Thursday, August 26, 2010


I originally wrote this in 2007 as a reaction to the lack of northern winners at the Great British Beer Festival the year before. I updated it in 2008 and 2010 as I've realised there a few regular breweries who never let you down and thanks to Locale there is more chance to regularly sample Yorks and Lancs brews. On the other hand, Springhead and Phoenix have dropped down the top 10 as I rarely see their beers in Huddersfield these days. The Locale effect? New entries to the top 10 are Saltaire, Salamander and Acorn, Leeds and York drop out.

1 MOORHOUSES: Is this the best thing to come out of Burnley since the A6114? Started brewing real ale in 1978 although the company set up as a drinks manufacturer in 1865.
Best beers: No duff ones here - Black Cat (mild), Premier Bitter, Pride of Pendle and Pendle Witches are all good.
Best places to drink: Moorhouses-owned pubs - Rising Sun, Blacko, Lancs; The Stanley, Burnley; Gerneral Scarlett, Burnley; Craven Heifer, Rawtenstall, Lancs; Pendle Witch, Atherton; Dusty Miller, Bury.
The Grove, Leeds, always has Black Cat on.
Moorhouses news

2 SALTAIRE Does anyone do flavoured beers better? I don't think so. Triple Chocoholic is a SIBA winner and Hazelnut Coffee Porter is a delight. Real chocolate in the first, ground coffee in the second. They also do cherry, elderflower, raspberry and blackberry. The brewery is based in an old tram generating hall near Saltaire.
Saltaire website

3 MARBLE: Organic and vegan beers (although you can still get a steak sandwich in their pubs), the brewery was established in 1997.
Best beers: Ginger Marble tingles on the lips and tongue and feels healthy. For those who think it tastes like medicine try Manchester Bitter. JP Best won best beer brewed in Greater Manchester at 2007 Food and Drink Festival.
Best places to drink: Where it's brewed - the Marble Arch Inn, on the outskirts of Manchester. Plus The Knott, near Deansgate Station, and Marble Beer House, in Chorlton.

4 OSSETT: Since brewing started in the west Yorkshire town of Ossett in 1998, business is booming with a chain of pubs established in west Yorkshire. It's also taken over Riverhead and Fernandes breweries but is still brewing their beers.
Best beers: Best known for Silver King and Pale Gold, the sweeter and stronger Excelsior is my favourite.
Best places to drink: Ossett-owned pubs, including Dewsbury (Shepherds Boy), Elland (Drop Inn), Halifax (Three Pigeons), Hipperholme (Travellers Inn), Liversdege (Black Bull), Marsden (Riverhead), Sowerby Bridge (Shepherds Rest), Wakefield (Fernandes Tap) but the best is the Rat and Ratchet in Huddersfield.
Ossett news

5 ACORN Barnsley Bitter and Old Moor Porter are the stars of this Barnsley brewery but their seasonal beers are always worth a punt.
Acorn website

6 LINFIT There's one place you can get Linfit Beers - in the Sair Inn, in Linthwaite, near Huddersfield (Linfit is how locals pronounce Linthwaite, just like nearby Slaithwaite is pronounced Slawit). Started brewing in 1982 although ale was brewed in the beautiful cottage-like premises in 19th century.
Best beers: Everything from light coloured bitters, through to stouts, milds and 8 per cent beer Enoch's Hammer. My favourites are Special and Old Eli.

7 ALLGATES Straight outta Wigan. Consistently excellent milds, porters and others from the folks behind the town's excellent Anvil pub.
Best beers: Mild at heart
Best place to drink: The Anvil, Wigan

8 SALAMANDER Golden Salamander is always a treat from this Bradford brewery but they've produced hundreds of specials

9 SPRINGHEAD: Civil War names for the various beers from this Newark brewery, established in 1990.
Best beers: Manages to produce a light colured beer without a bitter aftertaste (Springhead Bitter) also Puritans Porter and Roundheads Gold.

10 PHOENIX: Another reliable range of bitters. Established in 1982. Moved to current base in Heywood, Greater Manchester, in 1991.
Best beers: Best Bitter, Monkeytown Mild. Also do Arizona.
Best places to drink: Sandbar, Manchester

BANK TOP (Bolton - Dark Mild)
BAZENS (Salford - Black Pig Mild) Bazens
BRAINS (Cardiff - Dark, Bitter, SA, Rev James) Brains
COTTAGE (Lovington, Somerset) CottageGOLCAR (Golcar, Huddersfield - Dark Mild) GolcarGREAT HECK (Goole - Dave)
LEEDS (Leeds - Midnight Bell) Leeds Brewery
ORKNEY (Stromness, Orkney - Raven Ale, Dark Island)
ROOSTERS (Knaresborough, N Yorks - Hooligan, Special)
YORK (York - Centurions Ghost Ale) York Brewery

Pic: Moorhouses. Some info: Good Beer Guide

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


1 The Sair, Linthwaite, Huddersfield
2 Rat and Ratchet, Huddersfield
3 The Grove, Huddersfield
4 The Guesthouse, Southport
5 The Grove, Leeds
6 The Sportsman, Huddersfield (pictured, above)
7 The Marble Arch, near Manchester city centre
8 Star Inn, Lockwood, Huddersfield
9 Three Pigeons, Halifax
10 King's Head, Huddersfield
11 Buffet Bar, Stalybridge
12 The Swan, The Three-Legged Mare and other York pubs
13 Leggers, Dewsbury
14 Victoria, Leeds
15 Sheaf View, Sheffield
16 Britons Protection, Manchester
17 Crown Posada, Newcastle

I've only included my absolute favourites that I visit regularly.


A note on the front door used to slightly alarm me - "Please do not feed Danny despite his persuasive moves. He was bringing up bile for three days."
Fear not. Danny is not a desperate regular but a dog with give-me-a-crisp eyes. (The sign's gone now)

The Sair is the pub of dreams, serving up to 10 home-brewed Linfit beers, ranging from stouts to light bitters in four homely rooms, two of which have real fires while the others have cooking ranges.

You'll rarely find Linfit beers at any other pub or festival and the quality has rarely dropped, despite a brewery fire, since The Sair won the National Camra pub of the year award in 1997.

The pub itself is 300 years old and hasn't been tarted up, especially the front rooms which overlook the Colne Valley.

This is a great summer pub to end a walk and there are loads of friendly dogs and their walkers on a Sunday. You'll feel you deserve a pint as the easiest way to find The Sair is to negotiate what appears to be a 1 in 3 hill - Hoyle Ing - off the Huddersfield-Marsden road.

If all this wasn't enough, The Sair has a fantastic jukebox with rare blues and sixties stuff.

Opening hours: Monday-Friday 5-11. Saturday 12-11. Sunday 12-10.30. No food apart from occasional rolls.
Pub crawl? Slaithwaite, down the hill, now has two great pubs, The Commercial and The Swan. The Riverhead, in Marsden, three miles away, is another home brew pub in attractive surroundings.
Picture: Me

There were worries when Ossett took over this brew pub in 2004. It wanted to do it up and there were fears the beer quality could drop. But it is the best pub in town and in 2014 was voted the best cask ale pub in the UK.

It's a two-room establishment with a homely feel, comfy seats and plenty of nooks and crannies to hide away and read a paper or book, although at weekends it's a lively place, as it should be.

The 12 handpull selection is a mixture of Ossett and others, including their own Rat beers which are a bit more inventive than their parent company. Where it has the edge over other pubs is that has always a dark beer on (they also have had a mild festival) and the landlord tends to reorder popular guest beers such as those made by Acorn and Phoenix, rather than taking a punt on some obscure southern brewery. There are also continental lagers, ciders (it was a runner-up for best cider pub in Yorkshire in July 2008) and a good selection of wines.

The staff are friendlier since it was taken over and the jukebox has been updated and is great. A jukey may offend the Camra fundamentalists, but a bit of Stones and Squeeze on a noisy Friday is just what you need and the pub attracts a younger crowd at the weekend.

Food at lunchtimes. Terrestrial TV. Opens until 12.30am on Fridays and Saturdays, midnight weekdays.

Huddersfield pub of the year for several years.


This was once a shabby pub but was transformed in 2006 (I think) into a real ale boon for the town since it reopened, with 19 caak ales and 17 kegs.

serve three permanent cask ales: Magic Rock - Ringmaster, Timothy Taylors - Landlord, and Thornbridge - Jaipur IPA and seven cask lines dedicated to the following breweries: Buxton, Durham, Fuller's, Gadds', Hawkshead, Magic Rock and Oakham. 200 bottled beers, as well as some original snacks ('psycho' pork scratchings and unusual jerked meats).

It's been done out nicely inside with dining room chairs that wobble more than my arse, while cartoons and bottles adorn the walls. There are Old Private Eyes and beer stuff to read and the pub has some great beer promotions and music nights.

It's good to see they've got a mix of regulars and guests (I don't like all guests in a pub).

One minor quibble - a personal one which probably won't bother others - regulars cluster round the bar tending to block views of the beer clips. Hey but that's just me - this Huddersfield pub has led the way in the craft beer boom and deserves more credit.

It deserves a Huddersfield pub of the year award and it's a mystery why the local Camra branch ignores it (apart from seasonal awards).

Opens until midnight on Friday and Saturday. No meals. No TV.

  • Grove Inn website


    The best pub in this town by miles. Three wooden-panelled rooms are full of contrasting characters, from old fellas having a quiet jar and couples who've run out of things to say to each other to footie fans with names like Tony the Ticket, Tony Wolves and Tony Spy talking surreal nonsense.4
    There's an ever changing range of guest beers, although Cains is usually on and there's usually a mild.

    A beer garden is out back and benches out front for beery lizards to soak up the rays on a summer's evening.

    Opening hours: Does have a licence to open after 11pm, but listen out for the bell. No food.

    Pub crawl? Barons Bar, in Scarisbrick Hotel. Windmill is a good summer pub and has OK beer. The Masons is full of characters and has a great feel and good beer.


    Monty Python made a short film called Crimson Permanent Assurance (part of Meaning of Life) about an old-fashioned office block dwarfed by huge modern skyscrapers and I'm always reminded of this film when I see The Grove. It has two hideous office block looming over it on two sides and is dwarfed at the back by Leeds' tallest building.

    The Grove is a four-room pub. One reminds me of Great Aunty Mary's lounge, with its tasselled lamps and armchair, another room has wooden seats which give me pins and needles in my balls, yet another room has a wood-burning fire and the fourth is a concert room where old men sing older folk songs.

    The Highland Terrier with the Hannibal Lecter mask appears to have passed on, and John the landlord, who occasionally looks hangdog, looks to have gone, but there are excellent 


    There's a real mix of people, especially on a Friday night when the suited and booted from the offices are gradually replaced by the bearded and cardiganned from the folk club.

    Food is served at lunchtimes, no TV and there's seating outside.

    Shake a fist at the monstrous offices which hem it in and prevent the pub festival from taking place. I saw the great Mik Artistik here, drawing portraits on paper bags and singing a blues song about his daughter selling shoes.

    The Grove is a great boozer and is a former Leeds Camra's pub of the year.

    Pub crawl? The Grove is about a 10 minute walk out of the town centre. Three new pubs have sprung up nearby in the past few years - The Cross Keys, The Midnight Bell and The Hop, all rather swanky but all serve decent ale. There's The Scarborough back in town which is usually packed. And as you're back in town, you may as well got to the Palace. And as you're at The Palace, you may as well go to the Duck and Drake!
    Picture: Leeds Camra

    A lesson to pub companies in how to do up a boozer and run it well.

    The Sportsman was refurbished in April 2009 with furnishings and fittings in keeping with the original features. It's been beautifully decorated with art deco touches and lovely paintwork (I don't know what type - don't get Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen on my ass).

    The curved bar and wall seating are still there in the main room, while two smaller rooms have chunky tables and comfortable seats. Real fires in all rooms.

    Yorkshire beers dominate here. It's good to see a local pub tap into the wealth of breweries in the neighbourhood.

    Staff are friendly, the beer's cheap and the pies (eg venison and stout) are wonderful.

    Oh.. and it's run by the people who look after the excellent West Riding Refreshment Rooms, in Dewsbury and Buffet Bar, Stalybridge.

    Open all day, late at weekends.

    It's a desolate 15 minute trek out of the city to reach this gem but you'll be cheered once you open the doors - there are glazed coloured tiles on the wall and ceiling, a sloping mosaic floor (which can be quite confusing when you're pissed), the rough-hewn benches (and the occasional rough-hewn regular) and the delicious home-brew beer.

    The organic, vegan Marble Beers are brewed on the premises - the regulars include Ginger Marble, which tingles on the tongue, Manchester Bitter and Lagonda IPA, all light beers, although there's also a Chocolate Heavy and some guests.

    The food is simple but a cut above the usual pub fare and is served all day until early evening. The jukey is also good with plenty of 80's Manc favourites.

    Pub crawl? Near the Victoria/Northern Quarter end of town - The Bar Fringe on Swan Street has continental beers and a great jukey and the Crown and Anchor nearby has reopened - a smart pub serving real ales.
    Marble beers are also served at The Knott, near Deansgate.

    Like The Grove, this was once a real dive that's been transformed into a cosy real-ale emporium that offers about a dozen real ales including Taylors and Pictish regulars.

    The Star is rightly famed for its annual beer festival where up to 70 ales are available - they put many Camra festivals to shame

    It's a ticker's pub which means you'll see breweries and beers rarely seen in these parts, although most of them aren't as good as the ones in Yorkshire and Manchester. Even if you try beers you've never heard of, there's only so much time and money to drink them - hey but that's just me ( an like the Grove it can be difficult to see the clips round the beer as regulars tend to block the view. I know, I'm a grumpy old sod)

    It's about 15 mins out of town.

    No food, TV or jukey, Pub only opens all day at weekends. After 5pm on other days, closed on Mondays.

    Another Ossett pub that's got better since the brewery took it over in 2005.

    Tiled fireplaces, cosy rooms and art deco flourishes bring a smile to face as soon as you walk in. The beer selection is the usual mix of Ossett and others, I think there's usually half a dozen pumps on. Won a national Camra conservation award in 2007 and was listed in 2010.

    Terrestrial TV, no food or jukey.
    Photo: Me

    The Head of Steam is perhaps the better known of the two former railway station ticket office that are now pubs, with its high ceiling rooms and hearty food, but it's the King's Head (formerly known as The Station) which has the better beer.

    There's one big room, with a tiled floor and attractive fires, and two smaller rooms. The big room can seem rather than spartan when there isn't a band on or many people in, but the beer and the service is spot on and it's cheap. Eight real ale handpumps, at least, and plenty of local breweries such as Eastwood, Abbeydale and Moorhouses.

    I have to confess when I first went in a few years ago, there were couples arguing and some ageing hardmen, but while there's the occasional man talking to himself (eg: the belching man with elastic holding up his glasses shouting 'Leeds!'), there's a friendly atmosphere now, especially when there's a band on (usually bluesy or covers bands) and the punters start jiving.

    Closes at 11pm (frustratingly)

    Photo: Me

    Pub crawl: For its size Huddersfield town centre is hugely disappointing. Mainly dodgy dives or garish yoof joints - both with appalling booze choices and an uncomfortable edge, although things have improved with the opening of the Sportsman and Hand Drawn Monkey. Head of Steam tries hard with beer choice but quality flags occasionally Vox is a nice bar with a good but not adventurous choice of bottled beers. Wetherspoon's Cherry Tree keeps its beer well but it's soulless and has some obnoxious customers. Northern Taps is a nice bar but beer quality is only ik and Zephyr at Neaverson is nowhere near as nice as its late lamented sister bar Zephyr,

    I don't know if it's the real fires, the twinkly lights, the railway paraphanalia or the fact the bars are like train corridors, but of all the bars converted from railway station buildings, this is my favourite building.

    Good selection of northern ales - Heywood's Phoenix, Wigan's Allgates and Leeds brewery in a friendly cosy atmosphere, quite different from the rather grim pubs in Stalyvegas town centre.

    Black peas are among the delicacies on offer and there are crumpet nights on Tuesdays (the bread product, calm down matron).

    The bar became a real ale pub in 1997 formed from waiting rooms and the old buffet place itself.

     Named after a device which allowed three criminals to be hung at once, a sort of Daily Mail w*** fantasy (not that they do that sort of thing), the Three Legged Mare is one of four York Brewery pubs in the city.

    Besides making great beer (Guzzler, mmm), the brewery designs great pubs.

    This one is a converted shop near the cathedral. The best part is the high-walled garden with views of a church and houses around (and a three-legged mare for Daily Mail readers to foam over).

    You can't get into the garden itself but there is a conservatory and some chairs outside and it's so secluded it feels like stepping back in time to 1806.

    You can almost imagine some Jane Austen heroine opening the windows next door and asking Mr Hobhouse, her beau, for her bustle.

    Heading out of town from the Mare, there's the Minster Inn, a lovely multi-room backstreet boozer with....wooden panelling, hurrah!

    York Brewery has another splendid conversion, Last Drop Inn, about five minutes in the other direction from the Mare. This is a former solicitors' office in the tourist centre of the city, so watch out for jugglers (and morris dancers). And there's the Terrier, a converted old shop.

    Further on there's the Blue Bell, which is small and means you will be sitting cheek by jowl by narky old gets who moan if you dare move an inch towards their place while they're at the bar.

    Heading out of town past the rail station is one of my favourite back street boozers The Swan, (coal fires, old-fashioned green padded seats, cosy and friendly) and nearby The Golden Ball (another multi-room gem).

    Dewsbury has the same honey-coloured stone buildings as Huddersfield, and is in the same council area, but seems like Huddersfield's poorer, down-at-heel cousin.

    A couple of old mills have been converted into trendy flats but the town centre streets are quiet and some impressive looking buildings are neglected or boarded up.

    Heading towards The Leggers, it gets bleaker - a grimy industrial estate. But suddenly you see the canal and boatyard, near the pub, and things start to look cheerful, especially on a nice summer's day.

    The Leggers itself doesn't seem much from the outside - the toilets are downstairs and the pub is upstairs, but what an interior! It looks an old attic with a triangular roof and the beams kept in. It was in fact an old hay loft for canal horses.

    Everard's Tiger is regular here as well as various guests. There's some tasty ham rolls and armchairs so comfy they threaten to swallow you up. Ideal for looking out of the window and watching the barges coming in and going out again.

    Voted Heavy Woollen pub of the year 2009

    Pub crawl? The West Riding Refreshment Rooms in the train station is a gem of a place.

    Another pub which has been through a battle to save its gorgeous interior. Huge wood and frosted glass screens, wooden panelling (again) and posh furniture (dining table type chairs).

    Range of beers, tasty food and varied clientele from boasting barristers, shrieking teachers and hairy students. It can get sweaty on jazz night.

    Pub crawl? The opposite end of town from The Grove and a chance to visit two rather trendy bars which serve beers from here and abroad - the North Bar, a long slim bar which is heaving at weekends, and The Reliance, bit more relaxed with vast sofas.

    This pub which was a bit of a grim dive until it was transformed in 2000.

    The interior is bright and cheerful with the furniture looking as though it has escaped from a 1950s dining room. A conservatory and outdoor seating area has been added because it's so popular.

    Vast range of guest beers.

    Pub crawl? The White Lion is an unspoiled pub round the corner. In the city centre, there's the cosy Red Deer, rhet Bath and Rutland and just outside the centre, the Fat Cat, Shakespeare, and Kelham Island.

    This seems to be a small bar until you notice the serving hatch at the back and the door leading to two decent sized rooms.

    Our old friend wooden panelling is in evidence again with comfy red velour chairs. The staff are decked out in white shirts and black ties and are very polite. Jennings and a beer named after Pete Postlethwaite are among the beers they serve.

    At lunch , there are pies with names like Grunt and Gobble (pig and turkey, geddit?) and upstairs Frank Randle films are shown.

    Opening hours? 11pm last orders. Pub crawl? Knotts and the tiled splendour of Peveril of the Peak beckon.

     It's easy to miss this boozer, which is downhill from the train station near the quayside, Baltic Gallery and the Sage Arts Centre (spectacular glass slug from outside; looks like Salford's Lowry Centre from inside).
    There's a sign jutting out from the Posada and then you notice the two stained glass windows on the outside. It's easy to miss because it's wide enough for about two people at the bar and three elsewhere, but it's beautiful inside with high, cream and brown ceilings and mirrors a-plenty.

    Five guest beers are served including many local brews, there's a snug where sea captains used to frequent, friendly service, and best of all a record player with hits from the 1920s - tinkly piano tunes for Noel Coward-types to polish their monocles, smoke their cigarettes in holders and utter weary witticisms: "When one is tired of Gateshead, one is tired of life."

    Pub crawl: Bridge Hotel, near Bridge and the Union Rooms, a great Wetherspoon's conversion.

  • Thanks to Sue on Flickr for the Victoria pic

  • And a foaming tankard of ale to Karen Turner on Flickr for the Sheaf View and Marble Arch pics
  • Friday, March 19, 2010


    March 10: The Guardian has a feature where it examines a town or suburb and this week it was Huddersfield's turn. But a favourable article was ruined by the headline and comment - 'The New Leeds'.

    Writer Tom Dyckhoff decided to visit the town for rather strange reasons - a co-operative of artisan bakers featured on Radio 4, a grow-your-own veg community (I think Todmorden did this first) and the good schools. Very Guardiany - shame there were no sandal shops or he'd be frothing in his goatee.

    He rightly praised the buildings, the Pennines on our doorstep, the great train services and the mild in the Rat and Ratchet. On a more obscure note he also liked the leftiness and the music scene (nothing out of the ordinary for me) and the property prices.

    There was mention of the excellent Coffee Revolution, although nowt about the best caff in Byram Arcade and best restaurant the Thai Sakon.

    But then he mentioned the dread words - the new Leeds. Huddersfield's appeal is precisely because it's not Leeds. Smart yellow brick for Huddersfield, dreary red brick for Leeds; countryside in Huddersfield, a few shabby parks in Leeds. While Leeds has a decent selection of boozers, Huddersfield's are better and it also has its own breweries.

    There's also a sense that Leeds is constantly overblowing its assets (Harvey Nicks and the arcades). Let's face it, it's just a puffed-up town surrounded by grubby suburbs.

    Photo: Me

    Oct 09 update: St George's Square, in Huddersfield, is finally finished - £1m over budget and a year late.

    I think it looks marvellous, especially at night with the fountains and coloured lights outside the train station. Yes the fountains did appear - although there's no indication they are there when the water's off. The trees opposite the George Hotel were also planted (no flowerbeds though).

    The Examiner says the whole thing cost £4m and is seven months late. I think it's about a year to be honest - when Kirklees Council asked people to choose options on designs for the square, it said it would be finished in 'autumn 2008'

    Worth £4m? Mmm, I'm not sure - the sqaure wasn't too shabby before. It's a bit like gilding a lily. As usual, the serial moaners who write to the Examiner don't like it, but then they probably complained when outdoor toilets were knocked down. The new layout does seem to have thrilled younger people in the town, though.

    The original idea to change the layout of the square appears to come from (unelected) development agency Yorkshire Forward which is offering £6m for the 'renaissance' of Huddersfield.

    Besides the square, they want the warehouse opposite the train station to be redeveloped, a link from the warehouse to the square, improvement of St Peter's gardens, the library and market, and development of the Waterfront Quarter.

    "The vision is of a town where people can move about easily, with high-quality buildings rising above a lively and busy place," Yorkshire Forward says.

    This 'vision' has been developed with town planners from Milton Keynes David Lock who were involved in sprucing up Holbeck, Leeds.

    Yorkshire Forward is giving £31.5m to Barnsley, £13.5m to Wakefield and £3.5m to Halifax to revamp their towns.

    Does Kirklees Council have to accept this cash and these ideas or risk losing funding? It's difficult to tell but I think the new square is a success.

    Sept 09: In 2007 Kirklees Council announced plans to redevelop St George's Square in front of the train station. It gave people three options and 67 per cent voted for Option 1, pictured above.

    But two-and-a-half years on and a year late the refurbishment, due to be completed next month, looks nothing like Option 1 - no fountains in front of the station or trees at the top of the picture opposite the George Hotel.

    There's a ruddy great fountain there now, under wraps still, so it's hard to tell if the refurbishment has been worth it. One councillor is also saying the whole project cost £4m instead of £3m and is wondering why it looks nothing like Option 1. The council has agreed to hold an inquiry to discuss his points.

    Better news 'on the waterfront' - Kirklees College has received government funding to move its campus behind the Rat and Ratchet on Chapel Hill. It's the proposed centrepiece of a waterfront quarter of flats and offices. The college will have to come up with a cheaper plan but without the funding the whole 'quarter' would have been mothballed.

    Apr 09: I entered this pic in the Capture Manchester competition, organised by CUBE (Centre for the Urban Built Environment) in Manchester. Organisers wanted to capture the spirit of Manchester in postcard-size pics.

    I didn't win but there were more than 600 entries and some corkers too.
  • Eight of the 10 winning entries are here

  • An exhibition, featuring all entrants, was at the CUBE gallery in Portland Street for a couple of weeks until April 18 and this picture and all the others will feature in a book. I'm not sure my pic has captured the spirit of Manchester, but I'd walked past Victoria hundreds of times without noticing all the place names outside, until last year. Newcastle, Hull, Belgium are three places you can't get to from Victoria anymore - and they just sound funny together.

    Apr 09: A year on from all the building plans and developments in Huddersfield, it's all gone horribly wrong for the town, with St George's Square development near the station lambasted, delayed and possibly over-budget, the Waterfront Quarter in trouble over funding and the council's plan to revamp the town centre (Queensgate) on hold.

    I still think St George's will look good in the end, but it was due to finish in autumn 2008, then February this year, then the contractors went bust in March and building work stopped for almost a month until the council took over.

    It's now looking like May for a finishing date, over a year since works started on the scheme to build a fountain, re-pave the square, close and re-route roads, put in trees and seating, and move Harold Wilson's statue.

    The council won't say if it will go over the £4m budget. It's getting most of the cash from development agency Yorkshire Forward.

    There's been a big hoo-ha about the replacement of some of the distinctive yellow Yorkshire paving stones with multi-coloured bricks, but for me the most annoying thing is the way pedestrians have been coralled and herded into narrow spaces, dangerously close to roads - all for a scheme that's meant to benefit pedestrians!

    Perhaps the biggest shock is the threat to the Waterfront Quarter, on a section of land behind and next to the Rat and Ratchet pub covering Sellers Engineering.

    Approved plans include flats and offices and a new £70m campus for Kirklees College - the latter is the centrepiece of the scheme but it may not receive money from the Learning and Skills Council. It's one of 79 building projects that have been put on hold because of a shortage of cash at the council. The government will decide this month what to do with these projects. Work was due to start this year.

    Meanwhile the £200m Queensgate scheme to transform part of the town centre is in the balance because of the recession.

    Kirklees Council needs £50m of private investment to help finance the plan, which includes a new library, art gallery and information centre, a three-storey department store, 100-bed hotel, 100 homes, a new market hall, bars, restaurants and up to 900 parking spaces, on a site that includes the market hall, the multi-storey car park, the former Co-operative store and buildings on New Street.

    Finally, no developments on the plan to turn the big railway warehouse into houses and offices, while there's no start date for Kingsgate mall expansion.

    Some info: Huddersfield Examiner

    March 08:
    Kingsgate expansion: Kirklees Council reject £50m extension to Kingsgate shopping centre. It would involve building one department store (M&S) and six other stores, creating 400 jobs behind Parish Pump pub. Councillors reject it because it would threaten their own:

    £200m Queensgate scheme: Plans include a major department store, 160 new shops, cafes, bars and restaurants, 170 residential flats and a 100-bed hotel. The market hall would be modernised and an underground car park would be built. A planning application has been submitted for this.

    A new library and art gallery would be built at the corner of Princess Alexandra Walk and Peel Street, while the existing library would be refitted for shops and leisure facilities. An application for this has yet to be submitted.

    Kingsgate man says Queensgate won't be ready for another 10 years. Council fears Kingsgate would steal its retailers and draw shoppers from other areas of town.

    I favour the council here although Queensgate is a bit bland - they need to follow Sheffield's lead and put some exciting public buildings/public art there.

    Tesco/Sports centre: A new sports centre on the car park opposite The Grove Inn, a new Tesco on the site of the old sports centre and surrounding flats, plus housing, offices, shops and a hotel on the site of the old Tesco.

    No planning applications submitted but council cabinet approves as deal means a spanking new sports centre. Mmm...what about democracy? MP Barry Sheerman's concerned and wants more talks. I think Tesco are pretty good but enormously powerful and I fear the council can't say no to this.

    £150m waterfront quarter: Offices, apartments, cafes and a new main campus for Huddersfield Technical College on a triangle of land between Manchester Road, Chapel Hill and the River Colne, behind the Rat and Ratchet on land owned by Sellers Engineering Ltd and Kirklees Council.

    An outline scheme was put forward two years ago, the scheme has been changed to replace three office buildings with the college. The buildings are up to six storeys high. If approval is granted, work could start next February.

    This looks like a great scheme, improving shabby land and opening up the canal.

    Info: Examiner

    Feb 08: After a year of uncertainty Manchester's quirky den of shops, Afflecks Palace, has been saved.

    There had been fears that owners Burntwood would not renew the lease and the stallholders would be priced out by higher rents. But Burntwood has bought the emporium, has promised to keep it as it is, and is looking for new managers.

    Hurrah - if it was in Leeds it would be turned into bland yuppie flats.

    Jan 08: Kirklees council has paid £2m for one of Huddersfield's most distinctive buildings - the old Co-op - to knock it down.

    The New Street building, with its Co-op stone sign, was Heaven and Hell nightclub for two years but has empty for the last year. It opened as a Co-op textiles department in 1936.

    A firm had wanted to convert it into student flats but has pulled and now the council has stepped in to buy it for £2m and knock it down to make way for the Queensgate redevelopment - which involves buolding a new library and art gallery, putting shops in the old library, attracting a major retailer for a department store, plus 160 new shops, cafes, bars and restaurants, 170 residential flats and a 100-bed hotel. No planning application has been submitted.

    The Co-op's looking fairly shabby now but it easily the best looking building in that part of town. A listing application failed in 2005. Shame the sign at least cannot be preserved.

    MEANWHILE The owner of Destiny Designwear, next to the cobbled track to the train station, intends to build a £1.5m new store on the site.

    The new store, which is as yet unnamed, will have four floors of designer brands and exclusive clothing for men and women. There will also be space for concessions, a cafe and the possibility of a restaurant.

    The drawings look very handsome indeed and in keeping with its Victorian surrounds.

    Owner Ghulam Rasool told the Examiner: “My vision is to make this the best independent department store in the area.

    “It will give this corner of the town a total facelift and make it so much more welcoming for shoppers.

    “I am doing it for Huddersfield – I was born here, I love this place and I want people to have something better."

    Jan 2008: Manchester's fabulous shopping emporium could close this weekend (19-20 Jan 08).

    Managers of the building say they haven't received a new tenancy agreement from the building's owners Burntwood and have given shopowners notice to quit.

    Burntwood say they offered a new agreement but negotiations have stalled. However building managers claim that Burntwood could raise the rent and price out shop owners.

    I'm probably too old for Afflecks with its trendy clothes but it's a real Aladdins cave of curios and a great advert for manchester amid the corporate samey big shop blandness.

    Dec 07: Wannabe London Leeds is about to get rid of another of its institutions by chucking out all the independent and quirky retailers and craftspeople in the Corn Exchange and turning it into in 'upmarket food emporium' (Jesus and Mary Chain).

    According to the Yorkshire Evening Post, the shop owners were told the centre had become 'unviable'. Some said they had been given until January 14 to move out and those with longer contracts had until May.

    Although Leeds City Council owns the building, it is leased to Zurich Assurance in an agreement spanning more than 100 years, so the authority has no control over the plans (oh how convenient)

    The proposals include opening a high-profile restaurant on the ground floor, with premium local, national and international produce on sale on the first floor and units selling related non-food cookware type goods on the upper floor. Talks are already under way with potential operators, including 'a number of branded restaurant occupiers'. (Hurrah! The same food places as everywhere else).

    If that wasn't bad enough, the craft businesses with Saturday stalls have been told not to come back. They were expecting to trade seven days a week throughout December as in previous years and make most of their money during this time.

    Well done Zurich! (The firm that shut down its insurance business in Leeds a few years ago leaving hundreds out of work).

    The Corn Exchange is one of the few places that's unique to Leeds and turning into a mall is another nail in the coffin in the blandification of the city. And if you want decent food, why not go to Kirkgate Market next door - one of the finest in the country for fresh meat and fish.

    Pic: BBC

    Dec 07: The mighty supermarket empire wants to move next door but one to Sainsbury's on the outskirts of Huddersfield on the site of the town's sports centre, keep its existing store on the other side of the ringroad with a £26m new sports centre in Springwood.

    According to the Huddersfield Examiner, Tesco and Kirklees Council are in talks over a deal which would fund a new sports centre on current car parking land at Springwood.

    Two of the three tower blocks of flats in Leeds Road, Ibbotson and Lonsbrough, would be demolished as part of the plan.

    The new sports centre, planned to be open in 2011, would be funded by a combination of cash from the sale of the existing site, using council funds that would otherwise have to be spent on repairs to the sports centre and other buildings running into millions of pounds, and other council capital budgets.

    The council says it will consult on the options for re-housing tenants from Ibbotson and Lonsbrough Flats before a final decision is made.

    Mmm, no planning application yet but once Tesco get their teeth into something like this it's very difficult to stop, especially as the council will be saving millions. There's a danger that the supermarkets could drag more trade out of the town centre but let's face it there's only one bread shop and butcher's shop left in the town centre and they close by 5pm.

    April 07:One of Manchester's greatest attractions, Afflecks Palace, looks set to have been saved from development.

    Stallholders in the rabbit warren of quirky clothes, astrologers, barbers and second-hand gubbins feared the building would be redeveloped into swanky flats when they weren't offered a new lease.

    The city council stepped in to negotiate between the stallholders and the building's owners and a new lease has been offered. The owners say they have no plans to turn Afflecks into luxury housing.

    Rentaquote Councillor Pat Karney believes Afflecks is safe, however no details of rent rises have been released and the building's owners "cannot make any firm assurances"..mmm.

    Not surprisingly there has been a huge hoo-ha about the possible closure of Afflecks - it is a unique place to shop and a lovely building. Its loss would make Manchester a duller place, especially after the Corn Exchange (books and bootleg heaven) had to make way for the Triangle after the IRA bomb. Hurrah! More antiseptic clothes shops for anorexic footballers' wives.

    June 07 update: Still no new rental agreement with landlord and shop owners - they're getting worried again...

    Jan 2007, update:First impressions of a strange town are often formed by the first view you get as you step out of the train station. Your heart sinks when you enter Peterborough, Doncaster or Stafford but it soars when you leave Huddersfield station and marvel at its square of grand buildings and the stone lion on the roof of one. It's like being in Rome!

    Kirklees council wants to make St George's Square even more impressive by removing the road in front of the station and disused fountain and mini-roundabout at the end of the square (by the green bus in the council's picture above), extending the pedestrianised part to cover it, restricting traffic on the road the bus is using, and adding more bus stops.

    The council asked developers to come up with three options for the redesign and asked the public to choose the best. The work will be completed in autumn 2008.

    The winner, with 67 per cent of the public vote is....Option 1. Hurrah!
    Option 1:

    This is my favourite although it involves moving the Harold Wilson statue in front of the station entrance to the centre of the square and replacing him with fountains in front and adding trees elsewhere. I like the way they've used the space for different features here, the other designs make the square seem a little barren.

    Option 2 (16 per cent of votes):

    Corporate bollocks alert! "St George's Square links the train station with the town and connects travellers with other modes of transport. Option 2, called Pennine Arrival, takes this idea of connection to create strong lines of paving and movement through the square."
    Movement of what? People? They move there already! There'll also be lights and fountains in the ground.

    Option 3 (6 per cent of votes):

    Bit of a seated area and circular stream-type water feature on the old fountain site.

    Pictures from:

    Kirklees Council site

    Oct 2006: Transforming the library and market area of Huddersfield is the latest scheme cooked up by the council. Officers had suggested knocking down the library and market in 2004 but both buildings have since been listed.

    There was a hue and cry (not the one-hit wonder Scottish band), especially about the library, and in truth the area around these two buildings is ok at the moment but the council wants to attract shoppers away from Leeds and elsewhere so it proposes:

  • A 100-bed hotel in the old Co-op building (recently a nightclub) next to the ringroad

  • A walkway over the ring road linking the town centre and the university on the other side of the road. (Another two-tier walkway linking the area with the rest of town)

  • A new library and art gallery, retaining the external appearance of the existing building, with shops and a health club upstairs (see top picture - glass building at far end)

  • Sixty shops (including big department stores) and 170 flats

  • Demolition of the Queensgate multi-storey car park

    Plenty of turquoise glass covering the walkways and the rest of the buildings, forming a sort of semi-covered shopping mall - pretty but fairly unadventurous and it's hard to see why the scheme will cost £200m.

    The council are asking for comments on
  • Kirklees Council site


  • A huge warehouse next to Huddersfield station, which has been empty for 30 years, is to be converted into 70 flats, offices, shops and even a hotel from next year as part of a £50m development. Planning permission was granted in August 2006 and its should be finished by December 2008.

  • The grey slabby high risers making up Huddersfield Technical College (next to the ring road) could be coming down. A plan has been submitted although the college has found out there are mineshafts under most of the college and they might have to move sites.

  • The owners of the Kingsgate shopping centre want to expand and build a second floor with space for bigger stores.

    A George Formby statue and some Wigan insults

    July 2006: It's been years since I saw Wigan on a gloriously sunny day. I only tend to visit for rugby league matches and beer festivals when it's either dark or raining, but when I visited this month (July) it looked - not beautiful exactly - but spruced up, vibrant and not as down-at-heel as I remember it.

    I always thought it was one of those towns where they'd ripped out the heart and replaced it with identikit shopping centres, but apart from the market you do notice that a lot of the old-fashioned mock Tudor buildings and fancy brickwork remain, above ground level at least (see picture).

    They're building a new shopping centre on the street where the cinema and Wigan casino used to be. It doesn't look to be any great shakes but hopefully it'll provide a different variety to the town's shops, maybe a decent book or record shop for example.

    As long the shops don't see off Smith's (THE Smith's not the WH upstart) which is still thriving selling much the same stuff as its mainstream namesake.

    As for pubs, the Bricklayers, near the bus station, is still boarded up. It's a handsome building, narrow but with four big bay windows. Next door the Colliers, with its purple-tiled exterior, looks closed and round the corner the Raven has a to let sign outside it. The Raven is a grand brownstone building but the ale was always very ordinary when I visited years ago.

    Perhaps all three pubs are suffering from the effect of the massive Moon under the Water Wetherspoon's in their midst, or maybe it's the Anvil - officially Wigan's best real ale pub and a great place to watch rugby league.

    I ended my Swiggin in Wiggin (the name of Wigan's Camra mag) here watching Saints v Leeds (there was surprisingly little anti-Saints feeling, more old blokes moaning about the ref - surprise, surprise)

    I started my mini crawl at the Old Pear Tree, the Camra pub of the season in Wigan which also has a to let sign on. I moved on to the Royal Oak in that impressive part of Standishgate which features Camberwick Green-type Georgian houses.

    The Royal Oak is opposite the Griffin, once owned by Billy Boston, arguably the greatest rugby league player ever, with an incredible turn of speed and ability to avoid tackles that left the opposition players in slow motion. I interviewed him once and he was such a humble, almost timid, man as if he couldn't see what the fuss was all about. But in football terms he's the equivalent of Bobby Charlton and Pele.

    Further up the roads is my own favourite, the Bowling Green - a great winter pub with its log fires, and opposite is The Millstone which was once owned by my great Auntie Annie. Further up out of town was her daughter's woolshop which looked exactly like the one in Wallace and Gromit's A Close Shave (another Wigan connection for the duo perhaps - the council are claiming they live in Wigan because of an A-Z in their latest film!)

    While swiggin' in the boozers, I had a chance to read the papers I used to work for (or for whom I used to work, if I was being a pedantic sub) - the Wigan Observer and Wigan Evening Post. Good to see Richard Bean's by-line still in there. Beano is one of those tremendous characters who has two modes - joking or ranting - and a vast cast of contacts to help him get the nitty-gritty stories which make Wigan tick.

    He seems like a relic of the past now where everyone is encouraged to be a happy-clappy yes man/woman, supporting your employers as if they are your favourite football team, even if they could sack you tomorrow.

    I remember Beano's stint as editor of Steam Railway News, which he did in tandem with his reporting, when he used to get calls from lonely trainspotters on some godforsaken platform shrieking to an orgasmic intensity about the shunting engine they'd just seen.

    Geoffrey Shryhane's still got his column. His beard is grey now but he's still got his beaming smile as if he's just polished off a large chocolate eclair. (He also lives next door to my wool shop-owning relative)

    It was his idea to erect a statue to George Formby in Wigan, sparking a tremendous letter in the Observer from JJ Kenyon from Beech Hill. Here's some extracts: "The last thing Wigan needs is a monument to that grinning oaf.

    "His raucous singing, grating voice, inane grin, horrible, unfunny films, and constant twanging on the most unmelodic instrument ever invented, scraped on the nerves like a hollow tooth and made George the worst artist this country has ever produced.

    "All he did for Wigan was perpetuate the myth of cobbles, shawls and clogs."

    Mr/Ms Kenyon suggests a statue to Billy Boston instead. I'm a fan of George, he makes me laugh and some of his songs are great, but I think Mr/Ms Kenyon's right - he'll perpetuate the myth of t' Northern cliche (just Pier).

    I recently found out that my great grandad and great-great aunt played in a trio with George Formby Senior before he was "famous" and he asked them to join him professionally but my great granddad carried on running the Minorca Hotel in Wigan.

    Other pub connections: My great-great uncle Joe ran the Springfield Hotel, in Wigan, in the early 1900s, my great-great grandparents were in charge of the Navigation in Gathurst and my great-great grandparents on the other side took over the Royal Oak, in Crooke. Beer's in the genes!

    Found some great Wigan words and phrases on the Wigan Shades site.
    Here's some insults:

    To someone who’s ugly:
    Who knitted thi face an dropped a stitch?

    To someone with a terrible memory:
    It’s a good job thi balls are in a bag

    To someone who’s miserable:
    Thaz a face lihk a line of wet washin

    To someone who’s going bald:
    Ah’ve sin moor air on bacon than thaz geet on thi yed

    To someone with large teeth:
    Art brakinum in fer an orse?

    To someone chatty:
    Ah bet thi teeths glad when thar asleep

    To someone who’s loud:
    Yon mon con whisper o'er three fields

  • Wigan Shades

  • Pictures from

  • Wigan World - great archive site

  • And

  • The George Formby Society

    Brilliant ideas, ground down by cash and conformity

    Barnsley as a Tuscan town: Surrounded by a wall wide enough to walk on, which lights up to form a halo. Looks unlikely at the moment.

    A lake in the middle of Bradford: In the shape of a speech bubble, outside the town hall as part of an urban park. He also wants to open up a canal which runs underground through the centre. Consultants say a lake could be built outside the town hall. Detailed plans for water features running through the city were submitted in March. Outline plans for a canalside village in the centre, by reopening parts of the Leeds and Liverpool canal, were submitted in November.

    Houses shaped like chips, Manchester: Next to the Ashton canal in "New Islington" (near old Ancoats). Three huge chips with newspaper wrapping exteriors. These are on sale (

    A city along the M62 from Hull to Liverpool: SuperCity featured in an exhibition in Urbis 2005, in Manchester. Idea is to preserve green areas by putting houses, shops along the motorway. Buildings include a high-rise village for 5,000 people, a multistorey vertical farm with a market at ground level and a restaurant on top, and a block of flats shaped like Marge Simpson's hair. Drawing board stage only.

    Peckham Library: The building that probably made his name, in this country at least. A rectangular box on stilts with a garish Library sign on the top. Transformed a shitty area of London and won a major architecture prize in 2000.

    Fourth Grace - The Cloud: A 10-storey globe, described as a diamond knuckleduster, was meant to be a key element of Liverpool City of Culture 2008 bid but public cash backers feared it would cost too much and pulled out in 2004. Never mind - if you want to see real Liverpool culture go down to Flanagan's near the cavern at 5.30pm when there's a blues band on and everyone's rocking like it's 2am.

    Some info from

  • The Guardian

  • Bradford T and A


    A £175m scheme to transform a 12-acre site near Huddersfield town centre into "The Waterfront Quarter", with 500 apartments, offices, shops, restaurants, and a hotel, has been given conditional permission by Kirklees Council.

    Approval will be granted towards the end of the year (2006) on the site bounded by Chapel Hill, Manchester Road and The River Colne, providing agreement can be reached on how much developers will pay towards the cost of road improvements around the site.

    RCD, who are handling the development, reckon 2,000 construction, office and retail jobs will be created. The apartments are aimed at "young professionals".

    The site (see top picture) is primarily occupied by Sellers Engineering and includes Kirklees Council premises at West Riding House together with Grey House Yard. Existing listed buildings fronting Chapel Hill, including the Rat and Ratchet pub, will be incorporated into the scheme. Most of the site is owned by Sellers.

    RCD have worked on retail and leisure complex The Light in Leeds and the city's Quarry Hill development of flats and offices.


  • RCD