IT was 60 years ago when a large part of Skipton was transformed as part of the council's 'slum clearance' programme into what the Craven Herald described at the time as an 'exciting new look'.

Old buildings in the Newmarket area of the town were cleared, and were replaced with modern bungalows and shops.

A double-page spread in the then broadsheet Herald in August, 1963, included details of the scheme, photographs and advertisements of all those involved in the re-development and the new businesses proud to have moved into the up to date premises.

The Newmarket Street area has taken on an 'exciting look' and the street, which the Herald said had at one time been one of the principal trading areas of the town seemed 'destined to return to its former glory'.

'Old buildings' said the paper, had 'given away to five, new gleaming shops with flats above'.

It continued: "Old cottages and shops were demolished and the sites cleared by Skipton Urban District Council as part of their sum clearance programme. This work involved the pulling down of old property in Brown's Yard, Club Houses, Greenside, and property on Newmarket Street itself, including the old Cross Keys inn and the Model Lodging House.

"In their place has sprung up a new block of shops and flats which has completely altered and enhanced the appearance of the area.

"The shops, with living accommodation above, are spacious, light and attractive. Their construction is entirely traditional, but of modern appearance, and great care has been taken with the selection of the materials so that the complete buildings blend with the surrounding properties."

Built by Skipton firm Merritt and Fryers, the architect was the council's Mr K B Robinson, engineer and surveyor. A lay-by in front of the shops, was built to Ministry of Transport standards, and was included to assist shopkeepers and customers while minimising 'interference with traffic flow on the main road'.

The first to occupy two of the shops was Mr J Simpson, whose family had run a fruit and greengrocery business in the street for more than 70 years. One of the shops was for fruit and vegetables and the one next door was a fish and chip shop, with the name 'The New Nag's Head'. It was so named because it was on the site of The Nag's Head pub, which was demolished to make way for the new block. The Simpsons had previously run a fish and chip - or 'fish and chips' business, as said at the time by the Herald - on the other side of the street.

Another two of the tenants were a Mr Sands and a Mr V W Phillip. Both were formerly in Keighley Road where Mr Sands traded as Simpsons men and boys wear, and and where Mr Phillip carried on his butchery business.

It was expected that at some time in the future, Keighley Road would be redeveloped, so council tenants in Keighley Road were given the opportunity to move to Newmarket Street. A Mr R Jackson also transferred his chemist from Court Lane to the new block of shops.

With the new block of shops, there were in 1963 24 shops in Newmarket Street, as well as offices, hotels, public buildings and professional practices.

Leading from Caroline Square, at the bottom of the High Street, on the left hand side, were the offices and showroom of the Yorkshire Electricity Board, offices of Caroline House, then Altham's Travel Agency - still in the town - Moores of Craven Lts, bedding and furnishers; T L Frearson and Co, ironmongers; A H Cork, hairdressers; Henley's, hairstylist; the offices of W Geoffrey Chapman and the Alliance Building Society. There was also H Newbould, jeweller; Frank Whalley, coal merchant; Fothergill's, pastrycooks; the Ilkley School of Motoring and Second Hand Books; D S Jones, groceries; and Cherry's, hairdresser and aquarist.

On the other side, there was an opticians, shoe shop, the offices of the West Yorkshire Road Car Company, a butchers, ladies' outfitters, a cafe, a stationary business and electrical engineers. In addition to the shops was the Royal British Legion club, the Dyneley House Hotel before the new row of shops. There were also three public houses, the GPO telephone exchange, the Congregational church and Sunday School, a veterinary surgeon and dental practices.

The next stage of the redevelopment of the Newmarket area was the building of 28 'old peoples bungalows', work of which in the summer of 1963 was underway.

To enable the development, the beck had to be culverted and new roads built. "The scheme has been planned to give the maximum interest to the elderly people who will occupy the bungalows, " said the Herald. "They will be near to the shops and within easy reach of the town centre. There will be an open green, a communal block and a warden's flat."