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Halifax was a Market town until 22 November 2009, when it became a Minster town, in the Metropolitan Borough of Calderdalemarker in West Yorkshire, England, with an urban area population of 82,056 in the 2001 Census. It is well-known as a centre of England's woollen manufacture from the 15th century onward, originally dealing through the Halifax Piece Hallmarker. Halifax is internationally famous for its Mackintosh chocolate and toffee (now owned by Nestlé), the Halifax Bank (formerly Halifax Building Society), and the nearby Shibden Hallmarker.



The name Halifax is said to be a corruption of the Old English words for Holy and Face, part of the local legend that the head of John the Baptist was buried here after his execution. The legend is almost certainly medieval rather than ancient, though the town's coat of arms still carries an image of the saint. (The oldest written mentions of the town have the spelling Haliflax, apparently meaning "holy flax (field)", the second "l" having been subsequently lost by dissimilation. An alternative explanation for the name of the town could come from a corruption of the Old English/Old Norse words Hay and Ley for 'hay' and 'field' respectively and flax. Anecdotal evidence for this alternative and plausible explanation can be seen in the presence of Haley Hill, the nearby hamlet of Healey (another corruption). The fact that the surnames Hayley/Haley which are derived from Hay and Ley and are most abundant around the Halifax environs, also gives credibility for this explanation.)

Early history

Halifax Minstermarker, parts of which go back to the 12th century, has always been dedicated to St John the Baptist. The Minster's first organist, in 1766, was William Herschel, who went on to discover the planet Uranus. The coat of arms of Halifax include the chequers from the original coat of arms of the Earls Warenne, who held the town during Norman times. Halifax was also notorious for the 'Halifax Gibbetmarker', an early form of the guillotine used to execute criminals by decapitation, it was last used in 1650. A replica of the gibbet has been erected on the original site in Gibbet Street. The original gibbet blade is on display at Bankfield Museum, Halifax. Punishment in Halifax was notoriously harsh, as remembered in the Beggar's Litany by John Taylor (1580–1654), a prayer whose text included "From Hullmarker, from Halifax, from Hell, ‘tis thus, From all these three, Good Lord deliver us.". Daniel Defoe was also a one time famous resident of Halifax.

In November 1938, in an incident of mass hysteria, many in Halifax believed a serial killer — The Halifax Slasher — was on the loose. Scotland Yardmarker was called in, but they concluded there were no "Slasher" attacks after several locals came forward and admitted they had inflicted the wounds upon themselves.

More recently

A view of Halifax, looking north from the summit of Beacon Hill
Halifax has given its name to a bank, Halifax plc which started as a building society in the town. Nowadays Halifax is a trading name of Bank of Scotland plc, as part of the Lloyds Banking Group. Halifax is a twin town with Aachenmarker in Germany. The A58 has a stretch called Aachen Way, with a plaque on the town-bound side of the road.

Halifax has benefited from Single Regeneration Budget, European URBAN II and the Home Office’s Community Cohesion Fund money through Action Halifax who have a vision for "a prosperous, vibrant and safe centre where all sections of the community can access opportunities to enhance their quality of life."


The coat of arms of the former Halifax County Borough Council.
The motto reads "Except The Lord Keep the City"
Halifax was incorporated as a municipal borough in 1848 under the Municipal Corporations Act 1835, and with the passing of the Local Government Act 1888 became a County Borough in 1889. Since 1974, Halifax has been the administrative centre of the Metropolitan Borough of Calderdalemarker, once a part of the now-former metropolitan county of West Yorkshire.

The Calderdale suburbs north of Halifax are noted for its local support of the far-right British National Party; the suburb of Mixendenmarker became the first area in West Yorkshire to popularly vote in a BNP councillor, with Illingworthmarker soon to follow.


Topographically, Halifax is located in the south-eastern corner of the moorland region called the South Penninesmarker. Halifax is situated about from the M62 motorway close to Bradfordmarker, Huddersfieldmarker and Rochdalemarker. The Tees-Exe line passes through the A641 road, which links nearby Brighousemarker with Bradford and Huddersfield, The town lies from Kingston upon Hullmarker and Liverpoolmarker, and about from the cities of Londonmarker, Edinburghmarker, Belfastmarker, Dublinmarker and Cardiffmarker as the crow flies. The major waterway is the River Calder.


, Calderdale had a population of 192,405, of which 82,500 live in the Halifax urban area. The main ethnic group in Halifax is White (87%), followed by Pakistani (10%). Over 90% of people aged 16–74 were employed, mostly full-time. 64% of residents had qualifications.
Halifax is home to a large South Asian community mainly of Pakistanimarker Muslims from the Kashmir regionmarker. The majority of the community lives in the west central Halifax region of the town, which was previously home to immigrant Irish communities who have since moved to the outer suburbs. The Illingworth / Mixenden areas, in contrast to west central Halifax's ethnic diversity, consists mostly of white, indigenous Protestant residents. In the 2001 census, 5% stated they were Muslim, 16.3% of no religion, and 63.8% of Christian background. 12.8% did not disclose their religion. The population density of the Halifax urban area is 530/km2.


Joseph Crossley's Almshouses, Halifax
As well as the significance of the bank Halifax plc which, since 2008, is part of the Lloyds Banking Group, the town has strong associations with confectionery.

John Mackintosh and his wife, Violet, opened a toffee shop in King Crossmarker Lane in 1890. Violet formulated the toffee's recipe. John became known as The Toffee King. A factory was opened on Queens Road in 1898. A new factory at Albion Mill, at the current site near the railway station, opened in 1909. John died in 1920, and his son Harold not only continued the business but took it to the present size and range of confectionery it has today. Their famous brands, including Rolo, Toffee Crisp and Quality Street of chocolate and confectionery are not just popular in the UK, but around the world including the USA.

In 1969 John Mackintosh & Co Limited merged with the Yorkmarker-based Rowntree Limited to form Rowntree Mackintosh. This was, in turn, purchased by Nestlé in 1988.

Halifax was a busy heavy industrial town dealing in and producing wool, carpets, machine tools, and beer. The Crossley family began carpet manufacture in modest premises at Dean Cloughmarker, on the banks of the Hebble Brook. The family was philanthropic and Joseph and Sir Francis Crossley built and endowed Almshouses for their workers, which exist to this day and are run by volunteer trustees.

Halifax is also home to Suma Wholefoods, which was established in 1975 and is the largest workers co-operative in the UK.


A map of Halifax from 1954

Most of the bus services in Halifax operate from the town's bus stationmarker. Unlike many other bus stations, Halifax is noted for having much character, with many listed buildings being incorporated on the site.

First Calderdale & Huddersfield operate most of the town's services, while Arriva Yorkshire operate services that link Halifax with other West Yorkshire towns and cities of Dewsburymarker and Wakefieldmarker. First operate bus services from Halifax to the town of Huddersfieldmarker and the nearby cities of Bradfordmarker and Leedsmarker. First also run services into other counties,Rochdalemarker in Greater Manchestermarker and Burnleymarker in Lancashiremarker.

Other bus operators in the town include T.J. Walsh (also known as The Halifax Bus Company) and Halifax Joint Committee which use the livery of the old Halifax Corporation buses, used on the town's buses until 1974.

Halifax railway stationmarker is on the Caldervale Line, with links to Manchester Victoriamarker, Yorkmarker, Selbymarker via Bradfordmarker and Leedsmarker, Blackpool Northmarker and via Brighousemarker to Huddersfieldmarker and Wakefield Westgatemarker. All services are operated by Northern Rail. Many services are subsidised by the local-government public transport coordinator, Metro. Passenger representation is organised by the local users' group, the Halifax and District Rail Action Group (HADRAG).

The railway leading from Halifax due north towards Keighleymarker (and thus towards Skiptonmarker, Morecambemarker and Carlislemarker) with a further branch to Bradfordmarker via Queensburymarker saw its last through services in May 1955, although parts of the route, which was extremely heavily engineered with long tunnels and high, spectacular, viaducts, have now been repaired and revived by Sustrans as a walking and cycle route.

Public bus and train transportation in Halifax is managed by the West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive. It was announced in January 2009 that Halifax is to have a direct rail link to London after a long campaign backed by many, including the local paper the Courier, the service is meant to come into use in 2009–2010.


Calderdale's local radio station, Phoenix Radio 96.7 FM has its studios in Halifax, and the Evening Courier, Calderdale's local newspaper, has its offices in the town.


The Halifax area is home to two selective state schools, which are the co-educational North Halifax Grammar Schoolmarker in Illingworthmarkerand Crossley Heath Grammar Schoolmarker, Skircoat Greenmarker. Both schools achieve excellent GCSE and A-level results with both schools achieving a large proportion of A* to C grades at GCSE level. In 2005, the Crossley Heath School was the highest ranking co-educational school in the North of England.

The Crossley Heath School was formed when Heath Grammar Schoolmarker, an all boys' school given its charter by Elizabeth I of England, and The Crossley and Porter School, a mixed school founded with his brothers by Sir Francis Crossley, 1st Baronet which started as an orphanage, were combined in 1985. There are other schools in the area, including the Holy Trinity Church of England Senior Schoolmarker and St Catherine's Catholic High Schoolmarker, both of which are located in Holmfield. In January 2006 Holy Trinity was designated a Specialist College for Business and Enterprise, whilst St Catherine's, was designated a Specialist Technology College.

Calderdale Collegemarker is the local further education college on Francis Street, just off King Cross Road, in the west of the town. In December 2006 it was announced that Calderdale Collegemarker, in partnership with Leeds Metropolitan Universitymarker, opened a new higher education institution in January 2007 called 'University Centre Calderdale'.


Laying up of 1981 stand of Regimental Colours of the 1st Battalion Duke of Wellington's Regiment
The 3rd Battalion Yorkshire Regiment formerly the Duke of Wellington's Regiment Halifax Area Headquarters is based at Wellesley Park, on the junction of Gibbet Street and Spring Hall Road, in the former Wellesley Barracks Museum and Education Centre building. The Regimental Museum has been re-located within the Bankfield House Textile Museum on Haley Hill. The former Barracks was converted into an educational school in 2005.

Former Regimental Colours of the 'Duke's' are laid up in the Halifax Minster. These include the stand used by the 33rd Regiment between 1761 and 1771, which is one of the oldest in existence in England, plus those carried by the regiment during the Battle of Waterloomarker and the Crimea. The 1981 stand of colours, was taken out of service in 2002. They were marched through the town from the town hallmarker to the Minster, which at that time was still a Parish Church, accompanied by two escorts of 40 troops, the Regimental Drums and the Heavy Cavalry and Cambrai Band on Sunday 31 March 2007. The troops were then inspected by The Lord Lieutenant of West Yorkshire, Dr Ingrid Roscoe BA, PhD, FSA and the Mayor of Halifax Cllr Colin Stout making a total of eight stands of colours within the Regimental Chapel. The Regiment was presented with the 'Freedom of Halifax' on 18 June 1945.

Eureka!marker The Museum for Childrenmarker was inspired and opened by Prince Charles in the summer of 1992 and is located in part of the railway station. Once the home of the diarist Anne Lister, Shibden Hallmarker is located just outside Halifax in the neighbouring Shibden Valley. Dean Cloughmarker, a refurbished worsted spinning mill, is the home of Barrie Rutter's Northern Broadsides Theatre Company and the IOU theatre company as well as providing space for eight art galleries.

Victoria Theatre, Halifax
Halifax, and in particular the Victoria Theatremarker (originally the Victoria Hall) is home to the oldest continually running amateur choral society in the country and possibly the world. Halifax Choral Society was founded in 1817 and has an unbroken record of performances. The Choral Society has a strong rivalry with the equally eminent nearby Huddersfield Choral Society. The Victoria Theatre contains a large concert organ built by William Hill & Sons that was installed in 1901. During the 1960s, when the hall was converted into the theatre, The organ was re-located to the back of the stage. The original console was replaced with a Rushworth and Dreaper unit, which consists of three manuals and a 31 note pedal board. A complete rewiring of the organ to add a second touch facility and a hydraulic lift was done, so it could be lowered and stored under the stage. The organ was rarely used, being played for a few orchestras and the choral society's Messiah and is currently in a state of disrepair and unusable.

The Playhouse, Halifax‎
There is plenty to occupy lovers of amateur theatre. Halifax Thespians and the Actors' Workshop present plays of all kinds, and musical theatre is represented by Halifax Amateur Operatic Society, Halifax Light Opera Society, Halifax Gilbert and Sullivan Society, and All Souls Amateur Operatic Society. Halifax YMCA Pantomime Society presents its annual show in late January each year. Young people interested in drama are catered for by Halifax AOS and Halifax LOS, which each have a junior section, and another group, Stagedoor Theatre Co, specialises in dramatic activities and performances by children and young people. The Halifax & District Organists' Association, is one of the oldest organists' fellowships in the country.

As well as conventional cultural attractions, the Calderdale area has also become a centre for folk and traditional music. The Traditions Festival, held at the Halifax Piece Hallmarker in the town centre, is a celebration of traditional music and dance from around the world, whilst the Rushbearing, held in Sowerby Bridgemarker and the surrounding villages, is a traditional festival which was restarted to celebrate the Queen's Silver Jubilee and attracts Morris dancers from all around the country. The Square Chapelmarker Centre for the Arts offers music, dance, plays, comedy as well as community events such as tea dances. The Victoria Theatremarker, opened in 1901 and seating 1,568 people, or 1,860 for a standing concert, hosts a variety of performances.

Halifax town centre has a busy night life with lots of clubs and bars. To help with those who become vulnerable whilst enjoying and using Halifax's night life, Street Angels was launched in November 2005. Street Angels patrol the town centre on Fridays and Saturdays between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m.. In the first year police report violent crime has fallen by 42%. Street Angels work in partnership with St. John Ambulance, Nightlife Marshals, Police Community Support Officers, Police and doorstaff as well as the Halifax Ambassadors who patrol in the daytime.


  • The Piece Hallmarker is the former cloth hall, where the trading of woollen cloth pieces was done. Opened on 1 January 1779, it was only open for business for two hours on a Saturday morning and contained 315 merchant trading rooms. After the mechanisation of the cloth industry, the Piece Hall became a public market. The former Calderdale Industrial Museum (now closed) was located beside the Piece Hall.

  • Dean Clough Millmarker located beside the Victorian Gothic style North Bridgemarker was built in the 1840s–60s for Crossley's Carpets, owned by John Crossley and was once the largest carpet factory in the world. It is now a thriving business park after being converted in the 1980s.


The town has relatively successful sport clubs. Its rugby league club, Halifax RLFC (formerly the "Blue Sox"), plays in League One, and the town's football team, F.C. Halifax Town, currently plays in the Northern Premier League Division One North after twice being relegated from League Two. Both teams share The Shaymarker football ground, which is the largest ground used by a non-league football club in England. In the 1960s Halifax Town played Millwall in a Fourth Division match that had the lowest attendance ever recorded for a professional match in England. The Crossley Heath Grammar School normally excels in nationwide school rugby union competitions.

Motorcycle speedway racing has been staged at two venues in Halifax. In the pioneering days of 1928–1930 a track operated at Thrum Hallmarker. A Halifax team took part in the English Dirt Track League of 1929. Speedway returned to Halifax at The Shay Stadium in 1949 and operated until 1951. The team operated as the Halifax Nomads in 1948 racing three away fixtures. The Halifax Dukes, the name they took once The Shay was opened, operated in the National League Third Division in 1949 before moving up to the Second Division in 1950. Riders including Arthur Forrest, moved on to Bradfordmarker. The Dukes re-emerged in 1965 as founder members of the British League and operated there for many years before the team moved en bloc to Odsal Stadiummarker, Bradford. The steeply banked bends of the track at The Shay have been buried under stands at either end when the spectator facilities were squared off.

Religious buildings

The Assembly Rooms and Trinity Church in Halifax from A Complete History of the County of York by Thomas Allen (1828–30)
The 15th century Minster dedicated to St. John the Baptist did not achieve cathedral status when a new diocese was being considered for the West Riding (Wakefieldmarker Parish Church became the cathedral in 1888 and was extensively altered and enlarged). Minster Status was conferred on the Parish Church in a ceremony on 22 November 2009. There is a collection of rare Commonwealth white glass as well as a series of Victorian windows. Another feature is the complete array of Jacobean box pews. The pair of Gothic organ cases by John Oldrid Scott now house the four-manual instrument by Harrison & Harrison. The belfry holds fourteen bells and an Angelus.

The Serbian Orthodox Church dedicated to St. John the Baptist, in the Boothtown area, formerly the Mount Carmel Methodist Chapel, was acquired in 1956 and after extensive refurbishment was opened in the early part of the 1960s by the towns Serbian community.

The currently mothballed mid-Victorian All Souls' Church by Sir George Gilbert Scott standing part way up Haley Hill to the north of the main town centre is now vested in the Historic Churches Preservation Trust. Its lofty spire and white magnesian limestone exterior stand as a very personal statement in 13th century French style of the mill owner Colonel Sir Edward Akroyd, who paid solely for its construction as the centre-piece of a purpose-built model village ("Akroydon"). All Souls' boasts an unusually complete sequence of windows by the leading artists of the 1850s, including William Wailes, John Hardman and Clayton & Bell. The large organ by Forster & Andrews inserted in 1868, ten years after the building was completed, is currently unplayable and many of its surviving parts are in storage awaiting restoration. The tower houses a ring of eight bells.

Other churches include the Georgian Holy Trinity Church (now converted to office use) and the late neo-Gothic (1911) St. Paul's, King Crossmarker, by Sir Charles Nicholson. St Paul's is notable not only for its fine acoustics but also for an unusual and highly colourful west window, specified by Nicholson, showing the apocalyptic vision of the Holy City descending upon the smoky mills and railway viaducts of Halifax as it was before the First World War.

The spire of the Square Church, not far from the Minster at the bottom of the town, paid for by the carpet manufacturing Crossley family, is all that remains of the Gothic Congregational church built by Joseph James in 1856–58 as a rival design to All Souls', Haley Hill. The building was closed in 1969 and arsonists caused severe damage to the building two years later leading to its partial demolition. The rather comic story of the rival spires runs that the two buildings' towers were nearing completion simultaneously; the architects were ordered to stop work within a few feet of the top of the spires to see who would finish first. After some time, the Crossleys lost patience and finished their spire at , prompting the immediate completion of the rival building one foot higher. The neighbouring and earlier (Georgian) Square Chapelmarker (1772) survived a hundred years of use as a church hall and Sunday School for the larger church.

There are several Mosques in Halifax, the main ones being Madni Jamia Mosque on Gibbet Street, and Al Jamia Al Zahra which is co-located with: Zahra Educational and Cultural Centre, on Francis Street. Syed Ahmad Hussain Shah Tirmezi is head Imam of this Mosque.

Notable Haligonians

See also


  1. Halifax Courier - We're a Minster town!, Published Date: 23 November 2009
  2. Halifax Courier - Halifax Minster: the start of a new era. Published Date 24 November 2009
  3. National Pipe Organ Register
  4. Arms of Halifax, Civic Heraldry of England and Wales,
  5. Yorkshire History - Halifax Gibbet
  6. Radio 4 History - The Halifax Slasher
  7. Halifax Courier Article Halifax and District Rail Action Group
  8. Halifax Courier London rail link: (30 January 2009)
  9. Leeds Metropolitan University Website: University Centre Calderdale launched
  10. The Duke of Wellington's Regiment (West Riding) - A Short History, by Major Savoury MBE & Major General DE Isles, CB OBE DL
  11. Halifax Courier - We're a Minster town!, Published Date: 23 November 2009
  12. St. John the Baptist Church history

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