10 Facts about Hebden Bridge

10 Fascinating Facts about Funky Hebden Bridge



1. Hebden Bridge used to be known as Fustianopolis because many of its textile mills specialised in fustian – the generic name for corduroy and moleskin. Hebden Bridge has also been described as Trouser Town because it became an important centre for garment-making, especially working mens’ trousers made from fustian cloth.

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Left: Canalside mill in Hebden Bridge.  Right: Fustian cutter’s blade sculpture in St George’s Square

2. Hebden Bridge was one of the earliest towns to embrace the Co-operative Movement, just a few years after the Rochdale Pioneers. The Hebden Bridge Fustian Manufacturing Society, based in Nutclough Mill, was the first co-operative mill in the UK. Community spirit and co-operative principles still characterise the town. Hebweb was the first community website in the UK.


Left: Tower of Nutclough Mill.  Right: Workers’ housing in Hebden Bridge

3. Until the 19th century Hebden Bridge was much smaller and more insignificant than Heptonstall, the small village on the top of the hill. Whereas Heptonstall had been a flourishing cloth-making centre for centuries, Hebden Bridge was little more than a bridging point over Hebden Water for packhorses en route to Heptonstall via the Buttress (an incredibly steep stone-paved track). But following the industrial revolution, everything changed. Hebden Bridge expanded rapidly and the Calder Valley became a hub for large water-powered and steam-powered textile factories.


Left: 16th century bridge crossing Hebden Water.  Right: The Buttress

4. Because the Upper Calder Valley is so steep-sided, there’s very little space on the valley bottom for housing. When Hebden Bridge expanded during the 19th century, double-decker terraces were developed, consisting of underdwellings and overdwellings, running along the contours of the valley and up and down the slopes ‘Flying freeholds’ – another Hebden Bridge novelty – were introduced as a result.


Double-decker terraces in Hebden Bridge

5. Hebden Bridge boasts the highest proportion of independent shops per capita in the country, a distinction it shares with Totnes in Devon. From butchers and bakers to designer-makers, Hebden Bridge combines traditional businesses, such as ironmongers, haberdashery and and florists, with craft lighting, jewellery and organic food. It’s no surprise the town was crowned Best Small Market Town in the Great British High Street Awards in 2016.



Independent shops in Hebden Bridge

6. Hebden Bridge’s thriving food and general market, held each thursday, recently won the national award for Best Small Outdoor Market in the UK. It sells everything from fresh fish, local cheese and sourdough bread to toiletries, plants and fruit and veg. Hebden Bridge also has a flea market each friday, an artisan’s market on saturday and a local produce market on sunday.


Hebden Bridge Market

7. Mytholmroyd-born poet Ted Hughes retained life-long connections with Hebden Bridge. His book Remains of Elmet (1979), a collaboration with photographer Fay Godwin, is all about the Upper Calder Valley. Hughes’s parents lived in a house called The Beacon at Slack, near Heptonstall. His wife, the American poet Sylvia Plathwho committed suicide in 1963, is buried in Heptonstall Churchyard. Lumb Bank, an 18th century millowner’s house in Colden Clough formerly owned by Ted Hughes, is now a flourishing creative writing centre run by the Arvon Foundation.

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Left: Remains of Elmet.  Right: Lumb Bank

8. Internationally renowned photographer Martin Parr lived and worked in Hebden Bridge during the mid 1970s at the start of his career. His photographs from this period, focusing on the non-conformist chapels that once dominated this area, were recently published in a book called The Non-Conformists.  

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Left: Hope Chapel, Hebden Bridge.  Right: Birchcliffe Chapel, Hebden Bridge


Left: Providence Chapel, Midgley.  Right: Heptonstall Methodist Chapel

9. World-famous singer songwriter Ed Sheeran spent his formative early childhood years in Hebden Bridge and seems to have absorbed its quirky, independent spirit. His parents lived in a house on Birchcliffe Road in Hebden Bridge at the time. Ed’s father  was a curator at Cartwright Hall in Bradford and his mother worked at Manchester City Art Gallery.

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Left: West Royd (left), Ed Sheeran’s early childhood home on Birchcliffe Road, Hebden Bridge. Right: Eiffel Tower opposite West Royd

10. Hebden Bridge and the Calder Valley are popular locations for film and TV dramas, both historical and contemporary. The picturesque village of Heptonstall recently appeared in Jericho and Swallows and Amazons, while Holdsworth House, a 17th century house in Halifax, was an important location in Last Tango in Halifax. Hebden Bridge features prominently in Happy Valley, which, like Last Tango, was written by BAFTA award-winning screenwriter Sally Wainwright, who grew up in Calderdale. Catherine Cawood, the feisty police officer in Happy Valley played by Sarah Lancashire, lives in a house on Hangingroyd Road in the centre of Hebden Bridge.


Hebden Bridge – key location for Happy Valley. Left: Bridge Gate.  Right: Bridge Mill. 


Heptonstall – key location for ITV’s series Jericho and the film Swallows and Amazons


© Text and photos copyright Lesley Jackson

Martin Parr at The Hepworth

Martin Parr Exhibition at The Hepworth, Wakefield




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arguably Britain’s greatest living photographer’ 
The Telegraph

The Hepworth Wakefield is delighted to announce a new commission and major survey exhibition by British photographer Martin Parr.

The Rhubarb Triangle & Other Stories opens to the public on 4 February 2016 – 12 June 2016 and will be the largest Martin Parr exhibition in the UK since his Barbican retrospective in 2002, comprising more than 300 photographs that span the past 40 years.

A comprehensive overview of Parr’s work will be on display, from early Yorkshire-based black and white photographs of rural communities to his recent international examinations of consumerism. Drawing on the implicit themes of labour and leisure present in the new Rhubarb Triangle commission, the exhibition brings together photographs from multiple series and commissions to address contemporary global networks of industry and consumption. Key series to be exhibited include: The Non-Conformists, 1975-80; The Last Resort, 1983-85; The Cost of Living, 1989; Autoportrait, 1991-2012 and Common Sense, 1995-99.

The Rhubarb Triangle new commission lies at the heart of the exhibition and comprises a series of photographs taken over the last 12 months in an area of countryside known as ‘The Rhubarb Triangle’ between Wakefield, Morley and Rothwell in West Yorkshire, which is famous for producing early-forced rhubarb. Parr’s photographs capture all aspects of the rhubarb business, from the back-breaking work of moving the rhubarb from field to shed, the freezing cold and exhausting labour of picking the vegetable by candlelight (or occasionally by head-torch), and the consumption of the rhubarb by coach parties and food tourists.

The exhibition presents a chronological overview of Parr’s iconic series of works.The Non-Conformists and the Calderdale series, taken at the beginning of his career, reflect his experiences of living in and growing up in Yorkshire. After graduating from Manchester Polytechnic, Parr moved to Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire where he embarked upon a project with his future partner Susie recording the disappearing communities around this small town. Parr was already familiar with Yorkshire from his early life, his paternal grandparents George and Florrie lived in Calverley in Leeds and he spent childhood holidays in the county, visiting Scarborough, Brimham Rocks and Bradford.

The Rhubarb Triangle & Other Stories will also include his acclaimed series The Last Resort, documenting the leisure time of the working class in the seaside town of New Brighton which contributed towards the transformation of documentary photography in Britain. We will also show Parr’s subsequent project, The Cost of Living, a photographic essay portraying the new middle classes of 1980s England at home, at parties and meetings, shopping, and going about their everyday life.

Parr’s investigation of cultural identity, aspiration and image is further addressed in the Autoportrait series, within which Parr presents himself as subject of studio portraits around the world. His increasing international work, photographing around the world for commissions or his own projects on themes such as tourism and beaches, is drawn together in two groups, Work and Leisure, to present the labour that produces the objects, food and environments that we consume, and the results of that often, ironically, uneasy experience of leisure time.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a publication on The Rhubarb Triangle featuring an essay by Martin’s partner, Susie Parr.


Ted Hughes and Remains of Elmet

Ted Hughes and Remains of Elmet

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Ted Hughes (1930-1998) was one of the greatest British poets of the 20th century. Born in Mytholmroyd, near Hebden Bridge, he spent his early childhood in the Upper Calder Valley and remained deeply attached to the area throughout his life.  As well as shaping his character, it triggered his fascination with the natural world and inspired some of his most memorable poems, such as ‘The Horses’, ‘Cock-Crows’ and ‘Football at Slack’.

In 1979 Ted Hughes published a collection of poems called Remains of Elmet specifically about this unique part of Yorkshire. Subtitled A Pennine Sequence, it was created in response to a powerful series of black and white photographs by Fay Godwin and features an iconic image of Heptonstall Church and Stoodley Pike on its cover, with shafts of sunlight streaming through the clouds. This photograph is virtually identical to the view from Elmet Farmhouse.

Elmet Then and Now

Elmet was the ancient name of the Celtic kingdom in this part of Yorkshire, hence the title of Hughes’s book. At the time he wrote Remains of Elmet, during the late 1970s, the textile industry was dying and the area was in decline. Hughes’s poems and Fay Godwin’s photographs record the dereliction that characterised the area at that date, a legacy of the industrial revolution. Hebden Bridge and Heptonstall have since undergone a renaissance, but the surrounding countryside retains its raw elemental beauty.

The view of Heptonstall and Stoodley Pike from across the valley at Pecket Well clearly had special resonance for Ted Hughes, which explains why he picked this image for the cover of Remains of ElmetFay Godwin’s iconic photograph captures the special potency of this view. 

As well as being highly evocative in its own right, this view had personal associations for Ted Hughes.  His cousin David Farrar lived at Wilcroft Cottage, half way up the drive from  Elmet Farmhouse, close to where this photograph was taken. Hughes visited his cousin there during the 1950s and early 1960s, on at least one occasion with Sylvia Plath.

Visitors to Elmet Farmhouse can sit in the window seat and read Remains of Elmet while looking at the landscape that inspired these poems. There are also recordings of Ted Hughes reading these poems and other works such as Moortown Diaries and Crow – From the Life and Songs of Crow (1972). Also in the farmhouse is Birthday Letters (1998), a moving collection of poems about Ted Hughes’s relationship with Sylvia Plath, published a few months before his death.

Discover Elmet – The Kingdom of Ted Hughes

A Pennine Sequence, including Heptonstall, Lumb Bank, Crimsworth Dean, Hardcastle Crags and other places associated with Ted Hughes. All these photographs were taken within a few miles of Elmet Farmhouse.

Crimsworth Dean, the secluded valley where Ted Hughes roamed as a child, is just a short walk from Elmet Farmhouse. With its woods, becks and waterfalls and its lapwings, curlews and kestrels, it’s easy to see why it triggered his poetic imagination. Hardcastle Crags, the wooded gorge just below Elmet Farmhouse, also features in Remains of Elmet. The rugged heather moorland on the tops and over towards Haworth was also a potent source of inspiration. Sylvia Plath also responded to this evocative landscape with its strong Brontë associations in her poems ‘Two Views of Top Withins’, ‘Wuthering Heights’ and ‘Hardcastle Crags’.

For Ted Hughes, the ancient village of Heptonstall with its ruined 13th century church, was the symbolic focal point of the Upper Calder Valley. His parents lived at Slack, just above Heptonstall village, in a house called The Beacon with remarkable panoramic 360º views of the surrounding hills, including Stoodley Pike and Pecket Well. Heptonstall church, where Sylvia Plath was buried following her suicide in 1963, is a prominent feature on the horizon directly opposite Elmet Farmhouse. 

Hughes later bought a handsome 18th century millowner’s house called Lumb Bank in Colden Clough, just below Heptonstall, with a view to living there. From 1975-89 he leased the house to the Arvon Foundation as a base for creative writing courses. This organisation, which now owns Lumb Bank, was actively supported by Ted Hughes and he gave regular readings there  from the mid 1970s onwards. Now known as the Ted Hughes Arvon Centre, Lumb Bank is still going strong.

A footpath runs down from Heptonstall past Lumb Bank into the steep wooded valley of Colden Clough, where tall mill chimneys poke through the trees by the banks of Colden Water.

Further information:

Books by Ted Hughes

The Elmet Trust

The Ted Hughes Arvon Centre, Lumb Bank

The Ted Hughes Society

The Ted Hughes Project

The Poetry Archive


Photograph on cover of Remains of Elmet by Fay Godwin

©  Text and other photographs copyright Lesley Jackson

New Designs from Hannah Nunn

Hannah Nunn’s lamps and furnishings at Elmet Farmhouse


One of the pleasures of staying at Elmet Farmhouse is being able to enjoy the wonderful lamps, wallpapers and cushions by local designer Hannah Nunn.

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Hannah is a celebrated lighting and wallpaper designer whose work has been featured in Country Living. Her exquisite cut-paper table lamps, decorated with delicate silhouettes of flowers and grasses, are dotted all over Elmet Farmhouse. So whether you’re relaxing downstairs by the fire in the evening or retiring to your cosy bedroom at night, you’ll be able to bask in the soft glow of these beautiful lamps.

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Hannah’s designs are inspired by the natural world – feathery grasses, cow parsley, dandelion clocks and spherical alliums – flowers you can see in the fields and cottage garden at Elmet Farmhouse. It’s the structure of these plants that Hannah particularly admires, imaginatively captured in her finely-cut linear patterns.

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Hannah’s beautiful textiles and wallpapers are printed in subtle colours with similar designs. These furnishings also adorn Elmet Farmhouse, adding to the charm of this characterful old house. Nestling under the eaves in the attic is her Paper Meadow wallpaper, complemented by an Ercol chair painted in the same teal blue…

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…A spectacular floor to ceiling wallpaper frieze – In the Tall Grass – sprouts up behind the double bed in the master bedroom, bringing the lush midsummer meadow into the heart of the house…

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…Curl up on the 18th century window seat with Hannah’s Paper Meadow cushions. Then look out of the stone mullion windows at the grasses and wildflowers, the inspiration for her designs…

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Hannah Nunn’s creativity makes Elmet Farmhouse extra special. A harmonious combination of ancient and modern – totally unique.

Read about Hannah’s visits to Elmet Farmhouse in her fascinating blog

Buy Hannah’s lighting, wallpapers and textiles by mail order online: www.hannahnunn.co.uk

© Lighting, wallpaper and textile designs copyright Hannah Nunn

© Text and images copyright Elmet Farmhouse