Photographs Taken By Electric Light

The story of the photographers' studio at West End, Hebden Bridge, is typical of many which sprung up all over the country in the 19th century, in response to the fascinating new invention of photography - with one important exception however.

Very few survived for over 100 years, for the most part run by one dedicated owner who left behind a priceless archive of photographs, artefacts, equipment and ephemera embracing the history of a town and the surrounding area, as was the case at Crossley Westerman (later Alice Longstaff) Photographers.

Just a few weeks before her death in January 1992 Alice was still working in the studio where she had come, as an eager young apprentice, in 1921, to learn the arts and skills she was to excel in for more than 70 years.

The Alice Longstaff Gallery Collection is her legacy to the town; but even more than this her story and that of the studio, where she captured on film the lives and family celebrations of thousands of people over a period of seven decades, are now part of local legend.

The story starts in 1861, when Crossley Westerman was born in Hebden Bridge and seemed destined to follow in the footsteps of so many of his fellow townsfolk. The young Crossley, on leaving school, took up the highly skilled trade of fustian cutter, working in a local mill.

But he had a dream and it was to turn his engrossing hobby of photography into a business where he could exercise all his new-found accomplishments and enthusiasm.

His childhood had been spent in the premises at West End where, it is believed, his mother ran a toy shop. Crossley had moved out following his marriage to Elizabeth Cockcroft in 1882 but returned - now with a wife and four children - ten years later, on the death of his mother in 1892.

This sad event, however, offered Crossley the opportunity to set his scheme in motion.The shop was turned into a photographers studio - one of several in the town at this period - and so began a retail tradition which was, remarkably, to continue for most of the next century.

Read the full story in Milltown Memories. If this or other stories stirs a memory, we'd be happy to know - send us your memories and comments.