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Calderdale history timeline 1810 - 1850AD

Industrial Revolution

Plan of that part of the River Calder that lies between Sowerby Bridge and HalifaxFrom the late eighteenth century, technological innovation in the textile industry led to the proliferation of increasing numbers of water-powered cotton and worsted spinning mills and woollen scribbling (carding) mills - together with their dams, goits and sluices - in the tributary valleys of the Calder, and the need for more effective means of transportation resulted in the construction of canals and a network of turnpike roads along the valley bottom which progressively replaced the old hillside packhorse ways. See the Acts of Parliament, 1757, 1769, 1810 and the plan of the river Calder above.

Exterior view of the Square Chapel in Halifax, West Yorkshire.During this first phase of industrialisation, religious nonconformity underwent a dramatic renewal, reinforcing the industrial work ethic, and by 1800 both chapel and mill were beginning to make their mark on an increasingly urbanized landscape (see Square chapel opposite).

Although there is clear surviving evidence of its pre-industrial origins, the spatial structure of present-day Halifax is very much a product of the complex process of industrialisation which took place between the mid 18th and late 19th centuries.

Mulcture Hall, HalifaxIn 1750 Halifax was a small but busy market town, with a population of approximately 6,000 inhabitants, served by a network of ancient packhorse causeways. The common fields and waste had long since become a series of dry-stone wall enclosures, and the growing numbers of inns and streets must have given the town something of an urban atmosphere. Most of the population was centred on the small urban nucleus, however, and public buildings, such as the church and manorial moot hall, were still medieval in origin, though almshouses, an orphan hospital, charity schools, a mulcture hall, workhouse and new cloth halls had made their mark on the pre-industrial landscape.

Somerset House, HalifaxBy 1800 the town of Halifax was expanding and the population had increased to almost 9,000. Elegant Georgian mansions such as Clare Hall (1764), Hope Hall (1765) and Somerset House (1766) see opposite, signalled the emergence of a narrow band of upper status mercantile households on the outer perimeter of the central business district, whilst the pre-eminence of Halifax as a cloth marketing centre received its most striking expression in the Piece Hall (1779), which opened as certain aspects of the domestic era were already drawing to a close.

Page from directory of industries of Yorkshire 1890During the first half of the 19th century a second wave of industrialisation swept through the upper Calder valley, dramatically transforming the landscape and the whole social fabric of the district. With the introduction of steam power, the textile industry moved to the more accessible valley bottom settlements of Todmorden, Hebden Bridge, Mytholmroyd, Sowerby Bridge, Halifax, Elland and Brighouse, leaving more ancient communities stranded on the hillsides, and taking with it an expanding population of millworkers. In Halifax, steam powered textile factories spread rapidly however, and by 1850 there were 24 mills in the town, the largest of which were at Boothtown (James Akroyd & Son) and Dean Clough (John Crossley & Sons).

View of the industrialised landscapeRapid industrialisation was accompanied by dramatic demographic expansion, and by the middle of the century the population of Halifax had risen to over 25,000. Much of the urban growth during this period comprised a process of 'infilling', involving the intensification of the central built-up area and resulting in the creation of a series of congested commercial, industrial and residential courtyards or 'folds'. This development was accompanied and followed by progressive expansion from the central urban nucleus - initially to the West and the North - creating a Halifax 'conurbation' which led to the municipal annexation of adjacent territory in Northowram and Southowram townships.

Sketch of open sewer, Ranger report extract, 1851The appalling living and working conditions within these expanding mill towns initially went unheeded, and the new textile factories stood side by side with barrack-like back-to-back slums along the congested valley floors, whilst double-decker terraces clung precariously to the steep hillsides. In Halifax, cellar dwellings and open sewers presented an ever-increasing challenge to the newly created borough authority. The booming Pennine town paid little attention initially to basic public amenities, and in 1843 was described as a 'mass of little, miserable, ill-looking streets, jumbled together in chaotic confusion'.

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