Take the history trail around Ripponden

PUBLISHED: 13:00 14 January 2013 | UPDATED: 16:32 21 January 2015

Take the history trail around Ripponden

Take the history trail around Ripponden

Take the history trail around Ripponden in West Yorkshire to discover more than a few claims to fame, says Chris Titley

It takes a confident village to challenge the Encyclopædia Britannica. But Ripponden has the self-assurance to pull it off. The great encylopedia confidently states: ‘The first consumer cooperative store was established in Rochdale, England, in 1844, and most co-ops are modelled after the same, original principles.’ Hold your horses there, editors. Some impressive digging by Ryburn Valley History Society turned up a co-op shop in Ripponden 12 years earlier. Records show that on November 24th, 1832, 24 people paid their first subscription of one shilling and the Ripponden Co-operative Society was founded.

Naturally enough the Lancastrians have turned a blind eye to this latest example of Yorkshire superiority. But you can’t argue with the facts. Andrew Naylor is Ripponden parish council chairman and a long-time stalwart of the history society. ‘We erected a blue plaque on the building where the original Co-op started, which was 12 years before the Rochdale Pioneers,’ he said. ‘As far as we know, two of the Ripponden Co-operative management committee were instrumental in helping the Rochdale Pioneers form their society.

The Rochdale people obviously would dispute a lot of this but we’ve got the records to prove it.’

The parish of Ripponden, split into four wards – Barkisland, Rishworth, Ripponden and Soyland – has a lot of history for a small village near Halifax.

‘It basically started as a farming area. You have got the packhorse route that comes through the centre of the village past the Old Bridge Inn down by the parish church,’ Andrew said. ‘From there the valley had a selection of woollen and cotton mills because being near the Pennines the atmosphere was sufficiently damp so you could actually work cotton.’

The Old Bridge Inn has been old for a very long time. The earliest record of its existence dates from 1307, and it bears a plaque stating it is ‘probably Yorkshire’s oldest hostelry’. This squat, whitewashed building was for centuries owned by the nearby church and hosted many a religious meeting.

In more recent times, people have gathered here to worship the humble pork pie. Last year saw the 20th annual competition hosted by the the Old Bridge Inn Pork Pie Appreciation Society, filmed by the BBC’s One Show. For the second year running, Hinchliffe’s Farm Shop of Netherton, Huddersfield, made the champion pie.

Ripponden has quite a colourful ecclesiastical history too. The village’s first church, built in the bottom of the valley, was consecrated in 1464. This fell into disrepair and villagers rebuilt their church on the packhorse road.

Church number two flourished until the River Ryburn flooded and washed the north end away. ‘This also had a gruesome twist,’ reports the chuch’s official history, ‘as the flooding was so severe that bodies were torn out of their graves. In the aftermath the villagers even found a coffin up a tree!’
A third church, built on higher ground, opened in 1736, but when its roof was declared unsafe the fourth and present church, St Bartholomew’s, was constructed. It’s still going strong (at the time of writing).

There’s also an unusual non-conformist chapel at Rishworth, the Grade II listed Parrock Nook. With its dark brick facade, box pews and arched windows, it is a distinctive building which still hosts an active congregation.
Another fascinating aspect of Ripponden’s history is the railway. Its arrival made an immediate impact, said Andrew Naylor. ‘When the railway line came up that valley, from Sowerby Bridge all the way up to Rishworth, the price of coal dropped dramatically. Before then, they’d had to haul it all by horse and cart all the way up the Ryburn Valley.’

The history society have recently put up a blue plaque ‘to celebrate the history of when we had our own railway up the valley, which closed in the 1950s,’ Andrew said.

‘We had the longest trestle bridge in Western Europe at the time. It went from a place called Slitheroe Bridge in Rishworth across the valley to Rishworth railway station. It was demolished years later when Rishworth railway station closed.’

Andrew moved to Ripponden 30 years ago and in that time has noted some changes for the worse – extra traffic – and for the better: ‘The centre of the village comes alive from about 5.30pm onwards because it now offers a great selection of different eating establishments – Greek, British, Italian – and all that is added to by the fact that the public houses that have survived have all gone into catering.’

In recent years the village has become restaurantsan active Yorkshire In Bloom participant. Volunteers have worked hard tidying and planting, achieving some notable successes.

‘We’re never going to complete with the likes of Helmsley and Pickering,’ said Andrew. ‘But for somewhere that’s come from industrial roots like Ripponden, we do extremely well.’


Getting there
Ripponden is west of Huddersfield and Halifax and about half way between them. You reach it on the A672 from the south and the A58 from the north

Where to park
There’s plenty of on-street parking. Try Oldham Road

What to do
Visit the historic sites, including St Bartholomew’s Church and the ancient Old Bridge Inn. Walk in the countryside and look out for wildlife, including colonies of twites. Eat out at one of the many restaurants

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