Uncovering the hidden heritage of Sowerby Bridge

Olive Branch restaurant in Sowerby Bridge with heritage sign revealed

Historic features of buildings in Sowerby Bridge are being revealed and restored, as work takes place to improve and preserve the fronts of businesses along the town’s high street.

Sowerby Bridge’s high street is home to a number of buildings of unique heritage, recognised by Historic England through the Government’s High Streets Heritage Action Zone (HAZ) programme. The town has been allocated around £1.7million through the HAZ programme, with work being delivered by Calderdale Council.

As part of the programme, funding has been made available through the Sowerby Bridge Shop Front grant scheme. Businesses were able to apply for up to 80% of costs to improve signage, stonework or other heritage restoration works to business properties along Wharf Street / Town Hall Street.

Improvements are now starting to be made at businesses in the town, with the first changes involving work to reinstate heritage features above the Olive Branch restaurant on Wharf Street.

Boards above the restaurant’s sign have been removed to reveal historic signage for the Sowerby Bridge Industrial Society Ltd. The sign is being restored to its former glory, with heritage paint colours used and the glass casing, which would have been an original feature, replaced.

Further work, at businesses along the high street, will follow throughout the next few months, with the scheme due for completion in spring 2024.

In addition to the shop front scheme, the HAZ programme is supporting remedial works to the Fire & Water buildings, as well as work to encourage cycling and walking in and around the town.

Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Towns, Tourism and Voluntary Sector, Cllr Sarah Courtney, said:

“Sowerby Bridge has a rich history and proud industrial heritage, with significant growth in the town in the 19th century developed around engineering and the textiles trade. Many beautiful heritage buildings from this time still remain along the high street, although some of the original features have been hidden by modern additions or signage.

“Through the Sowerby Bridge Shop Front grant scheme, as part of the Heritage Action Zone programme, we’re working with businesses in the town to support them with funding to reinstate heritage features, improving the look of the high street and preserving these features for future generations. This work will revitalise the high street, encouraging footfall, and providing a subsequent boost for the local economy.

“Work has already started, revealing historic signage above the Olive Branch restaurant, which has been hidden from view for many years, and restoring it to its former glory. It will be fascinating to see further heritage features emerge as the programme progresses, improving the look of the high street.”

Craig Broadwith from Historic England said:

“We’re really pleased to be supporting this scheme as part of the High Street Heritage Action Zone programme. Restoring historic shop fronts can make a huge difference to the look and feel of a high street, making them more attractive ,as well as revealing their special historic character.”

The Government’s High Streets Heritage Action Zone (HAZ) programme is a £95 million Government-funded national initiative led by Historic England and designed to secure lasting improvements to historic high streets, fuelling economic, social and cultural recovery and breathing new life into them for future generations.


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