Vivien Aizlewood, Holmfirth Local History Group

 Where is it? 

The view across Upperbridge from the Cartworth Side.

Across the bridge is the inn officially called the King’s Head but known to generations of Holmfirthers as the White Door even if nobody could remember it ever having had a white door.

On the corner to the left of the bridge is an old toll house.


Upperbridge lies in the township of Upperthong on the north bank of the river Holme. It has always been an important part of Holmfirth featuring a bridge for the river crossing and consequently, an important crossroad for the area.

We have been unable to discover when the bridge was built: George Redmonds reports evidence for houses and gardens as early as 1600 and entries for ‘Overbrigge’ in the Wakefield Court Rolls in 1640 and 1665. He states that the original bridge lay outside the town of Holmfirth which would have been centred on the church.

Allan Place (in Routes of our Valley’s Past) states that in 1775 residents of Cartworth and ‘Upper Thongue’ were called upon to repair Upperbridge “in the highway between Huddersfield to Stockport.”

The crossroads first appear in Jeffrey’s map of 1775, where they are shown clearly.

From north to south runs the Huddersfield to Woodhead Turnpike of 1768.  From Thongsbridge, the road runs along the east bank of the river along Berry Banks Lane, past the end of Town End Road to Towngate, Higgin Brig and Hollowgate to Upperbridge.

The road which crosses the turnpike laterally is the Maythorne Way from Penistone to Meltham, running through Hepworth, across Dean Dyke, through Scholes along Sandygate to Cinderhills, Hollowgate and thence along Upperthong Lane to Meltham via Wolfstones.

As befits the locality and as a measure of the traffic passing by, three important hostelries were established in the vicinity, the George, the King’s Head and the Elephant and Castle. All were traditional inns offering hospitality, overnight accommodation and stabling.

E A Haigh in the book Holme Valley states that the lintel of the Kings Head had an inscription with the date 1706 and the initials MTS, but the first known landlord was Matthew Bower in 1795.  The earliest record for The Elephant and Castle (George Bower) is found in the list of Alehouse keepers in 1803 and that for the George Inn (John Beaumont) is found in the Wakefield Court Rolls in 1792.

Allan Place states that in 1775, residents of Cartworth and ‘Upper Thongue’ were called upon to repair Upperbridge in the highway from Huddersfield to Stockport.

Life in Upperbridge

The Tithe Map of 1847 shows greater detail of the Upperbridge area and allows us to surmise something of the life of the area.

The roads previously described remain and have been joined by the Greenfield and Shepley Lane Head Turnpike.  Started in the early 1820s, this runs from Greenfield through Lip Hill and Parkhead to Upperbridge and thence to New Mill and Shepley Lane Head.  Initially, the route crossed Upper Bridge until Victoria Street was completed in 1844.  At this time, Allan Place states that the route to Greenfield was the first serviceable route out of the valley.  It was at this time also that the iconic toll house was built on the northern end of the bridge.

The majority of buildings sit directly on the road and are described as housing with “outbuildings” which will have served a multiplicity of purposes.  There are just three shops: a butcher, a shoemaker and a grocer.  Workplace buildings include a joiner, a smithy and wheelwrights shop, 2 ‘stoves’, warehouses and an office.

Farmland is described as either meadow or pasture, comprising three fields known as Shaley to the north and an area known as Doctor Close to the west.  The OS maps shows tenters on Doctor Close and Shaley Bottom, used to stretch and dry newly-fulled woollen cloth.

Notwithstanding the apparent domesticity of this scene, the industrial development of valley mills was well-established by this time, the nearest mills being Dyson’s Mill and Upper and Lower Farrar Mills.  According to author Michael Day, these were originally established as fulling mills in 1739 and 1640 respectively.  By the time of submissions to the Factory Inspectors in 1833, they had been rebuilt in 1824 and 1817 respectively and become scribbling, carding and slubbing mills: nearly all of the weaving and a good deal of the spinning taking place in homes according to the contemporaneous reminiscences of George Sykes who was born in 1838.  In confirmation, the OS map of the nearest year shows tenters on Doctor Close and Shaley Bottom upon which the newly-fulled cloth would be stretched and dried.  Sykes continues: besides the woollen manufacturers, there were no big firms of any kind, only such trades as were necessary to do work that was required in connection with the mills, like engineers, masons, joiners etc.  These were on a small scale but quite sufficient for the needs of the district.

Land Tax valuation was initiated by the Finance Act 1909/10 to tax the incremental value of land in order to help pay for infrastructure such as roads.  The Valuation comprises two related documents: the Plan and the Fieldbook.

The valuation map shows that the basic structure of roads, buildings and open land boundaries remains largely unchanged although there has been significant societal change.

Holmfirth UDC was formed in 1894: council offices have been located in Shaley Cottage and Upper Shaley pasture has become Victoria Jubilee Park.  Little Bottom Pasture now boasts a large Methodist Chapel with Schoolroom built in 1860 and additional buildings. Buildings now exist on both sides of Victoria Street although Victoria Yard remains to the rear. The other fields and woods above the town appear largely unchanged.

However, the valuation returns show considerable commercial development in the area.  The inns are still present and many buildings such as Scarfold and along Woodhead road remain as houses.  One house boasts a garage whilst several stables are also shown.  Along Huddersfield Road however, there are considerably more shops, their functions not listed in detail. Most of the buildings along Victoria Street, both old and new have become commercial businesses. There are domestic services such as a wash-house and a bakery as well as two paint shops, a plasterer, a wooden sale shop and a greenhouse.

In 1910, the inns were the centre of commercial life offering food and accommodation for travellers and meeting places for all forms of business activity, benefit societies and social clubs.

The George Inn proudly displays its sign and the nearer low buildings are a butcher and a shoemaker: subsequently a second storey was added and they became Ashley Jackson’s studio.

The photograph also shows Upperthong Lane to the right and the gradient of both roads

On Upperthong Lane above the woman in the long dress, the small building is a smithy and the taller buildings front right are recorded as houses.

To the left, the building in shadow is the School, built in 1829, much used also for community activity such as meetings of the Local Board and Feast Teas.

This modern view shows the three-storey School as it is today and it can be seen what a fine building it was for its day. 

Further up the road can be seen what were previously dwellings now turned into shops. In particular the white building, previously the famed Joe’s cycle shop.  Joe started his business in Hollowgate in 1937 transferring here in 1938. Like the residents of earlier years, he conducted his cycle business in what was his front room.

This picture also shows the gradient of the road which, in the middle of the C20th century caused many accidents, particularly when lorries coming down the Greenfield road lost control and crashed into these buildings

Disaster strikes

The most famous crash took place further down the road and resulted in the demolition of the King’s Head hotel.

Crossing the bridge will lead to Hollowgate.