is a market town
within the Calderdale
borough of West Yorkshire
, eight miles (13 km) west of Halifax
and fifteen miles east of Rochdale
, at the confluence
of the River Calder
and Hebden Water.
A 2003 profile of the Calder Valley ward, covering Hebden Bridge, Old Town, and part of Todmorden, estimated the population at 11,549. The population of the town itself is approximately 4,500.
The original settlement was the hilltop village of Heptonstall
. Hebden Bridge (orig Heptenbryge) started as a settlement where the Halifax to Burnley hilltop packhorse
route dropped down into the valley. The route crossed the River Hebden
at the spot where the old bridge (from where Hebden Bridge gets its name) stands.
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; at one time Hebden was so well-known for its clothing manufacture that it was known as "Trouser Town". Drainage of the marshland which covered much of the Upper 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
) and the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway
(running from Leeds
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.
Second World War
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 the 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
On the 6th of 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, 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 railway station
lies on the Caldervale Line
between Manchester Victoria and Leeds Railway Station. 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 railway station in Hebden Bridge 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 (592), Burnley (589) and Rochdale (592). 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.
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 and nearby Mytholmroyd
have seen two 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. She disappeared on the night of November 7th 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 the following April..
Acre Mill 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
, 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 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
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 fertiliser.
Yorkshire Water also built a number of emergency pipelines, including one running underneath the Rochdale Canal.
During the drought Yorkshire Water was 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 lies close to the Pennine Way
and the well conserved region of Hardcastle Crags
and is popular for outdoor pursuits such as walking
For boaters (typically, people holidaying on narrowboats), Hebden Bridge's many shops and pubs make it a popular overnight or lunchtime stop, between Todmorden and Sowerby Bridge, on the Rochdale Canal - a through route across the Pennines.
The Arts Festival takes place every year in the late spring, 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 attracts artists and admirers alike from many miles around.
Walkley's Clog Mill was the only clog factory in the world and has recently moved from its original home at Fallingroyd, to a site on Midgley Road in Mytholmroyd.
Hebden Bridge also has one of the few moorland golf courses left in the area.
Hebden Bridge is noted for having significant numbers of alternative New Age
types and a gay
and (especially) lesbian
community. In the 1980s and 1990s a lot of lesbians moved there, and to neighbouring Todmorden
, to raise their children in a place of mutual support. As of 2004 Hebden Bridge had the highest number of lesbians per head in the UK.
In April 2005 Hebden Bridge was declared the 4th funkiest place in the world by highlife (the British Airways flight magazine) and was described as "modern and stylish in an unconventional and stylish way".
Hebden Bridge railway station features the original Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway colours, rather than the red and cream colours of Metro, the West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive. The station roof was replaced a few years ago during a major overhaul and a cafe was opened in the old Red Star parcel office.