Batley is just a short drive from Dewsbury. To be honest, the drive into Batley is rather industrial and down at heel, so my hopes about the place had slid down several notches. It has a Blackpool feel with large, almost industrial sized night clubs on the edge of town, but without the sea, the illuminations and the crowds.
We parked up behind the main town centre in a small free car park. You can also get parked in the Tesco car park which is just behind the main street, running through Batley town centre.
Compared to Dewsbury, Batley was pretty much devoid of people and there might as well have been tumbleweed rolling through the town, it was that quiet. It is clear that some regeneration money has been spent on the main thoroughfare through Batley as it looks neat and tidy, although there are still some empty shops along here. There is a tiny little precinct near Tesco, but there were no shops open there and it had a funny smell as it has lain dormant for some time. We did spot a couple of places that had taken some inspiration from thriving towns like Holmfirth and Saltaire. They were making the effort to look classy with Farrow and Ball style neutral paint schemes and vintage decor.
There were a few charity shops and we bobbed in and out of them to pass the time. However there wasn’t much to find for either myself (books) or Neil (records), though I quite liked the charity shop which specialised in furniture – definitely a place to find stuff to re-upholster. I did get the impression they were waiting for us to leave so they could close for the day – you can’t blame them as it must have been a really slow day for them.
In all fairness, Batley town centre has some nice architecture going on with several impressive buildings made from sturdy Yorkshire stone buildings. The Town Hall and the nearby Methodist Chapel look pretty fine, and up the hill there is a well-manicured municipal garden. However, the place I did really take a shine to was Batley Library, which was originally funded by the philanthropist Carnegie. As we had nothing better to do, we took a stroll through the library and art gallery. This was where all the people in Batley were hanging out. I think the lure of free Internet access on a gloomy Saturday afternoon was the main explanation. We had a potter through the upstairs art gallery – it was hosting an exhibition by local artists. We did think we might find a picture of the singer/musician Robert Palmer, as he was originally from Batley, but there was nothing to be found.
One thing is for sure, you will be never short of a drink in Batley. The place is full of pubs and night clubs – many of them scary-looking. In the weird and wonderful world of 1960s and 1970s UK variety, Batley holds a bizarre place as being one of the top places for world famous acts to perform. You can hardly believe that Batley Variety Club saw the likes of Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones and Tina Turner perform on stage. Nowadays the club is called The Frontier, but it still looks like a throwback to the 1970s. In all honesty I’d be half interested to go in and see what it looks like now as I hear it hasn’t changed much over the years.
To cheer ourselves up, as it was getting a little depressing, we thought we’d get some ice cream. However we couldn’t find anything in the local shops and in the end we bought some from the local garage at the edge of town.
We thought our trip to Batley was over, but on the drive out of town we spotted a mill called Redbrick and thought we might as well pop in. It was such a pleasant surprise. It’s a discount outlet for a number of classy shops like Heal’s, BoConcept and Kelly Hoppen to name but a few. My brother would love this place as he’s fond of interior design. Even though it is a discount outlet it’s still pricey, but a great place to get some interior design inspiration. The little cafes looked good too with homemade cakes and I bet they do the best business in the place. Apparently there is another discount outlet up the road called The Mill Outlet, which is a bigger draw for Batley. We somehow managed to miss it completely, but I think it was due to the road system. Looking online the Mill Outlet does appear to be more like Boundary Mill in Colne, which is more aimed at older people. Whereas Redbrick Mill seems to be aiming more at the Saltaire Salt Mill market.
Batley, well what can I say? You’re now ticked off my Yorkshire list for starters. There is some good architecture going on, but maybe we should have gone there earlier as we may have seen more people about. This place isn’t really day trip material, unless it’s for a retail trip to the local mill outlets or going on a retro style stag do. I really can’t say I’ll be back in a hurry, but sometimes you’ve just got to go to places and find out what they are about as you never know what you will find.