Towngate to Station Road

 By Peter Burton, Holmfirth Local History Group


Station Road is the continuation of Towngate; until the station was built the road leading to Towngate was simply recorded as Holmfirth. The open gateway on the left leads into the old burial ground, first used about 1757 and now made into a park.  Some of the relocated gravestones can be seen through the gate.
A drone camera view of Station Road.  

 

 
This is the Jeffries map surveyed in the 1780s.

Notice that Station Road is the only main road into Holmfirth centre – the later Huddersfield Road to the left (west) of the river not built at this time. The church and water mill are visible at the bottom of the road. Note also the number of buildings along the road leading into Holmfirth at this time. There are none on the other (Upperthong) side.
This is the earliest detailed map we have showing the fields where the later Bamforth’s and railway station would be built. Note there are no buildings on Bridge Lane at this time except for a mill at the bottom of the road (Tom Mill) and, to the right of the road, the site of the iron foundry. 
  This early 20th century photograph of the bottom of Station Road where it meets Towngate shows it was the site of an cattle fair held each May. Note the building on the left and the Corner House Café behind. 
Another photo of the May Fair, Station Road - date unknown.   
  John Gill’s garage subsequently occupied the site of the cattle market buildings. 
The site became vacant.  It is currently undergoing redevelopment into housing and parking.

Photo by Andrew Sanderson
 
  The first building on the left hand side is the current computer shop but has housed commercial businesses since at least 1861 when there was a grocer's shop and a saddler's shop here.

Despite being the side facing the road and the main commercial frontages, the
rather plain aspect that we see today does seem to be original. This may have been the Post Office in 1830: a diary of that period describes the burial ground as “situated at the End of Town on the left of the road to New Mill & at the back of the Post Office”.
The next properties along the road. Note the even plainer roadside frontage to these premises – seemingly as originally built with no evidence of rebuilding or blocking in windows. The rear the dwelling houses have the more impressive aspect.   

 

  This is the rear of those commercial properties and these dwellings were known in the 1871 census as Burial Ground side. They housed a blacksmith, an engineer and a power loom piecer and their families. The entrance doors to these houses were all on the other side on Station Road but this ‘back’ of the houses, overlooking the chapel graveyard, was certainly the more impressive. 
The fine dwelling house on the left in this picture of about 1910 is now Wagstaff’s shoe shop, one of the longest established businesses in the town. As you can see, not much has changed.   
  An advert for Wagstaff’s from the 1960s.

The view of Wagstaff's building as seen from the Burial Ground side is also more impressive than the roadside view.
 

 
Looking along Station Road from Towngate, date unknown. Wagstaff’s shoe shop is in the left foreground and the Druid’s Hall is in the centre right.

The open space on the left beyond Wagstaff's is thought to be a monumental mason’s yard but we know of no good photographs of it. It is now a car park.
Bamforth’s in its heyday in the 1920s. The Bamforth shop in the right foreground had become a take-away in recent times and has now been demolished. The main Bamforth's building on the right before the present redevelopment work had started. It would seem the original sign board that we can see cannot be retained on the restored building for copyright reasons.
James Bamforth opened his photography business in Holmfirth in 1870 and the large studio premises were opened in 1899. He made early movies using local people as actors in his films and photographs. At the outbreak of WW1 the movie business ended and Bamforth's concentrated on the postcards which they had produced since the 1880s, aimed at soldiers and their families and, later, the famous ‘sea-side’ saucy postcards for which they are most famous.

The business on Station Road continued to expand in the 1920s and 30s. The business closed in 1990, with the site now being redeveloped as housing, retaining as much of the historic fabric as possible.
Two of the images sold as lantern slides by Bamforth’s. The one on the left of a funeral procession, although hand tinted to look like a painting, is actually a photograph and is taken on Station Road – note the Druid’s Hall in the centre right. There is another view of the possible mason’s yard.

The right hand image is of the entrance to the Druid’s Hotel in the Druid’s Hall. The pub is long gone but the entrance and even the lantern over the door still remain.
  An early photograph showing East View cottages built in 1898 for rent by Bamforth with his main business premises beyond.
East Bank Cottages today. Bamforth’s old drawing studio is on the top floor.   
  Moving further up Station Road we come to West View Terrace. The curate of Holmfirth chapel, Edward Powell, lived in one of these houses with his family in 1871.
The date of this photograph is not recorded. It shows the Druid’s Hall lower right and further left along Station Road you can make out cottages to the left of the RAFA club, now demolished. The stone mason's yard can be seen across the road from the Hall.   
  The Druids' Hall was built on open land purchased by the Ancient Order of Druids Friendly Society in 1846.  It was opened as their Holmfirth headquarters in May 1852, only 3 months after the Bilberry reservoir flood disaster. There was a sense of mystery at the time of its opening about the source of income needed to build the premises and it were reported in the local press of the day to have cost £1800. From the start it contained a licensed hotel called the Druid’s. The entrance to the hotel was shown n the Bamforth's slide above.

Inside the Druid's Hall is the refurbished Masonic Temple of the Holme Valley Lodge and now even opening the hall to members of the public on selected open days – a far cry from the masons former secrecy. 

 

   






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