Hello my little bimblers, as I am currently in between jobs I took myself off to God’s own country, Yorkshire to visit the mother beard and have a few cheeky days exploring, and what a treat I have for you all.
We start our journey some 4000 years ago, neolithic man set up home on a large 300 meter high hill in a little place we call Huddersfield. We know they lived here from stone axe heads found atop this impressive feature and other associated items both on the hill and in the local area. The site of Almondbury hill holds a scheduled ancient monument honour owing to its unique history of occupation.
The first written account of occupation was via the Brigantes, Queen Cartimandua was a proxy put in place by the Romans after the defeat of Boducia, she later went to war with her husband after she handed over the hero Caractacus as he sought sanctuary with them. It is said she took refuge here during the ensuing civil war but little archeological evidence has been found to support this, the Romans later came to her aid and defeated her husband only for her to disappear into obscurity. The hill abounds with many myths and legends, the most popular being tunnels that run from Castle Hill towards Deadman stone and Beaumont Park.
It is also said a dragon sits beneath the hill protecting its gold, best not to dig then.
Around 400bc at its height of power and importance a fire or internal explosion (it is thought a battle took place and saw the walls burned, another theory is that rubbish thrown into the ditch spontaneously combusted which has been evidenced at similar sites) resulted in the settlement being abandoned.
The site remained abandoned until the arrival of the Normans around 1,500 years later. A motte-and-bailey structure was quickly established by a family called the de Lacey/Laci, it is said an odd choice to reuse the Iron age structure it no doubt served an imposing feature on the land offering a unadulterated view of the area and the important river Colne. The de Lacy family fell a foul of the king refusing bailiffs access to his lands, this was not uncommon and many Norman lords ruled as king with a sadistic nature in their own lands. It is said the castle holds a dark and murderous past, the de Lacy’s took locals with property, tortured and strung them up by their thumbs, heads and feet before being thrown into the castle dungeons with snakes and toads. Enough was enough and in 1303 a jury set forth to investigate after a rotting corpse was found in the moat. It was found that the ‘stranger’ was killed and dumped there but by who and why was never discovered, the Normans were cruel folk and lay waste to much of the north in order to establish their rule.
By 1320 the castle was reported as ruined,most likely abandoned due to its exposed location and impractical use, the attached settlement was still in use up until the fifteenth century where it was abandoned. The site remained in sporadic use with warning beacons atop and used to warn of the approaching Spanish armada. Only the well now remains of the medieval period and if you are afraid of heights don’t look inside.
It wasnt until the Victorian era that the hill became a beacon again for many speakers, politicians and religious groups of the day. Chartist movement held four gatherings here and during the weavers strike around 2-3 thousand gathered atop the blustery rain-swept hill.
Some time around 1810 a tavern was built to cater for the various groups and pleasure seekers of the day, equipped with a bowling green it also held boxing bouts, dog fights and cock fights, ah a lovely day at the pub. Much of the castle stone vanished as it became an easy quarry for the growing town. Back to the tunnel stories, it is said that below the tavern in its cellar lay a tunnel which was thought to connect to the castle, I understand that it was never fully dug out and poor planning and regulation breaches saw the tavern demolished.
Sitting atop the hill stands the rather impressive Queen Victoria tower, opened to the public in 1899 and built at the cost of £3,289 it stands as a fitting memorial to the reign of Victoria. Its height when first built was some 106feet although in the 1960s the turret was removed due to safety fears and its height thus reduced. The tower in all its scary form offers an ominous beacon atop the hill and befitting with its scary exterior brings along a ‘jinx’ or curse.
Just 2 weeks after the idea was conceived the chairman of the tower died from apparent malaria contracted on an earlier voyage abroad, a year later the next chairman also died, having for unknown reasons walked into the River Clyd not one person who knew the man could say he had any designs on suicide. 6weeks after it opened the architect was seriously hurt in a fall accident from scaffolding. Around the same time another man had been seen to climb the metal barrier and fell to his death, again no explanation of suicide was given although it was recorded as such, it was recorded that after having consumed a number of adult pops, he uttered “i sharnt be two minutes before im down” how true he was. Whilst we were there, the wind blew strong and in many directions with a smattering of rain to add, I can see how the place can add a spooky feeling giving all its deathly history and goings on. Another side note, during the 1940s there was a few voices that called for the tower to be demolished as they feared it would become a homing beacon for the Germans, fortunately only 2 bombs ever fell and caused only minor damage.
As you stand facing our next two stops, there is a small V-shaped gully which runs by Hall Bower, a little brook burble along but if you stand either side of it or even from Castle hill it is pretty hard to see anyone if they were to escape this way towards Deadman Stone, it would be easy to conclude that this may explain some of the long running tunnel myths.
Our next stop is but a few minutes drive, a very unassuming side road that does not appear to be a main road at all, just to the left stands aproud Deadman Stone, once home to a mansion and Berry Brow village both now lost to time. The mansion was said to have deep cellars and one tail told of an excavation underneath which in the end did not go anywhere. It is quite a forgotten piece of local history, again linked with the Castle hill tunnel, in two folk tales bodies were said to have been passed through the natural tunnel in the rock on their way to Almondbury church, as a sign of rebirth. One story tells of a body bricked up inside, that of a soldier caught off guard by marauding Scotts. Now surrounded by modern housing developments and roads, Berry Brow was reputed to be a fine village perched on the hill-side that would have looked at home in the hills of Europe, its worth being sought out and its history remembered.
We toddle on from here towards Beaumont Park, work commenced in 1880 on what was to become Huddersfield first public park. when first conceived the cost was estimated at some £3000 with a simple plan and straightforward landscaping it was to be a quick and easy build, but by 1883 the cost had risen to well over £20,000 with many unique and well constructed features such as band stands, arched retaining walls, gothic style bridge and even a castle refreshment room.
During the 1940s much of the parks metal work was removed for the war effort, a blast wall was built to make use of the strong arches and protect those visiting during the day time. It is during this time that two men found and explored a tunnel beneath Beaumont Park, they went for a little distance where the tunnel lead into a cave and then split into three but they did not explore any further, there are other similar stories of children finding these tunnels but again no-one ventured very far into them.
Alas by the 1960s the park had fallen on hard times the band stand now removed and replaced by trees and shrubs, in 1964 the castle tea room was demolished due to long running repairs and costly renovation. Its decline continued as the other features were removed, flowers beds no longer tended and parts of the park were being used to dump rubbish. The park is now reclaiming its glory with many hands making quick work of the clean up.
The geology of the area is made up of hard Sandstone which when wandering around the park, lends its self to easily carved grottos, large cracks and massive impressive cliffs, retained within one particular cliff face is the remnants of Huddersfield 300 million years old history, the layers of rivers beds preserved for us to view today.
There was tunnels discovered with in Huddersfield which sit below building in the town centre, most are just cellars or vaults related to the wine, beer and banking in the town while some are said to have never been fully explored.
It is doubtful that the Romans built any extensive tunnels from Castle hill, they were not stationed there as a fort but rather as a look out post and so there would have been no need to construct such a time-consuming system, as said before the gully which runs down the valley can easily hide anyone fleeing for some distance. Never the less Huddersfield has a rich and diverse history making it a must for a few days explore, there are other areas I would like to visit in the future and if anyone has any access to or would allow me access to any tunnels I would be more than grateful for the chance to explore these at length.
Until the next time happy bimbling.