Dewsbury, Batley and the Spen Valley
A rich history
Steeped in the rich history of the Brontës, Luddites and Chartists, the Spen Valley's woollen industry heritage is evident in the towns of Cleckheaton, Heckmondwike and Gomersal. Joseph Priestley, who is credited with the discovery of oxygen in 1774, is commemorated with a statue at the cobbled square in Birstall.
The Market Place in Batley is highly regarded as a fine set-piece of Victorian architecture, with many listed buildings surrounding the cobbled market square. Other fine examples of Victorian heritage in Batley include the Carnegie Library and Art Gallery, which incorporate the clock from the old Market Hall; and the West Yorkshire Print Workshop is housed in a former Victorian Church School.
Follow the Dewsbury Heritage Trail series to discover connections to the Yorkshire Ripper, Mr Men’s Roger Hargreaves, and explore the area’s incredible textile heritage.
The sensational Charlotte Bronte
Set against the backdrop of the Luddite uprisings in the Yorkshire Textile industry, Charlotte Brontë’s novel Shirley caused quite a sensation when it was published, as local people found themselves characterised in print.
Charlotte knew the area well from her schooldays in Mirfield and was a frequent visitor, staying with her lifelong friends Ellen Nussey of Birstall and Mary Taylor of Gomersal. When Charlotte’s parents were first married they lived in nearby Hightown and her father was minister at Hartshead Church. The novel was so popular that it led to Shirley becoming a woman’s name.
Shirley features the beautiful 17th century Red House, the Elizabethan manor house of Oakwell Hall and Dewsbury Minster – all open to the public and not to be missed.
Revisit your childhood at Dewsbury Museum’s Toy Gallery, and travel the world at Bagshaw Museum home to a wide range of unusual and exciting collections from around the globe. Spend an afternoon spotting rare animal breeds at Ponderosa, and treat the family to a cool, creamy ice-cream churned daily at Charlotte’s Jersey Ice-cream Parlour, made using milk from their own Jersey cows. Dewsbury Bus Museum display's classic buses on 2 open days each year.
Bring your bucket and spade to the ever popular Dewsbury on Sea event which sees the town centre transformed into a maritime metropolis; and join in with welly wanging and flat cap flinging at Oakwell Hall’s incredibly popular Yorkshire Day.
Eats and treats
Dedicated shoppers can pitch their stamina against the Yorkshire Mill Mile - a stretch of stores packed with treats for you and your home, including the UK’s largest retail mill, The Mill Batley; four floors of classically cool contemporary home furnishings at Redbrick Mill; and one of the UK’s largest and best open markets, boasting over 30 stalls, in Dewsbury.
After all that shopping you’ll need to rest your feet. Eastthorpe Hall is a multi award winning spa in a beautiful 17th century house where you can relax, unwind and let the stresses of everyday life melt away.
Whiteley's Garden Centre nestles in the Pennine foothills and has the accolade 'best garden centre cafe in Yorkshire'. If you prefer to relax with a pint in your hand, the Transpennine Real Ale Trail features three great local pubs where you could quench your thirst and take a break, or visit the Aakash – reputedly the largest Indian restaurant in the world, and housed in a Grade II listed former Congregationalist chapel (definitely not your normal curry house!). Pick up some local produce at Cleckheaton Farmer's Market before heading off for a picnic.
Savile Town Wharf is a beautiful location on the Calder and Hebble Navigation Canal – take a leisurely stroll, admire the colourful narrowboats and have a bite to eat the canal side cafés. The Spen Valley Greenway offers family friendly cycling along a disused railway line.
Take part in a guided walk to explore a little of the 110 acres of country park that surrounds Oakwell Hall. Explore the woodlands and the ornamental lake at Crow Nest Park.