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Heptonstall Church & Village

Tim Green, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday 04 July
Depart: Parkinson Steps: 13.30
Arrive: Parkinson Steps: 19.00
Price: £35.00

Heptonstall village was an important centre in pre-industrial days, and the buildings reflect this. The local economy depended on the woollen textile trade and supporting activities; local farming could only provide a meagre living, thanks to poor soil and harsh weather. Things changed when employment moved down into the mills in Calder valley and towns like Hebden Bridge grew rapidly.

The village has had a place of worship for at least 900 years. Originally established as a chapel-of-ease in the far-flung ancient parish of Halifax, the Church of St Thomas à Becket was altered time and again to accommodate the growing population. A severe storm in 1847 brought down part of the tower, and the congregation decided to build the new church rather than patch up the old building. Although the roof has been removed, the walls and the tower remain and have been conserved as a historic monument. The 1854 Church of St Thomas the Apostle stands surrounded by gravestones in the same churchyard. One memorial records ‘king’ David Hartley, notorious local forger (recently depicted in the BBC’s drama series The Gallows Pole). Nearby, Sylvia Plath, the American poet and wife of laureate Ted Hughes, lies in the ‘new’ graveyard.
During the 17th and 18th centuries a significant proportion of the population looked to non-conformist groups for their worship. This suited the independent spirit of the populace, and many chapels were established in the area, including the unusual octagon Methodist Chapel, which was built in 1764. Now closed to regular worship, it has become a heritage chapel, which is open to visitors and is still used for services 6 times a year.

A Grammar School was established in the village by a local clergyman in the 1630s; the building today is a community-run museum. Participants will have free time to visit the museum if they wish.

This tour will be guided by David Cant of the Yorkshire Vernacular Building Study Group.