Over the rooftops of Hebden Bridge
|OS grid reference|
|• London||170 mi (270 km) SSE|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Post town||HEBDEN BRIDGE|
|EU Parliament||Yorkshire and the Humber|
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.
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, painted a depiction of the mills c. 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 (with 500 places) 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.
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'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.
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".
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.
Festivals: the traditional Pace Egg plays are an annual Easter event mainly in Heptonstall, the Piano and the Burlesque Festivals are usually in April, the Folk Roots Festival is in the middle of May, the famous midsummer Hebden Bridge Handmade Parade is a vivid, non-commercial variation on the small town parade. The Arts Festival and Fringe Arts Festival take place at the end of June, the Hepton Stall Festival and Hebden Bridge Open Studios are in the beginning of July, the Vintage Car Rally is scheduled for August, the South Pennine Walk & Ride Festival and the Camra Beer & Cider Festival are in September, and the Hebden Bridge Dance Festival is yearly in October. Riverside Music Festival originated in 1995, ran till 2003, and was a free community festival, featuring local bands and musicians. It was a victim of its own success, and the organisers decided to diversify the event after 9 years, resulting in a number of diverse events including the World on your Doorstep (WOYD) festival, and later the Folk and Blues festivals.
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 sweeping landscapes provided a prominent 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.
The Trades Club is a nationally recognised music venue and Socialist members club.
Notable artists who have played at the Trades Club include: Patti Smith, Mark Lanegan, Laura Marling, The Fall, Teenage Fanclub, Andrew Weatherall, Ali Farka Touré, Damo Suzuki, Steve Tilston, Jah Wobble, The Unthanks, Curved Air, The Orb, Nico, Thurston Moore, Slaves, Lee Scratch Perry, Marc Almond & 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.
Many pubs in town host weekly or monthly Open Mics, where local artists perform free of charge, and on most days with reasonable weather, especially on weekends, buskers are playing in the pedestrian area along Bridge Gate. The function rooms of Hebden Bridge pubs have also seen shows from international experimental acts like MV & EE, Natural Snow Buildings, Kawabata Makoto and KK Null.
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 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.
In 2015 the yearly Folk Roots Festival was launched in Hebden Bridge.
Hebden Bridge Junior Band 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
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 town centre.
Leeds Bradford is the nearest airport, accessible by bus and train.
- Martin Parr, photographer, lived in Hebden Bridge, c. 1975–80.
- 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.
- 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.
- Paula Lane, actor with roles including Kylie Platt of Coronation Street, remains a resident of the town and also runs a drama school there.
- Kirk Barker, actor, grew up in Hebden Bridge and was at school there
- Thomas Frederick Worrall, blacksmith and watercolour artist, lived in Peckett Well
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