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Halifax, West Yorkshire

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Halifax, West Yorkshire


A view of Halifax from Beacon Hill
Halifax is located in West Yorkshire
 Halifax shown within West Yorkshire
Population 82,056 (2001 Census)[1]
OS grid reference
   – London 165 mi (266 km)  S
Metropolitan borough Calderdale
Metropolitan county West Yorkshire
Region Yorkshire and the Humber
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town Halifax
Postcode district HX1-7
Dialling code 01422
Police West Yorkshire
Fire West Yorkshire
Ambulance Yorkshire
EU Parliament Yorkshire and the Humber
UK Parliament Halifax
List of places

Halifax is a minster town,[2][3] in the Metropolitan Borough of Calderdale in West Yorkshire, England. It had an urban area population of 82,056 at the 2001 census.[1] The town is known as a centre of woollen manufacture from the 15th century onward, originally dealing through the Piece Hall. Halifax is known for Mackintosh's chocolate and toffee (now owned by Nestlé), the Halifax Bank (formerly Halifax Building Society), and Shibden Hall.


The town's name was recorded in about 1091 as Halyfax, from the Old English halh-gefeaxe, meaning "area of coarse grass in the nook of land".[4] This explanation is preferred to derivations from the Old English halig (holy), in hālig feax or holy hair, proposed by 16th-century antiquarians.[5] The incorrect interpretation gave rise to two legends. One concerned a maiden killed by a lustful priest whose advances she spurned. Another held that the head of John the Baptist was buried here after his execution.[4] The legend is almost certainly medieval rather than ancient, although the town coat of arms carries an image of the saint. Another explanation is a corruption of the Old English hay and ley a clearing or meadow. This etymology is based on Haley Hill, the nearby hamlet of Healey (another corruption), and the common occurrence of the surnames Hayley/Haley around Halifax.[6] The erroneous derivation from halig has given rise to the demonym Haligonian, which is of recent origin and not in universal use.

The President of the Board of Trade in 1748. In 1749 he helped found Halifax, the capital of Nova Scotia, in Canada which was named after him. He fostered trade, especially with North America. The Halifax River in Central Florida, United States, was also named after him.


Coat of Arms
Halifax in 1834

Halifax is not mentioned in the Domesday Book, and evidence of the early settlement is sketchy.[7] By the 12th century the township had become the religious centre of the vast parish of Halifax, which extended from William Herschel,[9] who discovered the planet Uranus. The coat of arms of Halifax include the chequers from the original coat of arms of the Earls Warenne, who held the town during Norman times.[10]

Halifax was notorious for its gibbet, an early form of guillotine used to execute criminals by decapitation, that was last used in 1650. A replica has been erected on the original site in Gibbet Street. Its original blade is on display at Bankfield Museum. Punishment in Halifax was notoriously harsh, as remembered in the Beggar's Litany[11] by John Taylor (1580–1654), a prayer whose text included "From Hull, from Halifax, from Hell, ‘tis thus, From all these three, Good Lord deliver us.".[12]

The town's 19th-century wealth came from the cotton, wool and carpet industries and like most other Yorkshire towns had it had a large number of weaving mills many of which have been lost or converted to alternate use.

In November 1938, in an incident of mass hysteria, many residents believed a serial killer— The Halifax Slasher —was on the loose. Scotland Yard concluded there were no attacks after several locals admitted they had inflicted wounds on themselves.[13]

Halifax plc started as a building society in the town and is a trading name of HBOS, part of the Lloyds Banking Group. Halifax is twinned with Aachen in Germany. The A58 has a stretch called Aachen Way.

Halifax has benefited from Single Regeneration Budget, European URBAN II and the Home Office’s Community Cohesion Fund money through Action Halifax who have a vision for "a prosperous, vibrant and safe centre where all sections of the community can access opportunities to enhance their quality of life."


The ancient parish of Halifax was divided into a large number of civil parishes in the 19th century. In Halifax, a body of improvement commissioners or town trustees was created between 1762 and 1823,[14] and the town became a borough constituency under the Great Reform Act of 1832. Halifax was incorporated as a municipal borough in 1848 under the Municipal Corporations Act 1835, and, with the passing of the Local Government Act 1888, became a county borough in 1889. Since 1974, Halifax has been the administrative centre of the Metropolitan Borough of Calderdale, once a part of the metropolitan county of West Yorkshire.


Topographically, Halifax is located in the south-eastern corner of the moorland region called the South Pennines. Halifax is situated about 4 miles (6 km) from the M62 motorway close to Bradford, Huddersfield and Rochdale. The Tees-Exe line passes through the A641 road, which links Brighouse with Bradford and Huddersfield, The town lies 65 miles (105 km) from Kingston upon Hull and Liverpool, and about 170 miles (270 km) from the cities of London, Edinburgh, Belfast, Dublin and Cardiff as the crow flies. The Hebble Brook joins the River Calder at Salterhebble.


In 2004[1] Calderdale had a population of 192,405, of which 82,500 live in the Halifax urban area. The main ethnic group in Halifax is White (87%), followed by Pakistani (10%). Over 90% of people aged 16–74 were employed, mostly full-time. 64% of residents had qualifications. Halifax is home to a large South Asian community mainly of British Pakistanis from the Kashmir region. The majority of the community lives in the west central Halifax region of the town, which was previously home to immigrant Irish communities who have since moved to the outer suburbs. The Illingworth / Mixenden areas, in contrast to west central Halifax's ethnic diversity, consists mostly of white, indigenous Protestant residents. In the 2001 census,[1] 5% stated they were Muslim, 16.3% of no religion, and 63.8% of Christian background. 12.8% did not disclose their religion. The population density of the Halifax urban area is 530/km2.


Joseph Crossley's Almshouses
The former Halifax Bank headquarters on Trinity Road

As well as the significance of the bank Halifax plc which, since 2008, is part of the Lloyds Banking Group, the town has strong associations with confectionery.

John Mackintosh and his wife, Violet, opened a toffee shop in King Cross Lane in 1890. Violet formulated the toffee's recipe. John became known as "The Toffee King". A factory was opened on Queens Road in 1898. A new factory at Albion Mill, at the current site near the railway station, opened in 1909. John died in 1920, and his son Harold not only continued the business but took it to the present size and range of confectionery it has today. Their famous brands, including Rolo, Toffee Crisp and Quality Street of chocolate and confectionery are not just popular in the UK, but around the world including the USA.

In 1969 John Mackintosh & Co Limited merged with the York-based Rowntree Limited to form Rowntree Mackintosh. This was, in turn, purchased by Nestlé in 1988.

Halifax was a busy industrial town, dealing in and producing wool, carpets, machine tools, and beer. The Crossley family began carpet manufacture in modest premises at Dean Clough, on the banks of the Hebble Brook. The family was philanthropic and Joseph and Sir Francis Crossley built and endowed almshouses for their workers, which exist to this day and are run by volunteer trustees. Halifax is also home to Suma Wholefoods, which was established in 1975 and is the largest workers' co-operative in the UK.


A map of Halifax from 1954

Public bus and train transportation in Halifax is managed and subsidised by the West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive. It was announced in January 2009 that Halifax was to have a direct rail link to London after a long campaign backed by many, including the local paper the Courier; the service began to run on 23 May 2010.[15]


Most of the bus services in Halifax operate from the town's bus station. Unlike many other bus stations, Halifax is noted for having much character, with many listed buildings being incorporated on the site. First Calderdale & Huddersfield operate most of the town's services, while Yorkshire Tiger operate many of the south Calderdale services.[16] Arriva Yorkshire operate services that link Halifax with the West Yorkshire towns and cities of Dewsbury and Wakefield. First operate bus services from Halifax to the town of Huddersfield and the nearby cities of Bradford and Leeds. First also run services into other counties, Rochdale in Greater Manchester and Burnley in Lancashire. Other bus operators in the town include T.J. Walsh (also known as The Halifax Bus Company) and Halifax Joint Committee which use the livery of the old Halifax Corporation buses, used on the town's buses until 1974.


Halifax railway station is on the Caldervale Line, with services to Manchester Victoria, York, Selby via Bradford and Leeds; Blackpool North; via Brighouse to Huddersfield and Wakefield Westgate and to London Kings Cross via Wakefield Kirkgate. All but the London service are operated by Northern Rail.

Rail passenger representation is organised by the local users' group, the Halifax and District Rail Action Group (HADRAG).[17]

The rail line leading from Halifax due north towards Keighley (and thus towards Skipton, Morecambe and Carlisle) with a further branch to Bradford via Queensbury saw its last through services in May 1955, although parts of the route, which was extremely heavily engineered with long tunnels and high, spectacular, viaducts, have now been repaired and revived by Sustrans as a walking and cycle route.


Calderdale's local radio station, Phoenix Radio 96.7 FM has its studios in Halifax, and the Evening Courier, Calderdale's local newspaper, has its offices in the town.


The Halifax area is home to two selective state schools, which are The Crossley Heath School in Savile Park[18] and North Halifax Grammar School in Illingworth.[19] Both schools achieve excellent GCSE and A-level results with both schools achieving a large proportion of A* to C grades at GCSE level. In 2005, the Crossley Heath School was the highest ranking co-educational school in the North of England.

The Crossley Heath School was formed when two schools merged. The original schools were: Heath Grammar School, an all-boys school and given its charter by Elizabeth I of England, and The Crossley and Porter School, a mixed school founded with his brothers by Sir Francis Crossley, 1st Baronet which started as an orphanage. They were combined in 1985. There are other schools in the area, including the Trinity Academy (formerly Holy Trinity Church of England Senior School), which became an academy in 2010, and St Catherine's Catholic High School, both of which are located in Holmfield. St Catherine's, is designated a Specialist Technology College. In July 2013 St Catherine's closed leaving Trinity Academy the only non selective school in the area.

Calderdale College is the local further education college on Francis Street, just off King Cross Road, in the west of the town. In December 2006 it was announced that Calderdale College, in partnership with Leeds Beckett University, opened a new higher education institution in January 2007 called 'University Centre Calderdale'.[20]


Laying up of 1981 stand of Regimental Colours of the 1st Battalion Duke of Wellington's Regiment
Victoria Theatre, Halifax
The Playhouse, Halifax

The Duke of Wellington's Regiment (West Riding) Regimental Association is based at Wellesley Park, on the junction of Gibbet Street and Spring Hall Road, in the former Wellesley Barracks Museum and Education Centre building. The Regimental Museum was re-located within the Bankfield Museum on Haley Hill. The former barracks was converted into an educational school in 2005.

Former regimental colours of the 'Duke's' are laid up in the Halifax Minster. These include the stand used by the 33rd Regiment between 1761 and 1771, which is one of the oldest in existence in England, plus those carried by the regiment during the Battle of Waterloo and the Crimea.[21] The 1981 stand of colours, was taken out of service in 2002. They were marched through the town from the town hall to the Minster, which at that time was still a parish church, accompanied by two escorts of 40 troops, the Regimental Drums and the Heavy Cavalry and Cambrai Band on Sunday 31 March 2007. The troops were then inspected by The Lord Lieutenant of West Yorkshire, Dr Ingrid Roscoe BA, PhD, FSA and the Mayor of Halifax Cllr Colin Stout making a total of eight stands of colours within the Regimental Chapel. The regiment was presented with the "Freedom of Halifax" on 18 June 1945.

Eureka! The National Children's Museum was inspired and opened by Prince Charles in the summer of 1992 and is in part of the railway station. Once the home of the diarist Anne Lister, Shibden Hall is just outside Halifax in the neighbouring Shibden Valley. Dean Clough, a refurbished worsted spinning mill, is the home of Barrie Rutter's Northern Broadsides Theatre Company and the IOU theatre company as well as providing space for eight art galleries.

The YMCA Pantomime Society presents its annual show in late January each year. Young people interested in drama are catered for by Halifax AOS and Halifax LOS, which each have a junior section, and another group, Stagedoor Theatre Co, specialises in dramatic activities and performances by children and young people.

As well as conventional cultural attractions, the Calderdale area has also become a centre for folk and traditional music. The Traditions Festival, held at the Halifax Piece Hall in the town centre, is a celebration of traditional music and dance from around the world, whilst the Rushbearing, held in Sowerby Bridge and the surrounding villages, is a traditional festival which was restarted to celebrate the Queen's Silver Jubilee and attracts Morris dancers from all around the country. The Square Chapel Centre for the Arts offers music, dance, plays, comedy as well as community events such as tea dances. The Victoria Theatre seats 1,568 people or 1,860 for a standing concert, and hosts a variety of performances.

Halifax town centre has a busy night life with a variety of clubs and bars. To help with those who become vulnerable whilst enjoying and using Halifax's night life, Halifax Street Angels was launched in November 2005. Halifax Street Angels patrol the town centre on Fridays and Saturdays between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. In the first year police reported that violent crime had fallen by 42%. Halifax Street Angels work in partnership with Nightlife Marshals, Police Community Support Officers, Police and door-staff as well as the Halifax Ambassadors who patrol in the daytime.

Halifax had one of the highest densities of pubs to inhabitants during a study that took place in the late 1990s. One such establishment that gained notoriety during November 2005 was the Zoo Bar. The nightclub had a history of under-age drinking, and became the first establishment in the UK to be closed because of the Licensing Act 2003. At the time of the police intervention officers reportedly identified 420 of the 500 people in the club to be under-age drinkers. The nightclub was identified in an American study regarding youths and alcohol and gained European notoriety. The nightclub was subsequently closed and sold to developers to renovate into flats. A recent showed Halifax to have above average levels of drink-related violence and associated issues.[22]


  • The Piece Hall is the former cloth hall, where pieces of woollen cloth were traded. Opened on 1 January 1779, trading took place for two hours on a Saturday morning in a total of 315 merchant trading rooms. After the mechanisation of the cloth industry, the Piece Hall became a public market. The Piece Hall is now host to many arts, crafts and independent shops. The former Calderdale Industrial Museum, now closed, was located next to it.
  • Dean Clough Mill located beside the Victorian Gothic Revival North Bridge was built in the 1840s–60s for Crossley's Carpets, owned by John Crossley and was once the largest carpet factory in the world. It was converted to a business park in the 1980s.
  • Borough Market is an award-winning Victorian covered market-place in the town centre.
  • The Wainhouse Tower, at King Cross, is a late Victorian folly constructed between 1871 and 1875. Originally intended to be the chimney for a dye works, it became a folly after the dye works was sold in 1874 and the new owner refused to pay for its completion. It is the tallest folly in the world and the tallest structure in Calderdale.[23][24]


The Shay, the town's football and rugby league stadium.

The town has relatively successful sports clubs. Its rugby league club, Halifax RLFC, plays in the Co-operative Championship. The town's football team, F.C. Halifax Town participates in the Conference National, the fifth tier of English football.


The Shay football ground has been the home of the town's football club since 1921 and is the largest ground used by a non-league football club in England. The ground was substantially redeveloped in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, with money provided by the Football Foundation and funds raised or provided by the local community and Calderdale Council. Football is the nation's favourite sport and Halifax Town are one of English football's best known and most fondly-loved clubs. The club has played in the national leagues for the majority of its existence. Founder members of the Football League Division 3 North in 1921, they maintained their place there until the northern and southern divisions were merged into national leagues 3 and 4 in 1958. The club played in both Divisions 3 and 4 until 1993. The Shay attendance of 36,885 for the visit of First Division Tottenham Hotspur F.C in the 5th round of the FA Cup, in 1953, is the record attendance at any sporting fixture in the town and one which will undoubtedly stand for all time. The club has on three occasions eliminated first division opponents, in the FA Cup, at their Shay fortress, most famously Manchester City F.C. in 1980, and also knocked the great Manchester United F.C. side of the Best, Law and Charlton era, out of the Watney Cup in 1971, both of these achievements attracting world-wide fame to the club, and by association, to the town itself. The club has won five promotions, most recently returning to the Conference National in 2013.

Rugby league

Halifax is one of the most historic rugby league clubs in the game, formed over a century ago, in 1873. Known as 'Fax', the official club colours are blue and white hoops, hence the former 1990s nickname: The Blue Sox. Halifax are also one of the original twenty-two rugby clubs that formed the Northern Rugby Football Union in 1895, making them one of the world's first rugby league clubs. They have rivalries with local neighbours Bradford and Huddersfield. Halifax have won the Rugby Football League Championship on four occasions: in 1902–03, 1906–07, 1964–65, 1985–86 and the Challenge Cup five times: in 1903, 1904, 1931, 1939 and 1987. The 1954 Challenge Cup replay between Halifax and Warrington drew a then world record crowd of 102,575 to Odsal Stadium in Bradford. It remains the biggest attendance at a “Rugby” match of any kind in the Northern Hemisphere. Many at the game however believe the attendance figure was well over 120,000. They won the Co-operative Championship Grand Final in 2010 and the Northern Rail Cup in 2012, beating Featherstone Rovers on both occasions. Halifax played at the Thrum Hall ground from 1886 to 1998. The ground staged rugby for 112 years and closed its gates for the last time after Halifax had won what was misleadingly billed as a friendly against Leeds 35–28.[26] Since then, the rugby club have moved to share the Shay football ground where fans of the club helped raise funds for a roof on the south stand of the stadium. Calderdale College were recently crowned National Champions.

Rugby union

The Crossley Heath Grammar School normally excels in nationwide school rugby union competitions.[27][28][29]


Motorcycle speedway racing has been staged at two venues in Halifax. In the pioneering days of 1928–1930 a track operated at Thrum Hall. A Halifax team took part in the English Dirt Track League of 1929. Speedway returned to Halifax at the Shay Stadium in 1949 and operated until 1951. The team operated as the Halifax Nomads in 1948 racing three away fixtures. The Halifax Dukes, the name they took once the Shay was opened, operated in the National League Third Division in 1949 before moving up to the Second Division in 1950. Riders including Arthur Forrest, moved on to Bradford. The Dukes re-emerged in 1965 as founder members of the British League and operated there for many years before the team moved en bloc to Odsal Stadium, Bradford. The steeply banked bends of the track at the Shay have been buried under stands at either end when the spectator facilities were squared off.

Religious buildings

The Assembly Rooms and Trinity Church in Halifax from A Complete History of the County of York by Thomas Allen (1828–30)

The 15th century Minster dedicated to Angelus.

The Serbian Orthodox Church dedicated to St. John the Baptist, in the Boothtown area, formerly the Mount Carmel Methodist Chapel, was acquired in 1956 and after extensive refurbishment was opened in the early part of the 1960s by the town's Serbian community.[30]

The currently Historic Churches Preservation Trust. Its lofty 236-foot (72 m) spire and white magnesian limestone exterior stand as a very personal statement in 13th-century French style of the mill owner Colonel Edward Akroyd, who paid solely for its construction as the centre-piece of a purpose-built model village ("Akroydon"). All Souls' boasts an unusually complete sequence of windows by the leading artists of the 1850s, including William Wailes, John Hardman and Clayton & Bell. The large organ by Forster & Andrews inserted in 1868, ten years after the building was completed, is currently unplayable and many of its surviving parts are in storage awaiting restoration. The tower houses a ring of eight bells.

Other churches include the Holy Trinity Church (now converted to office use) and the late neo-Gothic (1911) St. Paul's, King Cross, by Sir Charles Nicholson. St Paul's is notable not only for its fine acoustics but also for an unusual and highly colourful west window, specified by Nicholson, showing the apocalyptic vision of the Holy City descending upon the smoky mills and railway viaducts of Halifax as it was before the First World War.[31] The Church of St Jude in Savile Park, designed by local architect William Swinden Barber in 1888, is easily identified by the four large pinnacles on its tower.[32]

The spire of the Square Church, not far from the Minster at the bottom of the town, paid for by the carpet manufacturing Crossley family, is all that remains of the Square Chapel (1772) survived a hundred years of use as a church hall and Sunday School for the larger church: it is currently an arts centre.

There are four Mosques in Halifax, the main ones being Madni Jamia Mosque on Gibbet Street, and Al Jamia Al Zahra which is co-located with: Zahra Educational and Cultural Centre, on Francis Street.

Notable Haligonians

See also


  1. ^ a b c d "2004 Calderdale Ward Digest – Census 2001" (PDF). Calderdale Council. August 2004. Retrieved 11 October 2008. 
  2. ^ a b "We're a Minster town!, Published Date: 23 November 2009". Halifax Courier. Retrieved 27 November 2011. 
  3. ^ "Halifax Minster: the start of a new era". Halifax Courier. 24 November 2009. Retrieved 27 November 2011. 
  4. ^ a b Watts, Victor, ed. (2010). "Halifax". The Cambridge Dictionary of English Place-Names. Cambridge University Press. 
  5. ^ Hargreaves 1999, p. 12
  6. ^ Ekwall, Eilert (1936). The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names (Fourth edition 1960 ed.). 
  7. ^ Hargreaves 1999, p. 10
  8. ^ Hargreaves 1999, pp. 18–19
  9. ^ Halifax – Organ History
  10. ^ "Arms of Halifax, Civic Heraldry of England and Wales". Retrieved 27 November 2011. 
  11. ^ "Yorkshire History – Halifax Gibbet". 
  12. ^ The association of the three names pre-dates Taylor as the poet Thomas Nashe refers to them: "...neither in Hull, Hell, nor Halifax." – Nashes Lenten Stuffe, London, 1599.
  13. ^ "Radio 4 History – The Halifax Slasher". BBC. Retrieved 27 November 2011. 
  14. ^ Hargreaves 1999, p. 107
  15. ^ "Halifax Courier London rail link: (30 January 2009)". Halifax Courier. 29 January 2009. Retrieved 27 November 2011. 
  16. ^ "Yorkshire Tiger services south Calderdale". Retrieved 26 September 2010. 
  17. ^ "Give Halifax a proper station". Halifax Courier. 2 March 2007. Retrieved 19 May 2014. 
  18. ^ "League Tables: The Crossley Heath School". BBC News. 11 January 2007. Retrieved 16 May 2007. 
  19. ^ "League Tables: The North Halifax Grammar School". BBC News. 11 January 2007. Retrieved 16 May 2007. 
  20. ^ "University Centre Calderdale launched". Leeds Beckett University. 
  21. ^ The Duke of Wellington's Regiment (West Riding) – A Short History, by Major Savoury MBE & Major General DE Isles, CB OBE DL
  22. ^ report
  23. ^ "Wainhouse Tower, Halifax – Icons of England". Retrieved 25 March 2011. 
  24. ^ "Introduction: Wainhouse Tower: Calderdale Council". Retrieved 25 March 2011. 
  25. ^ "People's Park". Calderdale Council. Retrieved 16 April 2014. 
  26. ^ Hadfield, Dave (23 March 1998). "Rugby League: Thrum Hall tradition ends after112 years". The Independent (London). Retrieved 19 May 2014. 
  27. ^ "Crossley Heath upset Warwick".  
  28. ^ "In Focus: Crossley Heath".  
  29. ^ Hooley, Jim (25 April 2005). "Channing chips in".  
  30. ^ "St. John the Baptist Church history". Retrieved 27 November 2011. 
  31. ^ "St Paul's, King Cross | Homepage". Retrieved 25 March 2011. 
  32. ^  
  33. ^ "Washington Governor Ernest Lister". National Governors Association. Retrieved 28 October 2013. 

Further reading

  • Hargreaves, John A. (1999). Halifax. Edinburgh University Press.  

External links

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