A glimpse of old Northowram before developers moved in

Towngate, Northowram around 1910.
Towngate, Northowram around 1910.
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Northowram is among Halifax oldest “villages”. Like Elland, Sowerby and Heptonstall, for example – though not Halifax – Northowram was listed in William the Conqueror’s Domesday Book of 1086, where it was called Ufrum.

These days following decades of new house building, Northowram looks more like a suburban dormitory of adjoining estates – a situation which has caused much angst among the Northowram’s older residents, who preferred their village the way it once was.

Ye Olde Fish and Chip Shop, Northowram. From book Old Northowram Village, 2012.

Ye Olde Fish and Chip Shop, Northowram. From book Old Northowram Village, 2012.

Even so, Northowram retains some of its old heart, particularly in Towngate and in some of the exceptionally fine houses such as the 17th-century Marsh Hall and the more recent Northowram Hall, now surrounded by new homes in what was once the grounds of Northowram Hospital.

Northowram grew up on a hill overlooking the Shibden valley from the north, like Southowram, on the other side of the valley. Northowram was reached – as it is still can be – via the notoriously steep Hough, which climbs up to the village from Stump Cross before swinging left into Towngate and through the village via Northowram Green.

This was the old road to Bradford, replaced by the “new road”, as older residents once knew it, the Bradford Road which effectively bypassed the village on its way to Shelf in the 1830s.

Much of this fascinating history comes in a new book about Northowram, produced by the village’s historical society. Called Old Northowram Village, this slim volume is packed full of photos of the village as it was before rampant development took over, supplemented by what editor Mike Beecham calls “brief histories”, extended captions that are full of anecdotes about people and places.

Northowram Co-op. From book Old Northowram Village, 2012.

Northowram Co-op. From book Old Northowram Village, 2012.

But it is the pictures that will attract readers to this little book, which is arranged area by area. It starts with a superb aerial photo of the district, taken by the RAF in 1948, when the area round Towngate was an almost isolated village with little of the modern housing that has filled the wide expanse of green fields since the second word war.

Then there are sections on Lydgate and Bradford Road, Towngate, of course, and the Hough, Upper Lane and Hall Lane, among others, and out as far as Shibden Valley and Stump Cross.

Many of the photos show the streets and buildings as they once looked but there’s a lot of human life here too: boy Forresters on parade in Ludgate in 1927, a lorry decked out for the Whitsuntide treat at Heywood Chapel and Ye Olde Fish and Chip Shop in the same building as today’s village chip shop, where children used to buy their Jubbly orange drink in the 1960s

There are regulars posing for a photo before their day out from the Windmill pub and a church parade on its way to the old mission church which served the village before St Matthew’s Church was built in 1913.

Simm Carr Gardens, Northowram. From book Old Northowram Village, 2012.

Simm Carr Gardens, Northowram. From book Old Northowram Village, 2012.

And another shows a crowd of happy youngsters on a day out to Simm Carr, an old cottage which, during the early 20th century was a nursery, florist and tea rooms known as Simm Carr Gardens, where patrons could enjoy fairground rides.

This new and handsome looking booklet serves not only to inform and delight but to act as a stepping stone to greater things.

Surprisingly, perhaps, this modest publication is the first history of Northowram since Mark Pearson’s history published in 1898 and the historical society hopes that sales of the new booklet will raise the money needed to produce a full-scale history for the whole of the old Northowram township, which included Claremount, Boothtown, Shibdenand Queensbury as well as Northowram itself.

nOld Northowram Village, edited by Mike Beecham, costs £6.95 and can be ord-ered from Mike Turner, of Towngate, Northowram (01422 201912), or George Bowers, Skircoat Green Road, Halifax (01422 382369) or at Fred Wade’s bookshop in Rawson Street, Halifax.

Landemerer Syke, Northowram. From book Old Northowram Village, 2012.

Landemerer Syke, Northowram. From book Old Northowram Village, 2012.

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Northowram figures. From book Old Northowram Village, 2012.

Northowram figures. From book Old Northowram Village, 2012.

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The pictures above are all of Northowram, from Old Northowram Village. From the top: Towngate, the heart of old Northowram, in about 1910; Ye Olde Fish and Chip Shop; Northowram Co-op in Towngate, still a local shop; children from Pellon Baptist Church, Halifax, on a day out at Simm Carr Gardens, Shibden, in 1918; Landemere Syke, with the village well visible next to the lamp post; Northowram figures