Introduction to Alan Hardcastle's
'Roots, Tracks and Waterways' Exhibition
shown at Smith Art Gallery, Brighouse April 25 - June 20 2009


Old Bank Halifax
Judy Woods
Huddersfield Narrow Canal

In early 2007 I submitted an exhibition proposal to
Calderdale Council Museums and Galleries.

After over 20 years absence from the exhibition circuit I am grateful to them for their support and confidence in my work which has led to this opportunity to mount this solo exhibition at the Smith Art Gallery.

The paintings and drawings on display in this exhibition are the practical results of my work during the past two years although some of the ideas have been germinating since the early 1980s. The work is made up of three strands, 'Roots, Tracks and Waterways' which are separate yet inter-connected.

My work is essentially representational and I make no apologies for this - I find inspiration in the landscape of the region where I was born and bred.

refers to my background. My roots are firmly planted in Halifax and the surrounding area; my family arrived in the district in the early 1700's and have been here ever since.

At this time a branch of the Hardcastle family farmed a smallholding in Hipperholme which they rented from the Shibden estate. Their tenancy came to an abrupt end during Ann Lister's occupancy of Shibden Hall when a large part of the farmland was sold off to make way for the new road to Leeds, effectively rendering the Hardcastles redundant as farmers.

Ring o'' Bells

In William's time this was
the front of the Inn

Ring o'' Bells

Present day front of Ring o' Bells
but was the rear in William's time


Ring o'' Bells

View of 
Ring o' Bells from
south porch of the Parish Church

In the middle decades of the 19th century my great-great-great grandfather, William Hardcastle, was innkeeper of the Ring o' Bells Inn.

Halifax Parish Church

View of church tower
from the Piece Hall

Halifax Parish Church
Bell Tower

Halifax Parish Church

The Ring o' Bells Inn is just a stones-throw away from Halifax Parish Church where, for more than 50 years, William was a renowned bell-ringer and composer of peals of bells.

Old Bank Halifax

Painting of Old Bank Cottages based on a 1912 sketch
by Arthur Comfort

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Old Bank Halifax

View from the top of Old Bank 2007

William was also a member of the Halifax Town Council and towards the latter end of his life he lived in a cottage in Old Bank.

refers to paths made by people and animals, ancient trackways, erosion of the land by wind and water and implied paths created by cast shadows.

Judy Woods

Pathway in Judy Woods

Dry Rill, Judy Woods

Dry Rill in Judy Woods

Trackway in snow, Judy Woods

Track in snow in Judy Woods

Judy Woods is the setting for much of the work on display and is a valuable new discovery for me. My wife had plagued me for years to visit Judy Woods, relating memories of the wonderful place she used to go to as a child. She thought it "might be a good place to paint". As childhood memories rarely live up to expectations (and as my wife doesn't have an artistic bone in her body) I had pooh-poohed this and was only reluctantly dragged there in the late summer of 2006 for a picnic with the grandkids.

Judy Woods

Autumn in Judy Woods
Judy Woods

Sun and shadow in Judy Woods

How wrong I was - I found myself in magnificent primeval woodlands of beech and oak trees with ancient drover's roads snaking their way among them. I was awestruck and knew I had found another source of inspiration.

'Waterways' refers to canals and related industrial landscapes.
Huddersfield Narrow Canal is the subject of this strand of work which harks back to drawings and black and white photographs I made in the late 1970's.

Huddersfield Narrow Canal

Neglected lock c1977
Huddersfield Narrow Canal

Short stretch of canal c1977

Huddersfield Narrow Canal

Lock near Bates Bridge c1977

The canal and its surroundings of probably less than a mile of waterway behind Huddersfield Polytechnic (now the University) were in a state of decay and neglect and I wanted to document what was there before it disappeared forever - these are the images you will see in the exhibition.

Huddersfield Narrow Canal

Short stretch of canal 2008

Huddersfield Narrow Canal

University buildings 2008
Huddersfield Narrow Canal

View of Bates Bridge 2008

More recent visits to the area have revealed a very different environment. A major project of rebuilding and refurbishing has been completed which is a credit to all concerned; but for me is also a little sad.  The appeal and resonance of that time in the 70's, when I worked along the canal-side, looking at cast-off rubbish floating half-submerged in the water, seeing the derelict buildings reflected in the canal and where I could almost hear the shouts and curses of men going about their daily grind, have been lost.
But such is progress and the area is now again a vibrant working waterway albeit for leisure rather than commerce and trade.
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