Street life in Bridge Gate

editorial image

Not so much “then and now”, as “then, later and now”...

This is Bridge Gate, Hebden Bridge in the 1940s, 1979 and today, looking surprisingly quiet given that this is one of the most historic and important streets in the town centre.

It has also changed remarkably little over the years. The gent walking perfectly safely in the road in the top picture would certainly recognise Bridge Gate if he returned, reincarnated as the man walking down the opposite pavement in 1959 or the bloke in the white jacket in the bottom picture.

The major difference between the 1940s and 1959 is the loss of the single-storey shops – a shoe shop, a butcher’s and a furniture and second-hand shop – on the left-hand side of the street. Beyond, just visible, is the end of the Old Bridge, that venerable structure built in 1510 across the River Hebden which celebrated its 500th anniversary last year.

The sign on the White Swan pub shows that it was a Ramsden’s pub, tied, that is, to one of Halifax’s then three big breweries, Thomas Ramsden and Son’s Stone Trough Brewery in Trinity Road, Halifax. The other two brewers were, of course, Richard Whitaker and Sons’ Cock o’ the North brewery in Corporation Street and Samuel Webster and Sons at Ovenden Wood.

On the extreme right of the 1979 photo are two new shops in a building which replaced an old warehouse.

Bridge Gate, Hebden Bridge. Nostalgia

Bridge Gate, Hebden Bridge. Nostalgia

The street itself has acquired those infernal yellow lines, much despised by motorists and conservationists alike.

And the house-cum-shop at the centre of the photo is looking somewhat the worse for wear by 1979. No matter, though, for in our most recent photo the house – and the street – have been spruced up. Hebden Bridge is now a tourist town, the street has been pedestrianised, with nice olde-worlde lamp standards, and the house is a coffee shop.

The pub beyond is the Shoulder of Mutton, more visible in the bottom picture than the other two, but the older photos do show the charming chimney attached to the 18th-century Bridge Mill, thought to be the site of a medieval corn mill, where local farmers would bring their grain to be ground into flour.