Looking forward ... to learning more about our past

Throughout its fifty year existence, PontArc has attempted to record historic buildings during demolition. Until the middle of the last century, Pontefract was rich in old structures, but then along came ‘re-development,’ a term which usually meant replacing the interesting with the mediocre. Of course, buildings do sometimes reach the end of their useful lives and have to be replaced. Whatever the cause, it is important that the older building is recorded.

In the middle of 1967, Bratley’s old shop was due to be replaced. Outwardly a nineteenth century shop, the demolition revealed a late medieval building with some unique features. Luckily these discoveries were made just before the weekend, when the site would be accessible. With permission from the Bratley family a small team from PontArc began exploring the partly-demolished structure.

They quickly identified oak panelling, rare painted wall-plaster, and a unique Jacobean chimney-piece hidden beneath later papering. Harry Battye, a professional Art-Historian, immediately left to research the documentary evidence, whilst photographer Derek Thorpe began recording in black and white. Secretary Eric Houlder photographed the details in colour, whilst Don Lodge started to carefully remove the chimney-piece.

A full report was finally published with contributions from the members named, and interpretation by Chairman Doreen Roberts. Because of the cost of photo reproduction in the 1960s, the pictures of the investigation have never been published.

Recording Bratley’s shop, 1967

Don Lodge, one-time society President, begins to free the chimney-piece from its matrix. It is now on display in Pontefract Museum, having been skilfully restored by Harry Battye.

The rare painted wall- plaster. Incidently, this was the Society’s first use of a metric scale!

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