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Sunday, 18 February 2024

A Place Apart:
Hebden Bridge

as seen through the eyes of the Spencer family in the late nineteenth century, by Christopher Collier

Book Launch: Hebden Royd Methodist Church at 6.30 Wednesday 13th March, just before the Local History talk at 7.30pm.

Hebden Bridge today rests easily on the imprint of the town of 100, even 150 years ago. A town so recently a village. Old buildings are for the most part intact, and the old roads travel the same routes, even if most of the mills are gone. It makes it easier to visualise the story of the town back then, which is the period covered by a new book, 'A Place Apart: Hebden Bridge'.

Joseph and Family in 1882

It's a story told 'through the eyes of the Spencer family'. Joseph Spencer was a successful tailor and outfitter. But it's very much about the town: cotton and fustian, education, building a business, the railway and links to Manchester and the Manchester trade, chapels, self-improvement, the several incarnations of the town council, big issues like sanitation. Local people were living through a period of extraordinary change. (As we are today.) They had ambition and self-belief.

But the rising curve has a sharp descent for the Spencers. Their only daughter (they had five sons) finds herself pregnant by a local lad. They cover it up. The baby is born in London at a Salvation Army hostel. And in 1907 Joseph Spencer puts his business into liquidation. It's the period of the Fustian Workers' strike. And all is not well in the town. The world is changing.

The book is written by Christopher Collier, the great grand son of Joseph Spencer, who originally built and was the first occupant of 25-26 Market Street. His double-fronted shop is now occupied by Element. He sold the business and the shop in 1907.


Heptonstall Road and Bridge Lanes

Publication: 1st March. Price: £12.95. The Choir Press, Stroud

172pp, including footnotes and index. Illustrated with photographs and maps throughout. Available from The Book Case, Hebden Bridge or online from Amazon.

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