Hollowgate

The old trade route crosses Upperbridge which led to Hollowgate. This photograph of about 1908 shows a number of shops on the left. The shop on the corner between the bridge and the main road was for a long time a clothes shop, the Dainty Dot.

The three story building over the bridge was probably the home and business, a grocer’s, of Ben Littlewood at the time of the old photo.


The shops on the left were eventually incorporated into the adjacent premises. The former premises of Ben Littlewood are now, at least in part, Simon Blythe’s estate agency. The opening between this and the Elephant and Castle (see below) leads, via a set of stone steps, to a steep lane, Goose Green.

The course of the river below has become invaded by trees. Given the area’s history of flooding this might not be desirable.


In the middle of the bridge is this flat cast iron milestone of the Greenfield & Shepley Lane Head Turnpike. It appears to be labelled the wrong way round – the road to Denby Dale etc is to the right and that to Greenfield and Oldham to the left.


Usually these signs were of triangular cross section like this one and lettered so that the destination was on the side facing the travellers as they approached it. There was no room for such a marker on a narrow bridge so it was “flattened”.



The river marked the boundary between the ancient townships of Upperthong and Cartworth. Hollowgate is on the Cartworth side. The townships were units of government in the manorial court. Even after the introduction of local government by the Holmfirth Urban District Council they had a part to play as electoral wards until the reorganisation of local government in 1974 by which time they would have been about a thousand years old.

This view, taken at about the same time as the first photograph on this page looks back up the river at the bridge. The building on the left is the Elephant and Castle public house.

A narrow balcony leads from the right hand end of the bridge to a door on the second floor of the building overlooking the river. The premises were at one time and fish and chip shop. Reputedly the balcony was also used to hang out washing.

This is the view today. The buildings looking over the river on the previous photograph looking upstream have been replaced and partly built out over the river. The current buildings were originally Castle’s garage. One of the shops on the bridge became a service counter for Castle’s. After Castle’s closed in 1995 the building became “Holmfirth Mills” and absorbed the remaining shop on the bridge. At the time of writing this business has not survived Covid lockdown and is empty.

Hollowgate is the street on the left. “Gate” is the Yorkshire dialect word for “way”, borrowed from the Danish Vikings who settles much of Yorkshire. Denby Dale mentioned on the milestone also reminds us of them: Den for Dane, -by from their word for a settlement and Dale from their word for a valley.

Hollow ways were roads sunk into the ground by erosion from traffic before modern road building techniques were introduced. The name suggests that Hollowgate was one of these but there is no indication of this today; the topography must have been much altered since medieval times.

In May 1944 the scene looked very different. A cloudburst further up the valley had flooded the centre of Holmfirth and caused extensive damage. The pressure on bridges was made worse by debris, including trees such as the one on the right, lodging against the bridge and impeding flow. Amazingly, although the parapet was swept away the structure of the bridge survived.

A similar spectacle greeted visitors in February 1852. This time the flood was a man-made disaster due to the failure of the dam of the Digley reservoir further upstream.


Clearing up after the 1944 flood was not without its humour. These houses were opposite Castles garage.


The buildings are still there today although they are no longer private houses. Appropriately for a conservation area, Ribbles still has the same slightly arched top rails to its window frames.

This is a map of about the same period of as the early photographs above. Upperbridge is on the left and between that and Victoria Bridge at the end of Victoria Street one narrow bridge crosses the river.

By the mid C20th as shown by this map there were two additional bridges crossing the river.

Castle’s garage is marked on the map. The lower floor was the workshop for the garages. A bridge enabled vehicles to drive into the workshop and subsequently became an entrance into the now empty shop. Further downstream the chapel shown on the earlier map had closed and been converted into Baddley’s garage. When Baddley’s closed it was replaced by the Holmfirth market hall and this also has an entrance over the river.

This photograph, looking along Hollowgate from Upperbridge, shows the narrow bridge as it then was with a lattice-work structure to its sides

The houses on the right are a continuation of those in the flood picture with the piano.


The same scene today shows the entrance to the Castle’s/Holmfirth Mills building. The narrow bridge is visible beyond it as a darker grey structure; the lattice work has been replaced.


The entrance to the narrow bridge is separated by a short length of wall from the entrance to the market behind it.


In the past this part of Hollowgate was used as a weekly cattle market.

The narrow bridge can be seen to the right of this photograph and it’s now possible to appreciate its original purpose – it led to the slaughterhouse. Nowadays it leads to some small shops. The balcony from the end of Upperbridge can be seen more clearly in this picture.


This is the same scene today.

The modern main road runs past the buildings in the background. The roof of the smaller block, part of the old slaughterhouse, scarcely comes up to road level and the taller block appears from the road to be a two story building. This sort of consequence of building on sloping ground is a regular feature of Holme Valley architecture. Nevertheless the bridge joining this road to Hollowgate in the foreground is only a few yards out of view on the left. The changes of level are quite subtle.


The former cattle market is commemorated by one of the Civic Society’s blue plaques.


The plaque can be seen on the building beyond that with the shallow gable. Note the former opening in the gable, partly converted to a window and partly blocked with stone. This would have been a taking-in door for workshops in the building and a crane would have jutted out from the top of it. The crane would have also served the two floors below it where the openings are now converted to windows. Part of the building with the plaque is visible on the right hand side of the photograph of the 1911 parade below.


Hollowgate was part of the medieval route along the Holme Valley. The lane opening on the left of the previous photograph, New Fold/Goose Green, was another medieval route running up onto the hillside of Cartworth. In the C20th it also led to an outdoor swimming pool.

One of the buildings whose gable is visible in the background was originally a poor house. Although this part of Holmfirth is largely in Cartworth the poor house was built in a detached portion of Wooldale township. Was this a deliberate ploy of Wooldale to keep their poor at arm’s length?

The pool was built on the site of the dam serving the former New Fold Mill. It opened in 1930, originally advertised as “Baileys Baths” but soon officially became known as Holmfirth Lido. The owner was a Joseph Bailey who used the former building for his joinery business. Bailey’s death was in 1947and the Lido closed in 1949. The water was supplied from nearby Goose Green lane. Today it is derelict.


This procession along the remainder of Hollowgate is thought to celebrate the Coronation of George V in 1911. The buildings in the foreground of this image were to be seen in the present-day image of the bottom of New Fold/Goose Green.


The view shows the continuing multi-storey buildings on Hollowgate. In this section the upper floors are accessed from the rear and addressed as on New Row. You can see the barber’s pole for the present-day ”Michaels” hairdressers at No3. Before the hairdressers it was occupied by ?Walter Crabtree who sold pots and pans etc. He also used to travel the district selling his wares. Next door is Hollowgate Fisheries at No1. As early as pre WW2 fish was being sold from these premises. It was operated as a fish and chip shop by the Gibson family in the 1950s and later by David Senior.


A block of buildings was placed between the street and the river at the eastern end of Hollowgate. At the end of the nineteenth century buildings even extended over the river adjacent between this block and those at the bottom of Victoria Street.


These buildings survived into the middle years of the twentieth century. The longer block appears to be part of the development that extended over the river. The smaller buildings may well have been older.


These premises at the Victoria square end of Hollowgate also needed cleaning up after the 1944 flood but at least they survived. The gap beyond the smaller buildings on the left remained after the rest were destroyed along with those that extended over the river.

Tripe was one of the mainstays on the blackboard menu of meat and offal for sale at Frank Taylor’s little shop at the entrance to Higgin Bridge. This is pictured a few months after he took over the shop in 1956.


The little shop has since been occupied by various businesses such as a key cutter and a cobbler,


The building at the bottom of Rocher, partly behind the little shop was occupied by the Quarmby family. One of the family occupied the shop next door, Oscar’s at the time of writing, which was known as “Wallpaper House” for many years. Quarmby was succeeded by Hinchliffe in the same business and later it was the business of Wallace Guthrie. Other members of the Quarmby family were butchers.


From Hollowgate we can move on to Victoria Square.