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Hebden Bridge is a market town within the Metropolitan Borough of Calderdalemarker, in West Yorkshire, England. It forms part of the Upper Calder Valleymarker and lies eight miles (13 km) west of Halifaxmarker and fourteen miles (21 km) north east of Rochdalemarker, at the confluence of the River Calder and The River Hebden (Hebden Water).

A 2004 profile of the Calder Valley ward, covering Hebden Bridge, Old Townmarker, and part of Todmordenmarker, estimated the population at 11,549. The population of the town itself is approximately 4,500.


Early history

The original settlement was the hilltop village of Heptonstallmarker. 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 Valleymarker 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 Canalmarker (running from Sowerby Bridgemarker to Manchestermarker) and the Manchester and Leeds Railway (later the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway) (running from Leedsmarker to Manchestermarker and Burnley).

Developing facilities

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.

Postwar period

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 Manchestermarker and Lancashiremarker.

On 6th July 2003 Hebden Bridge was granted Fairtrade Zone status.


A general view of Hebden Bridge, with Mytholmroyd in the distance
At a district level, Hebden Bridge Urban District was established in 1891. In 1937, it merged with Mytholmroydmarker 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, Calderdalemarker 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 Modburymarker 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 stationmarker lies on the Caldervale Line between Manchester Victoria and Leeds Railway Station. It is served by frequent rail services to towns and cities in Lancashiremarker, Greater Manchestermarker, as well as West and North Yorkshire including Leeds, Blackpool North, Yorkmarker, Manchester Victoriamarker and Todmordenmarker. There are also some infrequent services to Dewsburymarker 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 Halifaxmarker (several services at 10-minute intervals), Burnleymarker (592) and Rochdalemarker (590). However, Keighley District Buses connect Hebden Bridge with Haworthmarker, Oxenhopemarker and Keighleymarker. The "Hebden Bridger" is a local bus operated by WYPTE that serves as a town centre service, also operating to local villages including Heptonstallmarker.

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 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.

Lindsay Jo Rimer

A girl from Hebden Bridge, Lindsay Jo Rimer, went missing in 1994, and her body was found in the Rochdale Canalmarker the following year. She had been murdered. The case made national headlines and despite a long police inquiry, remains unsolved.

Acre Mill

Acre Mill was an asbestos mill in the hilltop settlement of Old Townmarker 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 Heptonstallmarker. 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 Schoolmarker and a number of local football, rugby league and cricket teams.

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, Halifaxmarker 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 standpipe to Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroydmarker but this was abandoned after threats of civil disturbance.

Another method used was to ship water in from other areas such as Kielder Watermarker in Northumberlandmarker. The water was shipped in using tanker lorries and was dumped straight into Scammondenmarker 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 Ellandmarker 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 Canalmarker.

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 Waymarker and the well conserved region of Hardcastle Cragsmarker and is popular for outdoor pursuits such as walking, climbing and cycling.

For boaters (typically, people holidaying on narrowboats), Hebden Bridge's many shops and pubs make it a popular overnight or lunchtime stop, between Todmordenmarker and Sowerby Bridgemarker, on the Rochdale Canalmarker - a through route across the Pennines.

Arts Festival and The Fringe Arts Festival take 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 is one of the country's leading clog manufacturers. It 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 Little Theatre is an amateur company aiming for professional standards, producing five plays a year and catering for the local community and visitors to the area alike. The 120-seat auditorium gives the theatre a delightfully intimate atmosphere, and the bar and waterside patio make a visit to the Little Theatre a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

Hebden Bridge is also the base of the Calder Valley Youth Theatre, an under-eighteens society which produces one main musical production per year in the Halifaxmarker playhouse and often several smaller, less formal productions. The group has often been praised by critics as performing to an adult, professional standard.

Hebden Bridge Junior Band

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. Originally formed by Brian Haydn Robinson it now boasts over 40 members. The band accompanies the community carols in St George's Square every Christmas Eve which attracts over 1,500 singers and assorted revellers. The band featured in the Guardian in 2008 as a result of Ben McMahon's atmospheric portraits of the band This article generated much other media coverage including an appearance on BBC's the ONE Show, Radio 2's Brass Britain and BBC Look North. The band has recently commissioned a series of arrangements of ska music from local Musician Dave Nelson They can be seen playing regularly in the town, especially at community events in late spring and throughout the Christmas period.

Other features

Hebden Bridge is noted for having significant numbers of artists, alternative New Age types and a gay and (especially) lesbian community. In the 1980s and 1990s many lesbians moved there, and to neighbouring Todmordenmarker, 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 quirkiest 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 stationmarker 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.

Notable people


External links

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