Southowram History 5 - Beacon Hill Road

Beacon Hill Road

Here was North Ward Conservative Club

from an article in the Halifax Evening Courier Saturday 14th August 1869

The new Southowram Road - The construction of the road from the neighbourhood of New-bank to Southowram, along the face of Beacon-hill, constitutes one of the most important works now in progress by the Corporation, and as it approaches completion, the undertaking has increased interest for the inhabitants of these portions of the town. The advantages the road will afford for traffic between Southowram and the populous locality across the Bridge, are apparent, and it will doubtless have considerable influence on the prosperity of the borough by opening out a direct communication where it was much needed. Although the work presented difficulties no ordinary character, the Corporation resolved to carry it out; the contract was let to Messrs. Chapman and Shaw for £8,200, and operations were commenced on the 16th December last year. The progress already made by the contractors is generally considered very satisfactory, and a visit to the Hill will render the scheme intelligible even to an unpractised eye. Commencing at Old-bank, and with a junction into Bradford-road, the new road will have a total length of 1,777 yards, and an available width of 30 feet. 


Godley Bridge with Miss Lister's Road in the background


Godley Branch Road 


Throughout this extent the gradients vary, being from 1 in 82 to 1 in 15, but the heavy stone waggons from the various quarries will be able to be drawn along the way without difficulty. A footpath, neatly gravelled, and eight feet wide, will run the whole distance, and constitute agreeable promenade ; indeed, with the fine views of the town that are presented from this point, doubtless, it will be much frequented during the summer months. The main road, which runs in front of the Birdcage, is almost completed to Old Bank, where  it is joined by the branch road, also in a forward state, commencing at Godley-lane bridge, and which has a gradient of 1 in 37. From here to near to Folly Hall, the cuttings have not yet been made, and some houses known as Prospect-place will have to be removed. Old bank will, of course, have to be much altered; it will be stopped as a cart road, arrangements for foot passengers being made by steps below the new road. 

Above Folly Hall the work is being pushed on rapidly, and the ground having been thoroughly drained by the insertion of earthenware pipes, little difficulty is now experienced from water collecting in the hill. A thin bed of clay runs between the shale, and this occasionally slipping renders it necessary that the operations be carried on with much skill and care.

Here the retaining walls are of great depth and strength, and counter-forts reaching half way across the road, and the whole depth of the road, are inserted every 15 feet. In the hollow behind Folly Hall a large spoil bank is formed, which contains thousands of cubic yards of material which have been brought trucks by a tramway, from immediately below the beacon pan, where the road is cut through the hill.

The entire rise of the road is 244 feet, and in some places the retaining wall is about 30 feet high. Throughout the whole length of the road the retaining wall will be topped with a fence wall four and a half feet high; the upper side of the road will have a fence wall only the ground above being cut to a slope of 1 to 1, and behind the wall there will be catch-water gutter to carry off the water flowing down Beacon-hill side. Beyond Folly Hall the road is virtually laid out to Southowram, though there is some cutting yet to be done. Here the road has uniform gradient of 1 in 15, and will apparently afford ample accommodation for an immense traffic. 


At the Southowram end a large quantity of stone had to be removed, and this was speedily run down the tramway and used in constructing the retaining walls. These walls rest upon a firmly set bed of hard shale, and no fears are entertained of any portion of the road slipping, the whole road not having in the slightest sunk during the recent rains. A clause in the contract of Messrs. Chapman and Shaw states that they have to maintain the road for nine months after completion, which, with the energy already displayed, will in all probability be within the time specified, namely, 18 months from the commencement of the work. At present the only drawback appears to be, that, having reached the terminus of the new road, the traffic will have to surmount the top portion of Southowram-bank which has a gradient of something like l in 6. The lowering of this hill would, therefore, effect considerable improvement, and in course of time such will, no doubt, be accomplished. Mr. Henry Ally baa charge of the works on the part of the Corporation.

Whiskam Bank

Colborn Hall and the path to the beacon is Green Lane. Beacon Hill Road runs on the left of the property.

Beacon Hill

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

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

A very early view from Beacon Hill

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