Echoes of the Past: Memories of an ever changing village...

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Looking at this c1929 photograph of Bailiff Bridge just shows how much the village has changed in such a short space of time.

With TF Firth’s closing in 2000 it had dominated the village and kept most of its residents in work from the day Thomas Freeman Firth and John Willans established the Firth Willans company back in 1867. It was these two men who bought what was an old worsted mill in Bailiff(e) Bridge at an auction in Halifax. A property, in modern times, I am sure many local readers will recall housed on its ground floor the carpet mill’s mechanics department.

Firth’s soon expanded their initial purchase to completely dominate the village as can be seen in this week’s featured photograph. This expansion saw new houses being built, a school for the growing population of children and of course the other essentials including a shop, a pub and the church.

Firth’s was not the only company in the village to employ large numbers of people - Hardman’s cotton mill was started in the building which in later years was occupied by Smith Bulmer’s and like Firth’s it too was demolished. But the earliest evidence of a manufacturing business in Bailiff(e) Bridge dates back to 1810.

In last week’s story of the canal basin I mentioned that for a community to grow its transport links were of vital importance. For such a small community Bailiff(e) Bridge over a period of time had those links. The cross roads started life nothing more than cart tracks until the arrival of the turnpike road (Wakefield Road) in 1741 and the turnpike road (Huddersfield Road) which completed the cross roads in 1823. Whilst the canal network was not possible in Bailiff(e) Bridge the railway did arrive when the railway station was opened in 1881. It is difficult to imagine now that this was the station where Sir Algernon Firth would catch a train to take him on business to London. In 1929 the old wooden station caught fire and destroyed.

You will note I bracket the (e) on the word Bailiff(e) - does it have an ‘e’ on the end or not. Well, the village school has one but the post office in New Street did not. Postal addresses for the village do not have one either, but which one is correct, I suppose the post office will say both.

The next major change in the village will be the demolition and re-development of the Ebenezer Chapel site followed by the re-development of the Dews Garage site. The Dews site has seen a number of changes over the years - how many can remember the carpet show room and fishing tackle shop of Douglas Kerr and his wife on the site or going back even further still can you remember the days when Bailiff(e) Bridge library was there as well.

The older you are you will have seen little change for decades then all at once the whole place seems to change all in a matter of a few years. Whilst things do have to move forward we must not forget the past.