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Cleckheaton Town Hall (2690406558).jpg
Cleckheaton Town Hall
Cleckheaton is located in West Yorkshire
Location within West Yorkshire
Population16,622 (Ward. 2011)
OS grid referenceSE185256
Metropolitan borough
Metropolitan county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtBD19
Dialling code01274
PoliceWest Yorkshire
FireWest Yorkshire
UK Parliament
List of places
53°43′30″N 1°43′08″W / 53.725°N 1.719°W / 53.725; -1.719Coordinates: 53°43′30″N 1°43′08″W / 53.725°N 1.719°W / 53.725; -1.719
Church of St John The Evangelist

Cleckheaton is a town in the Metropolitan borough of Kirklees, in West Yorkshire, England. Historically part of the West Riding of Yorkshire, it is situated south of Bradford,[1] east of Brighouse, west of Batley and south-west of Leeds. It is at the centre of the Spen Valley and was the major town in the former borough of Spenborough. Cleckheaton has a history as a mill town and forms part of the Heavy Woollen District.


Early history[edit]

Whitechapel Church

The Spen Valley was once heavily wooded. Evidence of human habitation in Mesolithic and Neolithic times has been found in the area. Roman remains have been found in the valley and it is thought that roads from York to Chester, and from settlements in Halifax and Wakefield, passed through Cleckheaton and the junction gave rise to a staging post.

Cleckheaton was in the ancient parish of Birstall. A chapel of ease, known as the White Chapel (later Whitechapel) was established.[2]

Textile working[edit]

The area was very disorganised for a long time after the Norman Conquest and the richest townships at that time were still the richest 300 years later as the Poll Tax returns of 1379 show. They also demonstrate the lack of administration as only the richest four of the 227 families living in the Spen Valley were made to pay more than the 4d (approx. 2p) minimum tax. These tax returns also show the recent deviation from the traditional sources of wealth in the area (i.e. farming and allied trades). These were centred on textiles and included dyeing, weaving and fulling (common names in the area nowadays still recall these early trades: Lister- dyer, Webster- weaver, Walker- fuller). The spread of these trades was also a result of the absence of regulation of the area. Due to the lack of manorial control, land was divided between all the sons in a family rather than just passing to the eldest. As the farmland owned by a family got smaller they became unable to support the family and so people turned to production of woollens to gain extra income.[citation needed]

Old pub named after Kirklees Priory

After the Reformation, Kirklees Priory was largely destroyed, many families were driven from the area and new non-aristocratic lords of the manor who were sympathetic to Protestantism were introduced by Elizabeth I, as was a puritan clergyman who was installed at Birstall Church. By 1570, at the time of the Rising of the Northern Earls, the last of the old Norman noble families had been swept away. Sir John Neville went into exile and forfeited his estate and Thomas Hussey (heir to the de Tilly family of Oakwell Hall) was imprisoned in the Tower of London for some time before being pardoned.[citation needed]

By the 17th century land-owning farmers were finding it increasingly difficult as were their landlords and some payments were still in kind as farmers had no money to pay their debts. Meanwhile, the textile workers were becoming more and more prosperous and paid less and less attention to their hard up and increasingly impotent landlords. During the English Civil War the clothiers were on one side and the landlords on the other. Lords of the area were made Royalist officers and made some progress such as at the Battle of Adwalton Moor about a mile east of Birkenshaw and the siege of Bradford, before the Parliamentarians took control of the area. Royalist families were forced, after the war, to pay large fines to keep their lands and avoid imprisonment. All the time clothiers were growing wealthier and by the end of the 17th century more than half of the wills in the parish of Birstall came from men whose wealth came from textiles.[citation needed]


Independent Methodist Chapel, Chapel Street

After the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, Anglicanism was reintroduced. However, many people had found Puritan teachings more to their taste, and it took many years to re-install an Anglican vicar to Whitechapel. Despite the draconian nonconformist laws, there were many nonconformist meeting houses and nonconformity flourished; a fifth of the population of the Birstall Parish was estimated to be nonconformist. Quakers were widespread, and even now a number of 17th and 18th century Quaker burial grounds remain in the area. In the 18th century, Presbyterianism was widespread, but then it lost a large minority of its flock to Unitarianism and to the Baptist church. Methodism also flourished from the 1740s after visits from John Wesley and Charles Wesley, as did the Moravian Church. Indeed, John Wesley lived in Birstall for some time, as it was near many large towns in the West Riding.[citation needed]

In spite of the religious strength in the valley, the inhabitants were somewhat unconventional and still went to astrologers, quack doctors and prophets. Men like Eli Collins, the "Wizard of Wyke", and Alvery Newsome, the "Wise Man of Heckmondwike", were widespread. Furthermore, to increase the isolation, the area had no canals and had few roads, apart from a few turnpike roads, including the major ones from Leeds to Huddersfield and Bradford to Halifax.[citation needed]

Industrial Revolution[edit]

Prospect Mills in Prospect Road.

After the discovery of good quality coal in the north of the valley, industry spread quickly

In 1804 the Reverend Hammond Roberson, annoyed that the administration of Liversedge was disorganised, promoted a system of reform (the select vestry) which quickly spread to Cleckheaton and Heckmondwike. In 1810, after his wife's death, Roberson turned his attention to church building in the area. In 1818 Parliament voted £1 million for the building of new churches in the country, and Roberson was able to secure funding to build Cleckheaton Church: St John the Evangelist in Church Street.[3]

Spen Valley[edit]

By the mid 19th century the Spen Valley entered its golden era. In 1800 children were paid starvation wages for putting staples into leather for carding wool, but by 1838 there were eleven carding factories in Cleckheaton and by 1893 the town was recognised as the carding capital of the world.[4]

20th century[edit]

Lion sweet factory, Westgate

Around 1900, many large and expensive buildings were erected and became symbols of the area's wealth; massive chapels and a new grammar school were built in Cleckheaton, and to mark the new urban district and the fact that it was the centre of it, Cleckheaton built a town hall in 1892, paid for in part by public subscription.[5]

In 1903 Lion Confectionery began making "Midget Gems" in Cleckheaton, and 1904 saw the opening of the Phelon & Moore (Panther) motorcycle factory in the town, soon followed by a car factory.[6] BBA (formerly British Belting & Asbestos), the large asbestos, friction material, and conveyor belting firm, built its headquarters at Moorend, where they manufactured automotive disc brake pads under the Mintex banner. A tourist industry developed to serve visitors to the area made famous by Charlotte Brontë's "Shirley" and by the Luddite attacks. The Mowatt family paid for Cleckheaton Library and also the reference library at Cleckheaton's grammar (later secondary) school, Whitcliffe Mount, which bears their name.[citation needed]

From the 1920s, Spenborough's fortunes began to decline. Pits began to close and trade waned. Slowly, central government took on responsibilities previously held by Spenborough such as water supply, gas production, public health and education. By this time the level of industry was in serious decline as the textile mills, foundries and other factories gradually closed.

In the 1960s and 1970s many new houses were built in Cleckheaton, as the town attracted commuters to Leeds and Bradford. Ashtons built many houses around Cleckheaton and neighbouring Mirfield.

Cleckheaton railway station[edit]

Station Tavern. Station was to the left; sidings were straight ahead.

The railway station closed to passenger traffic in 1965 and to goods four years later.

In 1972 a singular case was heard at Wakefield Crown Court. A Dewsbury man was accused of, as counsel for the prosecution put it, effectively stealing the station. British Rail had contracted for the clearing of the site; part of the deal was that the contractors would sell and retain the proceeds from disposal of the materials and scrap. On arrival, they discovered that the station and most of the material were already gone. It transpired that the defendant had been contracted by another firm to clear the site, had been advanced a sum for hire of plant, and had spent three weeks clearing the site. Subsequent efforts to trace the second firm failed, and the court found the man not guilty, deciding that he had been duped and left significantly out of pocket.[7]

Cleckheaton bus station[edit]

Cleckheaton has a bus station in the town centre. It has six stands, and the main operator is Arriva Yorkshire. It is owned and maintained by West Yorkshire Metro, who rebuilt it in April 2005, replacing the previous site owned by Arriva Yorkshire.


Local government[edit]

Cleckheaton Town Hall (1892) by Mawson & Hudson of Bradford

Cleckheaton adopted the Local Government Act 1858 in 1864 and a local board was formed. The Local Government Act 1894 reconstituted the area of the local board as Cleckheaton Urban District. There were at this time attempts to involve all the local authorities in the valley in joint projects such as installation of sewers and water. In 1915, the three urban districts of Cleckheaton, Liversedge and Gomersal were amalgamated to form Spenborough Urban District. In 1937 a county review order enlarged the urban district to include Birkenshaw, Hunsworth and Hartshead.[8] Spenborough (which included all the Spen Valley except for Heckmondwike) was granted a charter of incorporation and became a municipal borough on 23 May 1955. The borough used the coat of arms which bore the motto "Industry Enriches" which it had been granted in 1949.[9]

On 1 April 1974 the Local Government Act 1972 reorganised administration throughout England and Wales. The borough of Spenborough was abolished, and its area combined with that of ten other local authorities to form the Metropolitan Borough of Kirklees, one of five metropolitan boroughs of West Yorkshire.[10] Cleckheaton is an unparished area and ward of Kirklees. The population of this ward as taken at the 2011 Census was 16,622.[11] It elects three of the borough council's 69 councillors. In 2007 all three councillors were members of the Liberal Democrats.[12] Under the borough council's decentralisation scheme, Cleckheaton's councillors and those from Heckmondwike and Liversedge and Gomersal form the Spen Valley Area Committee.[13] In August 2014, it was announced that Cleckheaton councillor Kath Pinnock was to be elevated to the House of Lords as a life peer.[14]

Parliamentary representation[edit]

In 1885 Cleckheaton and the three neighbouring townships, Gomersal, Heckmondwike and Liversedge, were grouped to form the Parliamentary county constituency of Spen Valley and remained in that constituency until 1950.[8] The seat was held at various times by the Liberal, National Liberal and Labour parties. From 1950 to 1983 Cleckheaton was included in the borough constituency of Brighouse and Spenborough.[8] It was a marginal seat, changing hands between the Conservative and Labour parties on six occasions. Cleckheaton is now in the Batley and Spen borough constituency,[15] created in 1983. It was represented by a Conservative MP from 1983 to 1997, then by Labour MP Mike Wood until 2015, when Wood retired and was succeeded by Jo Cox (Labour). After Jo Cox was murdered in 2016, she was replaced in a by-election (which was uncontested by the other major parties) by Tracy Brabin, who retained the seat in 2017.


Cleckheaton is at the centre of a number of villages which together form the Spen Valley:

Oakenshaw, East Bierley, Hunsworth, Birkenshaw, Drub, Gomersal, Little Gomersal, Littletown, Millsbridge, Liversedge, Roberttown, Hartshead, Clifton, Hightown, Heckmondwike and Scholes.

The town itself is made up of areas such as Moorend, Whitechapel, Whitcliffe, Moorbottom, Moorside, the Marsh and Rawfolds.


Cleckheaton Sports Club, based at Moorend, is the home of the town's rugby union team, Cleckheaton RUFC., who play in the National 3 North league at the fifth tier of English domestic rugby. The club is also home to Cleckheaton Cricket Club, who play in the Bradford Premier Cricket League Division One. Yorkshire Captain Andrew Gale is a member of Cleckheaton and occasionally plays, depending on his availability and commitments for Yorkshire. Also the club, are two bowling greens, home to Cleckheaton Sports Bowls Club, which has hosted the BCGBA Senior Merit "All England" Finals four times. It also hosts lesser annual competitions such as the John Smith's Classic.[16]

Liversedge F.C. are the town's highest football club in the football league pyramid, currently playing in the Northern Counties East Football League Premier Division as of the 2012–13 season.[out of date] They play their home games at the Clayborn Ground, 1 km from the town centre.[17]

Other cricket clubs from the local area include Spen Victoria, Gomersal, Hartshead Moor and East Bierley from the Bradford Cricket League, and Scholes and Liversedge from the Central Yorkshire Cricket League.[18]

Notable people[edit]

  • William Baines (composer/pianist) (1899–1922), lived here from 1913 to 1918, when his father (later replaced by himself) was a cinema pianist at the Picture Palace. The family lived on Foundry Terrace.
  • John Barlow, novelist, attended Whitcliffe Mount School.
  • John Bentley, the first man to play both Rugby Union and Rugby League for England, is from Cleckheaton; he played for, and was Captain of, Cleckheaton RUFC (part of Cleckheaton Sports Club).
  • Danny Cadamarteri, Huddersfield Town footballer, was born in Cleckheaton in 1979.[19]
  • Andrew Gale, captain of Yorkshire Cricket Club, was educated at Whitcliffe Mount School and played for Cleckheaton C.C. (part of Cleckheaton Sports Club).
  • Roger Hargreaves, author of the Mr Men and Little Misses series of books, was born in Cleckheaton in 1935.[20]
  • Wendy Holden, novelist, attended Whitcliffe Mount School.
  • Edward Wadsworth (artist) (1889–1949), "the only son of Fred Wadsworth and Hannah Smith, was born at Cleckheaton, West Yorkshire, on 29th October 1889. His mother, who was an amateur painter, died of puerperal fever soon after giving birth to Edward. His father was a worsted-spinning industrialist who owned the firm E. Wadsworth & Sons."[21] Wadsworth trained at Bradford School of Art. He was a major figure in British art in the first half of the twentieth century, involved in Vorticism. Although he moved away from Cleckheaton, the industrial scenes of his early source).
  • Wilfred Barber (1901-1968), born Cleckheaton, Yorkshire and England cricketer.
  • Fred Lord (long-distance runner) (1879-1928), competed at the 1908 Olympics

See also[edit]


Cleckheaton cemetery chapel
  1. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Cleckheaton" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 6 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 478.
  2. ^ Samel Lewis (1848). "Cleckheaton". A Topographical Dictionary of England. British History Online. Retrieved 1 March 2008.
  3. ^ Port, M.H.: 'Six Hundred New Churches. A study of the Church Building Commission, 1816–1856', Spire Books, 2006
  4. ^ Gillian Cookson (1998) The Mechanization of Yorkshire Card-Making, Textile History, 29:1, 41-61
  5. ^ "History of Cleckheaton Town Hall" (PDF). Retrieved 30 May 2018.
  6. ^ "Belle Vue Grammar School". Bradford Timeline. Retrieved 29 January 2008.
  7. ^ Body, Geoffrey: Railway Oddities, Tempus, 2007 ISBN 978-0-7524-4399-7
  8. ^ a b c Frederic A Youngs Jr., Local Administrative Units of England, Vol II: Northern England, London 1991
  9. ^ Geoffrey Briggs, Civic and Corporate Heraldry, London 1971
  10. ^ Local Government Act 1972, (1972 c.70), Schedule I
  11. ^ "Kirklees Ward population 2011". Neighbourhood Statistics. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 25 February 2016.
  12. ^ Your Councillors in Cleckheaton, Kirklees Council, accessed 1 April 2008 Archived 18 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Spen Valley Area Committee, Kirklees Council, accessed 1 April 2008 Archived 18 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ "Liberal Democrats". Nick Clegg announces new Liberal Democrat Peers. 8 August 2014. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  15. ^ The Parliamentary Constituencies (England) Order 2007, Office of Public Sector Information, accessed 1 April 2008
  16. ^ "John Smiths Open Classic (Cleckheaton)". 27 May 2008. Archived from the original on 13 March 2016. Retrieved 17 May 2013.
  17. ^ "Baris Northern Counties East Football league : Teams : Liversedge". Northern Counties East Football League. Retrieved 17 May 2013.
  18. ^ "Three new clubs join Central Yorkshire Cricket League for 2013 season". Ossett Cricket Club. 8 October 2013. Retrieved 17 May 2013.[permanent dead link]
  19. ^ "Danny Cadamarteri". First Team. Huddersfield Town FC. Archived from the original on 23 May 2009. Retrieved 30 March 2009.
  20. ^ Malam, John (October 2005). "Hargreaves, (Charles) Roger (1935–1988)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 1 April 2008.
  21. ^ Spartacus Educational. "Edward Wadsworth". Archived from the original on 14 December 2013. Retrieved 14 January 2015.

External links[edit]