Lift up your eyes ....
Nov 3 2008 by Andrew Baldwin, Huddersfield Daily Examiner
Raising our eyes above ground level can reveal a whole new outlook on the story of Huddersfield. ANDREW BALDWIN reports on a new book by an author impressed by just what he saw
‘It’s perhaps one of the most unusual buildings in Huddersfield’
LOOK up, look up, otherwise you’ll miss a few things about Huddersfield and its buildings.
Writer and photographer Nigel Ibbotson did and was fascinated by what he saw.
The Prudential Assurance building on the corner of New Street and Ramsden Street in the town centre was one that struck him in particular.
Raising his eyes above ground level Nigel was so impressed by a carved figure that he took a photograph, which appears in his latest book.
He doesn’t say it, but this building – now housing an opticians at ground level – is almost the exception in Huddersfield, being of terracotta and red brick rather than stone.
It was built just before the end of the 19th century and designed by Alfred Waterhouse, a prominent Victorian architect.
“It’s perhaps one of the most unusual buildings in Huddersfield,” says Nigel.
Similarly, there are photographs of two carved heads outside Huddersfield Town Hall.
And then there are views of a lion holding a shield outside the Town Hall, the Harold Wilson statue in St George’s Square and one of the statues outside the library.
And how many people have bothered to gaze upwards at the cross in Market Place?
Nigel has. And he shows in the book just what is at the top of the structure.
Clearly, he is a man who likes his figures and details.
But his book, Exploring West Yorkshire’s History, also includes plenty of landscape photography.
It was Nigel’s love of producing images of the places where we live that led him to give up the hustle and bustle of commercial photography.
Two hundreds of his photographs are in the book about West Yorkshire.
It’s been a fascinating journey, says Nigel, whose accompanying text gives a potted history of the region and tells you a few things you might not know.
People living in Huddersfield might not, for instance, have given much thought to where the town’s name comes from.
It takes an outsider like Nigel (he’s from Bradford) to speculate.
He’s discovered there is a romantic notion that Huddersfield owes its name to Uther Pendragon, father of the legendary King Arthur.
It’s an unlikely theory and the truth is probably rather prosaic, Nigel believes.
“The Domesday Book has the name as Oderesfelt, and it was probably the name of the person who had owned the field,” he explains.
There is also speculation in the book about the ancient name for the Roman settlement at Slack near Outlane.
Nigel says its name was Cambodunum and it is believed the word came from the British war god Camul and the Celtic word for strength, ‘dun’.
It’s stuff like that which Nigel thinks is essential to increase our appreciation of the regions where we live.
Places and events; that’s what we need to know.
Facts such as Meltham Mills Provident Co-operative Society having been formed in 1827, 17 years before the famous Rochdale Pioneers.
Or the help given by German prisoners of war when devastating floods hit Holmfirth in 1944.
Cigarettes and other treats were sneaked into the pockets of their greatcoats by grateful locals.
Exploring West Yorkshire’s History, by Nigel A Ibbotson is published in hardback by Breedon Books at £16.99.