Hebden Bridge takes its name from the packhorse bridge over Hebden Water. Recently declared ‘the coolest place to live in Britain’ by The Times, and one-time winner of the Best Town in Britain award, it is full of character and exudes a strong community spirit. This is evident in its many independent shops and cafes, many of which sell locally produced or specialist items.
Hebden Bridge’s reputation as a liberal and creative centre has long attracted artists, writers, photographers, musicians and poets. (It’s always possible that the person sitting next to you in the cafe with a laptop is working on their next novel, or researching locations for a film). And there is always plenty going on in Hebden Bridge – from organised events like the Arts Festival and Piano Festival to informal knitting circles, writing groups and art classes. Wellbeing plays a role here too: look out for courses in yoga and pilates, singing workshops and walking events. Hebden Bridge has the accolade of being Britain’s first ‘Walkers are Welcome’ town, but don’t just take our word for it – get out and explore.
Know what the locals know…
Hebden Bridge was known for its production of fustian, a fabric similar to corduroy. Its textile and clothing manufacture was so significant, the town was known as Trouser Town. The Fustian Knife sculpture in St. George’s Square (which locals know is actually a triangle) is testimony to the importance of the textile industry.
Emmeline Pankhurst stood on the wooden steps outside Bridge Mill and addressed a brass band and 400 striking weavers in January 1907. The Hebden Bridge Times reported that her speech ‘created scenes unparalleled in the history of Hebden Bridge’.
Former Poet Laureate Ted Hughes, born just up the road in Mytholmroyd, set his poem ‘Stubbing Wharfe’ in the pub of the same name which is on the canal towpath just out of Hebden Bridge.
Look out for underdwellings and overdwellings, an innovative solution to the lack of space in the steep valley. The upper storeys face uphill while the lower ones face downhill with their back wall against the hillside, each with separate entrances. You’ll also spot back to back terraces in the streets that border the canal towpath.
Read the inscriptions on the ancient gravestones from the former Baptist Chapel (now the Heart Gallery) – there’s one about a gentleman being ‘cruelly murdered’.
Explore Hardcastle Crags (Hebden’s ‘Little Switzerland’) with its 400 acres of unspoilt woodland. There are many paths and trails to follow and family activities often take place during the school holidays. The cafe at Gibson Mill houses the ‘Stepping Out’ exhibition, a community photographic project celebrating the many flights of stone steps in the locality.
Sit and watch the world go by from one of Hebden’s many pubs and cafes. Visit the many independent shops and galleries – from textiles and photographs to ceramics and jewellery, you will find an array of locally-produced craft and artworks.
Have a proper mug of tea and eat homemade cake while you take in a film at Hebden Bridge Picture House – an art-deco styled 1920s cinema.
Or see what’s on at the intimate and legendary Trades Club – recent performances have included Patti Smith, Cerys Matthews, Fairport Convention and Edwyn Collins.
Feed the ducks or watch Juan Cerruffo balance stones at the wavy steps next to Hebden Water.
For more information and ideas on where to stay:
The ‘Hebweb’, (the UK’s first community website) at www.hebdenbridge.co.uk is a good source of local information, from big-name events to school jumble sales. Pop into Hebden Bridge Visitor Centre (it’s got our beautiful South Pennines map outside – you can’t miss it!) or call 01422 843831 – the staff are very helpful. Further information on the wider area is available from www.visitcalderdale.com.