November 2000


Castle Carr was a grand house at the head of Luddenden Dean on the Pennine moors west of Halifax between Mytholmroyd and Oxenhope. It was built in the 1850s for Joseph Priestley Edwards, a local textile magnate, and designed by Thomas Risling and John Hogg. It was constructed on a vast and extravagant scale. Its style has been described as part Norman and part Elizabethan if you can imagine such a thing. Constructed round a central courtyard, it had a grand hall sixty feet high, castellated walls, carved figures of crusaders and enormous stone fireplaces. Men like Edwards didn’t ask architects to cut corners. There was a portcullis and a clock tower, a ballroom and banqueting hall, a library and billiard room. It was furnished like a medieval court and was set in 180 acres of landscaped gardens.  

Snow on the Pennine Moors at Stanbury

Edwards never saw his house completed. He and his eldest son were killed in a horrific accident when the passenger train on which they were travelling was in collision near Abergele with a goods train carrying petrol. Bodies were unrecognisable in the carnage and the only way in which the women could be distinguished from the men was by the wires of their crinolines. The family was devastated by this and lost interest in the house. It had several subsequent owners but deteriorated and, after use by the military in the Second World War, it was demolished in 1961.


In the grounds were extensive water features including a spectacular fountain which reaches more than 100 feet into the sky. At the time it was the second highest fountain in Europe, second only to that at Fountainebleau. Once a year the present owner of the property allows Yorkshire Water to activate this fountain. My brother and his wife went along to see it, walking first across the heather and peat moors. 800 gallons of water which fall 200 feet are forced through a four inch pipe. At the scheduled time water shot into the air and cascaded onto the hillside, rather surprising those walkers in the area who were not expecting it. They knew how to do things in style, those Victorians. In its day this fountain went off three times daily.


I have referred before to Candida Lycett Green’s series of articles entitled Unwrecked England. In October’s Oldie she has a piece about Wensleydale which she calls a ‘pocket of Arcadia’. She describes the ‘beautiful triple-aisled’ church at Wensley and Bolton Castle, home of the Scropes until Bolton Hall was built in the 1670s. Bolton Castle was built in the fourteenth century and among other claims to fame was where Mary Queen of Scots was held captive for six months. I’m glad Miss Lycett Green so enjoys visiting Yorkshire. I enjoy her books, particularly those about her father, Sir John Betjeman, the Poet Laureate.

Castle Bolton


Our fourteen year old has discovered vinyl. He recently said how much he enjoyed ‘New York, New York’ when it was sung by Frank Sinatra on the radio. ‘We’ve got it on a single’, my wife said. ‘A what?’ ‘A 45’. ‘A what?’ ‘As opposed to an LP’. ‘Eh?’ How quickly the world changes. We got a pile of records, which were at one time our prized possessions, out of the cupboard above the wardrobe and he has spent the last week taping many of them.

My children have never used a manual typewriter or got up to change channels on the television. They’ve probably never dialled a telephone number. Never scraped ice off the inside of a window or lit a fire. And yet, as the French say, the more things change, how much they remain the same. The boys dress like 1950s Americans and wouldn’t look out of place on the set of Happy Days. And, of course, it’s still cool to be cool.

When I was their age we had what was called the generation gap. Not today. Our culture then of rock music, jeans, long hair and irreverence was different from my parents’ way of life. My children dress as we do (if more stylishly). We like the same music, laugh at the same things and in many ways share the same interests and values. The generation gap as it was in the 1960s and ‘70s is history.

When the boys watch old films, the 1960s and 1970s look like a million years ago whilst the 1950s seem somehow familiar. The video of my brother’s wedding in the 1970s has them falling about. The hair. The fashions. Austin Powers, eat your heart out. And we thought we were cool.

Otley sign          Rawdon sign

The Welcome to Leeds signs of which I wrote recently have had the local town or village added to them. Admittedly it looks like an afterthought, which of course it is. But all those letters in the press and the petitions organised by the Wharfedale and Airedale Observer were worthwhile. It’s good to know that little people can make a difference. All the welcome signs have now been amended.


At the end of October Yorkshire was hit by a storm and very heavy rain. Over the next couple of days the water running off the Pennines caused the rivers to swell and there was serious flooding in the Aire, Wharfe and Ouse valleys. Houses had to be evacuated in Keighley, Bingley and York among other places. Roads were impassable and trains stopped. At one point our local radio station said that the emergency services were flooded with calls. An original metaphor. They presumably were at saturation point.

Rugby ground in Bradford.