Beacon Hill


General points

Beacon Hill, Halifax – also known by the names

- rises to 864 ft above sea-level, and overlooks Halifax from the east.

It is said that York Minster can be seen from the top of the hill.

In 1653, Dr Henry Power conducted a famous experiment using a tube of mercury to measure the height and estimated that Beacon Hill was 290 yards 1 foot = 871 feet high. Dr Nettleton performed a similar experiment.

The ancient Wakefield Gate pathway crosses Beacon Hill, down Old Bank, over Clark Bridge and into Halifax.

The hill was the site of the beacon at Southowram, the Beacon Pan. An early memorandum records that

the Beacon which stands in Southowram was set up at the charge of ye wapentake, for which they had £6 granted at the sessions; but it cost nearly £7, and Samuel Stead took the care of getting it done, paying all ye charge of it

Watson mentions a deed of 1553 which refers to

le Bekyn super altitudine montis de Gletclif

The actual beacon has been replaced at various times: 1615, 1745, and 28th May 1856. A modern replica stands there today.

In the 18th century, the bodies of executed men – including those of the Coiners – were suspended in chains at the top of the hill as a warning and a moral lesson for the local populace. A skull which was used in Hamlet and other productions at the Theatre Royal was that of one such murderer who had been hung in chains on Beacon Hill.

Robert Parker planted a number of trees on the bare hillside, but, with the coming of the mills and factories, these were killed off by the pollution from the town. Most of the trees and shrubs which can today be seen on the hillside are the results of reafforestation to mark the Halifax centenary in 1948 – when over 500 trees were planted – during the campaign organised by Charles Holdsworth in 1949, and more in 1956. In the early 1970s, members of the Halifax Civic Trust began to plant trees and shrubs – mainly broom and willow.

In 1898, Southowram Urban District Council came up with a proposal to build a rack-and-pinion railway up the hill from Halifax; it was never built.

There was a 21-gun salute from Beacon Hill when the newly-crowned George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited Halifax on 20th October 1937.

In 2005, there was a proposal to build a Halifax to Beacon Hill cable car.

The Beacon is still lit for special occasions, celebrations and jubilees.

Entries which mention Beacon Hill

Beacon Hill Tunnel

Coiners & coining

Devil's Cauldron

Gleg Clyff

The Haynes

Charles Holdsworth

Matthew Normington

Old Bank

Pineberry Hill, Halifax
Poems in Peace & War
Dr Henry Power

Mark Saltonstall
Thomas Spencer

Lord Evelyn James Stuart

Robert Thomas

Wakefield Gate
Isaac Walton
Whiskam Dandy
Thomas Whitley

Gledhill surname

Newspaper Cuttings

The Halifax Guardian [Saturday 14th December 1844] reported

Singular Circumstances.

Since the discovery last week of a human skeleton on Beacon Hill a thousand and one rumours have been afloat respecting the remains.

Among several other strange incidents that have come to light, the following is perhaps the most remarkable.

There is at present living in Sowerby Bridge, a respectable working man named John Crossley, whose mother in the year 1826 summoned her husband (who was cohabiting with another woman), before Halifax magistrates and there charged with neglect of family.

John was about 17 years of age at that time and came over from his home in Blackburn to visit his unhappy parent. After a brief recital of her wrongs before the magistrates, and the adjudication thereon, the mother and her son, in company with a younger brother age 4 years old, went to the house of an acquaintance, who then resided in Birks Hall Lane. The woman, we believe, is still living at this house and the mother and her two sons stayed a short time.

John returned to Blackburn, leaving his mother and his younger brother at the house of her friend, but since that eventful night neither of them has been heard of, and so far as his limited means extended, no expense spared, to discover the fate of the mother and child; but hitherto without success.

The father, about six years after, married again, but always denied having the slightest knowledge of his former wife and son.

It occurred to the surviving son that the recently discovered skeleton might possibly be the remains of his mother, and especially as she was a very tall woman and answered to the height of the remains.

Not the slightest clue however could be laid hold of whereby the mystery could be unravelled and the affair remains in as much obscurity as ever


The Halifax Evening Courier [Friday 23rd February 1906] reported

Halifax Distress Committee : Messrs Whitley's Gift

The Chairman reported that Mr J. H. Whitley MP and Mr A. W. Whitley in addition to giving land on Beacon Hill for adaptation as playgrounds had agreed to contribute £250 towards the carrying out of the scheme. Mr Hirst, answering a question by Mr Haley stated that the land was Copyhold of the Manor of Wakefield but the only charge upon it was the nominal sum of 6d. per annum. Mr Haley explained that he had raised the question because there was a report that the charge was £5 and he wanted it denied


The Leeds Mercury [Wednesday 14th June 1911] reported local celebrations for the coronation of King George V on 26th June 1911

In the construction of the Coronation fire on Beacon Hill, Halifax, 50 tons of wood, 10 or 12 tons of coal, barrel of tar, and three or four barrels of creosote all are to be used. The fire, it is expected, will provide a blaze for three hours. It will be one of a chain of national fires.

The Halifax Town Hall will be illuminated on Coronation night with 3,000 fairy lights and decorated trams will run on various routes.

In the afternoon there will be a gala on Savile Park with band performances from four stands and variety entertainments from three platforms


© Malcolm Bull 2022
Revised 16:16 / 16th November 2022 / 12225

Page Ref: MMB43

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