The A-Z of Hebden Bridge

by Laura Storey


This quirky little town started as a settlement where the Halifax to Burnley packhorse route dropped into the valley and crossed the River Hebden where the old bridge (from which it gets its name) stands. The name Hebden comes from the Anglo-Saxon Heopa Denu, ‘Bramble (or possibly Wild Rose) Valley’. Northern Life has mapped out this weird and wonderful town – from antiques to where to snooze, from the legends of the valley to the legendary community. It’s all for you to discover as we chart the people, places and history that make up these cobbled streets.


Hebden Bridge is the perfect place to discover a bargain and Terrier Antiques is definitely worth a visit if you’re looking for something unique. It is a traditional style antiques shop with quality objects ranging from Georgian furniture to small French antiques handpicked on trips across the channel. Open Thursday to Sunday, the shop is easy to find on Market Street, take a look inside and see what treasures you can find!

Terrier Antiques


Hebden Bridge is located on cycle route 66, and just like the famous highway in the US, this route is filled with beautiful sights. If you take this route you’ll be cycling along the tranquil Rochdale canal. If you’re a cycling enthusiast make sure to drop into Blazing Saddles while you’re in the town. “The shop has been described as a ‘Tardis’ because the small shop frontage disguises a very large interior where we display an extensive range of bikes and accessories,” John explains. If your bike is in need of repair or you’re looking for an upgrade, John’s ‘Tardis’ might have just what you’re looking for!

John at Blazing Saddles


Hebden Bridge is home to many independent artists, drawn to the sweeping landscapes and inspiring people of the town. Studios and workshops of both amateurs and esteemed professionals are dotted over the valley, along with art galleries selling their works. Hope Gallery provides a tranquil escape from the bustling town centre, it’s one of the few independent galleries in Yorkshire and owner Caroline has handpicked each piece of art displayed with an ethos of ‘it’s not what it looks like, it’s how it makes you feel.’ If you’re looking for art that strikes an emotional, sentimental or nostalgic chord, you’ll find it here.

Hope Gallery


If you take a walk up the steep cobbled path to the village of Heptonstall, you may come across the old dungeon. You’ll see the dungeon in Towngate car park – just in the corner. Once used for locking up the village’s criminals, you’re more likely to find bicycles stored inside nowadays. Much more spectacular are the ruins of the old church which date from the 15th century. Sylvia Plath’s grave can also be visited in the village.

Sylvia Plath’s Grave


Shoulder of Mutton in the centre of Hebden Bridge is the perfect place for a pub lunch after a long day of walking, cycling or shopping! Warm up by the roaring fire or lounge outside in the sunshine watching the buskers in the square. Shoulder of Mutton have a fantastic range of homemade food (it’s a challenge to find better Yorkshire puddings!), and an array of drinks from cask ales to lagers and spirits. It’s the centre of the community, you’ll find a friendly welcome from the bar staff and a vibrant atmosphere.

The smell of wild garlic floats through the air and you might even be lucky enough to see a deer through the trees


Home to beautiful boutiques with lines handpicked by owners, Hebden Bridge is the perfect place for a shopping spree. Dragonfly Boutique is located in the square and owner Joanne prides herself on her ‘timeless and fashionable collection.’ Joanne’s bright and airy shop boasts colourful dresses and flowing shirts, perfect for summer. “We have a beautiful range of clothes for that special occasion and a great selection of easy wear and staple wardrobe pieces including a large range of footwear and accessories to complete your outfit,” Joanne smiles.

Dragonfly Boutique


Follow Hebden Bridge’s spectacular wooded valley to Hardcastle Craggs, with 15 miles of footpaths to explore it’s the perfect place for an adventure. Stepping stones cross the river (don’t fall in), the smell of wild garlic floats through the air and you might even be lucky enough to see a deer through the trees. After a long walk head to Gibson Mill, a 19th century cotton mill with two exhibitions telling the story of this amazing place.


Hebden Bridge is synonymous with the hippie movement, they saved the town from dereliction in the seventies when peace-loving, long-haired folk moved from the cities in droves in search of cheap/free housing, a greener way of life and a chance to live sustainably and cooperatively. Their legacy is still clear on Hebden’s high street which boasts organic local produce and eco-friendly clothes and homeware. Whilst the commute to Manchester and Leeds has shortened with better rail links and many people moving to the town no longer drop out of the rat race, Hebden Bridge still attracts those wanting a lifestyle more connected to nature, even if they lack the long hair and tie-dye.


Hebden Bridge has a reputation as an inclusive, liberal place – for good reason – people of all different sexualities make Hebden Bridge their home and the community is incredibly welcoming. In response to a piece of homophobic graffiti that appeared in the town in the summer of 2015, a group of locals came together to launch Hebden Bridge’s very own Pride festival. The town now hosts Happy Valley Pride each July. This year the festival is being held from Monday 25th to Sunday 31st July.


Craggs Energy was established over 10 years ago in the heart of Calderdale at The Craggs Country Business Park in Cragg Vale. They primarily supply fuel such as gas oil, diesel and heating oil to homes farms and businesses across the north of England. The Craggs Group serves thousands of customers, operates a fleet of over 40 vehicles and employ over a 100 members of staff. Another big employer in the valley is CN Trading – dealers of new and second-hand plant and machinery. A more unusual
part-time job for much of the community of Hebden Bridge is herding the family of geese across the main road. Unbothered by beeping horns and enraged drivers, the geese will happily sit on the tarmac until a passer-by herds them from the traffic filled road. The geese in Hebden Bridge are truly part of the family, so much so that there is an entire Facebook page dedicated to their comings and goings. Keep a look out for them near the Methodist Church just across from the Co-op.

The ‘Famous’ Hebden Bridge Geese


Hebden Bridge is certainly a friendly place with a real community feel. It was one of the first towns to embrace the cooperative movement with The Hebden Bridge Fustian Manufacturing Society becoming a cooperative mill in the late 19th century – at its height the mill had 300 workers and proved that the concept could be successful. The town still embraces co-operative principles to this day.


The large stone tower visible above Hebden Bridge is known as Stoodley Pike. According to the Hebden Bridge History Society a cairn once existed on the site and if a stone was ever dislodged flames would emerge from below – apparently indicating that the way to the otherworld is open. Stoodley Pike is also famous for being the focus of UFO activity – with a reference to these extraterritorial visitors at Todmorden Train Station.

Stoodley Pike


The market in Hebden Bridge is open Thursday to Sunday. Thursday hosts fresh produce so you can whip up a tasty dinner with locally grown ingredients, you’ll also find Little Green Footprints, with refill stations for replenishing everything from washing up liquid to body wash and even dog shampoo! Friday is best for bargain hunters with second hand clothes, gifts and books. On Saturday you’ll find the makers market, where locals show off the art, crafts and artisan products, buy a hand-knitted throw for the chilly summer nights out camping or spruce up with homemade soap. Sunday is a day for foodies, with food trucks boasting culinary delights for every taste.


Packhorse bridge is a familiar sight, located in the centre of town, packs of tourists and locals trape over the worn cobbles daily. 500 years ago, however, it served as a crossing point for horse and carts on their way from Halifax to Burnley. Built in 1510, the bridge was originally wooden but was rebuilt in 1610 in stone. The bridge served as a crucial crossing point on Hebden Beck and gave the town its name – Hebden Bridge. With trade passing through the valley, and access to the wool markets of Yorkshire and Lancashire in easy reach, the town of Hebden Bridge grew either side of the bridge.


If you’re in search of local, ethical organic food then you are in for a treat with Valley Organics Workers’ Coop. Sophie, one of the team at Valley Organics explains why you should visit, “we are a worker cooperative which means staff are treated well – equal pay for equal say! We offer a great range of quality products, many from local suppliers. Besides a wide range of fabulous fruit and veg, we have bread, vegetarian and vegan chilled products, teas, toiletries, wholefoods, spices, ice cream, zero waste refills…and so much more.” They also have a great range of sustainable lifestyle products.

Valley Organics Workers’ Coop


For a small town, Hebden Bridge has a lively nightlife with pubs galore. There are craft beers a plenty and it is even home to a few breweries. If you are after a traditional pub however, the White Swan would be a good choice, set in an idyllic location just over Packhorse Bridge. Landlady of over 30 years, Liz Wood, offers the warmest welcome. The pub offers the very best in homemade food and speciality cask ales in a traditional setting.

If you plan on taking a stroll outside of Hebden Bridge, take a well earned break at the historic Robin Hood Inn in the small hill top village of Pecket Well. Enjoy the raised beer garden with stunning views looking towards the iconic landmark of Stoodley Pike. A bit chilly? No problem, with two log burning fires inside, you will always find a warm cosy corner to sit and watch the world go by.


The high street of Hebden Bridge is overflowing with independent stores, chains are a rare sight. From Dragonfly Boutique with carefully considered designs to The Shoulder of Mutton pub, most businesses in the town are run by locals. Bursting with character, each business reflects the quirkiness of the town, attracting visitors from all over the country. Each business has something you won’t find anywhere else which is particularly enticing in a world where most high streets are lined with the same shops.

Boats on the Rochdale Canal


For a small town tucked in the valleys of Calderdale, Hebden Bridge has been involved in radical acts throughout the centuries. In the early 1900s, women from the town such as local Lavena Saltonstall were determined to gain the right to vote. In 1907, Lavena was arrested with a number of other local women for disrupting the Houses of Parliament and was sentenced to two weeks imprisonment. The town also welcomed Emmeline Pankhurst, one of the most famous leaders of the suffragette movement to Bridge Mill (now the home of Innovation) in the same year who spoke in support of the ongoing fustian weavers’ strike to huge crowds.


At the top of Jumble Hole Clough around one hour’s walk from Hebden Bridge, sit the ruins of Staups Mill. It was originally known as Starling Mill according to the Hebden Bridge History Society and dates from the late 18th century. At the site of the mill is a headstone with the initials J.H. 1812 which refers to its third owner John Horsfall. In 1986, the dam above the mill collapsed, damaging the mill and everything else in the stream’s path. The ruin now forms a picturesque landmark as you walk through the woods.


An iconic part of Hebden Bridge, the Trades Club is a cosy, intimate venue which has hosted the likes of Buzzcocks and Patti Smith. It also supports new music, with bands on most weekends and the bar open daily. The club was built in 1924 as a joint enterprise by local trade unions originally equipped for ballroom dancing – the dancefloor is still there, but is probably used more energetically than the original designers envisioned. The building fell into disuse when the cotton trade declined and the town dwindled, thankfully however the Trades Club was brought back to life in 1982. It is beloved by locals and visitors alike for its friendly bar stuff and vibrant atmosphere.


Hebden Bridge is a popular place to live but with steep valleys and a lack of land, creativity was needed. Known as over-dwellings and under-dwellings, these are sometimes up to seven-storey terraces with upper dwellings facing uphill and lower ones facing downhill. Iconic sights on the hills of Hebden Bridge, these unique dwellings are popular homes but problems can sometimes arise when occupants disagree on who has to pay to fix the roof, or mow the garden.

Hebden Bridge Houses


This summer is jam-packed with festivals and events, so there is something for everyone in this vibrant little town. From 1st to 3rd of July artists and makers are opening their studios and workshops and inviting the public in. It’s a chance to gain a sneak peak into the artists’ spaces and have a chance to speak with them about their work. There’s more fun in August with the Vintage Car Rally and Steampunk Weekend from the 6th to the 7th, come and admire the vehicles on show, with live music and traditional fair ground rides.


Hebden Bridge is a walkers’ paradise with miles of trails heading off in every direction from the town down in the valley. Despite being only 40 minutes away from Manchester, a ten-minute walk from Hebden Bridge can leave you feeling completely surrounded by wilderness – and this feeling is not too far from reality. Head north and you can walk for miles without hitting another town, look back over the valley and you are greeted with far reaching views over Calder Valley.

Roo Waterhouse at work


Hebden Bridge has been home to a number of famous people. Ed Sheeran spent his early childhood in the town before moving to Suffolk. Numerous artists and writers also make a home in the valley, such as Roo Waterhouse who is based in Northlight Art Studios in Hebden Bridge. Roo’s work blends together a love of oil painting, books and typography with a fascination about how our bookshelves can hold on to our stories and reflect our lives. Rachel Red from Rach Red Designs is also based in Northlight Art Studios with work incorporating wild creatures, special places and folklore tales. Take a look at Rachel’s mugs, prints, cards, notebooks and more here: rachreddesigns.co.uk

Rach Red Designs


Hebden Bridge was no exception to the rest of Yorkshire, acting as a hub for the wool industry. Its fast-flowing streams meant that the town was perfect for water-powered weaving mills. It was even known as Trouser Town in the 19th and 20th centuries because of how many garments the town produced. The Rochdale Canal and later the Manchester & Leeds railway served as a gateway to the wool market. When the wool industry declined, the town also deteriorated until an influx of artists, musicians and other creatives in the 70s would lead to the town that is so beloved today.

The White Lion Hotel


If you’re dreaming of getting away for a weekend break, The White Lion Hotel is a warm and friendly traditional coaching inn built in 1657 placed centrally in Hebden Bridge on the riverside. With luxury rooms boosting super comfortable mattresses, the hotel is perfect for a stay in the bustling town. Enjoy delicious homemade food with some cracking local beers, hand selected wines and a diverse range of Yorkshire gins. As if that wasn’t enough, you can bring your four-legged pals. Another option for a good night’s sleep is the Hebden Townhouse at the heart of Hebden Bridge. This boutique B&B offers twelve superb ensuite bedrooms in a prominent Victorian era building. Warm and cosy rooms alongside inviting bathrooms, make Hebden Townhouse a home from home.

Now that we’ve taken a stroll through Hebden Bridge and explored what this unusual town has to offer, why not witness it first hand? Hop on a train from Leeds and you could be in the town centre in under an hour, or, if you live on the other side of the Pennines, Hebden Bridge can be reached from Colne by car within 40 minutes for a brilliant summer’s day out.

NorthernLife July/August 2022