Chance to uncover Halifax’s hidden gems on upcoming tours

Halifaxs hidden gems are set to be revealed in all their historic glory thanks to a special tour
Halifaxs hidden gems are set to be revealed in all their historic glory thanks to a special tour

Halifax’s hidden gems are set to be revealed in all their historic glory thanks to a special tour.

The tour – either by foot or bus – has been organised by Halifax Minster with the aim of promoting tourism in the town.

They will allow those taking part to delve into the fascinating history of the town and perhaps uncover some surprises along the way.

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Vicar of Halifax, The Rev Canon Hilary Barber said: “These tours have been put together and are run by volunteers with an interest in the enthralling history of Halifax. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that we have an exceptionally interesting town, and I hope that people will agree after they have taken the tour.”

The walking tours, which take around two hours, begin at Halifax Town Hall and finish at the Minster with a welcome cup of tea or coffee – and an optional climb to the top of the Minster tower! There are 11 walking tours, taking place at several times in the day from Thursday, September 6 to Sunday, September 9.

Adrian Rose, who organises the tours on behalf of the Minster said: “The town centre of Halifax is itself a hidden gem and has some remarkable buildings.

“The tours started five years ago as an experiment but they have gained in popularity each year, last year being sold out before the day.

“As we did last year, we are organising a bus tour for those who may find the two-hour walking tour a little strenuous.”

There are four 45 minute bus tours, taking place over the weekend of Saturday and Sunday, September 8 and 9, and they start and finish at the Minster.

The walking tour will begin with a puzzle – what is the link between Halifax Town Hall and the Houses of Parliament, and why does the Town Hall have a jail?

Walkers will continue to Marlborough Hall, a grade II listed building, which opened in 1857 as the Mechanics’ Institute. With its imposing stone façade, it was designed by Bradford architects, Lockwood and Mawson, who were responsible for the Saltaire Institute and Bradford City Hall and were rightly proud of their fine work.

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When Marlborough Hall opened in 1857, its price tag was £5,492 and in its first week there was a performance of Handel’s Messiah followed by a lecture by William Makepeace Thackeray.

An interesting day in the life of Marlborough Hall was March 31, 1911; this was the era when women were fighting for their right to vote and on that date, suffragette, Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst came to speak to a packed audience.

The tour will also take in the Union Cross Hotel, Halifax’s oldest surviving public house which dates back almost five centuries. It was originally called The Cross due to its position opposite the market cross in Old Market.

The Upper George Yard, also on the itinerary, was the place to be in the Swinging Sixties. This was the site of the Plebeians Jazz Club from 1961 to 1968, where in a packed, sweaty room, it hosted artists such as Rod Stewart, the Skatellites and Jimmy Cliff and Shakedown Story.

Ever wondered where Halifax’s ‘Street in the Sky’ is? All will be revealed as the tour continues to Halifax’s Borough Market. This street can be accessed from the staircase by the side of the main entrance into the market from Southgate.

While shoppers today are familiar with the central open area, they may not be aware that the upper floors provided living accommodation for the shopkeepers.

The tour would not be complete without a look at Britain’s most spectacular and sole surviving complete cloth hall; Halifax’s Piece Hall fully reopens next month after a long-held dream and multi-million transformation project.

All tours must be booked in advance from the Halifax Minster office. They cost £5 per person. To book, ring 01422 355436, and for more information visit the Halifax Minster website at www.halifaxminster.org.uk/events
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