SINCE the first major land sale took place in Brighouse in 1816, when just over 100 acres of the Armytage estate were sold – this became much of the present day town centre – many other and much larger land sales were to follow during the 19th century.
These included the Crown Nest Sale of 1867, the Cawthra Sale of 1858, the 1850 sale of all the land and property behind and up to the front of the Black Swan which ran parallel to the canal, the 1860 sale of all the land we know today as the Armytage Industrial Estate, the Aspinall's Sale of 1869 and many others.
If these sales had not taken place in and around Brighouse the map and landscape of Brighouse would certainly not look as it does today.
These sales of freehold land opened up the opportunities for both the small and the not so small entrepreneurs to build both the large Victorian gentlemen's residences, and the countless rows of artisans' cottages, many of which we still see today.
One of the largest sales to take place was held on Friday, September 30, 1870 at The Royal Hotel, Brighouse, when almost 80 acres of land was sold on behalf of the late Mark Blackburn. This vast area which was broken up into almost 500 lots, covered an area stretching from the edge of the town centre along Bradford Road to Smithy Carr Lane and then everything up to and including the Recreation Ground alongside Halifax Road.
The Blackburn family was one of the town's most prominent families with extensive business interests in cotton spinning. Blackburn Buildings on Wakefield Road, Brighouse, takes its name from that family.
Looking through the sale catalogue it is possible to work out where many of the street names originated from beginning with Blackburn Road itself. The Bracken Road area was named after Mr Richard Bracken and his family who lived in the that area, Cawcliffe Road and its neighbouring streets probably derives from Cowcliffe a name that is linked to many of the original fields in the area and Hey Street, where again the name Hey is also linked to many of the old field names. I have yet to discover just where the names Lee Street and Mary Street some from.
Most people in Brighouse will have heard of and no doubt visited the miniature railway at Ravensprings. In the 1870 sale plan I have I can see clearly where the original spring was.
In the first of this week's two featured photographs are some of the houses that were built on the Blackburn estate land. This view is looking down Rayner Road to the junction with Lee Street. The houses on the corner have a name which appears to say South View, and has a date.
The second photograph shows the same houses from a different angle – but if you look at the house in Lee Street (the street to the left) there is a horse in the field next to the house. This, I would suggest, tells us that even at that time there was still a lot of open land not yet developed.
Looking up the hillside of the original photograph, where the horse is standing, there is not a building in sight.
Also in this photograph are a number of small children in the foreground who just happened to be in position when the photographer Mr Harry Mitchell took these photographs.
The children are standing close to a stile in the wall which would suggest that when Mr Mitchell took this photograph it was probably open fields behind him all the way across to Smithy Carr Lane.
Mr Mitchell was a member of the Brighouse Photographic Society, an organisation that was started in 1895. In those far off days the members were largely made up of business and professional people. The cost of a camera and the paraphernalia that a photographer needed in those days was far beyond the means of the average working man in Brighouse.
If it had not been for people like Harry Mitchell, George Hepworth, Martin Manley and a select band of other amateur photographers, who were members of the society, we would certainly not have many of the archive and historical photographs we have the benefit of seeing, studying and enjoying today.
I recall many years ago someone telling me that many of Martin Manley’s glass plates were discovered in a dustbin, and then somehow later found their way to the Tolson Museum in Huddersfield, where I understand they are still today.
At the Blackburn sale, the sale catalogues tell us there were just short of 500 lots for sale on that September day 140 years ago.