Crumbling railway relic Halifax Coal Drops added to Victorian Society's list of endangered buildings

Halifax Civic Society is calling for the restoration of a rare surviving example of Victorian railway infrastructure in the town.

Monday, 13th December 2021, 10:57 am
Updated Monday, 13th December 2021, 9:13 pm
The Coal Drops pictured in 2009
The Coal Drops pictured in 2009

The Coal Drops on Berry Lane have now been included in the Victorian Society's top 10 endangered buildings list for 2021 following a successful submission from local campaigners.

A similar building - once used to transfer coal from goods trains to horse-drawn carts and later motorised wagons - was lost during the large-scale redevelopment of a yard at London Kings Cross Station into a shopping centre named, ironically, after the coal drops.

Halifax Civic Society members are now campaigning to prevent another lost preservation opportunity by asking Calderdale Council, who own the site, to incorporate it into a new pedestrian and cycle route linking the town centre to the Hebble Trail.

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The Coal Drops date back to 1874, when Halifax was rapidly industrialising and coal was needed to power its textile mills. There is enough of the original machinery still in place for it to be restored as a working system.

Built for the Ovenden and Halifax Junction Railway Company, the drops consisted of 15 wooden bunkers supported between stone piers and an open shed built into the sloping hillside.

Each bunker has two metal doors which were raised on an iron ratchet geared pulley system.

The site has suffered from decades of neglect, and a survey needs to be undertaken ahead of work to stabilise the Coal Drops. Berry Lane has been earmarked for realignment as part of the A629 upgrade project, and the street will provide access to the canal towpath network. Civic Society campaigners have suggested that the site, which has excellent views of Beacon Hill and Halifax Minster, could be converted into a picnic stop for cyclists and walkers.

A statement from the group read: "Coal is now being phased out as a fuel, but without it the Industrial Revolution wouldn’t have happened, so it seems fitting that we recognise the importance of the Coal Drops as a vital contributor to Halifax’s past successes that made it into the town we live in today."

Coun Jane Scullion of Calderdale Council added: “Halifax’s Victorian heritage is incredibly important to the town and preserving our history is a priority for the council. As such, we welcome the Civic Society shining a light on the Grade II-listed Coal Drops close to Halifax Station.

"The 19th-century structures are interesting examples of our railway heritage, but we are also aware of the challenges related to the restoration of these structures, including the associated costs.

"A huge amount of investment is due to transform the town centre over the next decade, improving the town and supporting the ongoing restoration of heritage assets, such as the Halifax Borough Market, the Victoria Theatre and Halifax Town Hall. It’s hoped that improvements to the town will be the catalyst for further regeneration, supporting future growth as well as the preservation of the town’s history."

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