Hebden Bridge

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Coordinates: 53°44′31″N 2°00′32″W / 53.742°N 2.009°W / 53.742; -2.009

Hebden Bridge
Hebden Bridge Rooftops.jpg
Over the rooftops of Hebden Bridge
Hebden Bridge is located in West Yorkshire
Hebden Bridge
Hebden Bridge
 Hebden Bridge shown within West Yorkshire
Population approx 4,500
OS grid reference SD993273
Civil parish Hebden Royd
Metropolitan borough Calderdale
Metropolitan county West Yorkshire
Region Yorkshire and the Humber
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district HX7
Dialling code 01422
Police West Yorkshire
Fire West Yorkshire
Ambulance Yorkshire
EU Parliament Yorkshire and the Humber
UK Parliament Calder Valley
List of places

Hebden Bridge is a market town within the Metropolitan Borough of Calderdale, in West Yorkshire, England. It forms part of the Upper Calder Valley and lies 8 miles (13 km) west of Halifax and 14 miles (21 km) north east of Rochdale, at the confluence of the River Calder and the River Hebden (Hebden Water).

A 2004 profile of the Calder Valley ward, covering Hebden Bridge, Old Town, and part of Todmorden, estimated the population at 11,549.[1] The population of the town itself is approximately 4,500.


The original settlement was the hilltop village of Heptonstall. Hebden Bridge (originally Heptenbryge) started as a settlement where the Halifax to Burnley packhorse route dropped into the valley and crossed the River Hebden at the spot where the old bridge (from which Hebden Bridge gets its name) stands. Hebden comes from the Anglo-Saxon Heopa Denu, 'Bramble (or possibly Wild Rose) Valley'.

The steep hills and access to major wool markets meant that Hebden Bridge was ideal for water-powered weaving mills and the town developed during the 19th and 20th centuries; at one time Hebden was known as "Trouser Town" because of the large amount of clothing manufacturing.[2] Drainage of the marshland, which covered much of the Upper Calder Valley before the Industrial Revolution, enabled construction of the road which runs through the valley. Prior to this, travel was only possible via the ancient packhorse route which ran along the hilltop, dropping into the valleys wherever necessary, as was the case with Hebden Bridge. The wool trade also brought the Rochdale Canal (running from Sowerby Bridge to Manchester) and the Manchester and Leeds Railway (later the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway) (running from Leeds to Manchester and Burnley).

Hebden Bridge also grew to include a cinema and substantial offices for Hebden Bridge Urban District Council. There was some controversy about this as the land was originally intended to be the site of a swimming pool. Hebden Bridge still has no swimming pool, although for some years there was a small training pool for children in the adult education centre on Pitt Street. Hebden Bridge also had its own cooperative society. However, during the 1960s, it was defrauded and went bankrupt. The old Co-op building became a hotel and was later converted into flats. The Co-op returned in the 1980s with a supermarket on Market Street, on the site of an old mill.

During the Second World War Hebden Bridge was designated a "reception area" and took in evacuees from industrial cities. Two bombs fell on Calderdale during the war, but they were not targeted, they were merely the emptying of a bomb load.

During the 1970s and 1980s the town saw an influx of artists, writers, photographers, musicians, alternative practitioners, teachers, Green and New Age activists and more recently, wealthier 'yuppie' types. This in turn saw a boom in tourism to the area. During the 1990s Hebden Bridge became a dormitory town, due to its proximity to major towns and cities in West Yorkshire, Greater Manchester and Lancashire.

On 6 July 2003 Hebden Bridge was granted Fairtrade Zone status.


At a district level, Hebden Bridge Urban District was established in 1891. In 1937, it merged with Mytholmroyd Urban District to become Hebden Royd Urban District. At a county level, Hebden Bridge was administered as part of the West Riding of Yorkshire. These were abolished as part of the reforms introduced in the Local Government Act 1972. They were replaced with West Yorkshire Metropolitan county, Calderdale Metropolitan Borough, and Hebden Royd Town Civil Parish. From a legal point of view, the town council is a parish council. Recently, it has attracted praise for its commitment to eco-friendly policies,[3] following the example of Modbury in effectively banning all plastic shopping bags, thus becoming the largest community in Europe to do so. The ban is not legally enforceable, but rather a voluntary agreement between local shop owners and the community at large.

Hebden Bridge Town Hall[edit]

Hebden Bridge Town Hall and adjoining fire station is a Grade II listed building, built in 1897. Following local government reorganisation, it became underused. The building was transferred from Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council to Hebden Bridge Community Association on a 40-year lease (now extended to 125 years) on 1 April 2010, along with funds for basic maintenance work. Substantial volunteer time was put into renovation works and fundraising to secure the building’s future.[4] An ambitious £4m project has been finished, building a small enterprise centre and new community facilities on land adjacent to the Town Hall. More than 450 local people have signed up as "Friends of the Town Hall" and can vote for the trustees.[5]

Burlesque controversy[edit]

Recently the council banned the performance of burlesque at its Picture House cinema, suggesting that it was not an art-form and that it demeaned women. The decision was hotly contested and saw the creation of a petition asking the council to reconsider its decision.[6] There was well-attended town council meeting to discuss the issue. Many townsfolk are opposed to what they see as an authoritarian council.[7] The ban is subject to further review, through procedures which allow for council decisions to be rescinded.[8]


Hebden Bridge lies close to the Pennine Way and the well conserved region of Hardcastle Crags and is popular for outdoor pursuits such as walking, climbing and cycling. It lies on the Rochdale Canal – a through route across the Pennines.

Because Hebden Bridge is in a valley, it has always had problems with flooding. These tend to affect the area between Hebden Water and the cinema on New Road, Brearley Fields in Mytholmroyd, and further up the valley at Callis Bridge by the sewage works and the old Aquaspersions factory. Flooding at Callis Bridge is so frequent that the level of the River Calder has been lowered and special perforated kerbstones fitted so that water can drain back into the river. Brearley is a flood plain but it is also the playing fields for Calder High School and a number of local football, rugby league and cricket teams.

Although Hebden Bridge frequently gets flooded, it also has occasional water shortages. Particularly during the 1990s it had a number of hosepipe bans over summer designed to cut the amount of water used. In 1995 the shortage was particularly severe and the water supply to Hebden Bridge, Halifax and the rest of Calderdale failed completely. Hebden Bridge suffered two devastating floods in the summer of 2012.[9]


Hebden Bridge is a popular place to live. However space is limited due to the steep valleys and lack of flat land. In the past this led to "upstairs-downstairs" houses known as over and under dwellings. These were houses built in terraces with 4–5 storeys. The upper storeys face uphill while the lower ones face downhill with their back wall against the hillside. The bottom 2 storeys would be one house while the upper 2–3 storeys would be another. This also led to unusual legal arrangements such as the "flying freehold", where the shared floor/ceiling is wholly owned by the underdwelling.

Population changes in the 1990s led to a demand for more houses. This has proved to be extremely controversial for a number of reasons. The limited availability of houses has meant that prices have risen sharply (for example, a house valued at £54,000 in 1998 was valued at nearly £150,000 in 2004).

Demand for new houses is also a contentious issue as many of the sites for proposed development are areas such as fields or woodland that some local residents feel should be left as they are. Hebden Bridge has attracted artists, and has developed a small New Age community. It became attractive in the 1980s and 1990s to lesbians as a place of mutual support to bring up children.[10] As of 2004 Hebden Bridge had the highest number of lesbians per head in the UK.[11]

In April 2005 Hebden Bridge was declared the 4th quirkiest place in the world by highlife (the British Airways flight magazine) and was described as "modern and stylish in an unconventional and stylish way".[12]

The town was documented in the 2009 film Shed Your Tears And Walk Away,[13][14] which made controversial claims about the levels of drug and alcohol abuse in the town, and consequent deaths among young people.


Greens Vegetarian Café – an independent shop in Hebden Bridge

Walkley's Clog Mill is one of the country's leading clog manufacturers. It moved from its original home at Fallingroyd to a site on Midgley Road in Mytholmroyd.[15]

Acre Mill was an asbestos factory in the hilltop settlement of Old Town, owned by Cape Insulation Ltd.[16] It was opened in 1939 to meet the demand for gas mask filters made from blue asbestos during the Second World War, and diversified into the production of other asbestos products, including rope, pipe lagging and textile, after the war. In 1970, the company closed the mill and moved to Westmorland. The mill was the subject of a 1971 World in Action investigation entitled "The Dust At Acre Mill" which revealed how the factory broke the law regarding asbestos-dust control between 1940–1970.[17][18] By 1979, 12% of a total of 2,200 former employees had asbestos-related disease.[19] The mill was demolished in 1979. Cape Insulation also operated a second factory at Hangingroyd Mill.

Hebden Bridge has built a reputation for “great little shops” and has an unusually high density of independent shops for a UK town of its size. In a national survey by The New Economics Foundation in 2010 Hebden Bridge was ranked sixth on a diversity scale and was praised for its independent shops and unique shopping experience.[20]


The Arts Festival and Fringe Arts Festival take place every year at the end of June, the traditional Pace Egg plays are an annual Easter event, and the midsummer Hebden Bridge Handmade Parade is a vivid, non-commercial variation on the small town parade.

Hebden Bridge is known as "the lesbian capital of the UK".[21] The Stubbing Wharf is an 18th-century inn located alongside the Rochdale Canal, in which the poet Ted Hughes set his poem "Stubbing Wharfe".[22][23]

Sylvia Plath is buried here in Heptonstall in the secondary graveyard of St. Thomas the Apostle church.

In 1995 the singer Haddaway filmed the music video for "Lover Be Thy Name" in the Hebden Bridge area.[24]


Hebden Bridge has a diverse music scene; ranging from musicians busking on the streets, jam sessions, open mics and workshops (drumming and didjeridoo to digital music production) to performances of choral and classical music at various events[25][26] and venues.

The town also hosts the Hebden Bridge Blues Festival[27] during the Spring Bank Holiday at the end of May. Established in 2011, the festival was voted the Best British Blues Festival in both the 2012 and 2013 British Blues Awards, ahead of over 40 other festivals on each occasion, attracting musicians and audiences from around the world, particularly North America.[28]

Hebden Bridge Junior Band[29] has been providing musical tuition and an opportunity for young people aged 7–19 to play a brass instrument in a non-competitive band since 1972.

A prominent venue, The Trades Club[30] regularly features musicians of local, national and international renown performing a wide range of music; including: Rock, Blues, and Folk, through Punk, Klezmer, Ska, Reggae, Dub and Jazz to Qawwali, Trance, Gnawa, Drum and Bass and modern experimental music promoted by locally based website Was Ist Das.[31]

Notable artists who have played at The Trades Club include: Acid Mothers Temple, Bogshed, Ali Farka Touré,[32] Astralasia,[33] Bhundu Boys, Chumbawamba,[34] Damo Suzuki, sicknote,[35] Dreadzone, Dick Gaughan, notsensibles, Steve Tilston,[34] Jah Wobble, The Unthanks,[34] The Selecter, Dennis Rollins, Didier Malherbe, Maghribibeat, 3 Daft Monkeys, Andy Sheppard, Drum Machine[36] Daevid Allen, Tetchi,[37] Eat Static, Transglobal Underground, Zion Train Curved Air, Nico and Patti Smith, who donated her fee to the town's flood appeal.


The Rochdale Canal at Hebden Bridge

Hebden Bridge railway station lies on the Caldervale Line between Manchester Victoria and Leeds City. It is served by frequent rail services to towns and cities in Lancashire, Greater Manchester, as well as West and North Yorkshire including Leeds, Blackpool North, York, Manchester Victoria and Todmorden. There are also some infrequent services to Dewsbury via Brighouse. The station is still in the original Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway colours, decorated with hanging baskets, original signage and luggage trolleys.

Bus services in the town are primarily operated by First Group plc, and operate to many local towns and villages, most frequently to Halifax (several services at 10-minute intervals), Burnley (592) and Rochdale (590). However, Keighley District Buses connect Hebden Bridge with Haworth, Oxenhope and Keighley. The "Hebden Bridger" is a local bus operated by WYPTE that serves as a town centre service, also operating to local villages including Heptonstall.

Notable people[edit]


  1. ^ Calderdale government information
  2. ^ "Town Teams – Hebden Bridge – "Reinforcing the Heart of the Town"". Retrieved 27 March 2008. 
  3. ^ Sunday Telegraph 22 July 2007 2, 406 pC12
  4. ^ English Heritage (10 February 2011)
  5. ^ Community to take over Town Hall, Yorkshire Post, published 8 December 2009
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ [2]
  8. ^ [3]
  9. ^ Martin Wainwright; Ben Quinn (9 July 2012). "Flash floods hit Hebden Bridge". The Guardian. 
  10. ^ The Observer – Lesbians the toast of the Two Ferrets (29 July 2001)
  11. ^ The Guardian – Location, location, orientation (27 March 2004)
  12. ^ Hebden Bridge: 4th funkiest town in the World (1 May 2005)
  13. ^ Shed Your Tears And Walk Away Film
  14. ^ Shed Your Tears And Walk Away Review
  15. ^ Walkley's Clog Mill
  16. ^ Acre Mill
  17. ^ "World in Action: The Dust at Acre Mill". BFI Film & TV database. 
  18. ^ "Asbestos and the legacy of Acre Mill - 2002–2009". Hebden Bridge Web. 1995–2013. Retrieved 4 April 2013. 
  19. ^ "The Myths About Asbestos". London Hazards Centre. Retrieved 19 April 2010. 
  20. ^ Hebden Bridge Times – The New Economics Foundation article
  21. ^ Why is Hebden Bridge the lesbian capital? BBC News, 9 February 2012
  22. ^ Ted Hughes – Google Books. books.google.co.uk. 2009. ISBN 978-0-415-31189-2. Retrieved 21 March 2010. 
  23. ^ Taylor, Arthur (5 June 2009). "Yorkshire pub guide: Stubbing Wharf in Hebden Bridge – Telegraph". London: telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 21 March 2010. 
  24. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MI5rGWwNn8o
  25. ^ "Hebden Bridge Arts Festival". Retrieved 12 April 2012. 
  26. ^ "Hebden Bridge Fringe". Retrieved 12 April 2012. 
  27. ^ [4]
  28. ^ [5]
  29. ^ Hebden Bridge Junior Band
  30. ^ "The Trades Club". Retrieved 2 April 2012. 
  31. ^ "wasistdas.co.uk/eventblog". 
  32. ^ "Shabby chic". Yorkshire Post. 28 June 2011. Retrieved 2 April 2012. 
  33. ^ "Astralasia". Retrieved 2 April 2012. 
  34. ^ a b c "The best of folk at Hebden Bridge's Folk Roots Festival". Retrieved 2 April 2012. 
  35. ^ "Sicknote". Retrieved 2 April 2012. 
  36. ^ "DrumMachine". Retrieved 2 April 2012. 
  37. ^ "Tetchi". Retrieved 2 April 2012. 

External links[edit]