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  • Interviews and Storytelling: David Fletcher (4)

    [TRACK 4]

    TONY WRIGHT:Right, you were talking about the alternative energy you are going to create.

    DAVID FLETCHER:Yes, well as I was saying, it’s a four-pronged approach, well it’s a five-pronged approach really.  The four prongs of actually generating the energy…the main one will be the Archimedes screw turbine on the weir, about ten kilowatts twenty-four-seven. The wheel that we’ve already rebuilt, the water wheel which will be one or two kilowatts, the solar panels to get hot water for the kitchen, I mean it won’t get to boiling point, it won’t be hot enough to make the tea, but it’s much better to heat water up from fifty degrees than five degrees, and we’ll have our own electricity to heat it, and the same for the dishwasher and everything, and we’ll put a heat pump in the goit to take low grade heat out of the water and pump it up to room temperature to warm the shop and the café and so on, and so, you know, we’ll have all that going before the seven hundredth birthday party and we’ll have a big advert and say ‘folks, it doesn’t cost the earth to shop at Innovation, we’re not taking anything, we are self-sufficient'.  We’ll be linked up to the grid cos we use the grid as a bank.  At certain times we’ll be able to put -  we’ll be able to bank electricity in the grid and at other times, if we’re using everything all at once, we might need to borrow some electricity back from the grid, for example if we’ve got….well we’ve actually got a gas oven not an electric oven, but we might well go to more electric appliances, but if you get everything going at one, the dishwasher for example in the kitchen, takes a lot of power.  It’s not like a household dishwasher; its cycle lasts four minutes, so every four minutes you can do a full load.  Well it uses a lot of electricity, so that might take us over the top and we don’t want to sort of blow everything in the mill and be plunged into darkness, so you can have a system where you work two ways with the grid; you feed it in where you’ve got surplus, such as during in the night, and you take it out if you need a bit extra, but the fifth bit is – I’m reducing the load in the mill quite substantially; I’m experimenting at the moment.  Originally all our displays were lit by spot lamps, you know, one hundred and fifty watt spot lamps, so I’ve got all those things that look like mini market stalls in Innovation.  They’re actually old mill barrels those – if you look underneath they’ve got cast iron wheels and they’re just made to look like market stalls so it makes it look more interesting, also, old buildings generate an awful lot of dust, so a bit of a canopy over the display isn’t a bad thing, and they’re all plugged in in the ceiling so I can actually move them about.  Well, they used to have two one hundred and fifty watt spot lamps; you’ve got to – you know, you won’t sell things if people can’t see ‘em, then I went to two fifty watt halogen lamps so, alright, cut my electricity by about a third, then I tried mini strip lights, so one of the barrels at the moment is lit by two thirty watt strip lights so that’s cut it down to seventy watts, but now, very recently, I got a friend to come in and fit another one out, and it’s got ten spot lights and it’s very bright, but the total wattage is twenty-eight, because they’re LEDs, so the answer’s LEDs.  The quality of the light isn’t quite right – it’s a bit garish really and a bit flat, so I’m still experimenting to get it better, so at the moment I’m using a mix of halogen and strip lights, fluorescent

    TW:Are you going to do that through the whole building and all the other people who rent and all that sort of thing?

    DF:Eventually, eventually.  The problem with all this is capital cost.  What I’ve just described in going carbon free and going back to basics is gonna cost me about £150,000.  What’s the payback time?  It depends on the cost of financing.  I hope to get some assistance through the Carbon Trust.  There are no grants – you can get grants for domestic property but not for business properties, so it’s all got to be paid for, but Carbon Trust will give you an interest free loan proportionate to the amount of energy that you’re saving, so if we’re saving the grid lots of energy…so it’s a matter of me taking my electric bills, I mean at the moment I spend about five thousand a year, so it’s a matter of me taking my electric bills and saying ‘look, this is the amount of electricity I’m using now, and this is what I’m going to use when we’ve finished - zero.’  And they, on a sliding scale, decide what proportion of the hundred and fifty they will let me have interest free, so it looks to me as if it’s going to be about twenty-five per cent, my deposit, out of my own pocket which I’m saving up for at the moment – not a good time to be saving up really but I’m trying.  It’s pretty dire at the moment is business, and the other seventy-five per cent will perhaps be split about fifty-fifty between interest free through the Carbon Trust which is a kind of grant I accept and the other fifty per cent of that will be Lloyds Bank who have been….well they’ve expressed an interest and they’re making some sort of supportive noises, but nobody’s put their signature on or anything like that, because I’ve got to talk to the Environment Agency and then I’ve got to talk to the planners, and then I’ve got to get the finance in place, so it’s not gonna be quick – nothing ever is this world.

    TW:You’ve got four years haven’t you?

    DF:I’ve got four years and I’ve got a couple of those before I’m there and then there’ll be some teething problems I expect because it’s a kind of….it’s a new sort of thing and of course I work with the Alternative Technology Centre and their water power people have got this water power scheme, and Alternative Technological Centre are in another mill that we bought – I bought it with a friend jointly to save its life, you know, save it from demolition.  Bought two on the canal bank and sold one of them to help to pay the other one.  The one that’s in two apartments is the old dye works.  We reluctantly had to sell that on because we got over-stretched, but we kept the old warehouse and mill at Hebble End which is now occupied by the Alternative Technology Centre, and one of these days they might buy that themselves.  The building at the moment needs quite a bit of attention and I don’t have the cash to do it.  My vision is to create a real demonstration project; an Alternative Technology Centre that is like Bridge Mill, divorced from the grid, carbon free and well insulated – a good example of everything that’s green with some holiday apartments above that are the same, so that you could use them to start teaching people about energy saving, because you would have the state of the art, very low energy apartments that people could come and rent for a week and to experience what it’s like to live, you know….and you’d have panels on the wall to indicate the amount of power being used by each appliance and things like that, which I shall have in Bridge Mill.  You’ll be able to go in – when it’s all done, you’ll be able to go in the café and see how much energy is being generated by the river;  there’ll be a meter to read the flow of the river and the amount of energy that’s been generated – I’ll try and make that into a demonstration project you know, I’ve got all the ATC panels in there about powering the landscape at the moment, and so we’ll perhaps keep some of those and we’ll also have indicators to show, you know, what’s the temperature of the water coming down from the roof, and how much power is coming out of the river, and how much heat are we getting from the heat exchanged, what’s the temperature of the water going in to it and what’s the temperature of the air coming out of it, cos these things are all really fascinating, so you know, Hebble End…again we bought that, I think middle eighties and turned it in to what it is today, then Linden Mill is the other one, where the Arts Mill gallery is, I mean they’ve been helped a lot by us providing space for that, and there’s a number of art type activities in there, and fingers crossed, very soon, there’s a new exciting project going into that building to do with health, you know, I mean we were talking earlier about our plans for Pennine Horizons, the heritage project where we want to get people out on foot, actually discovering the heritage for themselves, but the secondary benefit of that is the health agenda – actually getting people out doing something active which not many people do.  Well, we’re……looking forward to having a sort of major national health initiative coming in to Linden Mill, to occupy perhaps half the mill, and this is to do with people taking control of their own health.  Okay you know, you got diabetes, something that is happening to many many people.  Ten per cent of the National Health budget is going on diabetes.  Ten per cent – imagine what a figure that is, I just can’t remember – it’s such a huge figure – is going on diabetes, and if you look at the statistics for diabetes, diabetes never killed anybody.  You get diabetes, you don’t need to be frightened of it, you can live to a good old age but you’ve got to be careful how you live.  You’ve got to have the right sort of diet, you’ve got to have the right sort of exercise regime, so if you look at the statistics for diabetes, people who have got an education can understand it, make no bones, far too many people who perhaps are not as aware, but the time they get to middle life, they’re getting circulatory problems, they’re getting gangrene, perhaps losing a leg or a foot, or they’re having trouble with their eyesight or kidneys – it’s those secondary complications that are so…draconian and so expensive for the National Health Service, so you know, you get diabetes, you go to the doctor for ten minutes twice a year.  What do you learn about it?  It’s about teaching people to take control of their own condition, because one person’s diabetes isn’t necessarily the same as another person’s diabetes.

    TW:Will it be just about diabetes then?

    DF:At the moment it’s about diabetes, but as time goes on it’s going to be involved with things like proto diabetes - people who are overweight and haven’t yet got diabetes but they’re in line for it, childhood diabetes, Type 1 as well as Type 2, because Type 1 is genetic, not sort of lifestyle related like Type 2, but then there are all the other things aren’t there, like coronary heart disease you know and so on, where lifestyle is a very very important element, so the method is applicable to any condition and, you know, as far as the health of the nation’s concerned now, disease isn’t a problem any more – okay, it still occurs and something like cancer which is partly lifestyle and partly genetic, partly things we don’t really understand, but it’s conditions that are the main problem, you know, heart disease, diabetes, things like these.

    TW:Will it be like a drop-in centre or more sort of education?

    DF:Well the way it’s come about, it was started by a dietician who also had an interest in exercise and who is also a qualified aerobics instructor, so she’s got the twin track approach – exercise and diet, lifestyle, but she’s working as a dietician in the National Health Service and she thought ‘these people aren’t getting a fair deal’ so we talked to her and she devised a six week course.  People could attend for two hours for six weeks, and they get a week on, you know, what is food, what is diabetes, you know, what happens to food when you put it in your mouth, you know, let’s go round the supermarkets and learn how to read what it says on all the tins, and then it finishes up with a game you can play to teach yourself what’s happening inside your body, and it teaches people techniques.  They have to keep measuring their waist measurement every day or two, they have to measure their weight every day or two, they have to keep a diary – a log of exercise they take, and they have to take their own blood sugar levels which you can do quite simply if you’ve been taught how to do it, and she wasn’t sure if it would work, but did a trial run and people turned up, and something like eighty per cent of them did the full six weeks, and you can bring a friend for a bit of confidence, and she found that so many people were terrified of diabetes, but once they understood it, and got quite proud of taking charge of their own thing, so then they took a couple of years off to research this, do a PhD in it and get some statistical measures of the difference it would make by comparing people who had the traditional medical approach to it, to this new sort of self-help empowerment approach, and it is statistically making a big, big difference, particularly to people who are perhaps not well educated, perhaps have difficulty in understanding these things and were frightened of them.  Many people are frightened of doctors.

    TW:So is this a private enterprise?

    DF:Well what has turned out to be – the National Health Service have helped her to set herself up as a separate provider within the National Health Service as a community interest company, a not for profit company, so this now is a not for profit company called Expert Health, a community interest company, and it’s likely – not a hundred per cent,  but very likely to be taking over about half of Linden Mill, and at the moment its activities are two-fold.  On the one hand it can set up courses to present directly to people in the public who would benefit from its services – people with diabetes – but they’re also spending a lot of their time training up health staff all over the country, running courses.  We have two courses a month in Manchester, in London, all over the place for health professionals; practice nurses in doctors’ partnerships, and nurses in primary care and this sort of thing, so a couple of months you know, perhaps not a couple of dozen because there’s holiday periods, but perhaps twenty courses a year, perhaps fifteen people on each course, three hundred people trained up and it’s taking off very rapidly nationally, and at the moment it’s all out of an office on the outskirts of Burnley, but it might well come to the mill where it will have a lot more space and we can set up teaching rooms and demonstration rooms and run cookery lessons, and run exercise courses and still continue to train.

    TW:So are we talking three months, six months, a year?

    DF:I don’t know, I mean it’s – we’re just talking around it at the moment and talking with people at the Department of Health and…so in a sense what I’m telling you is kind of semi-confidential because there’s a lot of questions like that that we can’t answer for definite, but it’s beginning to look kind of encouraging.

    TW:Very good, fascinating really.

    DF:I mean so this is, I know people think I’m crackers, I mean a lot of people think I’m crackers, and you know, I’ve gone round buying up these old mills and persuading friends of mine, I mean I’ve got some friends who hide when they see me coming because they know that what I’m after is their pockets, but trying to persuade friends to come in, you know.  I set up Pennine Heritage but the problem has got so big and the threats to some of these buildings has accelerated things to such an extent that Pennine Heritage, you know, charities have to abide by the rules and keep a certain amount of money in reserve, they can’t do everything.  Private individuals can take more risks, and it is risky, I mean we’ve taken a lot of risks with people that have helped me and been involved with me and so on, but I’ve always thought that the saving of the large buildings is important you know, the saving of the mills.  I’ve been attacked a lot by people saying you know, the dark satanic mills…we took Nutclough Mill on through Pennine Heritage and we got into a lot of flak, you know, from people who said the dark satanic mills remind us of a horrible past, but to me they were built as work space and they weren’t all dark and satanic and they weren’t all evil.  There were evil practices in some of them at a certain period in history, but not all; there were other people that were much more enlightened you know.  I went to the Edward Akroyd exhibition in Halifax yesterday.  There were enlightened people around who were trying to do whatever they could, you know, in the times that they lived in.  Some people these days sneer

    TW:Well he was very forward thinking, like looking after his workforce wasn’t he, building them homes and what have you...

    DF:Yes, and the Fieldens of Todmorden were.  Okay, when the cotton famine was on, they kept all their workforce going.  They didn’t just give out dole so they could all lie in bed all day.  They were of the old school you know, that idle hands and all this that and the other.  They thought it better to keep a man in work rather than just give him handouts, and so they made a road over the tops to Cragg Vale so they could go over to their sort of shooting lodge at the top of Cragg Vale and so on.  I’ve heard people sneering at them, saying ‘oh they just wanted us as slave drivers, they had all their workers over there digging on the moors in all sorts of weathers’ but of the time, what they did was remarkable, and you’ve got to put everything of its time, and so I don’t think they were dark satanic mills, I mean Nutclough for example was a workers’ co-operative and they founded the WEA and they did all kinds of things, it was wonderful, so I think these buildings should be saved, not only for their heritage reasons because they tell a story, but also for their practical uses today, and I think the things I’ve been talking about now – Expert Health, alternative technology, Arts Mill art gallery, and all the things that are in Bridge Mill, and of course it’s jobs you know.  Bridge Mill houses how many jobs?  I mean I’ve got about eighteen on the payroll and then there’s….a couple in Silly Billy’s, twenty in the restaurant, there are about another ten….there must be about fifty people working in Bridge Mill, and how many people work in the Alternative Technology Centre and all the other small activities that are there, so I don’t know, in Bridge Mill, in Hebble End Mill and Linden Mill, between them there might be over a hundred people finding work.  Well isn’t that important?  If they were all knocked down what would we do?  Somebody might have built some houses in other places or they might have had some lovely gardens, banks of trees and so on, but….we’ve got fantastic countryside all around and the buildings are part of the cultural heritage of this area, but they’re also an opportunity of other current practical benefits

    TW:Right okay, I suppose we should call it a day then.

    DF:Yes, well that’s up to you.

    TW:What I would like to ask is…about the Alternative Technology Centre.  You said it would be like a kind of a showcase for creating energy.  I mean, how would you see that?  Do you think they could build a generator in the River Calder or...

    DF:Well I don’t think you’d get permission to put a dam in it, in the River Calder, especially because of all its flooding problems and things like that.  The Environment Agency would be a bit anxious about things like that I mean, but you could always extract heat from the canal…I would think.  Again, I’m talking about other people’s property.  I’m always in trouble talking about other people’s property, but you know, there’s the canal there that’s full of water and people enjoy sailing their canal barges down it and people enjoy walking past on the towpath.  It’s going to be no skin off anybody’s nose if there was a heat exchanger somewhere in there, and a heat extractor to help run Hebble End, or indeed many other buildings alongside the canal, I mean I think heat pumps have got a great future.  They’ll no doubt become more efficient….there’ll be more research in improved technology and….they’ll get much more widely used I think…it’s a matter of having a source from which to get the heat.  Ground source heat pumps work very well, but they’re best put in before you actually build the property so you can get the….you need a huge system of heat collectors so that you can concentrate that heat into room temperature in the property.  Water source heat pumps are more efficient because the water can flow over them so you don’t need as big a collecting area because the water’s moving all the time, I mean obviously if you went to some absurd extreme you’d just freeze the water if you took too much heat out of it, which is one of the problems for our climate for air source heat pumps.  If you went to somewhere like Spain, you know, if you go down the Costa del Sol where they don’t get frost and……the air is somewhat warmer, you could have an air source heat pump to heat your property and they work very well indeed.  If you had an air source heat pump here, they can be made to work I believe, but there is the problem that you can cool the outside air, and our air is pretty humid to such an extent that the external heat exchange would just turn into a block of ice and it doesn’t work efficiently. I’m told that there are possible solutions for that; I’m not quite sure what they are and I’ll wait to see.

    TW:You told me once that you had this sort of lifelong interest in the weather.  How did that come about and why do you find the weather so fascinating?

    DF:Well I’ve myself that you know, cos again people regard me as a bit of an oddity you know, I have a rain gauge, a screen and thermometers and things in my back garden, and I’ve been taking records ever since I think 1942 or something like that.  It was quite early in my life.  I think it might be something to do with the fact that I was ill such a lot, you know as I mentioned, and I was confined to the house, if not to bed, and I spent more time looking out of the window, and if you look out of the window, what do you look at…you see a few trees and a bit of a garden, and of course for half the year it’s not that attractive, but you see the weather….and illness precluded me from doing sport, and so I’d absolutely no interest whatsoever in sport.  I can’t understand why people get so excited about it – and all these commentators on the radio and so on, all shouting away and getting very excited – I just can’t get interested….I get that kind of buzz out of the weather because the weather, our weather in Britain is particularly interesting and it’s built up of competing air masses, with fronts in between the air masses, I mean it’s very much like a football match really, you know, you’ve got this air mass you know, and air masses are all classified with numbers you know, you’ve got MP1, MP2, MP3, that’s maritime polar and so on, and you’ve got MT, maritime tropical, and you’ve got continental air masses between this artificially warm ocean with the Gulf Stream in it, and the very large land mass to the east which cools down very rapidly in winter and heats up in summer, and so…we get a lot of different weather experiences, sometimes all in one day, and it’s absolutely fascinating and you can’t actually see it happening but you can see it through instruments and you can feel it, and I find it fascinating.  It’s a little bit less fascinating now that the weather forecasts have got more accurate with satellite pictures and things.  It was more interesting when you when you listened to the forecast on the radio and you’d think ‘I don’t know how much I agree with that guy cos I’ve seen certain signs that such and such a thing’s happening and the barometer’s this’ so you measure the pressure, you measure the humidity and the temperature and the amount of precipitation and so on and you record it all, and you start to get a feel for what’s gonna happen. I said to a lot of people this winter when it starts snowing, like it did before Christmas, I said ‘I bet this lasts till Easter’ well there are still patches of snow on the moor.  There are patches of land on the moor top that haven’t seen light in the day since the seventeenth of December when the first snow fell, and we nearly made it to Easter.  There are stories about a bet in Hebden Bridge between two chaps who, in Wakes Week, that’s the second week in July, he said ‘I bet I can get you a cart load of snow’ and the bet was placed, and the snow was duly delivered, tipped in the middle of town.  Now I can’t authenticate that, it’s just a story that I’ve heard over the years and being interested in weather I’ve stored it away so I don’t know, but it is feasible you know.  Some of the quarries on the moors, and the snow blows in, it’s compacted and really freezes, I mean it’s a mini glacier and it lasts, so I’ve been really interested in just by, you know, pressed against the window pane when everybody else was playing out, and I still find it fascinating.  I love weather maps with fronts and high pressures and low pressures and you think about it and….we understand a lot more about it these days.  I’d never heard of the jet stream when I was a lad, but I studied climatology at university and I was a fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society for a time till I got fed up of paying the subs and I hadn’t time to read the journals and things like that, but...

    TW:Do you know any – for lack of a better phrase – like old wives’ tales to do with weather, and people predicting what will happen because of the signs they see or the things that happen?

    DF:I think there is something in some of them you know.  They’ve been built up by experience over the years and generations and people have found that they work and they’re in folk lore, so I do think that there is something in many of these expressions.  They’re not, you know, accurate, and things come up to upset the applecart and all the rest of it, but there’s a tendency there, they can just note tendencies, you know, the snowiest part of the year is the third week of February, you know, and so you can make

    TW:Do records kind of prove that?

    DF:Yes, yeah.  The snowiest day of the year I think is the twenty-third of February and there’s a logic to that because most of our precipitation comes from the west, you know, west of north-west; it comes from the ocean.  Winds from the east are often cold but usually dry and so if it snows you need to get a mixing of the cold influence from the east with the westerly coming in.  Well what time of the year is the ocean at its coldest?  There’s a big time lag you know, the….twenty-first of December is the winter solstice, but the northern latitudes go through a long period of short days so the water keeps on getting colder and colder and colder and the water is at its coldest at the end of February, and given that the precipitation usually comes from winds that have blown across the sea, that’s the likeliest time that precipitation will fall as snow, so you know, the old wives’ tales and the…sort of meteorological situation do coincide, and the old thing about ‘red sky at night, shepherd’s delight’  ‘red sky at morning, shepherd’s warning’ and so on – well what creates red sky?  Well it’s particles in the atmosphere, or droplets in the atmosphere.  Particles in the atmosphere at dusk are probably dust particles that have been stirred up by convection currents during the day, so the air is probably drier because these particles have been floating about and getting to high altitudes and the sun setting is bouncing off them and giving this red glow in the sky, and so you’re in a dry period, and so in a dry period the chances are that the next day’s going to be dry.  The more dry days you have in sequence, the more likely it is the next one will be dry.  Alternatively in the morning you know, if the rising sun is giving a rosy glow, well that’s not as likely to be dust because at night time you don’t get the convection currents that would lift the dust into the higher atmosphere, it’s more likely to be fine water droplets and it suggests that, you know, over the horizon there’s something coming, and if you ally that with tapping your barometer and so on you can start to make a sort of personal forecast what’s gonna happen, but there’s all sorts of other things, I mean there’s an applecart waiting to be over-turned at the moment.  There’s a little mini volcano just gone off in Iceland – okay it’s no great shakes really but it’s right next door to a mega volcano and in the past, over the last several hundred years, every time the mini volcano’s gone off it’s triggered the big one a short time afterwards, and if that big one goes off next week or the week after we’ll have a rotten summer, so rotten that in times of old, people would starve because it’ll depress agriculture to such an extent…and you know, you just think about these things, and I follow the climate change debate with great interest.  I put myself in the position of a mild sceptic and I have done even before all this stuff about scientists fiddling the results, you know, I really grit my teeth when they come on the television and they say ‘by 2080, sea levels will be two feet higher’ or whatever, I mean, has anybody got the right to say what will happen in 2080 because they do not know – they haven’t a clue, you know, there is no scientific way of being sure.  They can say, you know, ‘on the balance of the evidence we have there’s a sixty/forty chance’ I mean okay, science is supposed to be transparent and it’s delivered and people put a hypothesis and they marshal the evidence, and a lot of things that are said as if they were fact, they’re just a supposition.  We don’t know what it will be in 2080 or 2050 or anything like that, you know, we don’t know why between 1940 and about 1976 we went through quite a cold period.  It was so cold that some of the pundits, you know, and some of the more sensational newspapers were talking about the onset of the next ice age; we might be moving towards that – who knows, but climate has always changed, and people are getting hysterical about climate change.  It’s always changed.   The Romans had vineyards in Scotland – why?  What brought that on?  Was it the heat generated by the chariot wheels?  I mean I don’t know.  The Victorians used to blame steam engines but they had cold winters.  I don’t think…I don’t think we’ve got much beyond that stage, I mean it is such a complicated thing and another thing that makes the weather so interesting – the dynamics of the climate are so interesting and the amounts of energy, you know, the big depression coming over Britain and so on in terms of energy output you know; forget all the nuclear bombs in the world; I mean the amount of energy in something like that -  I don’t think we half understand it you know.  We are beginning to understand some aspects of it; we’re beginning to measure it and we’ve learnt more about things like the jet stream and we can watch from outer space or the patterns of clouds on the planet; we can put some explanations on it, but I am a bit of a sceptic really.  There are some sensible things being said, and I am really upset by….they turn it into a sort of religious thing, it’s almost like the religion that was in the Middle Ages, you know, there’s such fervour.  They’re even talking about deniers, you know, climate change deniers.  Someone like David Bellamy who I know – great guy David Bellamy.  Have you seen him on television lately?  He used to be always on there didn’t he, waving his arms about, enthusiastic about some toad or something – he is a really great guy.  He is an arch sceptic, he’s been sacked from all sorts of committees, you know, he never gets any invitations to produce any shows like the Dimblebys do and all the rest of it.  It is so ridiculous, not science; it is becoming religion and I kind of…I don’t like it…and I entered the fray last week in the Hebden Bridge Times and got rather a rude reply this week from someone [laughing]

    TW:I haven’t read it yet.  I’ve got it but I haven’t read it yet.

    DF:You don’t have to worry about things like that.  It…..it makes life interesting, but we might well be going in to a spasm of colder weather now.  It seems to go in sort of forty-ish year chunks – a bit colder, a bit warmer, a bit colder, a bit warmer.

    TW:There seems to be….a sort of pattern to the weather, but there isn’t a regular pattern it seems like.

    DF:Well there are lots and lots of intercepting patterns and we don’t really understand, and, you know, in threats to the future of the world, is a little bit of global warming a threat?  It’s never been scientifically answered, but it’s been demonstrated that all this suggestion that global warming is responsible for all sorts of extreme climatic events – that’s been rubbished by people who’ve looked at it carefully in science.  There’s no more now than there were before.  There’s always been extreme weather events and always will be, but you know, there’s some huge threats over the future of mankind – huge threats.  I mean there’s a huge chunk of the Canary Islands that is about to slide in to the sea…they believe, and there’s quite a bit of scientific evidence to support this belief.  When it does, the tsunami that happens will probably take out most of the cities on the east coast of North America – will take out some of the cities in Britain, especially in the south west and so on where it comes round from South America, Africa, you know it will be

    TW:Will it be that big really?

    DF:It……it is predicted to be huge.  There are a number of volcanoes in the world – mega volcanoes, not some of these little pimply things that go off occasionally, you know, that built Hawaii and so on – mega volcanoes that will go off sometime – don’t know when

    TW:Well it could be a year, it could be ten thousand years

    DF:When they do…they’ll possibly plunge the whole world into the sort of thing people talk about when they talk about a nuclear winter, you know when Krakatoa went off, you know, when Krakatoa went off it seriously depleted agricultural productivity in Britain and all over the world….you know, rotten summers, lots of rain, low temperatures, less sunshine, very much – very significant global cooling, but there are lots and lots of threats to our existence, you know, quite apart from the bus that we might fall under, without getting in to bed about climate change, on the evidence that is presented at the moment, it’s become a cause celebre.  A lot of people have got a vested interest in it; scientists have got a vested interest in it.  They’ve never had so much research money coming in and you know it’s great, I mean I used to run a university department and we’d to fight to get money for research.  If you’re not doing research you don’t have a profile and the kudos that you want, and so, you know, climate change has profiled - there’s kudos, there’s money, then there’s the politicians – they’re making hay aren’t they?  Every blooming tax is for our own good, you know.

    TW:There’ll be a lot of green taxes coming along soon I think, yes.

    DF:You know, so, I think, well…it makes life interesting.  I think that the weather and politics are enough to keep anybody’s mind active for quite a long time. [laughing]

    TW:Well I think that’s about all I have to ask really, unless there’s any one thing that you would sort of like to end on.

    DF:Oh….I’ll probably remember it ten minutes after I’ve gone out of the door, it’s difficult to think off the spot.  Most of these things just get prompted by something that somebody says or you suddenly get thoughts or have a memory about something

    TW:Right, we’ll finish there then, and thank you very much for allowing me to interview you.  Just before I go – it’s a question about…..what we’ve actually done over the past couple of days I’ve interviewed you.  Do you see it as important that people’s memories should be collected for younger people now so they can learn about the past, and for future generations so they can learn about now?

    DF:I think it’s extremely important, yeah.  One of the tragedies of my life to me, not to anybody else, especially the people who write letters about me – The Sage of Netherclough as somebody said in the paper today! [laughing] ‘why don’t we generate energy from the….hydro power generated by the Calderdale bore’ I think it said, I think it’s supposed to be me!  So, you know, I’d better be careful what I talk about.  No, I passionately agree with you , that these things need to be written down and it is so wonderful that we now have technology and we can actually do it.  As I say, the tragedy to me of my life is that I haven’t written it down.  I should have written books – I’ve had a lot of ideas and a lot of theories put forward for a lot of things, but I’ve always focused on doing rather than writing.  I always enjoy sort of you know, sleeves up and stuck in.  To sit there and write it all down is something that I should have done, should have started a long time since.  Now, you know, with a machine like that I’m not too bothered about pictures, but the words, I think, there’s a terrific gold mine, not in a monetary sense but in a value sense, of information in all sorts of people, and in an area like this where there is a core of people who are rooted here, who belong, who feel that they belong, I mean I feel sorry for people who grow up in places like Surbiton, I mean I’m bound to get shot at by somebody who loves it, you know, sort of Nowheresville, but in this valley and in these places, there’s still a hard core of people I grew up with here, which I think gives one a really warm feeling, you know.  My neighbours are thinking of emigrating to New Zealand, and much as I get fed up with the weather here and much as I get fed up with the Government here and the state of the country sometimes, I couldn’t possibly do anything like that, you know, I’m rooted here as much as the trees are planted, and it is absolutely wonderful.  I’ll give you a ‘for instance’ on this.  One of my daughters had her fortieth birthday a year or two ago; they’re still little children really but they pretend that they’re in their forties, and they rented a field on Anglesey and we all went over there for the fortieth birthday, with tents and caravans and camper vans, and I borrowed a camper van from a cousin and went over there, and sat at the edge of this field and watched everybody arriving and they’re all coming in, in mostly old cars and vans with surf boards on the roof and bicycles on the back and an old caravan behind, and they’d all circle the field and find a place to stay, I mean it began to look like a sort of wild west wagon train, with everybody coming in and sitting in a circle and then some of the lads got out a big contraption and they hung a whole pig on it and they lit a bonfire, turning the handle you know, and there was everybody there.  There were four generations of Hebden Bridge…..people who’d known each other all their lives and, you know, it was such a relaxed and pleasant occasion; it was memorable, I mean that’s something that should have been filmed, you know, the pig roast and everybody, the little babies…to….sort of people like me and some older, and it was just wonderful, you see I…my father came to live here, I think I told you, it’s on the other tape, from Barnsley and everybody from Barnsley went down the pit, and he got his scholarship to the grammar school and so they put him in the office instead of underground and then he….got the job to go out on the roads selling the coal, and then one of his customers said ‘why don’t you buy my business?’ so he settled here, and at that time there were three coal merchants in Mytholmroyd and there were three coal merchants in Hebden Bridge, and then with the advent of the Clear Air Acts which were very much needed; my father and I used to fall out like kids over the Clean Air Act, but it was also convenience you know.  Gas fires were getting a lot better.  The old gas fires were stinky things and gas was so much easier, turning on when coming in from work.   The women were working so it was so much easier and everybody came home just to put a gas fire on and then, because of the advent of central heating, it was an absolute revolution you know, I mean gosh, being warm in a bedroom!  So it changed people’s lives completely, and smokeless fuel wasn’t really as nice as coal you know, you’d get a big cob of coal on the fire and you’d proddle it with your poker and the flames come up and you all crowd round it and your shins get burnt, your back’s freezing, so the amount of coal being sold to private houses dwindled and gradually the three coal merchants in Mytholmroyd coalesced into one, which was my father’s little business, and the number of people working with him mizzled to about three, and the same thing happened in Hebden Bridge with Matthew Sheard’s and I was in the same form at school as Donald Sheard.  Donald took over the Sheard’s business when his father retired.  I didn’t take over one when my father retired; he didn’t want me to, so…..eventually those businesses merged and then there was just one, and it was called Sheards, and Donald Sheard’s son went off and graduated but came back and ran it, and he is now the father of my grandchildren with my daughter Heidi and they live in Cragg Vale, and you know…. it’s just a complete little story and that is replicated and they’re friends with the kids of people that I’m friends with, and we got a visit, well we get a lot of visitors, we get people from all over the world coming to stay, and we once had some people from way away and they came and stayed with us, and we went out for a meal, and we met up with other friends – old school friends, I mean I went to school with most of the core population of Hebden Bridge which is now a dwindling minority and we all went back to our house, and then sort of about eleven o’clock at night you know, and the pubs had shut, we were invaded by the next generation down who came in and started drinking all my own stuff, and then, you know, a banter developed between the two generations, and these people were from Surrey and were absolutely amazed.  ‘how do you know their children?’  No, first of all they said ‘how do you know all your friends’ children so well?’ And how do your friends know all your friends children, so well.’ I said, ‘well, you know, those two they’re mine and she’s from them and he’s from over here and that ones the second cousin of so and so. It’s a kind of nice tribalism, not without its spats. It’s good and it’s disappearing and so it’s great. I think what you’re doing is extremely valuable.’ 

    TW: OK, thank you for that.

    [END OF TRACK 4]

    David Fletcher 4 trans Page  PAGE 1 
    David Fletcher 4 trans

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  • Interviews and Storytelling: David Fletcher (3)

    [TRACK 3]

    TONY WRIGHT:It’s the 26th of March 2010, this is Tony Wright and I’m interviewing David Fletcher.  Could we start by talking about Bridge Mill?

    DAVID FLETCHER:Yes, one of the loves of my life.  Bridge Mill is a terrific building.  It’s the oldest building in Hebden Bridge by a long way.  There is actually a written record of it having consent to impound the river.  Sir John de Thornhill, Thornhill near Wakefield I imagine, was given consent by the Prior of Lewes, Sussex on behalf of the Lord of the Manor, to impound the river and construct a mill on the Wadsworth bank of the stream between the township of Wadsworth and the township of Heptonstall, and this is recorded in the city archives in Leeds and the date was 1314, you know, nearly two hundred years before the stone Hebden Bridge Bridge was built.  There was a bridge in Hebden Bridge prior to the stone bridge there was a timber bridge and there are records of the timber bridge falling in to disrepair and a subscription fund was opened to build the stone bridge which is now having its five hundredth anniversary, but in four years’ time Bridge Mill will have its seven hundredth anniversary; I think that’s an excuse for a street party, at least. So how did we come to get involved with it?.....well I used to have Innovation Shop across the road in one of the little cottages over there, that’s where it started in 1969 and occasionally I would sit there and gaze out at the square and you know, in the 1960’s St George’s Square in Hebden Bridge was quite a different place to what it is now and the outlook was pretty grim, and one of the grimmest parts of it was Bridge Mill, this smouldering black lump on the corner of the square.  I realised myself then how old it was and how important it was in the history of the town, but I heard on the local grapevine, which as you know has always been very active in Hebden Bridge, that there was a proposal to knock it down and I thought ‘that seems a shame, you know, it’s a pretty old building and it’s in a dreadful condition.  You can stand in the street and look up through the broken windows and see daylight through the holes in the roof and you know it’s pretty awful’.  There were a couple of people camping out in it at ground floor level, moving their stuff about as the water came down different parts of the wall and so on as it rained.  There was a discount carpet place in there; I’m not sure I would have wanted to buy carpets from it, given all the rot that there was in the building and might have infected the carpets, and then in the corner which is now Silly Billy’s toy shop, there was a little boutique there, but….they were squatters really; the chap that owned the building said ‘well they’ve just moved in, they don’t pay me any rent or anything.’  The building was owned at the time by Ronnie Greenwood, who was the owner at the time of a company called E. Greenwood and Son on Victoria Road, in fact his mill was just very recently demolished next to the kiddies’ playground on Victoria Road….and at time he was producing clothing, he was one of Hebden Bridge’s clothing manufacturers, you know in the days when Hebden Bridge was known as ‘trouser town’ – everyone was making trousers – and the company in Bridge Mill was a company called Greenwood and Pickles and according to the deeds they bought it from the Lord of the Manor’s estate in 1895 and they ran it until 1956.  They actually ran the water wheel.  I remember when I was going to school in Hebden Bridge, if you stood outside Bridge Mill in the street you could hear [sound of swishing water] of the water wheel going round, and they ran the water wheel to generate direct current electricity.  It used to generate about 30 kilowatts, and they ran all their sewing machines on that right through the war up to 1956.  1956, like so many other mills, they got in to financial difficulties, they went in to liquidation, but E. Greenwood and Son bought them out according to Ronnie Greenwood for their label, i.e. for their mark, their name, and for their work force because it was difficult to get workers just for a short period round about then, and he took over the work force, took the sewing machines and anything that was of any use to him and installed it in Victoria Mill, and just forgot about the old Bridge Mill, he abandoned it – abandoned it to squatters and the weather, and local hooligans who went in and smashed the water wheel up to get the phosphor bronze out of the bearings, and generally played about, and so the place was an absolute disgrace.  The then owners of the White Lion, it was a big….it might have been WhitbreadsWhitbread’s – some big company – wanted to improve the car parking in the White Lion you know, put two and two together; rubbish building, space, extra car parking on the river side – well, why not sort of thing, and Ronnie Greenwood, known locally as Jaunty, I mean there were so many Greenwoods around at that time that they all had nicknames.  He wanted to retire, he wanted to move to Fort William to live near his son and that’s what he was intending to do.  Well I sat there looking at this old mill and pondered this.  At the time as you’ll know from our previous conversations, I was the Chairman of the local Civic Trust and we were anxious about the future of the building, and didn’t really support the idea that it should be demolished because it was an important part of the heritage of the town.  Until I’d bought it I didn’t realise how old it was, but I went to see him and we actually met in the White Lion I think it was, and….he said ‘well what’s the problem?’ and I said ‘well it’s the mill, and we regret the fact that you’re possibly going to sell it for demolition purposes.  It’s very important in the history of the town’.  ‘come on’ he said ‘have you seen it?  It’s falling down, it’s rubbish, it just wants getting rid of, it’s old like me’ he was then probably the age I am now, but he seemed old as everybody always does.  He said ‘it’s just…it’s not worth anything, it just wants getting rid of.  I’m moving away, I’m retiring, I just want to get rid of the liability of it.  I said ‘oh surely there are other things you could do with it; it’s a sturdy building.  It could be repaired.’  He said ‘well what would you do with it?’  ‘Well’ I said ‘you want to turn it in to shopping or some sort of…it’s not gonna be a manufacturing mill again but it’s in the town centre – turn it in to town centre purposes – shopping, restaurant.’  ‘Come on’ he said ‘have you seen this town, 1969 – who wants shops?  Half the shops we’ve got now are empty.  No come on, get real – be commercial.’ I continued to press him, he wagged his finger at me.  ‘you conservationists are a cheeky lot’ he said ‘you come in here, you’re telling me what to do with my building and my money.  What do you know about it?  Are you in business?’  Well you’ve to shuffle a bit at that point haven’t you because it’s not easy to answer those sort of questions, but he didn’t stop there.  He said ‘you’re telling me what to do with it.  I don’t think you’ve got a price, but if you want to do it – do it – put your money where your mouth is.’  A favoured expression in Hebden Bridge….I said ‘Me?  I haven’t got any money to put anywhere.’  I said ‘I’ve got a mortgage, I’ve got two kids.’  I said ‘money?’  he said ‘don’t come that one’ he said ‘none of us have any money, not in Hebden Bridge.  You’ve got to borrow it.  Go to the bank – they’ve got plenty’ in the days when they had; things might be different now.  I said ‘do you think they’ll lend it to me – I doubt it.’  ‘well’ he said ‘go and ask them.’  I said ‘well they’ll want it paying back’ [laughing] I remember it so clearly.  He said ‘well of course they will’ he said ‘unless you’re going to go in with a mask on and some pistols; they’ll want it back.  But you’ve just got to make it work a bit harder for you than it works for them – that’s business.  You live on the difference; the banks provide the money, you make it work hard, you give them back their due, you live on the difference.  That’s business.’  Well I thought about this for a bit….’how much?’ I mean I can’t do not to respond to a challenge as various people have noted.  ‘how much?’ ‘two thousand five hundred pounds’…..’oh, I haven’t got two thousand five hundred pounds.  I mean at that time that probably was one and a half times an annual salary, you know, for a teacher, which is where I was at the time.  I said ‘I haven’t got that sort of money.’ ‘well you’ll have to go and talk to the bank won’t you?’  Now this was said in public, in a pub.  Conservation strategies were shot at.  If you’re trying to tell somebody else what they’ve got to do, and this is still true of a lot of the conservation movements.  A lot of the sort of eco group of people are still of that ilk, you know, they want to tell other people what they should do with their property and their money but put them on the spot and ask them to something, that is different, and I think, you know, that is the big hole in the eco argument.  They are not funding it, I mean it’s applicable today to people wanting to build loads and loads of wind farms, for example they don’t particularly want them in their own front garden but they want the wind farms and it’s great isn’t it, it gives you a good feeling, you know, supporting alternative energy and all the rest of it.  The Government says ‘we’ll make a regulation that says electricity suppliers have got to have so many percentage of green energy and you know wind farms.  Well wind farms are…..relatively cheap to install for a big company and it gives the Government a good feeling, they can say ‘look what we’re doing, look how green we are’ and these things get put up all over the landscape and figures come out for how many houses they will support.  They never mention how much industry they’ll support; industry uses the most electricity.  How many houses they’ll support.  They get it wrong.  The average wind farm operates at about fifty per cent of the optimum level that’s quoted and some of those on land, not too far from here are operating at about ten per cent of the figures that’s been quoted

    TW:How do you know this?

    DF:Well there’s people documenting these things.  I’m not personally, but the information is available.  They’re very inefficient because they’re dependent upon a very irregular source of power – the wind.  If there’s too much wind they stop, if there isn’t enough wind they stop.  To get the optimum output we’ve got to have optimum wind every day, well, you know….everybody should eat peas and turn their backs on them, but they’re not reliable and you’ve got to have conventional power stations ticking over to stand in when they’re not operating, you know, you know, conservation should go in for it.  It’s putting up the cost of electricity significantly, and if we were to go to anything like a reasonable percentage, you know, if you were going to say get twenty five per cent of electricity from wind farms, the price of electricity would be so high that big users of energy, like….British Steel or Corus or whoever it is these days would have to go.  People manufacturing steel, aluminium, glass, anything that uses a lot of energy – these are the main users of energy – they would just have another big reason to go and locate off-shore, but you know, the eco  group don’t take the realities of the financial situation into account, and I was the same in my approach to Bridge Mill, in a mini mini mini little way you know, so I went to the bank and they said ‘oh yes, we’ll lend you two and a half thousand pounds, no problem and here’s the terms for paying back’ this that and the other.  ‘what’s the security you’re going to put up?’  I said ‘well the building, haven’t got anything else to put up.’  Well, old Mr Miles at Lloyds Bank, he nearly fell off his chair!  He said ‘security David, security.  That place is a blooming liability! Don’t touch it!’  He wasn’t wrong….so I had to make other arrangements and get a private loan and pay by instalments, and I took it on, and I went in to have a look at it.  I’d never been inside it before, apart from the carpet baggers’ place at the front.  Well I went in to the back which is now the Innovation café, and there was fungus on a beam – big, thick timber beams, fourteen inch beams, and there was just a sort of white puffball type of thing on the side of it and I thought ‘what’s that?’ I had a metal crowbar in my hand at the time, so I hit it to knock it off; it nearly fell on my nose and to my enormous surprise, with one swing of one arm I went straight through a fourteen inch timber beam as if it was soft butter, and it was just a veneer that looked like wood, and inside it was just like soggy sawdust with black tendrils – dry rot – and the north wall of the building was dry rot from side to side and ground floor, first floor, second floor, about half way up.  The saving grace was that it hadn’t got in to the roof timbers.  If it had got in to the roof timbers that would have been it - curtains, very lucky that it hadn’t, but it was all over.  There was a fruiting body on the wall – the wall where there’s an opening now alongside the café counter to go in to the back sections if you’re going out on to the riverside terrace.  It was a solid wall and like all the solid walls in the building, there was a double skin of soft rubble stonework and the bit in the middle was filled with all the small chips of stone and dust and so on.  On that wall there was a fruiting body of dry rot three yards across; it was like a three yard circular Persian carpet, it was magnificent

    TW:You seem to be painting a picture of it

    DF:I’ve got one somewhere, I have!  It was multi-coloured; it would have made a fabulous carpet and I thought ‘I must get shut of that, so I got and axe and a garden spade and levered it off the wall and it was really thick and leathery, it was just like a big carpet on the floor and it was an inch or two thick in the middle, so it had that fungus type smell, I mean I can recognise dry rot at sort of fifty paces now.  Well I tried to pick it up and take it outside and get rid of it – it must have weighed a hundredweight, I just couldn’t move it. I’d to chop it up in to small pieces, take it out on the river bank and burn it with a lot of the old timbers that were lying about.  I had a big bonfire and burnt this thing, and it did scream – it didn’t like being burnt – all the air coming out of it and I thought ‘well that’s got rid of that.’  Within a week it was back, well it wasn’t back in its full sort of inches thick and so on but the whole three yards was covered in tufts of fungus growing out from between the stones, and I thought ‘this is ridiculous – you can’t live on stone’ dry rot, you know, so I took a stone out of the wall and got in to the rubble that’s down the middle of the wall and took a handful out and there were all these black bootlaces in it, and everywhere that I investigated the wall there was all this fungus, and it was just running through the rubble in the cavity between the two skins of the wall.  I mean dry rot doesn’t like fresh air but it loves something that’s just the right kind of humidity, and of course there were no gutters on the roof.  Water that fell on the roof, well some of fell through and some of it ran off and the bit that ran off ran down the wall and this is the north wall so it’s not getting any sunshine, and millstone grit is a pretty porous sort of stone, and the whole wall was saturated at the right kind of humidity, and the ends of all the beams that were stuck in to that wall were what the dry rot was feeding on, and so all the beams going in to that wall were infected and rotten, and those tendrils were running everywhere, and there were one or two other outbreaks in other parts of the building, but that was the major one on that back wall, I don’t what it is - seventy or eighty feet long by three storeys high – big job.  I thought ‘what do I do about this?....Rentokil.  They deal with dry rot.’  So I made an appointment and the Rentokil man came and he took a look at the wall, and he kind of laughed slightly hysterically, and said ‘do you want me to quote?’ I said ‘well why else would I bring you here?’  he said ‘well it’s going to run in to tens of thousands, I can tell you that before I even start to work it out’ so I laughed hysterically and threw him out, and then I went to see a good friend of mine who’s still with us but not in very good health these days – Peter Crossley, somebody who – I think it’s probably too late to talk to Peter now, I don’t think he’d be able to talk

    TW:I’ve been told about him by a number of people, yes.

    DF:Yes a great guy, a real eccentric.  I could tell you lots of stories about Peter – a real eccentric.  He renovated the end house at Machpelah, the one with the many lighted mullioned windows on the gable.  He used to live downstairs, the lower two stories, and then he moved up in to what used to be a fustian cutting workshop with all those mullioned windows and he made a superb place to live -  a- a somewhat eccentric place to live, with an outside staircase to get to it and so on and it was a bit eccentric inside, but he’d done it all himself.  He was a real craftsman was Peter and he knew everything there was to know about old mills, including how to fall off the roof and survive, in the case of…..oh I can’t remember the name of the mill now, the one up Keighley Road at Mytholmroyd – he fell off the roof and in to the dam, so I said ‘Peter, what do you do about dry rot?’  ‘creosote’ he said ‘creosote – I’ll get you some’  ‘good, great stuff’  ‘and I’ll lend you my compressor’ he said ‘and spray the wall, both surfaces of the wall, inside and outside, spray it liberally with the creosote’ he said ‘I’ll get you a spray gun and a compressor, and then’ he said ‘you’ll have to drill it at three foot centres and pump creosote in to that wall until it’s leaking out of every crack and gap and bit of poor mortar and so on, but take the windows out first of all otherwise you’ll suffocate, so I spent you know, hours and hours and hours in there, in fact for several years I worked a twenty-hour weekend in Bridge Mill because  having borrowed money to buy it I couldn’t afford to spend any more doing it up, so it had to be a DIY job, so I used to go in there sort of eight or nine o’clock Saturday morning, work through the day, same on Sunday, work through the day, and then of course I’d my day job on the other five days of the week, so it was quite hard going, and my two little girls used to come with me, and they’ve got their names written in the mortar in different parts of the building – still there today.  This was…we started in 1973 to do it, and so this is ’73, ’74, ’75 you know, we’re going on doing this kind of thing, and yeah, I got that place so it was oozing creosote, and Peter, bless him, was absolutely right.  There has not been a recurrence in all this time.  He said to me ‘Rentokil just charge you a fortune to do the job and then if they haven’t done the job properly and it breaks out again, they can come back again because they give you this so-called insurance, but the insurance is you pay ten times as much you should so that if they’ve got to come back six times, they still make a profit’ so I said ‘I don’t know about that Peter’, but anyway I borrowed his long ladder and I set about it.  First of all I went up on to the first floor with a chain saw, you know, the sort of thing you cut trees down with – a forestry chain saw – and I just put the chain saw through the floorboards and went right across the floor, through the floorboards, through the beams, making sure you stand on the right side of it, and I cut it back about a yard beyond where the dry rot had got to and let it collapse, went up to the second floor, did the same and let it all collapse, dragged it all out on to the river bank and burnt it and got rid of all the dry rot, took quite a few window frames out that the dry rot had got in to as well, and as I say there were one or two other outbreaks, then I did the creosoting job you know, I’d got a blank back wall and the floorboards hanging in a space behind me, and just a cast iron column in the middle of the floor and the other side, so….up this big ladder right up to the roof sort of in this big space inside and got rid of it.  That’s when you start thinking ‘what are we going to do now?’  Well I’d got to get some matching joists so that’s a matter of going round to other mills in the area that were being demolished, get some timbers that match, get them cut to the right length so they can be spliced on to the ends of the ones that I’d sawn through, then and I stood them up vertically in a couple of heavy duty polythene bags and filled the polythene bags up to the top with creosote, so they were absolutely saturated with creosote and then I put them in to the holes in the wall with the polythene bags still round the end of them, so there was a couple of good heavy duty membranes between them and the wall, and trimmed them off, and they’re still good and the building’s standing.  I’d then got to start replacing the floors and so on, and…..alongside this, the roof needed attention.  The roof is made of grey slate – Yorkshire grey slate – big slabs of stone – tons and tons and tons of it, and they were all slipping because they were just fastened on in the old-fashioned way.  There was a little hole at the top of the slate, an oak peg through the hole, tucked behind a lath, nailed across the roof timber but the laths had all gone rotten and the stone pegs had mostly fallen out and so the slates were loose and they were all slipping down, and so it’s a matter of getting up there and trying to nail bits of laths on and put some oak pegs in, or put some nails in to hold the slates in.  Well I didn’t put nails in; I got a big rubber hammer, I used to go up on the roof, I took one of the skylights out and put it on a hinge so I could get out on to the roof top without having to go up a huge ladder – I don’t like ladders – and went out on the roof.  Don’t like being on roofs really but you know, needs must, and with a, you know….like a polo hammer really, long handle and rubber end on it, just tapping all these slates up, and they would stay up for a while but every time there’s a thunder storm or anything that causes vibration – every time a jet plane comes over a bit low I used to curse it – up on my roof, tap my slates up – it was a long job until I could eventually get little Walter to get up there and start doing it properly, you know, there’s a limit to where you can get with DIY, but, you know, once I’d got part of the roof waterproofed I could then start getting some tenants in, and I did the end nearest the White Lion first, the bit that was in the best condition, that was over where the offices were and things like that.  The offices were where John the barber operates at the moment, and so I……the little boutique was still in there so we got a little bit of rent from the boutique.   Ted’s taxis, wherever they are now, moved in to what had been the offices, where John the barber is, and right up on the top floor I had….can’t remember the name of the lad now, but he was doing hand loom weaving, and he set up a big hand loom up there and was doing hand loom weaving and selling sort of woven fabrics and things, so I’d got a kind of vertical slice of the mill coming into use, you know, so I’d got a bit of rent.  Now when I’d got that bit of rent coming in, I could go to the bank and borrow some more money on the strength of the rent, and in fact that’s what I’ve done with the building right up to the present day.  I do some jobs that need doing, borrow the money to do them, and then when I’ve paid that back I can borrow some more money and do another job, and keep moving through the building

    TW:One step ahead

    DF:Yeah it’s just a bit of a time you know, it’s the old thing.  If you’ve got a big job and it’s frightening you, and it was very frightening, you know, I was terrified when I bought the building – terrified.  I thought it might fall down in the street and I’d get sued you know, for millions of pounds or something.  It was quite anxious-making, but you know, so if you’ve got a big problem, the only way to deal with it is to break it down in to a lot of little problems, and then close your mind to all the others and focus on one, so I got one end going, then I’d to start looking at the other areas and it was the back part of the mill where I’d cured the dry rot and so on that I focused on first, and gradually got the rest of the roofing and then a chap turned up, another Mr Greenwood, anyway he wanted to open a restaurant.  His wife was called Dianne…..I can’t remember his first name, but he opened Bridge Mill Restaurant on the first floor where Il Mulino’s is now and so he was sort of the first tenant in there, the first owner of a restaurant in the building, and he paid a modest rent – not very much because he entered it when it was in its raw state, and he and I put the floor down together, and he and I ripped all the lath and plaster ceiling down and put up the timber ceiling that’s at present in there, and I remember spending Saturday afternoons humping chipboard up there and laying a totally new floor for that restaurant.  Every time I walk across it and it wobbles a bit, I think ‘oh crumbs’…..and it was quite funny in a way, I’d been looking round for some chip flooring, some chipboard, and I’d found some in Manchester at quite an attractive price and they said they’d deliver it and the got lost, they couldn’t find Hebden Bridge from Manchester – these two Irish guys with this wagon – I don’t know where they got the chipboard from, I didn’t ask, and eventually at about four o’clock in the afternoon, Sunday afternoon, they rang me up and said ‘we’re in somewhere called Todmorden, how do we find you?’ and so this wagon arrived, and we’d to offload it there and then and carry all this chipboard up that outside staircase in to where the restaurant is now, and it was pretty exhausting work and it was a hot day, and I remember at the end of the day, me and the two Irish men finished up lying out full length on the pavement outside Bridge Mill with bottles of Guinness in our hands – they’d come with a crate of Guinness, they felt entitled to it and they thought I should have some as well.   I hate Guinness but I was so thirsty and it was so hot, I thought ‘it doesn’t matter’…but the populous of Hebden Bridge looked askance at us lying about on the ground, not perhaps as coherent as we might have been, swilling Guinness, but they hadn’t been there all day, so lots of nice memories of doing the thing up, so that was getting in there and….the hand loom weaver on the top floor took a bigger space, the ground floor remained a shambles because that was my material store and everything.  The ground floor was the bit I did last 'cos I needed that as a base to do everything from, and then I got on to the front part as well, and the roof on the front part, there was a problem.  Right up on the top floor there was a band saw for cutting cloth, a big, huge cast iron band saw that’s still there because I can’t get it out of the building, it’s so big I can’t carry it down the stairs – it weighs tons.  Peter Crossley and myself managed to get it on some scaffold poles to use as rollers and we rolled it to the side of the building, and we positioned it very carefully above the cast iron girders so that it’s on something solid enough and it’s not going to fall through the floor, which we were frightened it might do, and put it to one side, but then we’d to tackle the roof, and if you look at the front of Bridge Mill, it’s the most peculiar shape, and the roof is extremely odd and you’ve got sections.  One section where there was a thirty foot beam from the apexes with different points and things, it’s an indescribable shape is that roof, I mean it amused me quite a bit when we were having all the arguments about Garden Street and the so-called wonky buildings on Garden Street and people said ‘they look like’……I said to quite a number of people, whilst we’re sitting inside Bridge Mill and the café, I said ‘well it’s interesting you say that.  Just tell me what’s the shape of the roof on Bridge Mill?’  Nobody could tell me.  Nobody looks at it, so I said ‘well if you don’t know what shape this is and it’s been here seven hundred years, why are you worrying about the shape of those other buildings?

    TW:I’ve seen the roof of Bridge Mill from the Council Offices because you go up a few flights, and it is…it is an odd shape.  Why do you think it was built like that?  Was that an original shape?

    DF:Well the mill was built in pieces.  I’ve worked out the sequence of events in the mill, and they just kept adding bits on, and you know, one of the things I had to do when I first got it was to survey it and try and draw it all out, draw the floor plans and so on, so what do you do?  You measure all the walls and you draw the lengths on a plan and…’oh we’ve got a gap’….so then you go back and you measure the diagonals, and you quickly find out that none of the walls meet at right angles, none of the floors are level, there isn’t a right angle in the building.  It’s the Mill That Jack Built, and clearly it’s all been built by what they call in Hebden Bridge t’rack of th’eye which is another way of saying rule of thumb, you know, they didn’t measure anything, you know, they’d get a load of stone and build a wall.  I mean if you sit in the café now, the latest extension is the one at the rear of the building that you go through to get out on to the terrace, and one wall of that, where it joins the existing mill, it joins it where there’s a window, so you sit in the café and you look out, and you can see the butt end of the wall coming to the window, and clearly they started building the wall at the far end and when they got near to the mill they thought ‘oops’ but they’d done too much then to make it worthwhile pulling it down and doing it again, so they didn’t care, and it’s a very eccentric building and it’s great fun to sort of sit there and cogitate, you know speculate how it was built.

    TW:When it was first built what was it used for?

    DF:It was a corn mill.  It was built by Sir John de Thornhill, probably not be him personally, but at his direction in 1314 and sadly, he only lived a year to enjoy it.  He died a year after building and his wife sold it to somebody called Steven, Steven the miller, who presumably was the sitting tenant.  When I say sold it, they didn’t actually own it; they got permission to build it but it was still owned by the Lord of the Manor, so it was kind of built on…..I don’t know what they’d have in those days – some sort of leasehold terms and so you’ve got the leaseholder who sold it to the tenant eventually, and so Steven the miller.  I’ve got somebody who’s doing research on the building at the moment and they’ve recently turned this up, but they’re going to have to go to Nottingham to the Lord of the Manor’s archives to get more information.  I don’t have a lot of information really between1315 and 1895, when deeds start and I’m hoping that I’m going to get a lot more information in due course, but the building clearly was put together in different pieces.  The early bit…..is now what is the café area, that’s the oldest bit and then that was extended further towards the river, so the two or two and a half yards nearest the river was added on.  The original mill was a square bit where the café is, not including the kitchen of the café, just that main body of the café minus the row of tables nearest the river, that section, that was added afterwards.  They built an extension and didn’t bother to put any linking stones in, it was just a butt end between the two, because when I made a doorway and went through where this butt end is and half the mill fell on my head, or very nearly, I discovered this extension.  I also discovered that there was a chimney up the middle of the wall that I didn’t know about before because where the shop is, had in previous times been a smithy and horses had been shod there and so on, and then….so it was a square building and the water wheel at that time would have been totally external, outside the mill as they usually are, you know, on the outside of the building and open to the weather and turning away, so it obviously then had been extended at the other end as well and they’d extended over the top of the water wheel and turned it what had been an external water wheel into an internal water wheel, so that wheel pit is also seven hundred years old and the weir is seven hundred years old.  It’s been raised but the original part of it is seven hundred years old, and all the sluice works and the goits – the main goit comes from the weir straight in to the building.  The tail goit, I mean it’s a breast undershot wheel, the water hits it half way up and the stone is curved and it’s an absolutely accurate water circle of curved stone.  The wheel skims it to within millimetres and the water disappears down a tunnel and comes out at the main road bridge at West End, you can see it coming out there, and to get there it has to go right under the town, so it goes underneath the arches at the front of Bridge Mill, underneath the terrace in front of the pub next door, underneath the launderette, under Café Cali and it goes underneath the third arch of the old bridge, which explains why it’s got an arch apparently on dry land, because when it was built there would be an open channel there with water flowing down it, and of course they didn’t worry about compensation water in those days, they just put the whole flow of water through the water wheel if they needed it, and there was twice as much water in the river in those days.

    TW:It dates the goit being a lot older than the bridge doesn’t it?

    DF:Yes it does, and before they built all the reservoirs there was a lot more water in that river, so all that…bit at the front which is the shop, that was added later and there almost certainly was a steam engine in there, well they’ve found evidence of it and there’s a chimney on the end of the building.  If you go to the bar area of the restaurant, the ceiling is arched; it’s a brick arched ceiling so that would be a fire precaution against having a steam engine, so it possibly was a vertical steam engine that took up the full space of two floors, and certainly the floor of the bar is supported on big timber beams that you can see.  If you go in to the shop and look up at the ceiling, there’s the most incredible selection of beams, with big beams resting on big beams resting on other big beams, and then there’s a wooden prop holding them all up, but then they didn’t quite get the beams long enough so there’s a bit of metal stuck underneath one of them between the prop and the beam, and this bit of metal sticks out a foot or two to one side, and there’s another beam sitting on it, so it’s just sort of counter-balanced…I mean it’s just amazing, the structure of it, it really is, the Mill That Jack Built.  Going back to this timber on the roof – thirty foot timber beam cracked and sagging with all this weight of stonework on top of it.  I took a friend of mine up there, an architect, to see if he could advise me what to do.  He took one look at it and said ‘help!  How do I get out of this building!’ [laughing] so I took Peter up there.  Peter looked at it very calmly.  Peter was never worried about getting under anything ‘hmmm’ he said ‘we’ll have to prop it.  I’ll fetch a jack.’  And so he fetched a jack that would lift a fully laden heavy goods vehicle, you know, so it would lift twenty tons or whatever, and there was all this tons and tons of stone on the roof, and he just gets this jack underneath it, and he lifted it about a foot, and then he says ‘I need a prop.’  Well it was left like that for weeks until he found a suitable prop which happened to be a tree trunk [laughing] – it wasn’t even straight, it was an old oak tree I think, and it was suitably wiggly.  He just put that under it and he put a big piece of wood on the floor to spread the load, so you’ve got the tree trunk and a piece of wood spreading the load, sitting on a cast iron girder above the brick arched ceiling of the bar, so all these people sitting in the bar, they don’t realise what’s on their head up above, but you see Peter did that round about 1975 and so thirty-five years on it’s still there, it hasn’t moved.  He’s a very very useful chap to have as a friend and a sort of….supporter, very good.  I can’t speak too highly of Peter.  It’s a pity there are more like him around.  He’s a bit older than me; he was at school the same time as me but he’s a bit older than me and it’s a pity he’s not wearing so well, so we put a roof on the works and we started dividing it up and people started appearing.  I’ve never really had to chase people – the building attracts people, it’s surprising. I mean it’s totally fully let and I’ve got other people – I mean recently somebody came along, they’re so keen to get in to the building, they want the space and they want to bring their business.  I say ‘it’s full – I can’t just throw people out and make space for you to come in.  There’s the roof space up above…..the original part of the building that’s above the café and the water wheel.  There is actually a fourth floor there.  In the war they lifted the roof.  You can see the roof timbers have been modified; instead of being an A-shaped truss they’ve taken out the bottom beams to the truss and put a piece in that’s not quite vertical, on a slope, and then you’ve got the A piece above that, so there’s headroom up there and there are skylights in the roof and there are windows in the gables at the end; it could be made quite nice but it’s not gonna be cheap’ so I said ‘I’ll rent it to you in its raw state, like for a song, I’ll give you twelve months free so you can get it sorted out and then rent it to you at a knock-down price if you want to do it, but at the moment I don’t have the money to put in to it because I’ve got another project that’s gonna cost me a lot’ so we went up and we had a look at it and currently they’re thinking about it, but I mean people are so keen to get in to the building, it’s absolutely amazing.  The timbers on the roof are second-hand as well.  The roof trusses are obviously second-hand because they’re too long, so do you know what they did?  They’ve obviously bought second-hand roof trusses and they’re just a bit too long, so what’s the obvious solution?  You put them in diagonally [laughing] isn’t it wonderful?  I love that building, and so you know I pieced together the order in which it was built and there’s still part of the original wall in there.  We made an opening between the shop and the café; we opened a three foot doorway in to a twelve foot space so people could more easily pass through, and we took that section of wall out and as we were taking it to pieces, I mean the wall was typical rubble skin and the rest of it, but about a yard above floor level it got a lot fatter, and that fat bit at the bottom was made of river stones – rounded river stones with the face just hacked off and some old-fashioned mortar stuck in there

    TW:Must be very original then

    DF:Yes, so I think that was the original plinth on which probably a timber mill stood and it was built in the river bed of river stones, they were just piled up river stones cos, …cos I went right down to floor level and I went below floor level, and I got river stone that weren’t hacked off at one side, and I went down an arm’s length and the whole filled with water because I got down to the river [laughing]

    TW:You don’t get flooded then?

    DF:Well it has been known, but it’s built on no foundations which is why the window frames have to be custom made if you replace them because they’re not square either, they’re a sort of….trapezoid you know, they’re like a rectangle but it’s a rectangle that’s shifted at one side, and it’s just over seven hundred years, I mean it’s settled down, so what was a timber single storey mill on no foundations is now a three or four storey stone mill building on no foundations on the river bed in the middle of Hebden Bridge!   But you know that’s history isn’t it and that’s the way it is, so….we moved our shop in to the mill in 1976, three years after I’d bought it, because I  left the ground floor till last, and you know how we’ve got sort of two archways the sort of link through in to a kind of arcade, well one of those is original and it just had big wooden doors and an archway and when it was a smithy they could take the horses in and out there, and presumable when the steam engine was in there, they could back a wagon load of coal in there and so on.  The other arch is one that I put in with Maurice Nicholl; he used to be a joiner in Mytholmroyd, again Maurice is no longer with us, sadly. He was another friend who put a lot of time and energy into that building along with me.  He and his wife were partners in the shop initially but then they wanted to do other things and they eventually went off to live in Scotland, so we bought them out and so….we wondered what to do with the archway the one that existed, the one that faces across to where Tribal is now.  I don’t like to see an archway with just a piece of plate glass in it – sort of an archway is meant for going through and it looks a bit naff if you just put a little stone wall across it with a big piece of glass and so on, I don’t think it works.  You could set it back and that looks better, but I thought ‘why not put another archway in that wall’ because where the other archway is, there was just a door in to the building and a window at the side of it and a bright red telephone box, so…I thought ‘well if we take that door out, take the window out…where can I get a stone archway from?’  Well, when they decided to build the Catholic church in Mytholmroyd, they actually built it, sadly in some ways, on a very old track, a very old roadway.  The road from Sowerby to Mytholmroyd came down past Scout Rocks, past Mytholmroyd Farm.  It came down towards the pub there, the Shoulder of Mutton, across the road and then it went across the river in a ford, I mean I remember that ford.  There were stepping stones so you could walk across it without getting your feet wet

    TW:I’ve seen photographs of it

    DF:Then a child sadly got drowned there and they decided to wall it up at both ends and put a bridge there instead, so you know, all the historic features had gone.  Well across the road from the Shoulder of Mutton the road continued up the hillside towards Sowerby.  There were some old cottages on one side of it and a barn, and a farmhouse on the other side called Royal Fold. Now you might have seen pictures of them.

    T:I have.

    DF:They were all demolished and the Catholic church built there.  The barn, when they were knocking it down, I went past there one day and they’d taken the roof off and were starting knocking stones off the top and there was a stone arch standing up.  I thought  ‘I must have it – that’s just about the right size.’  I measured it up ‘it’s just about the right size’ and I went up to the chap who was doing the demolition – can’t remember who it was now and I said ‘can I buy that?’ ‘Tha’ll have to get it out thysen…forty pound’ he said ‘but you’ll have to get it out yoursen.’  Well how do you get a stone arch out?  You’d take one stone out and the rest would fall on your head.  I said ‘can I borrow your digger?’  He’d got a caterpillar thing, you know, with a bucket at the front.  ‘aye I suppose so’ he said.  ‘what you’re gonna do?  I said ‘I’ll be back.  Don’t let anybody else have it; I’ll be back.’  I went down to Russell Dean’s and said ‘Russell, can I have all the cushions – seating cushions off all these old settees that you take in part exchange and throw away, burn on the canal bank and things, so I got – I don’t know what I got – a dozen or more, and I went and spread them all out on the ground, behind this archway, and then I got in this tractor thing which didn’t have a steering wheel which was a bit of a surprise to begin with. It just had two levers to operate the caterpillar tracks. To begin with I found myself spinning round in circles with one caterpillar track going one way, anyway it was a lesson driving this thing, so eventually I found out how to use it myself one sort of lunch time, and got the bucket up in front and just got this thing moving very very slowly, and lifted the bucket until the bucket was just resting on this archway you know, and then I just gave it a nudge and it all fell down; how else do you get it down?  And I mean it was a risk, and I just lost one piece of stone about the size of my fist on the corner of one of the stones. You can still see it; if you look under the archway you can see it

    TW:I’ll have a look next time I go

    DF:And so…you know, I got it, and I got these stones in the back of my car a few at a time, took them to the mill, put them on the floor in the shape they were supposed to be.  Maurice made a timber to that size and then we made an opening in the wall, put the timber up, and then just sat all these stones on timber, you know, and then we took the acro props away, took the timber away and hoped for the best! [laughing]  They all just settled nicely together and it’s there, and that’s it.  So we’d got the walls done now, we’d got the little arcade then we could put the shop front in.  there was another slight problem in the back room which is now the café.  The tables in the window, there were six Hoffman presses there with pipes going through the wall, because I remember Bridge Mill when big jets of steam used to gush out over the river which was usually running pink or brown or something from Crimsworth Dye Works, and you see Hoffman presses are big and they’re jolly heavy.  I didn’t know what to do with them, I mean I couldn’t move them, so I got a scrap metal dealer to come and look at them and he said ‘aye, I’ll have ‘em but you’ll have to get ‘em out’ he says ‘I can’t come in here and pick ‘em up with my wagon.  You’ll have to get ‘em out in the street.’  I thought ‘how on earth do I do this?’  Well at the time I had a little Renault 5, a little blue Renault 5 of some vintage and it would go through the archway at the front of the shop in a fashion, and we’d made this gap between the shop and the café so I could get my car in to the café, so I had my car in the café, and I jacked up each of the Hoffman presses sufficient to get a scaffold pole underneath, tide a rope on to it, dragged it forwards until it was sort of balancing on the scaffold pole, another scaffold pole in front of it, dragged it off until it fell off the back one, picked up the back one and put it to the front.  I dragged six Hoffman presses out in to the street and then got this guy to come and pick them up.  He came with a skip, you know, one of these wagons with a skip with a lifting thing, he took the skip off and he used thing to pick the Hoffman presses up and put them in the skip two at a time, take them away and then come back…I’m sure what I got for them in scrap didn’t pay for the effort, but at least I got rid of them!  And then had the shop done, and when the shop opened, the café at the back, that was still the glory hole where all the tools and all the materials were and one thing and another, and in Innovation shop at the moment there’s a big timber table in front of the windows against St George’s bridge, but it’s a fairly low table, it’s only about as high as this coffee table.  Somebody at some time has sawn the bottom of the legs off for some reason or purpose I don’t know why, but they probably used to put bales of cloth on it to cut or whatever, or perhaps they used it for the packing up of trousers – sit them on the table wrap them all up in brown paper and send them off and things, so I had this table in the back, in the glory hole. There was a lovely timber ceiling in where the café is now, but the…building control people made me cover it up  - you know, ‘it’s a fire risk is that; you’ve got a restaurant upstairs, there might be eighty people upstairs.  We want double plasterboard there.’  You plasterboard it and then you plasterboard it again with plasterboard over the gaps, so that you’ve got an hour’s fire resistance then.  ‘no, there’s no way round it – it must be done.  You can’t have these timber beams – you’ve got to cover them up with plasterboard so the beams won’t’  I mean nowadays the fourteen inch beam would give you an hour’s fire resistance easily, but at that time they made me cover them all up, so I had this table in the back there and standing on this table it was just high enough to balance a sheet of plasterboard on my head and hold it up against the ceiling with the plasterboard nails in my mouth and a hammer, a nail at a time – get a nail in each corner, hope it would stay up while I got the rest of the nails in and so I plaster boarded all that, and then I plaster boarded it a second time, sealed the joints with tape, painted it; it was a long job, so the shop moved in in ’76 and the café opened gradually after that.  We didn’t intend to have a café, but the customers sometimes wanted a drink so we made them a cup of coffee, so we got a coffee machine in and started making cups of coffee, and then at one stage I had about half a dozen ladies making home-made cakes and I would pay them for the cakes, they could work at home, and then Health and Safety stopped me doing that ‘oh you can’t have that, we can’t go and inspect all their kitchens.  They might have a dog, they might have children who put their sticky fingers in’ you know, I’d got a cottage industry going making cakes, and then they stopped me.  It is very irritating, some of the regulations are ridiculous, but you know, we gradually and we got this building pretty much as it is.  It’s full of tenants, and so I keep borrowing some money against the rent and improving the place, you know.TW:What will be your next improvement  then?DF:Well I’ve put toilets in which people have noticed.  I wish the population of Hebden Bridge and District were house-trained.  We get some funny people – I won’t go in to the sort of things that happen, but…it’s a lot worse in the ladies than it is in the gents.  Some of the things that get written on the wall and some of the things that get smeared on the wall, I mean I’m not joking – you name it, it happens.  And I’ve improved the toilet areas for the tenants and I keep putting bits of floorboards down and tidying, and  I’m getting to the point now where I’ve more or less done all the jobs, so for the millennium there was this hole in the middle of the building with water running through it – the wheel pit – the water wasn’t running at all, just a big hole, so I got the water wheel rebuilt by a couple of engineers from Elland, again a couple of the right kind of guys you know, they’d got hands that could do things, and we made it in the old way – cast iron.  They made a pattern and they put it in sand, put molten metal in it and they made the pieces.   Each one weighs the best part of two hundredweight and it were all carried in, and we fastened it all together.  They even made nuts that were square because you couldn’t buy square nuts and they said ‘well it would have had square nuts on – we’re not having modern hexagonal nuts, we’ve got to have square’ so they made their own nuts, and we cast their names in to it – it’s a good quiz question, I won’t tell you what they were called, you know, I say to people ‘what were the names of the people who made that water wheel, and who put in?’ and it’s narrower, much narrower than the original wheel was because I’ve floored across and put more tables in there, and I’ve got to pay for it somehow – it cost me thirty thousand pounds [£30,000] to do that bit, so you know, borrow it, do it, finish it, well I’ve paid that off now so now I can start thinking about the next one you see – the seven hundredth birthday.  Like the millennium one, I got the millennium one finished in 1998 so it would be ready, well I want to get this one…. I’m going to go alternative power – carbon free, sustainable, back to basics as someone once said.  The mill started on water power and it’s gonna go back to water power

    TW:Very interesting.

    DF:I’ve got the water wheel up already and I’ve had an assessment of the amount of power output it would give.  The answer is not a lot, perhaps one and a half, perhaps two kilowatts, I mean it used to develop a lot more than that but that’s when it was the full width and that’s when they weren’t as fussy whether you dried the river up or not by putting all the water through the wheel which they used to do.  Somewhere there’s a beautiful water colour of Bridge Mill and the river was nearly dry when they did it.  It used to hang in the Committee Room in Hebden Royd Town Council Offices on the wall behind where the Chairman sat, and at Local Government Reorganisation it disappeared.  I’d love to know who’s got it – I’d love to have that painting, and nobody seems to know where it went.

    TW:Well Calderdale you would have thought, but maybe Bankfield Museum because the two old oil paintings on the stairs going up to the Council Offices now – they’re actually owned by – looked after by Bankfield Museum

    DF:Well they might be now.  They stayed, they didn’t get thrown away, but when Calderdale came in to the Council Offices in Hebden Bridge, they went in there, they went up to the attic and they parked a lorry outside in the street and they just threw everything out.  That map I have on the wall in Innovation café, a map of Hebden Bridge 1888, that literally came off the back of a wagon.  They threw it out the window, it landed on the back of the wagon, it rolled off in to the street, and it’s now on the wall in Innovation; it would have been in landfill if I hadn’t picked it up, so don’t Calderdale come back and tell me they want it back!  So we’re going to use the water wheel but it will be limited effectiveness.  To give us a better boost, I’ve just had a meeting this afternoon, I’ve just got a copy of the plans what we’re going to do.  We’re going to have a ten kilowatt Archimedes screw turbine on the edge of the wheel – this is all subject to planning – I haven’t applied for planning permission consent yet, but fingers crossed, so ten kilowatt, and we’ll have that on view  behind a metal grill so that children can’t fall in to it or anything but they’ll be able to see how it works, and that’s going to generate ten kilowatts of electricity.  In the goit we’re going to put a heat exchanger and heat pump for space heating the building, so we’ll have electric power to run the kitchen and things like that, and we’ll have space heating by taking low grade heat out of the river water, just the odd degree or so as it flows past, and that will be pumped up to keep the building at an appropriate temperature, and panels on the roof, subject to planning for hot water for the kitchen and toilets

    TW:Solar panels?

    DF:Solar panels, yes.

    [END OF TRACK 3]

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  • Interviews and Storytelling: David Fletcher (2)

    [TRACK 2]

    TONY WRIGHT:Right you were talking about the aims of the Civic Trust.

    DAVID FLETCHER:Yeah, well the fourth aim, just to recap: number one, clean the place up; number two, promote it through events; number three, try to capture the visitor interest and persuade to locate here and earn their income here, and we even set up an estate agents.  There wasn’t an estate agents in Hebden Bridge so we set up a volunteer estate agency and we gave all the information away for free.  We just had a sheet of properties that were on the market with a guide price against it and the contact details of the people that owned it, and you know, when you look at it today with its estate agents – there just weren’t any at that time – and then the fourth part was the big problem buildings.  What do you do with buildings like Birchcliffe Church and Sunday School, like Nutclough Mill? Like you know, these we saw as places where we might get new forms of employment in time and we – although we were trying to attract new people – didn’t want it to become a dormitory area and so that was the strategy.Now we ran head on into the Local Council.  They didn’t buy into that strategy at all. Again it’s not an unfamiliar experience….they basically said ‘well prettifying the place isn’t going to bring new jobs’ you know, they were still very much in the ‘where there’s muck there’s brass’ era, and particularly some of them, I mean I ran head on into one rather vigorous member of the Town Council called Terry Doyle.  He’s not….don’t live round here anymore, where they are, or if they’re anywhere, but Terry Doyle was a local Chamber of Commerce representative on the Council elected onto the Urban District Council, and he said, you know – ‘jobs, we want jobs’ – which was something we all agreed about. ‘We’ve got to do like Todmorden. Todmorden’s going out there and it’s fighting for new textile industries and getting it,’ and Todmorden was making a better fist of it than Hebden Bridge was. It was a bit nearer to Manchester and it was plugged into the Manchester cotton scene, and Hebden Bridge was a bit in the doldrums in the middle.  Halifax wasn’t as bad; we were definitely the bankrupt bit of the valley in those days, and you know you can’t imagine it.  Sixty per cent of the shops in Hebden Bridge were permanently closed you know, mucky shop windows with posters stuck on them and the place was a ghost town; it was terrible, but the Council had the view that we must promote industry.  ‘Well,’ I said ‘okay – get on with it, but where is it?’ and they said ‘well you have planted a few trees and cleaned a few buildings, but what good’s that going to do to anybody – just throwing money in the wind’ and so we’d a real sort of philosophical divide.  Eventually it got to the point where the Councillor, Terry Doyle, said ‘look, put up or shut up.  Fight me for my seat at the next election’.  Well I kind of find it difficult to say ‘no’ – I’ve always found it difficult to say ‘no’ – so I put up as a candidate in the 1967 election and published my own literature.  You should see it!  Got hair down my shoulders and you know, sort of neckerchief and gold ring, and a big moustache and beard, if it had been a full length – sandals.  So I stood as an independent and my literature was what a Green candidate might put out today; it was all about the environment and, well it was the strategy, and the mates in the Civic Trust helped me to deliver the leaflets and we all ran our own cars to get people to the poll and things like that, went to the poll, to the count, and absolutely flabbergasted – I got seventy-seven per cent of the vote and Mr Doyle stormed out of the Council, slammed the door behind him, and that transformed the Local Authority:  (a) because I was there to put the case, but obviously they’d got an indication of what the public feeling was.  I remember the Chairman of Planning taking me to one side, and the Chairman of Planning was…a chap called Greenwood, Ronnie Greenwood from Mytholmroyd.  He said ‘look we’ve got this redevelopment plan for the town but the Council have voted that it is secret.  I have to explain it to you because you are now a Councillor’ but clearly worried cos he thought I was going to run to the press or whatever.  I said ‘no Ronnie I’m not going to…’ he was called Ronnie Greenwood but locally he was known as Ronnie Jaunty.  There were so many Greenwoods in the area in those days that they all had to have nicknames.  I said ‘no, I’m not going to blow the gaff.  If the Council votes by a majority to keep it under wraps that is the Council’s decision.  I’m going to do everything I can within the Council to campaign for a change of view but…’ and it took me two years.  After two years they made me Chairman of Planning, 1969, and I’d not been Chairman of Planning very long and we had the said Mr Risden from the company called Chingler Risdens to present his new drawings, which as a matter of fact were for Garden Street.  It’s quite interesting how what goes around comes around.  I was at the end of the Committee Room table, still the same Committee Room, still the same table, and there’s about three councillors down each side and there’s Kenneth Kaberry the Town Clerk and there’s Harry Hirst the engineer that we and and there’s Harry Risden at the far end, piercing blue eyes, I can still feel them almost, and so we get on to Garden Street; it’s failed its Government yardstick allocation again therefore it can’t…he said ‘well we’re just going to have to cut the costs.  We could replace the hardwood banister rails with softwood and…’ I just…I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, you know, and this is for six ugly square lumps on Garden Street.  I said ‘Mr Risden, don’t you think we’ve come to the end of the road on this and indeed everything.  We still haven’t got Bridge Lanes sorted out – we’ve got some three or four appalling blocks of flats on the land across the road from Bridge Lanes,’ which were there until recently, they’ve not gone.  I said ‘we’re really getting nowhere.  We’ve got a town centre scheme that’s secret and you are telling us that if we demolish the entire centre of Hebden Bridge so we’ve got a big cleared area, a total cleared area between Crown Street and Bridge Gate, and you are going to build single storey shops and you are going to bring Marks and Spencers and Woolworths and people like that to Hebden Bridge.’ I said ‘I am staggered:  (a) that you can say it; and (b) that anybody might believe it.  It’s just ridiculous.  You are proposing to destroy our town and you might put up some concrete shells and they’ll not be let, and we’ll be ten times worse off than we are today.  The future lies in being individual, not just copying Burnley and all the other places that are wrecking themselves,’ and we had a bit of a row and the rest of the committee sort of sat there, and I said ‘I think we should cancel the whole thing’  ‘What, you mean Garden Street?’  ‘No, the whole thing.  I think we should just cancel your contract.  I think we should now terminate the agreement.  I’ve read it and there is a clause which allows us to terminate it and I’m giving you notice that that is what we propose to do.’  Now I’d not cleared this with the committee.  The Clerk, puffing at his pipe, looking a bit…serious.  I said ‘We’re just clearly not going anywhere and we just keep paying bills for your fees.’  He said ‘well I have bill for my fee account here that remains unpaid for the Bridge Lanes site.  You are actually in arrears to twenty thousand pounds’ to me. I said ‘well Mr Risden, we’re not gonna pay it.’  The Clerk nearly bit his pipe in two!  I said ‘I’ve no intention of sanctioning that for payment.’  Well he looked at me with these eyes.  ‘I shall have to take that up with my solicitors.’  I said ‘that’s fine, fine, quite so.  You do it.  I’ve already taken it up with your professional association, the Town and Country Planning Association’ – not Association – was it Town and Country Institute, ‘your professional institute.’  Well he went down like a brick balloon.  He’d been struck off.  He wasn’t even registered to practise.  I knew this but the committee didn’t know – nobody else knew. I knew he hadn’t a cat in hell’s chance of suing us.  I said ‘I think we’ve come to the end of our…’ so we binned the Development Plan and we drew up what we called at that time a Rejuvenation Plan. That was in 1969, and we had only got a small way in to it when in 1974 the Local Government Reorganisation came along.  After 1973 we weren’t able to spend any money, but between ’69 and ’73 we demolished the half ruined mill on Bridge Gate that had been on fire and a whole load of derelict buildings on the side of the river at the back of it where there used to be a slaughterhouse and we built the riverside walk and the car park.  We had a go at pedestrianising St George’s Square.  We put temporary gardens in, sort of railway sleepers and things across Bridge Gate and things like that; that didn’t last.  The shop keepers hired a brass band and a coffin and paraded through town, to say that it would be the death of retail in the town so I lost that one but everything comes around doesn’t it, you know, Garden Street objectors, I hope you’re all listening.  Everything comes round again – it might not be me, it’ll be someone else, but…what else did we do?  Oh we put some plans together to clear a really awful second hand car garage that was on the side of the main road where the canal basin now is and you’ve probably seen pictures of it, and a builder’s yard, and to have gardens and open the canal up.  We didn’t exactly get round to doing it, we didn’t have time, but it’s happened now hasn’t it, and most of what we planned has happened apart from one scheme on Garden Street which I don’t think will happen now – sorry, rewind that – not Garden Street – Market Street.  Market Street shopping was in difficulty then as it still is to a certain extent although not as bad as it was, and we wondered what we could do to give Market Street a bit of a shot in the arm, and at that time where the Co-op supermarket is, there was a mill and then there were the two blocks that were there, and we decided that we would take out one of the blocks so that we would reduce the number of shops on Garden [Market] Street and try to re-locate people so that the shops were all full, and we’d take out the middle block so that Central Street, which is behind, would be on view and we’d have a landscaped area with car parking between Central Street School and Market Street to try and breathe a bit more life in to the shops and things.  I think if we’d done it, Market Street would be a better place today than it is, but I don’t think it’s gonna happen now, there’d be an outcry, because there are some quite fine buildings, but you sometimes have to do a little bit of weeding.  Well the Co-op did the weeding, at five o’clock one Sunday morning when they just brought bulldozers in and pushed the mill over without getting permission, but you know, so I think Market Street is where it is and it desperately does need a new look, but perhaps that’s for later, sometime in a few years’ time.So you know, I was on the Council for a while……it was good fun although I wouldn’t want to be a Councillor today – too much messing about

    TW:I mentioned to you earlier about my belief that it’s the people who live in a place that sort of give it its character, and part of that plan that you talked about was basically trying to bring people in.  I mean that has worked I think.  Why do you think it’s worked and how has the character of Hebden changed do you think because of the influx of people?

    DF:Well it certainly has worked.  I mean we put an enormous amount of energy in to promoting the town.  At one time you know if you went anywhere on holiday and you met people and they said ‘where do you come from?’ -  ‘Hebden Bridge’ and they’d say ‘oh where’s that?’ and you’d say ‘well it’s near Halifax’ they’d say ‘oh’ – ‘well it’s between Leeds and Manchester’.  Now you say to anybody ‘I live in Hebden Bridge’ – ‘oh Hebden Bridge’.  It has currency does the name.  We did a terrific branding job on it.  It started with the Calder Civic Trust, a pretty ad hoc sort of thing, and documents that were run off on an old Gestetner, a wax thing, and so on, but we started publishing books.  We published the Heptonstall History Trail in about 1966, and the Hebden Bridge Trail in about 1969, the Pennine walks around Hebden Bridge.  We started these festivals, we were very successful in getting them on television, the town on television a great deal, and you know I was working in Manchester at this time and the BBC building across the road, I got to know quite a lot of people.  We used to get all sorts of publicity, we did very well.  The English Tourist Board who put money into the building we’re sitting in at the moment, they funded leaflets in about ten different languages that were in Tourist Information Centres in Dover and Hull and all over the place.  We really went to town on it, and then through the Hebden Royd Town Council and the five Parish Councils we set up a joint committee for the promotion of Hebden Bridge and so we got a little bit of rate payers’ money going into scheme as well and there was a really big effort in the sixties until it was all taken over by Calderdale, but the foundation had been laid.  We’d redeveloped a number of single storey wooden shops on Crown Street and in-filled buildings like the one the Hebden Bridge Times is in now – they were just wooden shacks in the gaps – so we’d done a lot to improve the appearance and I think of it like two graphs.  You’d got a graph of declining property prices, the bottom fell out of the market here, you could buy property for nothing and we’d got a graph of increasing environmental quality and when those two intersected we began to find – well the first people to, who tumbled to it were the hippies.  In 1968, this couple called Reg and Marian arrived in Hebden Bridge and they were quite an eye-opener to most of the people of Hebden Bridge.  Marian used to drift round Hebden Bridge in…..almost a burka really, a big hood and a long cape and so on, some sort of Egyptian….I forget what it was called, and Reg used to go in and round the pubs playing his guitar and they were welcomed, and then you got the Foster Clough hippies who came after that.  They moved into a block of six cottages at Foster Clough on Heights Road.  I was a councillor at the time.  Our Public Health Inspector, Major Tintoll, very short back and sides, he had a hit list – he had a search and destroy policy for houses.  The Government had a twelve point standard of fitness and he had a very harsh interpretation of that, and when I got on the Council in 1967, his hit list of houses was more than a thousand houses in Hebden Bridge.  Every single double-decker house was on that list because the back-to-earth ones were not sanitary because they didn’t have through ventilation and the upper ones didn’t have the right arrangement or the adequate toilet arrangements or proper arrangements – there were twelve points and he could condemn a house on any one of the these twelve, and the only thing that stopped him knocking them down was…..you know, he’d done Buttress, he’d done Bridge Lanes – two hundred and fifty houses, a lot of paper work, he’d done Commercial Street, sixty or seventy houses, a lot paperwork.  He was going to take down the whole of the Birchcliffe hillside, the whole lot of it, all the back-to-back houses on Cambridge Street and places like that.  There were over a thousand houses just in Hebden Bridge. I mean they would have just been wiped of the map, and then in1968, partly through the Civic Trust which I was quite involved with by this time, there was a new law enacted and it brought in the possibility of housing grants being given to improve houses up to a satisfactory standard rather than demolish them because they hadn’t got it, and so I started working in Hebden Royd Council and I got Graham Ashworth and Tony Selby who were two architects who worked for the Civic Trust to do a pilot scheme in Hebden Bridge and the Birchcliffe hillside became the first housing improvement area in the North of England following the 1968 act, as a result of that, as a result of Graham Ashworth and Tony Selby’s work and the Clerk, Kenneth Kaberry, who came very much round to this way of thinking about regeneration and so on.  Kenneth was a terrific town Clerk and he put his life in to this town, and he certainly should be honoured, his memory…..people have forgotten, his daughters sill live round about, both of whom I taught when they were at Calder High School but it was an opportunity, and it was absolutely changing at the time –grants.  I said to these hippies, I went to see these hippies up at Foster Clough because he’d put the cottage on the list primarily because he didn’t like the people that were in them I think, and I went to see them and I said ‘look you know, your cottages have gone on the demolition list.  They didn’t own them, they were just renting them.  I said ‘but there is a way out.  If you form yourselves in to a development company and then apply for grants to bring these cottages up to the required standard, and then employ your development company to do it, you can get money to actually improve the houses while you’re living in them. So we worked it all out and Mr Tintoll was not best pleased but the Foster Clough hippies stayed and they were a great introduction to the area, a bit of new thinking coming in you know, they were kind of really, they were a bit way out, people might have said, but the were interesting people.  We then got a few more hippies coming in who were just fellow travellers who squatted in some property and got a rather bad reputation but.. Queens Terrace up Heptonstall Road there, the Queens Terrace crowd were…rubbish and they just threw rubbish all over the place and so on, but then we started to get younger professional people coming in who were working in Leeds and Manchester and were astonished how cheap they could buy property here and then they could get grants to renovate it and we made stone cleaning a condition of the grant, so that….again was my idea, I thought ‘well you’ll be able to see externally then the growth of people getting grants and doing houses’ and you got this patchwork quilt as more and more property was getting cleaned, and it was really a very, very optimistic time, the sixties, I rather liked the sixties as many people do who lived through them sort of gaze back wistfully you know, ‘where were you in 1969 and what were you doing?’  I’m not going in to that….it sort of began to change the character of the town and we got a lot of interesting, enterprising, get-up-and-go people moving in and that was great and that carried on through the seventies with festivals and things.  Today…I’ve got to be careful what I say…we seem to have changed, you know, the town had this very liberal image, liberal, artistic, sort of different ideas, quite a bubble to it and it was going well and to some extent it still does have that image, and of course we’ve got the alternative gay and lesbian scene in Hebden Bridge which people go on about as if it’s something new. It’s nothing new at all; it was well entrenched in this valley before the present incumbents arrived.  I think it’s a hangover from the days of early industrialisation, I mean, again if we get round to talking eventually about the plans for the Pennine Horizons Project as we now call it, the precursors of the industrial revolution actually happened here in these hills.  The precursors are money, skills and markets you know, to get the industrial revolution going.  Well the dual economy of part-time textile, textile part-time smallholding people built up quite a good economy of making textiles but some members of that group, the ones with a little bit more nouse perhaps, who became the merchant clothiers, they built fortunes.  One man who lived round here in 1700 had an annual turnover, in today’s money, of six hundred million [600.000.000] pounds a year, going out on packhorses to Sowerby Bridge and then down the river to Hull and then across the North Sea and it was on sale throughout Europe and into the Middle East, so you know, phenomenal stories there to tell, and the skills were created in the population, they kept improving the type of cloth; a real skilled population here, the market was already there and it just took off in a big way.  There was this spirit of enterprise, but when that created the industrial  revolution and they began to mechanise what previously had been hand industries…the hand manufacturer of cloth was a family enterprise you know, from the children combing to the women spinning to the men weaving, because it needed muscle for the weavers so the men did the weaving; the spinning was a more delicate task so the women did the spinning.  When it came to mechanisation the obvious thing to mechanise was the spinning because you needed six women spinning to keep one weaver in employment, and so a man whose wife had lots of unmarried sisters who could come as spinners in the house and help with the spinning, you know, was going to make money….and when spinning was mechanised, women and children went in to the mills to do the work and the handloom weavers made a packet because they were no longer short of yarn; they could earn as much money as the time they put in to it and they didn’t have to cut in to drinking time because they didn’t have to work shifts and so on. When weaving was mechanised and they were trying to recruit men to go in to the mills, that’s when there was trouble because it did cut into drinking time.  It cut into self-employment and private income; they didn’t want to go into shift works and work in factories, they wanted to be their own – all understandable and you know, that’s when there were Luddites and blood drawers and Peterloo riots and you know, and it coincided with the French Revolution and so the authorities were very alarmed by it which is why the Duke of Wellington’s home base in Halifax, not to….parade proudly but to keep the population down, so they were quite difficult times and what was the reaction of the budding capitalists building mills and so on?  Well they came out with the cry with still resounds around these hillsides – ‘who needs men?’   You know, ‘we’ve got a steam engine, the women can do the weaving’ and so they did, and so all of a sudden hand loom weavers saw their income drop by about eighty per cent, and then to nothing – they’d no work.  The people who had the work were women and they had the money and the woman with money is no longer beholden to a man; if she doesn’t want him she can give him the heave-ho and get another, and lots did, and if she’d rather have a woman instead, well, why not?  And you know, if women want to get together and form sort of joint family units…it was a bit like that even when I went to school in the early days.  There were families of kids who all had different surnames and we never thought anything about it, and there were women who were living together and I mean we knew what the word meant….it didn’t matter, but we all knew, but anyway there was that kind of enterprise, there’s always been a buzz about this place and from most times, you know, I think there’s a thousand-year history here to talk about and this is what we’re trying to do through the Horizons Project, but latterly, a lot of the people that have come to live here have kind of come in here for different reasons in a way; they’re coming to put their feet up and settle down, and they’re not part of the major enterprise….they may have some good ideas, some of them are setting up small businesses and doing things and quite a lot of economic activity that’s coming from redundancy payments and early retirement lump sums and things like that, but there again, a different sort of person moving into the area and to be quite honest and I know I’m going to get in to trouble for this, but there again I’m always in trouble, there is a sort of an air of sort of smug complacency among some sections of the population that are coming to live here now. They’ve found their nirvana and they want to put their feet up, dabble a bit, but woe betide anybody who touches a hair of its head.  By and large they’re against anything, I mean people might think I’m grinding a personal axe but it’s not just the things that I want to do; there’s a sort of inertia developing here, you know, ‘leave it alone, give up bothering’ you know, sort of ‘why do you want to keep changing things?’

    TW:But don’t you think that will change in time again?

    DF:I think it will; it’ll have to, otherwise it will die, you know….if you just freeze it in aspic it won’t be a nice place to live in; it will just become sort of an old-fashioned backwater and people will stop coming here, people will stop investing here and it won’t be the bubbly place that it’s got the reputation for, and I see that as the greatest danger at the moment that is; it’s gone from being absolutely down on its udders, mucky and living in the gutter, to struggling to get its life back together again, to working really hard to build something new out of the ruins of the past, to attracting…you know, buzz attracts buzz, to attracting a lot of buzzy people and a lot of new things happening and a lot of interesting things happening, to a sort of…oh well, been there, done that, lets sit on our laurels for a bit. You can’t do that.  Regeneration, rejuvenation, call it what you will, is a continuous process.  I’m not advocating a Mao-style revolution but I can see where he was coming form.  We could do with throwing a few things up in the air and stirring things up a bit again.

    TW:I went to a meting this week and one of the Calderdale officers was talking about the cultural and creative industries in Calderdale and they’ve done a new survey, and those types of jobs and business really have doubled in the past five years, and a lot of those are to do with new technologies really, and a lot of people who do web designing and…not just that, but anything similar along those ilks, they tend to work kind of out of the way, out of the public eye shall we say, so an awful lot of that I think is actually going on.  There are people coming here doing an awful lot of….investing their lives and the work that they do in this area, but it’s not just seen as it used to be seen , and I hope that that continues as well.

    DF:Well I mean it will and it is there, and it is healthy; there’s a lot in this building.  This building….I mean I put my money where my mouth is and try to save as many of the larger buildings in town as I can, that I think are gonna be useful, so you’ve got Hebble End, you’ve got Linden Mill, you’ve got Bridge Mill, you’ve got this building and there’s a lot of very interesting things going on, but as you say they’re not part of the mainstream of the town, and so the central ethos of the town has become a little bit bad-tempered recently, but this was put to me by…in I thought in a very apt way by a former town of councillor of Hebden Royd who gave up the Town Council because he couldn’t stand all the back-biting and in fact has now given up Hebden Bridge and gone to live elsewhere, and he said Hebden Bridge had this reputation for being a very broad-minded town and he said it was.  He said it still has a reputation for being a broad-minded town, he said but whereas it was a broad-minded town because it was full of broad-minded people.  Now it’s a broad-minded town because it’s full of lots of small factions of people so that the breadth of mind is there, but the individual factions are quite narrow-minded and they’re all fighting each other and it’s become a rather bad-tempered back-biting sort of town, and I know what he means, and it has, and it’s a shame, and hopefully it’s just a phase, but we do need to be careful, you know, it’s all very well saying ‘oh well all these tourists, they get under the feet, we don’t want them’ okay, let’s not have the tourists.  What’s the consequence of that?  Half the shops in Hebden Bridge will close.  I know – I’m a shop-keeper, not really an actual shop-keeper but I’ve got a shop in Hebden Bridge which is there to prop up one of what I think is one of the most important historic buildings in Hebden Bridge, what was the Lord of the Manor’s mill.  It’s really interesting that we’re celebrating five hundred years of the old bridge.  In four years’ time we’ll be celebrating seven hundred years of Bridge Mill, you know, so things like that are worth keeping and I just think it’s an interesting perspective that, I won’t mention his name, he’s just on the top of the town…we’ll just have to watch.  If you get rid of the tourists, well, in my shop, it just wouldn’t survive without external income and it’s most important income comes from local people, but it wouldn’t survive without that extra and there are far too many shops in Hebden Bridge for this town to run on its own so inevitably if you don’t welcome people coming in from outside they’re gonna close and then we’d be back to the 1960’s with loads of empty shops and we’d be back to demolishing them to get rid of them.

    TW:But when the Civic Trust began, you had a lot, it seemed a lot of input by younger people.  Do you think perhaps if that could happen again in the way the town is now, if younger people took….it upon themselves shall we say to get involved shall we say in things that are happening in Hebden Bridge that that would help like generate a new open-mindedness shall we say?

    DF:I think they would be very welcome, absolutely, yes.  The average age of the people in the Calder Civic Trust when it started, you know, taking the parents and the school kids and so on, the average age of the whole thing was probably about twenty-four you know.  The average age of the Civic Trust today I wouldn’t like to hazard a guess at, it’s certainly going to be more than twice that.  So you know, we went on from there.  The Civic Trust served us well for ten years or so, but you know I’ve kept referring to this thing called Local Government Reorganisation.  We moved in to a new era when Hebden Royd Urban District Council was wound up along with Todmorden and Sowerby Bridge and Ripponden and so on, and it all became Calderdale.  Elland, Brighouse…..which was an opportunity in some respects and a problem in another because the communities had not really seen themselves at all as part of Calderdale.  They were very parochial I suppose, individual communities with different sorts of philosophies and they were all run on a shoestring you know, whereas Calderdale was rather expensive to run.  But from the voluntary sector point of view, you know, we were being outgunned really and there were big problems rearing like the Nutclough Mill and the Nutclough terrace of houses behind Nutclough Mill and we were moving in to a different order of activity, and this is why Pennine Heritage came in to being, you know, you’ve got to fight a bigger gun with a bigger gun and…the Civic Trust had done quite well for local environment schemes but then we got in to this era of big buildings coming on the market.  The first one was this one that we’re sitting in – Birchcliffe Baptist Chapel – just about the last in a line of Baptist, well, non-Conformist chapels in Hebden Bridge, it’s quite late on in 1890 or something or other, built at the top of Snob Row as it used to be called, the chapel to end all chapels, built to seat a thousand you know, the great gallery and the congregation dwindled to about twelve quite suddenly, I mean quite late in the day.  It was a very vigorous chapel; this part of it, the Sunday School that we’re sitting in now, wasn’t built until 1933, and up there on what’s now the car park were the tennis courts and its own tennis club.  The post-war period saw a very rapid decline and I know when I was in the sixth form I did a survey of churches and I think at that time you’d got something like one Roman Catholic church, two C of E churches and eighty-eight non-Conformist chapels of one sort or another, many of which have sadly gone, but we’ve managed to keep a few, so I got involved with this together with another two Davids – David Ellis, an architect who I worked with in Manchester and David Shutt who at that time was on the local council here, and so the Three Ds, we gave a bit of a report, a three D report and we tried to find buyers for this building because The Yorkshire Baptist Trust had put it on the market and there was nobody coming forward and it was getting more and more derelict.  We almost got the World Wildlife Fund to come here but then it didn’t work.  We’d looked at ways of turning it in to housing but not easy.  And then we approached the Joseph Rowntree Social Service Fund as it was then called and they said ‘well what do you want to do with it?’ and we said ‘well you’ve researched what people do with the grant money that you give them and you’ve found that most of them spend most of it on rent and rates, so you’ve bought a building in London, an office block in London for voluntary organisations and instead of giving them money you give them space and you’ve got Friends of the Earth and Gingerbread and all sorts of groups in there and they all go on about decentralisation like a lot of voluntary groups do.  Why not have a decentralised base you know in this cheaper part of the country and make it a headquarters for voluntary organisations.’  There was a lot of talk about it and they said ‘well what’s the asking price for the building?’  Well when we told them what the asking price was – three thousand five hundred pounds [£3500] they said ‘let’s not argue - buy it, we’ll think about that afterwards’ and so the Joseph Rowntree Trust bought the building and there were three trustees and we sort of looked at each other and thought well, we didn’t really come to the business just to be trustees of a chapel.  The two things needed for an organisation were a bit more clout and the opportunity of a building, we formed Pennine Heritage and the Rowntree Trust gave us a five-year tapering grant, tapering in, tapering out, to a part-time administrator – sixteen thousand five hundred pounds [£16,500] – not a fortune but enough to get us started and we moved in, we raised the money, some of it from Rowntrees, some of it from the English Tourist Board, some through our own resources – producing publications, selling them, got money from the Carnegie Trust, the Countryside Commission to publish the Pennine Heritage Network, about sixteen publications, so gradually we built up the organisation Pennine Heritage as a limited company and therefore it was accountable to Companies House and a registered charity so it was accountable to Charities Commission and big enough really to attract funding, and the next thing we set about was Nutclough Mill.  Nutclough Mill was derelict. This is very interesting history as you probably know.  It was set up by five co-operators and grew in thirty years to three hundred and seventy three co-operators and running a much enlarged factory.  They bought a little square mill and extended it in all possible directions; put a steam engine in instead of a water wheel and it really grew.  The International Co-operative Congress even visited it in 1902 – it was quite famous, and Robert Halstead who was co-founder of the Workers’ Educational Association funded by Nutclough Mill – it’s got a fantastic history, and there it was.  It got in to difficulties in the twenties, became part of the CWS, got in to difficulties in the sixties and was closed and it stood there for fifteen years, longer in a way. The West Yorkshire County Council came in after ’74, bought it to demolish it to get rid of the eyesore and it might easily now just be a bank of trees and grass.  First of all we got it listed. We’d a good thing going in those days – we’d got a photographer called Martin Parr who was one of the first incomers – offcomers in Hebden Bridge who has now made quite a name for himself.  He would take pictures and write up a history, we’d send it to the Department of the Environment and they said ‘oh yes – listed building’ – just like that.  We did that for Hebden Bridge Railway Station to stop them taking it away, tarmacing the platform and things.  We did it for Nutclough Mill.  We got in touch with West Yorkshire County Council, we quoted their Structure Plan at them and the things it said about listed buildings and said ‘but you’re proposing to demolish this one.’  They said ‘we didn’t know it was listed’ and I thought  ‘ha ha!’ and in the end, because of the nature of the organisation, you know, because we already had this building, therefore we had an asset of some substance and so on, we were able to negotiate the purchase of Nutclough Mill and so Pennine Heritage bought Nutclough Mill; we didn’t even pay three thousand five hundred pounds [£3,500] we paid a pound.  Somewhere – I wish I could find it – there’s a photograph of myself and the Chairman of the County Council leaping for joy with our arms up in the air, standing outside the mill and I’d got a pound note in my hand which I’m giving her, and we bought it for a pound, and then we raised over a million to complete the renovation.  It was in an absolutely terrible state and if you want a one-off on Nutclough Mill I can keep you going for an hour on that, but you know, what have we got now?  We’ve got a very important listed building and we’ve got a company with a hundred hi-tech jobs in Hebden Bridge, the sort of company that any place would give its eye teeth for, and that sort of philosophy is being replicated and that’s what Pennine Heritage brought in to being to do, and that’s why we are now doing Pennine Horizons Project because we think this part of the world has got so much to say to the entire world.  The history of this valley from the time immediately following the Norman Conquest to the present day is the history of the world – it’s the history of industrialisation.  We’re not going out there collecting lots of old rusty machinery to put on display.  We’re very sorry that the industrial museum in Halifax is not open anymore; we just hope and hope that they keep the collection together and don’t get rid of it all because it has so much to say, but we’re trying to talk about the process of industrialisation – its social implications and its human responses, everything – even the story about lesbian activity in the valley, but you know, everything, from the dual economy to industrialisation, but not just the technical aspects but very much the social things.   The club houses that started the Building Society Movement, you know, the Penny Banks, the whole backlash to industrialisation but then the whole radical movements, the radical religious movements, you know, the non-Conformist church, the radical political movements, the Chartists, the Clarion thing, the Suffragettes – they were all very, very active in this part of the world and many of them actually focused here, and…you know, within a few square miles we’ve got the history of the world to talk about and that’s what we’re wanting to do and we’re wanting everybody else like you, although you’re already part of it, to be involved with it and to come in and contribute and to help to build the story, and we want it to be accessible to people physically, you know, go out on foot because there’s so much of it that is still there to see if only you know how to interpret it and we want them to be able to access it intellectually, so we are trying to bring all the material together through this Pennine Horizons Digital Archive.

    TW:And how far along the road are you in that project?

    DF:We’re getting quite well along the road.  We’ve got initial funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Pennine Leader Project and one or two smaller sources to do the development work, the planning.  We’ve got an agreement in principle with Calderdale that we might use Youth House at the side Hebden Bridge Library as the gateway building you know.  People say ‘well why do you need a building?  You’ve got to get people out there’ you know.  We’ve got to teach people a new language so that when they get out there they can read the landscape and see what’s happened and how it happened, and we’ve got to have a building in which there’s a sort of focus to inspire people to go out and discover some of the story, and what better place to have a building that immediately adjacent to the library in Hebden Bridge with a policy that we’re going to have – both the library and ourselves.  We’re very keen to have an open door policy so that in a sense that building will just be another arm of the library, and we shall all work together.  We have an agreement in principle from Calderdale Council that the proposal for an asset transfer goes to Cabinet and you know, fingers crossed, if they say they want fifty thousand pounds [£50,000] for it, well forget it, we’ll put the building here instead. We’ve got space here, we could convert part of this building to do it, but if we can get that on peppercorn terms, in a sense as an extension to the library, it can be a boon to the people of this area and people from much further afield.

    TW:Oh I think it would be great.

    DF:People are saying ‘oh you’re going to create a lot of traffic and congestion, bringing people in to the area.’  Our idea is that this will be developed – okay there is a building up there that people need to come to, but the time will be spent bringing people hopefully out there on the landscape and we’re going to start all these trails at the far end, so hopefully you know when people come they’ll go to the starting point which will be in Blackshaw, Edge Hey Green, or the top of Cragg Vale, or the Piece Hall in Halifax or Tod Town Hall or wherever, and the strings will all come back and will be knotted together to show the relevance of one trail for another trail and the relevance of the social happenings to the individuals you know, and so on.  A very, very exciting, huge project which will outlast my lifetime but I’m just happy you know, to have been part of the spark that started it.

    TW:Yes.  I’d like to ask you one thing about your personal feelings, having been involved an awful lot, most of your life in fact in this area and being concerned for its welfare.  How do you personally feel to see the change from such a down-trodden so to speak, from the first depression up to like now?  I mean what are your personal feelings?

    DF:Oh I’m delighted, I mean I’m really so pleased.  I’ve been campaigning for over fifty years now.  Not just campaigning – I can’t stand people who sit on their backsides and just write letters and talk about things.  You’ve got to get out there and do it, but I….I couldn’t be happier really about the direction in which the area has gone.  There’s a little squiggle or two here and there but you know, I go back to the days at school because you know, what is it that shapes you?  What made me start jumping up and down for this part of the world?  Difficult to say.  Partly I think because I was ill and penned in a lot; I spent a lot of the time just gazing out the window, but….there’s another thing…people in this area have always been great travellers and I’ve got the travel bug.  It is my one extravagance.  I just want to go places.   I could become a tramp actually and see how people, you know, see how the gentleman of the road becomes such a person, because as I keep rolling on, I can just, you know, there’s always the next hill, the next mountain to climb, and it’s absolutely fascinating and yet I’ve got this great tug to the Calder Valley as well and I know my roots are here.  Wherever I am there’s a piece of elastic from my big toe to here you know, so it’s a mix of things.When I was at Hebden Bridge Grammar School we had an amazing Head teacher there, a man called Herbert Howarth, lived in that sort of mock half-timbered thing across the road.  Amazing guy.  He was called CI; everybody in the area knew him as CI, it stood for Chief Idiot.  He was an extraordinary eccentric and I like…I mean, eccentrics were fairly thick on the ground in this district at one time, it’s had a lot of eccentric people, a lot of really well-educated people who were working in fairly mundane jobs who were self-educated and knew a lot, and Hughes did, I mean, Bill Holt from Todmorden…..one of the last ones was the sad gentleman that used to ride about on his horse, known as Captain Helliwell, who unfortunately came to grief on the railway line in sad circumstances, but they’ve been typical of many sort of lesser eccentrics in the area and Herbert Howarth was certainly an eccentric you know; he would teach Religious Instruction which was the only subject in the school which was compulsory in those days.  You didn’t have to teach Maths or English or anything, but you had to have Religious Instruction if you were running a grammar school and he would take it himself, even though he was an atheist, and he would come in and he used to have a homily you know – ‘if I hold my arm up here and I held it here and didn’t bring it down again, it would just wither and die’ and that would become the starting point for some great philosophical debate, and we all loved him you know at school, and I did especially.  I could never do sport because of my asthma.  If I ran the length of this room I would collapse, you know, I was an expert in fainting; I would just run out of blood oxygen, but he always thought that I ought to do P.E. and games and things at school, he used to…I used to go and hide in the library, he used to carry me out by hair and throw me in to the gym and then I’d make a fool of myself, everybody would laugh and then I’d go away and hide somewhere, and we had that sort of relationship, we understood each other and we got on fairly well, and he had a travel book and he’d been president of the school’s travel system or something – STS, I can’t remember what it was called – pre-war, and he was itching to get back into it after the war, and as soon as the war was over….. ‘travel, the best form of education.  You’re going to France’ and I hopped on a train and set off half way across France in 1948, on my own, in my gabardine mac, clutching my cardboard suitcase, curled up in a corner, hoping that nobody would try to talk to me because I could only speak about four words of French, to stay with a family that were very different from the sort of family that I was used to living with.  Great big chateau and seven cars, things like that.  The only person that was interested in me was a German prisoner of war that they’d managed to commandeer as their gardener, and I’d never met a German before.  My grandfather hated Germans because they’d killed his eldest son and they were bad news in our family, but this chap was really a nice guy and he took me under his wing and told me a lot about gardening, he taught me a lot.  I learnt more German by going on an exchange to France than I did French [laughing] anyway a bit of a wild time then the next year he took us all to Switzerland himself – took Form 5 to Switzerland and we went – the usual thing – down to London on the train, stayed overnight in the air raid shelters at Clapham that were then being used as sort of student accommodation and sleeping on bunk beds in the air raid shelter, then we got the train to Dover and we got on the only ship that sailed back and forth between Dover and Calais about twice a day, and then we stood in the middle of this sea of rubble with some platforms and the steam engine was coming, and we went on this steam engine to Basel, it took about a day and a half I think.  We were sitting on suitcases in the corridor, it was clapped out, it was moving about ten miles an hour.  We went round through Metz and Charleville, Strasbourg…we got to Basel six o’clock in the morning and we were the first school party, and the band came out on the platform and the Burgermeister was there to greet us, and we were all ushered in to the station buffet which was not like any station buffet I had ever seen in my life, I mean it was just full of food….. I mean there was butter, there was chocolate…bananas….then we got on an electric train and went across Switzerland, and everything was clean, and there were blossom trees in the valley and snow on the mountains.  We stayed there a fortnight, I didn’t want to come home, and I remember thinking ‘why isn’t it like that where I live?’ and I came back home and I got my spade and I got my galvanised bucket and I went out planting trees, and I mean in a sense that’s what I’ve been working for ever since.

    TW:It’s an amazing story that – it’s an amazing way of looking at life.  You got something from somewhere else to here.

    DF:And on one side of rostrum in the old hall at Hebden Bridge Grammar School, there was a photograph, a colour photograph, of the Matterhorn and on the other side there was a colour photograph of the Rhone Glacier, both in Switzerland, and I didn’t like morning assembly very much, it was rather boring, and I used to gaze at these pictures [whispering] ‘I’m gonna go there’ so after we’d been to Switzerland with Herbert Howarth, the following summer I said to one of my friends – I was just getting to that age when family holidays weren’t exciting, I said to my parents I’d like to go off on holiday with my friend and….they said ‘well, alright, where do you want to go?’   ‘Oh we’re gonna take our bicycles and go Youth Hostelling’ and we thought we’d go down south and stuff.’  Well it was a bit like I talked about, playing ill, parents didn’t bother as much at that time….’alright, okay.’  Well, we set off….let’s see….I was sixteen I think, just about to make up seventeen and we got our bicycles and we got our saddlebags, panniers at the back, panniers at the front, and stuffed with all sorts and the first day we got to Lincoln, stayed at the Youth Hostel in Lincoln, the next day we got to Cambridge, stayed at a Youth Hostel in Cambridge; Highgate – Highgate Youth Hostel then Dover Youth Hostel, that was quite a hard ride across Kent, I remember Kent, blooming hilly is, and it was a hot day, and so the fourth night was Dover Youth Hostel and the fifth night was Dover Youth Hostel, and the sixth night was Dover Youth Hostel, and on the seventh day we actually plucked up courage to get on the ship and go to Calais.  We cycled across France to Switzerland and we cycled around Switzerland in a big semi-circle and we went to the Rhone Glacier, to the Matterhorn, then back home.  We went to a lot of other places as well and we made lots of friends because we took seventeen pounds each for three weeks…we’d no money and we were staying at Youth Hostels, but we’d got a Union Jack on the back of the bike and people just took us home and fed us…..one guy was just trying to start a little hotel but there were no tourists in Switzerland at that time and he took us in and he gave us a big bowl of soup every day and…well I knew him, kept him touch with him until he died recently.

    TW:I think we’re getting quite close to the end now.

    DF:So am I.

    TW:We’ll finish then.  Thank you very much

    DF:Sorry I get a bit emotional about these things
    [END OF TRACK 2]

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  • Interviews and Storytelling: David Fletcher (1)

    [TRACK 1]

    TONY WRIGHT: Right, this is Tony Wright, it’s the nineteenth of March 2010, I’m in the Birchcliffe Centre and I’m interviewing David Fletcher.  Can you tell me your full name and where and when you were born?

    DAVID FLETCHER:David Edwin Fletcher, compulsory Edwin, it’s a family name going way back.  Born in the front bedroom of 56 Caldene Avenue at Mytholmroyd on the fifteenth of July at 2 a.m. 1933.

    TW:Right.  Well what was your family life like in the thirties then?  What did your parents do and what was the house like?

    DF:Well my father came to Mytholmroyd; he bought into a small corn merchant’s business in Mytholmroyd and so he was working very hard to try to get that established.  1933 was a critical year for him because one of his major customers went bankrupt and it almost took him with them, so it was a pretty tough time and they’d just moved into this new house, a semi-detached house on Caldene Avenue. Caldene Avenue at that time was just rubble, it wasn’t a tarmacked road.  The whole area was pretty disorganised; all the streets around were just rough rocky roads as we used to call them as kids and there were other houses around  about, there were quite a few kids about so we had lots of playing out, it was terrific.  My mother wasn’t working as generally was the custom in those days so she was, you know, at home to run the house and of course there was a lot more work running a house then.  There were no washing machines, no fridge, nothing like that, you know.  It was always very interesting.  I look back and I think we didn’t go shopping all that much because the shops came to the door you know, the milkman came with a horse and a milk float, and you went out with a bowl, and he measured so many gills, a gill being half a pint in this part of the world, not a quarter, into your bowl and then you carried it into your house, and you put it in the sink and you draped some muslin over the top of it and you kept it moist to try and stop it going sour, a pretty difficult thing to do in summer time.  The groceries and greengroceries came to the door you know, Crabtree’s cart - a whole shop on a cart with a horse pulling it.  While my mother would stand there buying vegetables or whatever, the horse would be eating the privet hedge round the front garden, and everybody would be out chatting and it all seemed very leisurely, and as a child it was all quite exciting and there were, you know, lots of things to do, and I remember we spent a lot of time outdoors and we roamed far and wide, and our parents didn’t seem to bother.We used to play up in Bell Hole, you know, Broad Head Clough as the Ordnance Survey call it today, but that was a couple of miles from where we lived, and at you know, six and seven and eight years old we were there building dens and playing on the rocks and in the old quarries; quite dangerous places I suppose, and at other times we’d be up at Scout Road in Mytholmroyd at the bottom of Scout Road rocks there, with rocks falling off the cliffs from time to time.  That was before the authority had turned it into a dump and started burying asbestos there.  I remember – it’s partly hearsay I suppose – at the age of three being found on my tricycle in the middle of Mytholmroyd and my parents had no idea where I was, and it didn’t seem to be a problem.  Everybody knew everybody which had a good side and it had a difficult side when I was about fourteen and I’d started trying to smoke cigarettes.  My father knew about it almost before I’d got down the first one [laughing].  Everybody knew everybody and they were all in contact, so it was a great life.  The biggest drawback for me was my illness.  I suffered from chronic asthma, and so I used to spend about three months of every year in bed, which of course there didn’t seem to be anything they could do for asthma much in those days.  There were no inhalers.  If it got really bad I had to take a drug called ephedrine, which more or less pole-axed me and I had to be in bed, and I’d be there for weeks, and anything I caught, and of course there were loads of childish ailments then – chickenpox, measles, mumps and you know, the dreaded scarlet fever.  If you got scarlet fever you had to be taken away and all your toys had to be burnt because it might – and of course there were things like smallpox and polio around then, and several of my friends at school caught things like that. I lost a few friends as well from accidents that happened.  All this playing out was a jolly good thing and it brought a great sense of freedom, but it did lead to quite serious injuries in some cases and two of my friends got killed in accidents whilst I was a young child, so

    TW:What kind of accidents?

    DF:Well….one sat on the pillion of a motorbike that a friend of his had got.  An older boy got a motorbike and so the sixteen year old got the motorbike, the thirteen year old’s on the pillion and the sixteen year old set off rather abruptly doing a wheelie you know, the front wheel in the air and my friend fell off the pillion into the road.  Everybody laughed like a drain, thinking this was very amusing.  He got up and said ‘fine, fine, nothing wrong with me’, took about six paces and died, just dropped dead, cerebral haemorrhage.  The other one unfortunately got chopped in two on the railway lines.  The Mytholmroyd of the 1940’s you know, when I was a little bit older, was full of children.  Less than half of them indigenous children, the rest of them evacuees.  We had two evacuees in our family, and these evacuees were very very streetwise kids.  They were from the East End of London or in our case from Brighton, but Brighton must have been a different world to Mytholmroyd.  It was an eye-opener really meeting these.  We had a girl who was a year or two older than me and she did a great deal for my education in many respects.  It was an interesting time, because there were all these kids and of course half the fathers were away and so there wasn’t as much parental control as there might have been, there tended to be groupings of kids – gangs – not street gangs in the sense you’d think about today, but there were gangs.  There was a Caldene gang which, you know, we were members of and we had our base in a tree house about twenty-five foot up in a big sycamore tree, and up there we had a stock of clay that had been beaten into little cubes and dried in the sun, about an inch cube and you could throw them at people, and if they landed they hurt, and, you know, that was our ammunition.  Our last line of retreat was up the tree and got all this ammunition.  The nearest gang to us was the Nest Estate gang – the Nesters – and between the two was the railway line.  We used to run across the railway lines all the time, but that was not easy because there were four tracks in those days and the two tracks in the centre were for fast moving trains which at that time were mostly troop trains, and the two side tracks were known as the loop lines, and they didn’t go through the railway stations because there were only two tracks going through the railway station.  The loop line between Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd was often full of a queue of about five goods trains carrying coal and they had to wait for the express trains to go through the stations, so one express train would go through and then they’d let a couple of goods trains go through and then it would be all halt again, so quite often if you went across the railways tracks you had to climb underneath the wheels of the goods trains to get to the fast tracks where you’d have a good look and then run across.  This lad was walking between the wheels of a goods train when it set off, and, you know, the trucks were coupled together with just links of chain, and when the engine set off, the old steam engines, they took the strain of the train and then the wheels would skid on the lines [imitated sound of skidding wheels] and the wheels would be spinning, and all the trucks would shuttle backwards and forwards making crashing noises, so this lad wasn’t run over, I mean he was mashed because he was there when the trucks shuttled backwards and forwards.  He didn’t stand a chance.  We gazed on with great curiosity.   It didn’t seem to register when you were a child.  Children are – you know it’s quite pertinent of certain cases that are in the news at the moment.  Children just don’t seem to have that sense of you know, this was a living, breathing, kicking, swearing little child and all of a sudden it’s all gone, so it’s quite worrying really to look back on attitudes to that kind of thing.  One or two people got shot with air rifles and got minor injuries, two of my friends lost an eye; one through an air rifle, another had pinched some blank ammunition from the Home Guard and we thought it was great fun to put it on the ground and hit it with a hammer and it made a rather spectacular bang, but in this case a piece of metal flew off and blinded him in one eye.  There was much, much more of that kind of thing than there is now and kids really are molly-coddled and get taken everywhere in cars, and parents worry about what might happen to them, and so….somewhere between the two might be the best pitch.But going back to the illness, I don’t suffer from asthma today so far as I know and kind of grew out of it.  I think the last attack I had was when I was in my thirties when it gradually tailed off through my twenties.  It was still a bit of a bug-bear when I was at university and I had to come home every November, I just couldn’t live through Novembers without going to bed, and I attribute it to atmospheric pollution.  I mean people talk about atmospheric pollution now but you ain’t seen nothing.  The Calder Valley in the 1940’s and the 1950’s, the amount of soot in the atmosphere was incredible, I mean we took it for granted because it was there, but looking back on it, it was just black.  Traditionally one always slept with the bedroom window partly open and everybody had net curtains, and after about a week, putting up new net curtains there was a black square where there was an open window.  We used to put a handkerchief over our nose and mouth going to school, I mean I went to Burnley Road School in Mytholmroyd initially, but then at eleven I went to Hebden Bridge Grammar School; I passed my eleven plus much to everyone’s astonishment and went to the grammar school.  I used to go on a bicycle four times a day – go in the morning, come home for lunch, back again.  One trip between Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd and the handkerchief over your nose and mouth was absolutely black, and that obviously wasn’t doing anybody any good at all, this load of soot.  In winter time if there was a period of a few days when there was no wind and clear skies, temperature inversion, the soot couldn’t escape from the valley and so the soot was pinned below the temperature inversion in the valley, and you had a black roof on the valley.  Without any exaggeration it was as black at midday as it was at midnight, and of course in the war there were no street lights, no lights at all, no light from any houses and it was black – twenty-four hours – black until there was a wind to start dispersing it, and we had a lot of cold winters in the 1940’s so a lot of temperature inversions.  Even the snow was black when it had been lying for a day or two, and if you had a long winter, and the winters of ’40, ’41, ’42, ’45, ’47, ’49, ’51, they were all long, cold winters.  ’47 was the one that people talk about but the others weren’t far short.  You could tell how many times it had snowed because you’d got snow with a layer of soot on top of it and then snow again with a layer of soot on top of it, you could actually count the snow fall, which in some cases were many. ’47 was remarkable for the snow fall, I mean the war had just finished but there was no machinery to clear the snow and there was no manpower to clear the snow, and the main road through the centre of Hebden Bridge was just compacted snow which got ridged and frozen till it was like a ploughed field, but there was virtually no traffic.  Halifax Corporation was still attempting to run its buses, but with great difficulty and very hit and miss.  It was pretty difficult walking about, people were falling about all over the place and

    TW:How long did that last for?

    DF:Well it snowed in early January and then there was a slight warmer period, and then it started to snow with a vengeance, and it carried on snowing nearly every day until about the middle of March, and it didn’t melt till April, and it was fierce.  It was wonderful, I mean I thought it was marvellous.  I had a fantastic sledge that my Uncle Albert had made for me; he was a bit of a handyman, and it was about four feet long by two feet wide, and it was really a platform of timber with some bent gas pipe – two pieces of bent gas pipe underneath to make the runners, and it would really go, and a friend of mine, Kit Whiteoak whose father was the Whiteoaks Chemists in Mytholmroyd, he had a pony, and we put the harness on the pony and some long reins, put a tea chest on the sledge, and he’d stand at the front with the reins and I’d stand at the back with the tea chest, and we’d be off down the street doing everybody’s shopping; we’d got our own means of transport, and the snow in Mytholmroyd was only a foot or two deep, but we used to get – I should be careful what one says – but I suppose it’s long enough ago – we used to go to Blackshaw Head to get our black market butter.  There was a farm on Badger Lane and we had an arrangement, so we used to go up to Blackshaw Head to get black market butter because everything at that time was rationed and I think you had about two ounces of butter a week or something and you had to live on that, and so most people could get most things.  Sugar was always a problem but butter you could get in Blackshaw Head.  There were cows in Blackshaw Head and there was green top milk as we came to call it eventually with cream on top.  We used to sit at home on Sunday evenings and make our own butter, listening to ITMA, and Ann Ziegler and Webster Booth and Richard Tauber on the Sunday evening wireless with a large glass full of cream that we’d taken off the top of the milk, shaking it until your arms ached and then you passed it to the next member of the family, and it would just take about the length of an ITMA programme before you could see this blob of butter in the middle of what sort of was the whey, you know, the bit that’s left, but Blackshaw Head…we walked of course.  Walking on Badger Lane, the snow was so hard that you walked on it without leaving a footprint, and when you came to a telephone pole, some of them stuck out just about enough to make a little stool to sit on, so there would be….fifteen feet of snow.  Some had disappeared completely and the wires went in to the snow and when you got to the farmhouse, it was recognisable by a hole in the snow and steps cut in the snow because the snow was at roof level and you went down this tunnel to the back door of the farmhouse, you know, that was amazing, and that was due to the pile-up of snow in ’47.  In ’41 there was a deposit of that amount of snow overnight.  It was known as the Great Lancashire Snow Storm because Lancashire got it worse, but it came on a west wind and so we got a lot of it.  I remember going up Pecket Well when they were trying to dig it out and it was up to the rooftops of the houses in Pecket Well.  That block of red brick houses just as you are going into Pecket Well where it had come off the moors, and it had just drifted up to the rooftops of the houses.  Even down in Mytholmroyd, 1941, I was eight years old, the only way I could see out over the depth of snow was if my parents lifted me up on to the window bottom so that I could press my nose against the glass at the top of the window, and look out over the snow drift that was up to the top of the window.  We had got a privet hedge all round our front garden and it was just covered – everything was covered in about four or five feet of snow, and you know, I’ve never see anything like it since, at least not in this country, so those were the winters, and pretty exciting times playing out, but the asthma just kept me back from most of it.  My mother in particular was terrified that if it was cold I would catch things.

    TW:Do you think the asthma started to go because you moved out of the area, or because it started to get a bit cleaner?

    DF:Well I didn’t move out of the area, I mean I’ve lived here all of my life, and I never went anywhere on holiday until I went to university, but even when I was at university I was back here at weekends and in the holidays and so on.  I think it’s due to…you know, the Clean Air Act actually.  1952, the Clean Air Act after the big London smog didn’t have that much impact because it was discretionary.  Local Authorities were permitted to declare smoke control areas, but in the north a lot of them didn’t, especially the ones that had miners as voters – they couldn’t, but then, ’66 I think it was, the second Clean Air Act made it compulsory and the atmosphere really did begin to improve.  We were troubled by a lot of local smoke and the cure for that of course was unemployment and depression and the collapse of the local economy, anyway we’ll come back to that, but the other half of the smoke that troubled us came from Manchester and Bolton and Wigan and Liverpool and so on, there was this load of soot blowing across the Pennines from the north-west, or if the wind blew the other way... you couldn’t get a sun tan for example here.  You could lie on a sunny day all day and go pink, but you wouldn’t get a tan, you wouldn’t go brown afterwards which was a source of great disappointment to my sister.  You just could not get a tan here because the ultra-violet was filtered out long before it reached ground level, but…childhood diseases were a lot more serious than they are now; there were no antibiotics for a start, so you just had to build up a natural immunity to these things, and when I was ten I had a particularly bad asthma attack and it shows you something about the local doctors at that time.  They were all kind of one-man practices and they worked…when there was an epidemic on, they were working like twenty-four-seven because there was nobody to cover for them, and they would visit the house even though they were so pressed.  You could go to their surgery; there were no appointments so you’d to devote about three hours to sitting in a room with lots of other people coughing and spluttering, it wasn’t a good idea, or you could ring them up and they’d come to your house, but of course it would cost you; it was seven and sixpence or something like that, but in my case my mother thought it was worth it, but this particular night the doctor sat up all night with me and my mother and I remember being…well I was delirious you know and I kept going in and out of consciousness, and at one stage I woke up and I heard the doctor telling my mother that I wouldn’t make it till morning.  I still remember that. [voice breaking with sadness]…I remember being in bed and feeling scared.

    TW:I bet you were.  I bet you really were, but you seem to have come through it alright.

    DF:I also remember thinking, ‘I’ve not been right well,’ and then waking up and there were all these black shadows on the ceiling of the bedroom because I’d a fire in the bedroom; I’d been moved into a bedroom with a fireplace and, you know, that was the only form of heating in the house, and these black shadows, I thought they were all coming to get me, to carry me off, so it’s strange how these memories stick with you.  But the other side of the weather in the house, if I couldn’t go out, the snow storm came in to meet me as it were.  There was a little crack down the front door, and with an east wind and with snow falling, there’d be a snow drift about six inches deep in a line down the hallway, and it would stay there, it didn’t melt, and in the bathroom, I remember going to the toilet and I would stand facing the toilet and there was a small window and it didn’t fit too well at the bottom, and the snowflakes used to blow underneath the window and blow up, and make a snowdrift on the window bottom about six inches deep which didn’t melt, it stayed there, and there’d be ice on the inside of the window that you’d to scrape off with your fingernails if you wanted to see through the window, and if you ran a hot bath….you were in the middle of a fog, you couldn’t see across the room in winter time [laughing], so life was really very very different, and as I say all the evacuees were a bit of a shock to the system, a different life intruding into the Calder Valley.  Going away to university was a shock to the system to me as well, because apart from holidays with my parents I had never been out of the valley before, and it was quite astonishing to go away from home.

    TW:Where did you go?

    DF:Well I wasn’t a very successful student so I went to quite a few different places for short periods of time.  Initially I went to the University of Hull and after I’d been there three weeks they re-arranged my programme and made me take maths which is not one of the subjects I’d gone there to take, so at the end of the first year it was bye-bye Hull, then I went to Sheffield which was desperate for my asthma because the atmosphere in Sheffield you know, from the steel industry, was appalling.  It was full of sulphur, and sulphur was a real killer to me.  I used to catch the tram and then struggle up St Phillips Road to the university.  I did actually manage to stick it out for three years in Sheffield and got quite a good degree, and then I did a spell at Leeds University and then later in life a spell at Bradford University, so not very ambitious really, not very far from home.

    TW:You say it was an eye-opener.  How was it an eye-opener?

    DF:Well a lot of young people, mostly lads, living away from home for the first time and you know, it was very very different from being in a small enclosed village community, and I was very homesick at first, and I didn’t probably get as much out of university as a lot of kids do today because it was all rather frightening and worrying because of all the examinations, and of course my dad had to scrimp and scrape for the fees, and so it was particularly important that I was making use of it, and yeah, it was an anxious time in a way.   Later in life when I went back to do a second degree I really enjoyed it.  I enjoyed seminars and I enjoyed the kind of academic fencing, you know, trying to research obscure facts and bamboozle everybody else and all that, but it wasn’t like that the first time round, and there wasn’t the money for the sort of student activities that go on today, you know, all these……well goings-on and the booze flowing.  I think I had about two and sixpence a week left over after I’d paid all my essentials, so it wasn’t kind of the student life that one sees on the films.

    TW:Right.  So when you finished university then, did you go straight into work?

    DF:Yes I went into teaching straightaway.  I’d always intended to go into teaching and I was quite fortunate in a way that when I left university they were so short of science teachers that if you’d got a good honours degree in science and you were going teaching, you didn’t have to do National Service, and although people who did National Service came out afterwards and said what a great time, I’m not quite sure I believe them because I had friends who were having it at the time, and it’s this kind of rationalisation I think.  If you’ve had to go through it for two years and you come out of it, you say to everybody else with bravado, you know, ‘oh we had a fantastic time and we did this and we did that’ but it wasn’t always so good. I mean some of my friends were in swamps in Malaysia with leeches crawling through their boot-holes, and others were in Kenya attempting to deal with the Mao Mao so it didn’t sound all that much fun really and…you know they all survived it, and they’ve got lots of tales to tell and…..I think attitudes to Empire were interesting.  I’d been brought up as a little child through the Second World War, I’d got the map on the wall with all the little flags pinned in; I knew exactly where our armies were.  I’d got four relatives who were in the armed forces in different parts of the world and I used to write letters to them, and I used to get these squiddly tiny photographs and letters back, you’d to get a magnifying glass to read them, with bits crossed out that the censor didn’t like, and so you know, at quite a young age I was very interested in following the conflict and so on, and then of course the map had big blobs of pink all over it, you know, my father and my grandfather would stick their chests out and say ‘that’s the British Empire’ and my grandfather had been in the First World War and he had lots of tales to tell, and so you grew up as a sort of patriot or nationalist, or whatever it would be called today, and of course when I went off to university there were all these insurrections going on, I think they called them at the time, and after the Second World War when the mother of the Empire was on her knees if not her back, and the family were growing up and the colonies, as we called them then, were like teenagers rebelling against the family strictures and it seemed as if everybody in the world hated us and everybody wanted us to go away and we’d made a real bad fist of it and we were the evil ones and you know, you kind of felt ashamed.  There was this pressure on you to feel guilty about the Empire.  I think it still persists today, there’s a lot of guilt feeling and soul-searching and so on about it.  It’s a matter of how far you can take that, and in the last fifteen years or so I’ve done quite a lot of world-wide travelling and I’ve been to many of the places that were colonies and then became part of the Commonwealth and some still are and so on, and that’s been an eye-opener to me.  Wherever I’ve gone I’ve found that there is a relationship – to me it is very much like a relationship in a family, you know – the colonies, we had this kind of condescending attitude that these primitive people needed our assistance and we would help them into the real world, at the same time of course obtaining some of their resources and all the rest of it, but it was in a sense like a family and that’s the way that it’s been looked at, and then you have this rebellion when the teenagers are growing up and throwing rocks about and wanting to escape and so on, but now they’re all growing up and if you go to somewhere like India or Pakistan, Malaysia, there is definitely a connection you know, there’s a similar sort of legal basis...

    TW:Is that connection to do with ordinary people or is it to do with people in power or the Government, that sort of thing?

    DF:I’ll not mix with people in power and the Government when I go to these places.  I’ve travelled a lot in the last fifteen years or so with a cousin of mine and we just set off like a couple of hobos – boots and rucksack – we’re just like sort of hippies cruising, but we are somewhat older hippies with a credit card and so…..sometimes we sleep in a hedge bottom or on a park bench and we just…..well we buy an air ticket to a place A and then we’ve got an air ticket in our pocket to come back from place B, and we make our way as best we can from A to B and that’s the fun, and we’ve gone away sometimes up to a couple of months, and we’ve just…..been like a couple of tramps really

    TW:It sounds great

    DF:Absolutely fantastic.  I mean students these days go off on gap years, well I’ve done my gap year in bits and I’ve had it when I’ve been a bit older, and I’ve appreciated it a lot more, it’s been absolutely fantastic.  Wonderful journeys – South America, Central America, Central Asia, you know, one year we took a ticket to Tashkent and a return ticket from Islamabad.  Now how do you get from Tashkent to Islamabad?  Well we went on a very circuitous route that took us through Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, the Xinjiang Provinces of China which are not China at all, they’re really…it’s this Tibet situation.  We’re not here to go into the politics, but it’s difficult politics there, it’s a political explosion waiting to happen, and then over the Karakoram Highway into the North West Frontier of Pakistan, and the people everywhere welcome you, and when you get into former British territories, it’s surprising, most people can speak English and you can sit down and you can have some quite in-depth conversations with them, and it’s really quite – I mean the thing that was said to me in India time and time again, ‘you know what you the Brits did wrong in India’ you know, and I’m thinking ‘oh heck, here it comes’ – ‘you left about fifty years too soon.  We weren’t quite ready for it’.  I’ve been quite astonished, I mean there’ll be a lot of people out there who’ll be saying ‘oh he’s just an old-fashioned old man who’s still got these colonial old attitudes’ but not true, not true.  I have a lot of respect for these people who live in other parts of the world, and they’re doing just fine, but a lot of them thank us for the things that we gave them.  They recognise the things that we took from them, but they also thank us and there’s a sort of position being reached.  I find it interesting.

    TW:I’m trying to think about the work that you did then.  When you started working, you  said that you went in to teaching.


    TW:What did you teach and where was it, and how did that progress?

    DF:Well I taught for a year or two in Bingley, not far away.  I’ve always been round this part of the world, for some strange reason I’ve had this mad passionate love affair going with this part of the world and felt very much, you know, ‘these are my roots, I want to do things here’ and from the age of fourteen I was out on the hills planting trees.  I used to go out at night digging up little saplings that were growing in impossible places where they couldn’t survive and then go and plant them where I thought I would like to see a tree, even if it were somebody else’s land.  A lot of those trees are there today and they’re quite big, and I nod at them and they nod at me as we go by, and I just automatically wanted to come back here so I came back to work at Calder High School in 1960, and I scrimped and saved and bought a piece of land for the absolutely enormous figure of £125 and the following year I bought a pickaxe and a wheelbarrow and I started digging a driveway, and over the next two years I semi built my own house.  I had people in to do the jobs I couldn’t do myself and I did what I could do myself, and during that time I was working at Calder High School, and I was teaching mainly Biology.  I have always had a feeling for the environment, a connection with it, and I took a first degree in Biology and Geography which was as near as you could get to an Environmental Degree at that time, and I taught Biology at Calder High School. I also got talked into teaching General Studies, which was a sort of new idea that you had got to give people a bit of a wider curriculum and my General Studies became Environmental Studies, and in 1965 the Environment Studies class became Calder Civic Trust on the back of a particular issue.  1965, The Central Electricity Generating Board as it then was, you know, one of the big nationalised dinosaurs, wanted to erect 200 two-foot high pylons across the skyline above Hardcastle Crags you know, pretty reminiscent of the lady that now wants to put a turbine up somewhere there, and there was an outcry, even though it was 1965 and people weren’t all that environmentally conscious.  There was a Committee for the Protection of Hardcastle Crags which had existed since the 1930’s when Halifax first tried to flood the crags and turn it into a reservoir, and that committee got involved and I mean it was a ready-made case to get the students at Calder High School involved, which we did, and the kids really got into this and we started preparing evidence and so on. A public inquiry was held in Keighley and the school kids had put together a proof of evidence and I went to the then Headmaster, a chap called John Muschap, and said ‘look I’d like to take these kids to the public inquiry in Keighley and I’d like the group to be represented, and some of the sixth-form kids to actually present the proof of evidence’ – he turned me down.  


    DF:Yes.  ‘Children getting involved in controversial political issues, blah blah blah’ one thing and another.  I mean one shouldn’t speak ill of the dead and so on, and I’ll not say too much about John Muschap, but I thought it was appalling you know, this wasn’t what teaching was about.  Anyway some of the sixth formers went under their own volition.  I couldn’t go because I had to be at work, but a girl called Susan Crabtree from Heptonstall gave evidence at the inquiry.  She was in that period, sort of between A Levels, I think it was about June time of the year, so at that time it would have been called playing truant, because nowadays they seem to be able to come and go as they feel like it, but that time you know, you were at the school between nine and four, you’d be there even if you’d got nothing much to do because the exams had finished.  However some of the sixth form went over to Keighley, she was chosen to be the spokesperson for the group, and of course it attracted a lot of attention.  First thing I knew about it when there was a photograph of Susan in the ‘Daily Express’.  She was a very attractive girl and we’re talking 1960’s, we’re talking short skirts and long hair, long blonde hair, short skirts, and there’s a picture of Susan sitting on top of a dry stone wall, the ‘Daily Express’ photographer presumably crouching in the ditch down there somewhere, so it was a pretty leggy sort of photograph, a very attractive photograph, nothing wrong with it, and the headline was ‘School Girl Fights Giants On Moors’, well you can imagine what the Headmaster did when he got hold of that!  He went apoplectic…but, anyway, we survived. Eventually I did leave Calder High School for those sort of reasons.  I left school-teaching because of the way school-teaching was going and the way that you weren’t allowed to teach in the way you wanted to teach and you weren’t allowed to maintain discipline.  If you couldn’t maintain discipline in your class, I mean….I had discipline; I didn’t go around beating people up but I had discipline, and actually I had a pretty good time.  I really enjoyed it, I had a good relationship with the kids, but after ten years I think possibly the age gap was getting a bit too much and the new educational bureaucracies and all the sort of PC-ness was beginning to come in and it was driving me crackers, so that was when I opted out, went to do a second degree and then went in to university teaching where I set up a Department of Environmental Study at what today is the Manchester Metropolitan University, it was Manchester Polytechnic at that time, and I had a lot of fun there, I mean so that was my career until the universities started getting very bureaucratic and I’d built up quite a big consultancy in the department, and I’d got a department that was kind of made up mainly of people who were mainly fifty-fifty; there were fifty per cent working on consultancy, fifty per cent teaching students and the university was paying thirteen point five full time equivalent salaries but I’d got thirty staff, and I was topping it up with the consultancy money and in effect running a business – not making any personal profit, but again I thought that was a jolly good way for higher education to go you know, people who were doing the real job were actually talking to the students and we’d got real life case studies and all the rest of it, but the university authorities found it a bit difficult. They kept saying ‘what do we do with this money?  It’s not coming in from the Government, it’s this that and the other’ – I think they’re probably a lot bit better at it in universities today than they were then but after a bit I said ‘look,  let’s come to an agreement.  You take the department, I’ll take the consultancy’ and in 1988 I sort of went freelance as a one-man band, and that’s when I went travelling from 1988 onwards, and I got….rather a lot of interesting jobs working for all sorts of people from Manchester Airport to the National Civic Trust to the EU and I worked in lots of parts of Europe and North America and you know, that was a totally different part of my life after 1988.

    TW:In the e-mail that you sent me, you mentioned working as a postman and a coalman and a bus conductor and in Barker’s.  Was that all in the fifties then?

    DF:Yes, these were all short-term jobs as a student, you know, I worked as a postman for nine years on the Cragg Vale run. It was nineteen miles on foot.  There was only one delivery a day I’m glad to say [laughing] and it didn’t matter what the weather was.  I used to walk from Mytholmroyd Post Office up Cragg Vale with a bag full of mail delivering to all the houses till I got to what was then Cragg Vale Post Office which is just at the top of Church Bank – or was at the top of Church Bank, along with the Co-operative Store and the other corner store and all the various things that no longer exist in Cragg Vale, and there I would pick up another bag, and I would walk then to the top of Cragg, to Sykesgate Bottom Farm and on the Sowerby Old Road, going off the road on both sides to all the different farms and I know the first time I did it, I got all the letters in the wrong farms because once I’d got one wrong, I thought the next batch of letters would be for the next farm and everybody had to go back one to pick up their mail, and it created quite a bit of confusion.  That was one day – another day I got lost in the snow going across Nab End Moor .  You went along Sowerby Old Road to the end to Swot and Swillington and…another farm, can’t remember what the farm was called, the people who lived there were called Ryder and then you cut off across Nab End Moor and it was just a small but fairly trackless piece of moor and in the snow, driving snow and mist I got completely lost, I had no idea where I was until I came out of the mist onto a road and there was a farm there and I knocked on the door to see if I could find out which farm it was you know, ‘is this Swot Farm?’  ‘nay lad, this isn’t Swot Farm, it’s so-and-so’ I said ‘where is so-and-so?’ he said ‘what do you want to go there for?  That’s on t’Mytholmroyd round.’  I said ‘I am the Mytholmroyd postman’ – ‘ay well thou art in Sowerby now’ [laughing]….I abandoned it at that point.  On another occasion I’m looking for a farm on the Sowerby Old Road and it was called Half Acre – the Half Acre Farm - it’s still there, it’s got a gateway now with it written on the gate, and at the time I thought ‘I can’t find that’ – I stopped this chap, a farmer on the road. ‘Half Acre’ he said ‘Half Acre’ he says ‘I don’t know where that is.  Half Acre….oh’ he says ‘I know – thah means Toe Fac,  Little cameos from the past – so that was the postman, but I enjoyed that.  I didn’t enjoy the coal wagon very much.

    TW:Was that your father’s business?

    DF:That was my father’s, yes.  Coal bags – coal bags, they were made of sort of very thick sort of hessian material which always seemed to be wet except in the winter when it was frozen, so in my case I’m not being used to it and all my finger ends were split and bleeding from all these wretched frozen and wet bags, and a hundredweight on your back, up and down these staircases in Hebden Bridge, up and down these little ginnels and alleys and then tipping it in to a coal grate and never being sure whether it was the right grate or not because double-decker houses, there’s two grates – which one’s the top house and which one’s the bottom house and if you get it in the wrong one, you’ve got a real problem – you’ve got five bags of coal, five hundredweights of coal in the wrong cellar and even if the householder will let you, you’ve still got to go in there and get it out without making a mess, and you know, it happened from time to time, but even that was better than Barker’s tin shop.  We were making battery cages for hens out of brass metal and you stood there at a machine all day and you’d get hold of a piece of metal on the left which had been cut into a certain size and shape, and you’d put it in this press, pull a lever, press it into a certain shape and put it on the pile there and then the next person…it’s going down this line and it’s been cut and shaped, cut and shaped and folded and put together and something welded on to it and so on, but they’d got really sharp edges had these pieces of metal when they’d been cut and they were sort of oily, they were covered in some sort of oily stuff and so you were black with oil and they were slippery, and you couldn’t avoid getting lots and lots of cuts on you, and it was just such a soul-destroying and boring, sort of standing there you know like for eight hours, and I can’t remember the individual pay at all, I know at least when I started being a post deliverer at Christmas time I got one and tuppence an hour for that which is – what’s one and tuppence now – about seven pence, something like that, six and a half pence in today’s money or something like that.  I used to put it all in a Post Office savings bank and thats where my hundred and twenty five pounds [£125] came from that I bought the piece of land with eventually to build the house with, so those were bits and bats – oh the bus conductor, that was the best of the lot, the bus conductor in Bournemouth on the trolleys, the electric trolley buses in Bournemouth.  I could spend the rest of the day talking about tales of trolley buses in Bournemouth.  It was busy; they had a door at the front and a door at the back, and the door at the back was open like buses used to be, and folk leapt on at the back and some went upstairs, some went downstairs and then there was a door at the front for people to get off, because Bournemouth was so busy with lots of holiday makers and the buses stopped at every street corner, but you’d to be really quick on your feet because a lot of people would just dash straight upstairs and then they’d look in the mirror and when they saw you coming upstairs for the fares they’d go down the front stairs and you’d end up chasing people round the bus in order to get their fares!  I went down there with a friend as well and on one occasion he missed his bus; he got off to stretch his legs at the bus stop and it went without him! [laughing].  We used to do a double shift.  We used to work about eighty-five hours a week and we got about twelve pounds a week for doing that at that time.

    TW:Very good.

    DF:And I lived at my aunty’s so I didn’t have to pay out much for digs.

    TW:Well the Civic Trust then.  I mean you helped basically start that didn’t you?

    DF:Well that started as I said from a group of sixth formers in the main from Calder High School and some of their parents

    TW:And how did that develop then?

    DF:Well…..after this business about the pylons and so on I thought ‘well we’d better register this as a sort of independent group’ so we formed a Civic Trust, an official Civic Trust registered with the National Civic Trust in London, and some of the parents came in to join the committee.  The committee was about sort of fifty per cent of people like myself and parents and so on and fifty per cent students from Calder High School, and we decided, you know, what we think should happen.  The Calder Valley was in a terrible state at that time.  Immediately after the war the mills were all working, and chaps came home from the war and there was a lot of industry going on, a lot of textile work going on and that’s the Hebden Bridge you know.  St George’s Square at tea-time just resounded to the sound of clogs on cobbles as they were all coming out of the mills and going to buy their Halifax Couriers and things like that, and within the space of ten years it died, it was as quick as that.  Between 1955 and 1965 thirty-three textile factories in Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd just closed permanently, closed and many of them were just abandoned and the jobs just went, but in the 1950’s there was plenty of work overall in England, I mean this was when we started to encourage people to come from other parts of the then Commonwealth to work in England because we were short of labour, so the people of Hebden Bridge are pretty enterprising and always have been, and Tebbit would have been proud of them because they got on their bikes and they went off to find work. [laughing]  They went to Basingstoke to make ball bearers and the motor industry you know was mainly in the Midlands and the south of England and people just picked up their things and they went.  Hebden Bridge has always had a tradition of owner-occupation for houses and all the people just left and abandoned their house.  There were stacks and stacks of houses in Hebden Bridge empty.  You could buy quite a nice little place for fifty quid; somebody did get one just for a penny, just as something to change you know, and there are quite a few people, if they are still around and they would admit it, got them for less than that, they just moved in, and so in the late fifties/early sixties it was a ghost town and the population was falling.  They kept having to change the sign at the entrance to Hebden Royd.   There was a sign at Brearley and another sign just outside Hebden Bridge on the road to Todmorden saying you know ‘there are 14,792’ or whatever it might be ‘people ahead – please take care’ but the number had to keep getting changed because the population fell dramatically.  If you go back to…..even something like 1971, the census, and plot the population of Hebden Bridge it looks like a retirement place because there’s not many children, there’s a big gap in the middle and then there’s a great bulge of elderly people, the ones that didn’t move, and it’s a lopsided bulge because there were a lot more elderly ladies than there were men, and…I’ve actually got all these, I’ve plotted all these, and the place was just dying on its feet, and what do you do about it?  Well we started thinking ‘it’s not surprising it’s dying on its feet really, it’s a dump’.  It’s black, it’s just covered in soot everywhere, there are no silver birch trees, they are all black birch trees and black sycamore trees and they’re all stunted trees anyway and dying back at the tips because of the pollution in the atmosphere, there are ruined buildings’ you know, there was a sort of huge building at Brearley that had been on fire and it looked an absolute eyesore, there was another one at Hawksclough that was an absolute eyesore, there were ruined buildings round Hebden Bridge Station, there was a big ruined mill on Bridge Gate in Hebden Bridge where there’s now the car park and you know, the mills at Bridge Lanes caught fire…..there is a very strong correlation between economic depression and fires in mills.  There are two different explanations to this; one is if a mill’s abandoned, ne’er do wells break in to it – meths drinkers, and meths drinkers who are also smokers have a bad habit of burning the building down if not themselves and so on.  That’s one explanation; there is another that we won’t go into, and…but it did happen and the place looked like a war zone, and into the middle of all this, the old Hebden Royd Urban District Council – ‘what do we do?’ so knock, knock, knock, there’s a man knocking on the door, you know, a…consultant who said ‘if you like, I can do you a Town Centre Redevelopment Plan to pull this town out of its’…you know, everybody was doing it.  Burnley knocked its centre down, Bradford knocked its centre down, you know, why shouldn’t Hebden Bridge – let’s get – they called him Mr Risden, Mr Risden.  I don’t know, round about 1965, welcomed into the Hebden Royd Urban District Council, comes up with a redevelopment plan, persuades the council that it has to be kept a very very close secret because it could affect property values and this that and the other, and so it’s a secret development plan, and so everybody with any property in the town were very very anxious, and it’s about the town centre, it’s about housing in the town, it’s about the whole town, and then of course the demolition starts you know to make way for the plan.  You don’t know what the plan is, but they’re beginning to re-shape the town before your very eyes, and the first campaign that we got involved in was about 1965 – no I think I got involved in that as an individual before we’d actually got the Trust, and that was Buttress Brink.  At the bottom of the Buttress there used to be these amazing properties, absolutely amazing.  They were dreadful – dreadfully amazing.  People were living in terribly squalid conditions and they certainly were the slums that they were classed as, but in those days local authorities had the power to clear slums and to give no compensation whatsoever to the people living in them.  They had to compensate for the value of the land, the cleared land at the end if they wanted to purchase it, but if they didn’t want to purchase they wouldn’t even do that, and so they just knocked these down.  They were tenements really.  Each occupier had two or three rooms, there was one cold tap with a big stone sink, the toilets were all in a block elsewhere and they were about four to six storeys high, and opposite where the old bridge is now, where there is a little footpath and a seat, that little footpath marks a tunnel which went through the ground floor of that building and it came out at the back of the building in a sort of pit between six storey buildings and that very steep hillside, and each tenement had a bridge to the hillside which was its back yard and these bridges were staggered slightly so that a little bit of light percolated down to the bottom, and there was a stinky, a real stinky gas lamp that leaked and so the pit was full of coal gas, and it really smelt, and you’d to go through the tunnel and zig-zag up the hillside on a bit of a muddy footpath and across the appropriate bridge to get into one of these tenements, I mean they were awful and they should not have been inhabited, but knocking them down was terrible because if they were there today and you know, three or four of the old dwellings made into a beautiful pad in the middle of town, I mean they were remarkable, they’d be worth a fortune.  I tried at one stage to work out the value in today’s money of everything that got knocked down in Hebden Bridge and, well I just ran out of notes, I mean it’s a big figure.  The same thing happened at Bridge Lanes - two hundred and fifty houses on that hillside between Bridge Lanes and Heptonstall Road and Back High Street which is still there – two hundred and fifty houses with steps and ginnels and tunnels and so on.  They were awful to live in I imagine, not as awful as The Buttress.  The ‘Boy, Girl and a Bike’ film shows a bit of what it was like to live there because that’s where the house was that they were using to film, so Mr Risden as you know - ‘these are slums’ you know, the Council has the power [sound of houses falling] then you compulsorily buy the land which the Council did.  They paid people six pounds, eight pounds.  That’s what you got for your house and you were out, and then Mr Risden said ‘And I’ll design you some nice new modern..’ well…they never got built because the land was so steep and so unstable, and it was just a hillside full of rubble when they’d knocked the houses down and it stood like that for years and years and years – that’s the entrance to Hebden Bridge – rubble, and Mr Risden kept putting in plans, putting in plans, and at that time small local authorities like Hebden Royd had to apply to the Government for permission to spend money, I mean it’s not that much post-war really you see so there were building standards and there was a sum of money attached to each aspect of the building – so much for the foundations and this that and the other.  Hebden Royd could get an extra allowance for foundations because of the topography, but they could never get anywhere near the cost yardsticks as they called them, but Mr Risden kept on putting schemes in, putting schemes in and of course he put his feed bill on the paper at the same time, and….so Bridge Lanes just languished as rubble.  The same happened on Garden Street, you know, the infamous Garden Street, perhaps I shouldn’t talk about Garden Street, but all those houses there were pulled down, there were about sixty-odd houses there, double-decker houses, some quite fine houses with fine frontages to Commercial Street and so on, and there was a chap on there – McArdle, who refused to let them pull his house down - sat on the roof and threw slates at them and eventually he pulled it down himself as a demonstration.  I think he was called McArdle, I hope I’m not maligning anybody else, and you know, again it was just rubble and it became a temporary car park and Mr Risden came up.  The plan on Garden Street was three six storey flat-roofed blocks of flats with balconies to get, you know, so you had to walk past everybody else’s window to get to your front door, you know, they were really awful things.  By this time, the Civic Trust was beginning to get some influence because we started…by saying ‘well what are we going to do with this place?’ and we worked up a strategy, and remember this is a bunch of school kids and mums and dads who were not professional people.  In those days there were not many professional – who I would not call professional if that means anything – people living in the area.  The strategy had four parts to it.  Clean the place up.  You know, if you’re going for a new job, you put your best suit on if you’re going for an interview.  Well the town needed a sort of cleaning up and we started a programme of building and cleaning,  we planted trees; we planted ten thousand trees in the first two years that you made reference to….I mean kids keep coming to me and saying ‘do you remember planting those trees?’   They used to bring their kids with them, they now bring their grand-kids with them and so on, and the wood that we put on the opposite hillside to Calder High School you know, is still there, and we planted trees all over the place.  We cleared footpaths, we cleaned buildings, we did deals with the owners of buildings.  Stage One – clean it up.  Stage Two – promote it, you know, it’s no good doing all this work and hiding your light under a bushel.  Get out there and tell people about it so we had all sorts of silly festivals and you know, Hebden Bridge Swiss Week, and the Awake Weekend, I mean I have stories galore about the Awake Weekend – the fabulous weekend we had in Hebden Bridge with everything from sort of contemporary art, the John Bull Puncture Repair Kit rolling about on the floor, Al Beech – big, big dummy sticking out of his jumper, rolling about on the floor pretending to be a spaceman eating artificial food by squeezing toothpaste out of tubes  and rolling about on the floor to demonstrate how weightless he was, and everything from that to a full four hour unexpurgated version of King Lear in a marquee on Calder Holmes which was packed – it was a terrific weekend, oh and The People Show at the Working Men’s Club in Hebden Bridge, they were a sort of revolutionary performing group that usually performed to students and so on, and every venue inHebden Bridge had an event on that Saturday night provided it was free and open to the general public, and The People Show were at the Working Men’s Club and Roland Miller ran The People Show, and Roland Miller was on stage with a rather pretty young lady who inevitably for those days, you know this is the sixties and for Avant Garde art had got down to little more than her frillies, and the Working Men’s Club people were standing that alright, but then Roland Miller made the mistake of uttering the ‘f’ word in public, in Hebden Bridge Working Men’s Club, on a Saturday night, which was ladies’ night.  The manager came down to the stage and he wagged the finger– ‘no more language like that Mr Miller – ladies’ night’.  But he carried on as before and everybody there roared with laughter because the people who were not members of the club thought that was part of the show [laughing].  The manager’s wife came down to the front and she left everybody in no doubt whatsoever.  They were a bit like a Blackpool postcard couple; she was quite large and she told Mr Miller what she thought of him in very very blunt terms but without using the ‘f’ word.  The girl ran off the stage in tears because she’d got the rough edge of this lady’s tongue as well, you know – ‘if you were a daughter of mine standing there like ‘ – you know, and Roland Miller was dressed in a bright yellow canary suit – immaculate, and he stood there and he looked her in the eye and took it off, like every stitch, like every stitch.  Well the place was in uproar, absolute uproar.  He got thrown out into the street in his nothings.  I felt some responsibility because I’d been part of the organising committee of this and I got the microphone on the stage and appealed for calm and said ‘look let’s be reasonable – we’ve all heard the word before and we all know what it means and yes, it’s not desirable but you know, let’s calm down and have the rest of the show’.  I got thrown out in the street.  I’m used to being unpopular.  There was a chap in the audience called Lord Faversham who at that time was Chair of the Arts Council for the Yorkshire Region and he’d come along to see how the Arts Council money was being spent, and he went round posing as a newspaper reporter trying to get comments from people, so he finished up out in the street as well! [laughing]  Anyway we had events and we did get a certain amount of publicity in one way or another, and then the third part was to attempt to turn visitors who came as a result of the publicity into what we thought were the best visitors in the world, 365 days a year visitors who were going to come and live here and import income and that got going quite well, and then the fourth part of the strategy was, well, what do we do with the big buildings? What do we do with the old mills?

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About Us

Wild Rose Heritage and Arts is a community group which takes it's name from the area in which we are located - the valley ("den") of the wild rose ("Heb") -  Hebden Bridge which is in Calderdale, West Yorkshire.

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Pennine Heritage Ltd.
The Birchcliffe Centre
Hebden Bridge

Phone: 01422 844450
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