Revealed: the two most hidden-away streets in Halifax

Mark Griffiths one of the residents in the home above the Borough Market, Halifax.
Mark Griffiths one of the residents in the home above the Borough Market, Halifax.

If you look on a map, it’s unlikely you’ll find a grid reference for Southgate Balcony or Market Street Balcony in Halifax.

But these two hidden streets, not only exist, they are architectural gems.

Chances are you won’t have noticed the so-called “streets in the sky” – two streets that run alongside the majestic roof of the Borough Market.

There are 21 homes that line the east and west sides of Halifax Borough Market.

They are each three-storey homes, with between three and seven bedrooms, complete with original features, great views, sash windows and right in the town centre.

To see them, look up from Southgate and Market Street and you’ll see a row of ornate- looking houses and not give them much thought.

Access is through two locked staircases, one inside the market, the other near the Market Street entrance.

The homes were part of the original design by Borough Market architects Joseph and John Leeming when construction started in 1891.

The market was built as a statement of civic pride and the houses were designed with shopkeepers in mind.

Now all but two lay empty and are falling into ruin. But there are whispers about how they could be brought back to life.

Calderdale Council’s economy and environment scrutiny panel have met architects and designers who have shared their ideas of how to transform these dilapidated homes, but there is a long way to go.

Refurbishment would cost millions and the effect on the market holders and completing a town centre development would not be easy.

The building is Grade II* listed, so any work has to be sympathetic, with original details maintained. But the potential is massive.

If you can look past the dated wallpaper there are some awe-inspiring original features still in each house, from cast-iron fireplaces to porcelain sinks.

Entering the houses is like stepping back through the decades.

There is everything from an original dairy room for before fridges existed, through to an 80s avocado bathroom suite and feng shui-style 90s wallpaper.

Like every street, each of the houses has their own story to tell.

Take number 42, now Herbert Brown jewellers. It started off life as the Peacock Hotel. opening in 1898. After the pub closed in 1961 it became Daily Tailors and then Bradley’s Records.

As we wound our way upstairs from the shop into the house, you can see parts of each of its former lives.

From the dumb waiter to the original cupboards, over a century later, the glazed brickwork in the dairy room is almost intact. But there are also signs on the windows and discarded music posters collecting dust.

During the 1980s there was work done on the homes. In 1987 a sprinkler system was put into the houses to keep up with legislation, and just before that each of the homes was rewired.

Each house has its own stories to tell.

One long-standing resident was Mary Fennelly who lived in the houses for 50 years.

She was married to the market caretaker Michael, and was still living at number 34 until around five years ago.

Tracey Gerrard, who works for the markets team, lived in both number 24 and number 32. “It’s quite sad when you come back and see what it used to be,” he said.

“I’d come back, but my wife would be back tomorrow. It’s convenient living here for work, and it’s peaceful,” he said.

His dad lived on the Market Street Balcony before him.

Retired caretaker James Earley brought his three children – including son Mario, who went on to found Hi-spec windows and then Polyframe with his business partner Martin Buckley – up in the house.

John Walker, markets manager, knows the building inside out and can see the massive potential.

It is, after all, one of the country’s few surviving examples of a 19th century listed glazed market hall.

“This is the beating heart of Halifax,” he said.

There is a long way to go before the heart of Halifax could beat properly again.

But as councillors were shown round there was no doubt this could be the best regeneration scheme any of them would put their names to.

David Hardy (Lib Dem, Elland) said: “The best way to preserve properties like this is to give them new life. Then they’ve got another 300 years in them.”

And here’s hoping.