Hebden Bridge - West Yorkshire's harmonious town

PUBLISHED: 16:27 07 December 2011 | UPDATED: 20:24 20 February 2013

Hebden Bridge - West Yorkshire's harmonious town

Hebden Bridge - West Yorkshire's harmonious town

Hebden Bridge is hitting all the right notes as volunteers work to preserve the town's past<br/>Words by Paul Mackenzie Photographs John Cocks

Frank Woolrych knows he will never finish the work he has begun. He is part of a project to ensure that Hebden Bridges history has a future by archiving thousands of photographs of the town and preserving stories, relics and memories of the past.

Many of the photographs in the archive were taken by Alice Longstaff who worked as a photographer in Hebden Bridge for 70 years until her death 20 years ago next month.

Frank, who is the vice chair of the Pennine Heritage group, met Alice at meetings of the Masters Photographic Association, and said: She was a remarkable lady and the thousands of pictures she took give us an incredible visual history of the town and its people and we wanted to make all the marvellous archives we have available to the community.

Alice joined the photographic studio in 1921 but the business was established in 1892 by Crossly Westerman. When he died in 1918 his daughter Ada herself a talented photographer ran the business alone until 14-year-old Alice answered an advert for an apprentice.

We estimated a few years ago that we had around 10,000 images but we honestly dont know. We have scanned in maybe 6- or 7,000 and still have boxes and boxes of plates and films there is such a wealth of material and more is coming in all the time. Its a long term project, it will probably never end.

We have more collections than Alices theres the Ken Stott collection, he photographed Heptonstall Church and Bill Marsden, the local postman who was a very accomplished photographer and took landscape photographs. Theres another collection too, of photos by Donald Taylor which were found in a skip after he died. Thankfully they were rescued and we have those now too.

The archiving, which is being done by a team of around eight volunteers, is part of the Pennine Horizons Project which has been given lottery funding to help encourage more people to discover the areas history.

The Pennine Horizons Project came out of a desire to provide the community with a heritage background to their area, added Frank, 67. This is an area of outstanding natural beauty with so many footpaths and we wanted to bring the walks and the heritage together. Much of the history is buried under bushes now but we want to help people appreciate and understand how the town developed and grew.

Franks own interest in Hebden Bridges history began when he met Alice although he lives over the border in Littleborough and he said: Hebden Bridge is a beautiful town to visit with a marvellous variety of shops, all the buildings are on a human scale and you dont feel hemmed in at all by the hills all around.

The town is among the finest in the UK for its selection of small independent shops and is also renowned for its arts and culture, with an arts festival each spring, theatre groups and scores of musicians performing here or making the town their home.

Steve Tilston and Becky Unthank were two of the headline acts at last months folk festival who didnt have far to travel to their gig. They represent two faces of folk music 61-year-old Steve was an established writer and performer long before Becky was born but sang together at the festival.

Becky said: have seen Steve around the folk scene for years and its nice to get together with him and for me to be able to use that opportunity to listen to his stories.

And the 27-year-old, who is originally from Tyneside, moved to Hebden Bridge about 18 months ago with her boyfriend Andrew after finishing university in Manchester, added: have lived here a year and a half and love it. Its so pretty and so beautiful. love being surrounded by the hills, its like being in a hiding place.

We kept coming here for gigs and whenever we had a day free we would come here and Andrew would drive us around, finding little nooks and crannies. love the canal, the river and the people. Whenever we came to play here we always had an amazing time. Theres so many musicians coming and going. plenty going on and the people here have really embraced me into the community.

Becky will be performing with her sister Rachel at the Picture House in Hebden Bridge on December 5 and 6, singing songs by Antony Hegarty and Robert Wyatt and their latest album, of music inspired by the shipbuilding industry in the North East, is out on November 28.

Their next album, due for release in the new year, will feature the Brighouse and Rastrick Band who toured with the Unthanks earlier this year.

The scent of success

Its soap, but not as you know it. The cakes made by the Yorkshire Soap Company in Hebden Bridge look good enough to eat, but you wouldnt want to tuck into these.

Warren Booth started the business in his kitchen, making bars of soap as gifts for friends and family but when he branched out into more adventurous designs, his business began to take off.

started with a basic recipe found on the internet and then started to experiment, Warren said. It was a hobby for nine years and then the opportunity came up to open a shop in Hebden Bridge.

We started very small, with three small hand-made soaps and then we made our first soap cake and thats when the fun began.

Warren called on the culinary expertise of his partner, chef Marcus Doyle, to pipe the soap as would icing on an edible cake and manufacturing has now moved to a workshop above the shop in Market Street where the company now produces thousands of soaps every week.

About 70 per cent of the soap in the shop was made by us or for us we outsource some now which is made by our recipe and next year we hope that figure will be much nearer 90 per cent, Warren added.

We have been very fortunate that the recession has had a positive impact on our business. People are shopping more locally now and like luxury products without the luxury price.

We would like to move into wholesale next year and get our products in other shops and high end department stores. Our dog soap our only product that is tested on animals is sold in Harrods and wed like to do the same with our human soap.

Getting there: Hebden Bridge stands on the A646 in Calderdale, West Yorkshire. The railway station is in the centre of the town, with regular services to York, Leeds and Manchester.

Where to park:
There are car parks around the town and some free on-street parking is available.

What to do: Explore the wonderful range of shops, walk by the river and if you time your visit right, take in a play, gig, show, concert or exhibition.

Latest from the Yorkshire Life