Hipperholme and Lightcliffe - Two West Yorkshire communities that are tied together

PUBLISHED: 19:39 15 April 2013 | UPDATED: 19:39 15 April 2013

Pic Joan Rusell
Town feature on Lightcliffe and Hipperholme. John and Lesley Harrison of  Perth House.

Pic Joan Rusell Town feature on Lightcliffe and Hipperholme. John and Lesley Harrison of Perth House.

Joan Russell Photography

Author and lecturer John Brooke gives an account of the history of two communities that have almost become one.

Many readers will have travelled on the A58, from the Chain Bar M62 intersection towards Halifax, or in the opposite direction towards the motorway and Leeds. They may have had time, as they waited at the notorious traffic lights in Hipperholme, to consider the area, and to wonder why if they had just passed a sign, as they travelled west, indicating that they were in Lightcliffe, that they are now in Hipperholme!

Today both communities are virtually as one and in truth there has never been a clear line of demarcation between the two. Hipperholme was, initially, the more important community with a mention in the Domesday Book (Huperun) and, until 1937, its own urban district council. Lightcliffe was its suburb. Since 1974, after 37 years as part of the Borough of Brighouse, they have been included within the larger district of Calderdale.

Both the villages, as they are still referred to by many older local people, grew considerably in the middle of the 19th century when communications improved. In1833 the road from Halifax to Leeds was completed. The name of the eastern section - Leeds and Whitehall Road - is derived from the area around the cross roads in Hipperholme, Whitehall, where the road begins, and the city towards which it travels. The centre of Hipperholme was originally to the north of the crossroads around where the long established, and now independent, grammar school is situated.

The road brought more industry, with its associated workforce, into the area. Small mills, stone extraction businesses, especially the giant and internationally renowned Brooke’s, a tannery and later a brewery were established in the area. Brooke’s, above all, employed a vast number of people and became one of the largest manufacturers of roadway and building materials in the world, their most famous product being non-slip stone.

The development of the road was followed in 1850 by the opening of the Manchester and Leeds Railway. Stations were built at Hipperholme (closed 1953) and Lightcliffe (closed 1965). The construction of the line coincided with the vast population increase in adjacent large towns. By 1851 Bradford had grown sevenfold from 13,000 at the beginning of the century. Many of those with the means to live away from the appalling conditions of the towns where they worked, with their associated ill health and disease, looked to the surrounding areas.

Those who desired to ‘live in peace and quietness and to build a modest mansion’ chose Lightcliffe, as author James Parker suggested. The stone houses that the wool barons built or occupied can, with one outstanding exception, be seen today. The names of many who came are still familiar today: Titus Salt, Johnston Jonas Foster of Black Dyke Mills, who lived at Cliffe Hill, and Henry Ripley (later Sir Henry) who owned Bradford Dyeworks and lived at Holme House. Others are less well known such as David Abercrombie. He lived in Manningham, Bradford, where he was a stuff merchant and moved to Lightcliffe in1860 after building the elegant Perth House, named after his hometown in Scotland, and the adjacent Perth Villas.

Salt (by 1869 Sir Titus Salt of Crow Nest and Saltaire) lived in the area as a tenant of Crow Nest and then, from 1867 until his death in 1876, as its owner. The property was a fine building designed by Thomas Bradley and a virtual copy of John Carr’s Pye Nest in Halifax. Today only the lodge survives. Salt gave much to the area as the principal benefactor of the gothic revival Congregational Church in 1871 and a richly-carved Caen stone pulpit for the new Anglican Church in 1875. This was built despite the parish having a fine1775 Georgian Church.

Housing development was not confined to Lightcliffe, as Hipperholme saw a number of large houses and a magnificent circa 1863 crescent for the professional classes. Local architects Joseph Walsh, who was responsible for many fine buildings in the area, and William Ives had a major impact on the development around the crossroads. It was Walsh who designed the council offices, now the library. He was awarded £10 for the best design, in addition to his fee. Ives created the Methodist Church, now Christ Church, and his own substantial residence, Highfield.

Hipperholme and Lightcliffe today, despite the busy A58, are good places to live. People know each other and there is a healthy community spirit. Well-established primary and secondary schools add much to the area. The Stray, a rich swathe of public open space given to the community as a war memorial in 1923, the churches, local societies, tea rooms and independent shops, a joint churches’ lunch club, the golf club, the cricket club and the Old Brodleians rugby club bring people of all ages together and the social benefits are tangible.

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