Bailiff Bridge Memories

This week we hear from a new local history project based in Bailiff Bridge, near Brighouse...

During the pandemic many of us have been reminded of the importance of community and pulling together to get through tough times. Local history project, ‘Landscapes of Loss: Re-valuing Labour, Re-Making Community’, is a collaboration with artist Catherine Bertola and Dr Lisa Taylor, Head of Media at Leeds Beckett University. Both from Bailiff Bridge, this project aims to bring together former Firth Carpet’s workers with newer residents of the area to remember and rebuild the community in the village.

The carpet industry in Bailiff Bridge began life in this three story building at the village crossroads. Thomas Freeman Firth, a senior partner in the Heckmondwike firm of Firth, Willan and Company bought the building at public auction in Halifax in 1867. Image: Reminiscences of Bailiff Bridge, Lightcliffe and Hipperholme by Christopher Helme (1987).

Catherine Bertola is an Artist who makes site specific installations, drawings and films that address the invisible histories of people and places whose roles and contributions to society are overlooked and undervalued. Her work gives voice to untold narratives, excavating the past to confront contemporary inequalities that still exist.

Catherine recalls, “I lived in Bailiff Bridge from the age of about 3-12 and attended Cliffe Hill Primary School. Firth’s is the backdrop that frames many of my childhood memories from growing up in the area; from after school trips to the sweet shop and library, and long summers taking off on bikes to play in the Wyke Beck. It is strange returning as an adult it feels both familiar and yet so very different to the place I remember.”

When talking about the aims of the project Catherine explains, “Initially we’d just like to talk with former factory workers from Firth Carpets and the newer residents of Bailiff Bridge about their memories and experiences of living and working in the village. Ultimately, we hope to bring these people together in May 2021, to meet, talk and share ideas about the village, it’s past, present, and future. If we’re allowed, we’ll even throw in a cuppa and some biscuits!”

Bailiff Bridge in the 1910s. Image: Reminiscences of Bailiff Bridge, Lightcliffe and Hipperholme by Christopher Helme (1987).

Participants in these socially distanced workshops will get to share their stories or hear about the life of the different factory workers and learn some of the hand gestures and movements associated with working on the factory floor. These exchanges will make the basis of a new artwork that will celebrate and commemorate the pride of carpet making at the centre of life in Bailiff Bridge, which will be exhibited in the village in September/October 2021.

Anyone interested in getting involved can read more on the project Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/rememberingfirths. Or contact the project directly via email on rememberingfirths@gmail.com or call 0113 812 7727.

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