On the Brink

I was transcribing some school log information for a family history society and needed to check an address in Hebden Bridge. I hadn’t been sure if it was Brink or Bank but a quick search turned up Buttress Brink in this useful site (and source of the featured image, acknowledged with thanks).


Buttress Brink, was a warren of dwellings on different levels at the bottom of the Buttress, off Old Gate opposite the Hole-in-the-Wall Inn. Occupants had to walk through a gloomy ground floor tunnel lit by gas lamps, climb steps set into the steep hillside, then cross bridges spanning the gaps between hillside and property. Needless to say the homes within boasted no modern amenities such as bathrooms and toilets; the kitchens, small and cramped, had only a single cold water tap over a stone sink”. Buttress Brink was demolished in 1967 as “unfit for human habitation”. (Based on an article in Milltown Memories No.1)

I read the description, which is quite graphic, but was brought up short to realise how late the demolition of these dwellings came – 1967, and that I can recall many of the features in the image, overall pinny, whitewashed walls, tin bath and all, from my 1950s/60s childhood in neighbouring Halifax and environs. (Of course, the question of what replaced these and the impact of the changes is another story.)

I think it’s the contrast that strikes me, in that when people envision the ‘Swinging 60s’, all those bright images of Carnaby Street, pop stars and mini-skirted Mary Quant wannabes seem to come to mind. I’ve always said we weren’t exactly overwhelmed with those in my childhood in West Yorkshire and this does rather reinforce a somewhat grimmer stereotype!

More seriously, the absence of sanitation and safety concers had been a major issue in Victorian times and there were some great campaigners for improvement; though much progress had been made, clearly it took longer than they probably envisaged.

Here’s a link to a couple of more recent shots of the Buttress area on the invaluabe Calderdale Companion site.

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