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Calderdale history timeline 1900 - 2000AD

Towards the Present

Map extract, plan of HalifaxBy 1900 much of the present distinctive landscape of Calderdale had been formed. In Halifax, subsequent building activity supplemented and modified the late Victorian townscape, but made no fundamental impact on the urban plan that had evolved during the period 1750-1900. The ‘conurbation’ had expanded to cover the larger part of the ancient township and adjacent areas, and its population had risen to over 100,000.


View of Halifax from Beacon Hill, 1923Since 1750 Halifax had undergone a dramatic transformation – from that of a pre-industrial market town at the heart of a domestic woollen manufacturing district to that of a major urban centre engaged in a diverse range of factory-based activities – and the social, cultural, commercial and municipal dimensions of this industrial revolution received their most striking visual expression in the rich and varied architecture and rapidly changing topography of the late Victorian mill town.

Aerial view of town centre, HalifaxIn spite of the survival of red-brick housing estates from the 1930s, slum clearance and urban renewal programmes from the 50s, high-rise flats and supermarkets from the 60s, and fly-over and motorway construction from the 70s, the physical shape and layout of the area can be seen largely as the product of commercial and industrial activity which had lost its momentum before the first world war.

North Bridge and Burdock Way, HalifaxAlthough machine tools, quarrying, confectionery manufacturing and other enterprises had extended Calderdale's commercial and industrial base, the 20th century was a period of relative stagnation and decline, and this often left ugly scars on the landscape: derelict empty buildings, drab and unimaginative new developments, and pockets of depressing urban wasteland once occupied by architecturally striking edifices.

Dean Clough, HalifaxSince the 1980s, however, there have been signs of genuine attempts to arrest the process of decline and decay by combining and linking efforts to revitalize the local economy with efforts to improve the quality of the local environment and by situating both of these objectives, where appropriate, within the framework of a heightened awareness of Calderdale's built and natural landscape heritage. Many of the distinctive elements of change and continuity within the areas rich industrial and architectural legacy have survived intact, and have attracted the attention of increasing numbers of cultural heritage groups and recreational planners, who saw the need for at least some of Calderdale's future commitments to be more rigorously geared to the active conservation and effective exploitation of its past.

Top of Woolshops, Halifax, 1990'sThe creation of conservation areas, stone-cleaning, canal restoration, the rehabilitation of redundant buildings, and new environmentally sympathetic human-scale planning mark the first tentative steps towards the formulation of a radical and coherent strategy for change and regeneration which views economic, environmental and community interests as mutually interdependent.

If such a strategy is to be successful and sustainable into the future, however, it will need to be bold and imaginative. It will need to draw heavily on the values of self-help and co-operation which made such a vital contribution to positive change in Calderdale in the past, and which made such a dramatic impact on the local landscape over the centuries.

back to Calderdale history timeline 1100 - 2000AD