Calderdale Heritage Museum: We’re back in business and celebrating fantastic heritage

Graham Sellars at the Mackintosh's Toffee display
Graham Sellars at the Mackintosh's Toffee display

A celebration of the skills and innovation that made the area world leaders, Calderdale Industrial Museum is back in business.

The museum, at Square Road, Halifax, closed amid a round of Calderdale Council cuts in the Millennium, but it was never forgotten.

Dedicated: Some of the volunteers, who have helped bring Calderdale Industrial Museum back to life as a heritage attraction

Dedicated: Some of the volunteers, who have helped bring Calderdale Industrial Museum back to life as a heritage attraction

Even when its future was in doubt when the building faced serious structural problems, the skills and, equally importantly, the will not to lose it were there to rescue it from what would have been an unhappy fate for something which had been treasured.

Thanks to a dedicated band of volunteers who have shown some typical Yorkshire grit, they persuaded the council to hand it over to them.

Now, years later, the results are there for all to see.

It has been reborn and now takes its place in the heart of a quarter which sees the Piece Hall renovated and reinvigorated, the wonderful reimagining of Square Chapel Arts Centre brought stunningly to life and continual innovation of another award winner, The Eureka Museum of Childhood.

The Mackintosh's display

The Mackintosh's display

Thirty years ago it was named National Museum of the Year for social history, attracting tens of thousands of visitors from far and wide who came to see how generations of industrious Calderdale people had lived their lives, how they worked and how they innovated.

Now run by Calderdale Industrial Museum Association on a not-for-profit basis, it has ambitious plans that could well attract the sort of numbers it did in its heyday.

The industrial museum is open to the public currently on Saturdays and with footfall already exploring the quarter having arrived at the Piece Hall, people are ready to explore more of Halifax’s past, to the delight of volunteers under the chairmanship of Tim Kirker.

Volunteer Graham Sellars said: “It’s fantastic.

Bob Canham with a radial drill

Bob Canham with a radial drill

“Things are going really well at the moment.

“It has taken several years’ work to get the museum open again.

“When it closed the basement was flooded and the north wall unsafe - Tim got a group of volunteers and said ‘we can repair that’.

“The museum is a great piece of history in Calderdale.

John Pickles, with the Medallion Lathe and a medal produced from it

John Pickles, with the Medallion Lathe and a medal produced from it

“There are children from five to 30 who won’t have seen what Halifax was doing in its day. Now they can do so again.”

The volunteers are bringing looms and steam-driven machinery back to working order, with attractions to suit all ages.

Machines have been coaxed lovingly back to life, wood panelling and stained glass have been restored, the ground floor of the spacious Victorian mill building reconfigured and extensive refurbishments creating extra spaces, including The Halifax Room, a dedicated space providing an educational and meeting place for local organisations, offering study of stone, water, clay as well as a cafe.

Next year’s planned projects, with the help of Halifax based Lloyds Banking Group, includes completing another floor which will be dedicated to cottage industry, for example, and talks are also in progress with Eureka to add to Calderdale Industrial Museum’s educational offer.

The museum now opens each Saturday from 10am to 4pm (with the last entry at 3.30pm). Entry is £5 (senior citizens £4 and children under 15 admitted free).

All the entry fees and any donations are ploughed back into the museum.

Specialist escorted tours of the museum can also be accommodated on most days if prior arrangement has been made.

If you want to lend your support further, your help and support would be most welcome.

Membership is available for £12 per year (£18 per couple) and members enjoy free museum entry at all times.

Volunteers are also most welcome - all help make the experience a better one for visitors.

For more information, you can contact the association and the museum by emailing, visiting website or calling 01422 384721.