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A Shout From The Attic: Hope Bank - Symbol of the Vanishing Past

...Music blared over loudspeakers suspended from the ceiling, and a small bar sold small bottles of pop and bags of Smith’s crisps, the only crisps I remember eating until I was much older. Inside each bag of crisps was a twist of waxed blue paper with a pinch of salt inside, to sprinkle on the crisps, clutch the top of the bag and shake to distribute the sale over the crisps. I can still taste them when I think about them, and they have never been bettered...

Ronnie Bray recalls a small pleasure park which provided many hours of joy in a less-complicated age.

The name, Hope Bank, means nothing to young folk in Huddersfield. But their grandparents and great-grandparents will remember it as one of the Victorian theme parks where families would gather on sunny days to enjoy all the fun of the fair. Lodged in a shallow valley between New Mill and Holmfirth, it was a pleasant and near attraction for families who didn’t want to spend either the time or money to travel to the coast, where such pleasure parks were to be found.

Of the park, I have two sets of memories. One somewhere in the dim and distant past when all I can recover of it is a vague and fleeting impression of sunshine, laughter, and lots of coloured things going round to the accompaniment of music. The second, more distinct set of memories are of a later age when the park was closing down, and all that was left was the donkey ride, the miniature railway, and the inside roller rink.

The roller skating rink was the major attraction for me. I must have been fourteen or fifteen and spreading my wings in other ways than on my bicycle. I had been to the roller rink at Batley and seen a roller hockey match. The skill of the players had impressed me and I wanted to be able to skate that fast. The charge at Hope Valley was a shilling, and for that you borrowed skates and skated all night long.

Music blared over loudspeakers suspended from the ceiling, and a small bar sold small bottles of pop and bags of Smith’s crisps, the only crisps I remember eating until I was much older. Inside each bag of crisps was a twist of waxed blue paper with a pinch of salt inside, to sprinkle on the crisps, clutch the top of the bag and shake to distribute the sale over the crisps. I can still taste them when I think about them, and they have never been bettered.

The floor of the rink was asphalt composition, black as coal and quite smooth. Its smoothness made skating a matter of keeping your wits about you to avoid sliding into the walls on the tight corners at each end. Skating was done in sessions. The unseen voice of the rink controller would break through the music from the speakers, ruling “Beginners and slow skaters!” or “Fast skaters only!” and so passed our nights alternating between fast and slow. Although I never did learn to skate with the proficiency required to be a hockey player, I got so that I could speed skate, and slide round corners with the wheels squealing on the compo. I also learned to stop quickly and in short distance, which is more important than being able to go fast.

The enjoyment I got from the almost complete freedom of speed skating, a near flying experience, is unquantifiable, except to say that it was exhilarating, and I could hardly wait to go back and do it again. Why I stopped going, I have no idea. Perhaps it closed down as the old place became less and less favoured, and when customers vote with their feet, it sounds the death knell, even for important places.

I remember being there with a friend whose identity has escaped me, and sitting on the front bumper of the miniature railway’s engine, whose work for the day was done, being warmed by the residual heat of the coal-fired boiler. My friend and I sat either side of a young lady whom both of us were trying to court. Neither my friend nor I nor the young lady knew much about courting, but it was an otherwise pleasant experience.

And those are my memories of the dying days of a place that once was an important centre for family amusement, but whose best days were already gone when I was up and about and taking notice. ‘Sic gloria transit mundi’ – ’thus passes away the glory of this world.’

Irrespective of what anything is, when its time comes to disappear, it does so. Some things vanish overnight without trace. Other institutions vanish slowly, like the Cheshire Cat, leaving behind some trace elements of its former glory, before disappearing altogether. Hope Bank finally yielded to the heavy equipment that obliterated everything that could show where the amusement park was, and in their places, Brook Motors built their factory to make electric motors.

Yet I know that I am not alone in musing on what was when I drive past the entrance to Brook Motor’s Honley factory complex, and, perhaps, not alone in heaving an audible sigh for a place that once was a part, however small, of my lost childhood.

Soon, it will be time for those who were not children when I was one, to follow the things that are already gone, and those that are going almost daily, as the tokens of my bygone days slip into their own oblivions, making me to wonder if I dreamed it all, or was it once real.

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