Wednesday, 30 December 2009

The Sprigge Gambit (or Sylvia's Curse)

A change from bibliography now: as the standfirst in the title says, this blog is also for corrections, and I’m extremely grateful for the following which have come in. Thanks to all concerned, too, for putting me right me gently and kindly. I shall return to that, and the reason for this post’s heading, shortly.

So to the corrections, which I hope will be made in a reprint before long….sorry, first, that I spectacularly muddled James Herriot’s choice of hymn lines in the quotation which begins Chapter 8 (Page 261) by calling his most famous book All Things Bright and Beautiful. It is actually All Creatures Great and Small.

Thanks very much to my blog correspondent Lingard (see post Paved with - Huddersfield below) for pointing that out. Also see Richard Carter's comment on this post, putting right my geography of Port Sunlight and Phil Dawson's on the very first post, right at the bottom, correcting St James's Park to the proper St James' Park (on Page 11).

Thanks to all; and to to Steve Burkeman of the Rowntree Society for noticing that on Page 275, I rename York’s Quaker-founded psychiatric hospital, The Retreat, as The Mount, which is the city’s Quaker girls school (and alma mater of Margaret Drabble and Dame Judi Dench among others). I should know, because my sisters Hilary (editor of Red Pepper) and Tessa, wise teacher of English as a foreign language in Bradford, are alumni too.

Now, thanks to my wife Penny’s eminent cousin Prof Paul Cartledge (whose books, like Hilary’s, are all must-buys). He kindly puts me right on the following:

Page 54 The Latin version of Yellow Submarine sung to the House of Commons by Derek Enright MP should use ‘natali’ and not ‘natalis’. I am not going to argue with Cambridge University’s A G Leventis Professor of Greek Culture about that.
Page 75 The Barnsley fashion business Pollyanna mysteriously loses it second ‘l’ in the two references to it on this page. Opposite, on Page 74, I get it right.
Page 137 The word ‘the’ has gone missing before ‘triumphs’
Page 156 ‘does’ should be ‘do’ in second para – not for the first time, I gave plural subjects a singular verb.
Page 163 The 's' of 'Guardian's' should be roman and not italic
Page 204 In a repeat of my Pollyanna eccentricities, I have mis-spelt the first name of Leeds’ great race relations pioneer Erroll James, using only one ‘l’, whereas I get it right on the page opposite. Something bout ‘l’s in my psyche…
Page 209 ‘premier’ should hve a concluding ‘e’
Page 234 I rechristened the writer Alan Sillitoe ‘David’. The wonderfully meticulous Paul asks: “Is this confusion with David Storey?” No. It’s confusion with Alan’s son David, one of the best photographers working for the Guardian and an ace companion on jobs.
Page 238 I should have given Richard Hoggart his first name, as this is the first mention of him (surprisingly; maybe I cut something earlier out). He also isn’t in the index.
Page 285 The word enthusiastic mysteriously appears as two: enthus and iastic. We will get that gap closed.
Page 289 ‘makes’ should be ‘make’ in the reference to tales of Northern pluck transferring to film.
And lastly, Page 291 I twice deprive Jean Giraudoux of his first ‘u’.

Phew! Paul, you are a reader in a million. To spot all those is beyond praise – specially that ‘s which got engulfed by the Guardian’s italic.

Finally (for now…), similar warm thanks to Salfordian Eddy Rhead who refers to himself in an email, entirely wrongly, as ‘a miserable northern pedant’ and makes these points:

On page 67 you refer to the architect of Atlas Bar in Manchester as Alan Simpson - it was in fact Ian Simpson.
At one point you rightly state that the Imperial War Museum North is in Trafford (p77) but then contradict this by later claiming it is in Salford (p230). As a Salfordian i would very much like to claim the IWMN as one of ours but must concede to our posh Trafford neighbours on this one.
Finally on page 294 you add 'restaurateur' to Thomas Heatherwick's long list of talents. A talented designer, sculptor and architect he may be (and a southerner - he studied in Manchester though) but as far as i know hasn't branched out into food yet. Are you thinking of Paul Heathcote maybe?

I am, and I grovel. (re. The Simpsons, my mind must have been full of the actual Alan, who is a wonderful academic tree wizard and pal based at Leeds Met university - although his surname has no 'p').

Sorry to list these blunders so comprehensively, but this post is partly a memo to myself to make sure that they get corrected.

BUT WHO WAS SYLVIA SPRIGGE? She was a very distinguished Guardian foreign correspondent who worked in Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. And this extract from David Ayerst’s brilliant Guardian – the biography of a newspaper (Collins 1971) shows why she is also my patron saint:

Monday, 14 December 2009

Heaven on Earth

Three books on the Lake District which I have much enjoyed, as well as finding useful. Alan Hankinson's retracing of Coleridge's famous journey is great, including the all-but-suicidal descent of Broad Stand between Scafell and Scafell Pike which the poet managed (at least, by his own account) but Hankinson prudently detoured. John Wyatt's The Bliss of Solitude joins his other books, compiled when he had the lovely job of Chief Ranger of the Lake District national park, in describing the area thoughtfully and well. That and Coleridge Walks the Fells were published, very handsomely, by Ellenbank Press in Maryport in 1991. Finally, And Nobody Woke Up Dead (Ernest Press 2006) is a jolly romp through the life of Mabel Barker, a woman among the dotty, corduroy-breached rock climbers of the early 20th century. It is a landscape populated by the best sort of Northerners - Quakers, idealists, members of Kibbo Kift and the Morris Dance Revival Society. As they say in the US after serving you gigantic platters of food; Enjoy! (including a wealth of pictures which set the tone, such as this one below with its delightful caption, on the back cover of the book's jacket). There's also excellent material on Millican Dalton, the famed 'Professor of Adventure', a City dropout who lived in a cave which can still be explored at the foot of Castle Crag near the Jaws of Borrowdale.

And here's Millican, having a picnic tea with Mabel (right) and a buddy. Click on any pic to enlarge.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Goodbye world...

That - the title of this post - is what these naval signal flags said on the roof of Leeds' famous (or notorious to some) Quarry Hill flats in 1978 when the huge complex was doomed. Disgruntled tenants, who wanted to stay, nearly chose a different message, also only two words, the first beginning with F and the second with O. But in the end, polite melancholy won more votes than outraged defiance. The story of the flats is told marvellously in Memento Mori by Peter Mitchell, published by Smith Settle in 1990 with a foreword by Bernard Crick. It has a particularly good selection of photographs and although the story doesn't really run in an organised way from A to Z, the anecdotes and facts are real treasures.
I met Peter at the launch of a book I did earlier this year for the RIBA (Leeds - Shaping the City, RIBA Publications 2009) and he said that he was considering something similar to the Quarry Hill book on Spencer Place, where he lives. I really, really hope he does, as both my paternal grandparents were born in Spencer Place, and its history, along with that of the surrounding Chapeltown area, is rich indeed - all the way through from the bourgeois 'New Leeds' of mid-Victorian times to today's cosmopolitan community. Here are a couple of pictures of my granny with her parents and brother outside their house (now part of Leeds Islamic Centre and well looked-after) and at her wedding reception in the front garden, where the mosque now stands. Wasn't Leeds dark in those days? Or is it my scanner...?

Benny and Boots

Two books without a link, now, except that they both begin with B, they're both about the North and more particularly the Pennines, and they're both good. Sorry, two books with at least three links. And there's another...but, no, I am not going to turn this post into Monty Python's Spanish Inquisition sketch.
Owt and Nowt by Tony Bell, published by Burnley Miners' Publishing 2002, is a homemade history of Burnley's famous working men's club, which sells more Benedictine than anywhere else in the world. The WORLD? Yes, and you can find out why in True North, or indeed in Tony Bell's excellent book. Why not get both? Owt and Nowt is not just about Benny & Hot, the town's famous drink, but tells you a lot else about the club, mining and Burnley in general. Note the maroon cover; since Burnley FC started doing so well in the Premier League, everything in the town has been painted maroon.
Secondly, Boots and Books by Trevor Croucher, published by Smith Settle in 1995, is both a delightful sketch of the life and work of this Albert Einstein-like character in the photo (left), the immortal Arthur Raistrick, and an invaluable bibliography of AR's work. It has another very nice picture in it of Raistrick with G M Trevelyan and the Dower family at Malham - John Dower played the key role in getting us all our National Parks. The Countryside Commission's fine HQ in Cheltenham is named after him.

Three sides of the coin

Here's a little collection of grass roots experiences of Yorkshire grittiness. Can you have grass roots and grittiness? Yes, say I. Indeed I say so at some length in the chapter of True North called The Green and the Grey. These books are perhaps better described, though, as 'from the streets', and they all come from authors whose work I much enjoy. Bill Mitchell, emeritus editor of the Dalesman, ranges all over the landscape, not of his beloved Dales, but of the towns which lie among them, in By gum, life were sparse! Warner Books 1991, introduction by another excellent Northerner, Mike Harding. OK, it's cliche-shudder time with that title, but it isn't appropriate to the era in which Mitchell immerses himself. Jim Greenhalf brings things up to date with his sardonic It's a Mean Old Scene, Redbeck Press 2003, whose title is based on a famous piece of graffiti in Bradford which I remember passing frequently when I worked for the local Telegraph & Argus in 1975. As I say in True North, Bradford is a great glass-half-empty place (Leeds always considering the glass to be half full), and this book is a good (and enjoyable) example.
Phyllis Bentley, finally, turns the subject into her usual fine fiction in More Tales of the West Riding, Garden City Press 1974. She will be rediscovered shortly (again), I bet you. Virago Press, where are you? There must be a preceding volume Tales of the West Riding, I guess, but I haven't read it yet.

Aduunyadu way qiiro badan tahay

I think the title to this post means 'The world is a wondrous place' in Somali. So far as I can tell that's the case, anyway, from the only Somali-language book I own: Shells on a woven cord, published by MAMA East African Women's Group and Yorkshire Arts Circus, 1995. It is an insight into the often inaccessible world of Somali immigrants, especially the women. Inaccessible, I should say, for a white male in particular. One of my sisters, who teaches English as a foreign language in Bradford, has made many good friends from an extraordinarily wide range of communities. The book describes life in both Somalia and Sheffield in a clear-eyed but ultimately optimistic way. Meanwhile, the latest edition of the Thoresby Society's Miscellany has arrived, with an interesting article on Italian immigration in Leeds. The society is an invaluable source of detailed information about the history of Leeds and always welcomes new members or purchasers of its books - 23 Clarendon Road, Leeds LS2 9NZ. 0113 247 0704.
An excellent new feature they've introduced this year is the first of a proposed series called Notes from the Library, highlighting items in the society's impressive archive. They kick off with a piece about the exceptionally generous gift of Kirkstall Abbey to Leeds by Colonel North, the 'Chile Nitrate King', who bought it from the seedy descendants of the Cardigan family and just handed it over to the city. Business entrepreneurs get a lot of flack - witness the current banking furore - but in my experience they are much more generous benefactors than, for example, the arts or sports world. When will Alan Bennett premier a play at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, which would be a huge fillip for his native city? When will Damien Hirst curate an exhibition at the fabulous little museum in Horsforth where he grew up?

On that score, here's another good book: How it all began in Yorkshire by Maurice Baren, pubished by the Dalesman in 1997 - one of a host of similar books covering various parts of the country and an object lesson in the trials of starting great business, as well as the rewards which can follow.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Please pass the salt...

One of the advantages of an internet bibliography is that you can include books which you didn't use, but wish you had. Here is one such: The Hedon Silver (Hedon Town Council, 2000, Highgate Publications, 4 Newbegin, Beverley HU17 8EG). Hedon Town Council only has parish status, since the re-organisation (and further-distancing) of 'local' government in 1973/4, but it is an admirably gutsy body with great civic pride. This stems in part from the days when Hedon was the equal of Hull - indeed even more prosperous initially. Just look what today's little council has inherited in the way of civic plate! I mean, when can they possibly throw a dinner where you would need ten silver salt cellars? (But wait: see below...)
I didn't include Hedon in the book, through ignorance of these details which I only discovered when Penny went to do a feature on the place for next month's Yorkshire Life. But I have got a big section on exactly the same sturdy, Northern localism in Morley near Leeds and Richmond (North Yorks). I'm going to be meeting one of the book's characters, Judith Elliott, the Mayor of Morley, next week when I have to preside over Leeds Civic Trust's agm, cos this year she's Lord Mayor of Leeds, on whose council she sits as one of five Morley Independents. I will suggest a grand Dinner of Independent Places at Hedon where they can get out all the fantastic cruets and maces shown in this book, and have a feast of local activism and (soundly-based) pride.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Golden Ages, then and now

This book means a lot to me. I was given it by Grigor McLelland, a stalwart of the North East, who served in the Friends Ambulance Unit with my father and, many years later, chaired the National Lottery Charities Board in the North region while I had the same job in Yorkshire and the Humber. It is a marvellous, scholarly compendium of articles about the era which we know and love from Bede: Oswy and Eanfled celebrating their different Easters at Bamburgh, the great Celtic saints, the astonishing jewellery and carved stones found across the region (and, most recently, in the 'Staffordshire Hoard'). This is such a big and expensive book (£35) that I imagine most people will borrow it from the library. It would be well worth doing so. I'm particularly grateful to Christopher Grocock's chapter on Bede and the Golden Age of Latin Prose in Northumbria, which compares the range of languages spoken in Bede's Jarrow with the author's contemporary experience of Geordie and Urdu spoken in turn by women working in his local newsagent's in the town.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Small but perfectly done

Sorry, I've been hopeless about continuing the bibliography lately, but I'm going to have a bit of a sesh this week, all other things remaining equal. I came across this outstanding booklet, Bradford Peace Trail, in our loo where it had got hidden under the usual pile of National Geographics and Private Eyes. It's a succinct and well-written guide to the city - one of the most interesting in the North - which uses the 'peace' theme very loosely to bring in all manner of famous sons and daughters of the place and modern events, such as street violence over extreme right-wing demos etc - as well. It illuminates some of my own feelings which I've tried to express in True North - eg the Quaker millowner Liberal W E Forster as pioneer of state education, and the importance of 'urban countryside' to the big cities such as Bradford. It's online at or you can get a copy from Bradford City for Peace c/o 37 Heights Lane, Heaton, Bradford, West Yorkshire BD9 6JA 01274 542672
On the book front, True North is getting more reviews than I expected, which is great. I'm not usually very keen on the Daily Mail, but it can surprise - for example with its sturdy support of Stephen Lawrence's family - and Harry Pearson did a piece on the book which makes some really good points. In particular, he writes about the value of praising one area without denigrating others, using the parallel of loving your partner without having to be rude about other women/men. Mike MckNay's invaluable editing of True North made this point to me eloquently, and once again, I'm very grateful for that. There is a problem, though, in that it is impossible not to mourn and criticise the effect on all the regions of London's excessive power. But this is not the same thing as disliking London as a city, or the 'South' in general. I like them both.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Welcome if you've linked from Comment is Free...

I got a Comment piece in the Guardian today, which takes some doing I can tell you, but Hooray anyway, cos it's stimulated a very interesting and largely good-natured thread. It's on

and I've brazenly posted on it myself, advertising this blog, so as to encourage discussion and, maybe more important, corrections which I can list to get in when the opportunity arises (which will come the sooner, if everyone buys lots of books...)

I think and hope that a slideshow with some of Chris Thomond's brilliant pics will go up on the G's site shortly too (another struggle there, but still; we Northerners win in the end). I very much like working with Chris and we have endless chitchat about how to move illustration of the North forward from the powerful and lovely, but increasingly outdated, images of the past. Colour is a start. The 'old' North only seemed to have two colours. Black and white. Oh, and grey.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Not so nice

Interviews are coming thick and fast at the mo, which is great from the point of view of debate and developing ideas. It's alarming how many things hadn't occurred to me. This week I did one of the local radio seshes which are superbly organised by a man called Peter Bestwick at Western House, round the back of Broadcasting House on the corner of Great Portland Street. It's the home of Music Radio 6, where I did an interview with the excellent, if Lancastrian, Shaun Keaveny, and got a free postcard of Jools Holland to send to my 90-year-old mother-in-law back in Leeds, who is one of his superfans. I learned a lot from Radio Kent, who did a whole lot of vox pops during the morning, prior to our chat. They had Northerners down there and Southerners up here, and one listener described how friends of hers had moved North and initially been shunned because they were Southern and therefore preconceived to be stand-offish and posh. By chance, I was chatting to a Guardian colleague later in the day at the paper's mammoth London HQ (why can't they relocate some of them up here like the BBC?), and she said: "My daughter went to Manchester University and..." I chipped in, starting to say: "Yes isn't it great? All the Southern kids love it." But she said instead: "She hated it and now she's left." The reason was that she shared accommodation with exclusively Northern girls who apparently took the same, gut, anti-South attitude, or seemed to. So all this is ammunition for my plea in True North for Northerners to lose the chip (except the edible kind), and consign the cobbles to Beamish and similar museums.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Paved with.... Huddersfield

The book is out now. We had a very enjoyable launch at the Ilkley Literature Festival, which is gradually catching up with Hay-on-Wye. I keep working at The Guardian to transfer, or at least share, its sponsorship. Ian Jack and Lucy Mangan were great debaters, along with Helen Cross, whose novel My Summer of Love gets a mention in True North as an example of modern fiction which recognises the presence of the Northern middle class and does not present it in cliched terms. She is keeping busy in a properly Northern way: two more novels since My Summer of Love, which was also filmed successfully. I bought the latest, Spilt Milk, Black Coffee, and am much enjoying its portrayal of white and Muslim Yorkshire communities. No cliches, again.
Sorry not to have added to the bibliography lately. Publication means a busy search for publicity and I probably won't have time to update for a day or two. I had a fun outing on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, debating the North-South issue with Arthur Smith. It was the last item, which seems to stick in the mind, judging by subsequent comments from all sorts of bods. Mind you, it wasn't as good as the next day's, which featured Jeffrey Archer on his rewriting of one of his novels. Talk about Arnold Bennett's The Card... Still, when Arthur talked about London's streets being paved with gold, I managed to counter that they - or at least Regent Street from Broadcasting House to Oxford Circus - are actually paved with Huddersfield's finest stone. I did a piece some years ago on the quarry from which it came. I met a producer the following day at the new BBC North in Media City at Salford Quays and she said that she and her colleagues were all examining the paving stones, as I urged people to do. They are beautiful - swirls of brown, grey and caramel. Part of the South which is for ever North, because West Yorkshire sandstone lasts for a very long time.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009


My family is Northern way back, but we didn't spring out of the soil here. Within traceable records, there are comer-in from Kent and Birmingham, and lost in the more distant past, various bits of Northern Germany. Probably. Who cares? The point robustly made in True North is that we have always benefited from welcoming immigrants, and there is a wealth of books and pamphlets to prove that. I ,ade good use of Roisin Ban (White Rose), Corinne Silva's lovely photographic essay on the Irish in Leeds, with thoughtful essays by Brendan McGowan (Leeds Irish Health and Homes 2006). With Walt Whitman in Bolton by Paul Salveson (Little Northern Books 2008) opens a wistful American connection (lots of Northerners went to the States, including many Mormons and Mr Wrigley of saddleworth, immortalised (appropriately for a Northerner) by gum. In that context, Aspects of Barnsley vol 3 Wharncliffe Publishing 1995) has a great article by Brian Elliott called When Buffalo Bill Came to Barnsley (which he did, in 1904. Homeworkers UK provided me with a gentle and encouraging account of Indian-origin citizens of Leeds, Stitching Stories from Bihar to Beeston (Homeworkers Worldwide 2005) and Religion in Leeds edited by Alan Mason (Sutton 1994) added very useful material on other Asian groups as well as the city's famous Jewish community. Religion and Place in Leeds by John Minnis and Tevor Mitchell took the story on (English Heritage 2007) and City of Peace edited by Carol Rank (Bradford Libraries 1997) did the same for Bradford. Stass Paraskos by Norbert Lynton (Orage Press 2003) is a lively account of a very lively Cypriot painter and his time at Leeds College of Art which he much enriched. An Artist's Odyssey by Robert Waterhouse (Jean-Georges Simon Foundation 2005) tells the equally interesting story of the Hungarian artist Jean-George Simon who moved in exile to Ramsgill in Nidderdale.A Pedlar's Legacy by Patrick Beaver (Henry Melland 1981) tells the story of the Fattorini family from Italy and their creation, Empire Stores. Aspects of Leeds vol 1 (Wharncliffe Publishing 1998) has another good article on the Jewish community's history by Murray Freedman, a great expert on the topic. In Excited Times by Nigel Todd (Bewick Press 1995) tells the story of 'the people against the Blackshirts' during Sir Oswald Mosley's forays North in the turbulent 1930s. To Live it is to Know it by Alfred Williams and Ray Brown (Yorkshire Arts Circus 1987) leaves you in no doubt about the challenges facing new arrivals (and long-standing ones, too often) from the Caribbean. Far Headingley by David Hall (Far Headingley Village Society 2000) has an excellent microcosm of unusual newcomers to a well-off and intellectual Leeds suburb, including Prince Alamayou of Abyssinia who stayed with Arthur Ransome's family (see picture). J.B.Priestley's Yorkshire edited by W R Mitchell (Dalesman 1987) has some excellent passages by the sturdy old warrior on the benefit of German and Jewish immigrants to Bradford (among them the family of Michael Wharton, the Daily Telegraph's erstwhile Peter Simpson, who betrayed his origins with some nasty (however witty) comments about Asian immigration to the city. Finally Ebor: the Archbishops of York by A Tindal Hart (William Sessions 1986) unexpectedly showed the international richness of past occupants of that job. And now, Hooray!, we have John Sentamu.

Monday, 28 September 2009


Northern dialect and, equally interesting, patterns of speech (even when using standard English), have been hardy perennials for me during my time reporting from the region. I have a host of mentors from the great Joseph Wright, who rose from mill work aged six in the Bradford suburb of Idle (never so wrongly named as in his case) to become Professor of Comparitive Philology at Oxford University. His tradition lives on in the Yorkshire Dialect Society whose website is full of good things. Rather like him, Rev Joseph Hunter did a very good job with his The Hallamshire Glossary, republished by the Centre for English Cultural Tradition and Language at Sheffield University in 1983. Assorted copies of the centre's journal Lore and Language have added to my store of theories and facts. Another venerable authority is John H Wilkinson who published his Leeds Dialect, Glossary and Lore in 1924. Blatherskyte, gallehbawk, topful''s like a pudding full of plums.
In recent times, Dr Arnold Kellett of Knaresborough has been a marvellous source; among many others, he inspired Ross Raisin, the young Keighley writer whose novel God's Own Country (Viking 2008) plays excellent games with language. Dr Kellett's many books include Basic Broad Yorkshire (Smith Settle 1991), a fine summary, The Yorkshire Dictionary of Dialect, Tradition and Folklore (Smith Settle 1994), Ee by gum, Lord - the Gospels in Broad Yorkshire (Smith Settle 1996) and, if you want a very rapid skim, The Little Book of Yorkshire Dialect (Dalesman 2008). It really is little, but concise.

Poetry often gives a guide to language, and apart from Permanently Bard (Bloodaxe 1995) and anything else by Tony Harrison, I have made good use of Ian Duhig's Nominies (Bloodaxe 1998) and The Lammas Hireling (Picador 2003). I've already mentioned Lucy Newlyn below; another good poetess is Joan Ingilby (of Marie Hartley fame), for example her simply-named Poems (Smith Settle 1994).
Sir Herbert Read's famous memoir An Innocent Eye (Faber & Faber 1933, reprinted with an introduction by one of his sons, Piers Paul Read, Smith Settle 1996) stands re-reading again and again. So does a singular novel which raised my interest in speech is Sam Small, the Flying Yorkshireman by Eric Knight (Neville Spearman 1957). It's a cracking story too. I got my copy in Kit Calvert's shop in Hawes and it has a column on Knight by Willis Hall from the Yorkshire Evening Post tucked inside.

Monday, 14 September 2009


Buildings follow naturally from geology, and there is a heap more written about them. So far as my own part of the world is concerned, George Sheeran is an outstanding guide, both on the actual buildings and their history. I had only recently finished his Brass Castles, Ryburn 1993, when I saw a group of bearded gents rambling round our neighbourhood taking an interest in the buildings (which are mostly the work of Bradford woolmen, although nicked by Leeds since the end of the West Riding as an actual, rather than historical, entity). An enthusiastic younger man was leading them and to my great delight he turned out to be George Sheeran. His Good Houses Built of Stone, Allanwood Books 1986, is another marvellous account of buildngs in Leeds and Bradford, 1600-1800. The Buildings of Bradford, Tempus 2005, takes the story on for that city.
Over the other side of the Pennines, I learned a great deal from Charles Reilly and the Liverpool School of Architecture 1904-1933 by joseph Sharples, Liverpool University Press 1996. This was published to mark an exhibition about Reilly at the Walker Gallery. My younger son Olly was beginning to take an interest in architecture at the time, and books like this led to lively family discussions. The one thing we all agreed about was approving the striking cover. My copy has a leaflet about the exhibition inside, and thios slipped out before scanning just enough to look as though Reilly's fedora has somehow expanded out of the book. He did have a big head.
There are a lot of engrossing series about buildings, among which Sir Nikolaus Pevsner's Buildings of England, Penguin, various dates, contributors and in recent years updaters, stands supreme. The volumes on the Northern Counties are all good, as of course are the Victoria County Histories, again many dates, if you really want to delve and have lots of time and a big shovel. More accessible are the volumes in the paperback Lost Houses series, published by Jill Raines at various dates in the late 20th century. I've got the ones for the three Yorkshire ridings, Newcastle and Northumberald. Aah, for what has gone! The Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England has also produced some Roll Royce books on the North, among which I treasure Rural Houses of West Yorkshire 1400-1830 HMSO 1986 (very very good on yeomen houses and low halls) and Houses of the North York Moors, HMSO 1987. Smith Settle's 3 volumes on Building the West Riding (plus North and East separately, all by Lynn Pearson, are all comprehensive, well-illustrated and readable. Published 1994-5.


There's nothing more fundamental than the ground we tread on, and its different forms in the North have done much to create the region's image - dark sandstone, or the evocatively named 'millstone grit', or the crumbling cliffs of the North Sea coast where stone gives way to what is little more than mud. True North makes a point of the way that other geologies have had less of a look-in historically: the shining white limestone of the scarp which runs through Yorkshire, taking in places such as Doncaster and Conisbrough as well as York; or the lovely warm red stone of Cumbria's Eden Valley. I love reading about stone. especially when the writers' are fellow-enthusiasts, which applies in all these books. The Building Stone Heritage of Leeds is another of my top titles: two academics potter round the city, discovering where McDonald's marble fascia comes from (down to the exact quarry in Italy) and the like. It's by Francis G Dimes and Murray Mitchell, published by Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society 1996, reprinted 2008. The Phil & Lit, incidentally, are a doughty crew who organise descents down Gaping Ghyll. I wouldn't dare go but my wife, a Phil & Lit council member, has - and she got a glass of champagne at the bottom.
Talking of caves, I enjoy curling up with caving guides such as this one: Northern Caves 1: Wharfedale and the North-East, by D.Brook, G.M.Davies, M.H.Long and P.F.Ryder, Dalesman Books 1988. The text is technical but exciting for all that, (I've illustrated the back of the book jacket here to add to that sense of potential drama) and some colourful historical references inch in, much as the potholers themselves do, underground. Anything by published by the Dalesman is to be recommended, Another short but fascinating potholing book is Yorkshire's Hollow Mountains by the former editor of the Dalesman, Bill Mitchell, Castleberg 1989. Again, anything by him is worth getting hold of. Like most visitors to the mountains, I also much enjoy watching the human flies on places such as Dow Crag above Coniston or the overhanging, Neanderthal brow of Kilnsey Crag in Wharfedale. Like the cave literature, a volume such as Yorkshire Limestone, edited by Graham Destroy and published by the Yorkshire Mountaineering Club. A final piece of fascinating erudition, combining geology with archaeology, is Prehistoric Habitation Sites on the Limestone Uplands of Eastern Cumbria by J and P J Cherry; a race to check stuff in advance of a British Gas pipeline. Cumberland & Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society 1987. I bought this after doing the Coast to Coast Walk for my guide to that matchless path The Coast to Coast Walk, Aurum, 2006 & 2009. Cherry & Cherry illuminate the often bafflingly modest remains on this eerie plateau. Another walk-related book, more of a booklet really but a great little guide by an expert geologist is Geology, Scenery and History; a walk in Yewdale by Murray Mitchell (he of the Leeds building stone), Cumbria RIGS 2004.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Making it up

Fiction is mentioned many times in the book, and most of the significant works I've read are listed in the text. Here are some others. I've always like W.Riley's Laycock of Lonedale, Herbert Jenkins 1924, since my mother read me the opening sentence of its foreword: 'Laycock, Wainwright and Binns - these are common names in the industrial parts of the West Riding...' Riley was recently treated to that occasional honour of being rediscovered by an academic who called him 'a forgotten author.' Not by me, and not by many others who particularly remember his best-known book Windyridge, 1912.
Speeding up to current times, Climbers by M.John Harrison gives a great and not entirely traditionally dour and gritty view of the North, especially the climbers' cliffs scattered in odd places such as above laybys in the Pennines and Peak. Phoenix 1989. Lucy Newlyn's book of poetry, Ginnel, Carcanet 2005, has a distinctive and accurate feel for that great Leeds suburb, Headingley. She is a Northerner who has done well - now professor of English language and literature at Oxford University.

T'other side

I'd better not flaunt my bias, but it's entirely true to say that there's more Yorkshire in True North than the other parts of the North. Sorry. That reflects my time here, when the Guardian has been very well served west of the Pennines by David Ward and Helen Carter and the North East and Cumbria by Peter Hetherington. There is plenty on their patches in the book though, and this post concentrates on Lancashire sources. Paul Salveson has done a terrific job digging up the story of Lancashire's Romantic Radical, Allen Clarke - pen-name Teddy Ashton - of Bolton and Blackpool, in the book of that name, published by Little Northern Books 2009. Rather more conventionally, I lap up small books such as Explore Lancashire by Car by Jane Sterling, The Dalesman 1976.
Liverpool has a great literature, and also a small one. I've much enjoyed In the Footsteps of the Beatles by Mike Evans and Ron Jones, Merseyside county council 1981. Much more to come in this section, and cover pictures. I'm just Hoovering through a pile of book stuff in my office which doesn't have a scanner.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Mysterious Mr Myers

There's a section in True North about the initially veiled correspondent to the Guardian from Hemel Hempstead who turned out to be Alan Myers, an exiled Geordie who is a fount of learning about the cultural history of the North East. My most prized work by him is the self-published North and SOUTH, which will involve you in quite a search I suspect. Let me know if you'd really like a copy and fail to get one, and I will see what I can do.

More accessible is Myers' Literary Guide to the North East, Carcanet Press 1995 which is an absolute mine of joyous detail on its subject, and one in which I have industriously burrowed, and from which, enthusiastically borrowed. Thanks very much Alan, and for all the postcards and emails, keeping me on the right, pro-north track. Check out Alan's additional bibliography; he has also written excellent articles for journals such as the late Northern Review.

Monday, 31 August 2009

Top quality

The name John K Walton brings joy to all. Now a professor of social history at Leeds Metropolitan University, he has published some marvellous books about northern institutions. My two favourites are Blackpool and Fish & chips and the British working class, especially the latter. It is packed with wonderful regional detail, like the scraps, bits (or in Dewsbury, shoddy) which top off fish & chips even more finely than mushy peas do. The fish and chips book, published by Leicester University Press in 1992, is a rival for Phil Sidey's Hello, Mrs Butterfield (see below) in my most-thumbed category. Blackpool is published by Edinburgh University Press, 1998. John's Riding on Rainbows is another must, a history of Blackpool's Pleasure Beach and its rusty and somewhat peeling-painty, but perennial, place in British popular culture, Skelter Publishing 2007.Check out anything else by John; to inspire you to do so, I append a picture of his rosy and hirsute northern face.

Making things virtuously

This is going to be quite a long section of the bibliography because one of the themes of True North is the lasting tradition of enterprise. With it, in many more cases than is generally recognised, went (and still goes) high principles. Businesses were not just set up to build brass castles for their owners; they provided work, opportunity for advancement for all involved and self-respect.
Enough moralising. But here's a very high moral tome to start with; A Quaker Business Man by Anne Vernon, William Sessions 1982. This is a life of Joseph Rowntree, whose modest grave at The Retreat is indistinguishable from those of all the other York Quakers whose remains lie beside his. If you visit, note how long these virtuous people generally lived! my copy has an interesting press release from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (another of the three great Rowntree trusts) tucked inside, all about New Earswick model village which the great man funded. The Joseph Rowntree Inheritance published by the three great trusts in 2004 is also the sort of thing to cheer you up in glum times.

Completely different is Talking Spanish, a Yorkshire Arts Circus study (1992) of one of the north's most interesting ways of making a living. Like most Arts Circus books, it has the serious flaw of not attributing the quotes and reminiscences about working in the liquorice industry in Pontefract. But it's full of marvellous detail, social as well as commercial, and I like this girl in a liquorice outfit so much that I've made her bigger than any photograph in the blog so far. Another good book, by mates of the Arts Circus Richard Van Riel and Briony Hudson, is Liquorice, published by Wakefield district council to go with an exhibition in the early 200s. (It's undated, alas).
Two good books on the canal trade which was very important to the growth of the industrial North are Victor Waddington, Giant of the South Yorkshire Waterways, by Mike Taylor, Yorkshire Waterways Publications 1999, and Pennine Pioneer by Keith Gibson, Tempus 2004. The first tells a story which is still very much alive in business terms; the canals leading in from the Humber and Trent continue to be of great economic significance. So is the revived Rochdale canal, the subject of the second book, although its role today is tourism rather than commerce.
The Hainsworth Story by Ruth Strong, Jeremy Mills Publishing 2006, describes how a traditional textile company has managed to survive, nay flourish, into the 21st century. I make use of this as an exemplar of the type, in the book. Billingham in Times Past by Paul Menzies, Countryside, two vols 1985 and 1986, has some invaluable material on the early days of ICI and the trouble the company took to provide model housing for its workforce. The History of North East Shipbuilding by David Dougan, Allen & Unwin, 1968, describes a magnificent tradition dating back to Daniel Defoe's time. In 1727 he observed, accurately, of Newcastle upon Tyne: "...they build ships here to perfection." Tyne and Tide by David Archer, Daryan Press 2003, has plenty more. H W Schneider of Barrow and Bowness by A G Banks, Titus Wilson (Kendal) 1984, is enjoyable on both Barrow shipyards and Windermere steam yachts I'll be adding plenty more to this section of the blog, too, over the next few weeks.
And here they come: Made in Huddersfield by Jack Ramsay, North of Watford Publishing 1989, is an eloquent lament for what was, albeit with too many grainy and gloomy pics. The magnificent story of the Fielden manufacturing dynasty of Todmorden, classic Northern industrialists who were also very radical and religious (the latter in the best, social conscience, sense), is told in Fieldens of Todmorden by Brian Law, George Kelsall 1995, and A History of Todmorden by Malcolm and Freda Heywood and Bernard Jennings, Smith Settle 1996. Both are socking great tomes. The noble pair of Marie Hartley and Joan Ingilby have famously covered many Northern subjects; but the general association of them with the Yorkshire Dales is too narrow. Books such as Life and Tradition in West Yorkshire, Dent 1976, Smith Settle 1990, are full of firsthand accounts from the factories and mills, which give a much broader picture than the usual cliche. Scotswood Road by Jimmy Forsyth, Bloodaxe Books 1986, is engaging on Newcastle upon Tyne's industry and those who worked in it. Marshalls of Leeds, flax-spinners by M M Postan (Cambridge University Press) is an excellent study of a fascinating firm - the one which gave us the Egyptian Temple Mills in Holbeck, Leeds.To Prove I'm not Forgot by Sylvia Barnard, Manchester University Press 1990, is a great look at manufacturing from the unusual angle of the dead. It's a cracking history of the huge graveyard opposite St James's hospital in Leeds where both mighty manufacturers, such as Sir John Barran, and their workers at last rest.

Sunday, 30 August 2009


Another favourite here. The lost towns of the Yorkshire coast by Thomas Shepherd 1912, republished 1986 Mr Pye Books, is both a classic and a salutary reminder that things don't stay the same.
Even things as solid as northern England. look - by clicking on it - at the map in my second illustration (complete with instructions to Paddy Allen, once of Graphics at the Guardian, in which I have warbled on about North Sea coastal erosion many times). Amazing! More than 40 towns taken by the sea.

The Floating Egg by Roger Osborne, Jonathan Cape 1998, is a deservedly acclaimed series of studies all connected with the 'dinosaur coast' between the Humber and the Tees. It covers science, industry and everyday life. For me, the important lesson to draw from it is how extraordinarily varied just this one slice of the north is. Like all the other slices.


Here are two very good books about that rare thing, a regional media success story. Phil Sidey's account of the early days of BBC Radio Leeds, which I vividly remember from my teens, is one of the favourites of all my northern books. I can read it again and again, always sharing his relish (he was the first station head and without reservation a Good, nay Wonderful, Thing). It's a success story, but against enormous and often eccentric metropolitan odds. Hello, Mrs Butterfield, Kestrel Press 1994.

The Dream that Died, Matador 2008, by the award-winning journalist Ray Fitzwalter, who incredibly first exposed the crooked architect John Poulson and his crew of corrupt politicians from the humble berth of the Bradford Telegraph & Argus is about a success story which went dismally wrong. Like Phil's book, it's an indictment of London control. But unlike his, it's also a textbook description of how not to fight that, if you want to win rather than make a point.
It's a shame that mainstream publishers didn't take up either of these books.


Michael Heseltine deserves acknowledgements and thanks for his role in promoting regionalism. The regional offices of Government are his legacy, and he also had a revitalising effect on Liverpool and Merseyside at their lowest ebb. He behaved with much more conviction than the supposed archetype of conviction politics, Margaret Thatcher, who did not offer him the support she could have done, in spite of coming from Lincolnshire, one of the most forgotten sub-regions of all. Like Tarzan himself, the book, Michael Heseltine, Life in the Jungle, is a bit of a beast, 560 pages long and weighing a ton, but it's a good read (and has plenty of other material about his enthusiastic life). Hodder & Stoughton 2000.
Another lively book which I've pillaged over the years is The Fight for Yorkshire by Michael Bradford, Hutton Press 1988, which is very good on Yorkshire's ambitions to conquer the world (or at least capture the final eight miles between the North Riding and the Irish Sea). Closer to the ground, Whose Town Is It Anyway? by Stuart Wilks-Heeg and Steve Clayton, Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust 2006, is a very thorough analysis of voting and governance in Burnley and Harrogate which comes to a welcome, anti-centrist conclusion. The New Governance of the English Regions by Mark Sandford (Palgrave Macmillan 2005) is very thorough and brings things up to date.