Heptonstall Museum starts a bright new chapter

Inside Heptonstall Museum

Volunteers will build a thriving future for the historic Heptonstall Museum, after Calderdale Council officially handed over the running of the museum to the Friends of Heptonstall Museum (FOHM) charity.

The completion of the community asset transfer on Tuesday 4 July 2023 saw the Council grant a 125-year lease to FOHM.

This was a key milestone for the Grade II listed, 17th century building, and a major step forward in the ambition to celebrate Heptonstall’s past and build a shared future for the museum and the village.

It comes as Heptonstall celebrates its place on the national map, recently featuring in The Gallows Pole TV drama series about the story of David Hartley and the Cragg Vale Coiners.

Nestled in the centre of the beautiful, ancient village of Heptonstall at Church Yard Bottom, the museum was placed on Calderdale Council’s community asset transfer list in response to COVID-19 and financial challenges.

As part of its Future Council work, the Council explored interest from community groups to take over the running of some of its buildings. A group of Heptonstall residents took action to save the museum’s future, founded FOHM and submitted a business plan. The Council considered the plan very carefully, and after a rigorous approval process, confirmed FOHM’s successful application in 2022. Since then, teams from the Council and FOHM have been working together to finalise the lease and Joint Working Agreement.

FOHM aims to showcase and encourage participation, understanding and involvement in making the most of Heptonstall’s incredibly broad and diverse talent. It is keen to celebrate Heptonstall’s evolution into a uniquely preserved hilltop village, whilst preserving its proud past encompassing economic, social and artistic determination – true ‘Yorkshire grit’.

Following some one-off openings for special FOHM-led events during the community asset transfer process, including Heritage Open Days, the Sylvia Plath Literary Festival and a ‘preview and performance’ day, the museum is now open every week from Thursday to Sunday after being closed since 2019, and is run entirely by volunteers. 

FOHM’s initial focus is on making the most of the national interest in Heptonstall with an exhibition linked to The Gallows Pole. ‘Criminal Coiners: Life and Death in Wild West Yorkshire’ tells the story of the Cragg Vale Coiners. David Hartley’s grave lies in the graveyard next to the museum.

The charity will be seeking grant funding to carry out works to the building and is looking at the potential to make better use of vacant areas of the building.

Tim Machin, Friends of Heptonstall Museum Chair and local resident, said:

“It’s been great to have the support of Calderdale Council as we work together to realise our ambitious vision for the museum. This will be a museum for the whole community, created by the whole community of Heptonstall and the wider Calder Valley. Alongside our Gallows Pole exhibition, we have a rich and varied programme of events, including talks, walks, poetry readings and music which really help bring this exciting place to life.”

Cllr Silvia Dacre, Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Resources, said:

“Thank you to everyone from the Council and the Friends of Heptonstall Museum who have worked incredibly hard to make this community asset transfer happen.

“The FOHM volunteers share our ambition to help Calderdale’s culture, towns and places to thrive. By working together to secure a sustainable future for the museum, which is a key part of our local heritage, we can maintain a much-loved attraction, boost visitor numbers and build on the success of the Heptonstall-based filming for the major national TV series, The Gallows Pole.”

Cllr Jenny Lynn, the Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Services and Communities, added:

“The brilliant work, exhibitions and events led by the talented Friends of Heptonstall Museum volunteers will be a key part of our Year of Culture 2024. It’s wonderful to see new life breathed into Heptonstall Museum, and the village and surrounding beautiful landscape too, and it’s taken a lot of hard work from the Council and the charity to get there.

“I visited the museum recently and really enjoyed the Gallows Pole-themed exhibition. I received a lovely welcome from the volunteers and it was great to see lots of other people enjoying the museum and Heptonstall. 

“Making the most of our distinctive local heritage and culture is a key part of the CultureDale brand, and Heptonstall Museum’s new chapter will add to Calderdale’s growing profile as a vibrant cultural destination.”

The atmospheric and authentic Heptonstall Museum building dates back to 1600. Built as a warehouse, it was converted to a grammar school in 1771 and closed in 1889. The Yorkshire Penny Bank occupied it from 1898 until 1954. It became a museum in August 1972.

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The year 2024 marks Calderdale’s 50th birthday, and there is less than a year to go. Where do we want to be by 2024? What’s our ambition and what will be different? Find out more at

Attached photos courtesy of Nicola Jones from the Friends of Heptonstall Museum

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