Victoria Square

Deborah Wyles, Holmfirth Local History Group

Where is it?

View from Rotcher in 2017. The road in the middle and buildings on the right are in Victoria Square.

Victoria Square in 1957

Barclays Bank and the street sign. “VICTORIA” is visible; the red car obscures the “SQUARE”. Note here the window design.

Another Victoria Square sign, faint and half missing. But where is it to be found?

On this building.

Today it is an opticians. As far back as the latter part of the nineteenth century it was a chemist shop.

Notable names were James Watson (1870), Joseph Fisher, Frederick Bertram Shaw (1897) and William Turner Haigh (1926).


This excerpt from the Wooldale township map of 1836 shows the centre of Holmfirth after the construction in the mid 1820s of the Holmfirth branch of the Wadsley and Langsett turnpike which created Dunford Rd.

The township boundary didn’t follow Ribble Dyke in its entirety and part of Dunford Rd above the Shoulder of Mutton inn was in Cartworth. Very little detail of Cartworth or Upperthong townships is shown although Dunford Rd itself has been pencilled in.

Upperbridge is shown at A, the bottom of Dunford Rd at B and Higgin Brigg at C. There was a footbridge from the Holmfirth Mill site to Norridge Bottom at D, approximately in the same position as the modern footbridge from the car park.

The gap in the buildings to the right of E suggests that there was a crossing of the Ribble Dyke downstream of Higgin Brigg although it looks more like a ford than a bridge.

By the early 1840s a new body, the Holmfirth and District Trust had been formed to take over from the trusts governing the several turnpikes which met in Holmfirth. They drew up plans for a new road and bridge to join the Huddersfield and Woodhead turnpike, today’s Huddersfield Road, with Towngate.

This plan of 1843 forms the basis of what was built. It was a radical plan which included the demolition of some existing buildings although the eventual result, covering over the lower reach of the Ribble was even more radical and created Victoria Square as we know it today in addition to Victoria Street and Victoria Bridge.

Victoria Square from t’Top o’t Street

A view down Victoria Street to Victoria Square before 1910.

Look at the building which was there before the bank. Completely different and yet still had stylish windows.

A similar view down Victoria Street taken in the 1920s.

The new bank was built around 1910 or perhaps it just had a new facade. Originally this was the Lancashire & Yorkshire Bank. Look again at the windows before modern double glazed panes were fitted (see picture 3 above). Are the new panes an improvement?

The bottom of South Lane and Dunford Road

Victoria Square looking towards South Lane when it was much more confined. Look at the narrow space between the buildings on the right and the left in foreground.

Taken in 1950, this shows the building on the left has been demolished.

But why?

This photo from 1947, looking back from Dunford Road and South Lane, shows why.

The tragic coach crash with the Bolsterstone choir on board. They were Holmfirth-bound to take part in a choir competition. The brakes failed at the top of the descent into Holmfirth. Nine people died and 23 injured including women and children. In 2017 a memorial concert was held in Holmfirth with the programme the choir was due to have sung.

Also visible is Cartwright’s shoe shop on the left. A lorry crashed into its window in 1931.

Taken from South Lane some 2 years before the coach crash, this photo shows what appear to be fencing panels over the bridge. These were temporary replacements after the 1944 flood.

Early twentieth century changes

We return to the view from the bottom of Rotcher in the early 20th century. The building behind Mettrick’s van was the shop of Joe Quarmby the butcher.

Another early 20th century view showing how tight the Square used to be when Towngate still had buildings on the riverside, and not much traffic judging by the sleeping dog.

After the demolition of the riverside buildings in 1921 the Square is losing its intimacy.

The shop G.H. Smith was a butchers. This part of Holmfirth had lots of butchers: Fred Brook, Joe Quarmby, Joseph Stockwell and Job Littlewood in 1899, George Henry Smith in the 1920s and S. Tinsdeall in 1935.

Another iconic shop is that of N.Kemp. Norman was both a hairdresser and umbrella maker. He instigated the concept of shopping weeks starting in 1928 although he died just weeks before the launch. He is the father of the perhaps better known Wylbert Kemp, also a hairdresser and great story-teller.

Back ot’ Nook

Round the back of the bank this is still Victoria Square. Also known as Higgin Brig. Tommy Castle’s shop photographed here in 1909 had operated in the mid nineteenth century. He sold tasty pies and ”burying/funeral cakes.”.

Most notable was his clothing. He wore a drab Quaker coat, knee breeches, white apron and a well-worn silk hat. His shop must have been badly damaged in the 1852 flood as the waters rose up to roof height. It seems he went out of business in 1854. By the time this photo was taken the building was a slaughter house.

The Nook AKA The Rose and Crown. On the old photo Tommy Castle’s shop is just visible to the right of centre. The building to the right of that was the Princess Royal. All that remains of Tommy’s shop is the doorway into a piece of open ground and the Princess Royal has been rebuilt as a private dwelling.

The Nook dates from 1754 but this building from 1818.

This stretch of cobbles was a strategic route through Holmfirth. It connected Towngate to Hollowgate and was part of the main road from Woodhead to Huddersfield. The narrowest part of all in these photographs is Higgin Brigg itself. The Ribble Dyke flows from the Ribbleden valley on the right underneath what is now Barclay’s bank on the left and enters the Holme underneath Victoria Bridge.

Beyond the Nook buildings have encroached on the old road leaving only this narrow gap.

Today the building on the left is part of a restaurant, but in the 1850s this was Bower’s library.

The building edging into view on the right is now part of another restaurant but in the 1950s & 60s was Staniforth’s photographers.

Stepping through the narrow gap we emerge at the bottom of Dunford Road.

Today we see a bar at 3 Victoria Square. It has previously been a bistro (Carniceria and Karbowski’s), a butcher’s (Tinsdeall 1935 -1992) and a shoe shop (Riley’s 1899 – 1935).

Here we look back into the narrow gap that’s all that is left of what was once the main road through Holmfirth.

It’s brought us full circle because on the left is that old, faded sign for Victoria Square.

And finally..

A map showing Victoria Square and surrounding streets. But where is this to be found?

Answer; on the street-view sculpture by local ceramicist Jim Robison. It is on situated on Victoria Bridge and more or less where Joe Quarmby’s butchers shop would have been.

From Victoria Square we can proceed into Victoria Street or continue following the old route into Towngate.