Haworth without the Brontes, the railway and the crowds. Think of
one of those Devon villages where attractive cottages crowd around
a steep, cobbled street but without the tourists. Heptonstall is a
wonderfully preserved village with a main street that has changed
very little in the last 200 years.
village has changed surprisingly little in the last 200 years. This
may be because the village is quite difficult to get to. Even those
arriving by car from Hebden Bridge have to drive past the road up
Heptonstall to use a turning circle. The walk up 'the Buttress'
from the centre of Hebden Bridge is not for the faint-hearted yet
in the days before canals, railways and steam power this small village
was an important place.
village has changed surprisingly little in the last 200 years
village was, of course, a centre for hand-loom weaving. The cottage
windows, designed to let maximum light in, are a reminder of the
days when weavers worked at home. Heptonstall had a cloth hall at
which the finished work was traded before Halifax had its Piece
Hall, and it's still there today! The old Grammar School, by the
churchyard, also testifies to the village's illustrious past.
you are lucky enough to find a space in the car park in the very
centre of the village, take the path leading out in the opposite
direction from the road past the pound (now a picnic area) and follow
it around until you reach an unusual octagonal building. This is
the oldest Methodist Church in continual use anywhere in the world
and attracts visitors from far afield. John Wesley laid the foundation
stone for the chapel in 1764. Take a look inside if it is open.
octagonal Methodist Church is the oldest in the world to be
in continual use.
the snickets round to the main village street, Towngate. In Northgate
look for a large archway carved with the initials IB. This dates
from 1578. The house you can see through the arch was once a farm.
Another house is marked not only by the initials of the owners -
in this case HEF but also with their figures and the date 1736.
is in Towngate that the two village pubs can be found. The Cross
Inn does not look that old but is believed to date from the early
seventeenth century. Heptonstall was the scene of a battle and siege
during the Civil War - you may even see a Roundhead on a horse riding
around near the pub! The White Lion can be found further up the
street. Both pubs sells food and good ale and it is not unusual
to spot the odd actor relaxing in one of the bars.
had its Cloth Hall before Halifax had its Piece Hall
there's one memory you'll take away from Heptonstall it's the churchyard
which must be one of the most fascinating in the country. Not only
is it supposed to hold the remains of possibly more than 100,000
people - the visible gravestones represent just some of those buried
there, but it also contains two churches.
will probably need to step across the pavement of gravestones to
get between the two churches. The ruined church is St Thomas a Becket,
named after the Archbishop of Canterbury who was murdered on the
order of the King not long before building started on the Church.
After it was damaged by a gale in 1847 it was decided to build a
new church across the yard. Although the old church is now only
a shell it still provides an opportunity to examine a church that
escaped Victorian restoration - an information leaflet from the
West Yorkshire Archaeology Service can be found in the new church.
tower of Heptonstall's new church seen through the ruined window
of the old.
church of St Thomas a Becket had been built low to avoid the worst
of the Pennine weather but even St Thomas the Apostle, the new church,
could not escape this and in 1875 it was struck by lightning. The
falling masonry caused extensive damage to the roof and adjacent
Despite Heptonstall's three churches (and it should be remembered
there were once many more pubs and beer houses in the village) the
churchyard shows that the history of the village has not only been
one of piety. Go to the porch of the old church and look closely
at the surrounding gravestones to find that of David Hartley. Known
as the 'King of the Cragg Vale Coiners,' he was hanged in York in
1770 "for unlawfully stamping and clipping a public coin."
Around this time counterfeiting the coinage was something of a cottage
industry in nearby Cragg Vale and has been much written about in
both fact and fiction.