BLUE PLAQUES IN HALIFAX
The installation of blue plaques throughout the district was begun at the instigation of the Mayor of Calderdale, Coun Anthony Mazey, as his special project during his year of office, 1993-'94. Building on an existing blue plaques scheme in Brighouse (by Brighouse Civic Trust) he aimed to extend the scheme to Halifax and the rest of Calderdale and called on civic trusts in Halifax, Elland, Sowerby Bridge, Hebden Bridge, Ripponden and Todmorden to assist.
The names of those to be commemorated were decided by the relevant civic trust, while the design and manufacture were supervised by Calderdale Council's then Inheritance Project (which was set up to promote regeneration though heritage). Halifax, as the largest town, was allocated six plaques, Todmorden four and the other towns fewer. The Halifax and Todmorden groups carried out their tasks but not all the other towns did. Each plaque carried the coat of arms of the former local government authority, eg, Halifax County Borough, Elland Urban District, before the 1974 merger into Calderdale Metropolitan District.
The first six plaques below were erected as part of Coun Mazey's scheme. The next, to commemorate the Halifax-born Nobel award-winning geneticist Oliver Smithies, was achieved in partnership with Calderdale Council and erected in 2010. Dr Smithies attended the unveiling ceremony at Copley Primary School. In 2012 the trust, in partnership with Halifax Town AFC, erected a plaque at the site of the former Saddle public house in Market Street, Halifax, where a meeting in 1911 led to the founding of the football club. Further plaques, commemorating the sculptor Jocelyn Horner at her home and studio in Bell Hall, and historians E P Thomson and Dorothy Thompson at their home in Siddal, Halifax, followed in 2013. The novelist Dr Phyllis Eleanor Bentley was honoured with a blue plaque at the Halifax Playhouse in 2016 and 17th-century benefactor Nathaniel Waterhouse at the Waterhouse Homes in Harrison Road in 2017.
2018 brought plaques for the sufragettes Adela Pankhurst and Dinah Connelly, the chartist Benjamin Wilson, writer Emily Bronte and the founder of Halifax Choral Society, William Priestley. Anne Lister was honoured with a plaque at Shibden Hall in 2019.
List of Halifax blue plaques
Col Edward Akroyd, 1810-1887: Halifax textile manufacturer and philanthropist who built two of Halifax's three model industrial villages, at Copley and Akroydon (the other is the Crossleys' West Hill Park). MP for Halifax and a founder of the Yorkshire (Penny) Bank. Plaque at his former home, Bank Field, a mansion at Akroydon much extended by Akroyd, now Bankfield Museum.
John Crossley, 1772-1837: founder of John Crossley and Sons, carpet manufacturers, whose complex of mills and sheds at Dean Clough, Halifax, was once the largest integrated carpet factory in the world. The company merged with others to former Carpets International in 1969 and closed in Halifax in 1982. The site was acquired by Ernest Hall (now Sir Ernest) and Jonathan Silver who turned it into a centre for both business and the arts. Plaque at Dean Clough.
John Mackintosh, 1868-1920: founder of John Mackintosh and Sons, toffee makers and confectioners, subsequently merged with Rowntree, of York, and now part of the Swiss-based Nestle. Plaque at Bailey Hall Mill, part of Nestle's Albion Mills complex, Navigation Road, Halifax.
Eric Portman, 1901-1969: Halifax-born stage and screen actor. Plaque at his home at 20 Chester Road, Akroydon, Halifax (though he was born at 71, Chester Road).
Percy Shaw, 1890-1976: inventor of the catseye, who founded the Reflecting Roadstuds company at his home, Boothtown House, Boothtown, Halifax, to manufacture them. Plaque at Boothtown House.
John Henry Whitley, 1866-1935: Liberal MP for Halifax, 1900-1918 and Speaker of the House of Commons, 1921-1928. Plaque at his former home, Brantwood, now Old Brantwood, Stafford Road, Halifax.
Oliver Smithies, born 1925: geneticist who in 2007 was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, with Mario R Capecchi and Martin J. Evans, for their discoveries of principles for introducing specific gene modifications in mice by the use of embryonic stem cells. Born in Halifax, now an American citizen. Plaque at his former school, Copley Primary School (now re-built), Halifax. He attended the unveiling.
Halifax Town AFC: Halifax Civic Trust, in conjunction with the football club's Halifax Town Centenary Group, installed a plaque at the site of the former Saddle Hotel in Market Street, lattely occupied by JJB Sports and then Heron Foods. It was at the Saddle that a meeting was held which led to the formation of the football club in 1911.
Jocelyn Horner, 1902-1973: Sculptor. Plaque at Green Hayes, the house at Savile Park Road, Bell Hall, Halifax, where Jocelyn Horner was born, lived, worked and died, now the home of Lawrence Funeral Services, which sponsored the plaque. On the same day Horner's statue of The Boy David, which had been given to Halifax Civic Trust by the Tallis family (Halifax Metals) in memory of the late Pete Tallis, was dedicated at St Jude's Church, a short distance from Green Hayes.
E P Thompson, 1924-1993: Edward Palmer Thompson, historian, writer, socialist and peace campaigner. Plaque erected to mark the 50th anniversary of the publication of Thompson's seminal The Making of the English Working Class in November 1963. Plaque for Thompson and his wife, historian Dorothy Thompson, at Holly Bank, Whitegate, Siddal, Halifax, where the couple lived between 1948 and 1965 and where The Making of the English Working Class was written. Plaque erected on the same day as a conference held by the Society for the Study of Labour History at Square Chapel Arts Centre, Halifax, to remember E P Thompson's life and legacy, followed by a walk from Square Chapel to Holly Bank. Event and/or plaque sponsored by the Lipman-Miliband Trust and the Society for the Study of Labour History.
Dr Phyllis Eleanor Bentley, 1884-1977: West Riding novelist acclaimed for her 1932 masterpiece, Inheritance, a story of love, class, politics and family loyalty set in the local textile industry. The plaque sponsored by Halifax Thespians and unveiled at the Playhouse, Halifax; Dr Bentley had been a founding member of the Thespians in 1927 and had served as chairman, president and trustee.
Nathaniel Waterhouse, 1586-1645: Halifax businessman - a dealer in salt, oils and dyeing materials - who undertook many charitable acts. During his lifetime he established the Halifax workhouse and in his will he established a number of charities, including almshouses for the aged poor and the Blue Coat School for poor boys and girls. These were initially sited near the then Halifax Parish Church but in the mid-19th century the almshouses and school were relocated to Harrison Road. The school closed in 1958 and the adjacent almshouses were demolished in 1965 to make way for 24 new flats which opened 50 years ago, in June 1967. Waterhouse made many other bequests, including Heath Grammar School and for the upkeep of local roads. The plaque is sited at the homes on Harrison Road.
Adela Pankhurst, 1885-1961: Suffragette daughter of suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst, who on September 24 1907 spoke at a rally organised by the Halifax branch of the Women’s Social and Political Union on what was then open ground at the corner of Queen's Road and Battinson Road, Halifax. Plaque on Queen's Road.
Dinah Connelly, 1879-1969: Halifax suffragette who formed the Halifax branch of the Women’s Social and Political Union and was jailed for campaigning for women's votes. In a Halifax Borough Council by election in November 1918 Dinah Connelly became the first woman to vote in an election in Halifax, casting her vote at the only polling station at the Pellon Lane Board School. Plaque at the Kwik Fit depot, Pellon Lane, on the site of the long-demolished School.
Benjamin Wilson, 1824-1897: Halifax Chartist who was born, lived and died in Skircoat Green. He was an active supporter of parliamentary reform and the People’s Charter, which sought such reforms as annual parliamentary elections, votes for men over 21, secret ballots and payment of MPs. The plaque is on display at the Standard of Freedom pub, Skircoat Green, formerly the Waggoners’ Inn, which was a meeting place for political activists in thre mid-19th century. After a Chartist meeting at Skircoat Moor in 1842 the inn became known as the Standard of Freedom and the Chartist flag was kept there.
Emily Brontë, 1818-1848: One of the Brontë literary sisters of Haworth, the author of Wuthering Heights, lived at Law Hill House, Southowram from September 1838 to April 1839, where she taught at sisters Elizabeth and Maria Patchett's school for girls following Maria's departure. Emily almost certainly worshipped at St Anne's Church in the village. The plaque was erected at Law Hill to mark the bicentenary of her birth.
From left: Mick Darby of Law Hill, Sue Newby of the Brontë Parsonage Museum, Haworth, Halifax Civic Trust Vice-Chairman David Glover, the Mayor and Mayoress of Calderdale Council, Chris Pillai and Beverley Krishnapillai, and Nicky Darby. Beneath the plaque is a local girl, Brontë Graham
William Priestley, 1779-1860: Founder of Halifax Choral Society in 1818 following a meeting of Priestley and friends at his home in Lightcliffe in 1817. Priestley was a wool merchant, a musician who played the oboe and clarinet, an antiquary and a scholar who translated musical works into English and wrote out both vocal and instrumental copies. The plaque was erected at the Victoria Theatre, Halifax, to mark the Choral Society's bicentenary.
Halifax Choral Society’s conductor and artistic director, John Pryce-Jones holds the blue plaque commemorating William Priestley, founder of the Halifax Choral Society, in its bicentenary year.
Anne Lister, 1791-1840: We know about Anne Lister's extraordinary life from her 5 million word diaries, which have been designated by UNESCO as part of the memory of the world, and which have been made accessible through the researches of Helena Whitbread and Jill Liddington. Anne was a great traveller and a mountaineer, making the first recorded ascent of Vignemale (3298m), the highest of the French Pyrenean summits. Her business acumen has had an enduring impact on Shibden Hall (her home 1845-1840), and on its grounds. The coded parts of her diaries recorded her lesbian lifestyle, and she has been made known to an international audience by Sally Wainwright's recent Gentleman Jack TV series for BBC/HBO. The plaque was erected at Shibden Hall.
From left, Richard Macfarlane, Calderdale Museums Service; Helena Whitbread; Chris Harris Deputy Lieutenant; Jill Liddington; Mayor and Mayoress of Calderdale, Marcus and Nicky Thompson; Dr John Hargreaves Chairman.