THE PIECE HALL HALIFAX
The Piece Hall is Britain's oldest remaining Cloth Hall. This unique building served as a central market place for the buying and selling of cloth produced by local hand-loom weavers.
Prior to the Industrial Revolution, lengths of cloth were woven on hand-looms in weaver's cottages. A "piece" was a length of cloth 30 yards long. These pieces were taken to cloth halls to be sold and it is an indication of the size and strength of the woollen industry in Halifax in the 1770's that such a prestigious building was built.
The PIECE HALL was opened on January 1, 1779. The "pieces" were stored in 315 rooms and trading took place for just 2 hours on Saturday morning.
The Piece Hall only flourished for about 35 years as increasing mechanization of the textile trade gradually undermined the hand-loom weaver. The Hall began to be used for political and religious meetings and other events. In 1868 it was given to the Halifax Corporation and converted to a wholesale fish, fruit and vegetable market. This use continued until the 1970's when a proposal to demolish the Piece Hall to build a shopping centre was defeatd by just one vote. Instead, a decision was made to restore and reopen the Piece Hall in the form we see today.
Many events and Festivals take place in the Piece Hall. The Piece Hall is open daily but some of the shops do not open 7 days a week and most are closed on Monday. Market days are Thursday (Second-hand) and Saturday (general). I went to the Thursday (Second-hand) market and I must say I was disappointed as it was pretty frugal and not much there.
The Piece Hall is a former cloth hall that first opened on the 1st of January 1779 and was where the trading of woollen cloth pieces was carried out it was originaly open for business for two hours on Saturday morning and contained 315 merchant trading rooms arranged around a central courtyard
When the cloth Industry was mechonised the Piece Hall became a public market it is now home to some great specialist shops (one if a fantastic model shop), an art gallery, the Tourist Information Centre and other organisations. The courtyard is used for a lot of events from market stalls to Live Music.
Plans are underway to transform the courtyard into an Italian type plaza.
- Arts and Culture
KEIGHLEY & WORTH VALLEY RAILWAY MUSEUM
The KWVR MUSEUM was fascinating to see. We visited it while waiting for the next steam train to come. Inside the huge facility were old engines such as a 5700 Class No. 5775, No. 118 "Brussels" and a Class 5XP Jubilee No 45596 "Bahamas".
Also there were many vintage carriages in different stages of restoration.
As you enter, there were photographs of the history of the railway system throughout the years.
HALIFAX CENTRAL LIBRARY
What does one do, when you can't find an internet cafe' and you need a VT fix!!! I told Hans to check out the local library and voila! The HALIFAX CENTRAL LIBRARY was just a short walk from the Wool Merchant and near the Bus Station. Hans signed up for a Library card and then he was able to use one of the Library computers for up to two hours and free of charge. Upstairs in the Library, there are six computers where you can sit down.
The Halifax Gibbet
From Hell, Hull and Halifax, Good Lord Deliver us...
Hell is self explanatory, Hull is where prisoners were often sent, and Halifax was the place where you could lose your head!
THE HALIFAX GIBBET
“There is a Proverbe, and a prayer withall,
That we may not to these strange places fall,
From Hull, from Halifax, from Hell, ‘tis thus,
From all these three, Good Lord deliver us.
This praying proverb’s meaning to set down,
Men do not wish deliverance from the Town:
The towns named Kingston, Hull’s furious River:
And from Hull’s dangers, I say Lord deliver.
At Halifax, the law so sharp doth deal,
That whoso more than 13 Pence doth steal,
They have a jyn* that wondrous quick and well,
Sends thieves all headless unto Heav’n or Hell.
From Hell each man says, Lord deliver me,
Because from Hell can no redemption be:
Men may escape from Hull and Halifax,
But sure in Hell there is a heavier tax,
Let each one for themselves in this agree,
And pray, from Hell good Lord deliver me.”
From the Works of John Taylor -The Water Poet, who wrote from 1612 to 1653.
* jin or gin, an old abbreviation for engine.
The first visit of our weekend was to The Halifax Gibbet, located on Gibbet Street! I was expecting to see a cage, suspended from a pole (in Sheffield, near to my home is a pub called the Noose and Gibbet, with a gibbet containing a figure representing Spencer Broughton - Sheffields answer to Dick Turpin) Link, but instead found this to be a wooden guilitine.
John of Dalton is the first recorded citizen to be beheaded on Halifaxs' Gibbet in 1286., under the Halifax Gibbet Law.
The common reason for meeting your end this way, was for stealing woolen cloth! In those days, cloth making was a cottage industry, with the pieces (hence The Piece Hall, where cloth was traded) hanging on frames to dry in the open air. This cloth was 'of value to the realm' hence the death penalty ensued.
Anyone found guilty of either- hand-habend “having his hand in, or being found in the very act of stealing cloth.” or back-berand “ having the thing stolen, either upon his back, or somewhere else about him and carrying it away..” or confessand - having confessed to the crime, concerning the theft of cloth or other goods of the value of thirteen-pence half penny. The value was decided by 4 police constables, who were summoned by the 'arresting officer' to form a jury. The sentance could only be passed after the prisoner had confessed- It can be presumed that this was usually through torture. Those found innocent of the crime were released 'after paying their fees' - or in other words, they bought their freedom!
Within the legal boundaries of Halifax, those that were sentenced to execution by the Gibbets blade, were returned to their prison, to wait their final end.This was carried out after 3 Market Days or 3 Meeting Days had passed. Usually these were held mid week, cloth was sold on Saturdays in the Piece Hall. At each of the Market Days, the prisoner would be let out ....to sit in the Town stocks, on public view
There were a couple of methods of escape from being be-headed
One way was to somehow delay the drop of the axe, at which point if the prisoner was quick enough, he (or she-about half a dozen females were beheaded here) could make a run for it. If he reached the boundary of liberty, he couldn't be re-captured, but if he ever re-entered the boundary, he would be be-headed. If the prisoner had thought about this-to the north, the boundary was only 600 paces, to the South it was about a mile away, and to the West about 10 miles. Anyone getting away would therefore not even consider returning to Halifax would they? - Well for Some reason, one John Lacy, escaped the blade, and spent 7 years of freedom, until he returned to Halifax, where he was recognised, and beheaded in 1623.
The other way was to refuse to confess...as long as the goods weren't found in their possession, they were acquitted - Remember that most confessions were obtained by foul means, and being God fearing people, the act of perjury was considered more of a sin, and more frightening than the prospect of death. Perjury was a sin against God- who was the Ultimate Judge on Mans Fate - the judge of whether he went to Heaven or Hell!
The last recorded victims in 1650 were Anthony Mitchell and John Wilkinson of Sowerby.
Halifax was one of the last places in the country to retain the use of this punishment.
This isn't the actual gibbet, but a reconstruction, re-built here in 1974, ( but it was vandalised, and replaced again in 2003), on the original site
It's a good place for photo ops, as Dao Scoobydoofast and Hansi demonstrated!
I wouldn't have been surprised if a certain breakfast waitress wasn't to be found (in an earlier life), sitting here knitting, as the heads rolled!
Talking of heartless women - I'd met Mamawinnie an hour or so earlier, and thought she was a warm, friendly, kind woman and a good mother to Ryan (Scoobydoofast)
However - Check out my photo-
What kind of a mother leaves her son to his fate under the Gibbet blade, and walks away laughing!!!! ;-)
I've downloaded a short video of Vters at the Gibbet in 2008- but be warned- It's not just those who met their fate here that got a pain in their neck! - for some reason it's replayed at a strange angle, and I can't work out how to alter this yet :-(
UPDATE - VTers and guests visited the Gibbet on a drizzly Sunday morning, during Ricky 52's Rushbearing and Scarecrows weekend.
- Historical Travel
- Budget Travel
- Family Travel
KEIGHLEY & WORTH VALLEY RAILWAY
Saturday, September 6, 2008
Our VT "Mystery Trip" was to go on a steam train. Our bus pulled into Oxenhope at the KEIGHLEY & WORTH VALLEY RAILWAY. The regular adult fare was 9 pounds, but since we were 22 members, we got the group rate of 6 pounds and we even had our rail car reserved for us - cool or what!
We steamed along a five mile long preserved railway, through the beautiful Bronte Countryside, stopping in little towns along the way - Haworth - Oakworth - Ingrow West - Keighley and then back to Oxenhope.
I must say, it was smashin'. That is - I loved it!
The Keighley & Worth Valley Railway is owned and operated by volunteer members of the KWVR Preservation Society.
The train runs every weekend and daily throughout the summer.
THE INVENTOR OF CAT'S EYES
OK people! Pay attention. No this is not a tip about feline eyesight or the creation of the world. No, our subject is road safety. Percy Shaw (1890 - 1976) was born in Halifax and invented the single best road safety device ever. Cat’s eyes have saved millions from death and/or injury by illuminating roads in the dark and also alerting dozing drivers that they are approaching the edge of the road by causing the vehicle to bump over them. In addition to that these little beauties are self-cleaning! Shaw invented the technology in 1933 when he realised real cats have reflective eyes in low light. He took 2 reflective glass spheres and placed them in a rubber dome that is then mounted in a heavy cast iron housing. Over the years the technology has grown from the original white to a variety of colours.
He first realised the need for some sort of reflective road guide when overhead trams lines in nearby Bradford were taken down. He had seen the reflections of light and used them to guide him when driving in the dark. During World War II vehicles used severely restricted headlamps because of the fear of bombing. The catseye received government backing as they realised their usefulness.
How smart are they? Percy Shaw even made them self-cleaning. A small well under the eyes collects rain water and if a car runs over it the eye is pushed down and washed. Many improvements have been tried and there are more to come, but they all started because Mr. Shaw realised the needs of motorists.
Pictured is a demonstration by Ricky52. No. I don’t know where he got it. You can email him and ask. If the Police ask me – I haven’t seen him.
- Business Travel
- Family Travel
- Road Trip
THE VICTORIA THEATRE HALIFAX
Originally known as the Victoria Hall, the VICTORIA THEATRE HALIFAX first opened as a concert venue on February 8, 1901.
The main auditorium has a cpacity of 1568 fully-seated and 1860 part-standing. The Theatre hosts many high profile and international performers and artistes as well as supporting a wide range of the local community events.
HALIFAX VISITOR CENTRE AND ART GALLERY
Based in the historic Piece Hall, the HALIFAX VISITOR CENTRE AND ART GALLERY will have all you need to know about Halifax and its surroundings. Hans and I visited the Visitor Center to get some brochures on what to do and see while in Halifax. After all, we were here to stay for nine days. Thanks to the great info we received, I don't think there was much we didn't see (didn't get to visit Bankfield Museum and Shibden Hall). Also I got some great material for my scrapbook which is a tradition with me. Actually, my scrapbook gets done, before I even start making my VT tips. And it makes a great referral for when I do get down to business.
The Art Gallery, which is part of the Visitor Centre, hosts a wide range of temporary exhibitions, photographic work, craft items, prints and illustrations. There are activity events for children, plus a range of events, talks and workshops all year.
Open daily 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Halifax Town Hall
I'd spotted the impressive spire of this building travelling through Halifax, and had assumed it was a church. so, it wasn't until Sunday afternoon when Angiebabe and I were exploring Halifax centre, that I realised it was the Town Hall. Close up, it was even more impressive.
It was designed by the same architect that had designed the Houses of Parliament - Charles Barry. The purpose built Town Hall was first proposed in 1853. Three designs were submitted. Councillor Barry was asked to decide on the winning design, but he didn't like any of these. The council then asked him to come up with a design.
Charles Barry sadly died before the foundation stone was even laid, but his son Edward Middleton continued with his fathers design. The Foundation stone was laid in 1861, a year after Barrys death. 24,000 tons of Ringby sandstone from Swales Moor was used in the construction of the building, which covers an area of 148 ft x 90 feet.
2 years later the completed Town Hall was officially opened on the 4th August (1863) by HRH The Prince of Wales (aka King Edward V11). It was completed at a cost of £50,000.
A crowd of about 70,000 witnessed this occasion. The opening was followed by a service in the Piece Halls
I was quite impressed by the engraved inscriptions around the spire, and the many bas reliefs. The panels are carved to resemble tiling or even scales. On each corner of the steeple is an angel, measuring 7 feet high!
The Town Hall Clocks have mottos carved above them, such as "Delay not to do well Man Proposeth" (pic 4) They were installed, along with the bells, between 1863 and 1863, when they were later updated (1920's) and then after a century of being hand wound, were electrified in 1963.
Each side of the 180ft tower steeple represents one of the continents of the World.
Three of the continents statues and facades were created by John Thomas ( Who had worked on statues for the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and also, the Free Trade Hall in Manchester) ;
Look above the inscriptions on the clocks, and you might be able to see
Africa (facing away from Crossley Street, looking down Broad Street), which is represented by an ancient Egyptian figure and 2 boys
North America (above the tower portico, facing Waterhouse Street) shows a Native American, and 2 figures holding a paddle and a roll of tobacco. Also - on the portico is the old Halifax coat of arms , with the heads of Wisdom, Justice and Mercy.
Europe (Crossley Street, looking down Princess Street) apparently has symbols of 'civilisation and refinement'
He died before his work was completed, so Asia (Facing down Crossley Street on the side opposite the portico) was added under the supervision of Daniel Maclise. Here you'll find a Chinese boy, a tea chest and a child with flowers. Having said this, they're not easy to see.
Above this stone steeple is a metal topping (pic 3)
The bells have not rung at night - since 1918, when Dame Nellie Melba complained that they disturbed her, when she stayed at the Halifax Princess Hotel , (or was it The Swan Hotel) ?
The Town Hall is one of many interesting buildings in Halifax-and especially Crossley Street, where all of its buildings are listed
Group visits by prior appointment. It is a working building, so there is limited public access.
During our 2nd meet in Halifax, Gillybob and myself managed to have a look around inside - I just asked the lady on the reception desk, who was very friendly and helpful, and said we could also go into the Council Chamber , as no-one was in there - well worth seeing.
I'll cover the interior in a later tip.
- Budget Travel
- Historical Travel
CLAY PIGEON SHOOTING
Guns are legal here in the UK and you can go clay pigeon shooting here in Halifax every Sunday. Many small clubs rent farmers fields and blast away at clay pigeons in ones and twos. Pictured are some VT Members firing away, many for the first time. Be careful! Every last one of them hit multiple targets!
- Adventure Travel
STEAM TRAIN RIDE BACK IN TIME
Have you ever wondered what life was like 100 years ago or more? If you want time travel, then Keighley & Worth Valley Railway is the right rail line for you. Authentic ticket offices, rail stations, staff, uniforms and coal fired steam trains. Just watch the oilman, the coal loader and the train driver as they keep the train on the tracks backwards in time. You also sit in authentic carriages and there is even a bar with traditional hand-pulled ales. They also have a museum with amazing carriages and engines from the steam age.
Starting in nearby Oxenhope you can ride to Keighley and back. They specialise in groups and families, are licensed and can even do a meal option for groups.
(Keep your ticket ready for the Conductor!)
- Museum Visits
- Historical Travel
What is rushbearing? In simple terms it’s a great big street festival, parade, dancing troupes, street performers and general public drinking in aid of a religious/historical ceremony stretching over a weekend. Yep, it’s fun. So, rushbearing?
OK. Originally the floors of Churches were simply dirt covered in rushes. From time to time, and certainly in the autumn, parishioners brought new & better smelling rushes inside the church and threw out the old ones. In Sowerby Bridge (3 miles from Halifax) this became a symbolic ceremony, especially after the church got stone floors. This ceremony/festival is centered around the rushcart pulled by men who historically drank heavily. In fact some were documented to be so intoxicated that they were not allowed in the church after pulling this huge cart. Records of these bans on drunken men date to 1682 and both the drinking and ban remain today.
Today the Rushbearing brings together church ceremonies, dancers, musicians, dancers, a charitable market and badge sellers with proceeds going to a roundtable of good causes. Its also a riot of sound, colour and activity. Dogs, children and quite a few revellers take part and watch over a 2-day mega-event. Sowerby Bridge becomes a big city carnival for 2 days every year. Come and join in! It’s the best of British traditional entertainment and village fête.
By the way, Morris Dancers don’t just run around poles. They play very entertaining music, dance with swords and even carry dragons around on their backs.
- Historical Travel
- Arts and Culture
The Parish Church of St John The Baptist
Before my trip to Halifax in 2008, I knew that my maternal Great Grandmother was born in Halifax, I didn't know until today, whilst visiting my parents, that my Great Great Grandparents were married in this church and My Great Great Great Grandmother was baptised here. Please see my Halifax intro page for more info about my Halifax connections!
Most of the churches architecture is from the 15th century, but the North wall contains pieces from 1120, and was the exterior wall of a previous church, which may have dated back to Saxon times.
In 1879, a major restoration was carried out of the interior. Sir George Gilbert Scott oversaw the work.
The outside blackened millstone grit walls are a legacy from the industrial past of Halifax.
The church was closed at the time of my first visit, but there was quite a bit of interest on the outside to see - particularly the 4 gargoyles near the main door. Now that I've found out about my family connections to this church, I have since returned a few times.
In 2009 this church became Halifax Minster - so is now formally known as The Minster Church of St. John the Baptist Halifax
I enjoy the peaceful atmosphere, while wandering around. At my recent visit at Easter though, there was piped music of 'Gregorian chants'
The Minster has much of historical interest, some of it unexpected!
The Holdsworth Chapel was built by Robert Holdsworth, who was vicar here from 1525-1555. A feud between the Tempest and Savile family, resulted in him being murdered in the vicarage by members of the Tempest family. A 17th century altar table can be seen here.
Bishop Ferrar - Bishop of St Davids is honoured by an impressive tomb at the back of the Minster.
During the reign of Queen Mary, he was martyred and burnt at the stake in 1555.
The Rokeby Chapel, was built in memory of another former vicar - William Rokeby -1502-1520. His heart is buried, in a lead box in the Minster!
Three vicars perished during the 14th Century Plague
The Minster has some interesting stained glass windows - However, on the South wall are 5 Commonwealth windows of clear glass. A gift to the church in 1645, as the previous stained glass windows were destroyed by soldiers, during the Cromwellian uprising.
The window on the East wall dates from 1851, and won First Prize for stained glass in the Great Exhibition. It was created by George Hedgeland, and gifted to the church by Edward Ackroyd, a local Mill owner/philanthropist.
Another chapel is dedicated to the memory of the Duke of Wellingtons Regiment (Now the 3rd Battalion of The Yorkshire Regiment) Old flags from various campaigns are displayed on poles or in glass cabinets.
Elsewhere in the Minster are memorials to local men who lost their lives in WW1, WW2 and other wars.
3 misericord stalls are seen on the right of the Sanctuary, which are thought to have been 'rescued' from Kirkstall Abbey in Leeds during the dissolution of the monasteries, between 1536-1541.
A further 6 misericord stalls are seen as part of the choir screen. These intricately carved seats, were known as mercy seats as they fold down to provided a ledge for weary derrieres to rest during the long services.
The Four-Manual organ (pic 3) has some original pipework from the 1766 Snetzler organ. It was rebuilt by Harrison & Harrison in 1928. During major renovation of the church in 1879, the Georgian organ case was replaced by the one seen today. The organ was also moved to this position, from the West Gallery (which no longer exists)
There is a donations box, for contributions for the planned renovation, and aquisition of a 1770 Snetzler organ- for organists to practice as part of the Halifax Organ Academy, which will cost £650,000
Throughout the year, there are organ recitals (Thursdays at 13.00hrs), open days, workshops and masterclasses, as well as concerts by local and visiting orchestras, choirs etc.
While wandering around, don't forget to look up to the ceiling - The wooden panels depict the Coats of Arms of local families, some of the vicars (from wealthier families) and the Tribes of Israel.
The font at the back of the Minster, has an intricately carved cover (pic 2), which is considered one of the finest examples in England. It's hard to imagine that at one time this was brightly painted green, red and blue!
During the time of the Commonwealth (1653-1659) the font cover was stored in a nearby house owned by a Mr Hartley. This is now The Ring O Bells pub.
Near the font is a carved wooden figure (pic 4) - 'Old Tristram' - a licensed beggar, who was allowed to beg for alms in the church porch, for the 'poor of Halifax' at the end of the 17th Century.
Open Daily- Winter 10.00 - 14.00 Summer 10.00 -16.00
Morning Prayer 0900
Communion service 12.30 weekdays
Sunday Services - see website or notice boards
Donation boxes for restoration and upkeep of the Minster.
At my recent visit, as I was about to leave I spotted a printed notice - 'Photography permits' - I'd been snapping away quite happily (without flash). I had put a donation into one of the boxes, as I usually do if I take photos - the volunteer didn't mention the permit.
There is a small gift shop, with post cards, guide booklets.
Volunteers are available to answer questions.
Information boards near the entrance offer interesting articles about the history of the church and Halifax from the Medieval Foundations.
Refreshments available, during events and maybe at various other times.
- Religious Travel
Halifax Visitor Centre & Art Gallery
Halifax Tourist Information is located in the Visitors Centre in the Piece Hall. Here you can find information, and books etc about Halifax/ The Calder Valley/West Yorkshire and beyond. There's a good range of gifts at reasonable prices. Post-cards are available from only 10p - 20 pence!!
I found the staff to be very helpful, especially in providing a useful folder of information leaflets and maps etc, for everyone attending the 'Pork Pie and Mushy Peas' meet. I was having trouble contacting the restaurant that we'd planned to eat at on the Friday night, and ended up contacting the TI - I spoke to Vanessa, who was very helpful, and found me a mobile number, she also posted me a pack of Halifax info, which arrived next day. I found out that the restaurant I'd planned for us to eat at had closed down a week or so ago, but found an alternative venue.
In this office, I also found an interesting Halifax Town Trail self guided walk booklet, and a book about the Rushbearing.
In the visiters centre, are some interesting information boards (pic 3)about the history of The Piece Hall and the textile industry, and historical events, including the visit of Blondin, the famous tightrope walker in 1861
During my recent visit (March 2012), there was an exhibition from past Olympic Games, including posters and programmes (pic 4)
- Historical Travel
- Budget Travel
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