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A Long Time Ago but not that far away

Hebden Bridge History Society meeting report.
Speaker: David Shepherd

Monday, 9 March 2015

The title gave a sense of the perspective needed to look back into pre-history – a period of time covering 7000 years before history was recorded. As David Shepherd cautioned in his talk to Hebden Bridge Local History Society, we need to hold on to an awareness that these valleys and hills were occupied by people who would share recognisable emotions and ways of organising their society.


The hill tops are still revealing the secrets of their prehistoric occupation and archaeology sheds more light on the lives of these distant societies. Stones survive where bone and leather disappear, and the dozens of standing stones identified by David and his group provide fascinating evidence of design in their careful placing. Many of these stones have their long axis pointing to the rising place of the mid-winter sun, suggesting that they may have ritual purposes. There are ring cairns too, with puzzling features that may mark entrances, and a henge on the hills above Midgley where the ditch on the inside of the circle rules out a defensive purpose. Other questions are raised by huge propped stones, deliberately poised and balanced on other stones by human effort.

Some stone features are more clearly understood as graves or memorials – collapsed cairns and 'kists' where the stones which formed the sides of the chest are still clear, though no human remains can be found in this acid ground. The aesthetic sense of these early people is becoming more evident, with special chosen stones containing fossils or other distinguishing features placed carefully on the inside of the kists, often on the west facing side. Rock art has been known for a while, though not fully understood. Recently David and his group have found some mysterious grooves in stones which have not yet been identified either as deliberate marks or geological features.

The work goes on, and 'hot from the trowel' David shared the fascinating archaeology underway in the area. Here is yet more evidence of how the upright stones were carefully slotted into the ground. Stones now hardly noticeable to the untrained eye would have stood as proud as those stones which we are impelled to raise to memorialise our dead.

Not so far away then, either in distance or emotion.

Hebden Bridge Local History Society meets on alternate Wednesday evenings at the Methodist Hall. On Wednesday 11th March Peter Higginbotham will speak about the 'gruelling experiences' of the workhouses, and at the final meeting on 25th March, Dave Smalley will reveal the story of 'The dam that isn't and the great floating plug of Colden'.

All welcome and details on the website www.hebdenbridgehistory.org.uk

With thanks to Sheila Graham for this report

Previously, on the HebWeb

Growing up in Sowerby (16 February 2015)

Patterns in the Landscape: the evolution of settlement and enclosure in the Upper Calder Valley (5 February 2015)

Wakefield Court Rolls for Family History: Sylvia Thomas (18 Jan 2015)

Happy Birthday Stoodley Pike: by Nick Wilding (16 Dec 2014)

Wills, Inventories and Economic Activity in the Parish of Halifax at the end of the 17th Century: Alan Petford (30 Nov 2014)

Local History Society Archive explored - Following the 65th AGM, members of Hebden Bridge Local History Society were treated to a sample of some of the treasures to be found in the Society's archive. (19 Nov 2014)

Views from two communities on the outbreak of war in 1914 - Mike Crawford, Wolfgang Hombach and Nick Wilding (27 Oct 2014)

The Listed Buildings of the Hebden Bridge area with Peter Thornborrow. (14 Oct 2014)

Valley of a Hundred Chapels by Amy Binns (29 Sept 2014)

History Group Study Day report: Power and Potability (11 Sept 2014)

Whose land is it anyway? How parliamentary enclosure shaped the landscape of the Calder Valley: speaker, Sheila Graham. Read more (6 April 2014)

Yorkshire Life between the Wars: speaker, Ian Dewhirst. Read more (20 March 2014)

Industrialisation and the Calder Valley: Communities in a unique landscape - Talk by Dr Stephen Caunce Read more (3 March 2014)

Quarrying in Calderdale: George Bowers gave a talk on the history of stone quarries in our local area. Read more (15 Feb)

Calder Valley Buildings of the Seventeenth Century: the craftsmen and their patrons Read more (27 Jan)See Small Ads (12 March)

Some thoughts on historic buildings and their repairs by Alan Gardner


More history reports in the HebWeb History Section

Hebden Bridge Local History Society

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