Hip Hip Hooray for Hebden Bridge!
Fantastic news that Hebden Bridge has won the Great British High Street Competition in the Small Market Town category. We’d like to send our congratulations to all the shops, cafes, pubs, organisations and businesses in the town who have worked so incredibly hard this year to achieve this – and to the Hebden Bridge Business Forum for spearheading the campaign. What an amazing story and what a heroic achievement.
Well done – and a huge thank you from us and our guests here at Elmet Farmhouse. We really appreciate what you’ve done since the floods to rejuvenate Hebden Bridge. It’s looking absolutely great and has taken on a new lease of life. It’s a real pleasure to shop, drink and dine in this wonderful town and to sample its outstanding facilities. We can’t think of a nicer place to live and our guests think so too!
Here are just a few recent comments about Hebden Bridge a from guests staying at Elmet Farmhouse this year…
‘Hebden Bridge is a terrific little town. All the people, including the local independent shopkeepers, were so helpful.’
‘We have all had a wonderful time here. We have loved exploring the area and visiting Hebden Bridge.‘
‘A wonderful holiday in a perfect setting. Thank you. We will be back to this stunning part of the world.‘
‘We’ve had an amazing weekend with long walks through the valley, bluebell meadows, waterfalls and lush green forest to Hebden Bridge.’
‘What an inspirational place to stay. We will never forget the sublime views across the valley. This has been the perfect spot to explore a remarkable part of England.’
‘Our visit to Elmet Farmhouse has been lovely. We have found the local people so friendly and helpful.’
‘Truly memorable in every sense – literary, painterly, historically, “the great-outdoorsy”, exploratory. New walks and friendliness from everyone we have come into contact with.’
It’s no surprise that Hebden Bridge has also won the People’s Choice in the Great British High Street Awards – attracting an astonishing 40,000 votes – more than any other town in the history of the competition. Bravo!
Click here for more information about the Great British High Street Competition
© Photos copyright Lesley Jackson
Higgledy Piggledy Hebden Houses
What strikes visitors when they first come to Hebden Bridge are the higgledy piggledy houses. Because of the narrowness of the valley and the steepness of the hillsides, very few houses are built on the flat and they come in all sorts of irregular shapes and sizes. Quirky and unusual, Hebden Bridge’s architecture is as Non-Conformist as its prevailing religion.
Most of the buildings in Hebden Bridge date from the 19th century, when the town grew rapidly as a result of the flourishing textile industry. Terraced housing was the norm, as in other milltowns, to accommodate the rapidly expanding factory workforce. But whereas elsewhere in the industrial heartlands of Yorkshire and Lancashire, the terraced houses were uniform and monotonous, Hebden Bridge’s precipitous slopes prompted builders to be more inventive and ingenious.
The contours of the valley give a highly distinctive character to the urban landscape of Hebden Bridge, as many terraces run diagonally up and down the hills. Because the valley bottom is so constricted and usable land was in such short supply, this prompted builders to opt for high-rise solutions – terraces in the sky. As well as being unusually tall – five storeys were not uncommon – some terraces were tapered or wedge-shaped.
Double-decker terraces – comprising of underdwellings and overdwellings – are a Hebden Bridge speciality. Both open onto the street but at completely different levels. A unqiue form of property ownership, known as flying freeholds, developed in response to these two-part dwellings.
The wealth generated in Hebden Bridge by the fustian industry and the garment-making trade during the late 19th century prompted the building of larger houses for textile magnates and other affluent tradespeople. Birchcliffe, the steep road rising up from the centre of the town, has some good examples of these splendid properties, many with stained glass, decorative stonework or curious features such as towers.
High retaining walls and embankments are another distinctive feature of the town, all built of the same locally quarried sandstone – millstone grit – adding to the impression that the town emerged spontaneously out of the landscape. Although it grew rapidly in a piecemeal fashion, there is an organic quality to its architecture that is unique to Hebden Bridge.
© Text and photos copyright Lesley Jackson
Hebden Bridge – characterful, creative, unique
Hebden Bridge has bags of character. With its striking setting, unusual architecture and free-thinking inhabitants, it’s a great place to live and an extremely enjoyable place to visit. Built of sandy-coloured millstone grit, the tall narrow terraced houses cling to the winding contours of the steep-sided valley, giving the town a distinctive organic quality. It’s as if the town has been carved out of the landscape, which in some respects it has.
A 19th century mill town that has successfully reinvented itself several times over, Hebden Bridge is a hub of 21st century creativity. The town’s fortunes were originally allied to the textile industry, its speciality being corduroy and moleskin, known generically as fustian. Garment-making was another important trade, particularly moleskin and corduroy trousers, hence the names ‘Fustianopolis’ and ‘Trouser Town’. The mills were badly hit during the 1970s with the decline of the textile industry, but happily the town has since bounced back, attracting new blood and diversifying into different fields while retaining its traditional character.
During the week Hebden is a bustling market town with an excellent range of shops – butchers, bakers, delis, ironmongers, greengrocers – supplying just about everything you could possibly need. Many businesses are family-run and there’s a real sense of community. There’s also a lively flea market on wednesday and a top-class general market each thursday, with fresh fish from Fleetwood, delicious Lancashire cheese from Todmorden, freshly-baked bread from Cragg Vale, excellent fruit and veg and a diverse array of other stalls. Everyone is so friendly that doing the weekly shop is a real pleasure, not a chore.
At weekends Hebden Bridge attracts lots visitors, who flock to the town to enjoy its pleasant vibe. As its name suggests, the town has several bridges, so there are lots of picturesque views. As well as being at the confluence of two rivers – Hebden Water and the River Calder – Hebden Bridge straddles the Rochdale Canal. The painted barges moored on the canal inject a colourful note to a stroll along the towpath. Even the railway station in Hebden is full character with its well-preserved Victorian signage and buzzing station cafe.
Hebden is nationally renowned for its independent shops, which give a fresh and vibrant feel to the town. From shoes, clothes and bicyles to jewellery, soap and lighting, Hebden has a higher ratio of specialist independent retailers than almost anywhere else in the UK. St George’s Square and the narrow riverside Bridge Gate are both pedestrianised, with cafes spilling out onto the street. A hub for designer-makers and creative entrepreneurs, Hebden is bubbling with energy and awash with tempting things to buy – from artisan bread, Yorkshire curd tarts and locally-reared lamb to hand-crafted lamps, groovy tea towels and fabulous hats.
Even if you’ve never visited this part of the country before, the name Hebden Bridge may ring a bell. Being so photogenic and unusual, it regularly pops up on TV, not only in dramas such as Last Tango in Halifax but in popular programmes such as Countryfile. In the last few years Hebden Bridge has been featured in several documentaries: Tony Robinson’s Walking Through History, Michael Portillo’s Great British Railway Journeys and the Channel 4’s Great Canal Journeys with Timothy West and Prunella Scales.
British Airways’ in-flight magazine Highlife described Hebden Bridge as the 4th funkiest town in the world! And Newsnight presenter Evan Davies floated the idea of Hebden Bridge as the UK’s second city because of its significance as a vibrant trans-Pennine hub, half-way between Manchester and Leeds.
Independent-minded, resourceful and resilient, creativity is Hebden Bridge’s middle name. Even the Boxing Day floods have not crushed the town’s indomitable spirit. Hebden Bridge is a unique place. Come and see for yourself!
Hebden Bridge – characterful, creative, unique
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© Text and images copyright Elmet Farmhouse