Hebden Bridge

From Academic Kids

Missing image
Hebden Bridge from the south

Hebden Bridge is a town in the county of West Yorkshire, England, west of Halifax, at the junction of River Calder and Hebden Water.



Early history

The original settlement was the hilltop village of Heptonstall. Hebden Bridge started as a settlement where the Halifax to Burnley hilltop packhorse route dropped down into the valley, crossing the river Hebden.

The rise of Hebden Bridge as a town

The steep wet 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. Drainage of the marshland which covered much of the Calder Valley prior to 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 Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway (running from Leeds to Manchester and Burnley).

Developing Facilities

Hebden Bridge also grew to include a cinema and substantial offices for Hebden Brige 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 Central 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.

Second World War

During the Second World War Hebden Bridge was designated a "reception area" and took in evacuees from industrial cities.

Postwar period

During the 1970's and 1980's 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 August 6, 2003, Hebden Bridge was granted Fairtrade Zone status.

Local Issues


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. 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 lease", 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.

Unsolved Murders

Hebden Bridge and the nearby towns of Mytholmroyd and Todmorden have seen 3 unsolved murders in recent years.

The first was Agnes Ogden. She was suffocated by an intruder on the night of 18th/19th December 1991 at her home in Mytholmroyd.

The second was Lindsey Rimer (http://www.westyorkshire.police.uk/section-item.asp?sid=54&iid=985). She disappeared on the night of the 7th November 1994. She was last seen on CCTV at 22.30 at the Spar Supermarket in Hebden Bridge. Her body was found in the Rochdale Canal at Callis Mill in April 1995.

Another murder was that of a businessman in Todmorden.

Acre Mill

Acre Mill (http://www.hebdenbridge.co.uk/features/acremill.html) was an asbestos mill in the hilltop settlement of Old Town owned by Cape Insulation Ltd. It was open from 1939 to the 1970s and manufactured filters for gas masks. Many people who worked at Acre Mill contracted diseases such as asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer. The local newspaper still carries stories about people dying from these conditions.

Another legacy of Acre Mill was the disposal of asbestos waste. The main dumping grounds were at Pecket Well, Scout Road and Heptonstall. The issue of how to make these dumps safe is still a current problem and the Pecket Well dump has only just been sealed.


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 Market Street, Brierley Fields in Mytholmroyd, and further up the valley at Callis Bridge by the sewage works and the old Aquaspersions factory. Flooding at Callis is so frequent that the level of the River Calder has been lowered and special perforated kerb stones fitted so that water can drain back into the river. Brierley is a flood plain but it is also the playing fields for Calder High School and a number of local football, rugby and cricket teams.

The 1995 Drought

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.

Yorkshire Water, the local water supply company, tried a number of methods to manage the situation. They applied for drought orders to cut the amount of water flowing into rivers, particularly Hebden Water. Emergency supplies of mineral water in bottles and bowsers were provided to public buildings such as schools and hospitals. They also attempted to introduce standpipes to Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd but this was abandoned after threats of civil disturbance.

Another method used was to ship water in from other areas such as Kielder Water in Northumberland. The water was shipped in using tanker lorries and was dumped straight into Scammonden Dam via a specially built holding centre just off the M62 motorway. This was controversial due to the large number of tankers travelling along the busy M62 and A629 Elland bypass, and also because some of the tankers had previously been used for transporting liquid fertilizer.

Yorkshire Water also built a number of emergency pipelines, including one running underneath the Rochdale Canal.

During the drought Yorkshire Water were heavily criticised for having one of the worst rates of water lost due to leaks in their pipes. The amount of water lost was around 30%. Yorkshire Water was privatised in 1991 and a number of people felt that this drought was caused in part by them failing to maintain their network since privatisation.


Hebden Bridge had many attractions. It lies close to the Pennine Way and is popular for outdoor pursuits such as walking, climbing and cycling. The nationally acclaimed, locally tolerated Arts Festival (http://www.hebdenbridge.co.uk/festival/) takes place every year in the late Spring and the well conserved region of Hardcastle Crags. Hebden Bridge attracts artists and admirers alike from many miles around.

Walkley's Clog Mill was the only clog factory in the world. It has since closed down. However, clogs are available for all that want to buy them at Brook's Mill, near Elland.

Hebden Bridge boasts the first community website - the Hebden Bridge Web (http://www.hebdenbridge.co.uk), or 'hebweb'.

Hebden Bridge is noted for having significant numbers of alternative types and a gay and lesbian community.

The US poet Sylvia Plath is buried in nearby Heptonstall.

Population: 46,300

Famous People

External Links


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