Skip to content Skip to main navigation Skip to footer
Reading time: 25 mins

Ruth Beazley has been giving talks to community groups about the history of the village. This Illustrated History of Mill Bank is a combination of photographs, illustrations and anecdotes from her talks.

Most of the photographs included in this project have been provided by Ruth Beazley unless otherwise stated.

If you would like to join the Mill Bank History Group please complete the website contact form and provide your details.


Mill Bank is a hill-top village between Sowerby Bridge and Ripponden, above Triangle. It is around 500 feet above sea level. The village has a colourful and dramatic history associated with the textile industry. It is situated on an ancient highway which was a main thoroughfare between Lancashire and Yorkshire for many centuries.

From a flourishing community in 1900, the unexpected closure of the local mill at Kebroyd threatened the very existence of the community and many homes fell into such disrepair that most of the village was scheduled for demolition in the 1960s. Saved by local residents, it was eventually awarded the status of a Conservation Area in the 1970s. Following this, the village entered another period of growing prosperity.


On the west side of the Ryburn River valley, Mill Bank clings to the south side of the Lum Beck valley; the Lum joining the Ryburn at Kebroyd. In Mediaeval times people lived on the upper lands, avoiding the marshy and inhospitable Ryburn Valley.

This photo is taken from Norland and shows the uplands of Sowerby (in sunlight) and Soyland (in shadow) divided by the Lum Beck.


Severhills Beck joins the Lum Beck through a culvert twenty metres from the Bridge. These streams have played an important part in the development of the village, supplying water to power the mills. Before the Industrial Revolution there was a fording place where the bridge is now, for people crossing between the Sowerby and Soyland uplands.


This is a Lilywhites postcard of the Mill Bank Bridge taken about 1920. After the Battle of Hastings in 1066, Henry I gave Earl William de Warenne a parcel of land including the Soyland and Sowerby uplands. They were described as ‘a vaste wasteland’. Earl Warenne built the earliest recorded corn mill in the Ryburn valley at Soyland/Milnebank, situated at the confluence of the Severhills and Lum becks. The settlement around this mill was given the name Millnbank or Mill Bank.


This map by W. Crump (1928) shows Roman roads in the area and a road between Sowerby Bridge and Lancashire, following the ancient highway through Mill Bank. Foxen Lane gets its name from the Latin of the time (Fosse = Ditch).


Mill Bank is approached by steep hills. This photo of Oak Hill, above Triangle, was taken about 1920.


This is Lower Mill Bank Road which leads down to the beck, taken in the 1970s.


This cottage by the beck may have been built with a view to it becoming a toll house. However, in 1750, a new toll road was constructed along the Ryburn Valley linking Sowerby Bridge and Ripponden. This photograph was taken in 1990.


Mill Bank’s cobbled snickets and Nathan Lane join the upper and lower roads. Foxen Lane can be seen in the background of this photo taken in 1989.


This snicket runs from The Old Co-op to Lower Mill Bank Road. Aufhole Barn can be seen the other side of the valley and the Wesleyan graveyard is on the right, now a Community Garden. This photo was taken in the 1950s.


The Feudal system was harsh under the ruling Lords, who used the area as hunting grounds, but by the 14th century the cottage-based woollen industry was flourishing and the forested uplands were mainly cleared.

People were obliged by law to use the Lord’s mill but other people were building mills to undertake fulling (felting) of cloth.

The left hand part of Sauterhouse Farm, at the Triangle end of the village was built in the 16th century.


Another building from the 16th century is the lower part of Homestead Cottage at Damside near the bridge.


Michael Foxcroft, who had Manorial Rights in 1621, took local farmer/clothiers to court for not using his mill but significantly the crofters won.

Following this judgement, many new mills were built and people were free to develop their textile businesses. Michael Foxcroft built Lane End at Soyland and owned many local mills and properties.


By the end of the 17th century, around the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, Samuel Hill was living at Soyland. He operated an extremely successful business incorporating all the processes in cloth-making. His turnover was the equivalent of £3.5 million in today’s money.

Samuel built many substantial properties such as Kebroyd Mills, Kebroyd Hall and Making Place in Soyland.

This is Making Place at Soyland Town about fifty years after Samuel left, when it was a College where they taught Pitman Shorthand.


For centuries pack-horses would have been a common sight trudging up and down the hills through Mill Bank, carrying woollen cloth. Samuel Hill kept 40 pack horses at Making Place and built Clapgate Lane, an Occupational Road, to link Foxen Lane with Kebroyd Mills. He operated his successful ‘internal market’ transporting his fabrics between Kebroyd Mills and other operational centres that he owned. He exported his cloth as far away as Denmark, Austria and Russia.
This image is a close-up from Hazel Whiteley’s hand-drawn map of the 1970s.


This photo is the entrance to Aufhole and Clapgate Lane, off Foxen Lane, taken about 1960.


Here is a list of properties that Samuel Hill owned, in his own handwriting, along with his valuation at the time, including many properties in Mill Bank.

Samuel employed hundreds of people and built many properties for his workers including cottages at Damside, Aufhole, Sawhill , Severhills, Spoutfield, Rawson, Knowsley, Lower Oak and The Dene.


Samuel was a ruthless businessman who tried unsuccessfully to reintroduce feudal conditions. For a short time his Head Clerk at Kebroyd Mills was John Collier (also known as Tim Bobbin) who was highly skilled and multi-talented. John travelled widely teaching, drawing, painting and writing. He drew this cartoon which depicts a man with asses ears, obsessed by the love of money. Could this be his boss, Samuel Hill? It seems likely.


Samuel built Kebroyd Hall for his son Richard and appointed him manager at Kebroyd Mills. Unfortunately, Richard did not follow in his father’s footsteps. He fell in love with Ann Wilde, a servant at Making Place, and was not very attentive to his work. Samuel opposed this relationship and fired Ann, so Richard employed her as his housekeeper. Samuel claimed that John Collier had more sense in his little finger than his son had in his head. Samuel disinherited Richard and left his vast fortune to Richard and Ann’s daughter Betty. She died young and eventually the trustees of the estate sold off the estate as parcels of land.
Thanks to Ann Kirker for this part of the story.


This photograph of the older part of Kebroyd Mills was taken in 1970s.


The first half of the Industrial Revolution from 1750 to 1850 forced the farmer/clothiers out of their homes and into the mills. There were 26 mills in the Ryburn valley, seven of them within walking distance of Mill Bank. The pollution in the valley was very unhealthy so Mill Bank, up on the hillside, was a relatively pleasant place to live. In Ripponden the average life expectancy in 1850 was 40 for men and 43 for women.
Thanks to Julian Carr for this photograph.


Not all these mills were operating at the same time and by 1900 only Kebroyd Mills, Lower Lum Mill and Lower Soyland Mill were employing Mill Bank people.


During the second half of the Industrial Revolution from 1850 to 1950 Acts of Parliament were passed to improve the conditions for mill workers. The 1847 Factory Acts restricted working hours for women and children to no more than 58 hours per week or 10 hours a day. This was a time of expansion in Mill Bank and many cottages and the Victorian terraces were built at this time.

This photo was taken in 1957, bottom right shows the end wall of the Aufhole cottages demolished in the 1960s.


In 1900, when this photograph was taken, the village was an isolated but self-contained community. The nearest public transport was half a mile away at Triangle where there were trams into Halifax.

People were poor but there was full employment. Lower Soyland Mill can be seen with its mill pond. This is now a car park and recreation area.


Until well into the 20th century people had large families and many children died from disease. Tuberculosis killed one quarter of the population every year. Mill Bank cottages were small and often three generations of a family would live in a one bedroom cottage.
Drawing by Elspeth Walker.


The row of four cottages at the bottom of this photo used to be home to four families. It is now two cottages for two people.

Lower Lum Mill can be seen top left in this photo which was taken in the 1920s.


Because living space was so limited men would spend much of their leisure time in the seven pubs or beer houses in the village. The New Delight can be seen in this photo beside the school. Today it is a car park.

The Alma Inn at Cottonstones is the only pub in the Mill Bank area today (2023).


There was little room to relax at home so the children played in the streets, the woods and the streams. Most children from the age of eight also worked part-time in the mills.


After it ceased fabric production, Lower Lum Mill became a factory for rendering bones to make baking powder and gelatine. The smell was appalling.

Lilywhite’s Postcard factory then took it over and thanks to them we have good photographic records of the area for the first two decades of the 20th century.


Here is a poster for Lilywhites.


A massive fire demolished the building in 1932.


The ruins of Lower Lum Mill which was never rebuilt.


The ruins of Severhills Mill can still be seen through the woods on the Calderdale Way going from the stream towards Wood End.

This photograph was taken in the 1970s.


To meet the needs of this isolated community there were 28 shops and services supporting the residents, and villagers seldom left the village.

At Ivy Houses there was a baker, a piano repairman, a postman and a light engineer.


On the top road there was a travelling packman, a joiner, an ironmonger, a herbalist, a blacksmith, and a wool merchant. This was the first Post Office/shop in Mill Bank, opposite the Chapel with Mr and Mrs Garside at the door.


The Post Office later moved to Bank View and was the last shop to close in the village in the 1990s.


At Bank View there was a Working Men’s Club on the first floor where a doctor and dentist held surgeries. There was also a fabric outlet in this terrace.


This photo is of Berry’s Corner, where there was a fish and chip shop and a billiard room.


The end cottages were demolished in the 1960s and the village stone was erected on the this site in 2007.


In this photo you can see the Old Co-op with its gas lamp, and a wooden butcher’s shop on stilts. The manager of the Co-op installed a bench for his wife (Martha) to enjoy during her tea breaks and the first public telephone was situated where Martha’s bench is in the photo.


In this corner cottage, half way down Nathan Lane, was a grocer called Nathan Whiteley who gave his name to the Lane. Along Beggartons Row in this photo there was a cobbler, a clogger and a chemist.


Many women sold goods from their homes such as Margaret Hughes’ aunt who lived in the middle cottage in this row at Cottonstones. She would put a little table across her door and her goods would be stacked up the stairs.

This photo was taken about 1900.


Mains services such as water and electricity were late coming to Mill Bank and Cottonstones. This photo shows Margaret’s mother and her Aunt reading by lamp light in the 1950s.


Margaret’s mother loved listening to the battery powered radio.


Lum House at Cottonstones behind the trees had the first inside toilet and the first television in the area. Mr Ellis, who was a baker, lived here with his family. This is a Lilywhite’s postcard from the 1920s. Lower Lum Mill can be seen in the background.

Also at Cottonstones there was a monumental mason and a wheelwright. Later in the 1960s/70s Mr Ellis renovated bubble cars at Lum House.


This is a poster for the Cheetham’s Monumental mason’s business. Their name appears on many grave stones in St. Mary’s Church and in the Community Garden in the Wesleyan graveyard of the old Methodist Church.


Mr Smith, seen here with his wife, was the village ‘knocker-upper’. He would go round with a long pole and knock on people’s windows to wake them in the morning. He was also the village lamp-lighter.


The outside toilets were serviced every few months by two brothers who were vegetable farmers at Four Lane Ends. Their name was Smithson and they were known as the ‘Shit Jimmies’. Reputedly, they grew the best vegetables for miles around!
Drawing by Elspeth Walker.


In 1947 there was a cloudburst on the tops and the flood coming down Lum Beck severely damaged the road and the cottages at Cottonstones. Mrs Phoebe Brown was swept away and drowned by the flood and her body was found in the River Calder in Wakefield a month later.


The woodland paths, walls and goits to feed the mill at Kebroyd were well maintained as nearly 500 mill workers would walk to and from the mill, night and morning. The footpaths were maintained by Job Stevenson who lived at Aufhole cottages. There was also a water bailiff who serviced the water ways.


This was Annie Cartwright, who was Hazel Whiteley’s Grandmother. She came to Mill Bank in 1910 with seven of her seventeen children and her second husband Harry Marklew, who worked at Stansfield Mill, Triangle.


For a short period, (about 1910) they lived with Annie’s aunt and uncle at The Sportsman’s Inn at the bottom of the hill. Annie then ran a sweet shop on Bank View. She was also a milliner and made elaborate hats.

This photo is of Annie’s aunt and uncle (Charles and Virginia Cartwright) at the door of The Sportsman’s Inn at Damside. Also in the photo is the barmaid Patsy Balm.


In this photo Annie and Harry Cartwright are in a charabanc, off to Sowerby Bridge to celebrate the end of World War I in 1918.


In 1800 John Hadwen, his wife Mary and their eight children came to live in the village. They lived at The Dene and owned Kebroyd Mill and later Lower Soyland Mill. For 100 years the family business thrived.


The Hadwens built a fourth mill at Kebroyd and employed 500 people, most of whom lived in Mill Bank. There were over twice the number of people living in the village in 1850, compared to about 250 in 2022.


George Hadwen, John’s son, built a viaduct to take the men of the family from The Dene across the stream straight into the mill. This saved them walking down to the main road and back up to Kebroyd Mill.


The Hadwens were regarded as good employers. Ellen and Eliza Hadwen funded a Dame School for workers’ children at Aufhole Farm, and left money in their wills to build St. Mary’s Church at Cottonstones and St. Mary’s School in Mill Bank.


St. Mary’s School, built in 1850, is the oldest primary school in Calderdale. The Hadwen family were held in great respect by the Mill Bank workers.


Here is a photograph of St. Mary’s pupils in the street about 1910.


This school photo with the children dressed up must have been taken about the same time circa 1910.


The Wesleyan Chapel was first situated in the corner of the Wesleyan graveyard, before the present building was constructed along with a Sunday school. The chapel closed in the 1960s and both buildings are now private dwellings.

In 1900 the chapel and church were well attended. The photograph shows Mr Alderson at the door. He was the chapel organist. Handel’s Messiah was performed every year and the village had a brass band as well.


Here is Mr Alderson at the organ.


Frederick Hadwen, John’s grandson, built a stage at Kebroyd Mill. Here he put on plays and dances for the rich people of the area. On entertainment evenings carriages stretched from Kebroyd to Triangle on the main road.

Mrs Hadwen and her daughters also held coffee mornings for ladies of the village and Whitsun was a festive time for the mill workers. There would be a parade with village children all dressed up, from St. Mary’s Church to The Dene, where the Hadwens would hold a tea party.


This second tea party photograph shows some of the older ladies of the village who had lost their husbands in the World Wars.


In 1900 Frederick Hadwen had a medal struck to celebrate 100 years of Hadwen ownership of Kebroyd Mills. These were distributed to all mill workers.


In 1901 Kebroyd Mills suddenly declared bankruptcy putting just about everybody in the village out of work, with no income. A soup kitchen was set up by the churches and charitable organisations to prevent people starving. Attempts were made to save business activity at the mill but it never fully recovered.

In the same year, 1901, Frederick Hadwen and a partner in the Kebroyd Mills, Alfred Ingham, were convicted of fraud and false accounting at Leeds Crown Court. It seems likely that this caused the bankruptcy at Kebroyd.
Drawing by Elspeth Walker.


In December 1902 there was a huge fire at Kebroyd Mills which demolished the main buildings. Miraculously, a Bible was found unharmed by the flames in a cupboard. The Bishop of Wakefield came to see it, and it is now in a display cabinet in St. Mary’s Church along with an order book and keys to the old mill.


Kebroyd Mills remained partly in business until the 1980s but became derelict for many years until 2007 when a final fire raised the mill to the ground. The site awaits development (2023).
Photograph provided by Paddy Walker.


Many families moved away to find work. Some found employment at other local mills but over the next 60 years the village slid into a state of decay through neglect.

By 1950 there were squatters in some properties and there was still no electricity, mains water or drainage. Rents were low and bad debtors were sent from Halifax to Mill Bank. Residents complained to the Rural Council and without consultation the Council started demolishing the most dilapidated cottages.

This photo shows cottages on Lower Mill Bank Road in the 1960s just before they were demolished. This space is now a car park.


At this time Ernest (later Sir Ernest, OBE) and June Hall lived at Damside. Sir Ernest was knighted for his work developing Dean Clough into a Business Park. Ernest and June formed an action group to stop the demolition. They conducted a survey of village properties and applied for Mill Bank to be recognised as a GIA (General Improvement Area). Under the 1969 Housing Act this enabled access to central government funding to upgrade the cottages.


The Action Group fought on under the leadership of the Halls until Mill Bank was recognised as a Conservation Area in 1976.


In the 1970s the Council replaced the demolished houses by building Mill Bank Close. Another private housing scheme at Nathans Folly won an architectural award for its sympathetic architecture.


The Anchor Inn became a well known restaurant in the 1990s but is now a private residence. In the 1970s Brian Highley, the landlord, brought a shipwrecked anchor from Hull as his Inn sign. It was the heaviest pub sign in the UK until it fell in a gale. Brian was bankrupted after he ran a music festival at Norland, which was ‘washed out’ by the weather.


The anchor can be seen on display in the field opposite the old pub.


In 1960 the M62 opened, linking Manchester and Leeds. This made Mill Bank accessible to city commuters. As new money arrived in the village there was steady modernisation to dwellings and many cottages were knocked through to create larger living spaces.


In the final years of the 20th century the community that was fractured came together to care for public spaces and to rebuild a community spirit.

The Community Garden, in the Wesleyan graveyard, opened in 2016 and the start of the Mill Bank Group marked a turning point in the resurrection of the village.


Mill Bank entered the Yorkshire in Bloom competition and by 2016 Mill Bank was declared ‘Best Small Village in Yorkshire’. This photograph is of St. Mary’s pupils, staff and volunteers who helped plant over 2000 bulbs as part of the Yorkshire in Bloom competition.


Glyn Hughes, the well-known poet, author and playwright, bought a cottage in Mill Bank in the 1960s for £50. His sonnet for Mill Bank is inscribed on the Community Garden wall in the Wesleyan graveyard. He died in 2011.


As a result of the Tour de France, better internet communication became available in Mill Bank and when Covid struck in 2020 villagers benefitted from more on line communications including a WhatsApp group which has had a significant impact on bringing people together and recreating a vibrant community.


Over the first weekend of September the Rushbearing Parade passes through Mill Bank on its way between St. Mary’s Church and The Alma Inn to Triangle.


Other events have become regular features of life in Mill Bank such as Christmas Carols and a Christmas street market. St. Mary’s School also holds an Owl Hunt event in the summer.

A Book Group holds regular monthly meetings and film nights and a History Group undertakes ongoing research into village life.


Mill Bank is prosperous again with many people working from home and many commuting to work further afield.

Ghosts of the past can still be seen in the footpaths and waterways in Fiddle Woods and the occasional glimpse of ruined mills through the trees reminds walkers of the village’s industrial heritage.

Newsletter sign-up

Enter your email address below to subscribe and receive regular Mill Bank emails and newsletters.

Back to top