Bailiff Bridge was at one time a typical West Yorkshire mill dominated village (although it was previously a coal mining area), situated just over a mile north of Brighouse midway between Huddersfield and Bradford, with Halifax 3 miles west of Bailiff Bridge these West Yorkshire towns and cities were dominated by engineering, farming and textile.
Bailiff Bridge was itself dominated for many years by Firth’s large carpet mill complex in the heart of this small village with under three hundred houses mostly owned and built by the mill owners, right up to the pre and post second world war years when an influx of twenties/thirties style terrace and semi detached houses were built including the Garden City housing (1917) as they used to call it (Highfield Avenue) where these houses all had front gardens, indoor toilets and baths and were initially built for rent, later the semi’s up Bradford Road (originally called Blankney Avenue then Bradford & Huddersfield Road before finally becoming known as just Bradford Road)
along with the bungalows and Mayfield houses were built. Also later a small council developed housing estate (Summerfield) was built to increase the number of houses in the village, along with other developments,
Bailiff Bridge was originally a village under the control of Hipperholme district council before it joined Brighouse to become Brighouse-cum-Hipperholme later to become Brighouse Borough Council but now part of the larger Calderdale Borough Council although having a Huddersfield postal code and telephone area code which can be a bit misleading at times. The surrounding areas was at one time dominated by many small farms typically under 50 acres, many of these small farms were original owned by the large land owners some held for mining and quarries along with mill owners and local councils and leased to the local farmers these were normally mixed farms with Dairy, Pigs and Poultry the main animals kept on these farms with several growing a small amount of vegetables and hay crops, most of these farms had small milk rounds to sell their produce and fresh milk within a small area from their farms mostly under 20 gallon rounds and many famers wife’s would milk the cows, bottle the milk then deliver the milk all within a few hours, delivering by hand carts or horse drawn milk floats.
The Carpet Mill main complex was originally built for the worsted weaving at the crossroads in the heart of the village with the main four/five storey part of the mill and later the newly built office block split by the A649 Birkby Lane (known by locals as Birkby Hill) fronting onto the A641 Huddersfield to Bradford main road, The offices and the main part of the mill were joined together by a large overhead enclosed bridge joining these two important parts of the mill high above the A649 which enabled the bosses to go from the offices to the mill without going outside the complex or having to cross the road. The carpet mill also had several large Northern Light Weaving sheds towards the Brighouse side of the offices (this type of building became very popular originally in the Lancashire area and could be very long single storey buildings with a high pitched roof to one side while the other half of the roof had a sheer drop and was built entirely out of glass so allowing as much light into the building as possible so the workers were able to see what they were doing without the need for lots of expensive lighting) further along was another large imposing six storey cotton mill North Vale Mills (1872 although not owned by Firth’s) North Vale Doubling Co Ltd are Cotton and synthetic yarn merchants and in fact is a well established Company in the textile trade, the firm was founded in 1872 and is still run by the same family now in its sixth generation (what a great achievement) it still produces and supplies good quality yarns for Hand Knitting, Machine Knitting, Knitwear, Hosiery, Weaving, Upholstery, Narrow Fabrics and Carpets.
Across the main Bradford Road opposite Clifton Mills and backing onto the beck on Victoria Road was a large area of single storey industrial type sheds all linked and joined to the main mill by a huge underground tunnel so the workers could go between these units without crossing the road, the mill also boasted many other sheds and buildings along with its own recreation grounds and small memorial park.
The village crossroads was dominated on the Birkby Lane side of Bradford Road by T. F. Firth & Company massive mill and office block with the Punch Bowl Hotel and the original Village shop at each opposing corner of the crossroads, Lady Janet Firth donated to the village a large stone fountain and horses drinking trough in 1911 that stood as a centre piece in the middle of Wakefield Road outside The Punch Bowl Hotel (sadly removed in the 60s), The village main road was also towered by huge electric poles carrying the overhead power lines for the very busy trams and later trolley bus’s as they made their way between Bradford and Huddersfield although you had to change several times on this journey some say this was because of different track or line size other say it was because they were owned by different local authorities I do remember the trolley bus’s turning round at the Ritz Picture House (now Venue 73) in Brighouse and the conductor used to change over the lines with a long pole stored under the trolley bus I always understood it was for different authorities owning the track?.
Early housing were mostly typical 19 century stone built back to back houses with blocks of outside toilets across from the houses which at the time were considered to be very luxury and a huge consideration for the mill workers to live in these dwellings, further up in the pecking order were a few through terrace houses or through by light as well as a few larger detached houses to accommodate the mills managers, recently the terrace houses in the centre of the village have just gone through a major facelift with government grants paying for their facelift with new roofs, chimneys and stone cleaning (although not to everybody’s taste). When looking at most of the old properties in the village you cannot help notice that most of the properties have several steps leading to the main door this was a feature built into these properties in the heart of the village as they were prone to flooding in heavy rain that not only swelled the beck that runs under the main crossroad on its way to Wellholme Park but also the steep Wakefield Road and apposite Birkby Lane brought a huge amount of water to the centre of the village during heavy rain.
Further up on the Bradford side of the cross road from The Punch Bowl Hotel is a square block of properties that backs onto Victoria Road built in 1889 that has a totally enclosed inner yard with a stable block, to the top side of this block is Co-op Buildings consisting of 12 back to back houses with the local Co-op facing Bradford Road, the upstairs hoist doors at the back of the shop is still visible were they used to unload heavy sacks of corn that at the time was sold in most Co-op’s for the high number of allotment owners who kept a few chickens, also below the Co-op is ‘Waddington’s Carpet Shop’ established 1895 and still going today and still owned by the Waddington family but sadly no longer supplying the locally made carpets, behind this block of property is Victoria Road and I remember as a young child coming to the wooden hut sweet, newspaper and tobacconist shop at the end of Victoria Road, backing onto the Beck that had the kind of sweets most kids could only dream of (now a brick building), who would have thought all these years later that I would now own this shop.
By far the biggest changes in the village came about in recent years with the closing of T. F. Firth’s carpet mill and the massive housing building program that caused the village house numbers to double again to around 1400 this also lead to many of the village’s outstanding buildings and features becoming lost forever.