Picturesque Clifton & Hartshead
It is ideally situated half a mile from J25 of the M62, making it a perfect place to live away from the busyness of town life, yet near to the motorway network for commuters. It has 2 pubs at either end of the village. The Black Horse Inn which was the ‘Yorkshire Post Pub Restaurant of the Year’ in 2006 and the Armitage Arms.
The Junior and Infant School, St John’s Primary Academy was built in the 1870’s. Having just over 200 pupils it is consistently a top performing school and rated by Ofsted as “outstanding, with an excellent curriculum”. What is striking about Clifton is the eclectic mix of old and new houses that seem to blend together so well. Walking down Towngate, the main street, it is evident that Clifton and its surrounding area is rich in history. Quaint old houses dating back to the 18th century still retain their charm and architectural features. Recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as ‘Cliftone’, and also mentioned by Daniel Defoe, author of Robinson Crusoe, in his 1727 book ‘A Tour of Great Britain’ the village has fascinating historical connections.
On the western side of the village is a long straight ridge, which is the remains of a gravity railway that was last used to transport coal in 1920 to the then Municipal Gasworks by the Calder and Hebble Navigation at Brighouse. America Lane, was home to a Fever Hospital and Clifton ‘Airport’ was used by Sir Alan Cobham’s Air Circus between the World War One and World War Two. For golf enthusiasts, Willow Valley Golf Club, near Clifton was voted 9th best new course in the British Isles by ‘Today’s Golfer’. With 50 golf holes, over 4 courses and a 24 bay floodlit driving range they have incredible facilities to suit all needs. Willow Valley plays host to the prestigious Yorkshire P.G.A. Championship each June.
The Legend of Robin Hood
At the easterly edge of Clifton village is the 16th century Grade I listed Jacobean Kirklees Hall, a small Cistercian Nunnery whose grounds contain the reputed grave of Robin Hood. The highly skilled archer and swordsman, was known for “robbing from the rich and giving to the poor”, assisted by his group of fellow outlaws the “Merry Men”. Robin Hood became a heroic folk figure in the medieval period continuing through to modern literature, films and TV. In the earliest sources, Robin Hood is described as a yeoman, but he was often later portrayed as an aristocrat who wrongfully disposed of his lands and was made into an outlaw by the unscrupulous Sheriff of Nottingham.
In the folklore song Geste it is said that Robin Hood was the nephew of the Prioress of Kirklees Hall who sheltered him whilst fleeing from the Sheriff. It is also said that she drained his blood, which was a common medicinal practice in those days, but drained too much resulting in his death, however local folklore tells us it was murder. During his final days he is said to have fired an arrow to depict the place where he wanted to be buried. The actual site is marked with a headstone, however due to the distance from the priory it is believed that this is unlikely to be true. A Grave Situation Today, a ruined gatehouse is all that remains of the medieval priory where Robin Hood apparently died. Research recollects that passers-by may hear a ghostly voice calling out “Marian” after Maid Marian, Robin’s wife. A modern mansion built by Lady Armytage stands in what was the nunnery garden, while the historic Kirklees Hall, the seat of the Armytage’s for 4 centuries, was sold in 1983 following Sir John Armytage’s death. After the subsequent death of Lady Armytage in 2008, it was hoped by local Historians that there would be more interest in Robin Hood’s grave from Calderdale Council with improved public access, but sadly this has not happened.
The Hall and grounds today form a grand collection of luxury residences set in 18 acres of grounds, they are however annexed from Kirklees Park Estate which remains private with no public access. Kirklees Hall was also the model for ‘Nunwood’ in Charlotte Brontë’s novel ‘Shirley’, a book about the industrialisation of England during the Napoleonic wars and Luddite revolts. The story of 2 contrasting heroines, one the shy Caroline Helstone, who is trapped in the oppressive atmosphere of a Yorkshire rectory and whose life symbolises the plight of single women in the 19th century, the other the vivacious Shirley Keeldar, who inherits a local estate and whose wealth liberates her from convention. Good old Yorkshire Brass & Bells!
Clifton also gives its name to the Clifton & Lightcliffe Brass Band, one of the countries oldest bands dating back to 1838. Originally formed as a means of escapism from the hard work and poor conditions of the farming and mining industries. So successful today it has toured the globe and won many championships. All band members are amateur and perform around 60 concerts a year, with its first commercial CD being produced recently!
The Clifton Handbell Ringers were also formed later in the mid 1890’s. Being successful at a number of music festivals in the North of England, they entertain a wide variety of audiences as well as performing at Christmas for charity. In 1996 they represented the UK at an International Symposium of Handbell ringing in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
On Top of the World in Hartshead Upon entering Hartshead village all you want to do is stand and take in the stupendous views. Just a small village with clusters of houses, country lanes and a rolling landscape of fields and agricultural land and the prettiest of churches, St Peter’s. A Brontë Connection Rev. Patrick Brontë, father of Anne, Charlotte and Emily was once parson of St Peter’s Church in Hartshead. It is believed that he discovered the newly dug Luddite graves and because he sympathised with the plight of the Luddites he chose to say nothing. In the early 19th century, the Luddites were a group of textile workers who set about destroying machinery that threatened their jobs. They met secretly to discuss tactics in local inns. One of the inns they used for this purpose was the Black Horse Inn at Clifton. Several of the vigilante group sustained fatal injuries during this time and were secretly buried in the churchyard at nearby Hartshead.
Another place to discover are the remains of Walton Cross, which is said to date back to the 10th-11th century, they can be found at the northern side of Walton farm, just off Windy Bank Lane. If you’ve never visited Hartshead, then get your map, camera and walking boots out, the views alone are sufficient reward. And then finish your day with a bite of something exquisite to eat at The Black Horse Inn at Clifton.
by Louise Makin