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Calderdale Collection

This week I look at the history of Calderdale in Yorkshire, and the long-standing contrast between the stunning countryside and difficult social conditions that continue to exist and which inspired the recent award-winning BBC television series, Happy Valley.
Rooftops of Hebden Bridge (Wikimedia Commons)
Deceased Online has today launched a new collection from Calderdale Council. Covering the old mill towns in Halifax, Hebden Bridge and Brighouse in the South Pennines, Calderdale is one of the five metropolitan districts of West Yorkshire. The area lies almost midway between the northern powerhouses of Leeds and Manchester, on the opposite side of the Pennines from the Lancashire textile towns of Blackburn and Darwen

When complete the new collection includes register scans, grave details and maps for burials and cremations at the following
·         Brighouse Cemetery, Lightcliffe Road, Brighouse, HD6 2HH (1874 to 1996)
·         Elland Cemetery, Exley Lane, Elland, HX5 0SW (1861 to 1996)
·         Halifax General /Lister Lane Cemetery, Lister Lane, Halifax (1842 to 1962)
·         Luddenden Cemetery, Stocks Lane, Luddenden, HX2 6PR (1860 to 1996)
·         Parkwood Crematorium, Park Rd, Elland HX5 9HZ (1956 to 1997).
·         Rastrick Cemetery, Carr Green Lane, Rastrick, HD6 3LT (1884 to 1994).
·         Sowerby Bridge Cemetery, Sowerby New Road, Sowerby, HX6 1DY (1861 to 1992)
·         Stoney Royd Cemetery, Water Lane, Halifax, HX3 9HR (1861 to 1995)

Currently, burial records for Halifax General (Lister Lane) Cemetery and Brighouse Cemetery are available to search. The remainder of the records will be added over the next few weeks. The oldest records in the collection, those of Halifax General Cemetery (now known as Lister Lane Cemetery), date from 1842. The cemetery was opened in August 1841 by the Halifax General Cemetery Company. Like many of the cemeteries in Deceased Online’s collections, this metropolitan burial ground was planned by local businessmen to help alleviate the problems of overcrowding the surrounding church graveyards. The site originally covered three acres and was architecturally designed. Open to all religious denominations, and fairly priced, the cemetery was used by families across the social strata.
The first page of the burial register of Halifax General Cemetery, beginning in January 1842
 Few burials took place at Halifax General after the Stoney Royd Cemetery was opened by Halifax Corporation in the early 1860s. On hundred years later, the cemetery finally closed to burials and the lodge was destroyed in the 1970s. Other parts of the cemetery survive, including the grade II listed mortuary chapel and a series of cobbled, ramped steps off the main carriage drive. Today, the cemetery is supported by a Friends group, the Friends of Lister Lane Cemetery, which was formed in 1999 to promote the upkeep and public profile of the site.
Section map of Brighouse Cemetery highlighting locations of graves

From the 18th century, the fast-running waters of the River Calder powered cotton and worsted spinning mills across the region, particularly in Halifax. In the early 19th century, steam power was introduced, enabling the textile mills to spread across the valley into Todmorden, Hebden Bridge, Sowerby Bridge, Elland and Brighouse. By 1850, Halifax was home to 24 mills, with the large James Akroyd & Son mill dominating working life in Boothtown.
Sadly, for the residents of Halifax, industrial growth took precedence over health and quality of life. 

By the mid-19th century, 25,000 people were living in Halifax, described in 1843 as, “a mass of little, miserable, ill-looking streets, jumbled together in chaotic confusion.” The illnesses and accidents that occurred as a result of this lack of respect for human life and the focus on industrial profit is reflected in the early burial registers of the Calderdale Collection. While the life expectancy of gentry and merchants in 1840’s Halifax was 55 years, a Calderdale labourer could expect to live to just 22 years old.

This close-up of the 1844 burial register for Halifax Cemetery shows the deaths of a number of children and young adults whose families worked in the mills or mines of the Calderdale valley

The Calderdale Council cemeteries and crematoria records can be searched on the database in the county section of West Yorkshire in the Yorkshire and Humber region.
 Were any of your ancestors involved in the textile industry in the Calderdale area, either as
merchants or on the mill floor? If you have found any of your family members in the Calderdale
Collection, we'd love to hear from you! Contact us in the box below or on our Twitter and
Facebook pages.



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