Engineers & Chocolatiers Opens at Bankfield

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And it was lovely! Thank you to everyone that came along on Friday 28th June.

Filling that big hall with work has given me sleepless nights. Pictures that seem vast in my studio diminish in size as they are carried up the Museum’s grand staircase. But it did all fit, and I have to say that I was very proud of how it’s all come together.

It’s years worth of work, pretty much. I was sat by Lake Annecy last July, with a notebook drawing out a plan. A plan that began with a map! We were all sat around with our noses in books of one kind or another. Robin was sat with his feet in the water reading The Count of Monte Cristo. I was scribbling. I’m always scribbling when really I should be reading more books.

I decided I simply wanted to celebrate Calderdale. I’m not a historian; I’m a fan! I wanted it to be all about what a nice place this is to live. I think I can say that because I chose here. I came from Suffolk to Yorkshire in 1995. To Calderdale in 2005. I’ve lived in Hebden Bridge longer than I’ve lived anywhere.

I started off at my end of the Calder Valley, in Todmorden and Cragg Vale:

The heart of Todmorden always feels like the Town Hall – which is pretty damn impressive for a town the size of Tod. Stoodley Pike monument is in the distance, the Unitarian Church high on the hill. St Mary’s Church in the centre and the market building and the stripy market stalls. Then the town library and Water Street. When the blue fronted shop was The Bear Cafe, I used to take the twins for a treat. Robin poked a small red car into a hole in the floorboards upstairs. It was just the right size and impossible to resist! There was no getting it back and there was quite a fuss. Someone will find it one day. The legendary Golden Lion (I toyed with the idea of making it yellow!), and the marina with the metal fish. I like Tod a lot.

Cragg Vale always feels so quiet and seperate. The twins play in a Christmas concert at the church every year. It’s usually frosty and the tree in the church yard is swaithed in fairy lights. In spring this point is the end of leg one, and the beginning of leg two of The Calder Relay Fell Race. The Hinchliffe Pub appears over the bridge. The gate house for the Hinchliffe’s lost house, New Cragg Hall, is further up the hill, the Vicarage (also built by the Hinchliffes) appears between the trees. This painting took the longest time. Started first in September, and it was finished at the end of May. Some paintings are like that; they take a while to decide. I like the shadows in this one.

The next one was ‘Halifax – Toffee Town’ – which I think is my favourite. I wanted to wrap (almost) all of my favourite Halifax buildings around The Piece Hall. Can you spot: The Wainhouse Tower, Crossley Heath, Bankfield Museum and All Souls Church? Dean Clough, North Bridge, the old Mackintosh chocolate factory and the old Art School on Queens Road. Harveys Department Store, The Piece Hall, The Victoria Theatre (I was there on Saturday for the girl’s dance show! I love it and every year I cry). The old picture house (below the Victoria), Square Chapel, Square Church Spire, the Industrial Museum, Halifax Minster, Borough Market, the old Burton building and Halifax Town Hall. The current Chocolate Factory in the Flour Society Building and Eureka children’s museum, along the bottom near the railway arches. The Shay stadium had to be included for my friend Mick, who was a Shayman to the end. I think he’d have approved, or laughed. The tiles at the bottom are the colours of Quality Street wrappers, and in amongst them are some of the birds from the stained glass at Shibden Hall.

Hebden Bridge next. My home town! I’ve painted it often. This time I wanted it to be all about the waterways meeting and crossing. At the top is the steep Keighley Road and the posh houses (known locally as ‘Snob Row’) on Birchcliffe. The bridges layer on top of one another down the centre of the picture: St George’s Bridge at the top, then the packhorse bridge, the main road bridge, the footbridge linking the two schools (school bridge!), then the aquaduct that carries the canal over the point where Hebden Water and the River Calder meet. On the left can you spot: Windsor Road, Linden Mill, the Town Hall, the old Hole in’t Wall pub (now Hope Gallery), the pretty house that always has optimistic washing out on Old Gate, Heart Gallery (who stock my work) in the old Arts Centre building and the back of Primrose Terrace on the tow path? On the right: Stubbings school, The White Lion, Innovation Mill, Hope Baptist Church, the Picture House, and the Trades Club!

I’m wrtiting about them in the order they were painted. It’s as good a way as any. The last one in this first set is ‘Sowerby Bridge’. I’m in Sowerby Bridge often as Rob at Knight Graphics is my long suffering printer. He does a wonderful job and is endlessly patient with me being a colour pedant.

I’ve tried to capture as many Sowerby Bridge landmarks as I can in one painting. The town is dominated by huge mill buildings that have been demolished in other parts of Calderdale. The weight of the town seems to be towards the bottom – by the river, lower than the canal. Sowerby Bridge’s industry was more for building the machinery for the textile trade, than for the textile trade itself. At the bottom of the painting is Dugdale Ltd formerly ‘Wood Bros – Engineers and Millwrights’. The railway arches seem to divide the lower valley from the lighter valley above. The beautiful building with the domed clock tower was once the town hall, and then Lloyds Bank. Far left (and out of sight in reality) is The Puzzle Hall Inn, along from the bottom of the footbridge over the canal and tow path. To the right is The Bull on the Bridge, and behind that The Blind Pig. The Navigation Inn is at the far right of the painting. There were a lot of important pubs to try and fit into this picture! The Canal Wharf is where the Calder & Hebble Navigation and the Rochdale Canal meet. Christ Church, at the bottom of Tuel Lane, and the huge Corporation Mill behind the main street.

Most important are the legendary Sowerby Bridge Geese. Hebden Bridge has geese too (often holding up the traffic on the main road and opposite my house), but I believe the Sowerby Bridge geese came first, and have their own Facebook Page. I had fun fitting them into tiles inspired by William de Morgan.

‘Engineers & Chocolatiers’ is filling the entrance hall at Bankfield Museum until December 21st 2024. Please go and see it! The museum is open 10am til 4pm. It is closed on Sundays and Mondays.

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