SE1125 : Magna Via, Southowram

near to Hipperholme, Calderdale, Great Britain

Magna Via, Southowram
Magna Via, Southowram
This is the medieval 'main road' from Wakefield to Halifax. The paving has been renewed, of course; people used to leave money in their wills to keep it in good repair. Its preservation is due to the difficulty of widening it for coaches in the 18C. A new road was built past Shibden Hall instead. Most of the paving has been overgrown, but this section has been restored.
Route - magna via
This is the medieval name for the part of the ancient route from Wakefield to Halifax between Hipperholme and Halifax.
Halifax and the upper Calder valley were part of the vast Manor of Wakefield, and there was a manorial court at Halifax and a deer park at Erringden. There was a constant flow of travellers along the route, on foot and horseback. Later, as the textile trade developed, strings of packhorses used the route.

In the 17C and 18C transport was increasingly by cart and coach, and the old route was unfit for wheeled vehicles. The Halifax and Wakefield Trust was authorised in 1741 to make a turnpike road between those two towns, and a completely new road was made between Hipperholme and Halifax. The old route was probably still used as a bridleway, to avoid tolls, but Jeffreys does not show it on his 1" / mile map of Yorkshire published in 1775.

From the Hipperholme end, the route goes by Northcliffe Lane, Dark Lane (a hollow-way), Barrowclough Lane and over the shoulder of Beacon Hill. The steep drop to Halifax was known as Halifax Bank.

Part way down there is an acute bend, and here the full width of stone setts has been uncovered by a group of teenagers working for the Community Action Team. The section down to Beacon Hill Road has also been partly restored, to reveal stone setts and a dry-stone retaining wall on the lower side. Cuttings had also been made to give a more uniform gradient.

Below the crossing of the relatively modern Beacon Hill Road, the track is again paved with stone setts, and is called Whiskam Bank (sometimes spelled 'Whiscombe', e.g. by the local historian T.W Hanson). It soon meets Old Bank, part of the 18C turnpike road, and probably went down the hill on a similar line to cross Hebble Brook and climb up to the church and the old town centre.

This information is mainly from 'Country Walks near Halifax, No. 5', Halifax Civic Trust, 1983. One primary source is W. B. Crump, Ancient Highways of the Parish of Halifax, II The Wakefield Gate, Halifax Antiquarian Society
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SE1125, 77 images   (more nearby )
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Date Taken
Monday, 11 July, 2005   (more nearby)
Monday, 15 August, 2005
Road > Road   (more nearby)
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! SE 115 252 [100m precision]
WGS84: 53:43.3849N 1:49.6319W
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OSGB36: geotagged! SE 115 252
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WEST (about 270 degrees)
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