Moving on from Halifax, we changed trains at Hebden Bridge, towards the final frontier, the very edges of Historic Lancashire…
Status: Calderdale District, West Yorkshire, Town, England
Travel: Stagecoach (Banks – Preston), Northern Rail (Preston – Halifax), Northern Rail (Halifax – Todmorden, via Hebden Bridge), Northern Rail (Todmorden – Hebden Bridge), Northern Rail (Hebden Bridge – Preston)
Eating & Sleeping: N/A
Attractions: Town Hall, Historic Lancs/Yorks Border, River Calder, Rochdale Canal, Todmorden Library, St Mary’s Church, Todmorden Market, Railway Viaduct, Tourist Information etc
We left the station, and walked the short distance down the incline from the station into the town centre. The vast, imposing façade of the Town Hall greeted us, and kicked off our historic journey.
Historically Todmorden was the site of the border between Lancashire and Yorkshire. The border was the river Calder and its tributary, the Walsden Water (which ran down the middle of the town), so the Town Hall was constructed directly over the Water, with half of the building in each county. It certainly solved the question of which county should get such an important building. At the front is a triangular section covered in statues, and the words “Lancashire” and “Yorkshire” are written in the centre on the rectangular section. Lancs on the left and Yorks on the right. Also, the two statues in the very centre each represent one of the counties.
The Town Hall was never actually used for local government functions, as municipal buildings (now converted into flats) were later built near St Mary’s Church, however it was used for public events and functions. In the centre of the building is a large ball room, so uniquely in England you could dance around between Lancashire and Yorkshire all night long. This has to be one of the best facts we have come across in our travels. It is the only town we know of shared between two English counties historically and to have the most important building there directly on the border, shared between the two is amazing. Sadly in 1888 reforms were made to local government and the Lancashire half of the town was transferred to Yorkshire, however historically it is still a part of the County Palatine of Lancashire.
The Town Hall is visible crossing the viaduct coming from Hebden Bridge, in fact you get a great view across the whole building and the town centre.
Directly across from the Town Hall is St Mary’s, the local parish church. Churches here date back around 500 years, going back to around 669 when a church existed here as part of the Diocese of Lichfield (a city in Staffordshire) which was founded by St Chad.
The church itself is from somewhere between 1400 and 1476, with the oldest section being the base of the tower. The church changed hands from the Lichfield Diocese to that of Chester in 1541, Manchester in 1847 and finally Wakefield in 1928. The top of the tower is newer than the rest of the building, having been built around 1860, and the original bell of 1603 was recast.
It’s a beautiful building, sat on the side of a small hill looking out over the Town Hall and the town centre. The building itself looks very new, and has been kept in perfect condition over the years.
Looking back up the high street, is another major church in the town, with the tall spire of Todmorden Unitarian Church clearly visible.
The Unitarian movement in Todmorden began in the 19th century, and MP John Fielden (1784 – 1849) was a major member of the movement. By 1823 they had built their first school, and a chapel.
As with all early religious movements, the congregation soon outgrew the original facilities, so the present building was started in 1865, and was designated the following year. The architect was the project was called John Gibson (1817 – 1892, from Warwickshire) and it was built in memory of John Fielden who had died in 1849. It went on to close in 1987 as the congregation began to decline, but thankfully it reopened in 2008 after a thorough restoration by the Historic Chapels Trust.
Outside St Mary’s is an old Celtic Cross, and you can see the Town Hall behind it. There is so much history in the area, and the different types of stone throughout the town complement each other wonderfully.
Just down from here is a Tourist Information Office, with looks across to the Town Hall. Inside we picked up a very handy leaflet which has a suggested route to walk to see the most interesting parts of the town.
We decided to follow it, and it took us further past the Town Hall, to the Market Hall. The local market is still an important part of the town, and dates back to 1802 when the first market was held. It kept growing, and by 1879 ideas for a proper building were put forwards, and resulted in the present day Market Hall, built that same year.
The overall market complex consists of 40 stalls in the hall, with a further 72 outside, making it one of the largest markets in the area. They are usually held on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. As we were visiting on a Saturday, it was in full swing and we had a wander around some of the stalls, and I was nearly tempted by some tasty looking Lancashire cheeses, mmmmmm!
I mentioned before the great view of the town you get coming in by train from Hebden Bridge, and you can see why in the above picture. The train line runs through on the Todmorden Viaduct, a stunning structure with 9 arches which runs through the town. It was built between 1800 and 1849, and is one of 4 viaducts in the area, as trains running towards Burnley run over the 13 span Nott Wood Viaduct, designed by Sir John Hawkshaw (1811 – 1891) in 1849 and there is also the Gauxholme Viaduct with 17 arches west of the town. The fourth viaduct is called the Lob Mill Viaduct, which you will travel over once trains have cleared Todmorden towards Manchester.
Underneath the landmark is a lasting remind of Tordmordens county heritage, in the form of a marker post showing the historic border between Lancashire and Yorkshire.
The Red Rose of Lancashire sits proudly on the right, with the White Rose of Yorkshire on the left. The River Calder itself, which runs under the Town Hall can also be seen, but we will get to that later.
We continued following the guide books suggested walk, and we continued along Burnley Road which leads away from the town centre.
On the other side of the road we passed a small Memorial Garden, with the square War Memorial in the centre. The plaque on the right entrance pillar reads:
“Town Council of Todmorden and Todmorden Society for the Blind. Patmos Garden. 1980” Listing the date the garden was created and who financed it. The names of local people who died in the “Great War” are listed around the base of the memorial.
We took a slight detour from the route, and took some steps up to the woodland section of the walk, past the third church of the day, Christ Church.
It’s sat on the side of a hill, with an extensive graveyard at the front, and a small memorial garden at the back. The history of this magnificent building started on the 29th June 1830, when the foundation stone was laid, with various spectators and a band present (one of whom, a drummer, was injured when the rope holding the stone snapped and it swung into his leg).
Construction only took 2 years, and it was opened in 1832 by the Reverend Joseph Cowell who became the new vicar. Christ Church is what’s known as a Commissioners Church, built with money granted by the Government after the Church Building Act of 1818. This was because the population of the country was growing but no new churches has been created since the reign of Queen Anne (1665 – 1714) and there weren’t enough churches to serve the population, so a large number were financed by the Government.
Continuing around the walk route, we passed through a large wooded area, which was slightly raised and afforded a great view down over Todmorden Cricket Club, where a game was in full swing.
Aside from this, we made our way down to Centre Vale Park, where we found something that I had never heard of, but Gemma recognised instantly. It is called Todmorden’s “Lucky Dog” and a plaque next to it explained all:
“The Lucky Dog was sculpted by local sculptor David Wynne in 2005, and was cast in steel at the local Todmorden foundry Wier Minerals. It was donated to Centre Vale Park by the sculptor and the foundry, but installation was delayed for several years due to the extensive flood alleviation works being carried out in the park at the time. In 2011 it gained a reputation for bringing luck to anyone that touched it, and was featured in a Channel 4 television programme hosted by TV Illusionist Derren Brown. People now travel from far & wide to pat “Lucky” on the head & hopefully receive good luck as a result.”
Of course we both tried patting it, and the rest of the day seemed to go okay, unless you count having to sit next to the most annoying couple ever on the bus home from Preston but I shall keep an open mind!
At the entrance to the park was a fine statue, of John Fielden MP, the founder of the Unitarian Church, who I mentioned earlier. Another part of the park consists of a small memorial garden (which contains the main War Memorial for the town) with the remainder a large open grassy space for locals and tourists alike to relax and enjoy the sun.
We followed the rest of the walk back round to the Town Centre, and we would highly recommend following it to get a great tour of the town. Notable buildings are labelled in the guide book so you can learn all about Todmorden as you go round.
Back in the centre, we found the Walsden Water, which has come off the river Calder which actually has it’s source up a hill just next to the town. As you can see, it runs under the pavement, and through underneath the Town Hall. This picture was taken from the Yorkshire side, with Lancashire on the far side.
From here the Calder winds its way through to the Yorkshire town of Hebden Bridge, through the city of Wakefield, until it merges with the River Aire in the town of Castleford.
We kept exploring the town centre, and headed in the direction of the Unitarian Church. We soon passed Todmorden Library, made out of lovely old stone, a gift to the town in 1897 by the Todmorden Industrial & Co-Operative Society Limited to celebrate their jubilee. It’s a great addition to the town, and is a great example of the type of building you can find all over Todmorden, and the surrounding area stretching into both Lancashire and Yorkshire.
We kept going, and just past the library is a small bridge that crosses the Rochdale Canal. On the right side is a large metal gate that can be lifted up or lowered down to seal one end of a set of locks here. To get down to the canal itself, there is a small stone tunnel running under the bridge from the locks down to the above location, along the canal tow path.
The Rochdale Canal runs from the city of Manchester, though to the town of Sowerby Bridge, between Hebden Bridge and Halifax. It was completed in 1804, and runs a total of 32 miles. It’s original purpose was to carry goods, including Cotton, Coal, Wool and Timber between Lancashire and Yorkshire. The canal was very successful, however by 1952 it had been closed as trade was running low. It was officially abandoned, but after some loving restoration by both Greater Manchester County Council and the Rochdale Canal Trust, it reopened in 1996. A full restoration was complete by 2002 and the entire canal is now navigable and open to the public.
One of the locks on the route, the Tuel Lane Lock in Sowerby Bridge, is an impressive 19 feet 8.5 inches deep, making it the deepest lock in the United Kingdom.
It’s a very pleasant area around here, and if we had had more time we would have happily walked along the canal side for a while. The Unitarian Church is just over the other side of the Canal, out of shot just off to the right.
The town centre is littered with interesting buildings, and it’s a pleasant old mill town, similar to other local towns such as Burnley, Clitheroe and Halifax. There is a nice mixture of styles in the buildings, but they all blend in well together. You can just spot the roof of the Town Hall right at the back of the picture, and even though the town began as two separate counties, you can’t really tell in the architecture.
Overlooking Todmorden, up on a hill called Stoodley Pike, stands the aptly named Stoodley Pike Monument, built between 1854 and 1856, to a design by James Green (Local architect). It replaces a previous monument from 1815 to commemorate the defeat of Napoleon, and it was erected after the Battle of Waterloo. It’s story ended however in 1854 when it was struck by lightning and collapsed due to that and decades of weathering.
This new monument has a lightning conductor and has so far shown no sign of any damage. An inscription on the monument reads:
“Stoodley Pike. A beacon monument. Erected by public subscription. Commenced in 1814 to commemorate the surrender of Paris to the Allies and finished after the Battle of Waterloo when peace was established in 1815. By a strange coincidence the pike fell on the day the Russian Ambassador left London before the declaration of War with Russia in 1854. Was rebuilt when peace was restored in 1856. Restored and lightning conductor fixed 1889.”
Todmorden is an amazing town, and one I am proud to say was half Lancastrian. There is a wealth of history to discover, along with an incredible rural location to explore. There are good train connections around the rest of the local counties, with direction trains to Manchester, Halifax and Leeds. The nearest airports are Leeds/Bradford and Manchester, which serve both domestic and international flights.
Todmorden is one of my favourite towns, and just the thought of dancing round the Town Hall’s ballroom between Lancashire and Yorkshire is incredible. We returned to the train station, and our next stop was the town of Hebden Bridge, to explore the next stop of the River Calder, before returning to Preston.