At the time of the earliest of documents - the Doomsday Book, Hebden Bridge would have been an area of muddy swamp land. Some small villages on the surrounding hillsides are mentioned; however, neither Heptonstall or Halifax are listed and so there is no definite proof that the town did not exist at that time.
The first reference to 'Hebden' appeared in a document of 1334 in the form of "Hepden" and it refers to the river. "Den", Dene or Dean means valley as in Hebden, Colden and Luddenden, whilst the word "Hep" means wild rose or dog rose, which gives Hebden the meaning of "Rose Valley" or "Rosedale". 'Hey' comes from the old English meaning "Enclosure".
The numerous packhorse trails came about as horses and ponies replaced men as carriers, implying that more goods were being transported, and that trading between different parts of the country was increasing. Local trading was mainly textiles and developed from about the 15th Century. Until then, the population was so small that they spent most of their time growing food for themselves.
1631 Heptonstall village "was visited by a virulent disease", otherwise known as the plague. The disease killed a total of 107 people during the months May to December. The village, although quite small is thought to be one of the oldest in Yorkshire.
The name has its origins from ton meaning town, and stall (or station) as it lies on the Roman road from Cambodunum (Cleckheaton) to Colonia (Colne, in Lancashire).
HEPTONSTALL could be Hebden Tunstall concatenated. A tunstall was a homestead. Heptonstall could well be one of the oldest places in Yorkshire.
HARDCASTLE CRAGS: are the rocky lumps sticking up from the floor of the valley a short distance above Gibson (or Holme) Mill.
Hardcastle: herd's (herdsmen's) village. The crags are a result of a landslip.
September 1875 The stocks a common punishment, were removed from their site at the top of North-well-lane.
1906 An old postcard shows the site of Tom Bell Hostel (Old Hebden Hey) as Thorntons Tea Rooms, Hebden Farm. At this time there were no upstairs windows where the bedrooms were later to be.
1948 A Swiss University Professor, Jean Inebrit, living in Leeds, discovers the valley's resemblance to Ruetli where the Swiss Confederation was signed in 1291
1955 saw the completion of the riverside walk by Hepton Rural District Council. Leading from New Bridge to the stepping stones below the "Cosy Corner" cafe. This linked to the existing path which now runs right up to Gibson mill.
Info: New Bridge, a stone river crossing near to Midge Hole is approximately 200 years old, and lies on an ancient packhorse route between Heptonstall and Haworth.
MIDGEHOLE: You might think that Midgehole has to do with the midges which nibble you at night sometimes when you are camping at Hebden Hey. Perhaps it has; nobody really knows, because it may also have something to do with an old word meaning manure! The hollow (hole) where there was a manure dump. Or the reference may be to a boggy site. It has been said that the word simply means a wide hollow. Please yourself.
Friday 19 May 1989 Freak storms raised the river level by 8' leaving the only
remaining crossing at Gibson Mill. All wooden bridges and stepping stones were
either washed away or seriously damaged. National Trust Warden - Keith Robinson
was quoted as saying:
"He was heartened by the action of Scouts at Hebden Hey, who by their own volition, were out in the weekend of the floods repairing some of the stepping stones."
6 Feb. 1817 Hawdon Hole, a farm house and cottage saw the murder of one Samuel Sutcliffe, also locally known as Sammy-o-Catty's or Sammy O'Katty's. Sammy lived at the old farm downstream from Hebden Hey called Hawden Hole, (now Hawden Hall) where there is a Yew tree in the yard.
In 1817, there was a murder at Hawden Hole farm. Every morning an old man walked
from Heptonstall to read the Bible to him.
This man, Mike, was not as friendly as he seemed. Sammy was supposed to have plenty of money, and one dark night, Mike persuaded a younger man, Joan o'Bog Eggs, to go and rob Sammy.
Joan stood under the house. Sammy recognised Mike, however, and Mike strangled him.
He stole a £1 note with the figures 63 on it, and it was this that gave the show away. Joan was arrested first. Old Mike was at King Cross Lane, Halifax, with his wife and was eating a piece of parkin when the constable came. Mike knew then that Joan o'Bog Eggs had grassed, so all he did was give the parkin to his wife and go off to goal. Both men were hanged.
The Hawden Hall referred to in the above account has been rebuilt, and is now used as a house. It is the building halfway along our access road at the bottom of the steep sloped section. The yew tree mentioned has been removed after extreme storm damage in the winter of 1999-2000, although the stump can still be seen from the roadside.
In June 1900, Halifax Corporation awarded the contract to build a chain of three reservoirs at Walshaw Dean to a Mr Enoch Tempest. October of the same year saw the construction of the base camp "Dawson City", which by 1905 housed 540 people and as well as dwellings, contained offices, shops, workshops a hospital and a mission. Dawson City was named after the Gold-Rush town in the Yukon.
To get to the site of the local "city", follow the path up the hillside to the top of the wood, rather than turning up to Slack Top, follow the path along the wood top, you will come to a field which is sometimes still called Dawson City, though it is now farm land.
A pitch pine trestle bridge was constructed to carry men and materials from the "Dawson City" shanty town to Walshaw reservoir being constructed. A 3' gauge railway ran for 5 miles. The bridge stood 105' high with a span of 700'. By 1906 work on the reservoirs neared completion and they were finally opened 1 Oct 1907. The bridge had to be demolished in 1912 as it was unsafe. All that remains to this date are the stone bridge foundations at either side of the river.
1934 Halifax Water Corporation Water Works Committee decided it was the ideal valley for a reservoir
1949 Again, the proposal to build a dam and flood the upper valley to form a reservoir was put forward. The Wall would have to be 175' high and would be constructed 1/3 mile above the "Crags". The slope of the downstream face would have meant that it would have easily spoilt the view of the Crags. The resulting dam would have flooded 1/3 of the valley and would have held an estimated 1400M gallons.
27 June 1969 Lord Hawke and a select committee approved the reservoir scheme.
29 Jan 1970 House of Commons finally rejects the reservoir scheme.
Gibson Mill was built in or around the year 1800, as a cotton mill by Abraham Gibson. Record of its history show that:
1833 there were 21 workers, most younger than 21 years old. A 10 to 12 year old child would have earned 2 shillings & 6d (12.5p) for working a 72 hour week.
1860 The mill was converted to Steam power from the original water wheel.
1900 Production as a cotton mill was stopped.
9 Dec 1956 Abraham Gibson (surely not the original one) dies and in his will donated the Estate to the National Trust. This included the Mill, part of the valley and his house "Greenwood Lee" which can still be seen at the top of the valley above Gibson Mill.
Since closing as a working cotton mill in 1900, the building has been used for the following purposes:
1971 The "Manchester University Settlement" proposed to turn the mill into a holiday centre for children, this never came about.
1948 Lord Savile gave 250 acres of the valley to the National Trust, he insisted that the beauty of the valley was not to be spoilt by letting vehicles have access through the valley, and on the North side of the valley, this is still the case to this day.
Part of the valley known as Hardcastle Crags was donated to the National Trust by a Mr Henry Mitchell Ingham, formerly of Todmorden.
New Bridge, a stone river crossing near to Midge Hole is approximately 200 years old, and lies on an ancient packhorse route between Heptonstall and Haworth.
A report in the Halifax Evening Courier on 9 March 1983
"The 50 bed Scout hostel is to be extended with a new 2 storey building
giving an extra 30 beds and a communal room. It is also proposed to clear three sites in the woods to take 10 tents each."