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West Riding
View from Old Bank towards Bank Bottom and Halifax parish Church - geograph.org.uk - 1362646.jpg
Halifax from Bank Bottom
Grid reference: SE090254
Location: 53°43’30"N, 1°51’47"W
Population: 82,056  (2001)
Post town: Halifax
Postcode: HX1-7
Dialling code: 01422
Local Government
Council: Calderdale

Halifax is a large town in the West Riding of Yorkshire, with a population of 82,056 in the 2001 census. Halifax was famed as a centre of Britain's woollen manufacture from the 15th century onward, originally dealing through the Halifax Piece Hall. The town became internationally famous for its Mackintosh chocolate and toffee (now owned by Nestlé), the Halifax Bank (formerly Halifax Building Society), and the nearby Shibden Hall.

Halifax stands in the south-eastern corner of the moorland region of the South Pennines, about four miles from the M62 motorway, close to Bradford, Huddersfield and Rochdale, and 65 miles from Kingston upon Hull and Liverpool, the ports of each coast.

The major waterway is a modest stream, the Hebble Brook. The River Calder into which the Hebble flows at Salterhebble runs just south of the town and nearby Huddersfield.



The town's name is first recorded in about 1091 in the form Halyfax, possibly from the Old English halh-gefeaxe, meaning "area of coarse grass in the nook of land".[1] This explanation is now preferred to derivations from the Old English halig (holy), for example halig feax ("holy hair"), first proposed by 16th century antiquarians.[2] The "holy hair" interpretation gave rise to two local 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.[1] The legend is almost certainly mediæval rather than ancient, though the town's coat of arms still carries an image of the saint.

Another explanation for the name is a corruption of the words "Hay" and "Ley", 'hay' and 'clearing' or 'meadow', based on nearby Haley Hill, the hamlet of Healey and the common occurrence of the surnames Hayley/Haley around Halifax.[3]

The city of Halifax in Nova Scotia, the provincial capital, is named from George Montagu-Dunk, 2nd Earl of Halifax who became the President of the Board of Trade in 1748 and in 1749 helped to found the latter town. He helped foster trade, especially with North America. The Halifax River in Central Florida in the United States was named after him too.


Halifax Minster

Halifax Minster, the Church of St John the Baptist, was built in the 15th century. Minster status was conferred on it in a ceremony on 22 November 2009.[4][5] The Minster holds a collection of rare Commonwealth white glass as well as a series of Victorian windows. Another feature is the complete array of Jacobean box pews. The pair of Gothic organ cases by John Oldrid Scott now house the four-manual instrument by Harrison & Harrison. The belfry holds fourteen bells and an Angelus.

All Souls Church is a Victorian church by Sir George Gilbert Scott, now in the care of the Historic Churches Preservation Trust. Its lofty 236-foot 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 Georgian Holy Trinity Church (now converted to office use) and the late neo-Gothic (1911) St Paul's at 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.[6]

A Serbian Orthodox Church also dedicated to St. John the Baptist stands in the Boothtown area. It was untio 1956 the Mount Carmel Methodist Chapel.[7]

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 Gothic Congregational church built by Joseph James in 1856–58 as a rival design to All Souls', Haley Hill. The building was closed in 1969 and arsonists caused severe damage to the building two years later leading to its partial demolition. The rather comic story of the rival spires runs that the two buildings' towers were nearing completion simultaneously; the architects were ordered to stop work within a few feet of the top of the spires to see who would finish first. After some time, the Crossleys lost patience and finished their spire at 235 feet, prompting the immediate completion of the rival building one foot higher. The neighbouring and earlier (Georgian) 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.


Halifax is not mentioned in the Domesday Book, and evidence of the early settlement of the town is sketchy.[8] However, by the 12th century the township had become the religious centre of the vast parish of Halifax, which extended from Brighouse in the east to Heptonstall in the west.[9] Halifax Minster, parts of which go back to the 12th century, has always been dedicated to St John the Baptist. The Minster's first organist, in 1766, was William Herschel,[10] who went on to discover 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.[11]

Halifax was notorious for the Halifax Gibbet, an early form of guillotine used to execute criminals by decapitation, last used in 1650. A replica of the gibbet has been erected on the original site in Gibbet Street. The original gibbet blade is on display at Bankfield Museum, Halifax. Punishment in Halifax was notoriously harsh, as remembered in the Beggar's Litany 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.

The phrase "from Hell, Hull and Halifax, good Lord deliver us" remains a wry Yorkshire saying. Its origin predated Taylor though, for Thomas Nashe refers to them: "...neither in Hull, Hell, nor Halifax."[12]

Town of Halifax, Yorkshire in 1834

The town's 19th-century wealth came from the cotton, wool and carpet industries and like most other Yorkshire towns 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 in Halifax believed a mass murderer, dubbed The Halifax Slasher, was on the loose. Scotland Yard was called in, but they concluded there were no "Slasher" attacks after several locals came forward and admitted they had inflicted the wounds upon themselves.[13]

Halifax has given its name to a bank, Halifax plc which started as a building society in the town. Nowadays Halifax is a trading name of HBOS, as part of the Lloyds Banking Group.


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 Britain, but around the world.

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 United Kingdom.


  • Newspaper: The Evening Courier
  • Local radio: Phoenix Radio 96.7 FM


Laying up of 1981 stand of Regimental Colours of the 1st Battalion Duke of Wellington's Regiment
Eureka! The Museum for Children
Victoria Theatre

The 3rd Battalion Yorkshire Regiment (Duke of Wellington's) formerly the Duke of Wellington's Regiment (West Riding) Halifax Area Headquarters 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 has been re-located within the Bankfield House Textile 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.[14] The 1981 stand of colours, was taken out of service in 2002. They were marched through the town from the town hall to the 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, 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 Museum for Children was inspired and opened by Prince Charles in the summer of 1992 and is located in part of the railway station. Once the home of the diarist Anne Lister, Shibden Hall is located 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.

Halifax, and in particular the Victoria Theatre (originally the Victoria Hall) is home to the oldest continually running amateur choral society in the country and possibly the world. The Halifax Choral Society was founded in 1817 and has an unbroken record of performances. The Choral Society has a strong rivalry with the equally eminent nearby Huddersfield Choral Society. The Victoria Theatre contains a large concert organ built by William Hill & Sons that was installed in 1901. During the 1960s, when the hall was converted into the theatre, The organ was re-located to the back of the stage. The original console was replaced with a Rushworth and Dreaper unit, which consists of three manuals and a 32 note pedal board. A complete rewiring of the organ to add a second touch facility and a hydraulic lift was done, so it could be lowered and stored under the stage. The organ was rarely used, being played for a few orchestras and the choral society's Messiah. But the instrument is still playable and is occasionally used for private practice.

Halifax Thespians and the Actors' Workshop present plays of all kinds, and musical theatre is represented by Halifax Amateur Operatic Society, Halifax Light Opera Society, Halifax Gilbert and Sullivan Society, and All Souls Amateur Operatic Society. Halifax 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. The Halifax & District Organists' Association, is one of the oldest organists' fellowships in the country.

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.

Sights of the town

Halifax Piece Hall
  • The Piece Hall is the former cloth hall, where the trading of woollen cloth pieces was done. Opened on 1 January 1779, it was only open for business for two hours on a Saturday morning and contained 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 alternative shops. The former Calderdale Industrial Museum (now closed) was located beside the Piece Hall.
  • Dean Clough Mill, 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 is now a thriving business park after being converted in the 1980s.
  • Halifax Town Hall was designed by Charles Barry, who also designed the Palace of Westminster, in 1863.
  • 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 - 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 the town and environs.


The Shay, the town's football & rugby league stadium
  • Rugby League: Halifax RLFC
  • Football: Halifax Town

Halifax is one of the most historic rugby league clubs in the game, formed over a century ago, in 1873 in the Yorkshire town of Halifax. 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.

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Halifax)




  1. 1.0 1.1 Watts, Victor, ed (2010). "Halifax". The Cambridge Dictionary of English Place-Names. Cambridge University Press. 
  2. Hargreaves p.12
  3. Eilert Ekwall (1936). The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names (Fourth edition 1960 ed.). 
  4. Published on Sat Nov 21 12:59:24 GMT 2009. "We're a Minster town!, Published Date: 23 November 2009". Halifax Courier. http://www.halifaxcourier.co.uk/news/We39re-a-Minster-town.5847718.jp. Retrieved 2011-11-27. 
  5. Published on Tue Nov 24 14:40:26 GMT 2009. "Halifax Minster: the start of a new era. Published Date 24 November 2009". Halifax Courier. http://www.halifaxcourier.co.uk/news/Halifax-Minster-the-start-of.5852486.jp. Retrieved 2011-11-27. 
  6. "St Paul's, King Cross". http://www.stpaulskingcross.co.uk/index.html. Retrieved 2011-03-25. 
  7. "St. John the Baptist Church history". St-johnthebaptistchurch-halifax.org.uk. http://www.st-johnthebaptistchurch-halifax.org.uk/index.html. Retrieved 2011-11-27. 
  8. Hargreaves, page 10
  9. Hargreaves, pp.18-19
  10. http://npor.rcm.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi?Fn=Rsearch&rec_index=D06788
  11. "Arms of Halifax, Civic Heraldry of England and Wales". Civicheraldry.co.uk. http://www.civicheraldry.co.uk/wriding_ob.html. Retrieved 2011-11-27. 
  12. Nashes Lenten Stuffe, London, 1599.
  13. "Radio 4 History - The Halifax Slasher". Bbc.co.uk. http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/history/making_history/making_history_20070501.shtml. Retrieved 2011-11-27. 
  14. The Duke of Wellington's Regiment (West Riding) - A Short History, by Major Savoury MBE & Major General DE Isles, CB OBE DL