In the early 1960s, when still an art student at the School of Art & Design, Batley, I began sketching and photographing the area in which I had grown up – a substantial corner of Yorkshire, known in those days as the ‘Industrial West Riding’.
Slum clearance programmes and smokeless zones were beginning to wipe clean the smudgy faces of many of our towns, condemning to demolition row upon row of terrace houses and their attendant corner and wooden lock-up shops. Chapels, railway stations, goods yards, ‘picture palace’ cinemas and a host of other buildings closed their doors for the last time. Even mills and warehouses, so long the cornerstones of our working communities, were not immune to the steady erosion.
At the time, closure did not mean immediate demolition, and these faithful servants of yesterday’s Yorkshire were often left to a lingering demise, as if waiting for the change of heart that would never come. Their gradual transformation from home or workplace to faded monuments of crumbling stone, brick, tile or ironwork perversely highlighted the richness of decoration bestowed by our forebears on even the humblest of buildings.
Yesterday’s Yorkshire is not intended to be a survey or academic record, but a visual appreciation of ordinary things, their absence somehow serving to highlight their uniqueness.
The book was launched at the Bradford Industrial Museum in 2001. The following year saw it exhibited there, followed by further exhibitions at the Piece Hall Gallery, Halifax, and Dewsbury Museum. I am still giving illustrated talks based on the book to local history and art clubs. Meeting people for whom the buildings and places mentioned in the book have had a significance in their lives continues to please, amaze and fascinate me!