Heptonstall is an ancient village above the town of Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire. Its earliest appearance in written record dates to 1253. Heptonstall’s original church was founded c.1260, and dedicated to St Thomas a Becket. It was altered and added to over several centuries but severely damaged by a gale in 1847. In 2017, West Yorkshire Archaeology Service conducted a geo physical survey of the ruin. A new church, St Thomas the Apostle was built in the same churchyard, consecrated on 26th October 1854.
Heptonstall was the site of a battle during the early part of the English Civil War in November 1643. The village was occupied by a parliamentary army and was subsequently and unsuccessfully attacked by royalist forces approaching from Halifax. Historically a centre for hand-loom weaving, Heptonstall’s cottages and terraced houses are characterised by large (for the time) first-floor windows to maximise the light for weaving.
The older churchyard claims ‘King’ David Hartley amongst notable graves there. Hartley was the founder of the Cragg Coiners and lived as a rogue in the Calderdale area until he was hanged at Tyburn near York in 1770. In the newer graveyard is buried the poet Sylvia Plath. The foundation stone of the village’s octagonal Methodist chapel, the oldest still in continued use, was laid following the visit of John Wesley in 1764.
The Historical Society was formed in January 2019 and launched with a showing of local filmmaker and HHHS assistant secretary Nick Wilding’s film, Heptonstall: Village of Memories. As well as research and dissemination, a key objective of our society is to secure the future of Heptonstall museum, the building once hosting a seventeenth-century school. The museum is currently closed due to budget cuts and a newly established body – the Friends of Heptonstall Museum – is in discussion with Calderdale Council to take on the museum and run it independently.
We currently have a number of projects in progress: oral history – a series of recorded interviews; the transcription and mapping of the Methodist graveyard; the transcription of a recently discovered 1842 Methodist Sunday School minute book; research into local pre-war and post-war social housing. We run monthly lectures and produce a quarterly newsletter for members.
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