Cragg Hall remembered during the centenary anniversary of its burning...

Today Calder Valley Radio is reflecting on the 100-year anniversary of the fire that devastated Cragg Valley and destroyed the beautiful Cragg Hall, the stately home and mansion of the Hinchliffe family. The Cragg Vale Local History Group will be celebrating the anniversary throughout August with a range of interesting events - but writing about this has got me interested in the story behind the house and family, so I thought we'd dive into a brief history lesson (humour me please...)

The Simpson-Hinchliffe's (c) Kately Cett

The Hinchliffe family were a respected mill-owning family, that brought much prosperity to the Valley when they came into their own in the Valley from 1901. It's not too much of a stretch to imagine that most mill and cloth labourers had very few rights in the early 1900s, and what this writer particularly likes about tales of the Hinchliffe family and what makes their loss all the more devastating, was how they tried to revolutionise the trade and bring an energy to the Valley. Mr & Mrs Simpson-Hinchliffe by all accounts were a beneficent couple, who took care of their tenants, created jobs and provided different working conditions for their mill workers. Mr Simpson-Hinchliffe allegedly tried to introduce both worker protection and pension schemes, in which the recipients would put in money and he would double it - unheard of in the 1900s! The couple also supported many clubs and societies, dreaming that Cragg Vale would become a 'model village' full of peace and harmony. 'New Cragg Hall' as it was then known, was the very embodiment of their dreams and during 1904 and 1905 the original building was altered beyond recognition. The hall itself was almost a hotchpotch of varied architectural styles, the scope and grandeur of which wasn't seen anywhere else in West Yorkshire. With Elizabethan gables and local dressed stone - it really was a testament to the wealth and prosperity of the family. 

(c) Lost Heritage

New Cragg Hall saw much entertainment and was considered the grandest house around, catering to all of society and the glitterati with lavish parties. The young mistress passed away during 1917, leaving her devastated husband Mr Simpson-Hincliffe, who passed the time quietly in the sadly declining mill industry. During the first World War, he worked with the French Red Cross Society on the Verdun front. The fire itself was another huge blow to the Valley, New Cragg Hall caught fire in the early hours of August 11th 1921. The heroics of Mr Simpson-Hinchliffe were apparently much the talk of the town at the time when he risked his life to rescue some of his staff - including two young maids from the burning building upstairs. The fire was alleged to have started downstairs and although the cause was not fully established, it is thought that the rooms- mostly lined with waxed oak, went up like a tinder box. There were also problems with contacting the fire brigade and water shortages which inevitably led to the house's eventual complete destruction. There was much speculation that Simpson-Hinchliffe may have done it himself, due to the declining mill industry, costs of running the place and whispers of large gambling debts. But sure to says its loss was felt throughout the Valley, which is why it's so great to see the centenary being honoured with a renewed interest in the hall!

(c) Lost Heritage

Margaret May from the history group states that: 'The Cragg Vale Local History Group, felt that it would be right and proper to commemorate what was such a powerful event and thus to preserve a part of the area’s rich history that had in the intervening years faded from general knowledge and awareness.' Supported by Hebden Royd Town Council and with the help of local people and businesses, the History Group will be holding a series of events to mark the anniversary across August including:

  • Thursday 12th August - special presentation & slideshow at St. John's Church
  • Saturday 14th August - guided walk around the Village & Cragg Hall grounds (with kind permission from the current residents)
  • Weekends from 14th-29th August - "The Cragg Hall Story" - celebrating the history of the house through a range of drawings, photographs and artefacts. 
  • There will also be a full-colour booklet & DVD of the events available for sale.

Cragg Vale (c) - Outdoor Active

If you want to purchase tickets for any of the events or to find out more visit: Please note all events will be subject to Covid restrictions. Also, if you're interested in more colour about the family and Cragg Hall itself - you might want to take a look at this wonderful site I found: Lost Houses by Kately Cett which has supplied much of the detail for this article - so all credit and thanks to Kately. 

I'm fascinated by local history and I think it's great for the community to be able to uncover more information about our rich and fascinating heritage. See you there hopefully! That's it from us this week, join us again for more tales from the local community soon.

Over and out

By Louise Ann Oldroyd


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