Antiques Roadshow in Halifax : Top 10 Unmissable Heritage Gems
If you watch the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow on Sunday 3rd March, you'll see the glorious 18th century cloth hall, The Piece Hall, in Halifax, where it was filmed. The Piece Hall’s magnificent piazza and golden stone columns provided a gorgeous backdrop to a day of discovering the stories behind the antiquities in the attic. Why not pay The Piece Hall a visit? Its independent shops, bars and restaurants, heritage centre and cultural programme provide a great day out. And if you love the Antiques Roadshow, you’ll love Halifax and the surrounding area of Calderdale in Yorkshire – they are a heritage goldmine. So why not stay a few days? Halifax is easily accessible by rail and road – nestled centrally in the Pennines between Leeds and Manchester. Here are the top ten unmissable heritage highlights:
Halifax Town Hall’s Central Hall: the building was designed by Sir Charles Barry (who also designed the Houses of Parliament), and has been judged one of the most spectacular town halls in Britain. Pop in Monday-Friday 9-5 to admire Victorian craftsmanship at its finest, including a magnificent stained glass dome.
Anne 'Gentleman Jack' Lister’s Shibden Hall: Grade II* listed Shibden Hall dates back to 1420. The Shibden estate on the edge of Halifax includes the Hall and gardens, a social history museum and wonderful parkland. The Hall’s most notable resident was prolific diarist Anne Lister (1791 - 1840) - lesbian, traveller, mountaineer, entrepreneur, and scholar. This fascinating woman is about to be placed firmly in the international spotlight thanks to BBC/HBO series, Gentleman Jack, written and produced by BAFTA winner Sally Wainwright, and starring Suranne Jones, which was filmed on location at Shibden Hall (open 2 March – 27 October 2019, check website for hours).
“Old Tristram” at the Halifax Minster: a life-size figure holding the Parish Alms box, he was carved in wood by John Aked in around 1701. There are very few figures of this type in Britain, and the carving represents a real person, who is said to have begged in the church precincts. Halifax Minster is a 900-year old jewel of a building. It is Grade I listed and packed with historical gems including intriguing ancient gravestones, one of the finest medieval font covers in England, and impressive ‘Commonwealth’ windows.
Square Chapel Arts Centre pulpit: this wooden pulpit with decorative mouldings was built specially for the Chapel in 1772. Square Chapel Arts Centre is a beautiful red brick Grade II* listed Georgian Chapel, adjacent to The Piece Hall, which is now a thriving centre for arts and culture. Saved from demolition 30 years ago by six dedicated locals, it now runs a packed programme of exciting events and has a fabulous new café/bar.
The octagonal walls of Heptonstall’s Methodist Chapel: this gem was one of the first octagonal chapels and was built in 1764. Some say the octagon shape was chosen so there were no corners in which the devil could hide – others, more prosaically, suggest it was to distinguish Methodist Chapels from the established church. John Wesley oversaw its design and construction, and he preached there frequently. It is believed to be one of the oldest Methodist churches in continuous use.
Rare Balkan embroidery: Bankfield Museum in the model village of Akroydon is a mini-V&A. Housed in a Victorian mansion since 1887, it hosts a fabulous collection of costumes, textiles, and artefacts. The Women Travellers exhibition showcases the lives of four extraordinary women, Edith Durham, Anne Lister, Lizzie Humphries and Gertude Bell. Bankfield’s Fashion Gallery, which will open in May, is one not to miss.
The dragons of the market: the Grade II* listed Halifax Borough Market is a Victorian market hall housing a mix of traditional family butchers and fruit & vegetable stalls which have passed down through generations. Newer stall-holders sell a wealth of products and produce, from Russian tea to Thai noodles, all housed beneath a stunning glass and wrought iron ceiling. See if you can spot the majestic red dragons that support the market’s internal balconies.
Rodgers 333 Olympic theatre organ at The Rex Cinema: the Rex in Elland is one of the of the oldest purpose-built, structurally unaltered cinemas in the country. Take a step back in time at this charming, friendly venue, and watch new and classic films complete with interval organist.
Moquette Power Loom: this impressive artefact is a symbol of the importance of wool, carpet and textile industry locally. The Calderdale Industrial Museum in Halifax is a wonderful collection of objects and machines that illustrate Calderdale’s industrial heritage. Many of the remarkable and rare machines are in working order - and there’s plenty for kids: they can experience what it was like to be a child working in the tunnels of a coal mine in the last century or, for the less intrepid, learn about the local manufacture of sweets like Quality Street.
The pediment of Todmorden Town Hall: the astonishing neo-classical Grade I listed Town Hall was a bold statement of intent by our ambitious industrial forefathers. Todmorden used to straddle the border of Yorkshire and Lancashire until it became part of Yorkshire in 1888. The iconic pediment’s carved stonework has two central female figures on a pedestal. The woman on the left represents Lancashire (cotton spinning industry) and on the right, Yorkshire (engineering and agriculture). Underneath the two figures are friezes of the industries coming together to prosper on the border.