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The A-Z of Halifax

by Zainab Shah

Here's all you need to know about Halifax, the largest town in Calderdale in Northern Life's A to Z of Halifax.

Cradled by moors, the largest town in Calderdale flourished during the heyday of the cloth trade and gained renown as the birthplace of Mackintosh’s Toffee. Today, Victorian mills coexist beside towering flats, creating an eclectic mix of old and new that is ideal for exploring this spring.


Photo by Matt Radcliffe

A – Anne Lister
Embark on a journey to Shibden Hall and step into the world of Halifax’s celebrated diarist, Anne Lister, whose journal entries were only deciphered in the 1980s. Helena Whitbread, a local historian from Halifax, was astonished to uncover the explosive contents of the diaries, primarily chronicling Anne’s romantic relationships with other women. For enthusiasts of the BBC TV show inspired by Anne Lister’s life, Gentleman Jack, visiting the hall is essential to catch glimpses of props from the series, while the 1420 house itself is a marvel worth exploring.

Anne Lister framed portrait, Calderdale Museums

B – Blue Plaques
The history that has seeped into the ash-coated stone buildings of Halifax is evident from the blue plaques dotted around the town. They are dedicated to Halifax’s famous sons and daughters, from historical figures such as diarist Anne Lister, John Mackintosh, Colonel Edward Akroyd, and carpet manufacturer John Crossley.

C – Confidence
Conveniently located on Broad Street Plaza, Confident Denture Clinic caters to everyone, from teething toddlers to denture wearers. Its cosmetic dentures incorporate the latest technology to tear down the stigma around the artificial ‘denture look’ and provide bright, natural-looking smiles to people around town.

D – Dean Clough Mills
Make a day of it at Dean Clough Mills. These Grade II listed mills were constructed in around 1840 by the Crossley Family. Originally housing their carpet manufacturing industry, these mills underwent a transformation in 1983 amidst the industrial decline in Halifax. Discover your cultural side at Crossley Art Gallery, enjoy a warm northern welcome, and enjoy delicious food at the True North restaurant. You can even tie the knot at The Arches.

Dean Clough Ltd

E -Eureka!
Kids driving you up the wall? Head to Eureka! The award-winning national children’s museum houses 400 interactive exhibits. Learn about the human body by having a peek inside a giant nose, exploring the child-sized town square, and trying your hand at working in the post office and shop. There’s plenty for little ones, with a sensory garden and a discovery den. It’s not just for kids either!

F – Famous Folk
Halifax boasts a legacy of influential figures, from industrial pioneers to cultural icons. It may or may not surprise you to learn that Ed Sheeran, though raised in Sussex, spent his early years in Halifax. Other famous sons and daughters of the town include inventor Percy Shaw, who patented the ‘Cat’s Eye’; William Booth, the Salvation Army founder; former professional wrestler Shirley Crabtree Jr, aka ‘Big Daddy,’ known for his record-breaking 64-inch chest; and Paralympic star Hannah Cockroft, who defied perceived limitations to become a sports sensation. Also sports sensation Hannah Cockroft hails from Halifax.

G – Gala
Don’t miss the 66th Halifax Charity Gala on Saturday, 8 June 2024. The parade kicks off at Eureka! and heads through the town to Manor Heath Park, where rides, stalls, and fun will be. The best part? The gala raises money for causes that help the local folk of Calderdale.

H – Hills
Beacon Hill looms above the town, reaching a height of 850 ft. It provides an ideal vantage point to survey Halifax’s skyline – a juxtaposition of historic mills and modern tower blocks. But it also has a dark history. In the 1600s and 1700s, the beacon atop the hill served as a display for executed criminals, including the notorious coiners. Various footpaths lead to the top, but history buffs will appreciate the ancient packhorse route, tracing back at least a millennium. Head down Norcliffe Lane to discover the path.

I – Industrial Museum
The Calderdale Industrial Museum on Square Road, Halifax, was first opened in 1985 to promote the industrial heritage of the Calder Valley. The museum displays the area’s industrial heritage, which includes its engineering and textile industries. It has a vast collection of artefacts, machinery and exhibits relating to industrial development.

J – Jump on!
Calling all cycling lovers! Make the most of the wonderful roads and routes by setting out on a bike ride. Calderdale Council has also partnered up with Cycle Calderdale to promote the best cycling destinations around the valley, which means you can discover some of the most outstanding mountain biking routes around Halifax.

K – King’s Cross
Today, King’s Cross is just a part of town where the region’s buses terminate; originally, it was the site of an ancient stone cross and a royalist outpost defending against the parliamentarians that had taken parts of the Calder Valley.

L – Lairy
The tradition of the great British pub is alive and well in the town. There are plenty of historic watering holes to wet your whistle. Among them is the Three Pigeons Inn, a charming venue that traces its origins back to the 15th century. As you savour your pint, remember that travellers traversed the ancient packhorse route centuries ago, seeking refuge in the same inn.

M – Mackintosh’s
Mackintosh’s is a British confectionary firm founded in Halifax in 1890 by John and his wife Violet, whose special toffee recipe attracted many customers. Violet’s recipe introduced a blend of the traditional, brittle English butterscotch with soft, American caramel, and the result was so successful that it ultimately brought a whole new meaning to the popular understanding of the term ‘toffee’. Mackintosh chocolate and toffee is now owned by Nestle, preserving the northern flavours that the original toffee brought.

John Mackintosh

N – Northowram
Northowram is a village northeast of the town of Halifax, and every year, they host a delightful tradition, The Northowram Scarecrow Event, which promises a whimsical display of scarecrows, food and drink, family entertainment and more. Once again, this year’s event will take place over the May bank holiday weekend, so don’t miss out!


Photo by Matt Radcliffe

O – Overhead
Above Halifax Borough Market are two hidden streets that run alongside the market roof and look out onto the streets of Halifax. Although usually not open to the public, the Halifax Borough Market will offer a ‘Streets in the Sky’ tour starting in April this year. The guided walks will include a tour of the unique architecture of the market.

P – Piece Hall
The Piece Hall is said to be the most important secular structure in the UK. Built in 1779 as a trading hub, the stunning grade I-listed building fell into disrepair following the town’s cloth trade’s disappearance. It was transformed in 2017, and one of the country’s finest examples of Georgian architecture is now open to the public. Spend a day wandering around the quirky shops, restaurants and bars that line the building.

The Piece Hall Trust

Credit: Ellis Robinson/The Piece Hall Trust


Q – Quiet
Enjoy the spectacle of the Halifax Minster, and rest for a while in the quiet surroundings. The Minster contains almost 900 years of history, and its four gargoyles on the west tower have enjoyed a bird’s-eye view of Halifax since the 15th century. Anne Lister worshipped in Halifax Parish Church, now the Minster, and both her baptism and funeral services were held in the church. Her tomb can be seen inside.

Halifax Minster

Halifax Minster

R – Reservoir
Located on the outskirts of Halifax, Mixenden boasts a tranquil reservoir surrounded by beautiful countryside and natural beauty. Historically a rural area with farming as its main occupation, Mixenden’s distance from Halifax makes it the perfect place for some quiet time away to reconnect with nature. Visitors can go hiking or strolling in the nearby surroundings, and the reservoir provides an excellent location for fishing.

S – Shibden Hall
Located in the Shibden Valley near Halifax, West Yorkshire, Shibden Hall is a historic house dating back to the 15th century. The hall has undergone many expansions and renovations over the centuries. However, its historic rooms, grounds and gardens have been well-preserved for visitors to come and explore. One of its most famous residents was diarist Anne Lister, and today, you can visit the hall to discover her life and how it intertwines with the history of Shibden Hall itself.

Shibden Hall

Shibden Hall

T – TV Shows
Quite a few famous shows have ties to the Calder Valley – the compelling crime drama ‘Happy Valley’ starring Sarah Lancashire, set and filmed in the Calder Valley, received critical acclaim for its gripping storytelling. You can visit some of the show’s filming locations around Calderdale, such as the Holdsworth House Hotel or The Engine Room at Dean Clough. Also created by Sally Wainright and set in Calderdale is the historical TV drama series ‘Gentleman Jack’ based on the collected diaries of Anne Lister and the award-winning drama, ‘Last Tango in Halifax.’

U – Unique
At 84 metres, the Wainhouse Tower is the tallest structure in Calderdale. Originally commissioned as a chimney for local dye works between 1871 and 1875, the dye works were sold to a new owner by the time the tower was complete due to disruptions in the building process. Now, in its well-preserved condition, the folly provides a unique view from the viewing gallery at the top, unlike any other. Although previously, it has only been open to the public on select days of the year, the Calderdale Council plans to open it much more in 2024.

Wainhouse Tower

V – Venue
The Arches is a spectacular and stylish industrial venue. At the forefront of contemporary wedding and event planning, it is one of the most innovative venues in the area. The beautiful red brick ceilings and Yorkshire Stone floors create a sophisticated venue that adds a luxurious essence to any event.

W – Walking routes
If you’re looking to get away from the bustle of the busy town centres, taking a hike through some of the scenic trails around the Calder Valley is the perfect escape. North Dean Woods, on the outskirts of Greetland, Halifax, is an alluring woodland with extensive footpaths. Along your walks, you’ll be met with various plants and birdlife, with over 60 bird species recorded in the woods.

X – X-perience
Halifax, prides itself on some of the best entertainment x-periences boasting two multi-purpose venues. Built in 1901 as a concert hall, the Victoria Theatre is steeped in history and has the size and magnificence for a sensational experience. The Square Chapel, designed by Thomas Bradley and James Kershaw and constructed in 1772, is renowned for its intriguing square base design and red brick build.

Victoria theatre

Credits: Matt Radcliffe

Y – Yorkshire Gallery
The Yorkshire Art Gallery, located in one of Britain’s most outstanding Georgian Buildings, proudly showcases some inspiring works by many talented artists, designers, and makers all connected to the beautiful county. Visit the gallery for a tour of the brilliant exhibition ‘Toffee Town’ by Kate Lycett, a celebration of the beautiful buildings of Halifax.

Z – Zen
Ogden Water Country Park is the perfect place to escape it all. A few miles north of Halifax, it was voted Yorkshire’s favourite reservoir in 2018 by public vote. Pack up a picnic and have lunch overlooking the beauty of the Yorkshire countryside. A walk around the reservoir will lead you to Boggart’s Grave and the ruins of an old ale house. Ramble a little further, and you’ll discover the giant’s tooth, a white standing stone, and Ogden Waterfall.

NorthernLife March/April/May 24