Origins and Early Days
Brighouse, nestled within the Calderdale in West Yorkshire, England, carries a rich tapestry of history spanning centuries. The name “Brighouse” (or “Bridge House”) harks back to a building situated near the bridge over the River Calder. The river has played an important part in Brighouse’s history and is a daily part of people’s lives with many activities centered around the river. Historically, the river itself played a pivotal role, providing power for both flour mills and textile factories.
In its early existence, Brighouse was a hamlet associated with the nearby village of Rastrick.
Historical records reveal that a wooden structure called Rastrick Bridge existed as early as 1275. This bridge facilitated crossing the Calder and formed part of the Roman route between Wakefield and Manchester. In 1514, John Hanson’s generosity led to the construction of a timber bridge, which was later replaced by a stone version in 1558. The river’s flow fueled Brighouse’s industry, and the town flourished alongside the Calder and Hebble Navigation, initiated by engineer John Smeaton in 1757.
Industrial Revolution and Incorporation
The advent of the Industrial Revolution marked a turning point for Brighouse. Between 1760 and the early 19th century, the transition from traditional agriculture to new manufacturing processes reshaped the town. Flourishing mills, powered by the river, became emblematic of Brighouse’s industrial prowess.
In 1893, Brighouse officially incorporated as a municipal borough, amalgamating local boards from Brighouse, Rastrick, and Hove Edge. The Halifax and Huddersfield Turnpike Act of 1823 facilitated the construction of Calder Bridge (also known as Brighouse Bridge), a vital link on what would become the A641 road.
Notable Landmarks and Historical Changes
1. Robin Hood’s Grave
- Robin Hood’s Grave, situated in Kirklees Park Estate near the now-ruined Kirklees Priory, is steeped in legend. It is believed to be the burial place of the English folk hero, Robin Hood. The site draws visitors curious about this timeless tale.
2. Shibden Hall Museum
- Shibden Hall, a historic house set within the beautiful grounds of Shibden Park, offers a captivating experience for all ages. Visitors can immerse themselves in the rich heritage of the Brontës and the intriguing stories of the Lister family, including Anne Lister (known as Gentleman Jack). The beautifully restored rooms showcase exquisite period furnishings, providing a glimpse into the past. Families can explore the stables and outbuildings, adding to the immersive experience.
3. The Duke Of Wellington Regiment Memorial
- The Duke of Wellington’s Regiment Memorial stands as a tribute to the regiment’s legacy. This memorial commemorates the valor and sacrifices of those who served. The regiment’s history intertwines with Brighouse, reflecting the town’s enduring connection to military service.
Population and Community
The United Kingdom Census of 2001 recorded a population of 32,360 for the Brighouse/Rastrick subdivision within the West Yorkshire Urban Area. The Brighouse ward of Calderdale Council reported a population of 11,195 during the 2011 Census.
Twinning and Beyond
Brighouse shares a special bond with Lüdenscheid in Germany. The twinning relationship began with an exchange by Brighouse Children’s Theatre in 1950, followed by a formal civic twinning charter in 1960.
Brighouse, with its historic bridges, bustling waterways, and industrious past, stands as a testament to resilience and progress. As the Calder flows through its heart, the town continues to weave its story, connecting the past to the present.