diamond geezer

 Saturday, January 13, 2018

Gadabout: HALIFAX

If your northern geography's not up to much, Halifax is in West Yorkshire, on the southeastern edge of the Pennines, about five miles southwest of Bradford. If you'd prefer a map, it's here. The town has a population of 90000, and is dramatically set around a deep river valley surrounded by high moorland. Here are ten things to see if you're ever here.




Town Hall
Municipal centrepiece, opened 1863, designed by Sir Charles Barry, and described as "a masterpiece of the nascent high Victorian style". In a depressingly familiar move, councillors renamed the clocktower the Elizabeth Tower to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. The dazzling main hall has always been named after Queen Victoria. Ask nicely and you might get inside the building for a look.

Piece Hall
This is amazing, a proper whoa. An immense enclosed courtyard, approximately square in shape, covers nearly two acres on the eastern side of town. The central space is freshly paved and almost entirely empty, apart from a stepped water feature in one corner and some cafe action tucked away in another. Three terraced colonnades run around the perimeter, behind which are 315 rooms used for trading. The whole thing has a strongly neoclassical feel, almost as if Halifax had its own Roman forum, but no, this was once a market for trading in cloth. In the late 18th century the town was the key location for the manufacture of worsted, and the Piece Hall was a hive of trading activity every Saturday (strictly 10am-noon only).



The Industrial Revolution soon killed off the need for a worsted hub, so in 1871 the Piece Hall became a food market and its condition slowly fell into decline. The most recent restoration has taken three years at a cost of £19m, lottery be praised, and was reopened last summer. It certainly looks stunning, even if a grey morning in January probably isn't the best time to appreciate it. Hardly any people were in the piazza, even fewer walking round the upper terraces, and virtually nobody looking in on the boutiques where lonely shopkeepers rearranged gifts and artistic goodies.

Downstairs includes an "interactive heritage space", basically a small museum with three rooms, including a recreation of an original Georgian trader's room. The nice ladies on the front desk welcome any visitors who step inside, and are probably sometimes busy. An extension behind the eastern flank includes a new library, which has allowed the council to close the former (larger) library in the centre of town and resite the tourist information office. The entire project feels the best that could be done given the location, if somehow lacking in occupants and atmosphere, but still astonishing if you walk in without expectations.



Mackintosh/Rowntree/Nestlé
In 1890, in a baker's shop in Halifax, John Mackintosh created his 'Celebrated Toffee' by blending brittle English toffee with soft American caramel. It soon caught on. As his business grew it expanded to larger premises in the town, diversified into chocolate and introduced iconic confections such as Rolo, Quality Street, Munchies, Caramac, Toffee Crisp and Tooty Frooties. In 1969 Mackintosh signed a merger deal with Rowntree, then in 1988 Nestlé swooped in and bought the lot, erasing the traditional company name. But a large factory still operates in the town, just opposite the station, where a poster on the side of the building proclaims "Quality Street, Proudly made in Halifax since 1936". Your next Easter egg is quite possibly being manufactured there right now. Alas the town doesn't smell of chocolate, so don't rush. [Toffee Town, a history]

Eureka
The National Children's Museum, no less, can be found here in Halifax. It's based in the former station building, which dates back to 1855, and also in a brightly coloured modern building alongside with slides and sandpits and learning galleries and scores of interactive play-focused activities. If you're a family with children under 12, you are very much target audience. I passed by.



Halifax Market
When in a northern town, always pop into the market hall. Halifax's isn't as large as Leeds', nor as amazing, but it does have a similarly charming iron and glass canopy rising to a central lantern, and a fine array of traders thriving underneath.

Calderdale Industrial Museum
A three-storey repository of machinery, apparatus and sciency things, which as a reader of this blog you're probably target audience for. Alas, it's only open on Saturdays.



The Halifax Building
The Halifax Building Society started in the town in 1853, eventually growing into the country's largest. In 1995 it merged with the Leeds Permanent and 1997 it proudly demutualised, becoming a less lovable bank in the process. The Halifax's HQ is a striking diamond-shaped slab on stilts, as brutal as might be expected for a flagship project opened in the early 1970s, and includes a document storage bunker hidden beneath the open piazza. The main pillar facing the town centre incorporates the company's logo, plus that of whoever happens to own it at the time, which until 2009 was the Bank of Scotland and is now Lloyd's Bank. No Scooby Doo characters are depicted on the exterior.



Dean Clough
Where's the world's largest carpet factory? It used to be in Halifax, tucked into the steep-sided valley of the Hebble Brook upstream of the North Bridge. Opened in the 1820s, for Crossley Carpets, the mill buildings were a total of half a mile long and covered one and a quarter million square feet. Production finally ceased in 1983, at which point the site was redeveloped for various cultural and commercial enterprises - an early example of urban regeneration. Galleries and an underground theatre can now be found up Dean Clough, as well as one of those ubiquitous 'designer outlet' thingies, some posh restaurants and a gym. An unexpectedly large portion of the current site is car park.

Akroydon
Edward Akroyd inherited his father's mill in 1847, becoming one of Yorkshire's largest worsted manufacturers. He built himself a grand mansion at the top of Haley Hill, and sought to improve living conditions for his employees by building a 'model' village alongside, which he named Akroydon. The architect for these terraced treasures was none other than George Gilbert Scott, who here built what he later described as "on the whole, my finest church". All Souls is now under the custodianship of the Churches Conservation Trust so is only intermittently open, but still broods down over Halifax with Gothic benevolence.

Bankfield Museum
As for Akroyd's mansion, that's now a museum, should any visitors think to walk up past the tower blocks to the top of the park. Major renovation work is currently underway, so its two most splendid rooms are closed and I seriously missed out. But I did enjoy what delights I saw, including a comprehensive exhibition on the owner and his architectural philanthropy.

» thirteen photos from Halifax
» thirty-two photos from Calderdale


<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>


click to return to the main page


...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan21  Feb21  Mar21  Apr21  May21  Jun21
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20  Jun20  Jul20  Aug20  Sep20  Oct20  Nov20  Dec20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

» my flickr photostream

twenty blogs
853
arseblog
ian visits
londonist
blue witch
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
linkmachinego
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
the ladies who bus
round the rails we go
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel
from the murky depths
exploring urban wastelands

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
Things to do outside London
Inner London toilet map
The DG Tour of Britain
#coronavirus

read the archive
Jun21  May21
Apr21  Mar21  Feb21  Jan21
Dec20  Nov20  Oct20  Sep20
Aug20  Jul20  Jun20  May20
Apr20  Mar20  Feb20  Jan20
Dec19  Nov19  Oct19  Sep19
Aug19  Jul19  Jun19  May19
Apr19  Mar19  Feb19  Jan19
Dec18  Nov18  Oct18  Sep18
Aug18  Jul18  Jun18  May18
Apr18  Mar18  Feb18  Jan18
Dec17  Nov17  Oct17  Sep17
Aug17  Jul17  Jun17  May17
Apr17  Mar17  Feb17  Jan17
Dec16  Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2020 2019 2018 2017 2016
2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
2010 2009 2008 2007 2006
2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
Herbert Dip
metro-land
capital ring
river fleet
piccadilly
bakerloo

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
boredom
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters
iceland

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
thunderbirds
routemaster
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
amsterdam
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
typewriters
doctor who
coronation
comments
blue peter
matchgirls
hurricanes
buzzwords
brookside
monopoly
peter pan
starbucks
feng shui
leap year
manbags
bbc three
vision on
piccadilly
meridian
concorde
wembley
islington
ID cards
bedtime
freeview
beckton
blogads
eclipses
letraset
arsenal
sitcoms
gherkin
calories
everest
muffins
sudoku
camilla
london
ceefax
robbie
becks
dome
BBC2
paris
lotto
118
itv