Register of ancient monuments

Reference number 1005782

Magna Via
Dark Lane


The 'Magna Via' is the medieval and early-modern road eastwards out of Halifax. It was the main route to the manorial centre of Wakefield and thus came to be known as the 'Wakefield Gate'. Due to two successive by-passes to the north (by the turnpike roads of 1741 and 1824) the Magna Via became fossilized, retaining much of its original morphology along this section, in the form of a well preserved holloway ('Dark Lane') and a steep ascent of the Beacon Hill Bank. Along this section early-eighteenth century sets are easily visible. Where the route climbs the Beacon Hill bank they are cleared so giving the appearance of a 'typical' packhorse road, winding down the Halifax basin when viewed from the east. Along Dark Lane they are usually hidden by a shallow vegetational cover, providing a narrower path through the steeply banked hollow way. The hollow way itself, as it follows a natural contour, is about 3-4 metres deep and extends along the whole length of the eastern area outlined on the maplet i.e. for about 750 metres.

At Upper Place Farm (a ruined farmstead) the hollow way kinks before descending to Lower Place Farm (Listed, Grade II) after which archaeologically important remains are no longer visible.

Dark Lane is one of the three best preserved hollow ways in West Yorkshire while the packhorse route (section outlined to the west on maplet) is a very good example of an early-industrial road, providing an evocative view of Halifax.

Historically, it was the main route into the Calder Valley (from the east), and has been remarkably well-preserved by the effects of subsequent by-passes by turnpike roads. It seems that the route will have ceased to transport much heavy traffic soon after its improvement in the early eighteenth century; it is very well preserved although in poor condition. In addition, it was central to medieval landscape and the now lost medieval hamlet of Barrowclough. One of the earliest references to this section of the Magna Via is to be found in 1497, when a piece of land in Southowram near the Halifax Brook is defined by 'the Highway leading from Barrowcloughlayne on the north'. The engraving of the Halifax gibbet (SAM, Co. No. 131) in Camden subsequently shows the road climbing the bank to the north of Beacon Hill. Other seventeenth century references to the lamentable condition of the Halifax roads (presumably this one, as one statement is by the Curate of Lightcliffe) are to be found in Watson whilst a stone dated 1642, once standing in Hipperholme, seems to bind trustees to maintain the highway. Finally, Daniel Defoe mentions the route over Halifax bank in his work of 1724 '...particularly the hill which they go up to come out of the town towards Leeds, and which the country people call Halifax bank, is so steep, so rugged, and sometimes too so slippery, that, to a town of so much business as this, 'tis exceedingly troublesome and dangerous'. In short, therefore, this routeway is of considerable historical and traditional, as well as archaeological importance.

Last Updated: 07/10/2004