Tom Bell was by all accounts a local outlaw, who was reputed to have lived in a cave above the Hebden Hey hostels.
The location of the cave marked on old maps has no visible entrance, despite
much searching, there is record of it being walled-up.
The current Tom Bell's Cave*entrance is in quite a different place, and great care should be taken by anyone attempting to descend!
Many stories tell of how he died, and what happened to the body. When visiting the centre look up at the apex of the Hostel, above the door, and you should be able to see Tom Bells head. The stone carving was rescued when the original cafe/hostel building was demolished by the Territorial Army in 1983, and placed in the new building in approximately its original position. It is said that he still looks out towards his cave, watching for people searching for him.
Tom Bell's Cave*, is to be found 50 yards up in the woods from "Higher Hebden Cottage".
It is written of Tom Bell, that he:
it is also reported of him that:
Tom Bell was supposed to have been a desperate outlaw who lived in the cave.
To mislead people he was said to wear his boots back to front.
Because a person was once nearly lost in it, the cave at one time was walled up.
It is said to go right through the hill, coming out at Choppy Knife Silk Mill,
near Mytholm church.
It is also said that up the cave you can hear them poke the fires in Heptonstall.
Tom Bell, spear ready by his side, lolled by a charcoal fire in the cave, and his companions were crows, rats, weasels and stoats.
Tom Bell ate so much that he gorged himself to death. He was found in the phosphorescent light from a rotten tree-root lying on his back with his sword in his hand black with blood. Hm,m,m,m!
The present Scout Hostel has been called Hebden Cottage, Higher Hebden Cottage, and for a time, Cosy Corner Cafe.
The information displayed on this page has been gleaned from old books, newspaper cuttings and other sources.
The location of "Tom Bell's Cave" can be pointed out by any of the Service Team at the centre, but be warned, it is NOT simply a hole in the hillside that can be walked into!
Should you wish to try and descend the "cave" please take full account of the safety procedures required by the Scout Association when descending underground.
The carved stone head that is built into the hostel was rescued from the "cosy cottage cafe" as it was being demolished. The original building that stood where Tom Bell hostel is now was used as a cafe (Thorntons tea rooms) for walkers until the estate was bought by the Scouts in 1964. The head is said to still look towards and guard the entrance to his cave...