Sunday 2 August 2015

Dewsbury, West Yorkshire

After Wakefield, I got a taste for going back to Yorkshire. The only problem was that we’ve been to lots of places in Yorkshire over the years and have visited most of the classy places.  It was time to bite the bullet and visit some of the more down-to-earth places.

Dewsbury has been hitting the headlines over the years for all the wrong reasons.  Part of me was curious to see what kind of place it was and part of me chose it as it’s less than an hour’s drive from Manchester.

Getting to Dewsbury is straightforward – M60 (be patient with the 50 mph speed limit at the moment), M62, exit Junction 25, take a right onto the A644 and try to take the correct turns at the three roundabouts you have to do to get to Dewsbury.  We managed to get parked in a tiny car park opposite the bus station – it cost £1 for 3 hours.
My first impression was that it’s quite hilly and there are a lot of taxis in Dewsbury.  As we headed towards the shops it became evident that Dewsbury had seen better days.  There were lots of empty shops and the ones which were open were cheap shops.

We checked out the charity shops and there were plenty of them.  They seemed to be some of the busiest places in town.  Neil found plenty of vinyl records, but they were of such poor condition there was nothing worth picking up.  On the other hand I did manage to buy a book.  On the whole, the charity shops weren’t that exciting, but over the years I’ve found that charity shops in poor places don’t have quality stuff.

We headed to Dewsbury Market, which has been a big draw for the town over the years.  It’s not that exciting and sells mainly standard market stuff, but it does looks nice with its wrought iron arches and lamps which give the place a bit of character.
We went on the hunt for a bite to eat and eventually found the Sea Urchin chippy.  We had fish and chips – they were fine and it seemed like a popular place with the locals.  There weren’t that many food choices available during the day in Dewsbury, although in the evening it’s probably a different story.

The main thing I noticed in Dewsbury was the architecture – you really need to look up above the cheap shop signs to see how classy this place used to be.  The place is built with solid Yorkshire stone, which gives the place a sense of permanence and character.  There were little arcades near the market which had seen better days, but thankfully there was some scaffolding up and regeneration work was going on, part-funded by the National Lottery.  The Town Hall is a particularly lovely looking civic building, built in the Victorian era, again from Yorkshire stone. 
As we wandered around the side streets we passed the tattoo parlours and random shops like “Guns & Roses” – yes it sells flowers and shooting supplies.  There were some pubs too, which seemed to be traditional styled pubs – all very down-to-earth. 

If Dewsbury was a more affluent area this place would be buzzing – the buildings wouldn’t be going to rack and ruin, they would be turned into cafes, bars and restaurants.  Little independent shops would be cropping up all over the place.  Dewsbury has so much potential to be more than what it is.  This place is certainly crying out for investment, not just in its buildings but also its local economy and its people.

Maybe it didn’t help that it was one of those grey miserable days, but Dewsbury did strike me as quite a depressing place.  You can see how people can get ground down by places where they live when they are unloved and deprived.  I know the media hasn’t painted Dewsbury in the best light, but when you see how few opportunities are available in the town you can understand why people can become disengaged and marginalised.  With all the Council cutbacks you do worry how Dewsbury will fare over the next few years.  I’m not sure I’ll be back in a hurry, but it’s always good to see a place for yourself and not rely on media opinion.

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