VILLAGE life: The triangle of Halifax, Brighouse and Bradford houses some gems. Bill Bridge reports. Pictures by Jonathan Gawthorpe.
ONE of the delights of living in this part of the world is the certainty that a day out somewhere different – and somewhere often unplanned – can confirm once again the fact that Yorkshire is indeed a treasure.
A swift look at the map, a brief discussion and off you go exploring. It could be across to the Wolds to the picture-postcard settings of Bishop and Cherry Burton and Lund; it could be Linton, Threshfield and Burnsall; maybe Meltham, Marsden and Slaithwaite.
Best of all it could be somewhere new, previously unimagined as a place to explore, a corner of the county to confirm that villages, much more than towns and cities, are at the heart of Yorkshire and nowhere was that truism underlined than on visit to the on-the-face-of-it unremarkable family of villages between Halifax, Brighouse and Bradford which has Hipperholme at its heart.
In those folds of Calderdale it is easy to forget that town – any one of the three – is only a matter of minutes away; this is Yorkshire village life as it has been for centuries yet carries confidently with it a sense of being in tandem with the times for if you live these days in Northowram, Lightcliffe, Norwood Green or Hipperholme itself the chances are that commuting is the order of the day and not to Halifax, Brighouse or Bradford, as it was for decades, but to Leeds, Manchester or even Sheffield.
The proximity of the M62 is a major selling factor for property in these communities but it would be mischievous to suggest that these are merely dormitories. Take Northowram, a place which dances sedately to its own tune as it has done down the years. The village clings to the slope as the Bradford-Halifax road drops from Shelf and Stone Chair into the heart of Calder country and at its heart, four-square and reassuring, stands the tower of St Matthew’s Parish Church.
Like so many of its contemporaries, Northowram no longer has the mill as the chief provider of jobs but there are alternatives, most of them housed in the former tannery although, as befits a village so close to what used to be the carpet capital of the Empire, there is the gleaming Booth’s Carpets and Furnishings. There is, too, a grand-looking, stone-cleaned restaurant – 22 The Square – promising lunch but, alas, even at 11.30 no sign of a menu to offer a clue as to what might be had.
So it was down Westercroft Lane, with its parade of trim bungalows and the impressive headquarters of Northowram Fields Cricket Club (new pavilion almost complete with the season beckoning) and into Hipperholme a busy cross-roads of a village which has the eponymous school as its flagship. Founded in 1648, Hipperholme School remains a bastion of private education, proud of its history and students, and was the source from which the village’s other ageless institution – Old Brodleians RUFC – sprang.
The pair remain part of, if rather aloof from, the village itself which touchingly prides itself on alliteration. So we have the Hippie Haddock chippie, the Hungry Hippo sandwich shop and Hipperpotting Homes.
Hipperholme’s popularity among commuters from further afield makes for fraught early mornings and evenings, not least down the roads which take traffic to the left and right of Lightcliffe, a village which has aged splendidly, boasting a peaceful park, an historic Bradford League cricket club, a century-old golf, an eclectic mix of houses ancient and modern and another church of St Matthew.
Quite where the border lies between Hipperholme and Lightcliffe is unclear and even the locals have differing opinions but the consensus seems to be that Hipperholme ends at the doctor’s surgery, anywhere further down the road is in Lightcliffe.
And when that road runs out of the village, there is a narrow lane off to the left, leading to Norwood Green, the smallest, prettiest and most sought-after of this prime collection. Here the BMWs and Jaguars relax between spins, their owners perhaps taking lunch at the Old White Beare Inn, itself proof of how this corner of calm has links stretching far into history.
Why, asks the first-time visitor, does the sign outside this hostelry carry a painting of a man-o’-war, rather than a venerable grizzly? Simple: the bear in question was a ship, one of Elizabeth’s fleet which dismantled the Armada. A fire at the farm and ale house in Norwood Green in the middle of the 16th century coincided with the breaking up of the old warship in Hull and much of the timber from the hulk found its way to this parcel of West Yorkshire villages.
No matter where you travel in Yorkshire, there is always something to learn and well as something to see, eat, drink and enjoy.
LAND OF PHILANTHROPIST AND TUMBLE DRIERS
* Lightcliffe was for many years the home of Sir Titus Salt, mill owner, philanthropist and creator of Saltaire, the World Heritage Site on the edge of Shipley.
* Hipperholme and Lightcliffe stand on the Halifax-Bradford railway line but neither has a station.
* The Brown Horse between Northowram and Hipperholme is the only hostelry of that name in Yorkshire.
* Largest employer in the area is Crosslee, based on the huge site on Brighouse Road, formerly home to the Philips electrical giant. They make most of the country’s tumble driers.