Mid-September heritage open day events provided an opportunity to investigate something new. We agreed that St. Peter’s Church in Sowerby looked interesting. I checked public transport routes to discover it involved a bit of a walk from the nearest station. We set off in the soft late summer sun, along the towpath and through the park. The slightly-delayed train soon arrived at Sowerby Bridge where the subway stank strongly of cat pee. We headed down Station Road and briefly perused interesting artefacts outside the junk shop. At the bottom, we found a crazily busy junction where motorists tore past yellow stone edifices. With no pedestrian crossing, getting to the other side of West Street proved hairy.
Sowerby Street led uphill. An incongruent concrete block was fronted by a small parade of shops, most seemingly shut. Upper floors housed maisonettes. Ahead of us, a faded sign on the side of The Royal Oak made us wonder if the pub still served Whitaker’s ales and stout.
Across the street, we turned right onto Sowerby New Road and climbed ever higher. On the left-hand side, industrial buildings and a dilapidated telephone exchange interspersed residential properties. A whole row had been demolished leaving a pile of rubble reminiscent of a bomb site. Stunted side streets proclaimed private land. To the right, sloping terraces clung to the valley sides. We remarked on the juxtaposition of the urban and rural in the Lower Calder Valley.
Further up, Phil asked if we were going the right way to which I replied there was no other (apart from crossing the valley near Luddenden Foot). He seemed sceptical so I suggested he look it up before our return.
A bend eventually marked the start of Sowerby Village with the Church Stile Inn the first sign we had reached our destination. The imposingly dark church stood proudly on the opposite corner. A side gate led into the graveyard. Going round to the unlocked front door, we entered to find St. Peter’s looking quite busy but soon surmised the occupants were all church people, with us the sole visitors who’d come on spec. Undaunted, we explored the interior. Sunbeams shone through amazing stained-glass windows. Ornate plasterwork decorated the wall above the altar. An intriguing balcony was unfortunately out of bounds. Display boards showed stills of film scenes from the BBC drama Gentleman Jack – the church had stood in for St. Martin’s in the Field.
The lovely trendy vicar offered me a cuppa. As I settled down with my drink, I fell into conversation with two other women munching cake, one of whom was also a writer. She fetched me a copy of the church newsletter containing articles she’d written about the church and its historyi. In turn, I told her about my column in Valley Life magazine. When Phil joined us, the vicar made him a coffee and I succumbed to the proffered cake.
Surprised at how long we had spent inside, we said we ought to make a move and bade goodbye. Walking round the church exterior, our attempt to do a complete circuit was thwarted by tangled overgrowth at the back.
We explored the immediate vicinity of St. Peter’s Square where the primary school had been turned into a church hall. Phil checked google for a different way to Sowerby Bridge. As I expected, there was none. We returned the way we’d come. Obviously quicker downhill, we occasionally stopped to admire valley views, picking out landmarks and peculiarities. Lone cats stalked about in long grass. Tall towers loomed in the distance. A line of toy cars had been parked neatly beneath a garden swing. Upper Gaukroger sounded unusual; the name turned out to be idiosyncratically Yorkshirei i.
At the bottom of Sowerby New Road, we took a slight detour down Foundry Road and noted that some of the Victorian mills had been converted into apartments, rather over-furbished in places.
Towards the town centre, a makeshift campsite had been constructed near the weir. We wondered at the ostentatious architecture, particularly the odd shape of the town hall and the fake art deco defunct cinema. We ducked into a wharfside pub to use facilities but were not tempted to stay. Narrow alleys provided a shortcut to the station. In the subway again, Phil this time noticed the stink and surmised there must be a station cat.
The next due train was severely delayed. The announcements helpfully informed us that it was late due to being late leaving the depot! As we loitered in the car park, one of the women from the church appeared, on her way to Manchester where she now lived.
We chatted until our train eventually arrived, leaving her to catch the next one; not far behind due to the huge delay. Out of earshot, Phil said the woman reminded him of the ‘lovely Debbie McGee’. I was glad he had not mentioned that earlier or I might have struggled to keep a straight face!
More photos at: https://1drv.ms/u/s!AjkK19zVvfQti85ShF7iT8-DfaEScg?e=zXgwoe