Over the rooftops of Hebden Bridge
|OS grid reference|
|• London||170 mi (270 km) SSE|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Post town||HEBDEN BRIDGE|
Hebden Bridge is a market town in the Upper Calder Valley in West Yorkshire, England. It is 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 Hebden Water. The town is the largest settlement in the civil parish of Hebden Royd.
In 2015, the Calder ward, covering Hebden Bridge, Old Town, and part of Todmorden, had a population of 12,167; the town itself has a population of approximately 4,500. It is known for being an LGBT-friendly town, and has been called the UK's "lesbian capital".
The original settlement was the hilltop village of Heptonstall. Hebden Bridge (Heptenbryge) started as a settlement where the Halifax to Burnley packhorse route dropped into the valley and crossed the River Hebden where the old bridge (from which it gets its name) stands. The name Hebden comes from the Anglo-Saxon Heopa Denu, 'Bramble (or possibly Wild Rose) Valley'.
Steep hills with fast-flowing streams 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. Watercolour artist Thomas Frederick Worrall, who lived in nearby Pecket Well, depicted the mills in around 1900. 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. Before it was built, travel was only possible via the ancient packhorse route which ran along the hilltop, dropping into the valleys wherever necessary. The wool trade was served by the Rochdale Canal (running from Sowerby Bridge to Manchester) and the Manchester & Leeds Railway (later the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway) (running from Leeds to Manchester and Burnley).
Hebden Bridge also grew to include a Picture House (seating 500) and offices for Hebden Bridge Urban District Council. Hebden Bridge 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 had its own cooperative society but 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 both sides of the Pennines and its excellent rail links to Manchester, Bradford and Leeds.
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, 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
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. An ambitious £4 million 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. Since the floods on Boxing Day 2015 the Town Hall with café and foyer exhibition space has become a popular community hub; the reception is staffed by volunteers, and more than 20 local businesses are operating from the new Town Hall.
Hebden Bridge lies close to the Pennine Way and 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. The town is on the route of the Calderdale Way, a circular walk of about 50 miles (80 km) around the hills and valleys of Calderdale, and it is connected with the Pennine Way through the "Hebden Bridge Loop".
The town's location in the valley causes problems with flooding particularly 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 on a flood plain contains the playing fields for Calder High School and local football, rugby league and cricket teams. Hebden Bridge suffered two devastating floods in the summer of 2012, and again on Boxing Day 2015; Todmorden, Mytholmroyd, Sowerby Bridge and York were also affected, with houses, pubs, shops and community centres suffering damage to property. The extent of the Hebden Bridge flooding was shown in drone videos of the flooded areas, the most severe flooding occurring in Hebden Bridge town centre.
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" (cf the back-to-back houses in nearby industrial cities). 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. As of 2004 Hebden Bridge had the highest number of lesbians per head in the UK.
In April 2005, Hebden Bridge was named the fourth quirkiest place in the world by High Life (the British Airways flight magazine) and was described as "modern and stylish in an unconventional and stylish way".
The town was documented in the 2009 film Shed Your Tears And Walk Away, which made controversial claims about the levels of drug and alcohol abuse in the town, and consequent deaths among young people.
Today tourism is probably the main economic factor in Hebden Bridge, and nearly all shops are open on Sundays. As of Easter 2017, The weekly Market has moved to Lees Yard adjoining the pedestrian centre of St. George Square, and the market days have been increased from two and a half to four full weekly market days: Thursdays to Sundays.
Acre Mill was an asbestos factory in the hilltop settlement of Old Town, owned by Cape Insulation Ltd. 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. By 1979, 12% of a total of 2,200 former employees had asbestos-related disease. 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 with more than 20 cafes and tea rooms, and about 20 pubs, micro pubs and restaurants. 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. The Fox and Goose, West Yorkshires first Co-Operative pub, is owned by 262 residents of Hebden Bridge. It was established in March 2014.
In February 2016, Hebden Bridge won as the "Best Small Outdoor Market" in the Great British Market Awards run by the National Association of British Market Authorities (NABMA). In December 2016, Hebden Bridge won the "Great British High Street Award" in the "Small Market Town" category, after most shops, cafes and businesses had bounced back better and more flood resilient than before the Boxing Day floods 2015; Hebden Bridge also won a second award as the People's Choice.
The midsummer Hebden Bridge Handmade Parade is a vivid, non-commercial variation on the small town parade.
The Stubbing Wharf is an 18th-century inn located alongside the Rochdale Canal, in which the poet Ted Hughes set his poem "Stubbing Wharfe". Hughes was born in neighbouring Mytholmroyd, and his former home Lumb Bank on the outskirts of Hebden Bridge is run as a creative writing centre by the Arvon Trust.
Sylvia Plath is buried here in Heptonstall in the secondary graveyard of St. Thomas the Apostle Church.
The BBC One crime drama series Happy Valley, written by Halifax-born Sally Wainwright, broadcast in 2014, was filmed and set in and around the town. Local landmarks, such as the graveyard at St Thomas the Apostle Church and the landscapes provided a backdrop to the narrative. The show received critical acclaim and was expected to lead to a noticeable increase in local tourism. A second series was filmed in 2015 and broadcast during 2016.
In 2020, Steve Coogan's From the Oasthouse podcast featured Coogan's character Alan Partridge stating that his daughter Denise lived in Hebden Bridge, which Partridge says explains her reluctance to have children.
The Trades Club is a nationally recognised music venue and Socialist members club. In the 1980s and 90s, the club became a renowned World Music destination for touring bands from Africa and elsewhere, including Thomas Mapfumo, Ali Farka Touré, and John Chibadura.
Other notable artists who have played at the Trades Club include: Patti Smith, Mark Lanegan, Laura Marling, The Fall, Teenage Fanclub, Andrew Weatherall, Damo Suzuki, Steve Tilston, Jah Wobble, The Unthanks, Curved Air, The Orb, Nico, Thurston Moore, Slaves, Lee "Scratch" Perry, Marc Almond and Donovan. Heavenly Recordings have a close association with the club and celebrated their 25th birthday with 'A Heavenly Weekend In Hebden', a four-day festival at the Trades Club, featuring performances from many of the artists on their roster and film screenings from Heavenly Films. The event was given its own catalogue number: HVN300.
Until 2014, the town hosted the Hebden Bridge Blues Festival during the Spring Bank Holiday at the end of May. Established in 2011, the festival was voted the Best British Blues Festival in the 2012 and 2013 British Blues Awards.
Hebden Bridge railway station lies on the Calder Valley 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 & Yorkshire Railway colours, decorated with hanging baskets, original signage and luggage trolleys.
Bus services in the town are operated by three companies. First West Yorkshire operate the 12-minute frequency 592 service between Halifax and Todmorden, with services extending to Burnley (592) and Rochdale (590) in evenings and at weekends. Keighley Bus Company connect Hebden Bridge with Haworth, Oxenhope and Keighley with its hourly BrontëBus service. The "Hebden Bridger" is a local bus network operated by TLC Travel, that operates across seven services to local towns and hilltop villages. TLC Travel also operate the hourly 900 and 901 services between Hebden Bridge and Huddersfield.
Leeds Bradford is the nearest airport, accessible by bus and train.
- Jon Richardson, comedian, lives in Hebden Bridge with his wife Lucy Beaumont
- Kirk Barker, actor, grew up in Hebden Bridge and was at school there.
- Edward Cronshaw, sculptor, began his career while living at Hebden Bridge.
- Bernard Ingham, Chief Press Secretary to Margaret Thatcher, was educated at Hebden Bridge Grammar School.
- Paula Lane, actor with roles including Kylie Platt of Coronation Street, remains a resident of the town and also runs a drama school there.
- Martin Parr, photographer, lived in Hebden Bridge, c. 1975–80.
- Lindsay Jo Rimer, a 13-year-old girl from the town, went missing in 1994. Her body was found in the Rochdale Canal the following year.
- Ed Sheeran, singer/songwriter, spent his early childhood in Hebden Bridge.
- Thomas Frederick Worrall, blacksmith and watercolour artist, lived in Peckett Well.
- "Hebden Bridge Conservation Area: Appraisal and Management Plan" (PDF). Calderdale Council. April 2011. p. 14. Retrieved 13 September 2013.
- "Calder Ward profile". Local Government Association. November 2016. Retrieved 13 September 2017.
- Robehmed, Sophie (9 February 2012). "Why is Hebden Bridge the lesbian capital?". BBC News. Retrieved 3 July 2019.
- Pert, Sean (28 February 2019). "Hebden Bridge Is Famously A Safe Home For Gay Men, Women And Allies – Here's Why". HuffPost UK. Retrieved 3 July 2019.
- "Town Teams – Hebden Bridge – "Reinforcing the Heart of the Town"". Upper Calder Valley Renaissance. Archived from the original on 9 September 2007. Retrieved 27 March 2008.
- "Hebden Bridge, Undated". Watercolour World. Retrieved 28 June 2019. Includes a copy of a Worrall painting of Hebden Bridge.
- "About Us: History". Hebden Royd Town Council. Retrieved 13 September 2016.
- "Sunday July 6th, 2014 Stage 2 York / Sheffield". Le Tour de France. Archived from the original on 25 July 2014. Retrieved 15 July 2014.
- Sunday Telegraph 22 July 2007, p.C12.
- "Hebden Bridge Town Hall". English Heritage. Archived from the original on 21 September 2013. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
- Evans, Fiona (8 December 2009). "Community to take over Town Hall". The Yorkshire Post. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
- Wainwright, Martin; Quinn, Ben (9 July 2012). "Flash floods hit Hebden Bridge". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
- "Drone footage of flooding in Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd – video". The Guardian. 26 December 2015. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
- Hil, Amelia (29 July 2001). "Lesbians the toast of the Two Ferrets". The Observer. Retrieved 17 November 2016.
- Bindel, Julie (27 March 2004). "Location, location, orientation". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 September 2016.
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- "Hebden Bridge: 4th funkiest town in the World". Hebden Bridge Web. 1 May 2005. Retrieved 17 September 2016.
- "Shed Your Tears and Walk Away (2009)". IMDb.com. 1 October 2009. Retrieved 11 September 2016.
- "Shed Your Tears and Walk Away reviews". Hebden Bridge Web. July 2010. Retrieved 11 September 2016.
- "Welcome page". Walkley Clogs. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
- "Asbestos and the legacy of Acre Mill". Hebden Bridge Web. Retrieved 11 September 2016.
- "World in Action: The Dust at Acre Mill". BFI Film & TV database. Archived from the original on 17 July 2010. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
- "The Myths About Asbestos". London Hazards Centre. Archived from the original on 14 April 2010. Retrieved 19 April 2010.
- "Think-tank praises 'thriving and diverse' town". Hebden Bridge Times. 12 October 2010. Retrieved 27 October 2015.
- Sutcliffe, Robert (3 March 2015). "Huddersfield brewer supplies birthday beer for West Yorkshire's only co-operative pub". Huddersfield Daily Examiner. Retrieved 27 October 2015.
- "Hebden Bridge outdoor market move stalls..." Hebden Bridge Times. 5 August 2016. Retrieved 19 November 2018.
- Kirby, Dean (22 July 2017). "In the gay-friendly mill town of Hebden Bridge, everyone feels at home". iNews. Retrieved 29 December 2017.
- Gifford, Terry (2009). Ted Hughes. London, UK: Routledge. p. 68. ISBN 978-0-41531-189-2. Retrieved 21 March 2010 – via Google Books.
- Taylor, Arthur (5 June 2009). "Yorkshire pub guide: Stubbing Wharf in Hebden Bridge". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 21 March 2010.
- "Lumb Bank". Arvon Trust. Retrieved 13 September 2016.
- "[HD] Dream Academy – Life In A Northern Town". YouTube. 16 April 2009. Retrieved 15 August 2016.
- "Happy tourists will flock to drama set". Hebden Bridge Times. 3 June 2014. Retrieved 3 June 2014.
- "Happy Valley to return to BBC One in 2015". BBC News. 18 August 2014. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
- "From the Oasthouse: The Alan Partridge Podcast: An Audible Original (Audio Download): Amazon.co.uk: Alan Partridge, Alan Partridge, Audible Original: Audible Audiobooks". www.amazon.co.uk. Retrieved 17 November 2020.
- "Home". The Trades Club. Retrieved 2 April 2012.
- Tuffrey, Laurie (3 November 2014). "Heavenly For Hebden Bridge Weekend". The Quietus. Retrieved 11 September 2016.
- "Hebden Bridge Blues Festival, May 23rd to 25th 2014". Yorkshire Blues Festival. Archived from the original on 28 December 2014. Retrieved 26 May 2014.
- "Winners of The British Blues Awards 2012". British Blues Awards. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
- "Winners of The British Blues Awards 2013". British Blues Awards. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
- Strong, Martin C. (1999). The Great Alternative & Indie Discography. Edinburgh: Canongate Books. ISBN 0-86241-913-1.
- "Queen's Awards 'highest honour' for volunteers". The Yorkshire Post. 2 June 2017. Retrieved 4 September 2017.
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