Second in our series (after Coventry) of seemingly unlikely holiday destinations, Halifax has been on our radar for several years. Long before Happy Valley-mania, a friend told us of the renovation and reopening of the Piece Hall, and with our love of Industrial Architecture, our interest was piqued. After several false starts (yes, Covid!) we finally got to spend a couple of days there last week…
The Piece Hall, an 18th-century textile market (albeit masquerading as a Venetian piazza) is regarded as the most important secular building in Yorkshire, and it is really a cathedral to commerce, the commerce that shaped West Yorkshire. All was quiet on the days we visited, just right to appreciate the scale and design, and the disappearing vistas down the colonnades.
The Piece Hall alone justified our visit, but there was so much more in the town, from the 19th-cntury Town Hall, designed by Charles Barry (he of the Palace of Westminster fame), to the numerous mills all in various stages of being upcycled into use once again.
And all buildings looking better than in the not-too-distant past, the honey-coloured stone (especially beautiful in sunlight) having been released from the smoky black legacy of the Industrial Revolution. All except for the oldest building, the Minster (dating back to around 1450) which was presumably too fragile and precious to withstand sandblasting: it still shows the soot of ages.
Pleasantly rustic inside, with some lovely, almost-clear windows showing their leaded tracery to advantage, this church was remodelled by yet another eminent Victorian architect, George Gilbert Scott.
As is our wont, we did of course seek out the green. A walk alongside the River Hebble provided just that, with mosses and ferns clothing stone walls, and last-year’s Self-heal bringing a touch of botanical art.
And it was art (and architecture), intentional and otherwise, that sent us through Leeds on the way to Halifax as we changed trains.
The beautiful blue skies of our arrival, however, didn’t last, and as the third day dawned, Storm Larisa was making her presence felt. Just time for a quick jaunt to see a friend in Sowerby Bridge, then make tracks homewards before the return of winter left us stranded…