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Towns of Calderdale: Sowerby Bridge - a brief history

The Parish of Sowerby Bridge, formed in 1869 from the Parish of Halifax, was made up of portions of 4 historic townships, Skircoat, Warley, Sowerby and Norland, dating back to Medieval times. In these earlier times, the thriving settlements were more commonly on the hillsides, in such places as Sowerby, Norland and Midgley, away from swampy or forested valley bottoms, and in the Middle Ages the production of and trade in woollen cloth was underway in these areas, made possible by extensive local sheep farming. The industry grew, into the Early Modern period until, by the 18th Century, the greater focus of activity was alongside the rivers Calder and Ryburn, where water-power could be harnessed, in places such as Sowerby Bridge and Triangle. Domestic industry was gradually replaced first by small mills and later by bigger factories. Improved transportation, with first turnpike roads, then the joining of the Aire and Calder and Rochdale canals at Sowerby Bridge in 1774 and finally the opening of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway in 1841, sustained significant industrial and population growth in the area. The production of textiles diversified beyond the manufacture of woollens and worsteds, to include cotton cloth and carpets, and allied industries such as dyeing also developed. Industry was never purely based on textiles, however, and over time, engineering, wood-working, flour milling and confectionery production have also been very important, along with the continuation of agriculture outside the urban area. Since World War Two, manufacturing industry has declined in this area, as it has nationally, and there has been a burgeoning industry in the conversion of mill buildings to modern apartments.

Administratively, Sowerby Bridge was governed by a Local Board from 1856 until the Urban District Council was formed in 1895. In 1926, it joined Sowerby District Council and the name was changed to Sowerby Urban District Council. In 1937, the name Sowerby Bridge was reinstated, when the urban district of Luddendenfoot and Norland parish were added. In 1939, further expansion occurred with the addition of part of the urban district of Midgley. Sowerby Bridge became part of Calderdale in 1974.

Christ Church, the parish church of Sowerby Bridge, is a notable building in this area, along with many old stone-built clothiers' houses, such as Kershaw House, above Luddendenfoot and Haugh End, at Sowerby. Sowerby Bridge public library is the only example of a 'Carnegie' library in the Calderdale area.

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