When Colonel Akroyd came to build his second model village in 1855 (the first was Copley), he went upscale, as the Americans say.
Influenced by the growing permanent building society movement, he planned housing for his Haley Hill Mills, overlooking the centre of Halifax, to be purchased rather than rented by his workers. He donated the land, adjacent to his own residence, Bankfield, and arranged for the cost of building to be underwritten by the Halifax Permanent Building Society. The community was named Akroydon and all the streets were named after Anglican dioceses.
He hired George Gilbert Scott, the greatest Gothic Revival architect of the day to design 350 houses in terraced blocks of eight to ten in the style they called domestic Gothic, “the original style of the parish of Halifax”. Akroyd considered that “intuitively this taste of our forefathers pleases the fancy, strengthens house and home attachment, entwines the present with the memory of the past, and promises, in spite of opposition and prejudice, to become the national style of modern, as it was of old England.”
However, he found that potential freeholders are not so pliable as prospective tenants. Being Yorkshire people, they first regarded the whole thing as a speculation, and shunned it.
Then they objected to the Gothic style: “…although they liked the look of it, they considered it antiquated, inconvenient, wanting in light, and not adapted to modern requirements. The dormer windows were supposed to resemble the style of almshouses, and the independent workmen who formed the building association positively refused to accept this feature of the Gothic, which to their minds was degrading.”
Scott’s former pupil, W H Crossland, later the architect of St Stephen’s Church, Copley, recast the scheme as 92 houses “clustered around a market cross in a toned-down Gothic style ‘simple, yet bold in detail’”.
These were duly built, and still remain. The original owners, long gone to their rest, left their mark as a result of an inspired appeal to their vanity:
The occupiers find their new homes commodious in every respect, with abundance of light; and their prejudices against the pointed style are now finally uprooted. They are much gratified by one feature recently introduced, viz, the insertion of the owner’s monogram or device, on a stone shield, placed over the door, with the intent to give individuality and a mark of distinction to each dwelling.
These Englishmen’s homes were indeed their terraced ancestral castles.
For details of Mike Higginbottom’s lecture Survivals & Revivals: past views of English architecture, please click here.
The 80-page, A4 handbook for the 2012 Yorkshire Mills & Mill Towns tour, with text, photographs and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £10.00 including postage and packing. To view sample pages click here. Please send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.