Dockfield Memories


This is Chris Uttley, who grew up on Dockfield Road. He’s holding up a 1970s photo showing himself (the little one), his brother, and his grandmother, standing in front of Junction Bridge on the Leeds-Liverpool canal — where it intersects with the now filled-in Bradford Canal. This photo is taken from the opposite bank to the one Chris is holding, since there are new-build flats occupying the space in that photo now. But you can still clearly see the bridge, and Junction House to its left, in both pictures. It’s disheartening to realise that the sorry state of disrepair into which Junction House has fallen has been within Chris’s lifetime. (And those trees now in front of it are clearly younger than him.)

Chris lives in Stroud now, in Gloucestershire, and works professionally in water and environmental management. He says that this has everything to do with having grown up on Dockfield Road — sandwiched between the canal and the river. With Bradford Beck to the west and fields to the east, residents used to think of the area as an “island”. Chris came across our project accidentally, online, and we arranged to meet up with him recently when he came back up north to visit his parents. Chris combined walking his dog and talking with us…

As it happens, this coincided with a day of knocking on doors in Dockfield Road and Dockfield Terrace that we (my colleague Lyze and I) were doing as part of our research — and in conjunction with Kirkgate Centre’s community development initiatives. So we got the perfect start when Chris ran into his old neighbour Sue, hanging out washing in the yard, and we were invited in for a cup of tea and a trip down memory lane. Sue’s a little older than Chris, so they weren’t quite remembering the same generation of childhood antics in the area — but their memories were very similar. All kinds of malarkey got up to along the canal and, to a lesser extent, the river… “We were poor economically,” Sue remarked, “but we were rich in every other way.”

Sue feels now that the sense of community in the area is not what it used to be, which is perhaps inevitable when you have strong memories of what it was like when everyone living around you was also working in the local mills and factories (rather than commuting into Leeds, etc., as happens now). Still, the impression Lyze and I had from our initial round of doorknocking was of a friendly, engaging community of residents who often knew each other well. More on this to follow.

DSC_0108Meanwhile… this graffiti patch on the wall beside the canal, on the approach to Junction Bridge and Dockfields, has become a bit of a local battlefield. You can see from the paintwork that the more political statements have been painted over — presumably by the Council (?) — and then RE-stencilled again by the activists. What’s interesting here is that nobody attempted to just erase the whole thing… It’s a nice patch of colour on a nasty grey wall, after all, with pretty butterfly pictures on it… So if we just take away the complaints about capitalism, maybe it’ll all be OK? The yellow has of course been chosen, though, because of it’s connection to the yellow livery of Bradford-based retail chain Morrisons… who are planning to build a big old supermarket next to Bradford Beck only a couple of hundred yards from this spot…





3 thoughts on “Dockfield Memories

  1. Hi Phil, thanks for your comment. Would love to get in touch but your email bounces back? Any alternative contact route?

  2. Hi we have recently purchased junction house and the land attached to it with the hope of restoring the house. Please get in touch Phil and Steve as I would love to see your Photo and Oil Painting and any info that you have on the house. Thank you.

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