My second date on my Read Regional tour was close to home at King Cross Library in Halifax. It’s a lovely library and I received a very warm welcome from the librarians and other staff.
Halifax was a centre of the cloth trade from the 16th to the 18th centuries, and the town is steeped in history. For centuries the surrounding hilltops and valleys were home to hundreds of spinners and weavers and eventually to mills such as the one that features in The Companion which is set not far from the town.
At the heart of Halifax is the stunning 18th century Piece Hall, where in the past clothiers and merchants met to trade pieces of cloth. It has recently been renovated and reopened and I was fortunate enough to be involved in researching its fascinating history for some of the interpretation material now being used there.
It’s a beautiful place to visit, with great shops such as The Book Corner and Yorkshire Soap Company and a lovely gin bar called Gin Lane It is also adjacent to the new Central Library and the Square Chapel which in addition to hosting fantastic events also has one of my favourite bars. There are several other great pubs and music venues in the town, such as the small but beautifully formed Grayston Unity and The Lantern, which has led it to being recently dubbed ‘the Shoreditch of the North‘.
King Cross Library is just a mile from the town centre and a short distance from one of the town’s other historical landmarks – the Gibbet.
This is a 15 foot high replica of the local guillotine that was set up some time in the 16th century. Cloth, in particular, was a precious commodity then and the theft of it was a serious crime for which until 1650 thieves could be beheaded on the gibbet. This local law was considered harsh even in those times, and the saying ‘From Hell, Hull, and Halifax, good Lord deliver us,’ attributed to the poet John Taylor, is thought to refer to the punishment.
The original blade is on display at Bankfield Museum, which is on the other side of Halifax and is well worth a visit for its rich and varied collections particularly of textiles and costume.
It was my second rainy day event but a a good crowd of readers turned up nonetheless. A couple of the library’s reading groups have been reading The Companion and it was lovely to hear how much they had enjoyed it. Library reading groups are such a fantastic idea as the library provides multiple copies of the book and members are able to meet up in the library to discuss it. It was a real privilege as an author to be able to to be part of their reading experience. Thank you Calderdale libraries and readers of Halifax!
The next two stops on my tour are Wideopen Library in North Tyneside on Monday 16th April at 2.30pm and Kirkby Library, Knowsley on Merseyside on Friday 20th April at 11am.