

With this in mind let me take you back to April 1964 when something disappeared that was even discussed in the corridors of power in London. The story relates to an old telephone kiosk at the bottom of Mayfield Grove, which geographically was about thirty meters from the Bradford boundary. This measurement was of vital significance to the outcome of this story.

No sooner had someone finished using the telephone when the next person wishing to use it discovered it had gone. Had someone stolen the red telephone kiosk? Local residents were summoned to the scene, well was it a crime ? The police were immediately called to the scene and were baffled. Their initial enquires were not helped by the fact no one had seen anything, there were no witnesses. The residents demanded action and wanted it returning or another in its place.

Today, with individual houses having numerous telephones, often with extensions throughout the house and with almost everyone having a mobile phone. The use and need of the telephone kiosk has got much less. So much so that there are far fewer now than there used to be.

The Brighouse telephone authorities were contacted and it was soon discovered that it was they who were at fault, in fact, they had authorised its removal. It transpired that Brighouse thought it was within the Bradford boundary and asked for it to be moved closer to the Red Lion traffic lights in the event traffic accident victims needed to call the emergency services – a reasonable request which Bradford obligingly agreed to and moved it.

It is at this point I take you back to January 1899 when the Bradford City council decided to re-draw its city boundary and looking south they extended it to take in North Bierley UDC. However, this redrawing of the city boundary did not include Bailiffe Bridge (note the spelling) which was then part of the UDC. With the boundary being the railway bridge between what was The Red Lion and Mayfield Grove.

This is where Bradford probably knowing or believing it was actually in Brighouse did not play fair. Once it had been moved Brighouse effectively lost a telephone facility and there was no way Bradford would consider returning it. Trouble was now brewing.

It was at this point when the cavalry arrived on the scene in the form of Alderman Harry Edwards, who was Chairman of the local Watch Committee and he took up the cause for the local residents. His first port of call was to contact the Post Office Advisory Committee however; this was met with a negative response. Never a person to be put off Alderman Edwards then referred the complaint to Michael Shaw the MP for Brighouse & Spenborough.

The complaint was now being discussed in the corridors of power with Ernest Marples, the Postmaster General. All went quiet for quite a while but the residents in the Mayfield area were demanding action. The matter was once again raised with the Postmaster General who by this time was no lesser person than Tony Benn.

The corridors of power were still quiet, so it was left to the new Mayor of Brighouse Mona Mitchell. Some readers will remember Mona had a way with words like no other and within days of her being appointed as the Mayor she announced ‘...It’s coming back…’

The wait was finally over when after fourteen months on July 2nd 1965, the telephone was finally brought back. Watching the telephone engineer putting it all back in its rightful place in this photograph is Alderman Edwards.

Casual passing observers could be forgiven from thinking that perhaps it was a long lost relative coming home, rather than just a telephone. Whether the ‘coming home party’ ever happened I cannot say but it was seriously considered.