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davidx Heptonstall - A travel report by David
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Heptonstall,  United Kingdom - flag United Kingdom
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davidx's travel reports

Calderdale, 4 ‘H’s including Heptonstall

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The ‘H’s covered here will be Calderdale’s principal town of Halifax and some places near my homeland of Todmorden [separate report] Hebden Bridge, Heptonstall and Hardcastle Crags. Apologies to Hipperholme!

Dean Royd Mills
through road bridge
Dean Royd Mills through road bridge
What exactly is Calderdale, you may ask? Without an essay on local government, it would be hard to answer the question intelligibly so I’ll just say that it’s a Metropolitan Borough. Start with Halifax. This was one of the famous textile towns, wool to be more specific, of England, particularly noted for its carpets. At least five things deserve mention here. Dean Clough provides some of the most scenic industrial architecture in England and the Victorian Town Hall ranks along with the best. The others are, so far as I know, unique to Halifax. The Piece Hall [NOT peace] is a large open area surrounded by ranked arcades of small shops, an art gallery and a TIC. Markets are held here on a regular basis and occasionally there is some sort of outdoor performance but the real pride of the Piece Hall are its beautifully ornamented, reconstructed wrought iron gates. The Wainhouse Tower was constructed as a detached mill chimney in Victorian times. It was carefully ornamented at the top and is floodlit in a shade of green at night. It can actually be ascended to a high point and is open on many bank holidays. The last of the sights is a model but a model of a real curiosity. There is an old saying [or prayer?] ‘From Hell, Hull and Halifax, Good Lord, deliver us.’ Here Hell means what it says and Hull represents transportation, a common historic punishment. Halifax represents execution – but not by the traditional British process of hanging. The model in Gibbet Street is not the normal gibbet, a post with a noose suspended, but something much more like the well-known French Guillotine. This was the death from which divine protection was required. By and large Halifax is not so much esteemed as resented by the other areas of Calderdale. It is seen as controlling the Council, which meets there, having far more seats than any other area, and most were previously under the historic West Riding of Yorkshire and didn’t seek the change.

Favourite spots:
Gibson Mill
Gibson Mill
Hardcastle Crags, themselves, could come as a disappointment to anyone who has heard of the beauty spot but the term is used for the area as a whole, a lovely wooded river valley, where a tributary beck flows into Hebden Water. As well as being a splendid area for birds and giving sight to the occasional deer or fox [sadly red squirrels no more], its spring flowers are marvellous, except for primroses, which prefer limestone to millstone grit. In particular the bluebell display is the best I have seen in the north of England. A main feature of the area, undergoing imaginative reconstruction by the National Trust, is Gibson Mill. It was built as a water mill in about 1800, was one of the first converted to steam and an early closure – late 19th century. Early last century it was an entertainment centre with a dance hall, dining and, remarkable as it may seem now, boating on the mill pond.

What's really great:
Heptonstall's two churches
Heptonstall's two churches
Heptonstall, pronounced locally more like ‘epnstll’, is a striking and interesting village, which has changed little over a long period. It is set on hillside well above Hebden Bridge with a valley on each side, Colden Water and Hebden Water. It was a centre of handloom weaving and the domestic industry and claims to have had the last handloom weaver in England. Its churchyard has two churches – most unusual, the first having been destroyed in the mid 19th century. Among the tombs is that of ‘King’ David Hartley, the leader of the nearby Cragg Vale coiners, who clipped gold currency to produce counterfeit coins. The tools that the Coiners used are shown in the tiny museum next to the churches. The Cloth hall still exists, where the handloom weavers used to display their wares prior to the opening of the Piece hall in Halifax. Ted Hughes, the late Poet Laureate used to have a centre very near here and, if you know his poems, you may experience déja vu in Heptonstall!

Old Market, Halifax
Old Market, Halifax
Shibden Hall, in an estate off the Leeds/Bradford road from Halifax, is a black and white house first built in the 15th century. The best website is ism/museums/shibden/, though why the Calderdale Council doesn’t proclaim the museum at the back, made out of old farm buildings and portraying ‘workshops‘of different aspects of rural life is something that eludes me.
To me it’s a major part of the attraction of the place. That’s not meant to knock the hall itself, which is worth a bit of anybody’s time. The estate has various attractions that will appeal to children.
The best museum in the town, unfortunately not at all cheap, is the Eureka Museum for children, just by the station. Have a look at
When I was working, I tried to visit the award winning Industrial Museum – too early. I tried again today. It closed several years ago! I had mentioned it here – lucky I was short of photos and so went to Halifax.

Piece Hall, Halifax
Piece Hall, Halifax
I have actually stayed in Hebden Bridge – work related – The Carlton Hotel, Albert Street. Very comfortable and good food.

Old Gramar School, Heptonstall. [now museum]
Old Gramar School, Heptonstall. [now museum]
Yes, in plenty. Some favourites are:
In Halifax: The Union Cross, Portman and Pickles
Sowerby Bridge, near Halifax: Puzzle Hall
In Hebden Bridge: The Albert,; the Railway.
In Heptonstall: Cross Inn
In country near Hebden Bridge: Hare and Hounds, Old Town; Pack Horse Inn, Widdop [a chip free zone with good photos of the old Hardcastle Crags Railway]
Ripponden [near Halifax]: The Old Bridge – lovely building secluded near the centre of Ripponden [yes]. Perhaps the oldest packhorse inn in Yorkshire – another chip free zone.

Wesleyan Church, 1764, Heptonstall
Wesleyan Church, 1764, Heptonstall
The Packhorse and Old Bridge above have very good food.
Java Restaurant, Wharf Street, Sowerby Bridge.

Other recommendations:
Old packhorse bridge, Hebden Bridge
Old packhorse bridge, Hebden Bridge
Lastly we arrive at Hebden Bridge. The relevant bridge is now a pedestrian only structure over Hebden Water but was built as a packhorse bridge. The town describes itself as The Pennine Centre and used to make a lot of the title ‘The English Switzerland’, named for a claimed resemblance to the Jura area. Many of us Todmordians feel that they get more of their share of Calderdale’s purse at our expense. Even so I have to admit that it’s a good tourist centre. To me the attraction lies in the town itself, set among high hills with the Rochdale Canal providing a marina visible from the main road.
Many visitors, including friends of our own have marvelled at the height of the houses. I like the look of those same houses but their height is an illusion. They actually consist of one house vertically above another, just two stories each and opening on one side only [opposite sides] to parallel roads at different levels of the steep hill.

Published on Wednesday March 16th, 2005

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Tue, Mar 29 2005 - 02:39 AM rating by britman

Enjoyed the report - Keep up the great contributions

Thu, Mar 17 2005 - 09:11 AM rating by mistybleu

David, another great report!


Wed, Mar 16 2005 - 11:32 PM rating by ravinderkumarsi

this is wonderful report and with nice pictures too

Wed, Mar 16 2005 - 04:36 PM rating by rangutan

I must comment again: "brilliant"!
Members/Travellers please also see Davids other reports for good tips in-and-around the UK and beyond, wishing more reports would be written like this for all targets on the GLOBE.

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