What's on

Meetings will be held at Hebden Bridge Methodist Church, which has now been equipped with chairs to replace the pews.

We also hope to make recordings of the live talks available to members for two weeks following the event. If you are not a member and would like to join please fill in a membership form and send it to us. See our membership page

If Covid restrictions are re-imposed, lectures will be delivered via Zoom. Members will receive an email invitation to the webinar and details will be posted on our website and Facebook page.

1-25 March 2022

Who built Hebden Bridge exhibition

at Hebden Bridge Town Hall

Who built the walls, the homes, mills and chapels in Hebden Bridge? Who built the water supplies, the drains and the sewers? Who were the workers? Who were the architects? Who provided the finance?

To find some of the answers, visit our exhibition "Who Built Hebden Bridge?" at Hebden Bridge Town Hall in the foyer and café area from 1st March to 25th March.

If you live in Hebden Bridge and know the answers to the above questions for your property, or have ancestors who built Hebden Bridge, please bring the information to add to the spreadsheets there or contact us here.

History Programme: September 2021 – March 2022

22 September 2021

Who put The Hall In old Town Hall?

David Cant

A handsome building with a courtyard, it has been home to many families. But which family added the ‘hall’ to its name? And when?

David Cant is a local historian interested particularly in the traditional buildings of our area. He has delivered many memorable talks to the Society.

13 October 2021


David Glover

The Grade II* listed historic house at Shibden dates from 1420 and has been extensively remodeled from its original design by generations of residents. From the disputes between the Oates and Savile families in the late fifteenth century, through the thriving Waterhouse years, and on to the fascinating diversity of the Listers, including diarist Anne and antiquarian John, David traces a story of absorbing interest.

David Glover has had a lifelong fascination for local history and has gained a reputation as a speaker about a range of historical subjects in the Halifax area, as well as for his contributions to the Halifax Evening Courier. He is President of the Halifax Antiquarian Society.

27 October 2021


Heather Clark

Sylvia Plath’s poetry is acclaimed world-wide, and academic Heather Clark will discuss the poet’s West Yorkshire links, and how these places feature in her poetry.

Heather is Professor of Contemporary Poetry at the University of Huddersfield and author of several books about Sylvia Plath, including Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath (Knopf, 2020); Her Kind: The Boston Years of Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Adrienne Rich and Maxine Kumin (Knopf, under contract); The Grief of Influence: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes (Oxford University Press, 2011).

10 November 2021

Local History Society AGM

Short AGM precedes the lecture

Spinning through the West Riding  

John Cruickshank

Hand-spinning was a crucial process in cloth-making before the introduction of powered industrial processes in mills, but it and other wool processes are in many ways now poorly understood. Fresh insights into yarn-supply are now emerging from current work on the pre-industrial textile industries of the West Riding. Spinning may have been women's work, and the skills require to produce the different yarns needed must not be underestimated!

John Cruickshank is a retired orthopaedic surgeon whose Leeds University PhD examined the early modern development of Headingley-cum-Burley, a township just outside the clothing district. He is now studying the industrial development of the adjacent clothing townships between 1540 and 1800.

24 November 2021


Nigel Smith

The history of Erringden Park is obscure. This talk presents what can be discovered about the park’s past in both a local and regional context. Documentary and landscape evidence uncovers the changing boundaries of the park and how those boundaries were constructed. Comparative evidence suggests how the park was stocked and managed, together with the hunting methods that are likely to have been used. However, analysis points to a multifunctional park whose principal function may not be what you think. The park was abolished in the mid-fifteenth century and the way in which it was divided up and settled will be discussed, together with the controversies that surrounded its later existence.

Nigel is the Archivist and Publications Officer of the Hebden Bridge Local History Society. His research interests focus on the landscape and agricultural history of the Upper Calder Valley and the wider South Pennines. He is a regular contributor to the Transactions of the Halifax Antiquarian Society and has edited and authored a number of books, the latest of which is on Erringden Park.
8 December 2021

The Alan Petford Memorial Lecture


Dave Smalley

Dave has agreed to re-visit his lecture that was originally part of the research that contributed to the compilation of the late Alan Petford’s festschrift History in the South Pennines. Initially it was about investigating another “fax fallacy”, a giant floating plug of dam wall! But like much research, as it developed it revealed unexpected insights into the early construction history of dams built for the textile industry.

Dave Smalley has been a resident of the upper Colden valley since 2000.  With a background of Earth Sciences and the building industry followed somewhat eclectically by Cultural Diplomacy, he now continues a lifelong interest in the evolution of the landscape and the history of man’s impact on it. Since the first presentation in 2015 he had been researching aspects of the Stansfield road network from the late eighteenth century to the early 1920’s. He is currently studying the art history and manufacture of Victorian stained glass.

12 January 2022

This talk will be held via Zoom and is for members only on this occasion.  Members will receive instructions by email on how to join the talk.


Kate Higham

The history of cinema in Hebden Bridge spans over 120 years, and takes us from silent flickering images projected onto the walls of travelling theatre tents to the sharp digital images we enjoy today in the Picture House. Kate will discuss the old Royal Electric Theatre, and the local people who have played their part in the story too.

Kate lives locally, loves going to the cinema, and has enjoyed being on the committee of the Friends of the Picture House for the last 10 years. Along with her father, she has also written a book about the history of cinema in Hebden Bridge - Hebden Bridge Picture House, the Life and Times of a Local Treasure.

26 January 2022


Ann Kilbey

Starting with a few broody hens in orange boxes, the Thornber family went on to become world leaders in the hybridisation of poultry. Ann’s talk explores the quest for the perfect egg laying machine!

Ann Kilbey has been active in local history for many years, doing valuable work with Hebden Bridge Local History Society and the Pennine Horizons Digital Archive. She is also well-known for her fascinating talks on aspects of our local history.

9 February 2022

MANAGING SPACE, MANAGING PEOPLE: Constables and highways in seventeenth century Sowerby

Murray Seccombe

The chance survival of Sowerby’s book of constables’ accounts for this period – the best from any part of Yorkshire – opens a window onto a formative stage in the way townships managed social welfare, access and mobility. The crisis years from the 1630s to the 1660s saw social and governance changes, including a precocious use of taxation for highways. The legacy was a network of tracks and causeys connecting the parish to a wider world.

Murray has lived in the area for 36 years, and is on the home stretch (he hopes) of a PhD at Lancaster University, researching manorial and township governance of highways in the parish of Halifax, c.1550-1700. Before retirement, he worked in the community-based transport sector. Given half a chance, he’d rather be out walking or reading very long books.

23 February 2022


Janet Senior

From humble beginnings to a national enterprise, the story of Morrisons is an example of the successful merging of Scottish canniness with Yorkshire determination.

Janet is a former special educational needs teacher in Bradford who took early retirement and began working as assistant librarian at the Yorkshire Archaeological Society in Leeds. Now fully retired, she continues to work as a volunteer at Markenfield Hall, North Yorkshire, cataloguing and transcribing the Grantley Archives held there.

9 March 2022

A Notable Epidemic: the 1880-81 Scarlet Fever outbreak in Halifax

John Brooke

More than five hundred people were affected by this outbreak of scarlet fever and over a hundred people died. This was no ordinary epidemic and John will explore how a farmer, a hired man and a local milk round were all involved.

John Brooke was a headteacher for 25 years and a part-time school inspector for a further seven. Most recently he has lectured for the WEA and has a number of publications to his name, including Cruel Lives: a history of some West Yorkshire epidemics. He lives in Lightcliffe where he is secretary of the local history society, president of the cricket club and leader of a litter-picking group!

23 March 2022


Shirley Daniel and Roy Collinge

The story of Cragg Hall begins with the large and industrious Hinchliffe family, arguably the biggest influence on Cragg during and after the Industrial Revolution. Intended to be the most magnificent house built in the area, Cragg Hall was acclaimed as one of the finest buildings in Yorkshire, but survived for less than 20 years as the valley's most impressive mansion, falling victim to a disastrous fire on 11th August 1921.

Memories of Cragg Hall and its splendid ornamental gardens have faded into scant awareness with no living person left to tell the tale, though in its hey-day it was a huge part of local life and a legacy of the growth and decline of the Cragg Vale cotton mill industry. The centenary of that tragic fire seemed a fitting opportunity for Cragg Vale Local History Group to look back, lay to rest the myths and misconceptions, and re-discover the real story of Cragg Hall – Cragg Vale's "stately home"!

Both Shirley and Roy are enthusiastic founder members of Cragg Vale Local History Group. Roy is originally from Colden but has been a "Cragger" for much of his life, and Shirley has lived in Cragg almost long enough to no longer be an "off-cumden"!

Autumn 2021 newsletter

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Family History

The group runs a popular programme of workshops and drop-in sessions at the Birchcliffe Centre

Churn Milk Joan

Upper Calderdale's suitability for the preservation of local cultural tradition is nowhere shown as strongly as in its wealth of folk tales about places, many of which are still being passed on by word of mouth.

Midgley Moor

For some years now a small group of friends has been exploring the evidence for prehistoric activity in the South Pennines.