Homage to Hebden Bridge

January 6, 2016

The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed.

Walter Benjamin, Theses on the Philosophy of History

Seeing a report last night about how people in Hebden Bridge are coping in the aftermath of the floods which swept the town over the Christmas and New Year period, reminded me of a weekend spent with my wife, Jo, in and around the town at the end of September 2012. We were there to attend a dayschool to mark the 400 years since the arrest and trial of the Pendle Witches, as advertised on a wonderful poster designed by Davina Ware.

Pendle 400

It was an amazing, stimulating and inspiring weekend and I can’t for the life of me explain how it is that the Pendle 400 event and the associated socialising didn’t register in some kind of acknowledgement on this blog at the time. Perhaps it was all too much to take in at once. In a strange way certain elements of that weekend – notably the guided visit to Heptonstall churchyard that evening – insinuated themselves into my consciousness early in October last year, assuming significance as part of a web of associations and events after I had posted my ‘final‘ blog post, but I think that needs a post of its own…

We found a town and surrounding villages, like the one we were staying in, still recovering from that summer’s floods, the worst for thirty years.  That record has since been broken by the most recent Christmas deluge. My memories of that weekend are fonder than what must be the miserable reality of the clear-up now.

I find it frustrating that I’ve let so much of what was learnt that day slip away, that I didn’t follow up on some of the fascinating material discussed. We enjoyed all the presentations, though Vivienne Crawford’s on medicine as a contested site of authority in the Tudor and early Stuart periods really stood out, it was brilliant. I just wish I remembered more of it.


The peat-infused waters of the Calder flowing through Hebden Bridge.

Special thanks are due to Northern Earth editor, John Billingsley, who not only organised the day, and led the guided walk round Heptonstall in the evening, but was also kind enough to welcome us two travellers late on the Friday night when we settled in at the Hare and Hounds. The Ram Tam Ale was nice.


Northern Earth has a website here.

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