I think it’s been reignited, I’d lost it for a while, dissipated into the ether, a fundamental part of the me I’ve come to know and tolerate it seems had snuck off, almost without me realising. Remarkable given that I am now living back in Yorkshire which is the best county in England, and had drawn up swathes of lists of places I wanted to explore as soon as the pandemic had buggered off.
Then, last week, I drew the long straw, it was my day to escort the Senior Day Out from Focus4Hope, always a jolly day. Bankfield Museum in Halifax was the requested destination. I have to admit to not being too excited, I mean, wealthy merchants houses converted into museums are two a penny in these parts, as are disused mills.
You see, in brief, West Yorkshire was an industrial region, Halifax one of it’s most famous/prolific industrial towns producing worsted. A fair few of the industrialists of this region were also philanthropists, or what passed for it in those days, building entire towns with good quality workers houses, social clubs, churches, hospitals and more. Think Saltaire as the most famous example (his products also used alpaca wool) and there’s more. In fact whilst I’m touching on this subject, it is said (though no one knows by whom) that at one time Huddersfield (just up the road which produced industrial machinery) had the largest number of Rolls Royce’s per capita in the country. Perhaps as many as India’s Maharaja’s? Regardless, industrial West Yorkshire was definitely on the map.
But, back to Bankfield Museum. It will come as no surprise to anyone that knows me, that I didn’t really bother with the main exhibition, fashion of the times of Anne Lister (also from Halifax now made famous in the TV series Gentleman Jack) nor reading all about another industrial philanthropist (though I’m not disregarding this for the future). Not even the exhibits from his travels in India swayed me too much, porcupine quill box this and ivory boxes that.
No, what got my curiosity reignited were three small exhibits, tucked away in cupboards in the crafting room, blink and you’d miss them kind of exhibits.
The first was a whole two shelves on Percy Shaw, from Halifax who, get this, invented cats eyes! Yes, cat’s eyes which ended up in roads across the globe were invented by an unassuming man, who never left his original home and spent the latter part of his life in a room with (depending on who you believe) 4-6 TV’s on at all times, in a time when there were only 3 channels. Various stories abound as to how he came up with the idea, but I’m saving those for another blog.
The second was a picture of a lady and some boots. It turned out this lady was Lizzie Humphries from Halifax who, back in 1911 accepted a challenge from a magazine who said it wasn’t possible to walk around the world in less than 4 years. Guess what? Yes, she gave it a bloody good go and was only stopped by the start of the war in 1914. And yes, before you ask, I’ve already contacted her great nephew and requested to see her diaries. What she must have seen and experienced must be fascinating.
The third was another one cupboard, two shelf display of old Quality Street tins. Yes, those boxes of chocolates that no Christmas would be complete without? Also invented in Halifax.
I mean, after all that, who’s got time to ponder over the fact that the fantastc charity fundraiser lunch I attended on Friday, also in Halifax was at a venue in Dean Clough Mill, which is a 22 acre site which stretches back half a mile and was, at one time, the largest carpet manufacturers in THE WORLD!
Safe to say, curiosity firmly reignited, stories upon stories to follow. I may not be traveling in India, but doorstep discoveries like these will do very nicely thank you.
For More: Bankfield Museum | Lizzie Hughes | Dean Clough