Huddled around a hilltop above the West Riding town of Hebden Bridge sits the village of Heptonstall. It’s houses clustered in narrow, winding streets show its past as a centre for hand loom weaving, their large, third floor windows making the most of the precious daylight.
The centre of the village is dominated by the ruins of the church of St. Thomas A’ Becket, which date from the 1260’s. A photo of the roofless nave heads up this post. Damaged by a gale in 1847 it fell into ruin and was replaced by the adjacent church of Thomas the Apostle, which in it’s turn was struck by lightning in 1847. Perhaps there’s something about Heptonstall we should be told. The old graveyard which spreads out between the two churches is filled with the rumpled layered tombstones, each with their tale to tell of lives lived and lost, some through age, some through accident and one at the hands of the law. Clipping the edges of silver coins to win yourself a little extra at the government’s expense was a pastime that could result in an appointment with the hangman’s noose.
A little way off the centre of the village, sits the octagonal Methodist church. It lays claim to being the oldest in continuous use, the foundation stone being laid after a visit from founder John Wesley in the 1740’s.
In an adjacent cemetery extension lies the grave of the poet Sylvia Plath, wife of fellow poet Ted Hughes. It’s a place of pilgrimage, with pens and notebooks regularly being left as tributes. She is perhaps best known for her work ‘The Bell Jar’ . Her own story ended with her suicide in 1963.
Heptonstall is an intriguing place, its streets winding and looping back on one another. You can drive up and park or if you are feeling up to it a steeply rising path climbs up the hill side from Hebden Bridge on the valley bottom.