Beacon Hill, Halifax – also known by the names
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 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.
Revised 16:19 /21st September 2018 / mmb43 / 8482
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