The phrase says: “From Hell, Hull, and Halifax, Good Lord, deliver us!”
But this is because of those places’ reputations for strict punishment, not their ugliness. Hell is perfectly lovely in April.
In this (sadly incomplete) programme from 1975 architecture critic Ian Nairn takes his sympathetic but critical eye to Huddersfield and Halifax. The latter in particular is well worth a visit, you fans of architecture and “place”; it was largely spared from both town planners and Luftwaffe. Here’s Ian’s film of Halifax architecturally beating Huddersfield 5:2.
It’s called Football Towns. I don’t know if these two places are particularly football-y, especially with rugby league around, and compared to, say, Burnley. Maybe there’s another significance. Unfortunately we won’t find out as this is the only version I can find online and it’s missing the beginning, which means the Huddersfield section is curtailed. Still, we get to see the Cloth Hall.
Torn down, of course.
Halifax starts at around the 7 minute mark.
The town probably looks better now than it does in the film. Both of the dilapidated churches he mentions have been saved, one now an arts centre.
And against all expectation the council have resisted the temptation to tear down the Piece Hall to clear space for a T.K. Maxx.
Even the market’s still nice.
The only real loss is the “Leaning Tower of Halifax”, unfortunately no longer with us.
A great thing about Nairn is that he looks at buildings from the perspective of people who live around them, and he is open to the modern. He admires Huddersfield’s new indoor market as much as Halifax’s well-preserved Victorian version, and praises the mammoth Halifax Bank building. It is now the Lloyds, and doesn’t quite dominate the centre as it did in the 1970s. You glimpse it at the end of streets, and only really get a sense of its scale when you look into the town from a distance, as from Southowram, a view Nairn describes as “one of the most dramatic in Britain”.
Halifax, he says, “has expressed itself”. Thankfully, it still does.
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